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Opinion Northwest

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

Category: Uncategorized
June 5, 2014 at 12:10 PM

What was your first minimum wage job? These were ours.

Gabriel Campanario / The Seattle Times

Gabriel Campanario / The Seattle Times

Seattle has made history with this week’s approval of a $15 minimum wage schedule, phased in over a few years with different schedules for different sized businesses. The world, judging from from this editorial in the Oregonian and this blog in The Guardian,  is either marveling or criticizing the audacity of the action.

The interesting thing about the Seattle minimum-wage debate is that it became a debate about a livable wage. The value underpinning the proposal is that a worker should be able to support themselves independently on the minimum wage.

That prompted an interesting conversation among our Opinion department staff members about our first jobs. None of us stayed in those jobs, using education to advance our careers, but all were useful helping to pay for college or educational travel. Here are our first jobs. What was yours? Please tell us in the comment section.

Frank Blethen, publisher: Grocery bag boy at Bashas Family Grocery  in Arizona for 95 cents an hour. We had to endure

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Comments | Topics: Erik Smith, first jobs, Frank Blethen

June 5, 2014 at 6:01 AM

Withhold judgment on Bowe Bergdahl

President Obama would have been better off avoiding the hero narrative when he announced last weekend that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl had been handed over to members of the U.S. Special Forces. He could have just said we got our guy back. Let him recover and we’ll figure out what happened. It’s better to have Bergdahl…

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Comments | Topics: Afghanistan, bowe bergdahl, idaho

June 4, 2014 at 6:04 AM

Consider alternatives to locking up immigrants in ICE detention centers

Wednesday’s editorial in The Seattle Times pushes for increased oversight of U.S. Immigration and Enforcement’s Northwest Detention Center on the Tacoma Tideflats.

Under the status quo system — which includes an odd mandate that 34,000 detention beds are filled every night at a cost of nearly $2 billion to taxpayers (The Center for American Progress has produced several informative graphics, including the two below.)  — private prison contractors are guaranteed business.

Infographic by Center for American Progress

Infographic by Center for American Progress

Infographic by Center for American Progress

Infographic by Center for American Progress

As The Atlantic and many other news organizations have reported in recent years, private contractors such as The GEO Group are making a killing at taxpayers’ expense. Not only are they profiting off crowded federal detention centers (which have doubled in occupancy over the last several years), numerous stories suggest they are protecting their profit margins by spending big bucks on lobbying.

As of June 2, local ICE spokesman Andrew Munoz reported that 1,315 detainees are in the Northwest Detention Center. Those inside who await possible deportation are not current criminal offenders. These are people who might have overstayed their visas or crossed the border illegally and got caught during one of ICE’s random enforcements. See the graphic below to get a sense of how long detainees are held.

Infographic by the Center for American Progress

Infographic by the Center for American Progress

What’s the cost to taxpayers? Munoz wrote in an email that ICE’s current contract guarantees GEO is paid a daily minimum of $100.65 to operate at least 1,181 beds. Each additional bed is provided at a discounted rate of $62.52. There’s not much incentive to keep the numbers down.

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Comments | Topics: adam smith, cout, detention center

June 3, 2014 at 6:05 AM

HBO’s John Oliver to Internet commenters: ‘Channel your anger’

Comedian and host John Oliver delivered an epic diatribe Sunday night on HBO’s “Last Week Tonight”  against cable companies seeking to create a “fast track” at a premium price for popular websites.

If you haven’t tracked this issue or are looking for a good laugh, watch the segment below. (WARNING: Oliver uses some strong language throughout the commentary. The video contains several “beep” sounds, but viewers will notice it’s still obvious what he’s saying. So — listen with headphones on if you’re at work or around kids.)

The gist of Oliver’s argument is this: If cable companies such as Comcast and Time Warner (which are trying to merge into one mega-company) can make net neutrality sound as mundane as possible, no one will care about their effort to fundamentally change the Internet, where all information is available at the same speed.

“The cable companies have figured out if you want to do something evil, put it inside something boring,” he says. 

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Comments | Topics: fcc, hbo, john oliver

June 2, 2014 at 7:30 AM

Is Congress finally catching on about medical marijuana?

U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher has introduced a pro-medical marijuana amendment at least seven times since 2003, and each time it has gone down. Consistent with Rohrabacher’s libertarian politics, the amendment would simply de-fund Department of Justice enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act in medical marijuana states.

It went down 152 to 273 in 2003. As recently as 2012, it failed 163 to 262. As recently as last month, the House voted down a bill allowing veterans to discuss medical marijuana with their doctor.

On Friday, the libertarian-liberal alliance over marijuana reform reached, as Rohrabacher said, “a turning point.”

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June 2, 2014 at 6:07 AM

At least some are asking right questions in Insurance Commissioner case

Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler

Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler

At least some Olympians seem to be asking the right questions about a rather nasty allegation of misconduct in the Washington Office of the Insurance Commissioner.  Among them is state Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, chairman of the Senate Law and Justice Committee, who plans a hearing June 16 that will put the matter on center stage.

A former Spokane County District Court judge, Padden says he is disturbed at the accusation that has been leveled by administrative law judge Patricia Petersen. She claims her boss in the office threatened her job in order to obtain favorable rulings.

“I just know, from 12 years as a district court judge, that independence is a bedrock principle the entire judiciary should embrace,” Padden says.

Padden is a Republican and Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler is a Democrat, but the Senate committee’s inquiry is precisely what Olympia should be doing – poking, prodding, exposing facts and dealing with the central issue of the case. If only those who are more directly responsible felt the same way.

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Comments | Topics: insurance commissioner, legislature, mike kreidler

May 30, 2014 at 6:45 AM

The ‘E’ in Port of Everett stands for Excellence

The Port of Everett won national recognition from President Barack Obama for heavy lifting, so to speak. The presidential  “E” Award for Export Service notes the port’s ability and reputation for handling oversize, high value cargoes. The award was presented Wednesday in Everett to port officials by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. The port plays…

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Comments | Topics: business, everett, export

May 29, 2014 at 6:02 AM

Poll: Should Gorge concertgoers pay surcharge to help Quincy hospital?

Once again, three days of intense partying at the Sasquatch! music festival led to a surge in patient visits to the little emergency room at Quincy Valley Medical Center.

Hospital Chief Executive Mehdi Merred said a preliminary count as of Thursday indicates 116 patients were admitted to the ER over the Memorial Day weekend — 56 or 57 of them came from the Gorge Amphitheatre. On an average day, the hospital sees about 10 patients. Still unknown is how many of this year’s patients skipped out on payment or lacked health insurance.

“Some say they have insurance, but it turns out they don’t,” Merred said over the phone, adding that some Sasquatch! attendees-turned-patients also come from Canada. “There needs to be some reconciling of information before we finalize the numbers.”

As The Seattle Times editorialized on May 24, many of the Gorge’s concert attendees are young adults who’ve been slow to sign up for the Affordable Care Act. Their choice to not be covered could leave local taxpayers in the Quincy area with a huge bill. Last year, the hospital reported $400,000 in uncompensated care and additional staff time. Live Nation, the operator of the Gorge, has refused to help defray the costs. Here’s a solution that should be considered by the Legislature:

State Rep. Matt Manweller, R-Ellensburg, is crafting a bill that would add a $1 surcharge per ticket for shows at the Gorge. The proceeds would be split between the Quincy hospital and the local fire department.

It’s a good idea. Live Nation should support Manweller’s plan. If Sasquatch! attendees could afford a ticket that costs more than $300 a pop, they should be able to cough up an extra buck to offset the price of partying a little too hard.

Do you agree with this idea? Vote in the poll below.

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Comments | Topics: drugs, hospital, music festival

May 28, 2014 at 8:59 AM

Discussion: Isla Vista killings, #YesAllWomen and male privilege

Isla Vista gunman Elliot Rodger’s disgusting, misogynist rants point to a seriously disturbed young man who lacked coping skills. The 22-year-old’s chilling sense of entitlement is outlined in startling detail in a 141-page manifesto I have no interest or time in reading. Thankfully, writer Jeff Yang did (reluctantly), and his analysis for Quartz is a must-read on the roles that race, class and gender possibly played in the motives of a mass killer.

Here’s an excerpt from Yang’s op-ed:

According to Rodger, this is what underscored to him the degree to which women were markers of status:

“Because of my father’s acquisition of a new girlfriend, my little mind got the impression that my father was a man that women found attractive, as he was able to find a new girlfriend in such a short period of time from divorcing my mother. I subconsciously held him in higher regard because of this. It is very interesting how this phenomenon works…that males who can easily find female mates garner more respect from their fellow men.”

Rodger grew up in the shadow of Hollywood, a place where terms like “trophy wife” and “arm candy” and “casting couch” are thrown around with glib abandon. It’s a culture that has mainstreamed the notion that women are accessories, party favors, tools for sexual release, not just behind the scenes, but in front of it, particularly within the genres most likely to shape the worldview of young males.

Now let’s take a look at the storm brewing on Twitter over the #YesAllWomen hashtag. Here’s one example:

The #YesAllWomen hashtag isn’t so much about labeling all men as woman-hating, mentally deranged killers. It’s about acknowledging that at some point in many women’s lives, they have suffered emotional or physical harm at the hands of men. They have every right to name how they felt in those moments. Guys, listen to what they’re saying before you launch your own attacks about how women are just as mean as men. That might be true in some cases, but history matters. Women’s collective voices have largely been squashed in a society dominated by men.

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Comments | Topics: elliot rodger, gender, isla vista

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