Sniper Saturation, Greedy Lawyers, Taxing Issues

Although readers understood the importance of closely monitoring the Beltway Sniper story, most thought the coverage of the shootings was excessive, significantly short-changing other important stories.

Radley Balko's column addressing an income tax repeal plan in Massachusetts, and Matt Hayes' discussion of lawyers fighting tort reform, also sparked a zealous response.

Here is a sample of this week's mail:

In response to sniper coverage:

R.R. Sullivan writes:

I agree with your take on this situation. It is a big story, but the media really interferes with law enforcement. Only high authority should release information on evidence, tactics and investigation. It is only then that the media should use it. Second-guessing from talking heads and "experts" is a really asinine way to generate ratings and undermines law enforcement efforts to catch this idiot...

Alma Lou Annab writes:

Our society is one in which we all live the events via the media. It's not reality; it's like a movie. We watched in disbelief as the World Trade Center disaster unfolded before our eyes. In fact, there were those who actually thought it was a movie from Hollywood until
convinced otherwise. The same goes for this situation. It's like an ongoing soap! Relegate it to sound-byte updates. It should not be the better part of a segment.

Kevin O'Connor writes:

Of course they are. The all-news networks cover every story too much -- that's what they do. Whether it is repeating the same report two or three times an hour, presenting commentary and "analysis" by various sundry commentators and "experts," or by interviewing anyone even remotely connected with the story (however dubious the connection), the networks do everything they can to fill time between commercials with the story of the day (real or manufactured) in order to keep eyes and ears tuned in. Face it: overexposure is the norm.

Peggy Ping writes:

I don't mind hearing about news on the sniper, but keep it in prospective! Allowing 90 percent of your news to be about the sniper attack is crazy. If he is kept out of the news for a while, it might not become an epidemic. This is one reason people get sick and tired of television news. It's like a bunch of ants devouring honey: you just can't get enough of it. We are way ahead of you out here in the listening public. Catch up with us.

R.D. writes:

Good points. The media must be careful not to make the shooter a celebrity. However, in current coverage, the constant attempt to categorize the shooter, define a pattern, and define a reason or purpose for the shootings does just that for the anonymous shooter. Surely, it is obvious that this would be rewarding for the shooter. A sniper is waging war against the population, and the population needs to be mobilized, not protected. The press needs to report facts, not speculation, and they need to quit endlessly summarizing the facts as a form of profiling.

Dick and Sheryl Motzing write:

The Beltway Sniper has been given the advantage of having countless extremely bright people analyze his every move and then share with him, through the media, what patterns are emerging. Don't journalists have any responsibility in this whole mess? They are giving him ideas on how to change his mode of operation, making it more difficult to catch him.

In reply to Behind the Bar:

Sonny Poteat writes:

No doubt about it. The unwritten "Prime Directive" of the past 30 years is to be both greedy and selfish. Values and ethical behavior are seen as old-fashioned and have no merit in the modern get-all-you-can world. It's true for the attorneys, it's true for business people, and it's true for their employees. But it's also true that a majority of construction contractors still conduct business from a draconian perspective.

As a safety professional specializing in construction, I can tell you that it's hard to find contractors who truly value their employee's safety. Why? It's not because it isn't sound business practice economically. That it is. The answer is this: In their world, construction is not merely a job; it's a place where men can be dangerous! It's not only natural for men to find danger thrilling. It's actually a good thing when not misplaced. Therein lies the fault. Owners and employees see implementing safe work practices and conforming to OSHA regulations as -- for lack of a better term -- sissy.

David Marty writes:

Unfortunately, plaintiffs' lawyers will always find a way to rationalize that the party with the deepest pockets just so happens to be the one to blame. What's even more pathetic is that people of limited intelligence and/or those who have something to gain seem to buy into this nonsense. In reality, this whole matter is nothing more than another blackmail farce perpetrated by greedy trial lawyers intent upon reaping multi-billion dollar contingency fees.

And now apparently the fast food chains are next. Furthermore, I've read articles concerning food product conglomerates that are worried about the precedents currently being set. I'm sure that the beer brewers and liquor producing companies are getting nervous, too. When and where does this madness end? Anyone that cannot see this situation for what it is, is either being enriched by the process or is brain-dead. This country needs trial lawyers to save us about as much as we need Usama bin Laden in the White House...

Blaine J. Hoffmann, Mississippi, writes:

Your article was interesting. However, to my knowledge, there is a defense for employers. It is found in the company handbook. It should contain the conditions of employment. If a worker understands that they shall comply with all safety rules as a condition of employment and they sign this statement, does this not protect the employer? Of course, the employer must hold up their end by establishing a disciplinary action plan that is progressive and must also follow through with it. If an employee is warned and written up according to the company guidelines, then the employer should be protected by what OSHA refers to as employee misconduct.

In response to Straight Talk:

Rob Oates writes:

I'm a little puzzled that you don't mention the clear alternative that Carla Howell's governmental campaign offers the people of Massachusetts. In fact, there's no mention of a 'third party' candidate at all until approximately the 30th paragraph of the piece. Even when she is mentioned, it's only in the context of her ballot Question 1 to end the income tax. She is clearly not included in the "lesser of two evils" comment that you make about Romney and O'Brien.

Listening to the three of them, one quickly concludes that she's the only candidate providing a clear alternative to big government, tax and spend, business as usual. As you present the Massachusetts governor's race, it's a foregone conclusion that voters must choose between Republican and Democrat. Is that really what you meant? It's certainly not true.

Rob Steinbach writes:

My theory is that killing the income tax in Massachusetts may shrink the state government, but it won't make it run better. I guarantee that the cuts will happen in mental and medical health services and education, just like in Tennessee. The pro-income tax politicians will continue to cut these services until the people give up and reinstate the income tax.

In summary, I think that if the people vote out the income tax, the power will severely punish their constituents for this "insurrection." If it doesn't happen, and the helpless are not thrown into the streets or treated as vegetables, I'll be the first one to apply for a job over there.

Andrew from Cambridge, Mass., writes:

The important thing about this vote is that it will tell state governments whether or not taxes are appropriate in this terrible economic climate where the cost of living increases dramatically, yet jobs are being lost. In a time like this, if people vote yes for the income tax, it will be a green light for the legislature to pass as many tax increases next year as possible, no matter who's in the governor's office. There's just too much fear, ignorance and dependence on taxes in this state for Question 1 to pass.

David Anderson writes:

Thank you for writing and publishing an excellent article on the situation in Massachusetts. If they manage to end the income tax, it will be the greatest victory for freedom since WWII. I've contributed money in the hopes that it happens and sends a shockwave through the nation that the government is way to big for its britches. I wouldn't mind an end to the income tax here. If they can pull it off there, it can be done anywhere.