- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 4, 2009
The following are excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:

Chicago Tribune, on automatic pay raises for Congress: It used to be that members of Congress had to ask themselves if they deserved a pay raise before giving themselves one. …

That’s how it worked until 1989, when Congress came up with an even better way to reward itself for a job done medium well. Lawmakers now get automatic cost-of-living increases every year, unless they vote not to take them.

Not everyone in Congress thinks this is the way to do business. Some lawmakers refuse to accept midterm raises, returning the money to the U.S. Treasury or donating it to charity. Congress opted to forgo the raises several times during the 1990s and again in 2007. Sens. David Vitter (R-La.) and Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) have repeatedly sponsored measures to do away with automatic increases.

With layoffs, pay cuts and salary freezes running rampant in the real world, the Senate actually passed such a bill last week. …

As bosses go, the American taxpayer is notoriously hard to please. History will be made the day Congress gives itself a raise without a round of grousing from the citizenry. It’s no wonder lawmakers prefer the passive approach to enhancing their paychecks. But it’s cowardly and self-serving, and it’s time for it to stop. Lawmakers should have to take an up-or-down vote, in broad daylight, before helping themselves to another penny of taxpayers’ money.

On the Net:


The New York Times, on North Korea and missiles: For weeks, North Korea has been talking about plans to launch a rocket sometime between April 4 and 8. Whether it intends to put a satellite in orbit as it claims or test a long-range missile, as the Obama administration and many others suspect, Pyongyang has fueled dangerous new tensions in East Asia.

Japan has ordered its military to destroy the missile if the launch fails and debris falls on its territory. The Pentagon has sent two missile-interceptor ships off the Korean coast, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Monday that they would act only if the missile appeared headed toward American territory. North Korea, meanwhile, has threatened unspecified “strong steps” if the United Nations Security Council decides to penalize it for the launch. …

If Pyongyang defies the Security Council and tests a missile, there will have to be a clear and unified condemnation. But as soon as possible, Washington must work with its partners to find a way back to the negotiating table. However tortuous, firm and patient engagement offers the best chance of curbing Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions and its missile program.

On the Net:


The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, on the Small Business Administration:

Lax oversight at the Small Business Administration allowed unqualified companies to collect at least $30 million in federal contracts from a program designed to help small businesses in poor areas, according to the Government Accountability Office.

The SBA routinely failed to verify paperwork or to audit the program to prevent fraud from large firms that falsely claimed to have offices in poor neighborhoods. … The probe, which examined select contracts from fiscal years 2006 and 2007, found that the SBA asked for supporting evidence from only a third of applicants and visited the site of only a few companies.

The agency’s failure to conduct even these elementary checks is appalling and clearly let the program become a vehicle for waste and fraud. …

It’s imperative that the administration set up more strict oversight procedures at the SBA to ensure this money goes to companies that truly need it.

On the Net:


Odessa (Texas) American, on the stock market: The past couple of weeks’ general upward trend of the stock market is a welcome change from the constant downward spiral of market indexes that has deflated a lot of hopes - as well as 401(k)s.

And it would seem to indicate that a lot of investors who pulled out of the market are rejoining the game.

Of course, no one is doing any excessive cheering at this point.

The Dow Jones average has a lot of rallying to do before it comes anywhere close to the marks we saw last summer. …

But that’s OK. If investors decide that Wall Street is safe again, maybe the wheels will get some traction. And perhaps this time, we won’t get so thrilled about being on a wild ride. We’d just as soon chug along on a gentle incline instead of roaring up the mountain knowing that you’ll eventually reach the peak and immediately plunge down the backside slope. …

On the Net:


The Post and Courier, Charleston, S.C., on the White House’s response to GM: If you are not worried by the Obama administration’s audacious grab for the commanding heights of the U.S. economy - the banks, the insurance industry, the giant too-big-to-fail manufacturers - you should be. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner even suggests that government takeover of private corporations that have not accepted federal loans would be warranted, if considered necessary to rescue the overall economy.

The question boils down to this: Would it have been better to let well-established bankruptcy law apply to GM (and other failing corporate giants) rather than suffer Washington’s continued exertions on its behalf. …

Or, to put it another way, would you like your next car designed in Washington rather than in Detroit?

On the Net:


Politiken, Copenhagen, Denmark, on Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir attending the Arab summit: Rolling out the red carpet for a wanted war criminal seems quite a demonstration. But that is how Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir, who is charged with crimes against humanity, was received when he arrived Sunday in Qatar for an Arab summit.

The red carpet was rolled out, and the emir showed up in person at the Doha Airport to greet the wanted man with hugs and kisses on both cheeks.

It was a truly astonishing sight.

Nearly 300,000 people have died during the crisis in Sudan’s Darfur province, and Bashir has been closely linked with those crimes by the International Criminal Court, ICC.

So why would the Arab summit want to sit together with a man responsible for such violence? … Could it be that the Arab world’s rulers wanted to pressure al-Bashir into turning himself in to the court in The Hague?

Nope. The Arab world’s foreign ministers would rather urge the ICC to abandon the case against Omar al-Bashir. The summit offered no concrete help to Darfur’s hard-pressed population. …

It is a disgrace for the Arab community, which needs better and more righteous leaders than the bunch who met in Qatar.

On the Net:


The London Telegraph, on the G-20 summit and President Obama:

From the British point of view, the signs are not entirely propitious. Even though Gordon Brown was the first European leader to be invited to Washington to meet the new president, the treatment he received there was perfunctory, bordering on the dismissive. Understandably, Mr. Obama is preoccupied with the momentous economic events in his own country; but the decisions, both domestically and diplomatically, that he and his administration take now will have an impact around the world. The extraordinary sight of a presidential decree forcing the resignation of the chief executive of General Motors, one of America’s most important companies, is indicative of the strange times we are in.

It was inevitable that after arriving in the White House like a knight on a charger, Mr. Obama would be brought down to earth by the scale of the challenge he faced. … If Mr. Obama wants to don the mantle of a statesman, this week in London is a good place to try it on for size. These are early days; but the President is finding out the hard way that simply not being George Bush is an insufficient condition for global success, however charismatic he may be. …

On the Net:


The Asahi Shimbun, Tokyo, on baseball: Ichiro Suzuki’s game-winning single in the final of the World Baseball Classic (WBC) will probably remain seared in the memories of many people. With a spectacular 5-3 extra-innings victory over South Korea in the hotly contested final of the international baseball tournament, Japan captured the championship again following its win in the first event in 2006.

The United States, which invented baseball, has created an impressive catchphrase for the event: “Behind every play, a nation.”

The second WBC was marked by the brilliant performances of emerging Asian teams. In the first event three years ago, Japan won the title and South Korea advanced to semifinals. But the American media coverage of the tournament focused mostly on the U.S. team’s miserable results.

This time was different. Droves of American baseball experts, including major league scouts and media commentators, showed up to watch the Japanese and South Koreans in their pre-game practices. …

The U.S. team could be likened to the Big Three automakers, which have suffered badly from competition from their Japanese and South Korean rivals and now symbolize the economic woes of the United States. …

The world baseball landscape is changing rapidly and dramatically.

In the next WBC, the U.S. team will no doubt be much more serious about winning its first title. Flat-out battles between baseball’s native land and the emerging baseball powers will further increase the appeal and potential of the sport.

On the Net:


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