Join the informed writers of The Times' editorial board in lively discussions at our blog, Opinion Northwest.
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).
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.
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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.
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: (more…)
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: (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 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.
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.
Did you see The Times story about the 19-year-old man who got on the King County Metro RapidRide C Line bus at Third and Pike Street wearing a nylon stocking over part of his face and began robbing passengers at gunpoint? He got personal property from a few before he was tackled by other passengers and held until police arrived. The suspect was “agitated and belligerent” during the arrest, reported the West Seattle Blog.
This was not only a scary moment that could have ended more tragically (was that gun loaded?) but it also was not good advertising for public transit. I’m sympathetic to calls to ride public transportation as both a cost-saver and a way to reduce our carbon footprint. I’m willing to strike a bargain with King County Metro: I’ll get out of my car and ride the bus, saving personal money on gas and saving the public coffers on costly repairs to heavily used and clogged roads. In exchange, it must reassure me that I’m not taking my life into my hands each time I board a bus.
This morning I took the 70 bus to Third Avenue in the heart of Seattle’s downtown retail corridor. People hung out in front of the Macy’s, McDonald’s and other points along the city street. The 7-Eleven did a robust business selling beer and malt liquor. Police sat on bikes nearby, but did not engage anyone. The time it took my bus to show up, no more than 15 minutes, I was accosted by a couple of guys who thought I looked extra good today (Nope, never met them before.) I grew more cognizant of the dirty unswept street and the smell of weed. I sidestepped people who were hanging out on the street as though they were at a block party. Yes, others were commuting to work or going shopping, but I felt we were in the minority.
To endure that and get on the bus and be confronted by an armed robber is more than any commuter should be expected to bear. Bus-related crime is up and, given the armed robbery and shooting of a Metro bus driver last August, more brazen. Bus operators have reported 45 assaults on passengers inside buses between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, a Metro spokesman told The Times in a news report. There were 27 assaults during the same period last year. The same story quotes a Seattle police spokesman noting a spike in cellphone robberies on buses, light-rail trains and near transit centers countywide.
I do not suggest we put armed guards on buses or wall off drivers from passengers, but we should consider whether a brazen armed robbery at dinnertime is a harbinger of bad things to come.
Here’s what that incident yesterday tells me: when hundreds of thousands of strangers mingle each day, weird things very occasionally happen. According to King County Metro, there were 137 arrests or infractions issued on buses during the entire month of September. That month, there were 385,768 people boarding buses every weekday. By my rough calculations, that works out to .000016 arrests per weekday boarding.
Contrast that with the national rate of fatal car crashes per 100,000 of population: 10.39. It’s not a perfect analogy but, Lynne, you get my point. You are far more likely to get into a crash, or even die, on your commute across Lake Washington than I am to even witness an arrest on my bus ride in from Wallingford. Your car is a death trap! Take a bus!
This incident, and the bus-driver shooting in August aren’t good for public perception. But these crimes didn’t happen because of the bus. They just happened on the bus. If we’re going to anecdotally tie location to crime (which the news media often does), you’d have to never walk into a coffee shop because of the Lakewood police and Café Racer shootings both happened in cafes.
Okay, Metro bus riders can be kooky. Toenail clippers. Heroin nodders. The ranters. But mighty Seattle grinds to a halt without Metro. One bus removes 40 cars from the street. Weekday mornings, my bus, the 358, stops at Denny and Aurora, and dozens of Amazon workers (along with Seattle City Council member Mike O’Brien and myself) hop off and walk a few blocks. If your answer to perceived (not statistically-based) fear of transit is for us to instead make single-occupancy car commutes, Amazon could not plop 15,000 jobs into downtown Seattle because their workers would be stuck in traffic.
Public perceptions are easily made and hard to reverse. But the data do not support your premise. I’ll bet you one of those soy London Fog drinks you favor that if you hop on my bus any random morning, you’re more likely to find a city council member than a gun-waving nutso.
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…)