Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:
The Philadelphia Inquirer on the arrest of two black men at Starbucks:
It’s notable that both Facebook and Starbucks, two mega-giants of what has been called the new economy, have had public comeuppances within days of each other.
Last week, Mark Zuckerberg was called onto the congressional carpet to explain how his company compromised the privacy of millions of people and may have unwittingly distorted the last presidential election.
Starbucks’ woes are related to a single incident last week in Philadelphia, when two black men were arrested for not buying coffee, but the shock waves so far have proved massive, including protests, calls for a global boycott, and a public apology from the company’s CEO.
The scale of the missteps might appear to be different, but the potential fallout could be disastrous for two companies that have until now been seen as 21st century behemoths that share global impact and roots in both technology and social change.
Starbucks essentially serves as the cafeteria for the new economy; it would be nowhere, after all, without its WiFi signals.
Starbucks became a revolution not just for charging a premium price for coffee and giving an Italian name to its servers, but for blurring the lines between retail space and civic space. By encouraging people to park their laptops for hours on end for the price of a cup of coffee, it created new public spaces throughout the country and the world.
The two men arrested last week broke the rules of that space by not buying coffee. But Starbucks broke a more important rule: By demonizing two people based on their race, it left democracy out of the public space.
Starbucks has never been shy about touting its values, or its belief in corporate responsibility. It created a corporate social-responsibility department in 1999, has been outspoken on a range of issues, and in 2015 started an ill-fated “race together” movement in response to police shootings of black men.
If a company this “enlightened” can stumble as badly as this single store did when it called the police on two black men, the message is not so much that Starbucks is evil but that racism still has an unshakable and tragic hold in this country.
Finding racism, inadvertent or otherwise, in a self-described socially responsible company, speaks to how deeply ingrained hate, fear, and discrimination are, and to just how little we, as a country, have evolved from our racist, slaveholding past.
Even if the Starbucks incident comes down to one individual store manager making a mistake, we also have to wonder what prompted the kind of law enforcement response that led to at least six cops showing up to arrest the men (who, apparently knowing the drill, remained calm and compliant while being led away in handcuffs).
Police Commissioner Richard Ross needs to better explain how this deployment of force grew way out of proportion to the situation. It’s natural to wonder what kind of police response there would be for a similar complaint from a neighbourhood that isn’t Rittenhouse Square.
Starbucks has responded quickly and communicated remorse and a commitment to social justice. What will it take for the rest of us to do the same?
The Dallas Morning News on the legacy of Barbara Bush:
Anyone who doubts that Barbara Pierce Bush was a force in her own right never saw her speak live. On one occasion we caught her at an event at Texas A&M University where the crowd roared to life the moment the emcee said, “And here she is, the Silver Fox herself.”
Bush, who died Tuesday at age 92, occupied that rarest of positions in American life: The wife of one president and the mother of another. Only Abigail Adams — married to the second president and mother of the sixth — shared that distinction. But to note this unique history is also to risk casting Bush in the shadow of two presidents, and that doesn’t do justice to the woman whose husband affectionately called her “Bar.”
Born and raised in New York, she possessed an inner strength that undergirded an extraordinary life. Married in 1945 at age 19 to George H.W. Bush, then a naval aviator, she would go on to move to West Texas and become a force within one of the most successful political families in American history.
Although sometimes known for her sharp wit, Bush’s legacy will be found in the compassion she demonstrated for other people. As first lady, at a time of irrational fear about the spread of HIV/AIDS, she famously pushed against stigmatizing those with the disease. She visited a home in Washington, D.C., for HIV positive children, where she cradled an infant and kissed a toddler. She said it was safe and the right thing for everyone to do. “There is a need for compassion,” she said.
Instantly recognizable for her grey hair and pearls, few today know that her hair first turned when her daughter Pauline Robinson Bush, known as Robin, tragically died at age 3 after battling leukemia.
Among the many initiatives she championed, Bush may be best known for her work on literacy. She launched the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy while in the White House and continued the work the rest of her life. The foundation, working with local partners, has awarded more than $40 million as of 2014 and helped more than 1,500 literacy programs.
This kind of work doesn’t generate the headlines or controversy often associated with the policy agenda of presidents, but it is the kind of effort that can improve millions of lives. “I still feel that being more literate will help us solve so many of the other problems facing our society,” she wrote in her memoir in 1994.
Her son George W. Bush is fond of saying that he has his father’s eyes and his mother’s mouth. That may be true, but we shouldn’t let that mask this truth: The depth of Barbara Bush’s heart endures in all of the people she has touched.
The Washington Post on proposed changes to safety-net programs:
Have you noticed how spending on welfare and other benefits for the poor is bankrupting the federal government? Neither have we. On Monday, the Congressional Budget Office forecast a vast increase in the federal debt over the next decade, due in large part to the GOP’s recent $1.5 trillion tax cut, most of which goes to businesses and wealthy households. On the domestic spending side, the biggies remain middle-class programs such as Medicare and Social Security.
Yet President Trump and the Republican leadership in Congress are on an election-year campaign to “reform” means-tested safety-net programs. The day after the CBO released its figures, in fact, Mr. Trump ordered federal agencies to review all such programs — with an eye toward toughening work requirements for their recipients. On Thursday, the House Agriculture Committee unveiled a proposed 2018 farm bill that would make it harder for non-working adults to get food-buying aid under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
The U.S. welfare state, such as it is, has always linked benefits to work more than its European counterparts. In many cases, that is necessary and appropriate, both as a way to prevent waste and as a way to incentivize productive behaviour. The GOP says its current focus is in this tradition: It’s more about fighting “dependency” than balancing the budget. Maybe so, but it puts a lot of needy people’s benefits at risk for what’s likely to be very few dollars saved and very little behaviour modified.
Work requirements make the least sense with regard to Medicaid, the largest means-tested program by far, at $565.5 billion in spending in 2016. Sixty per cent of recipients already work, and 79 per cent already live with a worker, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Many other recipients have caregiving responsibilities; these would be either abandoned or accepted by states as the equivalent of work, after much bureaucratic hassle. In any case, losing Medicaid would not stop people from getting sick; they’d just go to emergency rooms for treatment, ultimately at public expense.
As for SNAP, spending is already down — from $79.8 billion in 2013 to about $70 billion in 2017 — thanks to a robust economy. The total cost of the most recent five-year farm bill, SNAP’s authorizing legislation, is now expected to come in $31 billion below initial projections, mostly because of lower- than-expected SNAP spending. The House Republican farm bill is aimed at able-bodied, childless, working-age adults, who account for a very small portion of the overall SNAP caseload and many of whom already work. About 1.9 million childless, working-age adults got SNAP without working in 2017. Referring to people such as these, the Agriculture Committee press materials on the new bill say it “does not take away eligibility, but provides individuals options. Individuals may choose not to participate, but they will no longer be eligible for SNAP.” Sounds great, except that many non-working adults who rely on SNAP aren’t refusing to work but face multiple and stubborn logistical and educational barriers to employment. In the likely event those barriers continue, it will be SNAP administrators who face “options”: find a way to keep them on the rolls, or let them go hungry.
The Los Angeles Times on a Supreme Court decision involving deportees:
The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled in a case from California that if a law is deemed to be so vague that it is impossible for the government to use it to impose a prison sentence, then it is also too vague to be used to deport a lawful permanent resident. It was another welcome recognition by the court that being expelled from this country can be as devastating a consequence as confinement to a prison cell.
By a 5-4 vote, with President Trump’s appointee, Neil M. Gorsuch, joining the court’s four liberals to form a majority, the court ruled in favour of James Garcia Dimaya, a native of the Philippines who was admitted to the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident at the age of 13. Dimaya pleaded no contest in 2007 and 2009 to two charges of residential burglary.
Concluding that burglary was a crime of violence and thus an “aggravated felony” under federal immigration law, the Board of Immigration Appeals ruled that Dimaya should be deported. The Immigration and Nationality Act’s definition of “crimes of violence,” borrowed from federal criminal law, includes felonies that involve “a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used during committing the offence” — a definition that might apply to some burglaries but not others.
Justice Elena Kagan, writing for the court, said that definition was simply too unclear to serve as the basis of a deportation. She said it suffered from the same sort of unconstitutional vagueness as a law the court struck down in 2015 in a criminal context. Referring back to the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s decision in that prior case, Kagan wrote: “How does one go about divining the conduct entailed in a crime’s ordinary case? Statistical analyses? Surveys? Experts? Google? Gut instinct?”
Kagan noted that the court long had recognized that “grave nature of deportation” and only last year had said that deportation was “a particularly severe penalty” that may be of greater concern to a convicted alien than “any potential jail sentence.”
If vagueness in a statute provides grounds to challenge a criminal conviction or a sentence, it ought to be available to immigrants seeking to remain in this country even if they have been convicted of a crime. At a time when the executive branch is giving short shrift to due process for immigrants, it’s gratifying that the court is willing to protect their rights.
Boston Herald says there’s bias in the special investigation on Russia:
We should not be clamouring for special counsel Robert Mueller to be fired. That ship has sailed. While the Russian collusion investigation seems to be withering away, having yielded no evidence that might impugn President Trump, a new investigation has been spun off in New York City, targeting his attorney, Michael Cohen.
Since that investigation is separate from the Russia investigation, some are hoping Attorney General Jeff Sessions can reauthorize himself out of recusement and squash it.
If that is possible, we should hope the administration resists the temptation.
It is best that these investigations continue to play out in public view. What we have already learned about the integrity of our intelligence services, the ethical lapses of the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign, as well as the dubious manoeuvrings of the Obama administration, is that Washington, D.C., rewards nefarious behaviour.
It is ugly to witness, and Americans across the spectrum reject it when it is exposed, as it is now.
The perpetrators are so deeply entrenched and comfortable in their day-to-day shadiness that they’ve stopped cloaking themselves for public consumption.
What’s been splayed out in front of the American people is a sham political investigation and third-rate propagandizing by a complicit media.
Democrats planted the Russian collusion nonsense, which mobilized intelligence services and activated the Watergate-level press coverage. The new administration never had a chance to get off the ground. Weeks and months went by and no collusion was found, but some lives were ruined for lying to the FBI in the process. As the special counsel petered out on the matter, the spectacle of porn star Stormy Daniels and her oily attorney on CNN served as a flare to catch the eye of investigators, and the football was lateraled by Mueller to the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, who has just begun a fresh hunt.
And we’re off to the races, with the media trying to make vapour into a solid.
According to The New York Times report on Wednesday, FBI agents were looking for “documents related to the ‘Access Hollywood’ tape in which Mr. Trump was heard making vulgar comments about women.” In the same article the Times went on to say, “It is not clear what role, if any, Mr. Cohen played regarding the ‘Access Hollywood’ tape.” But that was good enough for CNN, which dipped into their endless supply of media panels and ran the “Access Hollywood” angle through reporter Chris Cillizza, who bellowed, “If he had any role … we don’t necessarily know that yet. If he had a role, that’s new!”
And if he had a bazooka, that’s also new.
It’s all nonsense. We are so far from anything to do with Russian collusion that the pursuit of Trump has become almost comical.
The establishment forces trying to run down this president should remember what his political ascent looked like. He exposed the competition as being fake, robotic, dishonest and empty. He stole the show by daring to buck the system and his sheer determination and cunning were marvelous to watch. Imagine someone running onto the field at a baseball game and evading one, two, three tackles by security. More miss as he sprints into centre field, thoroughly enjoying himself. The crowd initially wants him tossed, but as he endures, he eventually wins the fans over. He’s better than the game.
Let the media, Democrats and Washington bureaucrats keep piling on him in clear view. It reveals more about them than him. Right now, investigators are looking into Michael Cohen’s time in the taxi cab business years ago.
The swamp is investigating taxis.
The president is lowering taxes.
We will make our conclusions based on the indisputable facts in the light of day.
The Japan News on Syria:
The most pressing matter is to avert a situation in which more chemical weapons are used in the civil war in Syria. Neither the United States nor Russia can be allowed to escalate their military rivalry in Syria.
As suspicions strengthened that the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad have again used chemical weapons, the United States launched a concerted operation with Britain and France. They conducted bombing attacks against targets at three sites, including a chemical weapons research facility on the outskirts of the capital of Damascus and a chemical weapons storage facility in the central province of Homs.
U.S. President Donald Trump said in an address that the main aim of the attacks was “to establish a strong deterrent against the production, spread and use of chemical weapons.”
When suspicion arose over the Assad government’s use of chemical weapons last year, U.S. forces alone attacked a Syrian air base but could not make the government change its actions. By expanding the scale of the attacks through its co-operation with Britain and France and targeting chemical weapons facilities, the United States likely attempted to check Syria from using chemical weapons further.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the Japanese government “supports the resolve of the United States, Britain and France.”
It has been said that the Assad government, even after Syria joined the Chemical Weapons Convention in 2013, possessed sarin and chlorine gas and used them in its attacks.
In the aftermath of an air raid against a rebel-held foothold on April 7, images from the site showed small children and others collapsing and foaming at the mouth. Such an act is nothing short of ghastly.
Don’t abandon U.S. duties
Atrocities that flout international norms must not be left unanswered. Attacks by the United States, Britain and France will be a warning to North Korea, which continues developing not only nuclear but also chemical weapons and is said to have been providing Syria with its technology.
It cannot be overlooked that Russia, which supports the Assad government, has not assumed its responsibility for preventing the government from using chemical weapons. Calling the three-nation attacks an “act of aggression” against Syria, Russia has even issued a statement suggesting that retaliatory steps will be taken.
U.S. troops tasked with eradicating the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), as well as Russian troops supporting the forces of the Assad government, are stationed in Syria. The United States and Russia need to avert any accidental military clashes.
It is worrisome that Trump, apparently conscious of his supporters at home, has repeatedly spelled out policies for weakening the U.S. involvement in the Middle East.
Early this month, Trump referred to an early withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria, saying that the eradication of ISIL is almost complete. In his latest address, he emphasized that the United States “does not seek an indefinite presence in Syria.”
It will become inevitable for Russia and Iran to fill the power vacuum if the United States withdraws from Syria. There would no longer be any brakes to stop inhuman acts by Assad government forces.
Trump should not abandon, on the pretext of advocating “America first” policies, the duties the United States has assumed for the peace and stability in the Middle East.