Monday, October 24, 2005

Rest easy, Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks, a black seamstress whose refusal to relinquish her seat to a white man on a city bus in Montgomery, Ala., almost 50 years ago grew into a mythic event that helped touch off the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, died at her home yesterday in Detroit. She was 92 years old.

Read The New York Times' coverage.

As the history of American movements is written -- not from just a few years' perspective but from decades or generations of perspective -- there will be a benchmark from the winter of 1955, a benchmark that sparked a revolution and symbolized a movement. Rosa Parks and her act of bravery, of defiance, of initiative have come to be the epitome of standing up for what is right.

When she sat on the bus in an area reserved for whites, she showed that the actions of one person can make a difference. A small act created a rallying point, and people acted.

Who has picked up the torch created by the spark from Rosa Parks? What is the segregated bus of today? What is the movement that people will join? Those are tough questions with no easy answers. Tomorrow is the time for answering. Today is the day to honor Rosa Parks, whose simple act of defiance sparked a movement.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Fall from slumber

Last Thursday night was crazy. Absolutely crazy. First off, let me explain that I am a very docile sleeper. I don't thrash around, and I don't move much. The sheets are usually easily replaced to their orderly position, and the pillows are just dented but unmoved.

That makes what happened Thursday night all the more bizarre. I fell out of bed. Rolled, actually. I think.

All I know is the bit I remember and what I pieced together when I arose later. I was jolted from slumber with a sharp pain in my left shoulder and clutching some clothes that lay on the floor. I stumbled around in shock and then plopped back into bed, still groggy.

When I got up at my usual time a few hours later, I noticed a large scrape on my deltoid muscle with a straight edge where I had apparently hit the nightstand on the way down. As I went to the closet, I noticed that I must have knocked over the iron from its perch atop the ironing board. Water had spilled onto the clothes and floor. I then noticed the blood on my sheets where I had bled after the fall.

Weird, huh? I am not sure what I ate or dreamed about or did that resulted in this fall, but I sure hope I don't get a repeat of the situation.

Three days later, I still have a bit of stiffness, a sizable scrape and a burly bruise. Neosporin has helped heal the cut a bit. However, I have had no trouble sleeping since then. Back to normal.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

I'm glad she's OUR governor

I attended the Chelan County Democrats' Jefferson-Jackson Dinner on Oct. 21, where the featured speaker was Gov. Christine Gregoire. It was an evening that made me proud to be a Democrat, a bright blue spot in a sea of red here in Eastern Washington.

When she entered the banquet hall, I heard a thunderous applause rise up, and I saw the governor barely made it a few feet before she was surrounded by loyal Democrats and well-wishers. I made my way to the cluster of people surrounding the governor, and I patiently waited just a few minutes while she spoke with and listened to each person who approached. She is polite and genial and personable. After I introduced myself, she asked me a few questions about my job, about my school and such. She maintained eye contact and made me feel she was genuinely interested in me as a citizen first and a Democrat second. And I did not get the feeling that it was at all an act; in fact, I felt that she wanted to talk just with me for a minute or two before I moved along so someone else could have a chance.

During her talk, which lasted about 25 minutes, she only made a passing reference to being a Democrat and the fact that she was at an all-Democrat dinner celebrating the party. She spoke in the city where the trial that settled her election took place, yet she did not criticize the candidate she beat by 133 votes. Instead, she focused on what it was like to be the chief executive of the Great State of Washington as she visited other nations such as China and France. She explained that she asked these foreigners what they thought of when someone said they were from Washington. The reply was that first, they knew Washington state, and, second, Washington meant quality. The governor's mastery of the issues and values of those of us in Central and Eastern Washington demonstrated she knows this state and all its 39 counties -- not just the counties where more voters voted for her.

One of the best anecdotes she shared was from a voter in 2004. The governor explained that this voter had approached her -- just a few months after she had been in office and had helped guide a very successful legislative session -- and said that he had been wrong. He voted for someone else last year. He told her to run again and that he would vote for her.

That experience shows that if people can get past the idea that all Democrats mean big government and loose purse strings and all Republicans mean tax cuts and favors for Big Business that there are good people in elected positions. Christine Gregoire is a smart, modern Democrat. She knows this state, having been elected Attorney General three times and serving as director of the Department of Ecology before that, and she works hard to do what is best for the citizens of Washington.

I hope she runs again in 2008, and I am optimistic about her re-election. If people who voted for her 2004 opponent can get past petty and false grudges to look at who she is as a person and a leader, I think they would be impressed.

She is our governor.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

What would Harry think?

It's a rare instance when I copy and paste an entire column from another person, let alone something that others pay for. I try to honor intellectual property rights. But sometimes, that information is important, deserves wider distribution and prompts a comment from me. So, I have pasted a column below, acquired through my friend the CIB, at her Cyphering Web site.

Bob Herbert writes about the need for the Deomcrats to stop standing idly by and to present a viable alternative to the Republicans. They're on the ropes, but why should voters make a switch? Read on. Then, read further. I have added my comments below.
The New York Times • October 17, 2005
Get It Together, Democrats • By BOB HERBERT

A word of caution: Democrats should think twice before getting all giddy about the problems caving in on the Republicans and the prospects of regaining control of Congress in next year's elections.

For one thing, the Democrats' own house is hardly in order. While recent polls have shown growing disenchantment with President Bush and the G.O.P., there's no evidence that voters have suddenly become thrilled with the Democrats.

A survey taken by the Pew Research Center showed an abysmal 32 percent approval rating for Democratic leaders in Congress.

Another thing to keep in mind is that Congressional redistricting (anti-democratic in every sense of the word) has made it more difficult to oust incumbents. It would take a landslide of shocking proportions for the Democrats to win control of both houses of Congress next fall.

This is not to minimize the troubles facing the G.O.P. The party is in free fall. The war in Iraq has been a disaster and despite the vote on the constitution over the weekend there is no end in sight. The cronyism and incompetence of the Bush administration ("Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job") have become a national joke, a given.

Tom DeLay has been indicted. Bill Frist and his lawyers are answering subpoenas and preparing a defense for possible insider-trading charges. The White House is in a state of highest anxiety over the very real possibility that criminal charges will be brought against one or more of the most important people in the Bush administration. And conservatives have formed a circular firing squad over the Harriet Miers flap.

It's no wonder the Democrats are gleeful.

They should get over it, and get on with the very difficult business of convincing the public that Democrats would do a better job of governing a country that is already in deep trouble, and sinking deeper by the day.

It's not enough to tell voters how terrible the Republicans are. (Leave that to the left-leaning columnists.) What Democrats have to do is get over their timidity, look deep into their own souls, discover what they truly believe and then tell it like it is.

Give us something to latch onto. Where do we go from here?

A friend reminded me recently of the old political adage that all campaigns are a battle between hope and fear. Ever since Sept. 11 President Bush and the G.O.P. have been pushing the nation's fear buttons for all they're worth. The public is frightened, all right - about terror, about the consequences of the war in Iraq, about economic insecurity here at home, about the future of the United States. But there is no longer much confidence that President Bush and the Republicans are competent to deal with these tough issues.

What the Democrats have to do is get off their schadenfreude cloud and start the hard work of crafting a message of hope that they can deliver convincingly to the electorate - not just in the Congressional elections next year, but in local elections all over the country and the presidential election of 2008.

That is not happening at the moment. While Americans are turning increasingly against the war in Iraq, for example, the support for the war among major Democratic leaders seems nearly as staunch and as mindless as among Republicans. On that and other issues, Democrats are still agonizing over whether to say what they truly believe or try to present themselves as a somewhat lighter version of the G.O.P.

I wonder what Harry Truman would think about today's Democratic Party?

Democrats need to put together a serious proposal for withdrawal of American forces from Iraq over a reasonable (which means reasonably short) period of time, and couple that with a broader national security plan that focuses on Al Qaeda-type terrorism and domestic security.

Democrats need to tell the country the truth about taxes, about the benefits of investing in the nation's physical infrastructure, about the essential need to bolster public education from kindergarten through college, and about the shared sacrifices that will be necessary if anything approaching energy independence is to be achieved.

They need to be optimistic and hopeful as they deliver their message to the country, explaining that all of these things are doable, that they will strengthen the U.S. in the short term and create a better future for the next generation and the one after that.

Competence is essential, but it's not enough. The great voices of history have always been the voices of optimism and hope.
Herbert is dead-on correct. It's like when you are flopped on the couch on a lazy afternoon, an afternoon that started with a good movie on TV but where you drifted off to sleep in a haze of blissful laziness. Everything is wonderful. Then, you groggily awaken, drool puddled on the pillow, and realize the good movie is over, replaced by a cooking show. You'll never make a rack of lamb, but you decide it's worth listening to as you wipe the drool off and roll over to continue that nap. A while later, you awaken again, but this time it's dark, the clock says 6:30 and you don't know if it is a.m. or p.m. and the TV is showing some news program. You suddenly sit bolt upright. But the thing is you are still in the nappy haze and wonder if it is worth getting off the couch to check a clock or even to change the channel.

And that's the case now with the voters. They're sitting on the couch -- paying attention but a bit groggy -- and they can't decide if the news program is so bad they should get up and change the channel (or even fumble around for the remote). Heck, the other channels could be just as bad or worse. They need to see something that makes them change the channel -- something that motivates them to get off the couch.

Attention Democrat leaders (and not just Howard Dean, John Kerry, Al Gore, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and other Congressional leaders): People are paying attention. Yes, we want to watch the GOP twist slowly in the wind while their fellow Republicans circle like vultures, waiting pick apart the dying. But after the implosion of the Republicans -- and a fall is coming soon -- there simply must be an alternative. Right now, I don't think it is there.

What would Harry think? President Truman would probably be shocked at what the party has become. He could certainly give today's Democrats a lesson in giving people Hell. They need it.

There is an opportunity for attracting voters to the traditional ideals of the Democrat Party. These ideals built and strengthened this nation -- clean air and water, collective bargaining rights, rural electrification, farm home loans, hydroelectric dams, minimum wage, Social Security, OSHA and unemployment insurance. The so-called "red states" of the West and South used to be solidly "blue," populated by yellow-dog Democrats. Die hards. The faithful. Religion was not the defining characteristic of a political affiliation. Instead, the belief of what was best for the country defined that.

I grew up in the rural Kittitas Valley with a family heritage of homesteaders who worked hard to build a life on the frontier. They built small farms, raising their crops and livestock, eking out a living and getting by with the help of a government that believed in building infrastructure and helping its citizens to have a better life. My grandmother lived 77 years on a farm in Ellensburg, Wash., working the land and making her land work. She voted for candidates with a "D" next to their name, knowing who shared her ideals, who supported family farmers, who looked out for her.

Today it would be easy to assume that people like my grandmother would be solidly Republican because farmers, of course, vote for values. We need to get back to helping farmers remember that Democrats have values, too, and that farmers should also be voting to keep their livelihood.

When the Ds figure out how to get those voters back, the "red states" will be "blue" again and the halls of Congress and the White House will be back in the hands of people who can be responsible with power: Democrats.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Dedicated to tolerance

The Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., will spend next weekend dedicating its new Civil Rights Memorial Center and Wall of Tolerance.

The dedication of the Memorial Center and the new Wall of Tolerance is a highlight of the National Campaign for Tolerance, an initiative begun by the Center five years ago that served as a vehicle to mobilize Center supporters and others into a community of activists. To date, more than a quarter-million people have enlisted at the campaign.

Beyond Center-sponsored events, the more than 2,000 Center supporters who have said they will attend the dedication will be able to attend a variety of events elsewhere in Montgomery that weekend.


The Civil Rights Memorial Center allows visitors to deepen their understanding of the Civil Rights Movement, the sacrifices of that period and the struggles that continue today. The facility contains a theater and classroom, where students are challenged to consider their personal responsibility to work for justice.

Before leaving the Memorial Center, visitors can make a public commitment to the ideals of the Movement by adding their names to the Wall of Tolerance, a 20-by-40-foot surface with thousands of floating, digitally-projected names.

By the way, my name is one of those digitally projected and floating along this 20-by-40-foot surface.

The Southern Poverty Law Center's programs help promote tolerance and track the movements of hate groups in America. The history of tolerance in the civil rights movement is intertwined with the activist churches of the American South, but some of these hate groups have strong ties to Christian churches, too.

These Christian Identity groups "assert that whites, not Jews, are the true Israelites favored by God in the Bible." In fact, some of these groups operate alongside racists skinheads and neo-Nazis right here in Washington. The Center's Intelligence Project details accounts of racist slurs spray-painted on garage doors, dorm rooms vandalized with anti-gay slurs, neo-Nazi marches, cross burnings and distribution of hate literature in neighborhoods.

Likely on the Center's list of groups to watch is the band of Christian extremists from the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kans., and its main loudmouth, Fred Phelps, and his band of relatives who spout their "gospel" in the name of an angry God. His kind of Christianity is clearly outside of the mainstream, yet clearly people support him and his tactics as his Web site and travels are funded somehow.

My next donation to the Southern Poverty Law Center might be in honor of Fred Phelps. He needs all the help toward tolerance that he can get. Maybe the tolerant Christians speaking next weekend in Montgomery can give Phelps a few lessons in loving thy neighbor.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Good stuff at JibJab

Those crazy stairists at JibJab have a new video, and this time they have set their sights on a true American institution. No, they have not spoofed the Ameican election again. Now, they've taken on corporate America, notably the big-box stores such as Wal-Mart.

It's funny stuff, worth checking out.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Field narrows for Sen. Cantwell's challenger

The Wenatchee World reports that one possible candidate for the Republican nomination to challenge U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell has declared she is not pursuing the idea. State Sen. Linda Evans Parlette, a Wenatchee Republican who represents the state's 12th legislative district, had been mentioned some months ago as a possible Republican candidate. She is in the state senate leadership and is an experienced pharmacist and orchardist.

This announcement came on the heels of a Friday announcement by Diane Tebelius, a former federal prosecutor and unsuccessful Congressional candidate, that she would also not pursue the GOP nomination. This clears the way for the coronation of Mike McGavick, recently the CEO of Safeco Insurance, to grab the nomination, though at least one other candidate could enter the race: former newscaster Susan Hutchinson.

The World's report is below since a subscription is required.
Evans Parlette says she's not running for U.S. Senate

WENATCHEE -- Citing important work she is doing in the 12th Legislative District -- and no desire for D.C. politics -- state Sen. Linda Evans Parlette says she is not pursuing the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Maria Cantwell.

"I am not actively pursuing a bid for the United States Senate at this time," the Wenatchee Republican said Friday. She stopped short of making an official announcement, but left no indication that she will run in 2006.

"You have to have the fire in the belly to go to Washington, D.C.," Parlette said. "My heart is not into going to Washington D.C. at this time."

Parlette, a pharmacist and orchardist, said people in her district encouraged her not to run because of the work she is doing in North Central Washington.

Her district encompasses Chelan and Douglas counties and parts of Grant and Okanogan counties.

The leading challenger for Cantwell's U.S. Senate seat is Republican Mike McGavick. McGavick, the chairman and CEO of Seattle-based insurance provider Safeco, has reportedly raised $710,000 for his campaign.

On Friday, Diane Tebelius, a former federal prosecutor and congressional candidate, bowed out of Washington's U.S. Senate race. Tebelius endorsed McGavick.

Tebelius, 56, who lives in Bellevue and practices law in Seattle, said she will turn her attention to her career and to working for GOP candidates, including David Irons for King County executive and McGavick for Senate.

Former television anchor Susan Hutchison hasn't ruled out the race.

The race has been identified as one of the top Senate races in the nation next year, and the Republicans want this seat -- bad. They remember in 2000 when Cantwell barely knocked off incumbent Republican Slade Gorton, a victory for the Democrats that ultimately led to control of the Senate (after a few other maneuvers courtesy of Vermont's James Jeffords). The GOP is also still ticked off about losing the gubernatorial race in Washington last year. In short, the Republicans don't like recounts and they want to take it out on a capable and smart Senator.

My money is on Maria.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

A symbol for our state

Beginning in 1999, the U.S. Mint began its 50-state coin series, with five states commemorated annually in the order of their admission to the union. Starting with Delaware, most recently with Kansas and continuing this year with West Virgina, each state gets its chance to have a symbol or slogan on the reverse of President Washington. In 2007, Washington, the 42d state, will be the second coin issued, along with Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and Utah. Hawaii, as 50th state, will complete the series in 2008.

The time has come for state leaders and a committee to determine just what will appear on the coin with Washingtons on both sides of the coin. Finalists have emerged, and they are predictably plain and cliche -- Mount Rainier, a salmon, an apple and the outline of the state. Seattle Post-Intelligencer columnist Cathy Sorbo takes a shot at the choices and offers a few that should have been included. It's worth a read for a good chuckle.

My suggestion: A coin like the ancint "piece of eight" clay coin. But this one would be grooved down the middle, easily divided as west and east. One could say that one half might spend better in one side of the state or the other -- surely the westerners would say they are subsidizing the bumpkins of the east, while the rural easterners would scoff at having to pay for the half of teh state they never get over to use.

It could be the perfect solution.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Now more than ever

The arts have a way of making us think and react. They have a way of forcing us to consider our stage in life and our humanity. At times, art can show a parallel to society and at times it can tell history that needs repeating. In these ways, the arts are important to our culture.

Increasingly, the American art form is cinema -- with the stage a close second. Yesterday I saw a movie and a play that each shine bright as a work of art and each provoked thought. And, in a time of troubled national and international events, each made me think and react, made me consider my stage in life and my humanity.

The movie "Good Night, and Good Luck" takes viewers almost 50 years ago to a television news landscape very different from today. Through the storytelling about the hesitation of newsmen to question the tactics of Sen. Joseph McCarthy's witch hunt for communists in the American government, the film carefully shows this blotch on our national record, and it's not a far leap to see some parallels with the last few years. As our citizens become more fearful of terrorists and attacks, those in power have used fear to manipulate and extend power, sometimes with propaganda and tactics straight from McCarthy's play book.

David Strathairn as Murrow is absolutely brilliant. Directed by George Clooney, the film does not over play any scene and its use of only black and white tones helps focus the attention on the drama and conflict rather than appearing as a period piece.

It's a wonderful bit of film, one that many people should see and discuss for its larger implications about our current culture and society.

Later, I saw a stage version of "The Grapes of Wrath" by John Steinbeck. I'd never read the book or seen the play, though I had scant knowledge about the plot and a working knowledge of the author. This was powerful drama. The show is part of the five-year project titled "The American Cycle," at the Intiman Theatre stages one American classic -- a classic with cultiral significance -- annually. The prescience of the planners to schedule "The Grapes of Wrath" for 2005 was amazing. The show features the travels of the Joad family across the country, fleeing their home ravaged by the Dust Bowl and seeking a better life in the land of milk and honey. Along the way, we all learn about humanity -- about the ability to hate and the ability to love.

Responsibly, the lobby displayed several placards about the government programs of the era, programs designed to help Americans economically, because we were all in this together. The displays also showed some comparisons to current calamities from struggling salmon production and Washington state's drought that plagues the orchard industry to the impact of the two major hurricanes that hit the Gulf Coast just a few weeks ago.

This play comes at a time when American humanity is being tested. It is a time when billions of dollars are spent each day to prop up a government halfway around the world, while at home thousands still go without food and reliable shelter because everything they have is gone, wiped away by a hurricane. Thtough the recent tragedies, we saw that Americans are exceptionally compassionate, but we saw that Americans can be very selfish, too. The drive exhibited by the Joad family makes me wonder if there is that kind of drive in America today. Can we put aside our individual comfort for the risk of a shaky promise, knowing it could help the greater good? Can we sacrifice nearly everything we have and certainly everything we value in order to start fresh? I don't know.

Now more than ever, we need the arts to show us our humanity. These pieces of art are relevant and timely. They hold up a mirror and say to us: Remember what has happened before. It is happening again. We should use these artistic representations to stop and think. We should use them as a catalyst for a new set of actions.

Now more than ever, we need the arts to remind us of our humanity.

-- Seattle

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

An 'explosive movement'

Today's mail contained a post card from what I have to assume is a local Christian church. The card annoounced an opportunity to learn about Islam. But this card had an interesting way to promote this "education" about the Islamic faith.

The front:
Islam (large letters) Rising World Power (smaller letters)

Text: "Do you understand the role of this explosive movement in earth's history? It will affect you. Are you ready? Join us October 7-9, 2005"

The colors are reddish-orange with the images of Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, two gun-toting shadowy figures with head coverings and a mosque.

The back:
Text: "The Islam movement is already having an impact on life in the United States. Because of recent events you may have many questions. Come join us for a look at the Islam philosophy and it's (sic) influence on America in Bible prophecy."
The text also includes the date, time and location in East Wenatchee. The card's mailing label is addressed to "Neighbor."

This kind of mailing has a sinister subliminal effect and a goal of triggering latent fears about an unknown religion and steering people toward a more mainstream view. Perhaps I am unfairly assuming this is sponsored by an Evangelical church, but I doubt I am wrong. In fact, the tactic smacks of the methods used by some churches in other areas.

The images, colors and words on the front of the post card are intended to frighten and to associate the Islamic faith with bad people who are also Muslim. Undoubtedly, people like bin Laden and the members of Hamas and Al Qaeda use their faith as a motivator to cleanse the world of infidels. However, they represent a small percentage of Muslims.

The card's text also does not even call Islam a faith, instead using the terms "explosive movement" and "philosophy."

This is another dart in a large campaign to scare people away from the truth and toward one "philosophy" whose believers won't acknowledge other world views and who also blend the radical actions of a small minority with the benevolent responsibility of millions of other members of that faith.

If every religion were judged by its most radical members, I suspect that there would be a lot fewer members of every faith, including Christianity.

The program at this location has already passed (the dates were last weekend), but I would not have gone anyway. I don't need a Christian church to tell me about another faith. I'll get my information from a reliable source.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Brain freeze: Now we know

The creators of the Mirriam-Webster dictionary has announced the inclusion of 18 new words in its latest version. I love the dictionary. Yes, I used to browse its pages, learning new words, distracted on my definitive search by other interesting words.

Now, we have a few new ones, too.
Dictionary adds terms like chick flick

Springfield, Mass. (AP) -- Go ahead, treat yourself. Check out the latest chick flick, get a bikini wax or enjoy an ice cream that might give you a brain freeze.

And if you're not sure what you're getting yourself into, it might be wise to consult the latest edition of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary which formally defines those terms that have taken root in American conversation.

The words are joined by 15 other new entries that make up the 1,664 pages of the newly published book. So if you're not interested in movies meant to appeal to women, discreet hair removal procedures or running the risk of feeling a sudden shooting pain in the head caused by ingesting very cold food, maybe there's another endeavor to catch your fancy.

Try steganography, the "art or practice of concealing a message, image, or file within another message, image, or file." That may not be the latest craze among hobbyists, but it's an activity that caught the attention of Merriam-Webster's lexicographers.

"We have editors who spend a part of each day reading magazines and newspapers, looking for evidence of how words are being more commonly used," said John Morse, Merriam-Webster's president and publisher. "We're looking for words that show up in the contexts that the average adult might encounter."

The new words offer explanations of emerging technologies and careers, thereby reflecting changes and developments in American society. You could try your hand at being a cybrarian (a person who finds, collects, and manages information available on the Internet,) or as a hospitalist ("a physician who specializes in treating hospitalized patients of other physicians in order to minimize the number of hospital visits by other physicians.")

The Springfield-based dictionary publisher has an ongoing list of about 17 million words it monitors.

Every year, a few of them make it into print, followed by a succinct definition. Once a decade, the Collegiate Dictionary is completely rewritten, with some old words tossed out to
accommodate the influx of about 10,000 of the latest nouns, verbs and adjectives. The last rewrite was done in 2003.

It takes about 10 years for a promising word to get into the dictionary from the time it first gets noticed. But some have a speedy rise to Merriam-Webster legitimacy, depending on the urgency of their meaning and impact.

Among this year's fastest climbers is SARS, the acronym for the severe acute respiratory syndrome that began making headlines just two years ago with an outbreak in China.

"That was enough of a public health concern to get it in the dictionary right away," Morse said. "Now, one of two things could happen. Either we'll never hear about SARS again, and if so, I've wasted three lines of type in the dictionary. Or it will come back, and everyone will go to the
dictionary in a time of need to see how SARS is defined."

Merriam-Webster is also recognizing civil unions, which have been talked about enough in social and political circles to earn a place in the Collegiate's latest edition.

The dictionary dates the term's genesis to 1992. But a Vermont lawmaker insists it wasn't really coined until 2000, when his state became the country's first to establish the legal rights of same-sex couples.

"We needed to decide a name for this, and we just didn't have one," said Bill Lippert, a Democrat who now chairs the Legislature's House Judiciary Committee. "Somewhere, someone said 'civil union,' and we all said 'oh, that sounds good.' It was a name that did what we wanted it to do. It was new, it designated that the fact that this was a civil act, and it suggested the bringing together of a union."

Others terms seem like they've been a long time coming.

Merriam-Webster traces the bikini wax's origins to 1985, and some spa owners say it's about time the hair-removal procedure made it into the dictionary.

"Bikini waxes are now old hat," said Shannon Fluery, owner of the Brooks and Butterfield Day Spa in Northampton, where as many as 40 women come in for a bikini wax each week. "It's not such a taboo as it used to be. People wouldn't talk about it too much and just did them at home. But salons have definitely picked up on them, and now they're very, very common."

At last, Merriam-Webster agreed.


Following is a partial list of new words and their definitions being entered into this year's edition of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary.
Amuse-bouche (noun): a small complimentary appetizer offered at some restaurants.
Battle dress uniform (noun): a military uniform for field service.
DHS (abbreviation) : Department of Homeland Security.
Hazmat (noun): a material (as flammable or poisonous material) that would be a danger to life or to the environment if released without precautions.
Metadata (noun): data that provide information about other data.
Otology (noun): a science that deals with the ear and its diseases.
Retronym (noun): a term consisting of a noun and a modifier which specifies the original meaning of the noun. ("Film camera," for instance).
Tide pool (noun): a pool of salt water left (as in a rock basin) by an ebbing tide, called also tidal pool.
Wi-Fi (certification mark): used to certify the interoperability of wireless computer networking devices.
Zaibatsu (noun): a powerful financial and industrial conglomerate of Japan.
-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

A 'whole' new admissions process

Whole-language instruction.

Holistic medicine.

University of Washington admissions.

According to The Seattle Times, the University of Washington is switching its admissions criteria to consider the whole student.

Grades only part of picture for new UW admissions plan

By Nick Perry, Seattle Times staff reporter

Beginning this year, the University of Washington will no longer automatically admit top students based on their high-school grades and test scores.

The university is ditching a statewide student-ranking system called the Admissions Index, which it relied on to admit about half its students. The university is also getting rid of an internal system called the "grid," which ranked remaining students on a combination of academic and personal factors.

Instead, university staffers plan to read and review every one of the 16,000 annual freshmen applications to come up with a "holistic" assessment of each candidate. Besides academic performance, they will consider factors such as whether a student has overcome personal or social adversity, their leadership skills and their extracurricular interests.

This is a monumental shift in the admissions process in our state. No longer will a student with a great report card but no activites to speak of be an automatic admission to The U. Essentially, this is a thumb in the eye at the Washington Assessment of Student Learning, the state's standardized assessment that is a graduation requirement for the Class of 2008. No more checked boxes and percentage ranges. Now, prospective students will be judged as real people.

Probably, this will worry many of the people who shell out money for SAT prep courses and who take a dozen AP courses hoping to have a transcript that reads like a nice pedigree. Now they have to have passions and interests and hobbies and personalities? Good.

The Times' Nicole Brodeur used her Sunday space to support the changes. It's a nice read, too, and I'm posting it all here to avoid The Times' Web site, which is free anyway.

Nicole Brodeur
"Whole" students get chance

My mother was an English teacher who worked long hours and didn't get paid enough.

One of the perks of the job, though, was the live theater performed daily, right in front of her desk. Students would beg like the orphans in "Oliver Twist," stir up stories like the witches of "Macbeth," and threaten "Romeo and Juliet"-style peril, all for a better grade.

Their college admission, their parents' love, their very lives depended on my mother, her grade book, and one fateful flick of her Flair pen.

She rarely budged from the grade she had already given — and she paid for it with parental blowback, tears and threats.

So it was for my ever-patient mother, and those kids, that I celebrated the University of Washington's decision to take a "holistic" approach to its admissions process.

Instead of betting the house on grades and SAT scores — in keeping with a statewide student-ranking system called the Admissions Index — the school will instead pore over the whole student.

It will review academic performance, but also whether the applicant has overcome adversity, shown leadership and has extracurricular interests.

Now the kids who work after school, who tend to a younger sibling or an aging grandparent, who shut down when tests start up, or who just don't fit the pass-in-your-papers mold, have a better chance at a Husky education.

And the Oscar-worthy kids like my mother's students? They may learn to look up from their books and get a life instead of just a grade.

Adjusting the focus on grades is a welcome trend that we're seeing all over.

Starting in 2007, Roosevelt High School will name just one valedictorian.

The school had 24 in 2002; last year, about half that many.

But the school wants to restore meaning to the honor, according to a recent Seattle Times story. Roosevelt students still have to get straight A's but also must serve the community. The goal is to end the pressure and gamesmanship that make it a competition.

With the new UW admissions policy, "Maybe some of the dropouts will go back and get their GED" if they know there's a chance for a higher education, said Marsha Richards of the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, a conservative public-policy think tank in Olympia.

And while it may address the whole person to ease academic standards, the UW still should screen students "to be sure they are able to succeed," Richards said.

The new process won't come cheap. The UW estimates it will cost $200,000 to hire people to read through all those applications, and it plans to make the money back by raising the application fee from $38 to about $50.

But what will the students get in return? The ability to walk across a campus they have only driven past. To be a part of something they had maybe given up on, for reasons not entirely their own.

"History is full of examples of people who have overcome odds," Richards said, "and gone on to change the world."

Nicole Brodeur's column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or State college. Majored in The Dead.

So buck up, all of you without a 4.0 GPA or a 1500 SAT (2200 new score). You still have a chance at the University of Washington. Just show how you are a real person, have done some interesting things in your life so far and maybe you'll get a spot at our state's finest research institution. Isn't that the role of the university?

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

I go out walking

Except for a few months in 1996 and a few more in 1997, I have always live in a small town, close to work, close to my needs. I grew up in Ellensburg, Wash., a place that is exceptionally friendly to walkers and bikers alike. I walked to school starting in second grade -- we lived just about six blocks from my first elementary school. In third grade, I changed schools, but I continued to walk the 13 blocks to school despite several frightening dogs and some very cold mornings. In fourth grade I began to ride my bike to school, something about which I was very excited, and a habit I continued through high school. Well, except for my half of my sophomore year, but that is complicated.

Even into college, I rode my bike, and I walked all around campus. I never owned a motor vehicle until I was 20, and my first used car at 21. Yes, I am a walker, and I like it.

Yet when I moved to Wenatchee, I found myself driving everywhere. I had grown accustomed to it because of a short residence in western Washington, and now I had my first professional job and a new car. I liked driving. I missed walking, but I lived too far from school for a walk to be convenient with all I had to carry and with my late hours. That is until I bought my current house, which is just four blocks from school. I've lived here three years and have never walked a full week to school. Until now.

I walked to school every day for two weeks, and I felt good for doing it. Well, one day I drove because I had an appointment right after school, but I rode my bike back to school for an activity later.) There is something nice about a morning walk -- a chance to prepare for the day, a chance to greet the sun and to breathe in the crisp, musky scent if autumn as I walk briskly along with my day's work and lunch slung across my back.

And, it turns out that last week was also National Walk to School Week. Heck, I am glad when I can walk more than I drive, and I even was part of a national awareness campaign last week.

I drove to Seattle this weekend, and I drained my gas tank to fumes on the return trip. I filled it up this morning at the gas station nearby. It cost $41. For unleaded regular. I guess I have done mostly topping off during the last month or so. When I first got the car in 1997, I recall paying just $16 to fill up. Just a few months before that, gas was 92 cents a gallon, and I recall balking on my cross-country journey home to Washington when I would see gas at $1.13 per gallon.

Gas is almost $3 per gallon. I have commented often to friends and coworkers that anything under $3 is not outrageous, especially when we pay $1.25 for a pint of bottled water or $2.75 for a fancy coffee (let alone $3.50 for a child-size pop at the cinema). Still, $41 has a bit of a sting. It's enough to convince a guy to walk to work.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Oliver North is coming to Wenatchee

Oliver North is coming to town, giving a speech as part of a fund-raiser for St. Paul's Lutheran Church.

Little information is available about the event other than what appears on a Mission Street billboard, but he will be here Nov. 19. North is also conducting a book tour, and he will probably try to seel a few of his books here.

North's online biography from his speaker's bureau makes plenty of mention of his assistance in rescues and planning attacks on foreign lands. It does not mention his role in the scandal that almost sunk two presidential administrations. But we all know who Oliver North is, and what he did.

Here's a refresher from Wikipedia:
North became famous due to his participation in the Iran-Contra Affair, in which he was the chief coordinator of the illegal sale of weapons via intermediaries to Iran, with the profits being channeled to the Contra rebel group in Nicaragua. He was responsible for the establishment of a covert network used for the purposes of aiding the Contras.

In November 1986, North was fired by President Reagan, and in July 1987 he was summoned to testify before televised hearings of a joint Congressional committee formed to investigate Iran-Contra. During the hearings, he admitted that he had lied to Congress, for which he was later charged. He defended his actions by stating that he believed in the goal of aiding the Contras, whom he saw as "freedom fighters," and said that he viewed the illegal Iran-Contra scheme as a "neat idea."

North was tried in 1988 in relation to his activities while at the National Security Council. He was indicted on sixteen felony counts and on May 4, 1989, he was convicted of three: accepting an illegal gratuity, aiding and abetting in the obstruction of a congressional inquiry, and destruction of documents (by his secretary, Fawn Hall, on his instructions). He was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Gerhard A. Gesell on July 5, 1989, to a three-year suspended prison term, two years probation, $150,000 in fines, and 1,200 hours community service.

However, on July 20, 1990, a three-judge appeals panel overturned North's conviction in advance of further proceedings on the grounds that his public testimony may have prejudiced his right to a fair trial. [1] The Supreme Court declined to review the case, and Judge Gesell dismissed the charges on September 16, 1991, after hearings on the immunity issue, on the motion of the independent counsel.

Essentially, North's convictions were overturned because he had been granted limited immunity for his Congressional testimony, and this testimony was deemed to have influenced witnesses at his trial.
A summary: A local church has a billboard displayed where the church announces it is sponsoring a speech by a man widely known as a convicted felon, a man whose felonies were overturned because Congress had granted limited immunity. He's a man who has since built a career as a political talking head, a hero of the Right, a losing U.S. Senate candidate in Virginia and author. But he calls himself a patriot. Critics argue no one man is above the law no matter how righteous he may be.

He is not the kind of person who should be on a billboard, and I am surprised that St. Paul's would want to be associated with such a character. It does little to help the church. Sadly, the event will probably sell well in Wenatchee, where North should prove popular. Maybe people will just want to see this lying fraud in person.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Failed candidate becomes author

The failed Republican candidate for governor will publish a book next month. Dino Rossi, the former state senator who lost the election to Gov. Christine Gregoire by 133 votes and a long court battle, has written a book with tips about leadership, business, politics and life. But I doubt it will offer much new in the way of inspiration.

From the Associated Press:

In between campaigns, Rossi turns writer


FEDERAL WAY, Wash. -- Dino Rossi, taking a sabbatical from politics but still treated as Republicans' once and future candidate for governor, is turning to the printed word to keep his name fresh in people's minds.

He's written a book about his rags-to-riches life, the Election from Hell and his thoughts and aphorisms on government, business, politics and living a good life. The hardback edition, published by his own new publishing house, with a first printing that could hit 25,000 copies, will be pre-sold on the Internet.

First copies will roll off the press next month, one year after Rossi won the governor's mansion by 261 votes and a recount by 41 votes. The office slipped out of his grasp, though, on the third count and Democrat Christine Gregoire was declared governor. Rossi lost a court challenge in June and now says, "I've moved on. I moved on a long time ago."

Part of Rossi's new post-campaign life was writing "Dino Rossi: Lessons in Leadership, Business, Politics and Life."

He has blurbs from Rudy Guiliani and John McCain, both presumptive presidential candidates who have written books, and from Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.

Don't expect sex, sensationalism or delicious payback attacks of an Olympia tell-all, though. The book combines autobiography and business tips with political and campaign narrative - all told with his sunny, make-lemonade-when-life-gives-you-lemons approach.

Although he defends his conservatism, including his opposition to abortion, in what he describes as a Democratic-leaning "blue state," he portrays himself as a different kind of conservative, mindful of the needy and willing to cross the aisle to find allies. He says he grew in a "Scoop Jackson Democrat" family and refuses to call Democrats the enemy or even the opposition.

The book will be Rossi's main public voice for a time. He has eschewed the role of governor-in-exile and rarely does political analysis. He isn't taking sides on this year's ballot initiatives, and has largely unplugged from politics for now.

Click the link for background, for what Rossi has been up to since being declared a loser again, and for a sample of some of his musings. Undoubtedly the book will make the Republican Gift List -- a courtesy gift to thank donors or to inspire the Coulter clones. I don't think Rossi has much to teach about leadership or business or politics or life with the exception that he did exit the political stage mostly gracefully. I look foreward to seeing this in the bargain bin.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

A walk down a 'country' lane

Saturday night.

Flipping channels on the TV.

I stop on Channel 20 -- PAX, the wholesome American values channel.

What grabbed my attention was a lengthy advertisement for a series of country music videos. But this was not any set of country music videos. No, this was a set of country classics. This did not contain any Dixie Chicks, no Faith Hill and certainly no Toby Keith. Instead, there was Johnny Cash, Conway Twitty and the Oak Ridge Boys. This was indeed a selection of classics.

I thought I would just listen to the clip of Cash singing the "Folsom Prison Blues," but I was drawn into the twangy lyrics, the banjo-plucking and slow crooning that I grew up with as Country and Western music on the AM dial as a kid in Ellensburg.

Today I am not a fan of country music, and there is a lot of today's country music that I find deplorable (Toby Keith especially -- someone shoud put a boot in his mouth). But the 1970s and 1980s were decades when Country and Western music thrived, a time when being wholesome meant something, and the values behind the music were real, not just a ploy to divide Red State America from the Left Coast.

There is something intoxicating about the deep bass vocals in Johnny Cash's songs, something amazing to watch Mickey Gilley's hands fly over the piano keys, something delightful to listen to Loretta Lynn's heartfelt experiences.

Ah, yes -- the AM radio (KXLE 1240) provided me with a solid foundation in the Nashville tradition. As tonight's commercial played clip after clip, I recognized them all -- Buck Owens, the Judds, Barbara Mandrell, Dolly Parton, Randy Travis, Reba McEntire, George Jones, George Strait, Tammy Wynette and Merle Haggard.

Much of my country upbringing came from my family's Saturday night TV lineup, which for years included "Hee Haw" and the variety show with Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell sisters (Louise and Irlene).

So it's Saturday night again, and I can't find anything as good as "Hee Haw" on TV. I think TV would be well served to bring back a show like "Hee Haw," with its corny skits and cheesy jokes -- Pickin' and Grinnin' was always my favorite.

Yeah, I admit I have a country upbringing. There are worse skeletons to have in one's closet. I was country when country wasn't cool.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Cool Blog Alert: News Gems

From the Web site of the Society of Professional Journalists:

Jon Marshall, a freelancer and instructor at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, has launched a blog highlighting the best in U.S. journalism. Called "News Gems," the blog features examples of stories with thorough, enterprising reporting and great writing from newspapers, television, radio, magazines and Web sites. While journalists receive a barrage of criticism, News Gems aims to be a daily Pulitzer that acknowledges great work.

Check it out at

E-mail Jon with suggested stories at

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Hastings says ethics panel won't investigate DeLay

Hastings says ethics panel won't investigate DeLay

The Seattle Times | Complete article
WASHINGTON — Rep. Doc Hastings, the Washington state Republican who chairs the House ethics committee, touched off a political controversy this week with statements supporting embattled Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas.

Hastings told the Yakima Herald-Republic that his committee would not investigate a 15-month-old complaint about DeLay's role in alleged illegal campaign contributions in Texas.

Such an investigation would duplicate the work of the Texas district attorney who obtained indictments against DeLay over the fund-raising issue, Hastings said. "We don't have the resources," he added.

A Hastings spokeswoman later said the congressman wasn't ruling out an investigation after the criminal case.

In the Yakima interview, Hastings also suggested that the case brought by Travis County prosecutor Ronnie Earle in Austin, Texas, is a Democratic partisan move.

So, while DeLay is on trial in Texas, the House Ethics Committee, which has dragged its feet for months on this and other investigations, again postpones its own investigation of the wrongdoing of the former majority leader.

Hastings will be interviewed Oct. 11 by my student journalists, and I imagine they'll have a few questions for the Ethics Committee Chair, also their Congressman. We'll see.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Crazy stuff in the news

Animal rights group angry over goldfish swallowed at school assembly

FEDERAL WAY (AP) — Two high school boys got a stern talking to after swallowing goldfish at a school assembly. Animal rights activists think they deserved harsher punishment.

After learning about the stunt late last month, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals urged Federal Way Public Schools to adopt a district-wide policy prohibiting the use of animals in school functions.

“We feel certain you’ll agree that killing fish in the name of school spirit is unacceptable,” wrote Jennifer O’Connor, an official with the Norfolk, Va.-based group.

“If the reports we received are accurate, this cruel spectacle has no place in Federal Way public schools. Given the proliferation of violence in the schools, it is imperative that we teach compassion for all living beings rather than publicly encouraging cruelty to animals,” O’Connor added.

Federal Way Schools Superintendent Tom Murphy replied that he asked one of his deputies to “reiterate to all our principals that this type of activity is never appropriate and should never occur in our schools.”

The district has instituted a policy requiring school principals to review student presentations to be made during school assemblies, a duty that was previously handled by a teacher or adviser.

My comments: Dude, kids should not be swallowing fish at a school assembly. Yeah, it's cruel, but it is also gross. But come on, should a principal have to review every presentation scheduled for an assembly? What a waste of time. Some kids at Todd Beamer High School do something stupid and everyone in the district has to pay. Lame.

Schools ban some dances as being too explicit:
Spokane-area parents and school officials freak over teens’ ‘freaking’ dance style

SPOKANE (AP) — Central Valley High School has become the latest Spokane-area school to ban informal dances, known as mixers, because of sexually explicit dancing called “freaking.”

The style involves grinding and gyrating against a dance partner or several people at once in what one school administrator said looks like having sex with clothes on.

“I think part of the issue is that the students don’t know how to dance to the type of music that is being played now,” Central Valley Principal Mike Hittle said. “It’s what they see on MTV, and in the clubs, and it’s gotten to the point where it is just inappropriate.”

Prior to a Sadie Hawkins dance scheduled for Oct. 29, teachers will offer dance classes to students who want to learn another way to dance.

Proms and other formal date dances are still allowed at Greater Spokane League schools, but informal mixers are banned at most.

After staff turned on the lights because some students were dancing inappropriately at a recent dance, Mount Spokane High School student leaders voted to do away with mixers.

“Our student leadership looked at it and just said that’s not what we’re about,” Vice Principal Jim Preston said.

“We will still try to create opportunities for students to come together and celebrate, but we just want it to be in an appropriate or positive manner.”

My comments: Too much freakin' in Spocompton! The school folks say, "We're not gonna take it anymore!" So now, kids in Spokane will have to freak on their own time, which they were probably doing anyway. And the nice kids are left out in the cold.

Washington woman booted off flight over T-shirt with Bush, Cheney and Rice

RENO, Nev. (AP) — A Woodland, Wash., woman was booted off a Southwest Airlines flight for wearing a T-shirt that bore an expletive and images of President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Lorrie Heasley said she plans to press a civil-rights complaint against the airline over Tuesday's action at Reno-Tahoe International Airport, halfway through Heasley's scheduled trip from Los Angeles to Portland.

"I have cousins in Iraq and other relatives going to war," Heasley told the Reno Gazette-Journal. "Here we are trying to free another country and I have to get off an airplane ... over a T-shirt. That's not freedom." Complete story.

My comments: This passenger is right -- it is not freedom for her to have to get off a flight because of a T-shirt, especially one she wore for a portion of the flight. In the words of Vice President Cheney, Southwest can go f*** itself.

Crazy stuff in the news, for sure.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Monday, October 03, 2005

The Religious Left

I recently stumbled upon the Weblog of a friend of mine, a fellow Wenatchee-area teacher. The site has been dormant for a month or so -- that start of school can really knock the wind out of you -- but the Sept. 5 post is interesting, especially juxtaposed next to my "Sky Diving for Jesus" post, which raise da few hackles among the local Evangelical Christians who also read my Weblog.

So check it out and see whatcha think. And post a comment -- we need more updates from that perspective, and fast.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Friends in high places

Today's appointment from the Oval Office showed Americans again that the best way to get a high government appointment in the George W. Bush Administration is to be a buddy of W. himself. It's been well-known for a while that W. fancies himself a good judge of character and values loyalty highly.

Several current cabinet mambers -- and the vice president, I might add -- started as Bush advisers and ended with a large office and a personal staff themselves. Dick Cheney was contacted in 2000 to be the "old guard" consigliere to assist with vetting potential running mates for Bush, then the governor of Texas. Then, suddenly, Cheney walked out, clasped hands with W. and he was in.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales goes way back to Texas with W, serving as his Texas general counsel, appointed to the Texas Supreme Court and then as White House Counsel during the first term. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, also a Bush Texan, was domestic policy adviser to Bush during his first term. Former Commerce Secretary Don Evans ran the 2000 Bush-Cheney campaign. The list goes on.

And now, Bush has nominated his current White House Counsel, Harriet Miers, to the United States Supreme Court. She had previously served as deputy chief of staff and head of the Texas lottery commission and the Texas bar. She had also been entrusted with guiding the search for a replacement for Sandra Day O'Connor, after O'Connor announced her retirement in July, and later for William Rehnquist, who died in September.

It's evident Bush values personal loyalty above qualifications. Before I bash the heck out of Meirs' qualifications for the court, let me first acknowledge a few things. First, Miers has a deep experience as a practicing attorney, which is valuable. Second, the court benefits from having justices from a range of backgrounds -- not just sitting judges or law professors; in fact, justices with background in private practice or in public service often have been among the best justices. Third, we need diversity on the high court, which means having women and people of color.

But Harriet Miers falls just a bit short of the kind of person we expect on the Supreme Court. We should aspire to have justices who know the law but also know its limitations, who understand the role of the court in our Constitution, and whose experience gives them a perspective to interpret the highest law of the land. Miers has served a year as White House Counsel -- she has been the chief lawyer for the Executive Branch of our government, and now she will be expected to have partial oversight of that branch. She has been the president's attorney, and she will be expected to now judge cases in which his administration is a party, indeed in which he personally may be a party. She has a thin record -- a short "paper trail" when it comes to writings and legal opinions.

The conservatives are feeling a bit ripped off today, having received a campaign promise of an appointment who would be in the mold of Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. The far right folks were a bit disappointed in John Roberts, realizing he might not be their standard bearer. And now, they worry that Miers might turn out to be like another appointee who had a short paper trail, David Souter, the appointee of Republican President George H.W. Bush with a thin paper trail who turned out to be one of the court's most reliably liberal members.

So the Democrats have been able to stay mostly quiet on the appointment today, all the while watching the conservatives tear her up and criticize her lack of solid background. But Democratic leader Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada practically drooled all over her because she is a trial lawyer, and so is he.

Meanwhile, Slate has some extensive coverage, including an explanation of how she is no John Roberts and is also no Sandra Day O'Connor. Another essay said her mediocrity would get her confirmed. It says, "The caricature of Miers that is emerging is so pathetic, her inadequacies so exaggerated, her inarticulateness so certain, that by the time she speaks in the committee room, she's almost certain to seem appealing."

I think we could have done better.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Score one for unions in Washington

From The Seattle Times Oct. 2:

School-union leaders approve alliance
The board of the Public School Employees union voted yesterday to affiliate with the Services Employees International Union, forming the largest union in Washington.

If, as expected, delegates at a PSE convention in December approve the deal, the new union will include about 86,000 members.

PSE represents bus drivers, cafeteria workers, secretaries and other nonteachers at public schools in Washington. SEIU already represents about 4,000 classified school employees, as well as home health-care workers and custodians, and it is now working to organize day-care workers.

"I think our members will be big winners in this," said PSE President George Dockins.

The vote yesterday was 15-0.

PSE has lost about 1,100 members over the past year, the bulk of those being recruited away by the Teamsters.

PSE communications director Rick Chisa said PSE will become a local union of SEIU "while preserving our current structure and governance."

I was a four-year member of the Public School Employees of Washington, when I was a printer's assistant at the school district print shop in Ellensburg. It is the second banana of education unions in the state, far behind the Washington Education Association in influence, prominence and membership. One of its problems is the varied interests of its members -- grouped together because of their non-teaching roles. However, the bus drivers sometimes have conflicting interests with the secretaries or paraeducators or custodians. At least they have more in common with fellow classified employees in their own union. The WEA also represents some classified employees -- "education support personnel" in union parlance.

Now, the PSE folks will be part of the larger SEIU, itself working to make an identity since breaking away from the AFL-CIO. I wish the classified employees well in their new alliance. We're all stronger with healthy unions, and the SEIU is a longtime friend to education and to the WEA. I hope that relationship blossoms even more.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

The Roberts Court

Tomorrow is the first Monday in October. By Constitutional decree, it is the opening of the term of the United States Supreme Court. Since 1986, the court had opened its new term under the guidance of Chief Justice William Rehnquist. Since 1994, the Court opened with the same nine justices.

But this year, it is different. Oct. 3, 2005, marks the beginning of the Roberts Court as John G. Roberts Jr. begins his term as chief justice. Sandra Day O'Connor, who had previously announced her retirement from the court but agreed to stay until a replacement is confirmed by the Senate, will also be on the bench. Roberts was initially been named her replacement.

A handful of cases before the Court this term will show how Chief Justice Roberts will lead the Court. The Associated Press lists several key cases so far:

Abortion: A review of a parental-notification law from New Hampshire that gives justices a chance to make it harder to bring legal challenges against abortion restrictions.

Abortion protests: An appeal involving a claim that an anti-abortion group's protests violated federal racketeering and extortion laws.

Assisted suicide: A test of a unique state law allowing doctors to help terminally ill patients die more quickly. (This case from Oregon is first up -- on Tuesday.)

Campaign finance: Reviews of federal and state limits on campaign spending.

Colleges-military: A case that asks whether the government can withhold federal funds from colleges that bar military recruiters in protest of the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays.

Death penalty: The most significant of five death-penalty cases asks when people should get an additional chance to prove their innocence based on new evidence such as DNA.

Disabled inmates: A federal-powers case that will decide whether states and counties can be sued for not accommodating disabled prisoners.

Religious tea: A case that asks whether federal drug laws trump church members' constitutional rights to use hallucinogenic tea in services.

Student loans: An appeal that will decide whether the federal government can seize a person's Social Security payments to pay off student-loan debts.

With these cases, John Roberts and eight other justices will have a chance to change the face of American law. The X-factor remains the unknown apointee to replace O'Connor and when President Bush will name that replacement as well as when he or she is confirmed. O'connor's vote only counts in cases she votes on and are completed before she leaves service. Since she is often a fifth swing vote, that could mean a 4-4 vote in a cse, which would be returned to the lower court, whose ruling would stand.

Stephen Breyer, currently the junior justice, gave an exclusive -- and exceptionally rare -- interview to George Stephanopolis of ABC-TV's "This Week" where Bryer talked about the Court and how the public should be involved with it. He laid out his views in a forthcoming book called "Active Liberty."

This is the most exciting year in the Supreme Court in at least a decade both because of the justices and because of the cases before the court. It is the first Monday in October, and this year, people are noticing.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Why not a marriage?

In Connecticut, Oct. 1 marked the first day that the state offered legal civil unions for same-sex couples. The Associated Press reports:
"Connecticut became the first state to legalize civil unions without being forced by the courts after lawmakers passed a law endorsing the unions in April. Massachusetts allows gay marriages and Vermont recognizes civil unions because of lawsuits. ... The law affords all the legal rights of marriage -- such as spousal health-care benefits -- to same-sex couples, but defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Heterosexual couples cannot get civil unions. The license application is identical to one for marriage, except 'bride' and 'groom' are replaced with 'party 1' and 'party 2.' "

So, it has all the legal rights of a marriage granted to every other couple through a civil ceremony. It looks like a marriage. It sounds like a marriage. Why, then is it not called a marriage?

Religious institutions, of course, offer marriages within their churches, synagogues, temples and mosques. That is a religious ceremony and is not legally binding. It is government that grants marriage rights. So why should governments be forced to change their nomenclature for the civil ceremony called a marriage? Why can't religions change their ceremonies. No church is forced to bless or otherwise acknowledge any marriage that might have been granted by the state. Nothing would change by calling these "civil unions" what they really are: marriages.

Meanwhile, one state away, in Massachusetts, the state assembly did not vote successfully to place an constitutional amendment on the ballot that would ban same-sex marriages, already legal under a court order.

Now, in our own Washington state, we await a ruling from a state court that would declare same-sex unions legal here, too. Same logic. Same rights.

The earth has not stopped spinning. The sun has continued to rise. Even when giving state recognition to couples of the same gender -- couples who already had been living in monogamous, committed relationships. Imagine that.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

This is a new kind of "West Wing"

I've now watched two episodes of this season of "The West Wing," and I have to say this is a different kind of storytelling for this show. The glossy shots and inspirational pageantry of Aaron Sorkin's creation is gone, replaced by a quick-cut, high-contrast story, with fast dialog and even faster camera shots. It all combines to create a frenzy, which accents the campiagn underway in the show's plot.

I loved the Sorkin version, of course, and it was along the same lines as "The American President," a Sorkin-written movie directed by Rob Reiner in classic Reiner fashion -- inspirational shots and sweeping panoramas. But this new flavor for "The West Wing" is also tremendously appealing. I miss the distinctive dialog that Sorkin also used in "Sports Night," but I think I can get over it.

Meanwhile, the campaign is heating up, and I honestly haven't a clue whether the show will see Democrat Jimmy Smits or Republican Alan Alda elected in a few weeks. Since the show's timeline is still spinning along around Labor Day, I imagine we will see the "election night" somewhere in Nivember sweeps week. Inauguration should come around the February sweeps. Perfect.

Interestingly, too, the show is mirroring a real-life political scandal. On the show, the leak of information about a secret space shuttle has resulted in the reporter heading to prison for contempt of court for refusing to testify to a grand jury. Sounds just like the reporters who went or almost went this summer in our real world.

It's shaping up to be a fine seventh season for "The West Wing," and I couldn't be happier.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Judith Miller is all about Judith Miller

Judith Miller, the New York Times reporter who went spent 12 weeks in a federal prison because she refused to testify to a grand jury prosecuting the leak of the name of a covert CIA agent, has been released. She agreed to a deal late last week where she would testify to the grand jury about her source now that she had received a waiver of confidentiality from her source.

It turns out her source was, in fact, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney. He is the source I fingered in a post here July 19. Apparently, Libby had agreed to a waiver for Miller a year ago, but she wanted a specific and personal phone call. Apparently that happened recently, and Miller agreed to testify to the grand jury what she knows.

That, or Miller just got tired of being in the pokey.

I have a mountain of respect for someone who sticks to her principles as Miller had done. She defended her First Amendment rights to free press and free speech, stiff-arming the special prosecutor and holding sacred a bond of her word for confidentiality. But I wonder, with 12 weeks of her sentence served, and the grand jury term set to expire in just a few more weeks, why Miller suddenly changed her tune.

Howard Kurtz, a media critic for The Washington Post and the host of CNN's "Reliable Sources," said this morning on his Sunday CNN show that he expected to get up this morning and read a 5,000-word story from Miller in today's Sunday Times, a story that would explain everything Miller knew about the CIA agent's name leak.

Alas, none was there.

Increasingly, I believe Judith Miller is more interested in being a martyr, a person who seeks to be close to power. She does not operate ina traditional position of power -- such as being an elected official -- so she uses her position at The Times to manipulate people in power, essentially being more powerful than they are. Meanwhile, everyone knows her name, and she'll get a heck of a book deal when all the dust settles. Her flag-waving and First Amendment stunts are wearing thin. Sadly, she duped her editors and Floyd Abrahams, her distinguished attorney, one of the foremost First Amendment legal minds of our generation.

So I will ignore Judith Miller, and I will resist any desire to acknowledge her sacrifice. She's become just as much of a sellout as the broadcast anchors. Perhaps The Times, which recently announced a substantial reduction in newsroom staff, might show her the door, too. It would be better off.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Sky Diving for Jesus

For months, bright chartreuse signs have heralded the coming of a big party at a local park. Bumper stickers slapped on cars around town, magnetic signs and, more recently, ads in the local newspaper have all announced the Central Washington Festival Oct. 1 and 2 at Walla Walla Point Park in Wenatchee.

The name and signs suggest nothing more than fun in the park. Come for some food and family entertainment, they say. Come watch exhibitions of BMX bikes and soccer. Come listen to some well-known bands perform and see Stephen Baldwin, the actor. It all seems plain enough, until you realize that the festival is sponsored by about 120 churches, and that it is just as much a revival as a festival.

This weekend, the faithful have converged in Wenatchee.

Featuring a slew of Christian musical acts, the festival is quite an attraction. Organizers announced they expected 10,000 to 15,000 people each day, and made arrangements for remote parking and buses to shuttle festival-goers to the venue. There is a food court and even the VeggieTale cartoon characters all appearing live at the grassy park on the shores of the Columbia. And, in a spectacular attraction, the Force Ministries Sky Diving Team will also drop down from the heavens, bright blue parachutes showing starkly against this weekend's cloudy backdrop, an American flag attached patriotically to the foot of the glider.

This weekend, the faithful have converged in Wenatchee, and they are trying to take over.

At the high school football game Friday night, the game ball was delivered by the holy sky divers. Through a sprinkle of rain, the parachuter descended to the field, again with the United States flag attached to leg. The flag is not a symbol of Christianity, and the Christians do not own it. And, honestly, they should stop wrapping themselves in it -- literally and figuratively.

So let the faithful converge in Wenatchee. They have as much right to rent buses and a park and open their concert up to the public audiences, even in the rain. As I compose this, it is a driving rain, too, the kind we don't see here often.

But don't wave a flag and advertise a festival as something other than it is not. It's a revival, a chance to spread the gospel, a congregation of people of faith around a message of faith. Mention the prayer tents adjacent to the food court, and that spectators are likely to be asked about their faith or to accept a savior at this festival. Call it what it is, and be honest with the public. It's sky diving for Jesus.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.