Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials

June 19, 2019

Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:


June 18

The Orlando Sentinel on why it won’t endorse Donald Trump for president in 2020:

Donald Trump (was) in Orlando (Tuesday) to announce the kickoff of his re-election campaign.

We’re here to announce our endorsement for president in 2020, or, at least, who we’re not endorsing: Donald Trump.

Some readers will wonder how we could possibly eliminate a candidate so far before an election, and before knowing the identity of his opponent.

Because there’s no point pretending we would ever recommend that readers vote for Trump.

After 2½ years we’ve seen enough.

Enough of the chaos, the division, the schoolyard insults, the self-aggrandizement, the corruption, and especially the lies.

So many lies — from white lies to whoppers — told out of ignorance, laziness, recklessness, expediency or opportunity.

Trump’s capacity for lying isn’t the surprise here, though the frequency is.

It’s the tolerance so many Americans have for it.

There was a time when even a single lie — a phony college degree, a bogus work history — would doom a politician’s career.

Not so for Trump, who claimed in 2017 that he lost the popular vote because millions of people voted illegally (they didn’t). In 2018 he said North Korea was no longer a nuclear threat (it is). And in 2019 he said windmills cause cancer (they don’t). Just last week he claimed the media fabricated unfavorable results from his campaign’s internal polling (it didn’t).

According to a Washington Post database, the president has tallied more than 10,000 lies since he took office.

Trump’s successful assault on truth is the great casualty of this presidency, followed closely by his war on decency.

Trump insults political opponents and national heroes alike with middle-school taunts. He demonstrates no capacity for empathy or remorse. He misuses his office to punish opponents, as when he recently called for a boycott of AT&T to get even with his least favorite media outlet, CNN. He tears down institutions, once airily suggesting the U.S. should try having a leader for life as China now allows. He seems incapable of learning a lesson, telling an ABC interviewer last week — just two months after Robert Mueller’s report on election interference was released — that he would accept dirt on an opponent from Russia or China.

Trump has diminished our standing in the world. He reneges on deals, attacks allies and embraces enemies.

This nation must never forget that humiliating public moment in Helsinki in 2018 when the president of the United States chose to accept Vladimir Putin’s denials of Russian interference in the 2016 election over the unanimous assessment of the American intelligence community.

Such a betrayal by a U.S. president would have been the unforgivable political sin in normal times.

As if that’s not enough, Trump declares his love for North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, a genuine villain who starves and enslaves his people and executes his enemies with anti-aircraft guns and flamethrowers.

But he wrote the president a “beautiful letter.” Flattery will get you everywhere with this president, and that’s dangerous.

Domestically, the president’s signature issue — immigration — has moved in fits and starts. Happily, he abandoned pursuing an outright — and unconstitutional — ban on Muslims entering the U.S., opting instead to restrict travel for people from a handful of nations, most of them majority Muslim.

He’s tried separating families, sending troops to the border and declaring a national emergency. For all of that, illegal border crossings are, as the president himself calls it, at crisis levels.

He blames House Democrats because casting blame is Trump’s forte. But Republicans controlled the House and the Senate for two full years. That seemed like an ideal time to fix what the president believes ails our immigration laws.

Even with Democrats now controlling the House, where is Trump’s much-touted deal-making mojo, an attribute he campaigned on?

“But the economy!”

Yes, the market has done well since Trump’s election.

The S&P 500 was up about 21% between Trump’s inauguration and May 31 of his third year in office. Under President Obama, it was up about 56% in that same period.

Unemployment is headed down, as it was during seven straight years under Obama.

Wages are up, and that’s a welcome change. But GDP increases so far are no better than some periods under Obama. Deficit spending under Obama was far too high, in part because of the stimulus needed to dig out of the Great Recession. Under Trump, it’s still headed in the wrong direction, once again pushing $1 trillion even though the economy is healthy.

Trump seems to care nothing about the deficit and the national debt, which once breathed life into the Tea Party.

Through all of this, Trump’s base remains loyal. Sadly, the truest words Trump might ever have spoken were when he said he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose his supporters.

This non-endorsement isn’t defaulting to whomever the Democrats choose. This newspaper has a history of presidential appointments favoring Republicans starting in the mid-20th century. Except for Lyndon Johnson in 1964, the Sentinel backed Republican presidential nominees from 1952 through 2004, when we recommended John Kerry over another four years of George W. Bush.

As recently as 2012 we recommended Republican Mitt Romney because of what seemed at the time to be Obama’s failure to adequately manage the nation’s finances.

If — however unlikely — a Republican like Romney, now a senator from Utah, or former Ohio Gov. John Kasich successfully primaried the president, we would eagerly give them a look. Same if an independent candidate mounted a legitimate campaign.

We’d even consider backing Trump if, say, he found the proverbial cure for cancer or — about as likely — changed the essence of who he is (he won’t).

The nation must endure another 1½ years of Trump. But it needn’t suffer another four beyond that.

We can do better. We have to do better.

Online: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/


June 18

The Washington Post on the death of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi:

It speaks volumes that the first and only democratically elected president of Egypt dropped dead on Monday inside the glass cage he was confined to in a Cairo courtroom, where he was facing the latest in a long series of unfair trials. Mohamed Morsi did a poor job as Egyptian president before being ousted in a bloody military coup by the country’s current dictator, Abdel Fatah al-Sissi. But the gross mistreatment Mr. Morsi was subjected to over the past six years offers a vivid demonstration of how human rights have regressed in a country that once aspired to set political standards for the Middle East.

Mr. Morsi was thrust into the center of Egypt’s democratic revolution after he was chosen by the Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s most popular political movement, as its candidate in the presidential election of 2012. An engineer by training, he had few political skills. Though he surprised his Islamist movement’s foes by seeking good relations with the United States and maintaining Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel, he resorted to autocratic methods in an effort to best secular opponents, as well as the entrenched military. The result was mass popular demonstrations that provided a pretext for Mr. Sissi’s July 2013 coup and the bloody repression that followed.

Mr. Morsi was jailed with tens of thousands of others, most of whom remain in prison. For the past six years, he was held in solitary confinement, allowed to see his family on only three occasions. His protests and those of outside monitors that he was not being adequately treated for his medical conditions, including diabetes and liver problems, were ignored; a panel of British lawyers and politicians found last year that his treatment could be described as “torture.” Meanwhile he was subjected to multiple trials on a host of trumped-up charges, most recently espionage.

Human rights advocates, including at the United Nations, called for an independent investigation of Mr. Morsi’s death — an inquiry that is as unlikely as it is needed. But perhaps his story will focus greater attention on the depravity of the Sissi regime, which is guilty of by far the worst human rights offenses in Egypt’s modern history. In addition to the tens of thousands imprisoned, thousands of other Muslim Brotherhood members or regime opponents have been tortured or murdered outright by security forces. The secular political parties and civil society groups that opposed Mr. Morsi have been destroyed; a once-pluralist press has been silenced.

The United States has consistently enabled this horrific record, continuing to provide the military with $1.3 billion in annual aid. Congress has imposed human rights conditions only to see them waived by the Trump administration. President Trump has received Mr. Sissi twice at the White House and described him as a “great president.” Let the record show that this particular great president just presided over the cruel and unjust death of his predecessor.

Online: https://www.washingtonpost.com/


June 18

The Los Angeles Times on the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling to try defendants on the state and federal level for the same offense:

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monday that if you are convicted in a state court of a criminal offense, the federal government can put you on trial again for essentially the same crime, and if you’re convicted, your new sentence can be added to your old one. In our view, that’s a violation of the Constitution’s prohibition against double jeopardy.

In 2015, Terance Gamble’s vehicle was searched at a traffic stop in Alabama and a gun was found. Gamble, who had a robbery conviction on his record, pleaded guilty to a state charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm, and was sentenced to a year in prison. But he was also charged by the U.S. government for essentially the same crime arising from the same incident.

Gamble pleaded guilty to the federal charge as well, while preserving his right to challenge the second prosecution as a violation of the 5th Amendment’s command that no person shall be “subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.”

In our view, that’s a violation of the Constitution’s prohibition against double jeopardy.

The justices rejected his argument Monday by a 7-2 vote. Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. cited the court’s longstanding view that the federal government and the states are separate “sovereigns” and that “a crime under one sovereign’s laws is not ‘the same offense’ as a crime under the laws of another sovereign.” Alito also emphasized that a ruling in Gamble’s favor would depart from “170 years of precedent.”

The court shouldn’t lightly cast aside precedents. But there were several reasons for the court to do so in this case, as Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Neil M. Gorsuch argued in persuasive dissents that put the focus where it should be: on the injustice of subjecting anyone to two trials for the same crime.

Ginsburg questioned the notion that the federal government and the states are separate “sovereigns,” writing that it “overlooks a basic tenet of our federal system, namely that under the Constitution ultimate sovereignty resides in the governed.” But even if the separate sovereigns theory once made sense, Ginsburg suggested that things changed with Supreme Court’s decision in 1969 to apply the double jeopardy clause to the states as well as the federal government.

She’s correct. If federal and state prosecutions are governed by the same constitutional rules, the double jeopardy clause prohibits successive prosecutions regardless of which level of government files the indictment.

In his dissent, Gorsuch pithily described the consequences of the majority’s reasoning:

“My colleagues say that the federal government and each state are ‘separate sovereigns’ entitled to try the same person for the same crime. So if all the might of one ‘sovereign’ cannot succeed against the presumptively free individual, another may insist on the chance to try again. And if both manage to succeed, so much the better; they can add one punishment on top of the other.”

The concerns expressed by Ginsburg and Gorsuch aren’t new. In a powerful dissent in a 1959 decision, the late Justice Hugo Black wrote: “If double punishment is what is feared, it hurts no less for two ‘sovereigns’ to inflict it than for one.”

There are a few situations in which one can justify separate state and federal prosecutions arising from the same events. The U.S. Department of Justice has brought federal civil rights prosecutions against defendants acquitted in state court of crimes of violence against racial minorities. But Ginsburg suggested in her dissent that federal civil rights laws and state laws criminalizing assault are different enough to qualify as separate “offenses.”

The state and federal charges against Gamble were aimed at the same crime and motivated by the same purpose: to punish felons found to be in the possession of a firearm. The court should have ruled that, under the Constitution, one prosecution was enough.

Online: https://www.latimes.com/


June 18

The Boston Herald on free college proposals announced by several Democratic candidates for president:

Among the panoply of giveaways promised by this election cycle’s field of Democrats is free college. At least 15 candidates are all in and chances are that number will increase.

In April, Liz Warren tweeted, “I’m calling for universal free college and the cancellation of student loan debt for more than 95% of Americans. This is the kind of big, structural change we need to make sure our kids have opportunity in this country.”

The Warren suite of free college and debt forgiveness would be paid for by the Ultra-Millionaire Wealth Tax, as would many of her other initiatives.

Frontrunner Joe Biden has come out for two years of free college, saying in May, “Send everybody to a community college for free, cutting in half the cost of their four-year education.”

Biden’s plan may fluctuate if his polling does and he has taken several positions on the issue over the years.

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont introduced legislation called the College for All Act in 2017. It would have made college free for families making less than $125,000 a year. “If we can give a trillion dollars in tax breaks to people who don’t need it, we can make public colleges and universities tuition-free all over this country, and that’s a very high priority for me,” he said earlier this year.

During a CNN town hall in March, Cory Booker (D-N.J.) declared, “We are going to go towards a system of debt-free college, free community college, and make sure that certain professions, like teachers — if you’re willing to teach or be a school professional, especially in communities like Orangeburg or Newark, we are going to forgive your debt.”

In March, Sen. Kamala Harris, (D-Calif.), along with dozens of members of Congress reintroduced the Debt-Free College Act. “Students in America should be able to go to college to further their careers without going deep into a financial hole,” she said in a press release.

Pete Buttigieg has come out against free college tuition and Beto O’Rourke has held out supporting it wholeheartedly but has teased a preference for a two-year college supplement.

Not surprisingly none of the free college initiatives will actually be free for the taxpayers who will ultimately pay the bill. Also, the recipients of most of this Democratic goodwill will be Americans who need it least. Middle-class and somewhat wealthy students will benefit the most.

Also, what is to incentivize a student who receives free college to take courses or embark on a major that would be financially fruitful without the instant pressure of needing to address the expense of the education? Indeed, what will incentivize students to finish a degree or certificate at all?

Further, if college is free, enrollment numbers will skyrocket and more graduates will be spat out into the workforce with near-identical resumes. That will certainly drive down wages and reduce the prospect of employment at all for many.

Free college will not be free for the taxpayer and will be a disservice for most students, most of whom may want the handout, but don’t need it.

Online: https://www.bostonherald.com/


June 17

China Daily on President Xi Jinping’s visit to North Korea:

Courtesy demands reciprocity. After Kim Jong-un visited China four times in less than 10 months, President Xi Jinping will pay a state visit to Pyongyang on Thursday and Friday. This would be the first visit to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea by China’s top State leader since 2005.

Unlike the conventional practice — the Foreign Ministry usually briefs about Xi’s foreign trips in advance — this time his visit to Pyongyang was announced by the International Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee on Monday evening, highlighting the special significance attached to the trip.

That the Foreign Ministry has responded to questions on Xi’s possible visit to the DPRK several times since last year shows the high hopes the world has pinned on China leveraging its unique influence to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

Yet both Pyongyang and Beijing apparently want more than that, as both define Xi’s visit, which has been arranged despite his busy schedule in June, as a crucial move to usher in a new chapter for their ties at their 70th anniversary, carrying forward the camaraderie and brotherhood forged through the historical sacrifice of lives and blood.

Given that both Xi and Kim are leaders of their parties, armies and countries, their meeting will deepen multipronged cooperation between the two sides. It is noteworthy no matter how external circumstances have changed; the two nations have maintained a high-level of mutual trust and mutual understanding as they have always pursued close cultural and people-to-people exchanges.

During his four visits to China, Kim was keen to draw lessons from China’s economic, technological and social development. The country has struck a good balance in promoting developments on all fronts through exploring a socialist path with Chinese characteristics, which appeals to the DPRK’s aspirations for independent development and its desire to improve its people’s livelihoods.

It is believed that Xi’s visit to the DPRK will present the opportunity for the two leaders to agree on some concrete cooperation projects based on the complementarity of the two economies.

Also, it is almost predictable, as Kim’s previous four visits to China have indicated, the two leaders will take the opportunity to further strengthen their strategic coordination on many regional and global issues concerning their common interests, particularly the denuclearization process of the peninsula.

Xi’s visit is expected to inject new vitality into the ongoing peaceful resolution of the Korean Peninsula issues, which is based on the conditions that Pyongyang’s core interests and security concerns are assured. Cherishing how far all relevant parties have come to reach this point and carrying forward the momentum of a political resolution to the peninsula denuclearization issue are in line with interests of all peoples.

Online: http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/


June 15

The New York Times on one city’s attempt to tackle the problem of affordable housing:

Housing is one area of American life where government really is the problem. The United States is suffering from an acute shortage of affordable places to live, particularly in the urban areas where economic opportunity increasingly is concentrated. And perhaps the most important reason is that local governments are preventing construction.

Don’t be misled by the construction cranes that punctuate city skylines. The number of housing units completed in the United States last year, adjusted for the size of the population, was lower than in any year between 1968 and 2008. And the problem is most acute in major urban areas along the east and west coasts. Housing prices, and homelessness, are rising across the country because there is not enough housing.

Increasing the supply of urban housing would help to address a number of the problems plaguing the United States. Construction could increase economic growth and create blue-collar jobs. Allowing more people to live in cities could mitigate inequality and reduce carbon emissions. Yet in most places, housing construction remains wildly unpopular. People who think of themselves as progressives, environmentalists and egalitarians fight fiercely against urban development, complaining about traffic and shadows and the sanctity of lawns.

That’s why a recent breakthrough in Minneapolis is so important. The city’s political leaders have constructed a broad consensus in favor of more housing. And the centerpiece is both simple and brilliant: Minneapolis is ending single-family zoning.

Local governments regulate land use by chopping cities into zones, specifying what can be built in each area. This serves some valuable purposes, like separating homes from heavy industry. But mostly, it serves to protect homeowners. In many cities, including Minneapolis, more than half of the city’s land is reserved for single-family homes.

People should be free to live in a prairie-style house on a quarter-acre lot in the middle of Minneapolis, so long as they can afford the land and taxes. But zoning subsidizes that extravagance by prohibiting better, more concentrated use of the land. It allows people to own homes they could not afford if the same land could be used for an apartment building. It is a huge entitlement program for the benefit of the most entitled residents.

The loose fabric of single-family neighborhoods drives up the cost of housing by limiting the supply of available units. It contributes to climate change, by necessitating sprawl and long commutes. It constrains the economic potential of cities by limiting growth.

In December, the Minneapolis City Council voted 12 to 1 to allow construction of at least three residential units per lot throughout the city as part of a larger package of changes intended to increase housing construction. Under the plan, most construction still will be concentrated in the center of the city and along transit corridors. But the elimination of single-family zoning was crucial in building political support for the plan, ending a system under which more than 60% of Minneapolis was sheltered from change.

“Cities are in constant evolution, and we’ve limited that evolution by mandating that two-thirds of the city is exclusively single-family,” said Jacob Frey, the mayor, who made affordable housing the key issue in his 2017 election campaign. Mr. Frey, who is 37, said residents — particularly younger residents — want to live in a different kind of city than did their parents: dense, diverse, vibrant. “And in order to achieve affordability and a diversity of housing options,” he said, “you first have to allow for it.”

The affordable housing crisis cannot be solved by new construction alone, at least not in the short term. Governments need to provide subsidized housing for people who cannot afford market-rate housing. But advocates for affordable housing should be jumping up and down and screaming for the construction of more high-end apartment buildings to ease demand for existing homes. Those new buildings are filled with people who would otherwise be spending Saturdays touring fixer-uppers in neighborhoods newly named something like SoFa, with rapidly dwindling populations of longtime residents.

Market-rate construction also can help to reduce the need for public housing subsidies in the longer term. Today’s market-rate apartments will gradually become more affordable, just as new cars become used cars. The price of the average rental unit declines by 2.5% a year, adjusting for inflation, according to a 2014 study.

Other regions are considering the Minneapolis approach, but proponents have run into stiff political opposition. In California, legislators from wealthy, low-density cities blocked a plan to increase construction that would have allowed “fourplexes,” or four-unit apartments, throughout the state. In Seattle, ambitious proposals were reduced to a bill that allows more development on about 6% of the city’s residential land.

What went right in Minneapolis? The story begins with a crop of young politicians who want more housing: The city is conducting an early experiment in government by and for millennials. For the first time in the city’s modern history, more than half of its residents are renters, including Mayor Frey. Many residents — again, younger people in particular — also describe density as a necessary response to climate change. Environmentalism, which began as an effort to protect people from cities, is increasingly embracing cities as the best way to protect the planet from people.

Linnea Goderstad, a 32-year-old event planner who lives in a townhome just outside downtown Minneapolis, waited in a long line last year to testify in favor of the plan.

“It was so stark,” she said of the generational divide among those who came to speak. “It was just so easy to guess, just judging by age, what side they were going to be on.”

Race also played a central role. Minneapolis is among the most segregated and unequal cities in America, a fact at odds with its self-image as a tolerant and diverse community. The gap between white and black homeownership is the widest in any of the 100 cities with the largest black populations: 75% of whites own their homes, compared with just 25% of blacks.

The 2015 shooting of Jamar Clark, a black man killed by Minneapolis police officers, focused the anger of the city’s black residents — and it persuaded some of their neighbors to listen more carefully. In the ensuing debates, many residents said they were surprised to learn that single-family zoning in Minneapolis, as in other cities, had deep roots in efforts to enforce racial segregation. Cities found that banning apartment construction in white neighborhoods was an effective proxy for racial discrimination, and the practice spread after it was validated by the Supreme Court in 1926.

In Minneapolis, the current political leaders argued that ending single-family zoning was a necessary step to rectify that history of racial discrimination. On many city lawns, signs that read “Neighbors for More Neighbors” stood alongside signs that read “Black Lives Matter.”

All of this deserves wide emulation by other American cities. But Minneapolis has an important advantage: Its housing prices still are relatively modest, so its population includes a lot of middle-class families. Housing debates in coastal cities pit the wealthy against the poor, and middle ground has been hard to find.

Lisa Bender, the president of the Minneapolis City Council, lived in New York and San Francisco before returning to her hometown, and she is convinced that Minneapolis has a narrow window to address its problems while a political consensus still is possible.

“The hope is that all of these things together will at least slow things down enough to not reach that tipping point,” she said, referring to the problems on the coasts. If the city does not build, and prices keep rising, “everything becomes more challenging.”

Online: https://www.nytimes.com/