Editorial Roundup: U.S.

 
 
Updated 6/9/2021 12:26 PM

Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:

June 8

 

The Montreal Gazette on anti-Muslim hatred in Canada:

What happened in London, Ont. Sunday is sickening and heartbreaking. Three generations of a family went out for an evening stroll, only to be run down by a pickup truck that witnesses said jumped the curb in order to strike them. Killed were a couple in their 40s, their teenage daughter and her grandmother. The couple's nine-year-old son is seriously injured.

Police say they were targeted because they were visibly Muslim, and that it was a hate crime. A 20-year-old man has been charged with four counts of murder and one of attempted murder.

Political leaders have been tweeting the appropriate words of condemnation and solidarity. Vigils are being organized. Bouquets are piling up at the scene of the crime. There were similar responses after the January 2017 attack at a mosque in Quebec City, when a gunman murdered six men and injured several others. Yet here we are again.

This latest incident has sent a new wave of fear through Canada's Muslim community, a community already on edge. Last September, a mosque caretaker in Toronto was fatally stabbed. In addition, there have been any number of non-fatal incidents, involving assaults, vandalism and insults. Only last April, shots were fired at a mosque in Rosemont. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

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Police have yet to say much about the suspect in the London case. A neighbour described him as 'a nerdy white kid,' a loner who played video games loudly at all hours. We don't yet know whether he had ties to any hate groups, or consumed hate material online.

What we do know, however, is that Islamophobic influences are pervasive and readily available to poison impressionable minds.

In the coming days, there will be calls to clamp down on hate speech online, on violent video games that make a game of killing, and for greater mental health resources. It will be pointed out that here in Quebec, Bill 21 and much of the discourse that led to its enactment stigmatizes hijab-wearing Muslim women in particular. These are all valid points.

In the meantime, however, the immediate response must be expressions and acts of solidarity.

It should go without saying that everyone in this country should be able to feel safe, that an ordinary family should be able to go out for a walk in peace, that Muslim women who choose to wear the hijab should not be made to feel like they are taking their lives in their hands. Clearly that is not the case, so let us all speak loudly and clearly: acts of hatred cannot be tolerated.

ONLINE: https://montrealgazette.com/opinion/editorials/editorial-london-attack-is-sickening-and-heartbreaking

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June 8

The Wall Street Journal on the 'blunder' of enhanced unemployment benefits:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Businesses nearly everywhere in America say they're desperate for workers, and the latest statistical evidence is the Labor Department's Jolts report Tuesday of a record 9.3 million job openings in April. Get the message, Congress?

The Jolts survey has never shown more openings since Labor began keeping track in 2000. Job openings increased 998,000 in April, including 391,000 in leisure and hospitality, 108,000 in trade and transportation and 102,000 in manufacturing as more states lifted Covid-19 restrictions. Yet new hires increased by a mere 69,000. Employers filled about one in 15 new positions.

The mismatch between labor supply and demand was especially acute in construction, where hires declined by 107,000 even as job openings increased by 23,000. Manufacturing job openings increased by 102,000 while hires fell 38,000. Worker shortages are contributing to supply-chain bottlenecks and higher prices for businesses and consumers.

A Chamber of Commerce survey last week found that 90.5% of companies said a lack of available workers was slowing the economy in their area, which was twice as many as cited pandemic issues. The American Hotel & Lodging Association reported that 96% of its respondents had open positions, but most pay less than sitting on the couch collecting enhanced subsidies for not working.

The Biden Administration chalks up the slow jobs rebound to lack of child care or fear of Covid. But Covid has been subsiding fast due to vaccines. Far more schools were open in April than in December, so more parents should also be able to return to work.

Yet hires in April were lower in many industries including retail, manufacturing and construction than they were in December when the $300 federal jobless bonus wasn't available. Employers have lowered hiring standards and offered signing bonuses. Some are even paying applicants merely to show up for interviews.

Most teenagers don't qualify for unemployment benefits due to short or nonexistent work histories, but they are profiting from the tight labor market that has employers bidding up wages for low-skilled jobs. Teen unemployment is the lowest since 1953. About 40% of the newly employed workers in April and May were ages 16 to 19.

The labor shortage should ease in the fall once the Nancy Pelosi-Joe Biden $300 unemployment bonus expires. But even before the pandemic, businesses complained about a shortage of skilled manufacturing and tech workers, which is undercutting U.S. competitiveness.

The Senate on Tuesday passed a bipartisan $200 billion industrial policy bill to counter China. But where will U.S. businesses find workers to operate semiconductor plants and develop cutting-edge technologies? There won't be enough in the U.S. Only 22% of high-school seniors were proficient in science on the 2019 Nation's Report Card.

Foreign nationals on temporary visas make up half of engineering master's degrees awarded by U.S. universities. Yet the bill does nothing to increase employment-based immigration or improve America's failing public K-12 schools, which are the root of America's skilled-worker shortage. Earth to Congress: Businesses that can't find workers in the U.S. will export jobs overseas.

ONLINE: https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-great-american-labor-shortage-11623191784

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June 7

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in praise of seniors:

What do Queen Elizabeth (95), Janet Yellen (74), our president (78) and the pope (84) have in common?

How about (Pennsylvania governor) Mike DeWine (74), Jerry Brown (83) and Lamar Alexander (80)?

They are all public men and women who are making major contributions in what once would have been thought their dotage.

They are not only hanging on, or 'still going strong,' but, arguably, doing their best work.

The late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg died at 87, but was working full tilt, fully employing her little gray cells, up until almost the very end.

George Will is 80 and better than ever.

Mark Shields, 84, is much missed as a weekly news analyst. He could say more off the cuff than most commentators could after extended study and preparation. Why? Accumulated memory. He's seen it all in politics.

All this is not only cheering news for geezers themselves, but it suggests that a special contribution can be made by the veterans among us.

A geezer has often honed his or her knowledge, his or her passions, and his or her anxieties and insecurities.

What historian Jon Meacham has said about Mr. Biden is that this is a man who has known tragedy and who thought his political career was over. He no longer sweats the small stuff.

When Jerry Brown returned to the governor's mansion in California after 28 years he said he was the longest active public figure in the Western Hemisphere next to Fidel Castro. It was a joke but he was not far off. He was 73 at the time and got into politics in his 20s. He is 83 now and left office just two years ago.

Unlike Castro, Mr. Brown learned from his youthful errors and had grown relaxed and wise. He didn't need a pollster or a handler to tell him what to say in a press conference or how to cut his hair.

And he did a fine job on his second tour of duty.

Europeans, traditionally, have had more respect for the elders of their culture and politics and were more willing to invest them with power. Think Konrad Adenauer in post-World War II Germany. He came to power, as chancellor, at 73 and held office for almost 17 years.

Charles de Gaulle was president of France from 1959 to 1969. He was 69 when he took office and was viewed as an old man. He had long been a national legend after leading the Free French in the war. His greatest chapter was to come.

Churchill was returned to No. 10 Downing Street at the age of 77.

He was not in great shape physically. But Churchill at 50% was worth most men at 500%.

You don't have to be able to play touch football to lead. You need to know something.

Barack Obama played basketball as president, which Joe Biden can't do. But Mr. Biden understands the Republicans, and the Hill, and the shelf life of a presidency far better than Mr. Obama did. And he can talk to a cop or a factory worker.

What gave him those gifts? Simply his years.

Mr. Brown was also the son of a governor. Someone asked him once, 'What did you learn from your father?' 'I learned how to make the moves,' he said.

There is no tutor like a father with experience, and no teacher like experience.

We know this is so in the arts. Look at Willie Nelson (88) or Bob Dylan (80). Both are still recording.

And is there a better, or more prolific, film director than Clint Eastwood? At 91 he is about to release a new film he also stars in. Clint is looking around for his next project.

John Huston made his final, and best, film 'The Dead' as a dying man on oxygen. The tank did not interfere with eye or ear.

No finer cellist ever existed than Pablo Casals at the end of his days.

Here is what the old may offer: A certain calm. Fewer fluctuations of the mind. Less likelihood of going down rabbit holes. An ability to focus on the long view and things that really matter. Winnowed learning. A true aim.

ONLINE: https://www.post-gazette.com/opinion/editorials/2021/06/07/In-praise-of-geezers-Elderly-public-figures-making-a-difference/stories/202106040026

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June 4

The Baltimore Sun on the continued whitewashing of American history:

'We can't just choose to learn what we want to know and not what we should know,' President Joe Biden said Tuesday from Tulsa, Oklahoma, on the 100th anniversary of a targeted massacre of Black residents there by their white neighbors. Dozens of people were killed in the attacks, hundreds were hospitalized, and thousands were held hostage, some for days. More than 35 square blocks in the wealthy Black community were destroyed. Yet many Americans know little, if anything, about the events. They were never taught.

America has a shameful history on race. From building the country on the free labor of enslaved people kidnapped from Africa, to snatching land from Native Americans, the U.S. has long treated people of color as less than human. The remnants of earlier oppression continue to exist today, in subtler forms of institutional racism that still hold back African American people and other groups.

This sordid past makes many people uncomfortable; it's something they'd rather not talk about. Even worse, some people want to act like it doesn't exist at all in an erasure of history. We saw it for years regarding Tulsa, and we're seeing it again now, in the backlash to New York Times journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones and her 1619 project series that looked at the legacy of slavery in America.

The project ran in the Times Magazine in August 2019; it was widely acclaimed and won the journalist a Pulitzer Prize for her introductory commentary. It also ignited a barrage of criticism from people on the right who couldn't handle the truth, including former President Donald Trump, who called the effort to look at America's history through a racial lens 'toxic propaganda' and 'ideological poison' that would 'destroy our country.' School systems moved to ban its teaching in the classroom and, in the latest saga, Ms. Hannah-Jones was denied the prestigious Knight Foundation-endowed chair in race and investigative journalism with tenure at the University of North Carolina because certain conservatives disliked the project and a separate essay she wrote advocating for reparations. Instead, she was offered a five-year contract with the possibility of tenure later, unlike others who previously held the position.

The message is clear: Some only like their history whitewashed. Textbooks have long glossed over slavery or depicted the enslaved as happy and content. Some plantation tours don't acknowledge slavery at all. Then there are those who deny the Holocaust and downplay the Japanese internment camps created during World War II.

The rewriting of history is nothing short of cowardly, and it's allowed the vestiges of slavery to fester, resulting in inequities in housing, personal wealth, education, the judicial system and environmental issues that persist in America today. The rest of us must stand up to revisionists by pushing back against their false reality and demanding the truth regarding the country's legacy. Two hundred people signed onto a letter in the publication The Root slamming Ms. Hannah-Jones' tenure track denial, including Baltimore native and writer Ta-Nehisi Coates and filmmaker Ava DuVernay, and 150 historians. In a separate letter that ran in a full-page ad in the News & Observer newspaper, 1,619 University of North Carolina alumni also expressed outrage. 'Dismissing a list of merits that includes winning a Pulitzer Prize, Peabody Award, and MacArthur 'Genius' Grant is an attempt to penalize Nikole Hannah-Jones for her groundbreaking and unvarnished reporting of American history,' the ad reads. 'We demand that the Board of Trustees immediately revisit this matter, grant tenure as recommended by the appropriate faculty, Dean and Provost, and restore the integrity of our University.'

There's no guarantee that there will be a new vote on Ms. Hannah-Jones' tenure, and it's unclear when the board may take up the issue, according to The News & Observer. But the public pressure has made it clear that history and truth still matter to many in this country. President Biden said it well on Tuesday: 'We should know the good, the bad, everything. That's what great nations do. They come to terms with their dark sides. And we're a great nation. The only way to build a common ground is to truly repair and to rebuild.'

We can't do that if we don't acknowledge what's broken.

ONLINE: https://www.baltimoresun.com/opinion/editorial/bs-ed-0606-race-history-20210604-k7twedanh5bm3c7zydxf5tdspq-story.html

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June 7

The Salt Lake Tribune on how Utah could be a leader in green energy, and why it likely won't:

A normally pious man took a Sunday off from church to go hunting. Alone in the woods, he came face to face with a giant bear. The man turned and ran.

Realizing he could not hope to outrun the bear, the man started climbing a tree. But it didn't take long for the man to realize that bears can climb trees, too.

Out of options, the man turned his gaze to heaven.

'Lord,' he said, 'I know I shouldn't be calling upon you now, me having skipped church and all. But, if you can spare a kind thought for an old friend, I'd ask you one favor.

'If you can't help me, please, just don't help the bear.'

It is time for the United States, the state of Utah and all government agencies and subdivisions to stop helping the fossil fuel industry. Not to ban or stop or prohibit or tax it to death. But to leave it to survive as best it can in the open market that it and its supporters have always claimed to respect and revere.

Innovations and economies of scale, along with freely made decisions of purchasers and investors, are pointing a clear path to a future where sustainable sources of energy - solar, wind, geothermal - make more sense. They can both save the planet and grow markets, create jobs and ride the rocket of the marketplace, rather than rely on centralized planning.

Utah's public and private sectors by all rights should be a leader in this monumental change. We have an innovative business class, top-flight research universities and solar, wind and geothermal resources just begging to be tapped.

Sustainable energy is also much more compatible with Utah's other greatest asset, its public lands, which do not deserve to be despoiled by increased drilling and mining.

Despite the obvious need and the obvious benefits of sustainable energy, most of Utah's elected leaders continue to hold tight to the dirty, declining industries of the past.

Gov. Spencer Cox is among the signers of a letter excoriating the Biden administration for its pause on drilling leases on federal land. He did so despite a review by agencies in his own executive branch that said the Biden move would have minimal impact on energy production in Utah. That's largely because most oil and gas drilling here is done on state, private or tribal land, all of which is untouched by the presidential moratorium.

The governor's One Utah Roadmap and statements from his own Office of Energy Development devote much of their, well, energy to talking up Utah's relatively clean-burning coal and the supposed bonanza of the so-called waxy crude oil said to be in abundance in the Uintah Basin.

But everything Cox and other Utah Republicans say demonstrates they have loyalties, and no plan. On the rare occasions when they allow themselves a concern about carbon emissions, they have suggested building an expensive railroad to ship Uintah Basin oil - as a way of using fewer diesel trucks. This week they said supportive things about a planned nuclear power plant in Wyoming - a plan that substitutes deadly nuclear waste for CO2.

There is lip service paid to sustainable energy sources, but our state's official devotion to 20th century energy sources is endlessly depressing.

Particularly maddening about the governor's stand on oil leases is that he has spent time issuing much-needed directives and pleas - mostly pleas - that hope to minimize the effects of the ongoing mega-drought.

Cox hopes we all know just how short we are on water, how much we should act to reduce our use and how great the danger of runaway wildfires will be this summer if just a few careless individuals go target shooting or introduce small sparks to great stands of dry brush and grass.

The other day Cox invoked the power of prayer to break the drought. But he still can't bring himself to openly face the facts about climate change.

Down St. George way, meanwhile, officials are warning that the expected hot, dry summer is likely to lead to power failures and more wildfires.

Real leadership - from the governor, the Legislature, county commissions, tribal councils, our universities and utility companies - would move Utah to become the Saudi Arabia of sustainable energy (except with democracy, human rights and fewer assassinations of journalists.)

The contrast between the governor's call for reacting to the drought and his continued support for a major cause of that drought - climate change brought about by our continued reliance on fossil fuels - leaves us wondering if he is hearing his own words.

ONLINE: https://www.sltrib.com/opinion/editorial/2021/06/07/how-utah-could-be-saudia/

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June 7

The Los Angeles Times says judge wrong to overturn assault weapons ban:

You can almost see these words in a gunmaker's advertising brochure: 'Like the Swiss Army Knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment. Good for both home and battle....' But actually, they're the opening phrases of a federal court ruling late Friday that threw out California's 30-year-old ban on assault-style weapons.

There's a lot to object to in the decision by District Court Judge Roger T. Benitez, beginning with his cynical attempt to redefine deadly firearms patterned after combat arms as just some old thing folks keep around the house to kill the odd intruder and maybe toddle off to the shooting range to use for a little fun.

In fact, assault-style weapons - which have been highly controversial since at least the 1980s - are designed for a singular purpose: to kill a large number of people in a short period of time. The fact that some hobbyists enjoy using them to pop off a few recreational rounds does not outweigh what the weapons are capable of, and why they do not belong in the hands of civilians.

California, in fact, broke the ground for banning the weapons after the 1989 incident at a Stockton schoolyard in which a man wearing military-style fatigues, a flak vest and ear plugs used an AK-47 to fire more than 60 rounds in sweeps across a playground crowded with hundreds of children, killing five of them and wounding 30 other students and adults before shooting himself.

Such a mass shooting was a rare event at the time, and it sparked action. Congress followed in 1994 with a federal ban but compromised by including a 10-year sunset clause, allowing the ban to expire in 2004. The Benitez decision, if it is allowed to stand, would reset California back to 1989.

It's worth noting that at the time of those bans, few people owned assault-style weapons (the industry has tried to rename them 'modern sporting rifles,' which sounds much more benign). No accurate count is available because no government agency has kept track, but experts say that after the federal ban expired, production and sale of such weapons increased significantly. The rise was especially noticeable after the election of President Obama and mass killings at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school and an Aurora, Colo., movie theater - not because consumers feared home or foreign invasions, but because gun aficionados began to worry that the government was about to cut off access to the machines of mass death.

So how many of these weapons are in circulation? Again, the numbers are sketchy, but probably around 20 million nationwide, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a gun industry trade group. That's a small fraction of the estimated 350 million firearms in private hands in the U.S. That's not very common in a nation of this size, though the Supreme Court, which set that common-use standard, hasn't bothered to define it.

It's hard not to see the sharp increase in production and sales of assault-style weapons in the years after the Heller decision as an effort by 2nd Amendment hardliners to try to get the deadly weapons into more hands to make the spurious argument that they are now in common use. It's galling that a federal court would buy into that reasoning, which is what Benitez has done here.

This is the same judge who tossed out a 2016 California initiative that banned the large-capacity magazines that make semi-automatic guns even deadlier, and a related initiative that requires a background check before buying ammunition (he described the 'Safety for All Act of 2016' title as 'a misnomer'). Both of those rulings are under appeal.

Read together, the three Benitez decisions do not come across as clear-eyed jurisprudence but, rather, as policy statements by a judge who, we note, was rated 'not qualified' by the American Bar Assn. when President George W. Bush appointed him in 2003. We fully endorse Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta's announcement that he intends to appeal Friday's ruling too, and hope the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturns it.

The U.S. is an outlier among industrialized nations when it comes to the number of firearms in civilian hands and the rate at which people use them to kill others and themselves. Even the Supreme Court's controversial 2008 Heller decision, which for the first time recognized (wrongly) an individual right to keep a gun in the home for self-defense, also said that the government has an interest in regulating firearms and that 'the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.'

This is a good point at which to maintain limits. The 2nd Amendment was framed against a backdrop in which the U.S. government had no standing army, and the Founders saw the need for individuals to own guns they could bring with them when entering militia service. We don't operate our military that way anymore, which means individuals have neither a need nor a right to possess firearms designed for battlefields.

ONLINE: https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2021-06-07/editorial-the-judge-is-wrong-californias-assault-weapons-ban-must-stand

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