Inside Opinion

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

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Archives: Nov. 2009


Revisiting Sammy Sosa: Cosmetics or self-image?

Last week, I posted a Web-only Leonard Pitts Jr. column about baseball player Sammy Sosa’s startling new skin hue. Here Pitts has a followup in which he responds to criticism of that column.

By Leonard Pitts Jr.

Please indulge me as I answer an e-mail from a guy named Dunbar. It says in part:

“Your column on Sammy Sosa’s skin cream use is off base and sends a wrong message. The issue is the man’s character — not the color of his skin. Your column seemingly assumes he lightens his skin color out of shame and fails to recognize that he may simply be doing it out of vanity or his own sense of personal style. Plenty of fair-skinned people use skin-darkening creams, sun baths, tanning beds for that purpose and the only criticism leveled at them is vanity and stupidity for ignoring skin cancer warnings. The same should hold for Sammy.

“… I think I know what point you are trying to make and that is a laudable one. But your delivery was clumsy and it might come across to some as ’methinks thee doth protest too much.’”

Dear Dunbar:

Thank you for writing. It’s always a treat to receive such a thoughtful dissent. Hope you don’t mind my using your e-mail as a vehicle for revisiting my recent column on Sosa, the once-black former baseball star who now looks like a photo negative of himself, but that piece generated so many missives like yours that I thought doing so might be of value.

I’m intrigued that you “think” you know what point I was trying to make. The fact that you have to guess, that it wasn’t starkly obvious to you, suggests that what we have here is a gulf between life experiences. It brings to mind a parable to the effect that the rabbit and the bear will never agree on how threatening is the dog.

I’m going to assume — I apologize if I’m wrong — that you’re not black. I say that because I’ve not yet encountered a single African-American reader who did not know immediately what my point was. My white readers, though, were more likely to see me as chiding Sosa for what they regarded as a benign cosmetic choice, such as when they color their hair, inject Botox in their faces or, yes, lie under the sun trying to get a tan. From where they sit, it’s the same when a black man lightens his skin. Read more »


Baily Bennett, a little boy of uncommon courage

Tacoma recently lost one of its bravest little citizens, Baily Bennett. A few months ago, I wrote about how his parents struggled with insurance loopholes that threatened his care, and I wrote about his incredible courage facing down cancer. The insurance problems were finally resolved, but Baily, age 4, lost his fight with cancer last week.

Yesterday afternoon, Life Center Church filled with friends and family who came to celebrate Baily‘s life. Most were dressed in Baily’s favorite colors, red and black. Tacoma firefighters came in uniform. Baily would have liked that. He loved fire fighters and spent

Read more »


Google Search: palin obamacare prejean fox rogue ‘death panels’

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Page views, traffic, unique visitors – that’s the name of the game on the Web. The point is to hook people looking for what you’ve got by making sure their Google searches make a beeline to your site.

You’ve got to jump on what’s hot. Work the search terms du jour into your posts, your headlines, your tags. And here’s an idea: Work all the sizzling terms into a single post.

We’ll give this a try. Google tracks the most popular key words and lists them on various indexes. We discover there that “sarah palin” seems to be a big draw. There’s plain old “sarah palin,” “sarah palin newsweek cover,” “sarah palin sexist newsweek editor,” “sarah palin nice legs,” “sarah palin going rogue,” “next president you betcha,” “sarah palin liberals will jump off bridges” and many other permutations of the unusually strong palin brand.

Let’s make our fundamental marketing strategy clear here: Palin Palin Palin Palin Palin Palin Palin Palin Palin.

Another big one is “glenn beck.” In fact, those two words bring up more than 9 million hits on Google. And “glenn beck” is joined at the hip with “fox news,” which is another hot pair. It makes sense, then, that a post that combined “glenn beck,” “fox news” and “sarah palin” – as we just did – would bring a drove of their fans and foes this way, though we’re certain they’ll feel duped when they get here.
Read more »


A potential cure for interminable campaigns

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

Think the 2012 elections seem about as distant as the return of economic prosperity?

Think again. New Hampshire expects to kick off its presidential campaign season next month with a visit from rumored GOP hopeful, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

Such early starts are encouraged by the free-for-all that encourages states to jockey for earlier and earlier primary dates in the hopes of getting noticed by the candidates – a system that is coming under deserved fire once again.

Read more »


Climate change science doesn’t need idea police

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

A formidable majority of atmospheric scientists believe that planet Earth is slowly heating up and that human industry bears much of the blame. That’s good reason to worry about global warming and do something to stop it.

It’s not good reason to suppress the views of scientists who challenge the majority view. Science could hardly survive without its contrarians and skeptics.

The Do Something camp was thrown on the defensive a few days ago after anonymous hackers released thousands of e-mails and other documents that – at first blush – put some researchers in a nasty light. Stolen from a British university, the messages point to deliberate efforts to shut up dissenting scientists, even cripple their careers.

In one exchange, the director of the East Anglia Climate Research Unit talks about keeping papers from two skeptics out of the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the pre-eminent scientific forum on global warming.

“I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report,” wrote Phil Jones to Michael Mann of Penn State. “Kevin and I will keep them out somehow – even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is.”

Translation: Before we’ll tolerate dissent that meets the ground rules for scientific publication, we’ll change the ground rules.
Read more »


Paving the path to college for low-income kids

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition

For many low-income students, dreams of higher education have little chance of coming true. But in Tacoma, the public schools have teamed up with the leading low-income housing agency to help put more students on the path to college.

The College Bound Scholarship program, created by the Legislature in 2008, is the vehicle for making those higher ed dreams come true. Applicants, who sign up as middle-schoolers, must qualify for free or reduced-price meals or be a foster child, maintain at least a 2.0 grade point average through high school and commit no felonies. If they fulfill those requirements, the program will pay the tuition to college or private career school, fees and a $500 annual book stipend.

But the challenge is getting youngsters to apply for the program. They have to sign up at the end of their eighth-grade school year, and it can be hard to get kids that age to focus on anything, much less on a goal more than four years down the road. Read more »


George Dill was no politician, and thank goodness for that

George Dill lived long enough to see voters confirm their faith in him, but not long enough to begin his second term on the Puyallup City Council. He died last Thursday of a heart attack at age 75. His death is a loss for Puyallup residents who value civil dissent, attention to detail and straight-talking leaders.

Dill was known in his community as a dedicated food bank volunteer and the kind of councilman who finds out what’s on voters’ minds by getting out and talking to them. He was also known inside Puyallup and out as part of a three-member council minority that has battled the council majority over several issues, most notably the job performance of City Manager Gary McLean.

But Dill was not a flame-thrower, and his reserved nature helped lend the minority credibility. He was a sincere, low-key guy who first ran for council because he was upset about the lack of a stop sign at an intersection near his house. He continued to focus on neighborhood-level complaints – speeders, lack of sidewalks, storm sewers, parking hassles – during his time in office.

Read more »


In defense of the turkey

Every Thanksgiving, PETA scolds the country about eating turkey. Here’s this year’s beef. For what it’s worth, I think factory farming can be a nasty business indeed.

Pardon me, pilgrim: This Thanksgiving, ditch the dead bird

By Chris Holbein
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

If tradition holds, President Obama will soon “pardon” two turkeys — the “National Thanksgiving Turkey” and a backup — in a much-publicized ceremony at the White House Rose Garden.

I’m not sure what misdeeds turkeys raised for food need to be pardoned for, since most of them spend their entire lives crammed into filthy, windowless warehouses where they can barely take a step. But let’s not quibble: We should all follow the president’s lead and pardon a turkey this Thanksgiving.

Animal behaviorists tell us that turkeys are intelligent, social birds who enjoy the company of others. According to one poultry scientist, “If you throw an apple to a group of turkeys, they’ll play with it together.”

Turkeys are also loving, protective parents who are very bonded to their young. In the wild, turkey chicks stay with their mothers for up to five months, and a mother turkey will courageously defend her family against predators.

The story is very different for turkeys on factory farms.

Fatter turkeys mean fatter wallets for farmers, so these gentle birds are bred and drugged to grow so large so fast that their legs can’t even support their own weight. Many turkeys become crippled as a result — and some slowly starve to death within inches of food because they are unable to move. When PETA conducted an undercover investigation at one of the world’s largest turkey-breeding companies, a farm supervisor described the male breeding birds as “80 pounds on toothpicks.”
Read more »