Inside Opinion

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

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Archives: Sep. 2012


Finally, D’s and R’s agree on something

Green Bay Packers' Tramon Williams (38) and Charles Woodson (21) vie for a pass against Seattle Seahawks' Charly Martin (14), M.D. Jennings and Golden Tate, obscured, in the final moments of an NFL football game Monday in Seattle. After review the play stood as a touchdown by Seahawks' Golden Tate as the Seahawks won 14-12. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

Yes, we have reached bipartisan agreement – that the referees’ disputed call at the end of Monday night’s game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers shows why the NFL needs to get its regular refs back to work.

The call, which ruled that Golden Tate made a touchdown reception with 8 seconds to play, gave the victory to Seattle, 14-12.

GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, a congressman from the Packers’ home state of Wisconsin, said: “You guys watch that Packer game last night? I mean, give me a break. It is time to get the real refs and you know what it reminds me of — President Obama and the economy. If you can’t get it right, it’s time to get out.”

Obama weighed in, calling the call “terrible.” In a tweet that went out under his initials, the president said: “NFL fans on both sides of the aisle hope the refs’ lockout is settled soon.”

For an AP take on it, click here.

In Wisconsin, which has seen its share of partisan wrangling recently, both sides agree: The Packers wuz robbed. (They all sound like whiny sore losers to me.)

Here’s an AP article on it. Read more »


A generation short-changed on education

Today’s editorial mentioned a think tank’s recommendation for boosting college-going in the United States. The editorial focused on Washington, but College Board Advocacy & Policy Center tracks how the country is doing compared to the rest of the world.

America, it seems, headed toward the same destination as Washington: A generation of young people less educated (and probably less affluent over their life spans) than their parents.

The United States once led the world in education achievement. Today, the percentage of 25- to 35-year-olds Americans with at least an associate degree is lower than in Korea, Russia, Japan, New

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State college-going: Sinking, not treading water

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

Here’s another pin to stick in the balloon of complacency about Washington’s education system.

The Seattle Times has unearthed an exceptionally disturbing trend: This state isn’t merely failing to provide enough college opportunity to its children. It is actually slipping backward – providing less than it did 20 years ago.

One important indicator is the percentage of students who enroll full time in either a two- or four-year college immediately after graduating from high school.

In 1992, the Times reported Sunday, 58 percent of Washington high schoolers went straight into higher education, well above the national average of 54 percent. Our rank: 11th in the nation.

As of 2008, though, the national average had risen to 63 percent – but Washington’s rate of immediate college-going had fallen to 51 percent. Our rank: 46th in the nation.

These numbers might seem to contradict Washington’s generally strong education statistics. Our state’s tech industries, especially, abound in people with bachelor’s and graduate degrees.

But there’s no contradiction. As we have often noted, many of Washington’s largest and most profitable companies – Microsoft, for example – often have to look to other states, even other countries, when recruiting well-educated professionals.
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A privilege mysteriously absent from the state constitution

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

The Olympia-based Freedom Foundation is forcing an issue that needs to be forced: whether a governor can conceal documents by invoking an unwritten executive privilege that overrides the state’s Public Records Act.

The Freedom Foundation, a conservative think tank, is suing Gov. Chris Gregoire to get six records of her office’s internal discussions about medical marijuana, the Alaskan Way Viaduct and salmon recovery efforts in the Columbia River Basin. The state Supreme Court heard the arguments last week.

Her attorneys say a governor needs “elbow room” to discuss sensitive questions with her staff with an assurance of privacy.

That’s a respectable argument – one that should be made to the Legislature. But Gregoire claims the Washington Constitution gives her power to withhold such internal documents – despite the constitution’s failure to mention this privilege.

Her argument largely relies on the U.S. Supreme Court’s recognition that the nation’s president possesses a “qualified privilege” to withhold certain records. We think the analogy between the governor and president is specious.

In Washington, executive authority is splintered into nine different offices; we elect an independent secretary of state and treasurer, for example. Our governorship is a pale shadow of the presidency. And unlike the president, the governor guards no state secrets.

The lack of an explicit executive privilege in the Washington Constitution is not a mere oversight. The constitution explicitly recognizes a corresponding privilege for legislators. The authors were aware of the issue and presumably knew what they were doing when they didn’t extend the same power to the governor.
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Low-tech education means outsourced opportunity

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

Washington has a high-tech economy, low-tech students, and way too many graduates frozen out of high-paying jobs that require skills they never learned.

So says a new report from Change the Equation, a presidential initiative aimed at stepping up STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – education in the United States.

Change the Equation, a two-year-old nonprofit led by CEOs, assessed each state’s performance in producing engineers, blue-collar factory technicians, nurses, computer specialists and other professionals in tech-intensive fields.

This kind of survey almost always yields dismal findings, but let’s first hit a couple items of good news.

Since 2003, Washington’s eighth-graders have made some gains in math – modest, but it’s progress. The state has also opted to use the national Common Core standards in math, which promises to provide solid measurements of its students’ performance.

Otherwise, Change the Equation pretty much reaffirms something observers have been saying for years: Washington is not preparing most of its graduates for the 21st-century economy.

A couple of ratios sum it up. In this state, according to the report, there are 2.1 STEM jobs for every one unemployed STEM worker – but only one non-STEM job for every 3.7 unemployed non-STEM worker. Twice as many tech openings as tech-savvy job-seekers; nearly four times as many nontech job-seekers as nontech openings.

This might be excusable if the state of Washington were doing its part to give its youth the intellectual skills they need for the expanding technology sector.

It is not. The state’s voters and lawmakers are too comfortable with a status quo that forces employers to hire talent from out of state while relegating native Washingtonians to low-wage jobs or the unemployment lines.
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Online ‘trolls’ are just one headache for comment moderator

For the past week and a half I’ve been moderating the online comments on the letters to the editor blog because our regular moderator has been on vacation.

I have to figure out how to make sure she never goes on vacation again. Moderating the comments is time-consuming and frustrating, but not for the reason you might think.

Sure we get a lot of “trolls,” commenters who apparently don’t have anything better to do than look for ways to be negative about anything and everything. But not everything they write should be deleted from the letters blog, even if their comments are reported by several other commenters.

My main headache has been all the challenges from people who just want a comment deleted because it’s a strong, sometimes ridiculous opinion that apparently they don’t share. “Ban this troll!” they plead. Read more »


Military should update its strategy against substance abuse

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

The military might employ some of the world’s most up-to-date weapon systems, but it’s stuck in the past when it comes to preventing and treating substance abuse.

That’s the conclusion of a new Institute of Medicine report released this week. It says that abuse of alcohol and prescription drugs among service members and their families is a “public health crisis” and contributes to the record rate of suicide within the ranks. But the services are often dealing with that crisis in outmoded ways.

For instance, materials the U.S. Navy uses for counselor training haven’t been updated since 1984. The military is reluctant to use medication that can curb cravings and to employ other modern strategies for combating substance abuse. And its drug-testing – created in the years after the Vietnam War – focuses on drugs that aren’t the main problems today.
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The Internet is eternal for crude videos and racy snapshots

I’ve been thinking about the intersection of two very different stories in the news in recent days: the Muslim riots over that trashy anti-Muhammad video and the nudie shots of Princess Kate that are showing up in various European newspaper.

The Muslims want the video to disappear, and the royals are going to court trying to do the same to the revealing photos of Kate. Alas, thanks to the Internet neither will happen. The video and the racy photos will be with us as long as the Internet – or some future version of it – exists. As soon as

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