Inside Opinion

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

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Tag: Barack Obama

July
7th

Obama must step up his game on health reform

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

There is no way to spin the White House’s retreat on the employer mandate as a good omen for the Affordable Care Act.

The mandate – a requirement that companies offer health benefits if they employ 50 or more full-time workers – was supposed to be one of the easier parts of health care reform. It was just a matter of the Treasury Department and Department of Health and Human Services writing regulations and companies providing payroll information.

But employers have been complaining loudly about confusion and costs – and threatening to

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June
30th

Remove some mystery from secret FISA court

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

The Obama administration is reportedly exploring ways to declassify some documents related to the controversial, secret FISA court.

That’s a welcome move, one that should cast light on the little-known work of the FISA judges charged with oversight responsibilities under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

The best outcome of declassifying the documents would be to help demystify the court, which was created by Congress in 1978 as a reaction to unauthorized domestic spying by the government in the 1960s and ’70s. Under FISA, a judge must approve a warrant for the

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June
22nd

If Common Core is a plot, then it’s a conservative one

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

To the hoax of the moon landing, George W. Bush’s secret masterminding of 9/11 and Detroit’s suppression of the water-fueled car, add another conspiracy theory:

Common Core is an Obamanian plot to seize control of America’s public schools.

This canard, astonishingly, is fast becoming an article of faith of the tea party movement and has even been picked up by the Republican National Committee, which ought to know better. As the adage says, a lie can make it halfway around the world while the truth is still lacing up its boots.

The Common Core State Standards — now being adopted by school districts in Washington and most other states — ought to be uncontroversial, especially to conservatives who beef about the basics that don’t get taught in public education. Read more »

June
14th

Privacy and the NSA: Do you have anything to worry about?

Have the NSA surveillance revelations got you wondering whether your own privacy is being compromised? Or whether it should even matter, since you’re probably not a terrorist?

Privacy expert and law professor Daniel J. Solove has some thoughts on the subject. Here’s an article he wrote for The Washington Post.

5 myths about privacy

By Daniel J. Solove

The disclosure of two secret government surveillance programs — one involving phone records and the other personal data from Internet companies — has sparked debate about privacy and national security. Has the government gone too far? Or not far enough? How much privacy should we sacrifice for security? To discuss these issues productively, some myths must be dispelled.

1. The collection of phone numbers and other “metadata” isn’t much of a threat to privacy.

Don’t worry, argue defenders of these surveillance programs: The government is gathering innocuous data, not intimate secrets. “Nobody is listening to your telephone calls,” President Obama declared. Intelligence agencies are “looking at phone numbers and durations of calls; they are not looking at people’s names, and they’re not looking at content.” Read more »

June
7th

Eugene Robinson column updated to reflect NSA revelations

thompThe Eugene Robinson column that appeared in today’s paper didn’t reflect revelations about the National Security Agency’s PRISM program. That story broke too late Thursday for him to update the column for Friday. We decided to go with the column as is but switched out a cartoon that only touched on the Verizon angle for this one on cyber spying.

On Friday, the Washington Post moved this updated version of Robinson’s column to reflect President Obama’s comments and news of the previously undisclosed NSA program.

Here’s the revised column.

HANGING UP ON THE RIGHT TO PRIVACY

WASHINGTON – Someday, a young girl will look up into her father’s eyes and ask, “Daddy, what was privacy?”

The father probably won’t recall. I fear we’ve already forgotten that there was a time when a U.S. citizen’s telephone calls were nobody else’s business. A time when people would have been shocked and angered to learn that the government was compiling a detailed log of ostensibly private calls made and received by millions of Americans. Read more »

May
29th

China’s cyber spies could compromise US defense

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

China has an ingenious way of saving billions in military research and development: Just steal it from other countries, primarily the United States.

The Washington Post reports that Chinese military hackers have accessed data from 37 American weapons programs and 29 other defense-related technologies. Some observers think the stolen information is why China’s J-20 stealth fighters are so similar to the U.S.’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The Post’s report comes on the heels of accusations earlier this month from the Obama administration that China has also hacked into computers of U.S. government

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May
23rd

Administration must respect media’s government watchdog role

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

In his speech Thursday on national security, President Barack Obama said the right things about the media’s role as government watchdogs. Now the question is whether his administration’s actions will connect to his words.

Obama said that a free press is essential for our democracy: “I am troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable. Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs.”

You’d never guess it from his detached tone, but he was referring to two abusive leak investigations undertaken

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May
14th

Secrecy ignited firestorms over Benghazi and the IRS

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

Here’s what you don’t do if an IRS division is discovered to be singling out the political opposition: Sit on the explosive information for at least two years, and let the abuses fester in the meantime.

Here’s what you don’t do if a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans are killed by jihadists in Libya: Water down the public explanations until it sounds as if lax security had nothing to do with the attack.

The blunders behind these two evasions aren’t remotely comparable in magnitude. But the Obama administration’s impulse to conceal the truth is the same.

An Internal Revenue Service unit’s seeming hostility to exemption-seeking conservative groups could conceivably go nuclear if responsibility reaches high enough in the Obama administration. The fact that IRS employees were hunting down Republican-leaning groups is shocking in itself; if it was even tolerated on high, it’s a revival of Nixon-style political tactics.

It also gives the lie to President Obama’s mantra that he’s running “the most transparent administration” in American history. Lois Lerner, who ran the IRS division that granted or refused tax exemptions for advocacy groups, learned in June 2011 that its employees were using such search terms as “tea party” and “patriot” when targeting groups extra scrutiny.

She didn’t bother to inform the public until Friday, on the eve of a scathing inspector general’s report. Even then, she insisted that the Determinations Unit had no political agenda.

The problem never would have arisen in the first place had the IRS been more forthcoming about its practices.

The unit uses what it calls “be on the lookout” criteria for scrutinizing particular groups. There’s no reason the BOLO has to be secret. Had it been an open document, no one would have dared add small-government advocacy to the guidelines.
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