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Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials

August 13, 2014

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


August 10

The Daily News, Bowling Green, Kentucky, on borders:

It’s no secret our southern border is in chaos with all of the illegal immigrants coming into this country and not nearly enough is being done about it.

President Barack Obama has done nothing but turn a blind eye to the situation. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said with a straight face that our southern border is secure. The only person who has shown any type of leadership on the issue is Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who has sent 1,000 National Guard troops to the border.

Individuals are subject to arrest, prosecution and jail time when they commit crimes while being in our country illegally.

Some serve their time before they’re deported and pay a minimal fine. Others just vanish into the population only to defy our laws once again.

Once these lawbreakers serve time, they cause a major problem by coming back - illegally - again. Some commit violent crimes when they return.

The latest such example involves the murder of a U.S. border agent in Texas. Two illegal immigrants, Gustavo Tijerina, 30, and Ismael Hernandez, 40, are charged with the first-degree murder of border patrol agent Javier Vega Jr.

They have confessed to killing Vega, who was off duty when he was murdered by these two thugs.

The fact Vega was murdered by these men is a tragedy, but the fact they showed no mercy in killing him in front of his family shows what ruthless, uncaring people they are.

They wouldn’t have been here to kill Vega if this country had secure borders as Reid attests.

What is so outrageous about this case, besides the murder of a U.S. citizen, is the fact that they both men have extensive records of being deported and again illegally entering our country.

Tijerina has been jailed and deported on four separate occasions dating back to 2007 prior to this murder. The first three times he was in jail, he paid a $10 fine for breaking our laws. On Dec. 15, 2009, Tijerina was indicted by a grand jury on charges of entering the U.S. illegally yet again by crossing the Rio Grande River.

Is something wrong with this picture?

Hernandez had been deported twice.

It is quite clear these two men have no respect for our laws or human life. Those who respect our laws and want to come to this country to reside don’t tunnel their way in, jump fences or use whatever means they can. They go through the proper legal channels to enter our country.

The U.S. public still hasn’t received adequate answers on that tragedy from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

Obama, Holder and Reid obviously don’t care what is occurring on our southern border. Their inaction is proof of that.




August 8

The Post-Intelligencer, Paris, Tennessee, on U.S. stance in Iraq:

Is it right to kill in order to prevent greater killing?

A “yes” answer to that question was behind the atomic bomb decision that ended World War II. It is a common dilemma for those who can order troops into battle.

Now President Barack Obama has authorized “targeted airstrikes” if they are needed to protect the lives of Americans in Iraq. The president also approved airdrops of food and water to religious minority groups who are trapped on an Iraqi mountaintop by Islamic militants.

“Today, America is coming to help,” is how Obama put it.

Calling the airstrikes “targeted” makes them sound precise, almost surgically clean. But bombing, like any tactic of warfare, is never clean. It’s always a messy business, and we can be prepared for repercussions.

The Obama decision marks a significant escalation of U.S. involvement, one which the president has been pondering for weeks. But he took pains to assure us that it’s not the first step toward a new ground war in Iraq.

U.S. congressional leaders of both parties expressed support for Obama’s action.

On Thursday, USA Today reported, three low-flying U.S. military cargo planes dropped meals and water to trapped civilians facing dehydration and starvation. They were escorted by two fighter jets.

Civilians trapped on the mountaintop apparently were trying to reach a Kurdish region to the north.

Airstrikes will depend on whether militants directly threaten U.S. personnel and facilities, Obama said.

The U.S. decision to act points to the growing strength of militants in the region. The political entity known as the Islamic State has become “a formidable force,” one military analyst said.




August 12

Kansas City Star on Michael Brown:

The scenes and reports coming out of Ferguson and some of the other hardscrabble parts of north St. Louis County are ugly and surreal, like something happening in another time or a different part of the world.

This urban swath of Missouri has suddenly come to resemble a military zone, as heavily armed riot police face off against civilians, many of whom stand their ground with hands in the air and rage on their faces.

The fury that began on Saturday when a Ferguson police officer shot an unarmed teenager, 18-year-old Michael Brown, has manifested itself in demonstrations in the days since.

Some looting and vandalism have occurred, which only serve to detract from the urgent need to find out what happened.

But police must not make a bad situation worse. Reports of officers using tear gas and rubber bullets on citizens who were doing nothing more than trying to make their way home are extremely concerning. Police in Ferguson and north St. Louis County have a lot of hard work ahead to repair relations with citizens. They need to keep the peace and protect people’s property but with the least show of force required.

Also very worrisome are continued demands to name the police officer who shot Brown. An Internet vigilante group on Tuesday threatened to release information about the whereabouts of family members of the Ferguson police chief if the name of the officer continued to be withheld.

It is true that Michael Brown had no choice but to be named as the latest unarmed young black man to be killed by a law enforcement officer. But the quest for justice in his name will not be served by further violence. The identity of the police officer will come out in due course; right now the volatility of the situation justifies the decision to withhold it.

Brown, a recent high school graduate, is being described by his teachers at Normandy High School as a “gentle giant.” He was to have started classes at a technical college on Monday.

Based on reflections by people who knew him, there is little in Brown’s background to square with the accusation offered by Ferguson police that he reached into a police cruiser and struggled for the officer’s gun. Brown’s companion has offered a disturbing version of events that portrays the officer as the aggressor. Whatever the truth, it is safe to say that Brown should not have died on Saturday.

There is little reason now for Brown’s family or many people anguishing over his death to express faith in the rule of law. But it is the best hope for recourse that we have in America. Attorneys with the civil rights division of the U.S. Justice Department are working with the FBI on an investigation separate from a probe underway by the St. Louis County police. If Brown’s death was as unprovoked as his companion’s account suggests, the officer involved must be brought to trial.

Meanwhile, we must listen to the people who have raised their hands in solidarity with Michael Brown. He is not an isolated incident but yet another symbol of the indignities and dangers that black people continue to face in America. The nation ignores those voices at its peril.




August 12

Orange County Register, Santa Ana, California, on more jobs being available, but paying less:

Two new reports are out this week that, taken together, provide a pretty good picture of how the U.S. labor force has fared since the economic recovery began in June 2009.

On Monday, the U.S. Conference of Mayors released a report, prepared by IHS Global Insight, noting that U.S. payroll employment reached an all-time high this spring, finally surpassing the prerecession peak of 138.4 million jobs, reached in the first quarter of 2008.

Then, the Labor Department reported Tuesday that there were 4.7 million job openings on the last business day in June, not only a slight uptick from May, but also the highest number of openings in 13 years.

If the reports stopped there, it would be cause for celebration, from Orange County, California, to Orange County, Florida. But, as a wise man famously advised, all that glitters is not gold.

Indeed, the Conference of Mayors report laments that jobs gained during the economic recovery pay an average 23 percent less than jobs lost during the so-called Great Recession.

The annual wage was $61,637 in sectors where jobs were lost in the economic downturn, which began in December 2007, while the average wage of new jobs gained through the second quarter of this year was only $47,171. “This wage gap,” said the report, “represents $93 billion in lost wages.”

As to the Labor Department’s monthly report on Job Openings and Labor Turnover - known as JOLTS - it has been held out by Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen as an important barometer of the state of the nation’s job market.

Continued strength in the next several JOLTS reports could portend a move by the Fed to ratchet up short-term interest rates, which would be most welcomed by inflation hawks, who complain that the nation’s central bank has kept short-term rates too low for too long.

But Ms. Yellen and the Fed’s board of governors are not strictly looking at job openings. They also are looking at the number of workers who voluntarily quit jobs and the number of workers hired.

Indeed, when workers voluntarily leave their employers, it usually means they have found better - usually higher-paying - jobs. That’s a sign of a dynamic labor market. Similarly, when that nation’s employers are competing with each other to hire workers to fill job openings, it’s a sign of robust economic growth.

In June, some 2.53 million workers quit a job, the most since June 2008.

Meanwhile, some 4.8 million Americans were hired in June.

Regrettably, that quit rate was a mere 1.8 percent in June, which is trending somewhat upward, but remains at a historically low level. And, while monthly hires are trending in the right direction, they have yet to return to prerecession levels.

So, American workers are to be forgiven if they are not especially bullish about the nation’s labor market. After five years of putative economic recovery, they almost certainly expected more.




August 13

The Star-Ledger on the CIA:

The forthcoming release of the Senate committee report on the CIA’s pointless use of torture will likely accomplish two things: It will illuminate how the agency is even more lawless than its reputation, and it will put its beleaguered director in the cross hairs of reformers.

And what happens after the nation gasps and turns to Jimmy Kimmel?

John Brennan, a North Bergen native who has served the last three presidents, apologized last week for five CIA employees hacking the computers of Senate staffers investigating the agency - after he had denied the charge for six months.

Yet even if that skullduggery was done with the CIA director’s approval, it should be noted that such deceit isn’t as serious as the torture of detainees and years of lying about it, but it would be a mild surprise if Congress focuses on the felony.

Indeed, the hacking matter is something the Justice Department must explore.

But the larger issue is whether an oversight authority will allow a deranged bloc of the intelligence community - all 17 agencies, but especially the CIA - to carry on with the same impunity it enjoyed when it treated humans with the regard normally reserved for lab rats.

President Obama, who banned torture on his second day in office, says he understood why it happened in the aftermath of 9/11. But that validates torture as a moral contingency, and misses the point: The practice went on throughout the Bush years, with no consequences for those responsible.

Will there even be an outcry when the 6,300-page report reveals how CIA brutality yielded nothing?

Rep. Rush Holt (D-12th Dist.), the former chair of the erstwhile Select Intelligence Oversight Panel who speaks with the candor of a man leaving Congress, is dubious: “This report will be seismic only if it leads to the kind of oversight that reins in the CIA,” he said.

“I’m not sure it will get that far. First, it’s easy for the CIA to operate above the law if they don’t think the law applies. And outside of a small segment that finds their actions reprehensible, few people express their disgust, so their representatives won’t find the strength to exert oversight.”

Sure, the president may sack Brennan, who says he was out of the loop in the torture era. But as Holt asserts, “The intelligence agencies are constrained only by their imagination ... and firing one director doesn’t (change) that.”

The Church Committee probe into CIA activity had it right in 1975: “Intelligence agencies have undermined the constitutional rights of citizens,” it concluded,” primarily because checks and balances designed by the framers of the Constitution to assure accountability have not been applied.” Four decades later, we’re still waiting.




August 13

The Australian on lessons learned from mistakes in Iraq:

MILITARY victories, former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger wrote in his memoir White House Years, can be meaningless “unless they brought about a political reality that could survive our ultimate withdrawal”. That argument still resonates strongly as the US and its allies, including Australia, decide on the most effective humanitarian intervention to prevent genocide in northern Iraq. Some victories, especially in dangerous and strategically important regions, need to be defended for years or decades. This is why, for example, the US still has 28,000 troops in South Korea 60 years after the Korean War.

Four years ago, as Barack Obama was drawing down U.S. forces from Iraq, Dr. Kissinger warned against leaving a vacuum in the region. Iraq was central to the West’s conflict with revolutionary jihad, he wrote. That risk was heightened, he noted, by the tensions between the Shiite and Sunni groups and the tenuous position of Iraq’s Kurdish provinces, resting uneasily between Turkey and Iran.

George W. Bush’s administration made bad blunders in Iraq, including justifying its 2003 invasion on the grounds of weapons of mass destruction, disbanding the Iraqi Army in its haste to expunge all traces of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist regime and claiming victory prematurely. Unfortunately, however, Obama’s error of judgment has had longer term, disastrous consequences. The President helped create the conditions for the current horror when he ignored the advice of the US Army’s senior commander in Iraq, General Lloyd Austin, in 2011. General Austin advised Obama to leave 14,000 to 18,000 troops on the ground in Iraq to defend hard-won gains and provide stability. In brushing such professional advice aside, Obama allowed the defeated terrorists to regroup. Even his former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, who reportedly favored leaving a substantial residual force, is scathing about aspects of the President’s strategic policies, especially his amateurish “don’t do stupid stuff” motto. As she said this week: “Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.”

Tony Abbott is right in offering Australian support, including assigning troops if necessary, to help the Yazidi community besieged by Islamic State jihadists in northern Iraq. And the West, including Australia, should not ignore the monstrous persecution, including the beheading of children, being wrought against Christians in Mosul. But beyond providing humanitarian assistance and building good relations with moderate Islamic leaders, the West cannot resolve the deep splits between extremist Islamists currently unfolding in Iraq and Syria.

In a century or more, however, when the history of these conflicts is written and the role of the West analyzed, it is reasonable to believe historians will conclude that much bloodshed could have been avoided if Obama had not retreated in haste while lauding a US “victory”. The same errors must be avoided in Afghanistan.



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