Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

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Archives: Aug. 2009


Visiting scientist dishes the dirt on dirt

David Montgomery, a UW geomorphologist, is an authority on dirt. Don’t laugh. His new book, "Dirt: The Erosion of Civilization," links the decline of great civilizations to the loss of their soil.

Things are getting worse, he said in an interview posted on the Celsias Web site:

Modern agricultural soil erosion rates are as many as 10-100 times faster than soil creation – a minority of farms are a net soil source, but very few, so we are consuming ourselves to death. It’s like a bank account. If you spend money 10 times faster than you make

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Coming to a park (possibly) near you: High school

I tagged along yesterday for the Tacoma School Board’s tour of the new Science And Math Institute (SAMI) at Point Defiance Park and was impressed.

It’s not fancy – just a series of recycled portables set up in a gravel lot near the park’s go-carts and batting cages. The desks are salvaged, the cabinetry built by district staffers. The computers at least look new.

Come September, the place will be packed with 140 kids who make up SAMI’s inaugural class. The school kicks off the year next week with a two-night stay at Black Lake Camp in Thurston County.

The district’s latest experiment has a lot to offer a student: the chance to attend class in the great outdoors, the opportunity to hone in-demand math and science skills and the advantage of entering high school at a place where no one is the “new kid.”

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Weekend editorials: Ballot title dispute, the Conficker worm

The first rule of writing a ballot title is to plainly, accurately and neutrally describe what the measure would do. The second is to give voters the benefit of the doubt. Pierce County violated the first but observed the second in settling on ballot language for three charter amendments that voters will consider in November.

Computer security experts don’t know who devised the Conficker worm or what it does – other than replicate itself relentlessly on unprotected machines. It demonstrates the continuing global menace of highly sophisticated malware.

If you have comments or questions about these topics, please

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An easy, constitutional fix for Top Two

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

First Amendment rights aren’t trivialities.

Washington’s political parties have legitimate concerns about the erosion of their constitutional right of association under the state’s new Top Two primary. State leaders should be addressing those concerns.

The unusual Top Two system – which simply advances the two leading candidates to the November election, regardless of party – was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court last year. But the decision had caveats.

The court affirmed Top Two in principle but not necessarily in practice. The parties’ grievance with Washington primaries has been twofold: Outsiders are allowed to help choose their November candidates. And candidates are allowed to pose as Democrats, Republicans or whatever, whether the parties like it or not.

That’s "forced association," which the judiciary has found unconstitutional under the First Amendment.

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Graffiti art mural looks right for the Rialto

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

Is it graffiti, or is it art? And can it be both?

The mural proposed by Urban Grace Church for the back of Tacoma’s Rialto Theater is striking,. The design incorporates elements of both street graffiti and Islamic mosaic pattern in a pleasingly aesthetic way that reflects the church’s commitment to religious diversity.

The mural is light years beyond what many people think of when they hear the word "graffiti" – the indiscriminate "tagging" by young vandals on buildings, fences and railroad cars. Even some of that can be artistic, but when it’s unwanted, it’s vandalism.

In the case of the Rialto mural, the graffiti is wanted. It would be paid for through a $3,000 grant from the City of Tacoma as part of neighborhood beautification efforts and created by Fab-5, a nonprofit organization that mentors young people through media that is relevant to them – such as hip-hop music and graffiti art.

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Ted Kennedy, and speaking ill of the dead

Blogger/author Diana West takes issue with all the plaudits for Ted Kennedy. She had a similarly jaundiced view upon the passing of newsman Walter Cronkite.

By Diana West

Something about the death of a famous liberal person turns the media into grieving widows whose dictum against speaking "ill" of the dead eliminates all sober analysis of the life in question.

Once, death in the passing parade came to us, more or less, in "just-the-facts, ma’am" obituaries. Now, breaking, live and for the duration, a celebratory loop plays on about even the most mixed and controversial public lives.

Notice I said "mixed" and "controversial," restrained terminology to describe the life and times of Sen. Ted Kennedy, whose death triggered a media dump of Hallmark-curlicued tributes that all begin with "lion of the Senate" — as though that were his official title — and finish with "the end of Camelot," as though that were his actual residence, not the tagline of an ancient PR campaign.

Question: How does the 1969 death of Mary Jo Kopechne — whom the married, panicked and first-term Sen. Ted Kennedy left to drown in 7 feet of Chappaquiddick water — apply to the "lion" from "Camelot"?

Answer: It doesn’t.

Remember: Don’t speak ill of the dead. Kennedy fixture Ted Sorensen’s gloss in Time magazine is typical, depicting "the Chappaquiddick incident" as merely ending Kennedy’s "bright prospects for still higher office."

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Town hall brawl? Not this one

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

Maybe it was the lovely summer evening, but the thousands who showed up Tuesday at Lakewood’s Harry Lang Stadium to talk heath care were in a surprisingly good mood.

Congressman Adam Smith, D-Tacoma, booked the stadium after the RSVP list for his town hall meeting outgrew two smaller venues.

Smith’s previous town hall meeting, in late July, drew 300 people, an impressive head count for its time. But town hall meetings have since hit the big time, with the national media attention and the get-out-the-protest campaigns to prove it.

These days, a Democrat who can’t draw a crowd big enough to cause the fire marshal consternation should be worried that voters don’t think he or she matters.

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Horne disputes numbers

The subject of our editorial today – outgoing Pierce County Prosecutor Gerry Horne – takes issue with some of the numbers cited.

I wrote, “Today, an estimated 150 to 200 offenders are not being released to Pierce County each year who in earlier years would have been.” I picked up those numbers from a Viewpoint by state Sen. Mike Carrell, who was instrumental in getting “fair share” legislation passed in 2007. He cited the prosecutor’s office as his source.

Horne argues that the impact is even greater. And he wrote: “I guess we’ll have to talk with Sen. Carrell to track down what I believe to be misleading stats.”

Here’s Horne’s take on the numbers:

You indicate that “an estimated 150 to 200 offenders are not being released to Pierce County each year who in earlier years would have been.”

Those stats grossly minimize the numbers of prison convicts who were actually sent to Pierce County every year during a 25-year period. Actually, 900 to 1,000 prison convicts had been sent to Pierce County each year to attend state work release programs alone!

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