Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials

Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:

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Jan. 15

The Des Moines Register on Congressman Steve King:

Congressman Steve King should resign. He has lost even the potential to effectively represent his Iowa constituents because of his abhorrent comments about white nationalism and white supremacy.

The move by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to strip King of his committee assignments leaves Iowa without a seat on the vital House Agriculture Committee, as well as judiciary. It also leaves King with far less opportunity to work for his constituents on critically important rural development issues.

Not that King has seemed particularly interested in working for his district in recent years. Instead of holding town-hall meetings with his constituents, King spent many congressional breaks globe-trotting to Europe and hobnobbing with hard-right, nationalist leaders. These meetings apparently served to reinforce his own warped views of cultural purity and immigration.

King has often made Iowa a laughing stock on the national stage with his offensive and absurd remarks about undocumented immigrants, comparing them to dogs or disparaging them as drug mules with calves the size of cantaloupes.

But it wasn't until a few weeks before the November election that top national Republicans and corporate donors started to abandon King. That was just after the mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. It also was just after it had been revealed that King spent time on a trip funded by a Holocaust memorial organization to meet with a far-right Austrian group associated with neo-Nazis. Meanwhile, King had been under fire for tweeting his support for a Toronto mayoral candidate known for white nationalist views.

We don't make the argument that King should resign lightly, or based on partisan preferences. He was duly re-elected to a ninth term in November by voters who had every opportunity to recognize the Kiron Republican's caustic, racially charged ideology related to immigration. King opened the new year by seeming to recognize a need to spend more time in Iowa: He announced a town-hall meeting in each of his district's 39 counties.

But then, apparently in an effort to claim credit for President Trump's border-wall plans, he gave the New York Times what should be a career-ending quote: "White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?" King said to the Times. "Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?"

He has since tried to walk back the comments, claiming the quote was taken out of context and denouncing white nationalism and white supremacy. But to no avail: National Republicans and even staunch GOP supporters in Iowa — Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst and Gov. Kim Reynolds — have expressed disgust at his original remarks.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said if King doesn't understand why "white supremacy" was offensive, he should "find another line of work." We agree. He may as well mail a cardboard cutout of himself to Washington for all he'll be able to accomplish if no one is willing to work with him.

Some may argue that 4th District voters are getting what they deserve. But the entire state needs a healthy rural economy, including in King's district, to grow and thrive. President Trump's tariffs are a drag on farmers already buffeted by five years of low commodity prices. Iowa needs all of its delegation members working together to push for policies that will help.

Two Republicans, state Sen. Randy Feenstra of Hull and businessman Bret Richards of Irwin, have said they plan to run in the GOP primary. A third GOP candidate is likely to announce plans soon. But that would leave a quarter of Iowa's population without effective representation for two years. If King steps aside, it would be up to Governor Reynolds to schedule a special election for the seat.

We don't expect King to listen to us. But maybe he would listen to Grassley, Ernst, Reynolds and Republicans in his district. They should encourage him to step aside for the good of the Republican Party and, more importantly, for the good of Iowa.

Online: http://www.desmoinesregister.com

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Jan. 15

The Washington Post on comments from Attorney General nominee William Barr:

"In the current environment, the American people have to know that there are places in the government where the rule of law, not politics, holds sway," William P. Barr said on Tuesday. "The Department of Justice must be such a place."

That was an important and reassuring message from President Trump's nominee to be attorney general, who spent the day answering questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee. Mr. Barr, who served as attorney general once before, under president George H.W. Bush in the early 1990s, is a conservative Republican with views that not every American will embrace. But he came across as highly qualified and committed to the traditions, procedures and mores of the Justice Department.

Mr. Barr expressed confidence in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, pledged to ensure the Russia probe would not be undermined without good cause and said he would seek to release as much information as possible about Mr. Mueller's findings. He also promised to prioritize securing U.S. elections.

Much of the hearing centered on a memo Mr. Barr sent last June to Justice Department officials, in which he argued that Mr. Trump's firing of FBI Director James B. Comey should not be construed as obstruction of justice. Mr. Barr's expansive view of presidential deference is concerning, but in his testimony he limited the extent of that deference. He insisted that the president would be guilty of obstruction if he coerced someone to change testimony, suborned perjury or tampered with evidence. Mr.?Barr said he would not stand by and watch the president fire a prosecutor in order to end a legitimate investigation. Presidential tampering in the administration of justice on behalf of personal interests would be "a breach of his constitutional duties" and "an abuse of power," he said.

At times, Mr. Barr seemed slightly out-of-time. He admitted ignorance of recent changes in electronic surveillance law. He defended his get-tough-on-crime past promoting stiff sentences in the early 1990s, and in the process appeared to claim that racial disparities in the justice system are less of a problem than many experts believe. But he said Congress was right to reassess harsh sentencing laws last year in the First Step Act, which he promised to faithfully apply.

Similarly, he sympathized with former attorney general Jeff Sessions' permissive attitude toward overseeing local police departments. He nevertheless insisted that the Justice Department still has a role in policing "pattern or practice" problems among local authorities. He should keep that in mind as he reviews the justice system's record on racial equity.

Mr. Barr decried the confusing and unsettled state of marijuana policy in the United States, but he pledged no crackdown on those who have followed looser state laws and the Obama administration's policy of noninterference. He repeatedly insisted that more barriers are needed on the southern border, but that is hardly surprising from a Trump nominee.

"I can be truly independent," Mr. Barr declared Tuesday. The Senate should quickly confirm him and hold him to that pledge.

Online: http://www.washingtonpost.com

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Jan. 14

The Toronto Star on a Chinese court resentencing a Canadian man to death in a sudden retrial of a drug-smuggling case:

How serious is China about putting Canada in its place over the Huawei affair? In the words of legal scholar Donald Clarke, it's deadly serious — quite literally.

That's the only conclusion that can be drawn in the wake of the death sentence pronounced with extraordinary haste on a Canadian citizen convicted of drug smuggling in China.

Everything we know about the case points to this most recent development being yet another escalation by China in its campaign of retaliation for Canada's arrest of a senior executive of telecom giant Huawei in Vancouver as a result of an extradition request by U.S. authorities.

Almost immediately after the executive, Meng Wanzhou, was arrested the Chinese arbitrarily detained two Canadians on suspicion of endangering China's national security, without presenting any evidence of such crimes.

Now a Chinese court has passed a death sentence on another Canadian, Robert Schellenberg, whose case has been slowly wending its way through the judicial system there for more than four years.

There had been no publicity around that case, but now that Canada and China are locked in their bitter dispute over the arrest of Meng, it has been vaulted into the public eye.

Schellenberg was sentenced to 15 years in prison in November, but at the end of December a Chinese court sent his case back for retrial. The customary legal delays magically vanished; within mere hours this week Schellenberg had his new trial and the harshest possible sentence was pronounced: death.

Unusually, foreign journalists were invited to witness the process, presumably to get the word out and make a point.

And in the context of the dispute between Beijing and Ottawa, that message is unmistakable: China will do whatever it takes to push back against the arrest of one of its citizens and the threat to Huawei, its premier international tech champion, legal niceties be damned. That includes holding the threat of execution over a Canadian citizen, presumably as another bargaining chip for an eventual negotiated settlement of the dispute.

In short, concludes Clarke, an expert on Chinese law, in the online national security journal Lawfare, it all reinforces the message that "China views the holding of human hostages as an acceptable way to conduct diplomacy."

This at least has the merits of dropping all pretense about legality and due process, as was the completely over-the-top commentary published last week by China's ambassador to Canada, Lu Shaye. In the Hill Times, he cut to the chase and blamed "Western egotism and white supremacy" for criticism about the detention of the two Canadians seized in clear retaliation for the arrest of Meng.

Unlike Meng, who had a public hearing before being released on bail to the comfort of her Vancouver home, they languish in Chinese jails without clear charges or regular access to legal and consular help. Yet, according to the Chinese ambassador's logic, only "white supremacy" can explain the push-back against their detention.

Right from the start of this sorry affair, it's been clear that Canada is caught between two giants — the United States, whose justice department's case against Meng is frankly questionable, and China, which sees all this as a test of political and economic strength, not a legal issue of right and wrong.

Canada has no choice but to honour its extradition treaty with Washington and let the case take its course in Canadian courts. Meng will get all the advantages of due process, something the Canadians detained in China will not enjoy.

Eventually, though, the cases will likely be resolved as part of a new understanding on trade issues between Washington and Beijing. In the meantime, the true nature of China's thoroughly politicized legal system is being laid bare for all to see.

Online: https://www.thestar.com

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Jan. 15

USA Today on President Donald Trump's nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency:

"Drain the swamp!" was one of those memorable Donald Trump campaign promises that remains unfulfilled, much like "Mexico will pay for the wall!" and "Repeal and replace Obamacare!" with "something terrific."

Unlike the latter two promises, there's little debate about the need to establish strong ethical standards for government. That makes Trump's failure to keep his swamp-draining pledge — highlighted by the Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday for a former coal industry lobbyist nominated to run the Environmental Protection Agency — all the more disturbing.

Nominee Andrew Wheeler became acting EPA administrator after his predecessor and former boss, Scott Pruitt, resigned in July amid a cloud of self-serving ethics scandals. Wheeler, 54, doesn't carry Pruitt's ethical baggage, but he has devoted himself to a disciplined rollback of environmental safeguards.

Wheeler is one of 188 former lobbyists working in the administration, according to ProPublica, and a fox-guarding-the-hen-house example of someone regulating an industry that once paid him handsomely.

Others include the acting secretary of the Interior, David Bernhardt, previously an influential lobbyist for the fossil fuel industry, and EPA senior attorney Erik Baptist, who used to work as a lobbyist and lawyer for the American Petroleum Institute.

Trump replaced President Barack Obama's ethics rules with a set he said were tougher, but which in fact allow for the liberal granting of waivers so that the swamp once again can fill with water.

Among Wheeler's consulting duties, according to the Project on Government Oversight, was hosting a fundraiser for key Republican Sen. John Barrasso, now the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. ...

After more than a decade working for the Senate's premier denier of human-caused climate change, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, Wheeler joined a consulting firm working against environmental restrictions on behalf of his top client, coal magnate Robert Murray.

"He's spent his career carrying out someone else's agenda," Joseph Goffman, executive director of Harvard Law School's environmental law program, says of Wheeler.

Since Wheeler joined EPA, first as deputy and then acting administrator, the agency has worked to roll back fuel efficiency standards on vehicles, ease greenhouse-gas restrictions on coal-burning power plants and, in December, rescind regulations that reduce coal-plant release of mercury and other poisons.

Given the Republican majority in the Senate and Trump's avid support, Wheeler's confirmation might be a foregone conclusion. But that doesn't mean senators can't use the confirmation hearing to press the nominee on a variety of important issues.

After all, Wheeler isn't a lobbyist anymore. If confirmed, he'll be in charge of implementing environmental laws designed to protect the quality of the air Americans breathe and the water they drink.

Moreover, history will judge him for what he did — or didn't do — to head off catastrophic impacts from human-induced climate change. A daily drumbeat of reports confirms that warming oceans, melting icecaps and rising sea levels are more likely to drown coastal swamps than to drain them.

Online: https://www.usatoday.com/

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Jan. 15

The Wall Street Journal on Democratic U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York supporting a 70 percent tax rate on income above $10 million:

By now readers have heard that progressive luminary Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC for groupies) supports a 70% top marginal tax rate, which she says will help finance a "green new deal." Higher taxes on the rich is the stock socialist answer on how to pay for any project, though a reminder arrived this week that soaking the wealthy will barely register as a down payment.

The Tax Foundation on Monday did Ms. Ocasio-Cortez the favor of taking her proposal seriously and asked: How much money would the government reap from a 70% tax rate on income above $10 million? Authors Kyle Pomerleau and Huaqun Li looked at two scenarios — one if the rate applied only to ordinary income like wages and interest, and another if it also applied to income from capital gains.

The best case scenario: a 70% rate would raise less than $300 billion in revenue over 10 years, which is less than half of the $700 billion that has been cited in press reports. Progressives aren't eager to put a price tag on the green new deal, which includes modest proposals like a universal jobs guarantee. But you can bet that ridding the economy of carbon will cost into the trillions of dollars.

A 70% top rate would generate even less revenue if extended to capital gains. Investors only pay when they realize gains by selling assets, and they are especially sensitive to tax rates when deciding whether to sell. High rates can leave money locked into a current asset instead of flowing to the next good idea.

When the Tax Foundation authors considered the effect on behavior and incentives — why bother with that extra investment if most of the money will go to government? — they found that a 70% top rate on all income would lose the government $63.5 billion over 10 years.

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez won't admit it, but she and her socialist friends will eventually have to go where the real money is: The middle class. That means higher tax rates on even modest wage earners; taxes on retirement savings like 401(k)s or college savings accounts.

Remember this the next time a Democrat or columnist who claims to be conservative says he'll finance a program by hitting the 1% of earners who already pay more than a third of America's income taxes. Sooner or later they're coming after you.

Online: https://www.wsj.com/

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Jan. 16

Houston Chronicle on an online system provided by the federal government to determine a job applicant's citizenship status:

Caught repeatedly in the exaggeration that thousands of terrorists enter the United States by illegally crossing the Mexican border, President Trump has returned to making another debunked assertion: Undocumented immigrants are stealing jobs from people born in this country.

It isn't true, but Trump is desperate to find a plausible reason for the government shutdown he engineered to get his border wall funded.

The stolen jobs canard was a staple for Trump during his 2016 election campaign. "They're taking our jobs," he said at a Phoenix rally. Trump resurrected the assertion last week in declaring a "crisis" at the border. "All Americans are hurt by illegal immigration," he said. "It strains public resources and drives down jobs and wages. Among those hardest hit are African-Americans and Hispanic Americans."

Trump gave a shout-out to the black and Hispanic communities because they are disproportionately poor. He wants people to believe workers in the country illegally are taking unskilled jobs that poor people want. Actually, studies show employers have a hard time filling low-wage jobs when there aren't immigrants to hire.

Vanda Felbab-Brown, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, explained in a 2017 study that undocumented workers typically do the unpleasant, back-breaking jobs — gutting fish, working on farms, performing yard work — that native-born workers aren't willing to do.

An Associated General Contractors survey last year showed Texas couldn't find enough construction site laborers partly because of Trump's immigration crackdown. "Construction has long had a much higher percentage of foreign-born workers than other industries," said AGC chief economist Kenneth D. Simonson.

Even if Trump were right about undocumented workers stealing jobs, building a border wall isn't the answer. He would have more success changing companies' hiring practices by dusting off his campaign promise to "strengthen and expand" the E-Verify system, which requires employers to use an online tool provided by the federal government to determine a job applicant's status.

Arizona has seen its number of unauthorized workers drop 33 percent below projections since it started using E-Verify in 2008, according to an analysis by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Yet only seven other states — Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah — require private companies to use E-Verify. Only 10 percent of U.S. employers are enrolled in the system.

Previous legislation that would require all states to use E-Verify has been opposed by critics who fear legal residents could fall victim to inaccurate or outdated immigration data that has been provided by the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and Social Security Administration. The possibility of E-Verify being hacked has also been raised.

Those valid issues should be addressed in any new legislation to expand E-Verify, but the system should be required in every state. E-Verify can help stop unscrupulous employers from exploiting immigrants who fear complaining about poor pay or working conditions will lead to their deportation. E-Verify puts the onus on employers to make sure their work force is legal or face penalties for not following the law.

As the U.S. cracks down on employers' use of undocumented workers, it should also look to broaden the ways immigrants can legally find work in our country. One way to begin would be for Congress to increase the number of H-2B temporary visas granted to seasonal and unskilled workers. That would help companies already struggling to find workers with the nation's unemployment rate at historically low levels. H-2B workers typically go back and forth across the border without seeking permanent residency.

The best answer to America's illegal immigration problem is comprehensive legislation that goes beyond unlawful border crossings to address the estimated 11.3 million people living in the country illegally.

Even under normal circumstances passing a comprehensive immigration bill has been next to impossible. Expanding E-Verify, however, shouldn't be as difficult. Trump wants it. Republicans have sponsored bills to do it. Democrats might come aboard if Trump gives up his quixotic quest for a border wall and makes legal residency for the Dreamers part of the bargain.

It's time to end the theatrics that led to the government shutdown. A wall where technology and more manpower would make more sense will do little to stem illegal border crossings and nothing to address the status of people who have lived here illegally for decades. Washington should start with E-Verify, then take the next step toward comprehensive immigration reform.

Online: https://www.houstonchronicle.com/

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