Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials

Oct. 1

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram on the guilty verdict for a white former police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black man:

Dallas County jurors made a powerful statement Tuesday with their decision to convict former police officer Amber Guyger of murder.

Plenty of people will lament that Guyger was harshly punished for a terrible mistake, the shooting of Botham Jean in his own home when she thought it was hers. But with their verdict, the jurors said that some mistakes are so egregious, the circumstances can’t excuse them much at all.

This case is an illustration of why we have jury trials. Though the prosecution and defense disagreed over some key facts, the trial turned on whether Guyger’s actions were reasonable under the circumstances of the night of Sept. 6, 2018.

It can’t have been easy for the jurors. It’s far from clear-cut to what extent Guyger should have known she was in the wrong apartment. Dallas County prosecutors noted several clues, including Jean’s distinctive red doormat and the fact that a light indicating her key didn’t match.

It was apparently a common mistake at the South Side Flats, though. Fifteen percent of residents interviewed told Texas Rangers they’d gone to the wrong floor and tried to enter an apartment that wasn’t theirs. Most who made the mistake did so on the very floors where Guyger and Jean lived.

Guyger, a graduate of Arlington’s Sam Houston High, testified that once she fired, she intended to kill Jean. That may have been a key factor in the murder conviction, though jurors were instructed to deliberate whether she was acting in self-defense and whether she had made a mistake in assessing the facts.

The prosecution showed at various points how different choices on Guyger’s part could have prevented tragedy. She could have retreated and called for help; she could have done more to try to treat his wounds; she could have used a taser instead of her gun; she could have turned on the lights.

It was a tough call because Guyger clearly thought she was entering her own home. She was acting as a woman facing a threat but also as a police officer trained in how to respond to such threats.

Guyger contends that she told Jean “show me your hands” and only fired when he did not comply. Prosecutors noted that no witness heard her, and they contend she didn’t say it. Jean held no weapon or anything that could have been perceived as one. ...

The nation’s current turmoil over race and policing weighed heavily on this case. Members of the community saw a police officer given special treatment even though she killed a black man in his own home.

Some feared that anything less than a murder conviction would be another message that for those who wear a badge, there are lesser consequences for harming minorities _ and perhaps no consequences at all. They have seen too many juries give too many officers a pass.

But the circumstances here were so unusual that we should refrain from applying the case too broadly. Guyger’s mistakes were particular to the circumstances of the evening.

And we must not lose sight of the human tragedy here. By all accounts, Botham Jean was an exceptional person, a beloved son and a faithful servant of his church. He was gunned down at the age of 26 in his own home, and he did nothing whatsoever to deserve it.

His death was entirely Guyger’s fault, and she should pay a serious price for that. With a murder conviction, the jury declared that she will.

Online: https://www.star-telegram.com


Oct. 1

The San Francisco Chronicle on a new California law allowing college athletes to collect pay:

The NCAA should check the scoreboard. Despite all its bluster about kicking California’s universities out of national competition, it lost big last week when the governor signed state Sen. Nancy Skinner’s bill to allow compensation of college athletes.

And while one might not know it from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s self-aggrandizing bill signing during a taping of LeBron James’ HBO show Friday (Sept. 27) _ which became public when it was posted Monday on Twitter _ the NCAA was crushed in the California Legislature even before the Berkeley Democrat’s legislation landed on the desk of the man the Lakers star called “Governor Gav.” The bill, which permits college athletes to be paid for the use of their names, images or likenesses in direct contradiction of NCAA rules, passed both chambers with overwhelming bipartisan support and without a single vote against it.

The association can’t easily ignore the sheer size and economic impact of California and its universities. Moreover, legislators in New York, Florida, Pennsylvania and other states have proposed similar measures.

That means it’s time for the NCAA and the universities that joined it in opposing Skinner’s bill _ including Stanford, USC and the UC and CSU systems _ to stop playing defense for an indefensible position.

College sports is an industry _ one that made more than $14 billion last year, according to the U.S. Department of Education, a figure that has more than tripled over the past 15 years. And yet the big-time schools spend more on coaches alone than they do on their student-athletes, of which there are 10 times as many. That’s even if one credits the colleges’ own suspect valuations of their tuition and other costs, which is all they grant the young people who provide most of the labor and take most of the risks that generate those billions. It’s no wonder the most powerful advocacy against this system has come from the athletes themselves.

California’s new law doesn’t take effect until 2023. That gives the NCAA plenty of time to develop national rules that share the revenue equitably with its workforce.

Online: https://www.sfchronicle.com


Oct. 1

The Toronto Star on a proposed decrease in foreign aid spending in Canada:

When it comes to doing good around the world, Canada talks big and acts ... less big.

We pride ourselves at having invented the idea of peacekeeping, but our contribution to keeping the peace has dwindled to almost nothing.

We talk a good game about helping the neediest and promoting progressive values abroad, but among our peers we’re near the back of the pack in spending on foreign aid.

Now along comes Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer with a bold proposal to take a bad situation and make it even worse.

On Tuesday (Oct. 1) Scheer unveiled his priorities in foreign policy, and they include slashing Canada’s budget for foreign assistance by 25 percent, or some $1.5 billion.

What Scheer didn’t mention, and what most Canadians don’t realize, is that this country has already let its spending on humanitarian aid fall to record low levels.

This has been going on for many years under both Conservative and Liberal governments. Justin Trudeau took power in 2015 with a promise to “reverse the decline” in foreign aid, and failed to do any such thing.

At the moment, according to the OECD, Canada spends 0.28 percent of GDP on foreign assistance. That’s less than the average for developed countries, far less than we spent in the 1980s when Conservative Brian Mulroney was prime minister, and way less than the 0.7 percent of GDP set as a goal by the United Nations.

A Scheer government would cut even more, shirking Canada’s international responsibilities and further eroding its clout at the UN and in other global organizations. Because the truth is that countries don’t spend on foreign aid only out of the goodness of their hearts; aside from helping needy countries, it also buys influence. Slashing aid, for example, certainly wouldn’t be a plus as Canada argues for a seat on the UN Security Council.

Scheer did raise one good point. It’s questionable why Canada continues to fund aid to so-called middle-income countries like Barbados and Argentina. Those programs might well benefit from a clear-eyed review.

But such a review should be an opportunity to target aid dollars where they’re needed most, not simply to cut a budget that already falls far short of what it should be. ...

(T)he key foreign policy issues that any new Canadian government will have to face: our deeply disturbed relationships with the two most important countries in the world, the United States and China.

Foreign aid is worth discussing, but it pales in importance to those relationships and Scheer has offered nothing concrete on either one, aside from repeating attack lines about Trudeau’s supposedly “weak, unprincipled” leadership.

Neither, to be fair, do the Liberals have much of substance to say in their policy platform about the U.S. or China and all the issues raised by those relationships. Instead, they offer another commitment to peacekeeping and disaster relief and a promise to increase foreign aid every year (given their track record, we aren’t holding our breath on that one).

It looks, in fact, like Canadians aren’t going to get a robust debate on foreign affairs in this election campaign. Both major parties, for their own reasons, don’t have much to say at a time when the world is getting way more dangerous.

Online: https://www.thestar.com


Sept. 30

The Washington Post on the aftermath of the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi:

Jamal Khashoggi never intended to be a dissident. For many years, he wrote for and edited newspapers in Saudi Arabia, and he served as an aide in Saudi embassies in Washington and London. What prompted him to leave the kingdom, and to begin writing columns for The Post, was the sharp increase in domestic repression under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman _ the “fear, intimidation, arrests and public shaming of intellectuals and religious leaders who dare to speak their minds,” as Khashoggi put it in his first Post op-ed, in September 2017.

For the next year, the then-58-year-old journalist jousted with the then-32-year-old Saudi ruler in the pages of The Post and on the Internet, where Khashoggi was assailed by the troll army controlled by Mohammed bin Salman’s top aide. Khashoggi challenged the crown prince not just on his persecution of critics, which he described as bound to undermine the new regime’s ambitions to modernize and revitalize the country. His columns also argued against Mohammed bin Salman’s reckless regional agenda _ especially the war in Yemen, which the crown prince had launched while serving as defense minister. Khashoggi denounced the attempt to suppress democracy and free expression throughout the Middle East and to exclude Islamist parties from politics _ a drive that was largely sponsored by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Khashoggi’s ability to wage this debate ended on Oct. 2, 2018. On that day, our columnist walked into the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, where he was quickly suffocated and his body dismembered by a team of 15 dispatched from Riyadh for that purpose. According to the CIA, Mohammed bin Salman almost certainly ordered the murder; a U.N. investigation also held him responsible. In one sense, he succeeded: Khashoggi’s trenchant columns no longer appear in The Post, while the crown prince and his closest aide, Saud al-Qahtani, who oversaw the operation, have escaped justice. President Trump, who embraced the young dictator as a close ally, quickly excused the crime, and Mr. Trump and his allies have blocked attempts in Congress to hold the regime accountable. During two interviews broadcast this week, Mohammed bin Salman disingenuously said he accepted full “responsibility” for the killing while denying any personal involvement in it _ a lie that only those wishing to excuse him will accept.

And yet, the story of Khashoggi and Mohammed bin Salman is not over. The warnings the journalist sounded _ often cast almost as friendly advice to the crown prince _ have proved prescient. A year later, the Saudi regime continues to suffer the consequences of its persecution of opponents _ especially women seeking greater rights _ and its ill-conceived intervention in Yemen. Khashoggi warned that the persecution of activists would backfire, and it has; the regime is universally vilified by human rights groups, and Mohammed bin Salman has become a pariah in Western capitals. ...

Mohammed bin Salman’s policies are carrying him toward a dead end _ maybe even a precipitous crash. Mr. Trump, mired in scandal and preoccupied with his reelection campaign, is unlikely to do much to help him. The crown prince might still rescue himself, but only if he finally heeds the advice Khashoggi offered him: Release female activists and other political prisoners and punish those who tortured them; end the war in Yemen; allow peaceful critics like Khashoggi to come home and speak freely. Last but not least, the crown prince should stop offering half-truths and accept full responsibility for ordering the murder.

We don’t expect that to happen anytime soon. But we believe history will show that our lost friend and colleague Jamal Khashoggi was on the right side of the debate that Mohammed bin Salman thought, mistakenly, he could win with a bone saw.

Online: https://www.washingtonpost.com


Sept. 30

The Wall Street Journal on the 70th anniversary of China’s 1949 revolution:

China’s Communist Party on Tuesday marks the 70th anniversary of its 1949 revolution, and the fireworks and military parades will celebrate the country’s rise to become the world’s second largest economy. Yet there is no denying that this anniversary comes with a paradoxical unease about China’s place in the world. China is more powerful but less free than it was a decade ago and the world views its external aggression with growing concern.

China’s rise since Deng Xiaoping set the Party on the path of market reform 40 years ago has few historical parallels. China has taken advantage of open markets in the West, and the lure of its domestic market of 1.4 billion people to foreign investors, to lift hundreds of millions out of poverty and become an export and increasingly a technology behemoth. The U.S. and the world have for the most part benefited from this development. Imagine the alternative if China had remained stagnant and its people sought to emigrate in the millions.

For a time, even after the massacre at Tiananmen Square, it seemed possible that China might also evolve to tolerate more political freedom. Lawyers were allowed to represent dissidents and more religious worship was tolerated. Tens of thousands of Chinese educated abroad returned home with a taste of economic and political freedom. The hope was that China might evolve, if not into a Western or Japanese democracy, perhaps into a state on the Singapore model of relatively tolerant and uncorrupt one-party rule.


Those hopes have been dashed, starting in the years of Hu Jintao and especially in the ascendancy of President Xi Jinping. At home, economic reforms have stalled as the Party maintains political control over finance and refuses to reform state-owned industries. Donald Trump’s policies have exposed a vulnerability in China’s export-dependent economic model that relies too much on theft and predatory behavior against foreign companies. Beijing must impose currency controls to stop capital flight by Chinese who want a safe haven abroad.

This retrenchment in economic reform has coincided with increasingly draconian political control at home. Self-confident regimes don’t jail human-rights lawyers, crack down on churches or create a Great Firewall and employ tens of thousands of censors to control the internet. Most horrifying has been the effort to eliminate the culture and religion of the Uighur Muslim population in the western region of Xinjiang. The use of AI and facial recognition to control the public calls to mind Orwell’s nightmare of state control.

Then there is China’s attempt to dominate the Asia-Pacific, often by bullying its weaker neighbors. It has illegally occupied islands in the South China Sea and turned them into de facto military bases. Its burgeoning navy harasses foreign ships in international waters. The attempt to renege on China’s promise of autonomy for Hong Kong fits the pattern. Even its use of soft power via its Belt and Road initiative comes with the catch of excessive debt that has left China in control of foreign ports.

Many Chinese leaders, and citizens who see only state-controlled media, view all of this as the return of the Middle Kingdom to its rightful prominence in global affairs. After two centuries of internal upheaval and subjugation by foreign powers, they believe China will dominate the 21st century as America recedes amid its democratic chaos and cultural decline.

But Chinese leaders also know that their behavior is producing a global backlash that they should not underestimate. Mr. Trump’s policy reflects a new bipartisan American consensus that China’s economic abuses must be confronted. The last three U.S. administrations have worked to build a loose alliance of states, notably Japan and India, to counter Chinese military power. This will not change no matter who is U.S. President in 2021.


We are not among those who believe that China’s economy must be decoupled from America’s or that China must be “contained” a la the Soviet Union. At least not yet. China’s economy can’t be sent into recession without damaging consequences for American workers and companies. The U.S. needs to co-exist with a rising China, cooperating when it makes sense but pushing back when China violates global norms. This will be the great test of statesmanship for a generation or more.

Yet how this drama turns out will depend more on how China’s ruling Communist Party behaves. The Party’s legitimacy depends on economic growth that will be harder to sustain as it must innovate to prosper. The rest of the world will no longer let China steal its way to dominance, and it will not passively allow the Indo-Pacific to become part of a modern Chinese dynasty. China will prosper more if it plays by the rules of world order.

The Party’s larger challenge is the aspirations of its own people. The attempt to craft a hybrid part-market, part-socialist economy has saddled China with rampant corruption, endemic pollution and unsafe food. Worse is coming as the one-child policy the Party enforced for decades burdens China with a rapidly aging population.

Perhaps the Party can use the modern tools of state surveillance and control to maintain power for years to come. No one should assume that the Party’s fall is imminent. But we also know from history that authoritarians often seem stronger than they are. The Party’s insistence on total political control may be the seed of its undoing.

Online: https://www.wsj.com


Sept. 27

The New York Times on a decision from the Trump Administration to decrease the number of refugees admitted to the United States:

President Trump’s latest assault on immigration, cutting the number of refugees accepted to a mere 18,000 from 30,000 last year, is better than the complete ban that some of his aides were seeking. But looking at mere numbers misses the point.

This is the administration’s latest message to anyone dreaming of a freer life in America: that they should just stay away. The Trump administration has systematically acted to bar as many refugees and asylum seekers as possible, virtually from its first day, supplanting America’s traditional welcome to the world’s desperate people with a spirit of xenophobia and bigotry.

Led by Stephen Miller, a zealot who has planted lieutenants throughout the government, the Trump White House has made its anti-immigration campaign something akin to a crusade, with “the wall” along the Mexican border as its symbol.

The administration has tried to scare away Central Americans by separating children from their parents when families arrive at the border seeking asylum; it threatened to end “temporary protected status” for people escaping natural and other disasters in a number of countries, including Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan; it suspended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which let undocumented immigrants who arrived here as children stay and work; it has dramatically deported immigrants without regard for their ties to family and community; and it has enacted a system that would prevent migrants from seeking asylum if they passed through another country without first seeking asylum there.

Any question about the mind-set guiding the administration should have been put to rest by President Trump’s icy explanation to reporters earlier this month for why he was barring residents of the hurricane-battered Bahamas from taking refuge in the United States.

“I don’t want to allow people that weren’t supposed to be in the Bahamas to come into the United States, including some very bad people and some very bad gang members, and some very, very bad drug dealers,” he said. He offered not a shred of proof of any such danger, while the shattering evidence of Bahamians’ needs still lies everywhere.

The limit announced by the State Department on Thursday (Sept. 26) is far below the 110,000 refugees a year that President Barack Obama said in 2016 should be let in. Most of the 18,000 slots, moreover, are already filled by Iraqis who worked with the American military, victims of religious persecution and some Central Americans. That would leave only 7,500 slots for families seeking unification, like parents of Rohingya children who have already been admitted.

The proffered reason for the cut was the huge backlog in immigration courts as the number of people seeking asylum is expected to reach 350,000. Most refugees trying to enter the United States, though, have already been cleared. So it’s not immediately clear how lowering the annual limit will help ease the backlog.

There are enormous backlogs, and the United States cannot let in everyone who wants to come. But the severity of the cutbacks makes clear that the administration’s rationale hides its real motive: to score political points with a base of voters fearful of immigration by seeming to keep out as many people as possible.

This shortsighted politicking denies a fundamental virtue _ and key advantage _ of America’s democracy: that it is a land of immigrants and refugees. It ignores the contributions of immigrants to the greatness of the United States.

There is no sensible argument for opening the borders to everyone. Any refugee or asylum program needs a solid vetting process. But Mr. Trump’s approach is not the answer. Congress should have stepped in long ago with serious immigration reform. But that failure is no reason for Americans to be taken in by Mr. Trump’s fear-mongering and evasive explanation

Online: https://www.nytimes.com