Inside Opinion

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

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Archives: Jan. 2011


Did Army employee spy on protesters on his own time?

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

Much is in dispute in the John Towery affair, the case of the Army employee who spied on local antiwar protesters under a false name.

Here’s a fact that is not in dispute, according to recently released records: The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department used a confidential informant to penetrate the ranks of South Sound antiwar protesters and provide detailed information about them – including their Social Security numbers, in some cases. That information was shared with other local law enforcement agencies, including the Tacoma Police Department.

Then things get a little fuzzy.

The informant was Towery, then an employee of Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s Force Protection Division, which provides support for local law enforcement and security operations. Towery’s Army supervisor was aware that he was spying on the protesters and had approved the informant relationship with Pierce County. Read more »


13-year-old killed in Port Orchard fit a sad profile

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Mercifully, the two Kitsap County deputies shot at the Port Orchard Walmart a week ago are out of the hospital and expected to recover.

The girl shot in the same gunfight, a Salt Lake City runaway named Astrid Valdiva, was not so fortunate. She was killed while running into the line of fire toward a man she reportedly called her lover, Anthony Allen Martinez.

Martinez: 31 years old. Valdiva: 13 years old. Sick.

Valdiva’s death with Martinez was rare, freakish and shocking. But the underlying pattern – adolescent girl hooked up with

Read more »


Fighting for the homeless

Homeless advocates are the voice for people who otherwise have none. Their countless stories deserve to be told, and the Homeless Count gives them a significant chance to be heard.


Higher ed lays golden eggs; don’t strangle it

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

A recent story in The Seattle Times vividly illustrated the tight connection between college opportunity and the state economy.

The engineering site director for Google in the Seattle region, Brian Bershad, told the Times that he can’t get enough computer-science engineers from the University of Washington. “If the UW could produce 1,000 amazing engineers every year,” he said, “we’d find a way to hire them.”

Often companies can’t achieve their growth potential for lack of qualified job applicants. Google is in a position to recruit from throughout the world, so it will

Read more »


Keep public notices in newspapers, not buried online

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

If you have a spare moment, look at today’s classified ads, specifically a category called “Legals.”

In recent days, that category has informed the public of actions being taken by the Bethel School District; the state of Washington; Pierce County; a local fire protection district; the cities of Sumner, Lakewood and Tacoma; and many other jurisdictions. The information is also published on the newspaper’s website.

But legislation introduced in both houses of the Legislature could make that a thing of the past. Now required to post public notices in local newspapers, jurisdictions would be allowed to post them on their own websites – which would require the public to search each site individually for information they need.

While the legislation is now limited to cities and counties, it likely would just be the first step. State agencies and local bodies such as ports, fire and school districts, and utilities surely would demand equal treatment.

Public notice, at that point, will not be very public at all. Citizens who want to know what local and state government is doing will have to go on website safaris to uncover information ranging from meeting announcements and liquor licenses to property foreclosures. Read more »


Palin, Pierce Transit and WTF

Are Sarah Palin and opponents of Pierce Transit Proposition 1 in cahoots? Well, probably not. But both are using “WTF” to make their points.

According to the Associated Press, Palin noted on her Facebook page that President Obama’s State of the Union address was dubbed “Winning the Future” and suggested that the acronym for that title, WTF, aptly sums up the speech.

Like LOL is an Internet acronym for “laugh out loud,” WTF has been used to ask “What the ….?”

Opponents of the transit ballot measure, which would raise the transit sales tax

Read more »


Who, exactly, will replace Mubarak in Egypt?

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

The United States supports democracy and detests autocracy. Except when it doesn’t.

What’s been happening in Egypt may be one of the excepts. Huge angry crowds have taken to the streets, threatening to overturn the dictatorship that’s been misgoverning and mismanaging the country for as long as most people can remember.

Since President Hosni Mubarak took power in 1981, he has systematically crushed any opposition groups that posed a serious threat to his rule, rigging elections and sometimes brutalizing his opponents.

The complication is, he’s also been a crucial American ally in the Middle East. He kept his country out of the Soviet orbit during the cold war, kept violent Islamists at bay and maintained the friendly ties his much more impressive predecessor – Anwar Sadat – established with Israel.

Those policies served his interests, and it so happens they served American interests as well. As Franklin Roosevelt is reputed to have once said about a Nicaraguan dictator, “He may be an S.O.B., but he’s our S.O.B.”

So far, the Obama administration is following that line with Egypt. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has declared Mubarak’s government to be “stable” and “looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.”

In other words, we’ve got your back, Hosni.
Read more »


Senate’s ‘filibuster of one’ deserves a fast burial

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

They don’t call the U.S. Senate the world’s greatest deliberative body for nothing – deliberation being a synonym, in its case, for glacial decision-making and process worship.

This week offers a rare opportunity for junking an indefensible chock in the Senate’s wheels: the secret hold. It’s a parliamentary trick senators employ to anonymously block votes on bill and presidential nominees. Even other senators sometimes don’t know which of their colleagues has tied up the question or why.

Republicans and Democrats – most notably Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa – have been trying for years to rid the Senate of this particularly spineless form of obstructionism.

The power to openly and temporarily hold action on a measure is a perfectly defensible privilege; senators may want to clarify what’s really in a bill that affects their home states, or study the qualifications of a nominee.
Read more »