Friday, December 30, 2005

A Decent LAT Editorial Page For Once Extolls Some Heroes

The L.A. Times editorial pages for Thursday, Dec. 29, show that editorial pages these days need not always be dirges of negative rantings about the Bush Administration and the war in Iraq.

In two editorials in particular, the Times extolls the virtues of some unexpected heroes, and on the Op Ed Page, there's a sensitive article on state politics by the editorial page writer and Pulitzer Prize winner the Times should never have fired, Bill Stall.

The heroes are the President of Indonesia and two Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies.

The Indonesian president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is given appropriate credit for everything he did in the wake of last year's tsunami to end the long insurrection in Aceh, the province on the northern tip of Sumatra.

"It is difficult to find silver linings in devastation such as last year's tsunami, which struck the Indonsian island of Sumatra with sickening fury," the Indonesian editorial begins. "When the ocean receded, the water was thick with bodies, trees and debris. More than 100,000 were dead, many of them children. But the waves and water accomplished what years of halfhearted negotiations had not. They stopped the violent, decades-long campaign for the independence of Aceh..."

The tsunami marked the occasion for the Indonesian government to open Aceh to foreign rescue workers, including the U.S. military, and now the rebels have abandoned their campaign and will join provincial elections.

As the Times editorial says, "Much credit for the peace agreement with the rebels is due Indonesia's president...who in September granted a blanket amnesty to the rebels, including those imprisoned for treason. Yudhoyono took office not long before the tsunami; a former general, he faced the difficult task of overruling onetime colleagues who wanted to continue hunting the Acehinese guerrillas..."

"Nothing can bring back the tens of thousands who died or erase the horror endured by millions more. But with their response to the tsunami, Indonesians have shown the world what can be accomplished through common sense, determination and a shared sense of purpose." Amen!

In another editorial, the Times pays tribute to the two young Sheriff's deputies who raced to the scene of a Watts fire and rescued two small children from the burning second floor of housing in a tough section often not friendly to the police. One of the deputies, Jeff Kim, a Korean immigrant, caught the youngsters when they jumped from the window, at some injury to himself. The other, Annmarie Matusik, helped extinguish flames impeding the rescue.

And the fire wasn't even in the jurisdiction of the Sheriff's Dept. It was just outside. A trucker had flagged down the deputies' vehicle and pointed to the fire.

"There's nothing like a hero for the holidays, and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has a pair of them," the Times editorial remarks. "Their story may help the public understand that there is more to the department than budget troubles and jail mismanagement...

"The actions of Kim and Matusik do...show a more complex and human picture of policing."

Then, on the Op Ed Page, Stall's article, "Schwarzenegger's second act," there is a sophisticated article by Stall looking at the disappointing past and perhaps more promising future of the Schwarzenegger Administration, if only there is a less partisan spirit in Sacramento.

It shouldn't be too late for Andres Martinez, editor of the editorial pages, to undo one of his worst mistakes and tell Stall he is welcome to stay on the Times staff.

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