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

Topic: barack obama

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August 21, 2014 at 6:13 AM

Should Obama go to Ferguson?

Whether President Barack Obama goes to Ferguson, Mo. in the wake of the police shooting of an unarmed black teen has become the question du jour among American politicos.

Obama’s liberal base and a righteously raw black community have clamored for the nation’s first black president to get directly involved in the latest episode of deadly violence meted out upon a defenseless black youth.

But visiting Ferguson would not only be a risky move for a president bogged down in political immobility, it would more likely inflame tensions than quell them.
And given his track record dealing with issues of race, it’s probably better that Obama maintain some distance while demonstrating an empathetic engagement.

His presidential performance in two previous race storms – the Henry Louis Gates racial profiling and Trayvon Martin shooting incidents – didn’t live up to his 2008 “More Perfect Union” campaign speech on race, or the country’s subsequent and wildly unrealistic expectation that he single-handedly improve America’s racial climate.


Comments | Topics: african american, barack obama, race

November 21, 2013 at 12:19 PM

Poll: Weighing the JPMorgan Chase bank settlement

In 2010, former Washington Mutual bank executives spoke at U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on high-risk loans. The bank was later bought by JPMorgan Chase which has just settled litigation brought by the federal government for $13 billion. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

In 2010, former Washington Mutual bank executives spoke at a U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on high-risk loans. The bank was later bought by JPMorgan Chase, which has just settled litigation brought by the federal government for $13 billion. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

JPMorgan Chase has agreed to pay $13 billion, including $4 billion for consumer relief and $6 billion to investors who lost big during the bank’s risky mortgage securities schemes. This settlement with the U.S. government is larger than any other Wall Street settlement and is roughly equivalent to half the bank’s annual profit. JPMorgan also agreed to a statement of facts, in which the bank admitted to key failures in buying toxic mortgage securities from 2005 to 2008. This NPR report offers a breakdown of the settlement and who gets the money.

A number of institutions will receive money in the settlement. Investors in JPMorgan appeared positive about the settlement. Shares of the New York-based bank rose 41 cents, or 0.7%, to $56.15 on Tuesday, as major U.S. stock indexes edged lower. This Los Angeles Times story offers more investor details.

I’m glad JPMorgan gave up trying to argue that it should not be held culpable for problems that came from the banks it acquired, including investment bank Bear Stearns and thrift Washington Mutual. But this does not end the anger and emotion surrounding the bank. Critics of the settlement call it a sweetheart deal engineered by a Wall Street-friendly Obama administration. Defenders call it precedent-setting, comparing it to the $4.5 billion in fines and penalties paid by British Petroleum over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. A Seattle Times editorial welcomed the BP settlement.

The JPMorgan settlement could become a template the federal government would use to guide future action against other banks. If so, is the settlement letting JPMorgan off too lightly or is it in proportion to the bank’s transgressions? Take this poll.


Comments | Topics: barack obama, economy, housing

October 21, 2013 at 12:49 PM

Another school shooting shifts the conversation to gun control, but for how long?

UPDATE: One of the two people killed in the Nevada middle school shooting was a teacher who stepped in to protect his students. This Huffington Post story has the details. The teacher’s death may renew ridiculous suggestions by the National Rifle Association that teachers should be allowed to carry a gun or at least have one handy in…


Comments | Topics: barack obama, children, democrats

October 18, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Catch mental health problems early

In the vast arena of public education, the part least understood or addressed well is mental health. Think about it. Schools remain vigilant about ensuring students perform well academically. Immunizations are legally required and periodic check-ups for hearing and vision remain even as school systems have cut back in many areas. These things are appropriate because they directly impact students in the classroom. Mental health…


Comments | Topics: barack obama, children, congress

October 10, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Civil Disagreement: Obamacare and the government shutdown

Civil Disagreement is an occasional feature of the Seattle Times editorial board. Here Bruce Ramsey and Lynne K. Varner offer dramatically different takes on the federal budget battle and the government shutdown. This interactive includes a poll about American sentiment toward the political standoff.


Comments | More in Civil Disagreement, Pro/con | Topics: 2013 elections, Affordable Care Act, barack obama

September 14, 2013 at 10:03 AM

Should The New York Times have run Vladimir Putin’s op-ed? Yes

Russian President Vladimir Putin (Alexi Nikolsky / AP Photo)

Russian President Vladimir Putin
(Alexi Nikolsky / AP Photo)

A retired colleague took umbrage at the op-ed piece in The New York Times by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The piece was an argument against an attack by the U.S. government on Syria and for using the United Nations instead. It also criticized the American idea that we are an “exceptional” nation.

Said my retired colleague: “This is an obvious propaganda piece by Putin and The New York Times fell for it. It shouldn’t have run it.”

Of course it is a propaganda piece. It’s what the Russian government wants Americans to believe. But is an article by Obama, or a member of Congress, or a newspaper columnist any different in that respect? Each is making an argument. In each case the reader is invited to consider the argument and the biases of the person making it.

Should we ban the Russian argument? Why? If we were at war with them, sure. But we’re not. Why not hear him out?


Comments | Topics: barack obama, russia

August 12, 2013 at 6:30 AM

Reconsider President Obama, summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin

Diplomacy is variously described as saying nice doggie, while groping for a rock, or the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way they look forward to the trip. The point is to keep talking because of what might be accomplished. One cannot predict results, so keep chatting away. Keep the lines…


Comments | Topics: barack obama, Edward Snowden, Vladimir Putin

July 1, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Congress misses student loan rates deadline sinking college kids deeper in debt

20040912opart-fThe state Legislature narrowly averted a government shut down last week by passing an operating budget. Congress had a fiscally-related deadline too but failed to meet it. The result is that today federal student loan interest rates rose from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent.  That’s double the current rate paid by more than 7 million students nationwide. The jump hits Washington state hard. Last year, 45 percent of the freshmen enrolled in our public higher-education system borrowed for college.

Congress’ failure is disappointing. Times editorials here and here argued for action by Congress. Last year, lawmakers extended the current rate when they could not agree on a  more long-term solution. But they  failed to do so this time. A nation hamstrung by more than $1 trillion in student loan debt must tackle interest rates.

Congress recessed for the Fourth of July holiday and several members of the state’s delegation, including Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Suzan DelBene will be at the University of Washington at 10 a.m. this morning to push for the Keep Student Loans Affordable Act of 2013 (S. 1238) which would extend low rates for a year giving Congress time to work on a long-term solution.

This McClatchy story alludes to a plan Congress may agree on by July 10. That’s a week out and here’s why Congress should meet the new deadline. 


Comments | Topics: barack obama, congress, Education

June 7, 2013 at 11:55 AM

Obama should discuss Kenneth Bae with China’s Xi Jinping

A South Korean man watches a television news program showing Korean American Kenneth Bae at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, May 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

A South Korean man watches a television news program showing Korean American Kenneth Bae at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, May 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

President Barack Obama is meeting Friday and Saturday with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Cybersecurity and economics aside, the human rights issue should surely come up. The New York Times reports more than 30 organizations are urging Obama to call for the release of at least 16 political prisoners in China, including 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo.

Let’s not forget Kenneth Bae, the American tour operator from Lynnwood. He was living and working in China when he crossed the border into North Korea last November. Bae has languished within North Korea’s notorious prison system for seven months now. In May, he was reportedly transferred to a new site to begin a 15-year hard labor sentence for supposedly plotting to overthrow the government. On May 2, Amnesty International raised serious concerns about his lack of access to a lawyer.


Comments | Topics: barack obama, China, Dennis Rodman

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