Inside Opinion

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

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Archives: Nov. 2011


Cecil’s story offers hope for those hitting rock bottom

Cecil Leading Horse

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

Ten years ago, News Tribune readers knew Nicholas Cecil Leading Horse as the poster boy for the price society pays for street drunks and addicts. In his case, it was an estimated $2.4 million.

His story was a revolving door of dysfunction. He’d get drunk on cheap alcohol and pass out. Someone would find him and call the fire department, which would respond and transport him to a local hospital emergency room for treatment. He’d go into detox or rehab, get out, start drinking and the cycle would begin all over again.

Leading Horse’s craggy face was all too familiar to firefighters and ER personnel, and his care was a costly drain on public and hospital resources.
But in September 2008, he almost died when his alcohol-ravaged esophagus ruptured. And that’s when he decided to live. He checked into rehab, and this time it took.
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Canadian oil: Pipe to Texas beats tankers in the Strait

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline: Be careful what you wish for.

Environmentalists have been furiously fighting the plan to pipe Canadian crude oil across the Great Plains from Alberta to refineries on the Gulf Coast. The political firestorm has gotten so hot that the Obama administration recently punted the decision to the far side of the presidential election.

Northwesterners ought to be aware of a potential consequence of the project’s failure: That same tar sands oil could wind up getting piped west to Vancouver, B.C. – there to be shipped on supertankers through our very own and very vulnerable Strait of Juan de Fuca. China could then nail down long-term contracts for the Canadian petroleum.

A Houston energy company, Kinder Morgan, would love to do just that if TransCanada Corp. doesn’t get U.S. permission to take the oil south. It already runs a pipeline from Alberta to Vancouver; expanding the line’s capacity would be a tough but doable job.

It is wishful thinking to suppose that Canada wouldn’t be able to bring the petroleum to market if the U.S. route is blocked.

Demand for oil is rising, especially in Asia, and prices are expected to rise, too. Petroleum continues to be a crucial foundation of all industrial economies.
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Demonizing the cops: A stale, vicious protest tactic

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Before they go to work, police officers wake up, take showers, put on uniforms and say goodbye to spouses and children who hope they will come home alive at the end of their shifts.

They handle brawls, robberies, aggressive drunks, fugitives, sociopaths and volatile domestic calls that sometimes turn lethal. They routinely cross paths with lowlifes carrying guns.

Their job description consists of putting their bodies between dangerous criminals and the innocent public. They are the good guys, not the bad guys.

So it gets old watching Occupy Wall Street factions resort to the old, wearisome and fundamentally vicious tactic of promoting their causes by maneuvering cops into staged confrontations designed to make them look like bullies.

As some Occupy camps in U.S. cities have degenerated into spectacles of park destruction, crime, drug overdoses and public defecation, previously sympathetic mayors have been forced to reclaim the hijacked public spaces.
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Well-aimed pot raids hit traffickers, not the sick

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Two numbers get to the heart of this week’s federal-local raids on Puget Sound marijuana merchants:

Pot operations reportedly busted, 19 – out of well over 100 “medical marijuana” outlets known to be operating in King, Pierce and Thurston counties.

Patients arrested, 0.

After the coordinated regional raids, U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan repeated what the Obama administration has been saying all along: The Justice Department doesn’t have the least interest in prosecuting genuinely sick people whose doctors have recommended the use of marijuana. Just the criminals.

Big-time profiteers typically claim they’re in the trade for the sake – cue the violins – of dying cancer victims and pain-racked patients.

But as Durkan said, “State laws of compassion were never intended to protect brash criminal conduct that masquerades as medical treatment.”

Some dispensary owners may not be in it for the money, but a whole lot are. Some of their customers are bona fide patients, but a whole lot are recreational users. The problem is, you can’t tell the difference. The industry is so rife with bogus “green cards” and traffickers posing as humanitarians that it all looks like a grand charade.
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Tighter school days might offset shorter school year

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

How bad do the state’s looming budget cuts look? So bad that many Washington school superintendents – people who understand the connection between classroom time and learning – are urging a shorter school year.

A terrible idea on the face of it. But it may be less terrible than what it might avert: A drastic cut to the levy equalization money that helps children in property-poor school districts get an education comparable to what their peers get in wealthier districts.

To help close a $2 billion revenue shortfall, the governor has proposed to cut levy equalization by half. This would strip millions from Tacoma, Puyallup, University Place and other districts with lean tax bases. Well-off districts – think Seattle, Mercer Island and Edmonds – wouldn’t be touched.

A coalition of 29 Puget Sound superintendents say that a shorter school year for all districts – 175 instead of 180 days – would spread the cuts more fairly. The idea is to squeeze schools equally across the state rather than heap the pain on the districts that can least afford it.

If lawmakers are forced to choose between equalization and a shorter school year, equalization should not be sacrificed. Time spent in the classroom does matter.
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Get creative to make Discover Pass palatable

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

State lawmakers hoping to pay for state parks with user fees – $10 day passes and a $30 annual Discover Passes – best go back to the drawing board. So far that plan isn’t raising enough money; the result is a major threat to the future of the state parks system.

The parking passes, which went on sale July 1, must raise an average of almost $2.7 million per month to pay for the parks and other state lands, about $64 million over two years.

That’s not happening. The sales are actually raising less than an average of $2.2 million per month. At that pace, only about $53 million will be raised over the next two years – a deficit of about $11 million.

Making up that difference from the general fund probably isn’t an option. Later this month, lawmakers will try to plug a budget hole of more than $2 billion.

And prospects aren’t great that the state revenue picture will improve significantly within the next year or two.
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Medicare and Social Security: Have and have-nots

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

A new report on the wealth gap between young and old Americans adds another argument for trimming Medicare and Social Security spending as Congress attempts to control its runaway spending.

After rummaging through reams of federal data, the Pew Research Center documented an immense and growing financial disparity between citizens older than 65 and citizens younger than 35.

The most startling number in the study had to do with net worth: A typical household headed someone of retirement age now has 47 times the wealth than a household headed by someone 35 or younger.

That’s apparently the largest gap ever. According to the center, it has doubled since 2005 and increased fivefold over the last 25 years.

That’s not the key issue, though. Older people in general are bound to possess more than younger people, who have only begun accumulating possessions and equity in their homes.
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Connect the dots: Iranian nukes and American cars

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

The ayatollahs lost the last shreds of plausible deniability Tuesday when the International Atomic Energy Agency documented Iran’s drive for nuclear missiles in damning detail.

Nuclear weapons in the hands of this extremist, unstable theocracy would be uniquely dangerous. Iran’s foreign policy consists of intimidating its Arab neighbors, spreading its revolutionary Shiite dogma, sponsoring terror attacks and destroying the state of Israel – which is capable of mounting a catastrophic nuclear pre-emptive strike.

This threat has a foundation deeper than Shiite radicalism. Follow the oil.

Without the intense global thirst for petroleum, Iran’s theocracy might have been gone the way of Moammar Gadhafi long ago.

The theocracy is funded chiefly by Iran’s oil sales. It uses that money to subsidize food and energy, and otherwise keep the Iranian people dependent on government largess.

Oil revenue pays for Iran’s military and for its “peaceful” nuclear program. And the ayatollahs use petroleum to insulate themselves against outside pressure.
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