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You are currently viewing all posts written by Thanh Tan. Thanh is a multimedia editorial writer. Prior to joining the editorial board of The Seattle Times, she was a political and general assignment reporter with local TV stations in Boise and Portland, an Emmy-winning reporter / producer / host with Idaho Public Television, and a multimedia reporter with The Texas Tribune in Austin. She has also contributed to "This American Life" and The New York Times. Born and raised in Olympia, Thanh graduated with honors from the University of Southern California. She loves food, music, politics, films, yoga, the outdoors and journalism. She lives in Capitol Hill.
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. (more…)
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: (more…)
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: (more…)
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 (more…)
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: (more…)
November 22, 2013 at 1:41 PM
Kshama Sawant is a natural campaigner.
Clearly, she’s a passionate voice for those who agree with her. But does she listen to those who don’t? Because if she wants to create substantive changes in Seattle, she’ll have to learn the art of the political deal.
Each time she says something that resonates with voters, like this: (more…)
November 19, 2013 at 12:56 PM
I’m not always in lockstep with MSNBC ‘Hardball’ Host Chris Matthews’ on-air commentaries, but I do think he’s that rare pundit-journalist with so much experience behind the political scene in Washington, D.C., that you can’t ignore what he has to say.
Matthews witnessed the democratic machine function time and again throughout a decades-long career that included stints as a Capitol Hill aide, presidential speechwriter and chief of staff to the late House Speaker Tip O’Neill.
On Tuesday, he spoke at a Town Hall Seattle event to promote his new book, “Tip and the Gipper.” I was struck by Matthews’ assessment of how the two-party political system used to be. Yes, there was a time when elected officials set aside their differences long enough to craft bipartisan budgets. None of this government shutdown stuff.
His basic argument is he wants our politicians to work together again. And I’m definitely on board with that view, whether we’re talking about Congress or Washington state’s Legislature. We can agree to disagree on a few issues— and still get the job done.
Though he was brought on to help O’Neill fight President Ronald Reagan’s small-government agenda, Matthews admits he admired Reagan’s unique ability to project his power to Congress.
“Reagan really respected Congress, and he spent a lot of time with them,” he said. “We’ve lost the ability to listen to each other and to keep the channels of communication open.”
(If you weren’t at the Tuesday talk, watch his “Charlie Rose” interview in the video below.)
During the Town Hall talk, Matthews recalled how President Ronald Reagan and O’Neill regularly “would go in the back and shout at each other,” but they never lost respect for their elected positions. Together, the political rivals managed to forge alliances to protect Social Security and a handful of other signature issues throughout the 1980s.
“They really were grown-ups,” he said, adding politicians are elected to reach deals, not to find compromise on everything.
November 18, 2013 at 6:00 AM
Really, Washington? I know ballots are still being counted, but the latest results as of Saturday evening indicate a 46 percent voter turnout in this year’s elections — statewide and in King County. As Seattle Times news reporter Jim Brunner pointed out in this Friday news story (when state turnout was reported at 44.5 percent and King County turnout was 47 percent), we’re seeing the lowest voter participation numbers in a decade.
Washington voters are not exactly living up to their reputation as the 13th most active electorate in the nation in 2012 with a 65 percent voter turnout rate, according to this March 2013 report in The Washington Post’s ‘The Fix’ blog.
Clearly, there’s a disconnect between voters and the issues, and that’s too bad. People either don’t care or don’t believe they have a voice in the democratic process.
Or maybe they agree with British comedian Russell Brand, who delivered a stinging criticism of voting (seen in the video below) in an October interview with BBC’s “Newsnight.” It went viral on the Internet. I suspect that’s because many subscribe to his view that he never votes “out of absolute indifference and weariness and exhaustion from the lies, treachery and deceit from the political class that’s been going on for generations now.”
Brand is always charming, but there’s just no excuse to not vote. Citizens are still responsible for putting good — and, yes, sometimes very bad — people in public office. Indifference allows those bad apples to stay in power.
Here in Washington, counties send those ballots right to our mailbox. Each name printed on those sheets of paper has the power to change the way we live. (more…)
November 14, 2013 at 6:00 AM
If Seattle police really want to restore public trust, Pierce Murphy is a good guy to help them get there.
Murphy, the new director of the Office of Professional Accountability, is acting swiftly to assert his division’s independence from the Seattle Police Department. His office investigates complaints about police misconduct.
The former community ombudsman for Boise relocated just four months ago. Already, he has moved OPA’s operations outside of SPD headquarters and created a more welcome environment for visitors, according to this Seattle Times news story by Mike Carter and Steve Miletich. He also plans to hold regular public office hours and separate his division’s website from the police department’s.
During a meeting this week with the editorial board, Murphy said he wants to strengthen the division’s independence in order to provide better oversight, improve accessibility for citizens and promote transparency in the process. All good things considering the department is under federal supervision because of its past use of excessive force.
Fortunately for Seattle, he’s not all talk. (more…)
November 12, 2013 at 6:00 AM
We should listen to what they have to say. Then we must do something about it.
Last Friday, Bill Moyers interviewed the pair about those issues for his show on PBS:
In Seattle this week to promote their new book, “Dollaracracy,” the pair argue that our elections are increasingly influenced by money from the country’s richest individuals and corporations. Nichols, Washington correspondent for The Nation, and McChesney, a communications professor at the University of Chicago at Urbana-Champaign, also warn that broadcast media companies are now more focused on amassing stations and profits from political advertising than serving the public interest through robust local journalism. (Read my previous Opinion NW blog post with a visual of what media consolidation looks like.)
On Monday evening, the two spoke at Town Hall. They’ll continue their tour of Seattle Tuesday evening at the University of Washington at 7 p.m. in Kane Hall (Room 130). Here’s a link to more information about the UW event.
If you don’t get a chance to hear them in person in Seattle, watch our editorial page’s Nov. 4 Google+ Hangout On-Air with Nichols, McChesney, Seattle Times editorial writer Lance Dickie and Free Press President/CEO Craig Aaron. They offered their fascinating insights into the state of the media, big money’s influence on elections, growing concerns over privacy in the digital age, and how political campaigns have started to mine voter data. (more…)