EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 17, 2012

Editorial roundup: On the Web, PTSD and entitlements

The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Excerpts from editorials from around New England.

The wild, wild Web

The Internet has often been compared with the Wild West. The analogy makes some sense, at least on the surface. Like America’s frontier in the 1800s, the rules aren’t exactly set in stone. And there can be surprises aplenty. And many opportunities — for both good and bad. But the comparison can be taken only so far.

The so-called Wild West was populated by those who were at least generally aware of how things ran in the more civilized section of these United States — “back East,” in the vernacular of the day. There’s no real equivalent today on the wild, wild Web, no established authority that most of us are aware of, anyway. The Internet, for most folks, is just sort of there, and mostly taken for granted. But we do so at our peril.

Even as these words appear in print and online, there’s a meeting that’s been going on — in Dubai — that seeks to carve out a new set of rules for the Internet. While few have been paying attention to the 12-day conference, there are those at the meeting who have been talking about some fundamental online changes. Repressive governments want much more control. Many folks are looking for less online anonymity. Snoops want to know everything.

Many tech companies, of course, have taken notice of the gathering. Google isn’t going to let the internet turn all crazy without putting up a stink. Good.

— The Republican of Springfield (Mass.)

Not too late to restore honor

John Shepherd Jr. enlisted in the Army and earned a Bronze Star for valor fighting with the 9th Infantry Division in the Mekong Delta in 1969. But after his platoon leader was killed while trying to help him out of a canal, Shepherd appeared to come undone, eventually refusing to go out on patrol.

He was court-martialed and given an other-than-honorable discharge, making him ineligible for most veterans’ benefits. He believes his behavior was the result of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. His immediate problem: PTSD wasn’t recognized as a medical condition until 1980.

Shepherd and the veterans organization Vietnam Veterans of America have filed a lawsuit in federal court in New Haven on behalf of Vietnam veterans who were given other-than-honorable discharges for conduct they say was caused by undiagnosed PTSD. The suit, brought by the activist Veterans Legal Clinic at Yale Law School, seeks to have their discharges upgraded, something the military has thus far been reluctant to do.

If he and others can produce records and make the case — Shepherd was diagnosed with PTSD in 2004 — their discharges should be upgraded. The name may not have existed in 1969, but the many and varied traumas of war certainly did.

— The Hartford Courant

Soaking rich won’t balance budget

The centerpiece of President Obama’s strategy for reducing the federal budget deficit is increasing taxes on high-income earners. If the president has his way, the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans — individuals earning more than $200,000 annually and families bringing in more than $250,000 — will expire at the end of the year. The maximum tax rates would increase to 39.6 percent.

Obama has steadfastly rejected “(spending) cuts-only” proposals from congressional Republicans that seek to curb the deficit without increasing anyone’s taxes.

The logic behind the president’s idea is that it would reduce the astronomical deficit without causing economic hardship for middle- and lower-income Americans.

There are two big problems.

Obama hasn’t lived up to his inaugural address pledge to tackle the government’s out-of-control spending habits. He has virtually ignored the recommendations of his own Bowles-Simpson deficit-reduction committee and hasn’t developed a coherent plan for controlling entitlement spending. As syndicated columnist Michael Barone noted in his Dec. 9 column, “Fiscal cliff: the real argument,” more is being spent on entitlements — the largest part of the budget — all the time.

Without addressing spending and entitlements in particular, additional tax revenue from a tiny segment of the population would amount to little more than drops in a bucket.

— The Republican American of Waterbury (Conn.)