Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:
The New York Times on public financing for presidential elections:
House Republicans, pandering to the new corporate money trough legitimized by the Supreme Court, have voted to kill off public financing for presidential elections. Unless the Senate Democratic majority acts forcefully, the death of the public alternative _ first adopted in the wake of the Watergate scandal _ could be sealed in the rounds of budget negotiations to come.
That would be historic folly. The public financing system, which encourages and matches small donations with taxpayer funds, has served the nation admirably. Every president until Barack Obama opted for it in the general election, and most candidates embraced this path in the primaries, too. ...
Mr. Obama pointed to the obvious need to keep the subsidy formulas updated and turned from his early commitment to the system in favor of an Internet bonanza he reaped in small-donation supporters.
This was regrettable, yet serves to underline the fact that the subsidy option only needs a repair and not the burial long sought by the Senate Republican minority leader, Mitch McConnell, and other devotees of unlimited corporate donations. ...
Easy political money is returning with a vengeance as a result of the Supreme Court's blessing of anything-goes corporate donors in the Citizens United decision. ...
With the vital public option now on the block, the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, and his chief strategists, Senators Charles Schumer and Richard Durbin, must fight back fiercely. ...
The Post and Courier of Charleston, S.C., on rising oil prices:
Libyan unrest is fueling a sharp boost in U.S. pump prices. But beyond that immediate cause for concern lies a far more extended _ and ominous _ trend: Oil costs appear likely to keep rising over the coming decades as demand outpaces supply across the planet.
Consider this recent alarming statistic from Exxon's annual report: For every 100 barrels of oil it pumps above ground, it can now only find 95 to replenish the supply below ground. ...
Some Americans believe we can "drill, baby, drill" our way out of this dilemma.
Yes, expanded domestic oil production is warranted _ within prudent environmental bounds. Yet it offers no panacea. And overdue efforts for energy conservation and development of alternative energy sources also must play major roles in reducing our dependence on foreign oil _ and in minimizing the rise in energy costs.
Libyans' righteous rebellion against Col. Moammar Gadhafi's four-decade-plus rule of tyranny is currently boosting oil prices. However, that short-term upward force is negligible on the long-term scale compared to the fundamental economic forces _ for instance, the rapidly growing energy appetites of China and India _ that will keep elevating it. ...
So don't imagine that soaring oil prices are a temporary phenomenon _ or that the cost of wasting energy won't keep climbing.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on TSA approved medical cards:
Airline passengers expect a degree of inconvenience to make sure flights are safe from terrorist attack. But a line was crossed for a woman in Seattle recently, causing her to change modes of travel.
Alaska state Rep. Sharon Cissna was singled out for a pat-down at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, after a full-body scan revealed scars from a mastectomy. Cissna declined to undergo what she called a "feeling up."
Instead of flying, she decided to make her way back to Alaska by ferry. She did not provide further details about the pat-down, nor did she say whether she has a breast implant. But the Transportation Security Administration's Web site says officers "will need to see and touch your prosthetic device, cast or support as part of the screening process." So touching of the breast appears likely.
It makes sense for TSA agents to look at or touch a knee brace or prosthetic hand. By the same token, a breast implant could contain material that would lead to success for a potential suicide bomber.
Several months ago, the TSA approved a new medical card that enables a passenger to discreetly inform an agent of a medical condition or support.
While using the card does not necessarily save airport passengers from a screening or pat-down, it should go a long way to assure TSA agents that a traveler's description of her medical situation is on the up and up.
The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Ky., on the Defense of Marriage Act:
President Barack Obama's conclusion that the Defense of Marriage Act violates the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection of the law for all Americans is sound legal reasoning.
His order that the Justice Department put a halt to its ill-conceived defense of the law in court is the decent thing to do. It is also politically courageous.
DOMA, as the measure is known, was passed in the presidential election year of 1996 and signed into law by President Bill Clinton to exploit a volatile issue. It forbids federal recognition of same-sex marriages, but its impact goes well beyond the altar. It prevents gay partners from enjoying the federal benefits granted to married couples _ such as collecting Social Security survivor payments and filing joint tax returns _ and it allows states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states where gay matrimony is legal.
Attorney General Eric Holder, in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner explaining why the department is abandoning in this case its traditional role of defending existing federal laws, hammered the nail on the head: He said that the debate in Congress that preceded passage of DOMA undercut any constitutional basis for defending the act. ...
The administration's action does not overturn the law. Its constitutionality will still be argued and decided in the courts ..
However this particular chapter in the struggle for equal rights for all Americans plays out in the short run, the DOMA turnabout underscores that bigotry is always the wrong course _ and that acceptance of gay men and lesbians as full citizens and equal partners in the American project is growing. ...
The Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star on shutting down government:
The game of brinkmanship that the political parties are playing with the federal government "shutdown" is frustrating and tiresome.
It's a childish, dysfunctional way to run a country that prides itself as deserving to be known as Leader of the Free World.
In the latest development in this ongoing soap opera, Congress apparently postponed for two weeks the federal government "shutdown."
The House voted to extend funding for another two weeks _ pushing back the shutdown date from March 4 to March 18. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid promised to push the legislation through the Senate.
One would think that the last government shutdown would be fresh enough in memory that the elected federal lawmakers would want to avoid a repeat.
The government shut down for five days in November 1995, and for 21 days ending in January 1996 ...
Those participating in the congressional game of chicken insist that there are important budget issues involved. Republicans want spending cuts. Democrats resist.
The national debt is ballooning to frightening size. For the sake of future generations, federal revenue and federal spending need to be brought into balance.
But to truly address those long-term problems, Congress needs to make changes to Medicare and Social Security. The current stare down has nothing to do with solving those problems. ...
Canon City (Colo.) Daily Record on federal government reform:
There's no shortage of ideas for how to cut federal government spending, as members of the new Congress quickly found out since proceeding in January. ...
The Government Accountability Office report that came out recently removed two programs from its list of 30 trouble spots but added another.
A careful reading of the report, which every member of Congress and every agency head should take to heart, provides numerous areas to cut costs and improve operations for the American public.
Removed from the list were concerns over Department of Defense processing of security clearances. With terrorism the threat that it is, shortening the time and improving the process of authorizing security clearances is an important concern, and one where the DOD has shown marked improvement.
Another area removed from the list is the 2010 Census, which has been completed on time and within budget.
The GAO has added, however, a concern about the ability of the Department of Interior to adequately track oil and gas operations on public lands and assess appropriate royalties for this public resource.
Interior has not evaluated its royalty collection system in 25 years, and the GAO fears that billions of dollars of royalties are not collected and thus lost to the public.
Interior is also not adequately tracking volumes of natural resources extracted, again a permanent loss of revenue for the nation. ...
Los Angeles Times on health care reform:
President Barack Obama has thrown his support behind a bill to let states opt out of key features of the health care reform law before they take effect, including the controversial requirement that virtually all adult Americans buy insurance. The caveat, though, is that states must offer alternatives that provide comparable coverage to at least as many of the uninsured as the new law would, at no greater cost to federal taxpayers. It's a small but welcome move that invites opponents of the law to shift from repealing it to improving it. Unfortunately, they probably won't accept that invitation. ...
Rather than offering a specific plan for the uninsured, the Republicans' health care proposal in the last Congress called for Washington to pay multimillion-dollar bonuses to states that found a way to reduce the percentage of their residents without coverage. They also would try to increase competition among insurers and give doctors and hospitals more protection against lawsuits. Although the GOP's approach could slow the increase in health care premiums, the Congressional Budget Office has projected that it wouldn't bring much help to the uninsured, nor would it reduce the deficit.
Unless coverage is extended to more people, the uninsured will continue to be treated in expensive and inefficient ways, and those costs will continue to be passed on to everyone else. That's why, even if the objective were simply to control costs, it would be important to adhere to the standard the new law sets for increased coverage. The means to achieve that goal, however, should be open to vigorous innovation.
The Vindicator, Youngstown, Ohio, on Somalia pirates:
It has been six years since pirates from the war-torn, lawless African nation of Somalia took control of the high seas off the coast of East Africa, and in that time 30 ships have been captured and more than 660 people taken hostage, but U.S. citizens have remained largely unscathed _ until Feb. 22.
Four Americans were found killed on a yacht that had been hijacked Feb. 18 by pirates south of Oman. The Quest was shadowed by four U.S. warships and sky-high drones as the captors tried to sail it to the Somali shore. ...
While the murders of the four Americans are still being studied, the reality is that the pirates from Somalia aren't a bunch of ragtag criminals. Rather, they use high-speed boats and are armed with assault rifles, RPG rocket-propelled grenade launchers and semiautomatic weapons. ...
Piracy on the high seas must be treated as a declaration of war requiring the U.N. to respond aggressively. Member nations should be prepared to provide all the fire power necessary to not only clear the shipping lanes of the pirates, but also to destroy their hideouts in Somalia. ...
Arab News, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on humanitarian efforts for Libya:
The leaders of the Libyan opposition say they do not want any outside help in the fight to rid themselves of Moammar Gadhafi and his regime. By that they mean military help. They do not want tanks rolling in from Egypt or the U.S. bombing Gadhafi's barracks in Tripoli. It is a courageous stand but how long they stick to it remains to be seen. Humanitarian aid, however, is another matter.
There is clearly a humanitarian crisis on the Libyan-Tunisian border, which needs immediate help. Recently, some 70,000 refugees _ mostly Egyptians _ have crossed the frontier and while the Tunisians are doing their best to provide food, medical aid and what shelter they can, they have been overwhelmed by the enormity of the crisis.
The Egyptian authorities have been slow on the uptake. ...
Egypt has a navy. It has not been involved in the country's political crisis. The task of sailing along the North African coast _ a two-day trip at most _ to pick up stranded Egyptian citizens is a simple one. In the present climate, this delay is not going to help the Egyptian military's reputation. ...
So what aid is the Arab world sending? What aid is Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council countries sending?
Saudi Arabia has always been very generous in helping others in a crisis but often the perception is that it sends help only after everyone else has done so or after it is criticized for not doing anything. That must not be allowed to happen this time. Food and medicine must not be used as a weapon against the Libyan people. Saudi Arabia should be ready to provide humanitarian aid to Libya immediately.
The Korea Herald, Seoul, on North Korea threats:
North Korea released dual warnings of retaliation against the South recently, one about the floating of balloons containing leaflets and basic supplies and the other about the Key Resolve/Foal Eagle joint exercise with the U.S. military. The messages from the North Korean military used extreme words such as "turning Seoul into a sea of fire" with their nuclear and missile powers.
The Key Resolve command post exercise and the Foal Eagle joint maneuver exercise are annual events dating back to the late 1960s when Pyongyang started a campaign of violence against the allied forces in the South. The North has customarily denounced the defensive exercise as a preparation for a new war on the Korean Peninsula, and it has again this time. ..
For the first time since 2004, the Defense Ministry began sending a large quantity of leaflets, small radios and daily necessities attached to helium balloons floated to the North this year with some civic groups and politicians joining in the campaign. ...
The situation is most sensitive. North Korea is apparently taking a two-pronged strategy toward the South, trying to blunt military and psychological campaigns while still opening windows to dialogue. The message of warning also mentioned a need for "all-around dialogue and negotiations." Seoul authorities should keep its armed forces on full alert against renewed provocations from the North, while being ready to tame Pyongyang with a peaceful approach.
The Vancouver Sun, British Columbia, on Middle East democracy:
It has been 62 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by 48 members of the United Nations General Assembly ...
Among its core principles are the right to life, liberty and the security of the person, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and freedom from torture or cruel, inhumane treatment or punishment. Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, cited one more in a recent address: That the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of the government.
None of these principles applies in the countries that have been plunged recently into chaos by civil strife. And while much of the world has coddled, courted and enabled the kings, tyrants, dictators, sultans and other illegitimate rulers throughout the Middle East and Africa, the people they oppressed have always had the same human rights aspirations as everyone else. ..
Following the forced ouster of Tunisia's and Egypt's presidents, people throughout the region were emboldened and demonstrations have spread to Yemen, Bahrain, Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Iran. ...
Canada has an important role to play in the transformation of these societies. After all, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was largely the work of Canadian John Humphrey, a McGill University law professor who ran the Division for Human Rights in the UN Secretariat for two decades. ...
Given Canada's contribution to the Declaration, we have assumed a historical obligation to do whatever we can to ensure that its principles apply to all people in every nation. ...
London Evening Standard on a response to Libya:
Britain led the calls for UN sanctions while we have frozen the Libyan leadership's assets in this country. Nevertheless, such moves will take time to work, and there are growing calls for a military response. The Prime Minister has said that military options are being considered, especially for imposing a no-fly zone. But that is a more problematic option than it might look.
The idea of preventing Moammar Gadhafi from using his air force against rebels is attractive. Despite denials from the regime and from the two Libyan pilots who defied orders and defected to Malta, show that Gadhafi is regularly bombing protesters. Yet China and Russia would be unlikely to support a no-fly zone: China was halfhearted even in supporting sanctions.
Moreover, any western military intervention, especially on the ground, could delegitimize the protesters and encourage waverers to rally to Gadhafi. Libya has a raw history of resistance to (Italian) colonialism, while U.S. intervention anywhere in the Muslim world now risks being counterproductive.
A military solution might also cause the UK some embarrassment by highlighting gaps in our capability. Critics of cuts in the Ministry of Defense budget warn of up to 11,000 redundancies in the services, while plans to scrap the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal and the Harrier jump jet fleet will damage Britain's ability to mount just the sort of operation being mooted for Libya.
Britain and the West should continue to consider all options for ending Gadhafi's rule. But, in the end, it would be better if the Libyans themselves deposed their tyrant.