Editorial Roundup: United States

Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:

Jan. 2

The Washington Post on the end of election denial

Abraham Hamadeh, the Republican nominee for attorney general in Arizona, repeatedly promised to pursue criminal charges against “those who worked to rob President Trump in the rigged 2020 election.” The 31-year-old built his campaign around baseless allegations of election malfeasance and posted an image of handcuffs on social media while vowing that “a day of reckoning” was coming.

In November, Arizona voters rejected Mr. Hamadeh and every other election denier seeking statewide office. A judge rejected his court challenge of the result, but the race was close enough to trigger an automatic statewide recount. On Thursday, another judge announced that, after all the ballots had been counted again, moderate Democratic candidate Kris Mayes, who had campaigned on protecting voting rights, finished ahead by 280 votes out of more than 2.5 million ballots cast — making it one of the closest races in state history.

This was an exclamation point to end an election year that saw a remarkable repudiation of high-profile GOP candidates who embraced the Trumpian cause of undermining democracy and sought to carry it forward. Arizona was ground zero for election denialism in 2022. For governor, Republicans nominated Kari Lake, who said she wouldn’t have certified the 2020 results; for secretary of state, Mark Finchem, a self-described member of the Oath Keepers who wanted to let the GOP-controlled state legislature overturn the will of the people; for U.S. Senate, Blake Masters, who said in a commercial that “Trump won in 2020.” They all lost.

Arizonans showed discernment and put country over partisanship. Ms. Lake said at one of her closing rallies that anyone who loved John McCain was welcome to leave. Her defeat showed that McCain’s maverick spirit is alive and well.

But while democracy — and sanity — fared well statewide, denialist forces prevailed in some down-ballot contests. Speaker of the House Russell “Rusty” Bowers, who courageously rejected Donald Trump’s false claims of fraud in 2020, lost a primary challenge from an election denier. Meanwhile, Reps. Paul A. Gosar and Andy Biggs won reelection to the House in red districts despite their support for Mr. Trump’s plot to overturn the 2020 election.

For his part, Mr. Trump is still at it, continuing to recklessly sow doubts in the integrity of election processes. The former president released a statement Friday afternoon saying, with no evidence, that Mr. Hamadeh “WILL WIN!” if Republicans demand a statewide hand recount.

Mr. Hamadeh still has not conceded either. “We must get to the bottom of this election,” Mr. Hamadeh tweeted Thursday after the judge announced the final results of the recount.

Arizona has done exactly that. Mr. Hamadeh got his days in court. He lost. Democracy won.

ONLINE: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2023/01/02/abraham-hamadeh-kris-mayes-arizona-election-denial/


Dec. 28

The Wall Street Journal on Southwest Airlines, Pete Buttigieg and control of the skies

The scheduling meltdown at Southwest Airlines is one for the business record books, and the carrier will pay a price for months or years in damaged reputation. The only worse result for seething passengers would be to put Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in charge.

Don’t laugh. Mr. Buttigieg’s department said … it will investigate Southwest’s “unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays.” It will also “take action” to hold the carrier “accountable,” as if the airline isn’t eager enough to make things right.

Congress is also doing what it does best: Shoot the wounded. Senate Commerce Chair Maria Cantwell announced a probe, while Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is using the mess to complain as usual about airline consolidation. She wants Mr. Buttigieg to block a merger between JetBlue and Spirit Airlines. …

But Democrats care less about stranded passengers than they do about gaining more federal control over the airline industry. Carriers are already required to refund when flights are canceled or “significantly changed.” Mr. Buttigieg proposed a new rule in August that requires airlines to provide refunds if flights are delayed more than three hours, increase the number of connections, land at a different airport, or use a “downgraded” type of aircraft. The rule would also force airlines that received federal pandemic aid to provide credits if a passenger says he can’t fly because of Covid.

In mid-December, a bipartisan group of 34 state attorneys general wrote Mr. Buttigieg demanding that the rule also give state AGs new power to enforce airline consumer-protection laws. The AGs want to force airlines to advertise and sell only flights for which they have “adequate personnel to fly and support,” as well as pay “significant fines” for delays or cancellations that are “not weather-related.” But airlines can’t control the weather, and sometimes crews fail to show or end up stranded.

Airlines have struggled this year, but government has contributed to the problem. Covid lockdowns cost them business for two years. The federal aid that kept them afloat came with a mandate not to lay off or furlough employees. This caused airlines to offer retirement and buyout packages to preserve cash, leading to a pilot and crew shortage.

Mr. Buttigieg’s new rule won’t reduce turbulence. Some airlines already lure customers with the promise of refunds for delays under three hours. Refund policies are built into ticket prices, allowing passengers to choose their level of protection. Stripping airlines of their ability to compete on refunds and other things won’t help customers.

Requiring carriers to add unnecessary employees is inefficient, a sop to unions, and a recipe for higher fares. Imposing fines for non-weather-related delays or cancellations will put new pressure on airlines to cut other corners. The last thing the nation needs is 50 new state airline regulators.

Washington receded from airline management in the 1970s, and the ensuing competition opened air travel to the masses. Politicians love to kick an industry when it’s down, but passengers can take their market revenge on Southwest without political help that will make air travel worse and more expensive.

ONLINE: https://www.wsj.com/articles/pete-buttigieg-air-traffic-controller-southwest-airlines-cancellations-bob-jordan-elizabeth-warren-11672267784


Dec. 28

The Los Angeles Times on the U.S.-Mexico border

The myths — or, rather, convenient lies — that some politicians keep circulating about the U.S.-Mexico border have resulted in another disappointing congressional session for immigration reform.

Instead of crafting much-needed solutions to address the fate of young immigrant “Dreamers,” the backlog of cases in immigration courts or any of the myriad problems caused by outdated immigration laws, policymakers spent most of their time wrangling over Title 42, a public health order invoked during the COVID-19 pandemic to manage border crossings.

Disinformation prevents policymakers from having honest discussions and enacting sensible solutions. The complex U.S.-Mexico border region is a confluence of cultural, social and economic communities whose problems need sophisticated solutions not easily summarized by sound bites. Yet many people continue to peddle misconceptions about the border and engage in partisan theater such as dispatching migrants to Vice President Kamala Harris’ home or creating a wasteful wall of shipping containers, as the Arizona governor has done.

The debate on immigration and border control is likely to intensify in early 2023, when the GOP takes control of the House. Though there’s little expectation of significant legislation in a divided Congress, the constant arrival of migrants at the border is sure to keep the topic in the news. Because it’s important to look beyond sound bites, we’re fact-checking the misconceptions about the U.S.-Mexico border you are likely to hear in the coming months.

It has been hard to miss the images of hundreds of migrants waiting along the Rio Grande in Texas in recent weeks, hoping to request asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border if the courts lift Title 42 border restrictions. ….

Title 42, a 1944 public health law that allows U.S. authorities to quarantine or refuse entry to people traveling from regions suffering a disease outbreak, has been used by the Trump and Biden administrations to expel migrants at the border en masse.

The Trump administration used the threat of COVID-19 as justification, but Republicans have repeatedly prevented the Biden administration from discontinuing its use. … Fourteen states asked the Supreme Court to keep the border restrictions in place, arguing that ending Title 42 would cause irreparable harm to states hosting migrants. On Tuesday, justices ordered that the restrictions stay in place until they issue a ruling next year. …

But Title 42 has not helped control the border and, in fact, has made the situation worse. It encourages repeated migrant crossings, because those expelled simply try to cross again. It also promotes criminal activity by human traffickers because migrants attempt to cross by hiring smugglers instead of presenting themselves to border authorities.

The real solution is to create an orderly, humane way of processing claims for asylum by expanding border authorities’ capacity and funding, including adding immigration judges.

Myth: The border is wide open

The U.S. government is hardly putting out welcome mats for migrants at the border. U.S. Customs and Border Protection employs about 26,000 Border Patrol agents and uses technology such as drones, thermal imaging devices and sensors that detect heat and motion to secure the approximately 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border.

About 700 miles of walls or fencing fortify the border, but that isn’t feasible in some areas. For example, much of Texas lacks border walls due to inhospitable terrain such as floodplains and areas along the Rio Grande. Trump’s promise to build a “big, beautiful wall” never fully materialized. His administration built about 450 miles of walls, but much of that construction replaced already existing structures. The Biden administration halted new border construction but continues to repair and replace old fencing, including at Friendship Park in San Diego.

Border security has been a high-budget priority for legislators for years. The budget for the border agency has soared from $363 million in 1993 to $16.7 billion appropriated in the latest omnibus bill, which also included $800 million for local governments, such as the city of El Paso, to deal with migrant arrivals.

Fact: There is a crisis at the border

Yes, there is a crisis at the border. But it’s a humanitarian crisis, not an “invasion,” as some conservative politicians call the arrival of hundreds of migrants. A combination of factors, including civil strife, climate change and political instability — some caused by U.S. policies — has forced many people around the world to leave their homes in search of employment and safety.

The number of migrants on the move internationally has returned to pre-pandemic levels. The number of apprehensions by Border Patrol agents continues to reach new highs, according to figures released by the border agency on Friday. However, many are repeat crossings as migrants who are turned away by Title 42 try to return, again and again.

The humanitarian crisis demands that politicians do their job to secure the southern border and do so humanely. It just might be possible if politicians perpetuate facts rather than harmful myths.

ONLINE: https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2022-12-28/la-ed-border-myths


Dec. 30

The Guardian on the rising tide of the left in Latin America

Football and national identity in Argentina fused after the Albiceleste won the World Cup in 1986 with Diego Maradona. The country’s democracy, recently restored after decades of coups and murderous army rule, celebrated Maradona’s rise from a shantytown to almost single-handedly defeating the rest of the world. The burst of countrywide pride, however, belied Argentina’s fall: it began the 20th century as the seventh-richest nation in the world, but had dropped to the 70th place by 1990.

Decades later, it’s much the same story. In the year that Maradona led his nation to the title, inflation averaged 116%. Annual inflation today is approaching 100%. Between Maradona and the World Cup-winning team led by Lionel Messi this year, the country has defaulted on its foreign debt three times, has had two national currencies, and received, in 2018, the biggest-ever International Monetary Fund bailout.

Argentinian football soared as its politics sank to a low ebb. Just weeks before Messi’s triumph, the leftwing government’s vice-president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, was sentenced to jail over a $1bn fraud – a charge she denies, saying it is politically motivated. This might seem a cautionary tale for Latin America, which two decades ago had mixed success under “socialist” governments. By 2017, right-of-center politicians dominated the region. But the pink tide began to rise once again a year later with Mexico’s Andrés Manuel López Obrador. When Brazil’s president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, returns to office on Monday, left-leaning leaders will be in control of six of the region’s seven largest economies.

They are now charged with bridging big economic, gender and racial divides. Political polarization is undermining democracy, making it harder for many to respect compromise. …


Geology, as much as geography, is destiny in Latin America. With 60% of the world’s lithium, the white gold of electric batteries, and the world’s largest oil reserves, the neighboring U.S. carries a big stick. In the 1980s, the Washington consensus led its nations to borrow in dollars and liberalize their capital accounts to attract foreign investors. The lost decades that followed the neoliberal turn in the region saw stagnation, coups and armed conflict. This was the chaotic backdrop in Latin America as authority over spending and investment was transferred out of elected legislatures and into markets, courtrooms and central banks.

Two leftwing governments in Chile and Peru have tried – and failed – this year to rewrite pro-market constitutions. The Chilean president, Gabriel Boric, was swept into office on a wave of social unrest in 2019. However, his proposal for a new, progressive charter was rejected in a September referendum campaign drowning in misinformation. He survived the loss and is seeking to draft a new constitution. In Peru, Pedro Castillo – a former teacher and union leader – attempted to dissolve Congress and elect a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution after a chaotic year. He ended up impeached, detained by police and replaced by a leftwing former ally. …

The world, post-Covid but convulsed by Russia’s Ukrainian war, is in flux. This offers Latin America some hope. A different global model once worked in its flavor. Keynesian policies held sway between 1950 and 1980, and saw the region develop without damaging boom-and-bust cycles. This period, bounding the late Pelé’s career, ended with democracy replacing dictatorship. The flaws of globalization today have been increasingly obvious since 2008 – and nowhere more so than in Latin America, which Brazil’s former finance minister Luiz Carlos Bresser-Pereira says has been condemned to “quasi-stagnation”. His country has seen higher-end exports like vehicle parts and electronics give way to trade in iron and oil.

Rentier politics

The last generation of leftwing leaders could thank high commodity prices for their public investment programs. But that entrenched a rentier class with an interest at preserving the status quo, such as Brazil’s rich landowners who bankrolled the rightwing Bolsonaro campaign. High energy prices now have many nations worrying that a deteriorating balance of trade will put downward pressure on their currencies, risking inflation and making dollar debt repayments harder. Hence, nations have historically tried to build up their stock of greenbacks through exports using pegged currency rates. The upshot, Bard College’s Randall Wray suggests, is that governments use austerity to reduce the wages of workers instead of the wealth of rentiers, by depreciating the currency.

Rising domestic prices also widen the gap between rich and poor in the world’s most unequal region. The Argentinian economist Agustín Mario argues that pursuing full employment with a free-floating peso would be a better way to reduce inflation and poverty rates rather than the widespread use of indexing costs to prices that propagate inflationary shocks. The region needs a new model, beginning with debt relief and followed by a push for more equitable, sustainable growth involving state-led industrialization and regional integration. No longer bound just to the U.S., Latin American economies should be easier to recast through bargaining among several partners. These are no less self-interested than Washington. Projects backed by China appear to be some of the worst violators of human rights and environmental law. …

After so many false dawns, claims about the end of the neoliberal era will be taken with a pinch of salt. But the established order is coming apart, and rightly so. The task is to create a superior one.

ONLINE: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/dec/30/the-guardian-view-on-latin-americas-left-leaders-pink-tide-could-lift-all-boats


Jan. 2

China Daily on U.S.-China relations

Communication was a key word in former Chinese ambassador to the United States Qin Gang’s farewell talk on the phone with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on New Year’s Day.

Qin, who took up his new post as foreign minister last week, said he appreciated the several “candid, in-depth and constructive” meetings that he had had with Blinken during his tenure, and that he looked forward to continuing close working relations with the top U.S. diplomat for better Sino-U.S. relations in the future.

Blinken also remarked on the importance of the U.S. and China maintaining open lines of communication during his talk with Qin.

Although their talk was more of diplomatic protocol than of practical meaning, it has still raised the hope that communication between the two sides can effectively contribute to putting bilateral ties back on a healthy development track.

That the new foreign minister was promoted directly from the post of Chinese ambassador to the U.S. is a telling sign of the tremendous significance Beijing attaches to Sino-U.S. relations, and that should also be a takeaway for the U.S. side.

That Qin took every opportunity during his time as ambassador to promote people-to-people exchanges and mutual understanding between the two countries indicates that maintaining communication between the two countries will be high on his to-do list in handling Sino-U.S. relations.

However, those pinning hopes upon Qin using his open and friendly style to help thaw the icy state of the ties should not ignore his other side, as he has resolutely defended China’s core interests and bottom line in dealing with the U.S. when challenged in his interviews with U.S. media outlets.

With the rebuilding of risk management and control mechanisms being an imperative and urgent task to handle the complicated relations between the two countries, Qin will undoubtedly show both sides of his style in his new role, as cordial by preference, and indurated by transgressions are defining features of Chinese diplomacy. The country is open to constructive and friendly exchanges and win-win cooperation, and it is dedicated to promoting the common interests of countries, but it will never allow its own core interests to be harmed or communication and cooperation to be conducted in an unfair and lopsided way.

Qin’s familiarity with the U.S., his fluency in English and the connections he has established with various parts of U.S. society, will be valuable assets for him to contribute to easing tensions in Sino-U.S. ties. However, it should be borne in mind that the change of foreign minister on the Chinese side does not alter the fact that the crux of mending the Sino-U.S. ties primarily lies with the U.S. side stopping saying one thing and doing another.

ONLINE: https://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/202301/02/WS63b2c8f3a31057c47eba7445.html

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