Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials


Associated Press

Posted on January 9, 2013 at 2:03 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jan 9 at 2:03 PM

Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:

Jan. 7

Los Angeles Times on the secretary of defense nomination of former Sen. Chuck Hagel:

In choosing former Sen. Chuck Hagel as secretary of Defense, has President Barack Obama made an "in your face" appointment, as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) complains? Perhaps. Given criticism of Hagel by supporters of Israel and gay rights groups, his nomination was guaranteed to be controversial. So why did he do it? After deciding not to nominate Susan Rice as secretary of state in the face of GOP opposition, the president may have been determined not to surrender to criticism a second time.

But fascinating as the politics around the nomination may be, now that Hagel has been nominated, the only question for the Senate to decide is whether he is qualified to serve. In making that judgment, senators of both parties owe the president considerable — but not complete — deference.

We will reserve our final judgment about the Hagel nomination until after the conclusion of his Senate confirmation hearings. But there's no question that he is a plausible candidate for secretary of defense, and the questions that have been raised about his past comments and positions so far don't strike us as disqualifying. ...

Members of the Senate may not like all of the answers they receive. But in scrutinizing Hagel's nomination, senators aren't supposed to ask whether the nominee is the person they would appoint if they were president. The proper question is whether the president's appointee is qualified for the position, ethically upright and free of extreme views. If so, the president's choice should be confirmed — "in your face" or not.




Jan. 2

The Anniston (Ala.) Star on calamities ahead at the fiscal cliff:

Americans might be wondering if they are stuck in a Looney Toons cartoon. We technically went over the fiscal cliff at the start of 2013, but just like Daffy or the Road Runner, we've yet to begin our descent. We are in that part of the cartoon where the victim hovers in midair, quizzically looking around and waiting for the next calamity. ...

Our concern is that the so-called fiscal cliff we appear to have avoided is but one in a series of challenges. In other words, Americans may have crawled in midair back to safe ground, a la Daffy Duck, but there's an ACME safe headed straight for our collective heads.

It's expected by March that Washington will commence a fresh set of brinksmanship. This time the argument will be over raising the debt ceiling. Republicans have signaled they will not raise the debt ceiling unless they extract massive spending cuts from the Obama administration. Not this time, comes the response from the White House. Playing around with the nation defaulting on its debt isn't something Obama is apparently willing to discuss.

These are proxy fights over a bigger ideological struggle. Should government grow or should it shrink? An even more important question is who will feel the most pain from the shrinking?

Democrats have voiced support for a stronger and smarter government. Its actions have often not matched its rhetoric. ...

The Republican side says it is dedicated to drastically shrinking government. ... A closer inspection finds the cutting is highly specific for the GOP. Cuts to the Defense Department are generally off the table. Despite the bluster of the tea partyers, very few on the GOP side want to see Medicare or Social Security on the chopping block.

Don't expect this cartoon to end any time soon.




Jan. 3

The Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette on tax havens:

Annette Zavareei is more than just a Charleston counselor. She's also an activist who jumps into crusades. ...

... She went on a Caribbean cruise sponsored by The Nation magazine and CodePink. At George Town on Grand Cayman Island, her group of more than 100 went to a waterfront office building, Ugland House, a notorious tax shelter that is the official address of 18,857 corporations.

The group staged a public protest, waving signs saying "Send Our Tax Money Home" and "We Want Our Money Back" and the like.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama said the Cayman building supposedly holding 18,000 corporate offices was "either the biggest building in the world or the biggest tax scam in the world."

Defeated Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is just one of numerous American multimillionaires keeping money in the low-tax Caymans.

After the Nation/CodePink protest, a Cayman law firm based in Ugland House, Maples & Calder, issued a statement saying its 18,000 clients don't violate any tax laws. If American reformers dislike the arrangement, it said, they should persuade Congress to change America's tax code.

Great idea. Is it impossible to revise statutes so the rich cannot elude their fair share of support for America by funneling cash abroad? ...

The Financial Times of London wrote:

"... For the Caymans, a British crown colony 150 miles southwest of Cuba, business and financial services contribute 30 percent of its gross domestic product and employ more than 20 percent of its labor force. Operating a tax haven has helped make the tiny island chain the fifth-largest banking center ranked by assets."

Think of that: An island's economy depends heavily on helping the wealthy duck taxes. Again, we wish Congress would halt this odious practice.




Jan. 7

The Des Moines Register on more Obama administration secrecy:

Critics of the Obama administration's expanded use of pilotless drone aircraft to kill alleged terrorists abroad have been assured that the strikes are justified and legal. Yet, when The New York Times and the American Civil Liberties Union asked for detailed evidence of the government's legal arguments, they were told that is a national security secret.

Recently, a federal judge ruled in the administration's favor, though even she expressed exasperation: "I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the executive branch of our government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws, while keeping the reasons for their conclusions a secret."

This is hard to take from a president who, as a candidate, promised to do a better job than the previous occupant of the White House in making important government information available to the American people. It is also hard to take from a president who has kept in place many of the war-on-terror tactics he found troubling or offensive when they were practiced by President George W. Bush. ...

... The federal FOI Act is shot through with loopholes, and the administration didn't have to do much heavy lifting to slip through several of them in this case. Besides, federal courts are typically deferential to presidential claims of national security to justify keeping information from the public.

The question is why the administration insists on keeping secret legal opinions that spell out the arguments for the legality and constitutionality of these drone strikes. ... Why would they keep confidential the formal arguments in favor of drone killings? Government lawyers cited the standard national security arguments for protecting its sources and methods, but they just sound like so much legal boiler plate. ...

The president obviously believes the attacks are morally and legally justified. He should release all legal justifications produced by his administration or explain to the American people why that cannot be shared with them.




Jan. 5

The Northwest Herald, Crystal Lake, Ill., on a healthy 2013

Have you resolved this year to cut down on calories? Eat more vegetables?

Maybe you plan to start an exercise regimen, join a health club or move the laundry off that treadmill and climb back on it.

You might have resolved to butt out your last smoke, or do your last dip.

Making resolutions is the easy part.

Keeping them can be another matter altogether.

But if you've made one that will make you a healthier person this year, do all you can to keep it.

It's worth doing not only for you, but for others, as well. There are demonstrated links between health and happiness; making positive lifestyle changes really can bring you a happier new year.

Of course, your friends and loved ones don't want your health to deteriorate, either. Meanwhile, the health care landscape in America makes all of us dependent on each other to do what we can for our health's sake.

The economic consequences of problems such as obesity, which has become endemic in America, are tremendous. Medical care costs of obesity in 2008 totaled about $147 billion, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Cigarette smoking cost about $96 billion in health care expenditures in 2010, the CDC says.

The more people get sick, the more they need health care. And the more demand placed on the system, the more expensive health insurance becomes for the rest of us. ...

Here's hoping that whatever you've resolved to do better, different or for the first time in 2013, you find a way to stick with it.




Jan. 8

El Dorado (Ark.) News-Times, on a Joe Biden C-SPAN reality show:

Move over, Kim Kardashian. Step aside, Donald Trump. Make way, Honey Boo Boo.

It seems there may be another reality show superstar waiting in the wings — our own vice president, Joe Biden.

And no, we're not kidding.

Biden, it so happens, is the subject of a new petition posted on the White House website which calls for the politician to have his own reality show on the television news network C-SPAN. ...

After all, stranger things have happened ... consider "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo," ''Amish Mafia" and "My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding," to name a very few.

The former senator from Delaware has been well known for his quirky remarks and bright, ready smile throughout his tenure in Washington, but it was his comments caught on camera during the swearing in of the 113th Congress that caught the attention of Internet surfers. While welcoming the senators and their families, Biden exchanged jokes and off-beat remarks with them as they posed for photos, saying such things as "If you ever need any help on your pecs, let me know," and "You've got beautiful eyes, mom," to one senator's mother. He has also appeared on the NBC sitcom "Parks and Recreation," and was once caught by a live mic telling Obama before an official address that passage of health-care reform was "a big (expletive) deal." He also singlehandedly made "malarkey" one of the most looked-up words of 2012 by using it in a vice presidential debate.

Evidently, enough people think the veep is such a hoot that they created the petition urging the Obama administration to allow cameras into the daily activities of Biden, thus creating a one-of-a-kind reality show for the network which, let's face it, could use a little levity. ...

Who needs Snooki when you have good old Joe?




Jan. 6

The Seattle Times on the FTC's Google investigation:

Anyone feeling déjà vu over the Federal Trade Commission's Google investigation? A company with a dominant technology platform, in this case, search, was accused of exploiting its position to squash competitors.

In the 1990s, Microsoft was investigated for using its monopoly with Windows to expand its Web browser business. The ensuing trial and consent decree forced the company to change its ways.

Recently, the FTC announced a toothless settlement with Google after investigating allegations of anti-competitive practices in search and patents.

Competitors said Google promoted advertisers' search results over the organic results in the middle of the page, which users expect to display the most commonly clicked websites. Google has a clear competitive advantage with 67 percent of search traffic, which also means it can set the rules for online advertisers.

The FTC for the most part ignored the complaints of search bias in its settlement. It failed to judge Google by the same standards in Microsoft's antitrust case.

What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

The unequal application of antitrust law undermines the confidence of innovators and investors. Most important, consumers have been denied access to a fair marketplace for the most competitive businesses and services via Google's search engine. ...

The U.S. Department of Justice should launch an investigation into Google, as it did with Microsoft in the 1990s. ...

Antitrust law must be applied equally and fairly to protect the public.




Jan. 5.

The Democrat and Chronicle, Rochester, N.Y. on the 113th Congress.

The transition in Congress from one of the least productive in memory to the most diverse in history is a welcome change — but one that will be but a footnote without new members agitating the old guard for action.

The previous 112th Congress was a failure of historic proportions, passing fewer bills than any in the post-World War II era. Its most noteworthy accomplishments were negative: a knock-down, drag-out in 2011 over raising the federal debt ceiling that resulted in the nation's credit rating being lowered, and subsequent failure to resolve related budgeting issues that led to last month's "fiscal cliff" debacle.

The 113th Congress sworn in on Jan. 3 doesn't just boast new blood, but new perspectives. More than 100 women, 43 African-Americans, 31 Latinos, 12 Asian-Americans and seven openly gay or bisexual members are among the ranks. Religious diversity is likewise broad, including the first Buddhist senator and first Hindu representative.

All to the good, in terms of Congress looking a little more like the folks it represents. Now it must serve those folks. ...

Congress does not yet truly reflect America. It's getting there but, as with so many other issues, the House GOP is not doing the leading.




Jan. 4

Arab News, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Afghan-Taliban negotiations:

Winter is not a good time to fight in Afghanistan. Each winter NATO forces have tried to kid themselves that the dieback in Taliban attacks represents the imminent collapse of the insurgency. However, with the melting of the snows each spring, the Taliban have proved them ever more wrong.

Nevertheless, something important and new seems to be happening, as the Afghan conflict goes into semi-hibernation, for the worst of the winter weather.

Despite the illness and imminent retirement of their chief, Hillary Clinton, State Department officials have been deeply involved, no doubt with their CIA opposite numbers, in little publicized talks in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. What they seem to be talking about is peace.

Recently, eight senior Afghan Taliban members were released by Pakistan, with the full approval of the Afghan government and the United States and its NATO allies. Among the freed were two former ministers in the ousted Taliban government and, some have argued, a far more significant figure, in the shape of the former bodyguard of the elusive Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar. ...

The line being put out by Washington, albeit unofficially, is that the Talibs have recognized that they cannot win the ground war and are therefore prepared to negotiate. This does not entirely compute. ...

The administration of president Hamid Karzai, who must under the constitution leave office when new elections are held in 2014, has in the view of some NATO diplomats, demonstrated itself to be rotten to the core... By many assessments, once the NATO firepower has gone, Taliban insurgents will be pushing at an open door, in their drive to seize Kabul and other major cities and return to power.

That being the probable case, why should the Taliban be seeking to negotiate, to bargain the release of their leaders, in return for some assurances that are not yet clear?

Could it really be that the Taliban, whatever the contrary views of their erstwhile Al-Qaeda allies, actually do see that Afghanistan has had enough of pain and misery, death and destruction initiated by the Russian invasion 34 years ago? ...




Jan. 8

The Japan Times, Tokyo on China-Japan relations:

The dispute between Japan and China over the sovereignty issue involving the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea has caused bilateral ties to plummet. China is repeatedly violating Japanese territorial waters and airspace around the islands. Japan needs to enhance its ability to protect its territorial waters and airspace in the area. More importantly, the Abe administration must make strenuous diplomatic efforts to find opportunities to talk quietly with China in an effort to put bilateral relations back on a normal path.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe included in his Cabinet political allies who have expressed a hawkish stance on territorial issues. This, combined with Abe's call for revising the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution and exercising the right to collective self-defense, has raised concerns among Chinese officials.

But after his Liberal Democratic Party's overwhelming victory in the Dec. 16 Lower House election, Abe said that since the Japan-China relations are extremely important, he would like to make efforts to return bilateral ties to the "initial point of mutually beneficial strategic relations."

It is hoped that the prime minister will take concrete steps in this direction. In the election campaign, the LDP proposed stationing public servants on the Senkaku Islands. Fortunately, the Abe administration has put off implementing this reckless election promise, which would further damage bilateral ties. ...

China seems to hope that Abe will again make moves aimed at thawing chilly ties. ... Abe should strive to deepen dialogue with China and make efforts to forge strong personal ties with Chinese leader Xi Jinping. ...

... Japan should pay serious attention to Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou's call for talks among China, Taiwan and Japan for joint development of the seas around the Senkaku Islands and for shelving the sovereignty issue.




Jan. 7

The Guardian, London, on former Sen. Hagel's secretary of Defense nomination:

The remarkable thing about President Barack Obama's nomination of Sen. Chuck Hagel as his new defense secretary is not the fact that Hagel is a Republican. It is the fact that the Republican whom the president has chosen as defense secretary is Hagel. Many U.S. presidents like to have members of the other party somewhere in their cabinets — even George W. Bush followed that custom. And Democratic presidents, attracted to putting defense issues above party, have frequently put a Republican into the Pentagon, as John Kennedy did with Robert McNamara, and other successors including Bill Clinton have done since.

Hagel, however, is not a typical modern Republican. He is a conservative on domestic policy but he is very independent on defense and security, and has long been out of line with mainstream Republican thinking, particularly since 9/11. In his 12 years in the U.S. Senate, from which he stepped down in 2008, Hagel was often out of step not just with his own party but with some Democrats too — his friend, fellow Vietnam veteran and Nebraska senator Bob Kerrey, was similarly iconoclastic.

The unifying feature of Hagel's security record is skepticism about assertive U.S. unilateralism and his advocacy of what he calls "principled realism". This stance puts him at the opposite end of the Pentagon spectrum from Republicans such as Donald Rumsfeld. An opponent of the Vietnam war, Hagel had no time for the Bush-era "war on terror" either. He voted for the Iraq war but has subsequently dubbed Iraq and Afghanistan as 20th-century solutions to 21st-century problems. ...

He thinks America cannot be the world's policeman. He thinks that America should not be isolated, either. ... But it is why the rest of the world ought to see his arrival at the Pentagon as an appointment full of possibilities.




Jan. 7

Ottawa Citizen, Ontario, on the Keystone XL oil pipeline:

U.S. President Barack Obama's move last year to delay a decision on a permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline extension was widely — and rightly — regarded as self-serving. He was up for re-election and needed to curry favor with the eco-electorate.

This year, with his second term assured, Obama has the chance to restore reasoned and coherent governance to his administration, at least on this file.

According to a new study by Nebraska's state environmental regulators, TransCanada has complied with the U.S. government's requirement that it find an alternative route that avoids Nebraska's Sand Hills region and its crucial aquifer. In fact, the study indicates that the company has reworked its $5.3-billion U.S. project to bypass numerous ecologically sensitive areas in the state. Keystone XL, which is part of a more extensive 2,700-kilometre system stretching from Alberta to Texas... will cross fewer areas of threatened or endangered species habitat and avoid many regions with fragile soil.

The company has also addressed most every concern raised by environmental groups and citizen advocates, agreeing to dozens of special conditions...

According to TransCanada, the physical and chemical properties of the crude oil to be carried in Keystone XL "will be similar to the light and heavy crude oils already being transported safely in pipelines across the United States." That is no small thing considering that North America's energy infrastructure with its hundreds of pipelines is like a tangled ball of wool in its interconnectedness.

Finally, TransCanada has committed itself to taking responsibility, technical and financial, for any spills. ...

Obama has to decide whether he's going to continue to exploit Keystone XL for partisan purposes or do what's in the national interest of the United States — less dependence on Middle East oil and respectful relations with Canada...