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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Hyperbole, Thy Name is Westneat

posted by on July 9 at 16:15 PM

So according to Danny Westneat of the Seattle Times, charging a fee for disposable grocery bags—and (horrors!) actually using some city employee time to make sure the fee gets charged—is aspiring to emulate South Africa or China. No, seriously: Because the mayor and city council want a small fee to motivate Seattle residents to do something they haven’t been doing voluntarily (bringing their own bags to the store), Westneat thinks we’re heading down the road to communism.

In China you can lose your business license if you’re caught doling out plastic bags. In South Africa, you can be jailed for up to 10 years.

Still, those two are hardly models to aspire to.

Westneat suggests that Seattle “reduce its bag usage without inspectors” or a fee by “having stores do this voluntarily.”

The trouble with that plan is, stores have had the ability to voluntarily reduce waste forever. And despite city encouragement, they haven’t done it. “Having” someone do something “voluntarily” is oxymoronic. And it doesn’t work. What does work? Bans on throwaway bags like those proposed or passed in places like San Francisco, Malibu, Santa Monica, L.A. and Portland work. Compared to the total bans other cities are passing right here in the democratic USA, a completely voluntary 20-cent fee is a very small price to pay.

The SPU workers who’ll check stores for compliance with the bag fee are not “bag police,” any more than the workers who peek into your recycling, garbage and yard waste before they cart them away are recycling, garbage, or yard waste police. Bag-fee opponents may indeed grumble about having to remember to bring their own; it’s hard at first. But they shouldn’t get their boxers in a bunch over the news that the city may actually enforce a law it passes.

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Hyperbolette, thy name is ECBarnett.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | July 9, 2008 4:25 PM

Shrill, much?

Posted by Mr. X | July 9, 2008 4:25 PM

"Bag-fee opponents may indeed grumble about having to remember to bring their own; it’s hard at first. But they shouldn’t get their ***boxers in a bunch*** over the news that the city may actually enforce a law it passes."


Not all bag fee opponents are men.

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | July 9, 2008 4:30 PM

Geheime Taschepolizei. Getashepo?

Posted by elenchos | July 9, 2008 4:31 PM


First they came for the bags, and I said nothing...

Posted by NapoleonXIV | July 9, 2008 4:36 PM

Stop doing that (horrors!) thing. You've done it twice within the last 24 hours. One trick pony.

Posted by Pastafarian | July 9, 2008 4:39 PM

I'm more disgusted with Slog and Stranger, now more than ever.

So "Seattle's Only Newspaper" isn't above reading the competition and calling them names.

Erica does Danny rise to the level of "complete fucking asshole" like the Jezebel bloggers?

Danny's argument is spot on. Laws are laws. You have them or you don't. A law is not "a small fee to motivate." A law is a requirement.

We the people of Seattle do not need Erica C. Barnett to save us from ourselves. We do not need you to tell us what we can and can not spend money on at the grocery store.

"small fees to motivate" can get you in the end... either jail like China or even more apathy, like in the US.

The results you're hoping for could quite likely being the opposite, which leads to more legislation, and and on and on and on. Hello, socialism.

Posted by gross | July 9, 2008 4:45 PM

Parenthetical exclamations are the semi-colon of blogs; they're overused and just need to die (Seriously!).

Posted by laterite | July 9, 2008 4:46 PM

My boxers are in a bunch. Really.

Posted by Dave Coffman | July 9, 2008 4:50 PM

Laws without enforcement = unfunded mandate.

Posted by Snarky | July 9, 2008 4:57 PM

The world according to me:

1. Abortions on demand, anytime, any month, no reason required.

2. You are not allowed to give paying customers a free bag to carry all the stuff they just bought for you.

3. If you dare disagree for any reason whatsoever, that's just hyperbole.

4. I'm personally pleased to know my tax dollars will be used to hire a full-time tax auditor and an administrative specialist.

5. McCain for President.

Erica call me up we should hang out!

Posted by Me | July 9, 2008 5:00 PM

Does anyone else thing it is funny that part of this bag tax will go toward creating materials to educate the public on recycling? This really amounts to a tax on garbage to create more garbage.

Our city council has failed so miserably at everything that their number one priority is now creating a gargabe tax to create more garbage?

Nick Licata, I fail to see how this garbage tax has any cultural relevence in our city.

Posted by Clint | July 9, 2008 5:02 PM

So you merry band of Slog commenters can't come up with any arguments for your absurd opposition to a reasonable and necessary tax levy beyond ad-hominem attacks on Erica?

Typical right-wing trash.

Posted by DavidG | July 9, 2008 5:03 PM

@12 Hyperbole, Thy Name is Clint

Posted by ha | July 9, 2008 5:05 PM

@13, DavidG are you implying Danny Westneat is right wing trash?

I hate the bag fee. I believe environmental responsibility should be taught not taxed. It's a lot harder but the results will be a lot greater and those are the results we need.

So you can't understand that any opposing point of view might be anything except "typical right-wing trash" Pretty close minded. Lots of reasonable people can agree on this and that doesn't mean they are "absurd" or "right wing" or "trash"

I never knew Seattle was such right wing trash...

from Danny's column:

Don't you think do-gooder Seattle could reduce its bag usage without inspectors? Tax auditors? A small, but new, layer of bureaucracy?

That's what you suggested, in a poll the city did last winter. By 67 to 32 percent, people said "no fees on bags." By 87 to 11 percent, you said "try having stores do this voluntarily."

Posted by huh? | July 9, 2008 5:11 PM

@13 I think ECB can handle the attacks. Just yesterday she was calling the Jezebel bloggers "complete fucking assholes." She sets the tone, we follow.

Posted by fair | July 9, 2008 5:16 PM

You're right! We should educate people, and let them make their own choices. Let's bring back leaded gas, too! Some people would like to have it back, and why do we always gotta BAN stuff? Let the people decide!

Posted by CP | July 9, 2008 5:29 PM

I was really hoping you were going to be on that Friday KUOW show again but I guess this does not bode well.

I can't believe people there are freaking out so much about having to bring their own bags.

Posted by Strath | July 9, 2008 5:44 PM

@17 the people HAVE decided. The city took a poll. But it was overwhelmingly against. What oh what to do?????????

I know, let's just trust the people in charge who know what is best for everyone! That should work,, always has, right?

Of course not everyone will understand immediately, so we'll also need spend lots of money to hire two full time city employees to get the enforcement and ticketing and lawsuits started. Yeah!!! More incompetent city employees to solve our problems for us. Wooooooo HOoooooooooo!!

Posted by exactly | July 9, 2008 6:01 PM

@17 the comparison to leaded gas is a good one. that's the type of tiny victory (plastic bags, anyone?) that distracts from the big picture real problems.

so what's the legacy of the late 70s /early 80's? doubling-down on an oil-fueled economy at the expense of any real efforts at energy independence. But hey, at least the gas was UNLEADED. so score two points for the environmentalists, ninety eight points for the Saudis and Cheneys.

This little plastic bag debate is nothing but a distraction. The environment is a much bigger problem than even your typical Slog alarmist shrill imagines.

Posted by Mute | July 9, 2008 6:11 PM

ohmygawdpeople,fuckinggetalife,it'sjustaplasticbag,it'snotabigdealtobringyourown,and alsoreduceunnecessarypollution.

Sorry, I had to say that in one breath, because I'm beyond sick of people whining about goddamn plastic bags. It's completely unnecessary to go on polluting the environment with this shit just 'cuz it's convenient for you. Same goes for one-use plastic water bottles and leaded gasoline. The amount of whining about this is fucking pathetic. If you can't be bothered to 1) pay 20 fucking cents for a bag or 2) bring your own, then you simply no longer deserve to live. In fact, after the new fee takes effect, I will buy each person that whine about this one last plastic bag to tie around your head and suffocate yourself.

Posted by AAAAAARRRRRGGGGHHHHH | July 9, 2008 6:58 PM

@21 Well then according to the poll commissioned by the city, 67% of us don't deserve to live.

That means you'll be buying about 375,000 bags.

At twenty cents a pop that'll cost you about $75,000.

Will you kill me with the bag yourself or are you advocating suicide? I guess I might have an opinion on that, but I would probably be wrong, and I wouldn't want to stress you out further.

Posted by I guess I deserve to die | July 9, 2008 7:08 PM

Haha, 21, you probably should have said "I will buy one last plastic bag for a whiner to tie around his/her head. As an additional service to the public, I will then untie it, and reuse it by passing it on to the next whiner." At that rate, even assuming many of the whiners claw thru their bags on their way out, 21 should be able to cut his costs down to about $25,000.

Posted by Bella | July 9, 2008 7:38 PM


Enough with the self-rightousness.

Condemning others for speaking their minds is the height of it.

Posted by TheMisanthrope | July 9, 2008 7:42 PM

ECB could you be any more smug and insidious? The guy is just a local columnist who happens to disagree with you. Apparently he's got 2/3 of the city on his side.

Thy Name is Westneat? On Hyperbole Thy Name is Westneat?

WTF is that?!?! Try to behave.

Posted by ew | July 9, 2008 8:43 PM

My nutbag will be available for a reasonable price, at a store near you.

Posted by uncle baggy | July 9, 2008 9:39 PM

I really think the Stranger is going off the deep end on this one.

Look, don't you get it - all but the top 0.1 percent of Americans are doing worse and don't have the extra 20 cents.

Very very very bad idea.

Posted by Will in Seattle | July 9, 2008 10:41 PM

I can't wait until you have to sit across the table from Westneat and you realize what a likable and affable person he is and what a cunt you are for calling him out, only for disagreeing with you.

You must be fun at dinner parties too.

Posted by I'm a Nuclear Bomb | July 9, 2008 11:12 PM

I got the funds. It's no problem to buy one bag each, just to give each of you whiners the satisfaction of your OWN bag.

Posted by 21 | July 10, 2008 12:08 AM

Dear Erica,

Danny Westneat is the ying to your yang.

To have any shot at producing a normal kids, you guys should breed. Perhaps you'd negate the crazy.

Posted by nolaseatac | July 10, 2008 12:26 AM

@28 Danny would be polite and ECB would be totally oblivious. He's got class and journalistic integrity. People like him are able to overlook people like her.

Anyway, the city is going to hire 2 full time employees for accounting, PLUS people to check compliance?

Figuring a couple hundred thousand a year of our taxpayer money... with that amount over a few years they could basically give every resident a couple canvas bags instead!

What an appalling use of city resources. CA is a bad comparison - people here aren't going to accept tax increases as readily.

Posted by away | July 10, 2008 12:37 AM

the goal is 10 million to the general fund

and the true nanny state enlarges

erica is not capable of a give and take discussion

however, it seems she has a healthy fantasy about boxers

still hope for erica if she is boxer grounded

the plastic bag this is so pathetic, as Bush is about to start WAR NUMBER THREE, and I have no health insurance

and people are eating out of garbage cans

and live on the street

Posted by Barry | July 10, 2008 5:23 AM

Why haven't they retired Westneat yet? Stupid baby boomer.

Posted by Boomers, time for nighty-night...... | July 10, 2008 6:51 AM

San Francisco has enlisted kids to harass businesses that persist is using styrofoam in defiance of their ban. They call them Styrobusters and they get t-shirts and badges. Jared Blumenfeld director of the San Francisco Department of the Environment, told me about it Monday. at about 24:20 into the show.

Posted by Ross Reynolds | July 10, 2008 8:16 AM

Anyone who thinks eliminating plastic waste such as shopping bags is a meaningless gesture towards environmentalism isn't paying attention:

Posted by mnm | July 10, 2008 8:23 AM

@35 but I guess once Seattle bans plastic bags we won't need to worry about that swirling mass of trash the size of texas. problem solved, whew.

Posted by that was easy | July 10, 2008 8:35 AM

@17 you don't see the difference between BANNING something and taxing something? I would be for an all out ban on the bags, but taxing is nuts.

Posted by chet | July 10, 2008 8:45 AM

@35 - and yet, most of the actual source of said plastic isn't in fact from Washington State.

Or Seattle.

Want to cut down on discarded plastic or paper bags?

Fine - impose a 10 cent or 20 cent REFUNDABLE deposit at stores.

That would work and encourage REUSE, which cuts USAGE and send an economic signal to the BUSINESS interests that they shouldn't use so many bags - on an average trip to Fred Meyer, you end up with 10 plastic bags.

Even if you bring a backpack to PCC, you end up carrying one or two bags home with you - and keeping them in your backpack is less efficient than using them to make giant papier mache puppet heads of Darth Cheney and King George, IMHO.

Posted by Will in Seattle | July 10, 2008 9:19 AM

I don't think Westneat is the one who is actually guilty of hyperbole here, Erica!

Posted by Jane | July 10, 2008 10:11 AM

I am curious how you know I wear boxers. Did something happen at The Hideout that I don't remember?

Posted by Danny Westneat | July 10, 2008 10:37 AM

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