Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:
The Miami Herald on “blue lives matter” and the deaths of two police officers after the U.S. Capitol riot:
Do blue lives only matter when Black lives are perceived as the threat to them?
Up until the weekend, when videos began to receive wide circulation, we had heard more about that idiot Adam Johnson - a Floridian of course - accused of stealing Nancy Pelosi’s lectern than we did about the law enforcement officers whom a frenzied mob of white extremists were allowed to bash, beat, slur and kill during their rampage through the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. And, not so shockingly, some white police officers from across the country proudly stepped over that thin blue line and joined the lawless mobs.
Why is that?
We know why, and anyone who has been paying attention knows why, too.
Police officers are revered by many racist whites whenever equally racist rogues on the force bash, beat, slur and kill African Americans. But police themselves became the enemy last week, and the deafening silence over how - and by whom - they were battered is telling.
We know why.
ONE BY SUICIDE
Never let it be forgotten that Brian Sicknick, a military veteran and member of the Capitol Police was struck in the head with a fire extinguisher. The bloodied man was rushed to the hospital and placed on life support. He died the next day.
Never forget, either, Capitol Police Officer Howard Liebengood. He, too, put his life on the line during the assault on the Capitol. Days later, off duty, he took his life. How could the two events not be connected?
White terrorists beat another officer bloody with a pole bearing the American flag - no, seriously. It’s on video. Black officers were predictably called the n-word.
And never let it be forgotten that one of those Black officers, Eugene Goodman, who, by sheer guts alone took on a white mob, which gave chase as he lured them away from the entrance to the Senate chambers and into a group of police who withstood the assault. Innocent black man, angry white mob. It is an shamefully enduring American story, and Goodman is an American hero.
FIRST LADY’S LAMENT
The law-and-order Trump administration’s only comment was to lower the White House flag to half-staff on Sunday. On Monday, first lady Melania Trump released a tone-deaf and self-serving statement on WhiteHouse.gov: “Most recently, my heart goes out to: Air Force Veteran, Ashli (Babbitt), Benjamin (Phillips), Kevin Greeson, (Roseanne) Boyland, and Capitol Police Officers, Brian Sicknick and Howard Liebengood. I pray for their families comfort and strength during this difficult time,” she said.
Notice to whom she gave priority, the traitors unleashed by her husband. She then lamented in her statement that she, too, was a victim - a target of “salacious gossip and unwarranted personal attacks.” Again, those blues lives, dead at the hands of whites, were almost an afterthought.
We live in a country where Blacks’ quest for justice is un-American, and white violence is as American as apple pie.
We know why.
The Los Angeles Times on President Donald Trump, social media and the open internet:
Thanks to the 1st Amendment, government in the United States has little power to stop people from speaking their minds. But the Bill of Rights doesn’t constrain Facebook, Twitter and other Big Tech companies, which decided in the wake of last week’s attack on the U.S. Capitol that the world has heard enough from President Trump.
On one level, it’s understandable that private companies would not want their services and platforms used to foment violence and undermine democracy. On another, their actions show just how much power over global speech we’ve ceded to a handful of companies whose primary incentive is profit, not free expression.
The simple fact that they have such power may be more troubling than what they’re doing with it. Trump crossed a bright line when he started using social media networks not just to bemoan the results of the 2020 election but to try to overturn them. Having spent two months spouting an endless stream of false allegations about a stolen election, he summoned his followers to Washington, D.C., to pressure lawmakers to throw out the certified votes of the states’ electors. And after they stormed the Capitol, he called them “great patriots” on Twitter and urged them to go home “with love.”
On Thursday, Facebook banned Trump indefinitely, according to Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, because “we believe the risks of allowing the president to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great.” Other networks took similar steps, with Twitter suspending his account permanently on Friday.
Twitter’s explanation for its action was laudably detailed. The company looked beyond what Trump was tweeting to see how his words were being interpreted online, and it found that Trump’s seemingly conciliatory words were being interpreted in some quarters as an invitation for more violence - perhaps as early as next week. It was an impressive and disturbing bit of forensics that justified sidelining Trump at least until his followers’ energy dissipates.
Nevertheless, Big Tech’s shift from amplifying the president’s comments to censoring them opens a Pandora’s box. As Emma Llansó of the Center for Democracy & Technology noted, there’s an awful lot of politically motivated violence around the world.
“Do we want companies to be really on the watch for potential incitements to violence by political leaders?” Llansó asked.
The answer is that we want them to respond quickly when the connection between words and deeds is clear, as was the case last week, and to explain themselves fully. But most of the time, the circumstances will be murkier. Moderating a network is hard, and when the user is a major public figure whose utterances are newsworthy, the job is that much harder. The most we can expect is that the companies impose the same rules on presidents that they do on peons and take a hard line against harassing, defamatory or injurious speech by any user.
There’s a bipartisan push in Washington to reconsider the latitude online companies have to moderate their own networks, and the events of last week could make lawmakers more receptive to some ham-handed and counterproductive proposals that have been circulating. We continue to believe that it’s better to have tech companies police themselves than to have government tell them how to do it. But part of the problem is that these platforms appear too big to be moderated effectively; more competition would help matters by reducing the size and power of these dominant networks.
The crackdown on Trump extended over the weekend to Parler, a social messaging service popular with conservatives that bills itself as “Free expression without violence and no censorship.” Google and Apple removed Parler from their app stores, and Amazon cut off its bandwidth, all ostensibly because they didn’t approve of the way Parler policed its network.
Again, that’s understandable, given that some members of last week’s mob reportedly used Parler to organize and promote the violent takeover. Such comments are seditious and horrifying. But in squelching Parler, Big Tech is muzzling all of its users, not just the ones plotting insurrection. And as Parler noted in an antitrust lawsuit it filed against Amazon, Twitter has seen plenty of tweets threatening violence recently, yet no one is threatening to pull the plug on Twitter.
Parler insists that it doesn’t tolerate threats or incitement to violence and that it’s no worse at enforcing its rules than any other social network is. Clearly, it needs to do a better job than it has. But the idea of Big Tech gatekeepers deciding how other companies should police their networks is troubling. Simply put, it grants those companies too much power to shape the free and open internet in the name of excluding unwelcome guests.
The Wall Street Journal on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the possibility of impeaching President Donald Trump:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is barreling ahead on a vote to impeach President Trump this week-days before a new President takes office, and with the outcome and timing of a Senate trial uncertain. This is a moment for Joe Biden to establish his leadership by calling off the House impeachers in service of his vow that this is a “time to heal.”
We explained Friday why Mr. Trump’s actions last Wednesday were impeachable offenses, and that the best outcome would be his resignation. It appears he won’t resign. But that doesn’t mean impeachment now is wise or good for the country if the goal is get past the Trump era. It may do more harm by letting Mr. Trump play the victim than good by stigmatizing behavior that most Americans already find unacceptable.
The first obstacle is timing. In eight days Mr. Trump will be gone from the White House. A House vote this week means no fact-finding or time for a presidential defense. The Senate isn’t scheduled to reconvene until Jan. 19, the day before Mr. Biden is inaugurated. Even if Senators convene earlier, Republicans aren’t likely to hold a trial without giving Mr. Trump a chance to mount a defense, as other impeached officials have been able to do.
That leaves a trial to take place when Mr. Trump is no longer President. Views differ on whether the Constitution allows impeachment after a President leaves office, though this would be a first. Alan Dershowitz, the law professor and one of Mr. Trump’s impeachment lawyers in 2019, made a compelling case Sunday that this constitutional point would be part of Mr. Trump’s defense.
This assumes Democrats even want a Senate trial and the risk of a potential acquittal. Jim Clyburn, the third-ranking House Democrat, said Sunday the House might vote to impeach but then wait weeks or months before sending an article to the Senate.
If the goal is a quick rebuke, that makes no sense. It keeps the focus on Mr. Trump for months into Mr. Biden’s term, and to what end? Is the goal to hold a trial over the head of Republicans in case they oppose too much of the Democratic agenda?
Mrs. Pelosi says one of her goals is to sanction Mr. Trump so he can’t run again for President in 2024. But that requires a Senate conviction, which means a two-thirds majority, and an explicit declaration that he is barred from running. That goal is defeated without a conviction.
Mrs. Pelosi seems to know this because on Sunday she asked in a letter to her Members for thoughts on barring Mr. Trump from future office under Section 3 of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment. That language bars anyone from holding office who has “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the United States.
That language was aimed at members of the Confederacy after the Civil War. Courts up to the Supreme Court had ruled against Southerners who committed acts of war against the Union, such as raiding ships at sea.
No court has made a finding of insurrection against President Trump, so Mrs. Pelosi would be asking Congress to do that on its own. She’d essentially be hijacking the 14th Amendment to create another path to bar Mr. Trump from running again, and perhaps with a mere majority vote, not two-thirds as required by the Impeachment Clause. That would violate the Constitution in the name of defending it.
Add all this up, and impeachment now with a trial continuing into the Biden Presidency looks like political excess. It could let Mr. Trump compete with Mr. Biden for public attention, and give the then-former President a platform to rally his supporters. It makes more sense to let him repair in new irrelevance to Mar-a-Lago.
Which brings us to Mr. Biden’s leadership opportunity. One worry about the President-elect is whether he is strong enough to lead his party or will instead be led by the progressives on Capitol Hill. His statement last week that he is deferring to Congress on impeachment reinforced that concern, and he added Monday that he thinks the Senate can hold a trial and pass his agenda at the same time.
Perhaps, but a Trump impeachment and trial aren’t in Mr. Biden’s political interest. They would do nothing to calm partisan divisions and might turn off moderates who voted for Mr. Biden because they want the tumultuous Trump era to be over. It would make the first drama of his Presidency an act of retribution.
Mr. Biden can better set the stage for his inaugural by telling the public that he’d prefer if the impeachers stood down. He can say he thinks Mr. Trump’s behavior is impeachable, and that had it taken place earlier he’d support his ouster. But on the eve of the transfer of power and going into a new Presidency, it is needlessly divisive. He could say his goal as President is to move past the politics of polarization and annihilation, not to escalate it for another four years. Most Americans would welcome it.
The Toronto Star on the COVID-19 vaccine rollout:
If governments don’t pick up the pace on vaccinations - by a lot - they’re simply not going to get most Canadians inoculated against COVID-19 by the end of this year.
It’s simple math, as set out over the weekend by the Star’s Kenyon Wallace. The current pace of about 23,400 vaccinations a day has to be increased by 6.5 times in order to get a critical mass of the population their shots by Dec. 31.
In fact, the federal government’s goal is more ambitious: it has committed to vaccinating every adult Canadian who wants a COVID-19 shot by the end of September. For that to happen, the pace will have to increase even more.
That’s challenging enough, but the real problem is that neither goal is good enough. Waiting until the end of 2021, or even until the end of September, for enough people to be inoculated to defeat this disease is just not ambitious enough.
When the first vaccines appeared ahead of schedule in December, there was so much public relief at this unexpected sign of hope that it seemed churlish to push for more. Canada was among the very first countries to get doses of the precious Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
But three weeks later the situation is much darker, and it’s clear the federal government must do absolutely everything in its power to advance the target date for getting vaccines to most Canadians.
The second wave of COVID-19 is bad - very bad. On Tuesday we expect to get a more precise idea of just how bad when Ontario releases new projections for the future course of the pandemic.
But already the province is seeing well over 3,000 new cases a day (Monday’s seven-day average was 3,555 - up a staggering 90 per cent in the past month). Hospitals warn they soon may not be able to treat everyone who gets critically ill. And we’re facing even more restrictions on working, shopping and moving around.
We are, to be blunt, losing the fight right now against COVID-19. All the pleading in the world from public health officials for people to stay home, wear masks, wash hands, etc., etc. hasn’t worked. The numbers are off the charts and the only weapons left in the public health arsenal are the blunt instruments of lockdown and closure.
Can we really wait nine full months, until the end of September, for enough Canadians to be vaccinated to give confidence that the pandemic is under control? Under current trends, no.
The federal government’s plan calls for just six million doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to be delivered in the first three months of this year - enough to inoculate three million people in the most exposed groups, such as long-term care residents and health workers. That’s to be followed by a greatly expanded program starting in April, reaching up to half the population.
But that lags well behind some other countries, including Israel, Britain, Denmark and the United States. Canada now ranks 11th in a global comparison of doses administered per 100 people.
To put things in perspective, though, it’s just ahead of Germany and miles ahead of France - but the point isn’t to win some theoretical battle among nations. It’s to get the job done as soon as possible so we can get back to normality.
Ottawa may have been slow off the mark last summer in striking deals with pharmaceutical companies for delivery of vaccines, as some critics have charged. But that’s water under the bridge. The key thing now is to do everything possible (including paying more, if necessary) to advance the delivery schedule for existing vaccines and clear the way for others that still haven’t been approved.
Procurement Minister Anita Anand appears to understand this. She says “the sky’s the limit” on what she’s prepared to do to get more vaccine doses into the country, more quickly.
That’s good to hear, and we look forward to hearing details of a new and improved plan very soon. At this point the country simply can’t afford any delay on getting vaccines into arms.
The Washington Post on anti-vaxxers and the COVID-19 vaccine:
Fifty-seven vials containing more than 500 doses of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine were removed from a pharmacy refrigerator by an employee in a Wisconsin medical center last month - inadvertently, officials said at first, and then they revised their statement. The act was intentional.
The inoculations against the coronavirus rolling out around the country are the targets of intense disinformation campaigns that have spurred concerns about safety and efficacy, even among health-care workers. Leaders of long-standing anti-vaccine groups see this pivotal moment as a prime opportunity to leverage the rumor-mongering infrastructure they’ve built over the course of years. The Post reports that members of the National Vaccine Information Center are coordinating a “master narrative” that the virus isn’t a threat and that the safeguards against it are. They’re ballooning isolated instances of side effects into proof of general dangerousness; homing in on prominent online health influencers to spread their propaganda; and targeting African American communities whose fraught history with the medical community has primed them for skepticism.
The best antidote to bad information is good information. Trickier is figuring out how to administer it. Removing false claims is nigh impossible for platforms to do at scale without too much slipping through the cracks, and studies show the practice sometimes only makes people more eager for what they start to see as suppressed knowledge. Applying fact checks and reducing algorithmic spread can help. Yet at the core of this conundrum is the question of trust. Experts suggest “pre-bunking,” or anticipating lies and filling the void before their arrival with facts. They also emphasize the need for honesty about where the vaccine is imperfect, such as with adverse reactions, unanticipated side effects and imperfect efficacy. Members of the public need to be assured ahead of time that these issues do exist, that they aren’t evidence of widespread harm and that no one is trying to hide anything from them.
The public also needs to hear all this in the right places, from the right people. That means responsible reporting from media outlets, whether it comes from a national newspaper’s editorial page or a local daily’s lead story. The messenger can matter as much as the message, especially in insular communities suspicious of vaccines in particular or the government generally. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can probably do much less to persuade an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community to get its shots than can a nearby synagogue with whom the agency might partner. Physicians should be trained in how to assuage patients’ fears; individuals should be taught how to assuage the fears of their loved ones. The forces that seek to sow doubt are determined and disciplined. Those who hope to build faith in these lifesaving vaccines must be similarly committed.
The Baltimore Sun on former Georgia House minority leader Stacey Abrams:
Georgia’s Senate runoff race offers important lessons for political campaigns around the country on old school, grassroots organizing of voters. Democrats flipped two seats in the historically red state, upending a Republican stronghold and practically ensuring President-elect Joe Biden an easier ride as president. So badly was the status quo thrown off kilter that Republican lawmakers are already talking about trying to restrict absentee voting, as mail-in voting helped to mobilize throngs of new voters. We know the state is no stranger to such voter suppression tactics. The runoff system itself, held when no candidate gets a majority of the vote, was created in the ’60s to dilute the Black vote and give white candidates an edge. But it didn’t work this time around.
Thank Stacey Abrams, Georgia’s former House minority leader, and the dozens of churches and other community and activist groups that held massive registration drives and rallied people to the polls. Ms. Abrams kept her word not to go away quietly after losing a 2018 gubernatorial bid because of what she called outright voter suppression, including the purge of voter rolls and denial of new registrations. She started the voter organization Fair Fight, and Republicans soon didn’t know what hit them. What do they say about a scorned woman? She comes back with a vengeance and turns a red state blue - at least in the U.S. Senate.
Ms. Abrams and other already entrenched groups, such as Black Voters Matter, canvassed the state searching for unregistered voters, including large swathes of people who had never registered, or those who might have been on the voter rolls, but didn’t participate in the process all that often. In the age of social media, when Facebook and Instagram pages fill up with political ads during election season, activists used more traditional methods, like door hangers, and focused on issues to engage potential voters, such as systemic racism. They made people see how government could be meaningful to them.
The result: a record breaking 4.5 million people voted in the runoff elections and Black voters led the way in solidifying a Democratic victory. We’re all better off because of it, too. With Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in the Senate, it will end the Republican majority, the tyrannic reign of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the political gridlock that made it hard to get anything done. The country will, we hope, get a meaningful stimulus plan that will help people through the financial hardships caused by COVID-19. Reams of legislation that passed in the House, only to stall in the Senate, may finally see life. We hope desperately that it also means the country can began to restore faith in our democracy.
Baltimore ought to take some tips from Georgia’s playbook on engaging an electorate. People often complain about the status quo, saying it’s time for new blood and that certain candidates, say former Mayor Sheila Dixon, have their core group of supporters, and it’s hard to break the voting cliques. That may be true sometimes. (Though newly elected Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott appears to have attracted a diverse group of voters in the last election). Maybe the answer, then, is for political campaigns to step up their ground games and mobilizing efforts and do a better job of reaching new voters and exciting those who have become disengaged. Mail-in voting, which has resulted in increased voter participation by making it easier to cast a ballot, will only help the cause. Yeah, voting is supposed to be a civic duty. But we know too many people who don’t think the political process works for them, and so they stay home. That is the reality whether we like it or not.
The good thing is that Ms. Abrams and Georgia have proven that mindset can be changed with a boots to the ground mentality. They reinvigorated an old formula for modern times. So we say congratulations to them. And we can’t wait to see what Ms. Abrams plans to do next. We certainly don’t think this is the last we have seen of her. Perhaps there is another gubernatorial run in her future?
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