Inside Opinion

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

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Archives: Nov. 2010


Pentagon study provides ammo: End ‘don’t ask’

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

At some point, gays will be able to serve openly in the U.S. military. The question is: Will this Congress act to make it happen?

If not, there’s a good chance the U.S. Supreme Court would ultimately force the issue. For the military’s sake, the legislative option is the better one. Policy made through the democratic process is almost always preferable to policy mandated by a court.

The new Pentagon study on gays in the military – which concludes that overturning the 17-year-old “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule will not have a long-lasting, widespread impact on effectiveness – greatly increases the likelihood that the court would find no rational basis for the policy.

A survey of 115,000 service members shows that 50 percent to 55 percent said repealing the policy would have a mixed effect or no effect at all; 15 percent to 20 percent said it would have a positive impact. Only 30 percent said ending “don’t ask” would have a negative effect. Read more »


Thanks to tipster, FBI for thwarting terrorist wannabe


This editorial appeared in Tuesday’s print edition.

Look carefully at the booking photo of 19-year-old Mohamed Osman Mohamud. It’s the face of what many counterterrorism experts consider to be the greatest potential threat to Americans’ safety: the homegrown radical.

Mohamud, a naturalized American citizen whose family came to the United States from Somalia when he was 5, has been indicted on federal charges in connection with an alleged plot to detonate a car bomb in downtown Portland on Friday during that city’s Christmas tree-lighting celebration.

His goal, according to authorities: Kill as many people as possible – including children. Security was of little concern to him. He reportedly said, “They don’t see it as a place where anything will happen. … It’s on the West Coast, it’s in Oregon, and Oregon’s like you know, nobody ever thinks about it.”
Read more »


The Iran of WikiLeaks is a scary country indeed

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Julian Assange, the chief of WikiLeaks, is a pirate willing to endanger people’s lives with mass releases of secret U.S. military, intelligence and diplomatic documents.

But he’s no worse than whoever stole those documents in the first place. Suspicion has settled on Pfc. Bradley Manning, an unhappy 22-year-old Army intelligence analyst, who’s been arrested and charged with downloading thousands of highly sensitive and classified messages while deployed in Iraq.

Does the U.S. Army really give low-ranking soldiers in their early 20s access to secret communiqués whose exposure could threaten American foreign policy? The Defense Department now promises to track users of its information systems the same way credit card companies track card-users to detect fraud. It seems that MasterCard has a better handle on computer security than the Pentagon.

So far, news accounts of the leaked diplomatic messages suggest there are no outright bombshells among them. Like previously leaked dispatches and reports from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, they mostly filled in the details of a larger picture already known to the public.

It comes as no surprise, for example, that Hamid Karzai’s brother is corrupt, Arab leaders are terrified of Iran’s nuclear program, America has been unable to keep Iranian weapons from reaching Hezbollah in Lebanan and al-Qaida continues to receive enormous funds from Saudi donors.

Some of the messages are downright comical. The Obama administration is depicted as begging and bribing foreign countries to take Guantanamo detainees of its hands. Slovenia was offered a visit with Obama. Belgium was told that taking more prisoners would be “a low-cost way for Belgium to attain prominence in Europe.”
Read more »


Long on troubles, short on political clout in Olympia

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

On Thanksgiving Day, the decomposed body of a homeless person was found under an overpass in Thurston County near Interstate 5. Dying alone and out of sight is one of the ugly faces of homelessness.

Many of the chronically homeless are mentally ill. When the state economizes on the treatment of psychiatric disorders, sick people wind up on the sidewalks, in doorways and under bridges.

Some of the mentally ill – a small percentage, but too many – erupt in violence in the absence of case management and medications.

The man accused of a fatal hatchet attack on Seattle’s Capitol Hill a week ago heard voices and suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. He wasn’t taking his prescribed medications and, all too obviously, needed better tracking and care.

Similarly, a woman suspected of an unprovoked shooting in the Skyway area last week is believed to suffer from extreme paranoia.
Read more »


Cops reacted with honor to killings of their peers

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

A year after the slaughter of four Lakewood officers in a Parkland coffee shop, the law has seen some big improvements.

The Legislature and voters amended the Washington Constitution to let judges deny bail to defendants facing possible life sentences – as Maurice Clemmons faced even before he killed Mark Renninger, Tina Griswold, Ronald Owens and Greg Richards.

And Washington officials have negotiated far tougher procedures in the Interstate Compact on Adult Offender Supervision, whose loopholes allowed Arkansas to export Clemmons to Washington without much warning – then cancel its own warrant for his extradition.

But one thing doesn’t appear to have changed: the professional restraint of Puget Sound police officers.

Officers in the region’s various jurisdictions have shot suspects – including Clemmons himself – in the aftermath of the cop-killings a year ago. Some have suspected them of being quicker to defend themselves with deadly force after seeing four of their fellow cops gunned down in the Parkland café and two more killed in separate incidents.

But that’s selective perception. Officers were using force – with justification and occasionally without – before Clemmons. They haven’t become trigger-happy since then.
Read more »


Burst pipes: Something old, something new

As the region thaws out from the deep freeze of the past week, pipes are bursting all over – including at one of Tacoma’s older buildings – Old City Hall – and one of its newer structures – the Center for Urban Waters.

I can understand the 1893-vintage Old City Hall having problems. But Urban Waters? It cost $38 million and is practically brand new, just opening this past spring. Its claim to fame is that it is a super “green” building, incorporating many of the latest innovations in environmental sustainability.

Guess someone’s sorry now that they didn’t go with

Read more »


MLK nonprofit and state agency look bad in audit

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

A state audit of the Martin Luther King Housing Development Association paints a disturbing picture of mismanagement bordering on wrongdoing – if not actually crossing the line into deliberate misappropriation of public funds.

The audit released Monday supports findings from a year ago by an accountant hired by the state Commerce Department. The accountant had found that the housing nonprofit misspent $1.8 million of the more than $4 million in state and federal funding it had received to build a mixed-use business and housing center on Tacoma’s Hilltop. That project has gone nowhere.

Like most developers in the last few years, the MLKHDA was hit hard by the recession and collapsing real estate values. And it suffered from poor management and lax board oversight. But some actions the audit confirmed look even more serious.

For instance, MLK didn’t pay several of its vendors, even though it had submitted invoices to the state for those expenses and had received reimbursements. And the nonprofit wrongly used grant funds to pay off other loans and cover operational costs. This seems to go beyond mere bookkeeping errors. Read more »