Inside Opinion

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

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Archives: March 2012


Massacre excuses: Guilt by association for U.S. troops

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Too many cheap explanations are being tossed around for the March 11 massacre of what appears to be 17 innocent villagers in Afghanistan. As a result, untold thousands of combat veterans risk getting indirectly smeared.

Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, a Lake Tapps man who’d been deployed from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, has been charged with the killings. The public knows very little about the crimes and very little about him; the Army has not been particularly forthcoming.

Into the vacuum of information has blown a whirlwind of speculation. Plus, in this case, artful comments from Bales’ defense attorney.

Much of the speculation concerns post-traumatic stress syndrome. Specifically, whether the slaughter was triggered by PTSD.

There are several problems with this notion. For starters, the Army has said nothing about whether Bales actually suffered from PTSD. His wife has said she saw no signs of it.

The estimates of soldiers who return from war with the disorder runs as high as 30 percent. That leaves a minimum of 70 percent who don’t come back with PTSD. Was Bales among the minority who do? We simply don’t know.

More to the point, soldiers and veterans who’ve had PTSD aren’t known for mass murder. The disorder can cause anguish, nightmares and flashbacks; it can trigger domestic abuse and even suicide.

But it doesn’t connect any dots for violence of the March 11 magnitude. The attempts to turn it into an explanation imply that other soldiers with the same condition are also at risk of becoming bloodthirsty berserkers.
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Talented editorial cartoonist dies

A very talented editorial cartoonist, The Sacramento Bee’s Rex Babin, died today, much too young. He was only 49. Read the Bee’s story about him here.

We often used Babin’s syndicated cartoons, both in print and on our online sketchpad. He had a very distinctive, artistic style that set him apart from most cartoonists. Click here to see a gallery of his recent work.


No need to force applicants to provide social media access

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

Consider this scenario: You apply for a job. Your prospective employer shows up on your doorstep and tells you the only way you’ll be considered is if you let him go through the mail that comes to your home for the next month.

That mail might include medical information, revealing facts about your private life, even personal products that come “packaged for your privacy.” But you really want that job . . .

No employer would do that, of course, but according to some job seekers, a high-tech version of that is happening: They say employers and universities increasingly are demanding that applicants turn over their user names and passwords to such social media sites as Facebook to learn more about them. In response, some lawmakers plan to introduce legislation forbidding employers from seeking access to private Internet sites. Read more »


Concealed guns and stupidity: A deadly combination

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Ask George Zimmerman – if you can find him – if he still thinks it was a great idea to pack heat while doing neighborhood watch patrols in Sanford, Fla. This wannabe police officer may be rethinking the whole idea of looking for trouble with a lethal weapon at hand.

Witnesses have given wildly conflicting accounts of just how Zimmerman came to shoot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin last month. Whatever happened, the confrontation ended with Martin dead and Zimmerman despised by millions as a racist gunslinger.

He may never be arrested or convicted of anything. But he’s won immortality on the Internet, and a stigma will follow him for life.

The theme of “guns in the hands of foolish people” plays out every day, everywhere in this country. In Pierce County Superior Court, a man and a woman have just been charged with manslaughter in connection with the death of 3-year-old Julio Segura-McIntosh ­– the woman’s son – in a car two weeks ago.

It’s a pathetic story. Police say the man was carrying a handgun with a legal permit; he shoved the weapon under the seat when he got out to buy gas at a Tacoma convenience store. The woman, reportedly worried that her son might get the 9mm pistol, reportedly retrieved it and put it under her own seat.

Then, police say, she left the car with the gun unattended. The 3-year-old got it and accidentally shot himself in the head.

The criminal justice system will have to decide how culpable the man and woman are. They should be held to account in some way.

Subject to reasonable restrictions, gun ownership is a constitutional right in the United States. But this particular right comes with an exceptionally high burden of responsibility. Many people can’t handle it.
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‘Hunger Games’ has power to create scores of avid readers

Jennifer Lawrence portrays Katniss Everdeen in "The Hunger Games." (Lionsgate)

This editorial appears in Wednesday’s print edition.

With its huge opening last week, “The Hunger Games” is a bona fide film phenomenon. What’s important to remember is the driving force behind that popularity: Suzanne Collins’ trilogy that has enthralled young readers – and a lot of not-so-young ones as well.

With its huge opening last week, “The Hunger Games” is a bona fide film phenomenon. What’s important to remember is the driving force behind that popularity: Suzanne Collins’ trilogy that has enthralled young readers – and a lot of not-so-young ones as well.

The movie has a built-in audience eager to see if its version of Panem – a future America – and its inhabitants match their own imaginings. The series’ avid fans are invested in its teenage heroine, Katniss Everdeen, and the other characters. The story is set in a dystopian version of the future where society has taken the concept of “Survivor”-like reality shows to their ultimate, logical conclusion.

Many have compared “The Hunger Games” trilogy to two earlier literary phenomena that became wildly popular film franchises: Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” books and J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series. About all it has in common with them is the fact that it was written by a woman and involves young people in dangerous situations. Read more »


Uninsured freeloaders’ option: Stay out of the ER

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

There are jillions of opinions about the constitutionality of the individual health insurance mandate, but only one of them will ultimately count – the opinion signed by the majority of the justices on the U.S. Supreme Court.

So let’s leave the jurisprudence to the high court – which is hearing arguments on the mandate this week – and look at the law’s logic.

If you believe that humane societies provide medical care for their needy, there are several options. A couple of those options – such as expanding Medicare to younger Americans – are explicitly socialistic. The Democratic Congress of 2010 went for an alternative, so-called Obamacare, that preserved the private health insurance industry.

Covering everyone means covering people regardless of how sick they are. But insurers go broke if they’re required to cover only the sick – whose medical bills are bound to be much higher than their premiums – while free-riders pay nothing until they get sick themselves. To guarantee coverage for pre-existing conditions, nearly all Americans – sick and healthy – must be in the pool.

Hence the mandate to either carry medical coverage or pay a penalty. It’s pretty much where you wind up if you want universal coverage but don’t want to replace private insurance with a Medicare-style government program.
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Preserve park honoring one of Tacoma’s civic leaders

Raindrops collect on the fencing around Don Pugnetti Park March 12. The owner, the Washington State Department of Transportation, is looking for buyers. (Staff file photo)

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

Green space is at a premium in downtown Tacoma, with few places where downtown workers and students can sit out on a nice day and maybe eat a sack lunch in the sunshine.

One of those few places – at South 21st Street and Pacific Avenue – is in danger of being lost forever. Don Pugnetti Park has been a little oasis of green for 25 years, dating to construction of Interstate 705. But now it’s fenced off with chain link and tagged with “No trespassing” signs. The barrier also blocks access to a century-old railroad monument.

Owned by the Washington State Department of Transportation, the pocket park was an Occupy Tacoma tent city for four months. The Occupiers are gone, but now WSDOT suddenly wants to shed the park for “liability” reasons and is seeking buyers. Maintaining the park isn’t an issue; a private company takes care of that as part of a deal to operate a nearby parking lot. Read more »


Student loan crisis calls for mortgage-style flexibility

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

For a sobering observation about student debt, it’s hard to beat this:

“Bankruptcy attorneys from across the country . . . report that what they are seeing at the ground level feels too much like what they saw before the foreclosure crisis crashed onto the national scene: more consumers seeking their help with unmanageable student loan debt, and with no relief available.”

That line, from a February report commissioned by the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, echoes a growing concern among economists.
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