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Opinion Northwest

Join the informed writers of The Times' editorial board in lively discussions at our blog, Opinion Northwest.

August 20, 2014 at 6:03 AM

Continue the push for human rights in Vietnam

Remarkable changes are afoot in Vietnam, a country that Americans left in humiliating fashion nearly 40 years ago when Saigon fell to communist forces.

U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, right, and Vietnamese Chief of General Staff of the Army, Lt. Gen. Do Ba Ty, left, review an honor guard before their talks in Hanoi, Vietnam on Thursday Aug. 14, 2014. Dempsey will hold talks with Vietnamese defense officials Wednesday on a visit that aims to boost military ties between the two former foes. (AP Photo/Tran Van Minh)

U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, right, and Vietnamese Chief of General Staff of the Army, Lt. Gen. Do Ba Ty, left, review an honor guard before their talks in Hanoi, Vietnam on Thursday Aug. 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Tran Van Minh)

Last week, the U.S. Army’s highest-ranking official visited Hanoi to mend old war wounds and to set the stage for a new, friendlier era that goes beyond diplomacy to possibly include arms sales to Vietnam. Here’s what U.S. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told USA Today in a Aug. 18 news report:

“That’s not to say it won’t happen without some effort. But I think there’s a possibility that Vietnam could be a very strong partner. Look at our history with the British or the Germans or the Japanese. It could be like a phoenix rising from the ashes. That’s what I hope happens here in this relationship.”

For many in Seattle’s large Vietnamese-American community, including myself, it’s difficult to view any actions by Vietnam’s government without skepticism. Overseas Vietnamese — predominantly made up of refugees and citizens of the former South Vietnam forced to flee after the communist takeover — have long staged protests and movements for democracy, religious freedom and human rights in their homeland. The regime has largely ignored those pleas— until now.

Vietnam has few options. Its leadership needs allies to fend off China’s aggression in the South China Sea and to increase trade.

Among the reasons to believe the tide has turned and Vietnam is on the verge of a substantive political shift:

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Comments | Topics: trans pacific partnership, vietnam, vietnam war

August 19, 2014 at 7:03 AM

Mikado, yellowface debate at Seattle Repertory Theatre forum

Corrected version

Should historic works created during different times with different sensibilities be shelved? Should the work be altered? Can the work be done if proper context is provided? How often do you see representations of people who look like you on a regular basis? (No. Yes. Yes. Almost never.)

These were just a few of the questions asked at a Monday night forum on theater and race sparked by a recent Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society production of “The Mikado” that cast 40 non-Asian actors in Japanese roles. The event, “Artistic Freedom and Artistic Responsibility,” featured a panel of theater artists and was organized by the Seattle Repertory Theatre, the City of Seattle’s Office of Arts & Culture, the city’s Office for Civil Rights and King County’s cultural-services agency 4Culture. In addition to the panelists, the discussion drew in discussion from audience members who had submitted comments in advance.

Seattle Channel plans to broadcast the video. Many artists in other cities who could not attend the event watched a livestream and discussed it on Twitter with the hashtag #SeattleAFAR. Here is video from Howlround.

I first wrote about the problematic production in a Seattle Times column four weeks ago, “The yellowface of ‘The Mikado’ in your face.” The column sparked a national debate — community groups like the JACL spoke out against the show, protesters demonstrated outside most of the shows, national outlets such as CNN, MSNBC, NPR and CBC covered it, and influential bloggers like Angry Asian Man and Reappropriate wrote about it. Read, watch and listen to all the coverage at ” ‘The Mikado,’ yellowface: All the coverage.”

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Comments | Topics: arts, asian americans, race

August 19, 2014 at 6:02 AM

‘The Mikado,’ yellowface: All the coverage

The controversy about a Seattle “Mikado” production began with my July 14 Seattle Times column, “The yellowface of ‘The Mikado’ in your face.” My Opinion Northwest blog post about the experience of watching the show: ” ‘The Mikado,’ yellowface and seeing the Seattle show” If you spot other writing worth sharing, please let me know at…

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Comments | Topics: arts, asian americans, race

August 18, 2014 at 6:20 AM

Busting the stigma of mental illness

In the course of researching for the “What’s troubling mental-health care” editorial package published in Sunday’s Seattle Times, I heard again and again stories of people with mental health disorders living full, healthy lives. These stories rarely make it into the paper, as they are shoved aside by tragedies linked to mental illness. Here are two stories, shared in order…

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Comments | Topics: bipolar disorder, mental health, mental illness

August 18, 2014 at 6:19 AM

Auditor Kelley makes a right move in Insurance Commissioner’s case

Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley.

Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley.

State Auditor Troy Kelley made an unfortunate decision last May when he decided not to investigate a rather serious charge against a state agency — that the Office of Insurance Commissioner was pressuring a judge to rule in its favor. But since then he has come up with a pretty solid idea, a performance audit that will examine whether judges ought to work for state agencies in the first place.

It’s about time someone analyzed that question in a formal way. The charge from hearings officer Patricia Petersen calls attention to the fact that many state agencies conduct appeals hearings in their own offices, using judges who are subject to discipline and termination by agency managers. The arrangement raises doubt about the impartiality of hearings – as it certainly seems to in this case.

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August 16, 2014 at 5:19 PM

Join a video chat to discuss mental-health challenges at noon Thursday

Gabriel Campanario / The Seattle Times

Gabriel Campanario / The Seattle Times

The Seattle Times editorial board started a conversation on the mental-health challenges facing Washington state with an editorial series this weekend. The exploration of these issues will continue through the week with guest columns, reader perspectives and a video Google+ Hangout
at

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Comments | More in Discussion | Topics: Google, hangout, mental health

August 15, 2014 at 6:01 AM

Lessons from Ferguson: Citizens have right to capture photos, videos of militarized police

Numerous journalism associations came forward on Thursday to condemn the unnecessary arrest and subsequent release of two reporters covering the aftermath of the Michael Brown killing in Ferguson, Mo.

Read The Washington Post’s roundup of statements or see the tweet below from the American Society of Newspaper Editors:

Reporters Wesley Lowerey of The Washington Post and Ryan J. Reilly of The Huffington Post were simply doing their jobs. So far, it appears police entered the McDonald’s they were working in and escalated the situation for no good reason. Those uniformed officers should be identified, punished and trained on how to treat fellow citizens with respect, whether they are civilians or members of the press.

They only have themselves to blame for the widespread attention to their actions.

Reporters are in Ferguson to cover a story. When they become part of the narrative, journalists everywhere pay attention. Coverage blows up to a whole new level. Unfortunately, it took the mistreatment of these two journalists for Missouri officials to “get it” and send in State Patrol officers to seize law enforcement authority.

What’s more striking to many of us is the series of images and video coming out of Missouri, including the photo below captured by The Washington Post. Are we looking at scenes from a war zone or Middle America? Hard to tell the difference these past few days.

The unrest reminds me of a 2011 rap song by Seattle’s Blue Scholars called “Oskar Barnack ∞ Oscar Grant,”

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Comments | Topics: Ferguson, Michael Brown, Mo.

August 14, 2014 at 6:16 AM

About Robert J. Vickers, our new Seattle Times editorial writer

Greetings, Seattle! I’m Robert Vickers, and I’m the newest addition to The Seattle Times editorial board. I arrive here having spent several years as a journalist writing about public policy, higher education, legal affairs and politics at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio, The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa., and The Daytona Beach News-Journal…

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Comments | Topics: Robert Vickers, Seattle Times editorial board, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

August 14, 2014 at 6:03 AM

FCC should listen to tech-savvy Seattle and preserve open Internet

Well, Seattle residents have spoken. Many of them, anyway, in favor of preserving net neutrality and against creating a two-lane Internet highway in which Internet providers could charge some users more for faster access and connectivity. The Federal Communications Commission recently released about 1.1 million comments from its first comment period.  TechCrunch’s initial analysis found…

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Comments | Topics: fcc, net neutrality, Seattle

August 12, 2014 at 6:04 AM

Looks like SEIU organizing strategy may backfire — on Washington taxpayers

U.S. Supreme Court. (photo/ Associated Press)

U.S. Supreme Court. (photo/ Associated Press)

More than a month ago, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a ruling likely to shake the left side of Washington politics. But this state hasn’t heard in any official way what effect Harris vs. Quinn will have – and now it looks like we’ll have to wait for a legal decision sometime in the months or even years ahead.

But what a punchline this one will likely carry. The June 30 federal ruling concerns a clever strategy to beef up membership in the Service Employees International Union in Illinois, similar in every way to an SEIU organizing effort in Washington. Read between the lines and it is possible to see that Washington taxpayers may be on the hook for tens of millions of dollars.

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Comments | Topics: Harris v. Quinn, SEIU

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