- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 27, 2008



The Austin (Texas) American-Statesman, on the SEC and Bernard Madoff:
… How did the Securities and Exchange Commission, which ballooned in staff and budget after the Enron scandal, ignore years of complaints about Bernard Madoff and evidence that the returns he claimed were impossible? Clearly, the SEC is a broken, failed agency. Can anything be done to prevent the next Enron or Madoff?

President-elect Barack Obama is trying by naming Mary L. Schapiro to be the next chair of the SEC. She is a former SEC commissioner and is executive director of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. She knows the landscape well.

Obama promised that Schapiro and Gary Gensler, his new chairman of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, will bring new rigor to Wall Street oversight. Obama said there would be new, more stringent rules and more protection for investors.

We hope he’s right. Wall Street has been out of control for years, bundling questionable assets and reselling them for ever-higher prices, awarding executives billions in bonuses and speeding through every warning sign of trouble until the bubble burst and the nation was brought low. And the SEC, for its part, slept through it all.

The Times, London, on the pope:
In his end-of-year address to the Curia, Pope Benedict decried modern society’s blurring of gender roles. He also urged the defense of heterosexuality - a cause that he likened in importance to preserving the rain forests from destruction.

The Pope was justified in his criticism of “gender theory,” though the target is obscure and represents more an error than a threat. But in depicting homosexual relations as a threat to the natural order of creation, he is wrong. His remarks inflame rather than inform theological reflection on the intractable issues of human sexuality. And the nature and timing of his intervention detract from the reflective character of his Christian witness.

On other issues, the Pope has shown himself commendably willing to reflect critically on the Church’s role in history and society. He has marked the forthcoming 400th anniversary of Galileo’s confirmation of Copernican astronomy - conclusions that later earned Galileo condemnation by the Roman Inquisition. The Pope has also argued that Martin Luther was a church reformer rather than a heretic. And the Pope has advanced dialogue with Muslim scholars, mending the damage from his apparent criticism in 2006 of Islam as hostile to reason.

Yet on matters of gender and sexuality, the Pope shows reluctance to move beyond superstition and to embrace tolerance.

The Blade, Toledo, Ohio, on Chrysler and General Motors:
There were sighs of relief at Chrysler and General Motors. … President Bush had decided to extend up to $17.4 billion in loans to the stricken automakers.

That was appropriate; as Mr. Bush noted, a collapse of those two companies would have seriously worsened the nation’s economic crisis. But if anyone thinks this solves the industry’s problems, they are sadly mistaken. The hard part actually begins now. … Chrysler, General Motors, and the UAW have until March 31 to prove they have what it takes to live to fight another day.

Asahi Shimbun, Tokyo, Japan, on the economy:
With a third of its work force hired as irregular employees, this recession has hit Japan’s new labor environment hard. Companies view such employees as adjustment valves, and fire them with little thought. In such an environment, an economic downturn has an immediate and major impact on employment as has never been seen before. …

Three opposition parties, including Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan), have submitted and passed an emergency employment bill in the Upper House, but amazingly, Prime Minister Taro Aso and the ruling coalition are bent on burying this in the Lower House.

Many features of the bill are similar to what the government has already proposed, like making public housing and financial aid available to those who’ve lost their jobs and homes.

The ruling parties brush off the bill as “opposition grandstanding.” …

However, the important thing here is speed and the ability to move with alacrity to implement security measures so that the newly jobless can receive relief quickly. …

There are still a few more days until the current Diet session closes.

We urge the prime minister to forego … seek cooperation from the opposition parties and promote whatever legislation is necessary for emergency job security measures.

The Journal Times, Racine, Wis., on President-elect Barack Obama’s selection of Rev. Rick Warren to deliver his inaugural invocation:
Listening to the ruckus Rick Warren’s name has kicked up in the gay-rights community, you’d think President-elect Barack Obama had just appointed him attorney general.

Or secretary of health and human services.

Or even surgeon general.

All of those offices hold significant sway in an administration. Appointees to each of those federal positions could affect the lives of gay Americans for the next four or even eight years.

Warren wasn’t chosen to fill any of those roles. What makes the outrage so ridiculous is he was simply chosen to give the invocation at Obama’s inauguration. His impact on the Obama presidency will last a matter of minutes, and it will be over before the new leader is even seated in the Oval Office.

Gay-rights advocates have somehow leapt to the conclusion that, with this decision, Obama has made a conscious choice to push them aside. Really? Has the over-politicizing of this country gone so far that the choice of clergy at a ceremonial function dictates the path of the nation? …

This is yet another frustrating diversion from the issues confronting the nation and its newly elected leader. The seemingly endless campaign and its petty bickering provided enough diversions.

Chicago Tribune, on torture:
There were no great surprises in the new Senate committee report blaming President Bush and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for the brutal treatment of enemy captives in the war on terror. The bipartisan panel traced the abuses in Guantanamo, Afghanistan and Iraq to high-level approval of coercive methods that had previously been off-limits. …

But the report falls lamentably short. It reminds us of one danger in moments of national crisis - the urge to overreact. What it omits is a danger that appears only after the crisis has subsided - the tendency to forget the urgency that policymakers legitimately felt at the time.

You would never know from the committee’s findings that even Democrats in Congress were not terribly concerned about protecting suspected terrorists back in 2002, when many of the fateful decisions were made. …

But the administration officials who made these mistakes were not acting out of idle sadism. They were trying to do the difficult job of protecting Americans from shadowy, vicious killers. Former CIA Director George Tenet has written that one “could not sit where I did and read what passed across my desk on a daily basis and be anything other than scared to death about what it portended.”

Seven years after the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history, it’s easy to forget that the danger was as real as it was elusive. And it’s easy to forget that some of the detainees who were abused provided valuable information.

Was the price worth it? In hindsight, probably not. But that’s easier to say now than it was then.

The Toronto Star, on the holidays:
The holidays can be a tough time for those who are poor or alone in the world. They’re also especially difficult for those who’ve tragically lost a loved one this year, such as Canadian Forces families.

If you know someone like this, it’s not too late to reach out and let them know they’re not alone. … If you’re surrounded by plenty this year and moved to help others, so much the better. The needs of the poor are most noticeable during a time of abundance from lavishly laid dinner tables to stacks of presents under trees, but their needs remain all year.

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