Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials

Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:

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Oct. 28

The Orange County Register on the GOP's relationship with fiscal responsibility:

Republicans in Congress have passed a budget resolution. But in the Senate, it cleared only narrowly, 51-49, with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., the only Republican vote against it. Total price tag for the budget? $4 trillion. Even by today's standards, that's hefty.

For now, it seems, the party of fiscal responsibility is gone. But established Republicans worried about the death of what was once a marquee feature of GOP politics shouldn't be quite so concerned. Fiscal responsibility will never go fully out of style.

This is a period of transition for the Republican Party. Although it's still too early to be quite sure what the national party is going to transition into, one thing has stayed the same over the past several decades. Vice-President Dick Cheney once quipped that "deficits don't matter." He was speaking somewhat narrowly about the cost of fighting a war to win — with the memory of America's deficit-financed Cold War win still fresh.

Today, the constituency for a balanced budget has become very small, and the constituencies who in effect depend on deficit spending for their share of subsidies, entitlements or other federal benefits is quite large. It encompasses Americans at every economic level, in both parties. It includes corporations and business interests. For the time being, there just isn't enough of a coalition to impose fiscal responsibility as we knew it toward the end of the 20th century.

To be honest, deficit hawks haven't always helped burnish the reputation of budget-cutting. Sometimes it has appeared that the importance of the position was primarily to unify Republicans around something they could all agree on because it looked good but would never really have to happen.

Then along came President Donald Trump, well attuned to the fact that many Republican voters had a broadly nationalist and populist interest in protecting some massive government outlays, and only a narrower ideological interest in paring back other kinds of government expenditures and programs. These voters wanted their share, too — and, inevitably, it would not come entirely out of revenues.

Finally, Republicans this year have strained to notch a legislative win, which they sense is important both for matters of pride and for electoral purposes. Congress remains less popular than the president. But with the "repeal and replace" of Obamacare a lost cause, attention has focused on tax relief, which, in turn, required the passage of the budget resolution to smooth the way. Republicans are now scurrying to determine how revenues and tax cuts will be squared in the new budget. For sheerly political reasons, which shouldn't be mocked in a democracy going through political change, it makes sense for the GOP to have dialed down the volume on fiscal responsibility.

Nevertheless, Republicans ought to know — like it or not — that they can run from budgetary prudence for a time, but they can't hide. Democrats will never take a stronger line, ensuring that the GOP owns the basic idea of keeping federal deficit spending manageable at a minimum, and hopefully steadily shrinking. That'll take much better economic times, however. Most Americans, including the many saddled with their own debts, can't see a way to get there without more deficit spending. That may be the case for now. But it won't always be.

Online: http://www.ocregister.com/

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Oct. 29

The Miami Herald on voter suppression and claims of voter fraud:

Kris Kobach has worked day and night to suppress (some) Americans' right to vote in his state of Kansas, where he's the Republican secretary of state. He's working even harder to take his malicious intent on the road, across the country, and with the president's blessing.

His misbegotten efforts are all based on the insidious lie of rampant vote fraud.

As head of President Trump's benignly named Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, Kobach's efforts have been the subject of lawsuits, fines and court orders that haven't gone his way. As a result, the true intent of Kobach and a stacked commission is clear: to make it as difficult as possible for Americans likely to support the other party to cast a vote.

All of America should be horrified at this win-at-all-costs attempt to deny citizens their constitutional right to vote. We've been here before. African Americans and women of all colours fought and shed blood to secure this right. It's undemocratic, un-American, and the shameful response from an administration in which up is down, black is white, and vote fraud supposedly is running amok across the land, perpetrated by people who are noncitizens. That's the president's rationale for losing the popular vote in November.

Voter fraud in U.S. elections is, for all intents and purposes, a myth. But it is the politically motivated basis for voter suppression efforts in states across the country, including, unfortunately, Florida. This is where early-voting hours have been cut and polling locations curtailed. And, ex-felons still must petition the state to regain their ability to vote, a cumbersome and arbitrary process.

In its May 2017 analysis, Noncitizen Voting: The Missing Millions, The Brennan Center for Justice determined that, contrary to the president's claims, there were extremely few instances of noncitizens voting in 2016.

The Brennan Center is based at New York University's School of Law. Myrna Pérez is the Center's director of the voting right and elections project and a co-author of the study. "Instances of such fraud were very, very rare," she told the Editorial Board.

The bipartisan commission has been plagued with controversy from its creation in May. Democratic members complained that they were being left in the dark as to the commission's inner workings, including who the staffers are; the identity of one now ex-staffer, Ronald Williams II, did come to light after he was arrested on 11 charges of possessing and distributing child pornography; in July, a judge upheld a $1,000 fine against Kobach for intentionally misleading the court during his fight to make voter registration more restrictive in Kansas; the body faces at least 13 lawsuits.

The commission was dealt its latest setback this month. A federal court rightly ordered excerpts of Kris Kobach's testimony be disclosed along with other documents obtained by the ACLU, which challenged his voter-registration scheme in his home state. It revealed a methodical plan to eviscerate that National Voter Registration Act of 1993, which broadened opportunities for citizens to register to vote.

Pérez said that though this commission has no formal authority to erect hurdles to voting, "The bigger problem is the fact that there are a number of people who are not participating in voting who are eligible." Absolutely correct. Targeted Americans must take their right to vote as seriously as those who want to take it from them.

Online: http://www.miamiherald.com/

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Oct. 30

The Chicago Tribune on the first indictments in special prosecutor Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign:

Dawn broke Monday in Washington with news reports anticipating special counsel Robert Mueller's first indictments in the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign. The anticipators got the basic story right: Mueller charged former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and an associate with an array of financial-related crimes.

Ah, but Mueller wasn't done. In a stunning development, the special counsel revealed that low-level Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russians who claimed to have "dirt" about Hillary Clinton's campaign.

That potentially puts Papadopoulos somewhere in proximity to the heart of the Russia investigation. Yet Papadopoulos wasn't on the radar of the anticipators, which is a useful fact to remember as this investigation proceeds: Handicap the significance of events at your peril. Any wags who claim to have this whole affair figured out — whether in defence of Trump or in damnation — are blowing smoke or showing their political stripes. No one outside the investigation has enough info to make any proclamations in advance about where Mueller may be going.

Papadopoulos pleaded guilty on Oct. 5 and has been co-operating with the investigation, Mueller said. The public knew nothing of the plea before Monday because Mueller reveals details when they suit the investigation, not parlour room curiosity. Of course leaks happen, but so do surprises. President Donald Trump on Monday was still tweeting his reaction to the Manafort indictment ("NO COLLUSION," he typed) when the Papadopoulos news broke.

The facts we know begin with U.S. intelligence agencies saying in January that Russians had hacked Democratic emails last year as part of an effort to interfere with the election. In March, FBI Director James Comey confirmed he was investigating Russian efforts to monkey with the election and said he was looking at any possible links between people associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, "and whether there was any co-ordination between the campaign and Russia's efforts." In May, Trump fired Comey, which led to the appointment of Mueller as special counsel.

Back to the present: We know Manafort is in trouble because he allegedly tried to hide millions of dollars earned from prior consulting work for the pro-Russian government of Ukraine. He clearly was a bad choice to become Trump campaign chairman and lasted just three months in his position. His coziness with Russian interests is intriguing, but is not proof of nefarious activity. He and his business associate, Rick Gates, pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Papadopoulos is an even odder figure to analyze. In March 2016, he became a Trump foreign policy adviser. That title may have grossly exaggerated his influence and expertise. We vaguely remember him from news accounts last year as the 2009 DePaul University grad whose credentials included participating in a Model United Nations event.

According to his plea agreement, Papadopoulos lied to FBI investigators about his dealings with foreign nationals he believed to be connected to the Russian government while he was working for the campaign. One of the Russians allegedly was a niece of Vladimir Putin. The Russians passed word to Papadopoulos that they had "dirt" on Clinton, including "thousands of emails." He and the Russians seemed keen to set up a meeting of some sort with Trump to discuss U.S.-Russia ties. "Great work," a campaign supervisor emailed Papadopoulos at one point.

So what really happened? News accounts portray a Trump Tower meeting that involved campaign officials, including Manafort, and a Russian attorney who claimed to have information that could be used against Clinton in the campaign. Did Papadopoulos play a role in arranging that meeting? We don't know. Yes, thousands of Clinton campaign-related emails were hacked by the Russians. But there's not yet any public evidence connecting the dots to confirm any collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

In August, The Washington Post reported on emails between Papadopoulos and the Trump campaign, which were among documents turned over to congressional committees. They showed that senior officials had "reacted coolly" to the suggestions by Papadopoulos of a Trump campaign meeting with Russian leadership.

No question, Monday was a bad day for President Trump: Two campaign officials indicted, while a third has pleaded guilty. Perhaps this is a turning point in the investigation, but in what direction? We don't yet know. Neither, we suggest, does anyone but Mueller.

Online: http://www.chicagotribune.com/

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Nov. 1

The New York Times on an attack in Manhattan that left eight people dead:

Murderous attacks by a brooding "lone wolf" attacker or full-blooded "terrorist" have become, alas, a blight of our times, an eruption of random killing that can strike a cafe, a crowded promenade, a country music festival or a bike path in New York.

Each new attack is met by anguished questions: Why? Could not the police have prevented the attack? Sayfullo Saipov, in custody now after the attack in Manhattan on Tuesday that left eight people dead, is said to have been planning his death spree for weeks and had links to people who were the focus of terrorism investigations. Was there really no sign that he — or the shooter in Las Vegas, or the killers in Barcelona, Nice, Berlin, London, Stockholm or Paris, all places where innocent people have been killed by hate-filled fools — was about to commit an atrocity?

The federal and local authorities in the United States and Europe have made considerable progress in the struggle with terrorism, and there have been many reports of foiled attacks. A lot of study has gone into the motivations and roots of Islamist violence and hatred. The fact that Mr. Saipov has survived should enable investigators to learn more about what leads a young man to carnage.

But the hard fact is that it is not possible, and never will be, to anticipate every attack, to make cities teeming with life immune to the desperate acts of men seething with resentments, especially when final preparations are as banal as renting a truck.

And as for the tiresome calls for draconian border controls, could immigration authorities really have foreseen in 2010 that a 22-year-old arrival from Uzbekistan — which is not on the list of countries on the Trump administration's travel ban — would be radicalized and evolve into a killer? Mr. Saipov's cries of "Allahu akbar" and other evidence speak to an affinity for the Islamic State, but it does not require a long apprenticeship in a terrorist network to rent a Home Depot truck and drive onto a bicycle path.

There is another side to terrorism, and that is the outpouring of sympathy, the bonding and the vows not to give in to the fear, that follow every such tragedy. "The bottom line is we are going to go about our business," said Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York; "We go forward stronger than ever," declared the governor, Andrew Cuomo. From the White House came the tweet, "My heart breaks for #NYC today." That was from the first lady, Melania Trump. Not the president, who was tweeting about "extreme vetting" of foreigners entering the United States.

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

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Oct. 31

The Washington Post on how laws could prevent settlements and agreements that keep sexual harassment victims from speaking publicly:

The story of Harvey Weinstein is partly a story of secrecy: how the Hollywood producer managed to keep his habit of sexually harassing and assaulting women under wraps for so long. The answer, at least in part, involves Mr. Weinstein's use of confidential settlements and non-disclosure agreements that kept his victims and employees from speaking out.

In this sense, Mr. Weinstein's story is far from unique. Powerful men engaged in sexual misconduct often use similar legal tools to bury controversy — as did both Fox News's Roger Ailes and Bill O'Reilly, who negotiated multimillion-dollar settlements to ensure their victims would remain silent. Even now, with the appalling behaviour of these men in the public record, some victims remain unable to make their experiences public. Mr. Weinstein's former assistant has chosen to break her confidentiality agreement to speak out, but took the risk of doing so only after news of her employer's behaviour became public.

Several types of agreements can prevent a public accounting of harassment and assault. Some employers — including the Weinstein Co. and Fox — require employees to sign away their rights to criticize the company in public or to adjudicate disputes before a judge, rather than in private arbitration. After leaving Fox, former anchor Gretchen Carlson fought to make her harassment case against Mr. Ailes public rather than bring her complaints to arbitration as required by her employment contract. And Mr. Weinstein's employees have now publicly requested that the company's board free them from their non-disclosure agreements to allow them to speak openly about what took place.

Many of the women harassed or assaulted by Mr.?Weinstein or Mr. Ailes reached settlements under the condition that they never make their experiences publicly known. While federal law places some limitations on the scope of non-disclosure agreements written into employment contracts, corporations have greater leeway to restrain speech through confidentiality provisions in settlements.

Ms. Carlson is now pushing for federal legislation to prohibit employers from mandating private arbitration for civil rights complaints. On the state level, lawmakers in New York, New Jersey and California plan to introduce legislation to block courts from enforcing non-disclosure agreements in employment contracts and settlements that prevent employees from speaking out about sexual harassment. Many states have similar laws preventing settlements that conceal information on "public hazards," and California already prohibits such agreements in cases involving rape and sexual assault.

Some victims of sexual harassment and assault may desire settlements that allow them to retain their privacy. Legislators should be mindful of these differing needs. Perhaps, as University of Chicago law professor Daniel Hemel suggests, lawmakers could allow confidentiality agreements with a one-sided opt-out provision: The assailant would be barred from speaking publicly unless the victim chose to speak first.

Laws alone can't change a culture in which powerful men feel entitled to prey on those around them. But reducing secrecy would be an important step toward holding predators accountable and diminishing their opportunity to transgress multiple times.

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

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Nov. 1

The London Evening Standard on the Oct. 31 attack in New York:

It says much about the resilience of New York that just hours after an Islamist terrorist killed eight people, families took part in its Hallowe'en parade.

This spirit of defiance is characteristic of a city that has weathered mass terrorism.

The mayor, Bill de Blasio, spoke for the city when he said: "We know that this action was intended to break our spirit. New Yorkers are strong and our spirit will never be moved by an act of violence and an act meant to intimidate us."

New York, which is a sister of London in so many ways, is a cosmopolitan city, and it turns out that five of the eight victims were Argentine, there to celebrate the anniversary of their graduation. Another is Belgian.

This would-be assault on Americans was an attack on the world.

The grimmest aspect of this tragedy — no-tech and lethal — is that it is both familiar and may feel almost impossible to prevent.

We cannot prevent people using hired pickup trucks as a weapon; not every street can be lined with bollards. Not every would-be jihadist will feature on the security services' radar.

President Trump's response has been relatively measured so far, but he has promised to ratchet up the Extreme Vetting Program.

But the suspect was in the U.S. legally since 2010; Uzbekistan is not on the list of mainly Muslim countries whose citizens he wants to restrict from entering the U.S.

What the authorities can do is ensure the intelligence services are as equipped as they can be to counter a changing threat. Above all we can go after the Islamist ideology that breeds attackers

Londoners feel for New York: this will not stop us visiting that great city. New York is too big to be diminished by this.

Online: https://www.standard.co.uk/


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