MURRAY'S LESSON PLAN
I was the Columbia River High School teacher in whose class of senior students Patty Murray made her infamous comments about bin Laden [Patty, Jennifer, and Osama, Feb. 12]. So, what Im about to say is not out of context and is ultimately the best informed source any news media person will find. Thus far, I have refused to talk to any media except the Daily Columbian, to which my school district administration asked me to speak.
The situation was confusing from the first moment Murray walked in. She immediately began soliciting questions from my students, for which my students were not prepared. We were told by Murrays office that she would be asking the questions to find out what my students were thinking about the war on terror, the Iraq question, education and Leave No Child Behind legislation, and the economy and jobs.
My students spent two weeks researching Murray, her voting record, the history of Saddam and the current crisis, the recent history of terrorism and its sources, and we read the Leave No Child Behind legislation. The students were ready and prepared to give her their opinions on these issues.
She didnt want to know that. She began soliciting questions, and when my students finally reoriented themselves to the reality of the situation, they began asking them. The problem was in Murrays responses. Her answers were not genuine, but clearly political rhetoric. The students became very quickly turned off to the entire situation and basically went on automatic. They didnt really engage her or themselves in the Q&A session. It became clear that it was nothing more than a campaign stop — a political presentation to recruit potential voters in her next bid for re-election.
She made very partisan remarks about Bush, the congressional resolution to support his actions in regard to Iraq, and Selective Service. My students, however, were on top of this and, although they didnt directly challenge her, the off-camera remarks and behavior were clearly negative and cynical about her presentation. The bin Laden remarks ultimately were less offensive to my students (and me) than some of her earlier statements about Bush and the Congress. At least the bin Laden remarks were an attempt to challenge their thinking on U.S. foreign policy and foreign aid. But to suggest that Bush was abrogating the Constitution in his Homeland Security legislation, or that he was single-handedly going to reinstitute the draft and put my students lives at risk (she actually said that!) by forcing them to fight his wars, or that Bush now has absolute power to wage war, violating the constraints of the Constitution — well, you see the problem. My students know what the War Powers Act is; they know the congressional resolution is non-binding; they know that any president can legally mobilize troops without congressional approval; they knew that the Republicans and Bush had no plans to reinstitute the draft but that certain Democrats were drafting such proposals. Again, you see the problem here. My students were not taken in by Murrays political machinations. By the time we got to the bin Laden comments, we werent even really listening anymore. (And I voted for Murray ... oy.)
Columbia River High School
FRANK'S FISHY MOTIVES
I'm all for independent business, and it's great to know that Frank Blethen is a proponent of that model ["Pulp Friction," Feb. 5]. But I question the motives of anyone who wants to eliminate media diversity. What good is independence if it narrows the field and bottlenecks editorial voices? That seems an independence benefiting the Blethens but not their readership. But isn't the readership where a newspaper's true responsibility lies?
BLOATED BLETHEN PR
It was fun to read Frank Blethen's full-page ad in the Times last week in the form of a folksy letter to readers, and then to read a vastly bloated version of the same thing in Dick Clever's paean in the Weekly ["Pulp Friction," Feb. 5] to Frank, the "Fifth Edition" Blethenettes, and their perky, spunky brand of family journalism that is a civic treasure in Seattle, and how, as Frank's letter said, it's threatened by the "multibillion-dollar conglomerates," which shall remain nameless but are spelled H-e-a-r-s-t, that want to swallow up America's remaining family newspapers, especially the spunky, feisty ones, and how they're "focused on short-term return on investment, not on our community."
As a near-lifer with Hearst's Seattle P-I, I've read Frank's effusive self-congratulation for years but have never seen another paper so unquestioningly regurgitate it. Frank owes Clever a byline on the letter and at least a thank-you for helping spread the word in the Times' carefully orchestrated campaign for the hearts and minds of Seattle readers as he prepares to pull the plug on the joint operating agreement with the P-I.
As Clever wrote, the Hearst execs stiffed him when he asked them for comment. When a journalist doesn't feel like working too hard, it's comforting to be able to tell oneself that a failure to obtain information from one side justifies a failure to do reporting on one's own—to get information from innumerable other sources to offset what Frank was handing him, such as:
The fact that Hearst agreed to a modified joint operating agreement allowing the Times to go mornings after Frank blackmailed them by blocking the P-I from having a Web site, which made the P-I look like a primitive, backwater rag.
A hard look, not a perfunctory acceptance of Frank's denial that he's been spending money like a drunken sailor to ensure a third year of losses. Three consecutive years of losses legally allows him to move toward bringing an end to the JOA and try to make this a one-newspaper town.
The systematic sabotage of the P-I's circulation by the joint Times-owned circulation department, with plenty of substantiation by P-I subscribers and even Times circulation people about how the department discourages potential readers from subscribing to the P-I and tries to steer them to the Times.
Frank's response to the Seattle newspaper strike, similar to what Saddam Hussein's response would be to a riot at the Baghdad penitentiary. Frank threatened to eliminate strikers' jobs, strung up barbed wire, and installed black-clad SWAT wanna-bes in riot gear, ready for combat.
The fatherly way Frank nurtures journalism in his community, such as when he bought the South King County newspapers, then closed them. That's stewardship.
Public Affairs Reporter,
RISKY POWER MOVES
George Howland faced a daunting task in trying to explain the complexities of City Light's business and its current financial challenges ["City Hall's Power Trip," Feb. 5]. I would like to clarify the quote attributed to me. Contrary to what is stated in the article, City Light has sold surplus power on the wholesale market for years. The point I was trying to make is there is a significant difference between selling surplus power which is a "by-product" of the variability of electricity generated by a hydro system (lots of electricity in wet years and the opposite during droughts) and a deliberate strategy of buying surplus power. What is new, different, and, in my view, speculative is City Light's use of ratepayer funds to purchase significantly more power than needed to serve its customers, hoping that it can resell it on the wholesale market and make a profit. This increases the exposure of ratepayers to market risk.
FAT, DUMB CITY LIGHT
The Weekly's profile of Seattle City Light ["[City Hall's Power Trip," Feb 5] does not square with the view that some of us in the industry have of the utility as "fat, dumb, and happy," a view underscored by the ease with which gross financial mistakes can be charged to City Light's ratepayers as pass-through costs. I agree with Seattle Weekly that City Light's brass are nice guys, but these nice guys have gone too far in raising the cost of living and doing business throughout the Puget Sound area.
The city is inviting a rate challenge and court-ordered tariff reductions and refunds because of City Light's violation of basic utility-law principles against retroactive rate-making, pass-through charges that are not used and useful to the rate base, and possible inequities within the rate base. Fundamental mistakes deserve fundamental corrections. Let's roll.
Anthony E. Mitchell
TO BOLDLY GO WHERE WE BELONG
I could not agree with Knute Berger more [Mossback, "[Roll On, Columbia," Feb. 5]. The Columbia falling is a tragedy, and the best thing that may come from it is a renewed effort to safely go where many of us believe our destiny to be.
NOT REALLY RIGHT
Eric Scigliano identifies Michael Kelly as the editor of National Journal ["[Unsubscribe," Feb. 5]. He hasn't been the editor for more than three years. (His title with National Journal Group is chief editorial adviser.) Scigliano also identifies National Journal as a conservative magazine. We're nonpartisan and nonideological; we have some opinion columnists who can be a bit right of center, but I think our news pages defy categorization as liberal or conservative.
Editor, National Journal
SHE DOESN'T KNOW BOONVILLE
I happened across Laura Cassidy's "review" of my novel, Boonville ["[Goofballs in Boonville," Jan. 29]. I found it interesting that after a pompous lesson on the rules of fiction and "creating an imaginary world," the cornerstone of her puffed-up rant against my book was that I had given the residents of Boonville their own language. She said it "lacks any kind of cultural truthfulness . . . and it's not believable."
Well, believe it! Boonville does have its own language, "boontling," that was developed around the turn of the century and is still spoken (harped) by a few old-timers (ridges). What Cassidy mistook as "a half-baked authorial experiment" and an author "trying much too hard" were just the facts.
She also had a problem with "the barrage of crazily named Boonville residents" such as Pensive Prairie Sunset, though there are locals named Sage Mountain Fire, Crow, etc.
Odd she wouldn't know these things, when she also professes that Boonville has been "radically redrawn." And if she doesn't know the truth of the place, or is unwilling to believe it, how does she know where the "edge" or parody lies?
Robert Mailer Anderson
San Francisco, CA
In our Jan. 22 cover story, "[An Acquired Taste for the Suburbs," we misidentified the sponsor of the forum "How Central is the Central District to Seattle's Black Community?" that took place at Mount Zion Baptist Church this past fall. The program was sponsored by the Central District Forum for Arts & Ideas as a part of its "Which Way Seattle" series.
Rant or rave: Write to Seattle Weekly, 1008 Western, Ste. 300, Seattle, WA 98104; fax to 206-467-4377; or e-mail to email@example.com. By submission of a letter, you agree that we may edit the letter and publish and/or license the publication of it in print, electronically, and for archival purposes. Please include name, location, and phone number.