Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials

8/26/2015 3:45 PM
By Associated Press

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


August 23

The Wall Street Journal on Donald Trump's presidential candidacy

Donald Trump continues to lead the GOP presidential field in the polls, which means it's time to start taking his ideas more seriously. One place to start is his argument that because he's a billionaire who doesn't depend on contributions from others, he's somehow superior because he's immune from political influence.

The casino magnate refers to his competitors who accept political donations as "puppets" who are "totally controlled by special interests, lobbyists and donors." In contrast, he says, "I don't need anybody's money. I don't want anybody's money." It is a consistent part of his pitch to voters_that he's "very rich" and therefore cannot be induced to indulge a narrow special interest.

The argument plays into the current political frustration with Washington, but it is as self-serving as it is dangerous to democracy. What he's really saying is that nobody who isn't wealthy should be able to run for President because only the superrich can be untainted by political corruption.

But most politicians aren't rich, which means they have to raise money from others. This has the benefit of testing the level of their support as well as forcing them to build political coalitions. The broader their support, the less likely any single donor or constituency would have inordinate influence.

Campaign money also increases political competition. Without donations, politicians who aren't wealthy or well known would never be able to wage a competitive campaign for the White House. A major reason this year's Republican field is so wide and deep is because candidates have access to more donations via super PACs. Americans should want a system in which middle-class candidates like Marco Rubio or Scott Walker have a chance to be President.

"I know how the system works better than anybody," Mr. Trump also says, explaining that accepting a large donation creates an obligation to return the favor. Favors to campaign donors happen every day in Washington, but politicians also often disappoint their campaign supporters once in office. Politics attracts many despicable characters, but some of the people drawn to government service are there because they are animated by a cause.

Still, let's assume in Trumpian fashion that his rivals will, if elected, merely pursue the agenda of their high-dollar contributors. Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton raise a lot of money from the financial industry. Mrs. Clinton also has a well-heeled constituency in Hollywood, the plaintiffs' bar, government unions and elite universities. Mr. Bush's biggest donors are in various industries including energy, health care and manufacturing.

This is public information that voters should consider. Let's assume for the moment that Mrs. Clinton would set out to please coastal liberals while Mr. Bush would want to please the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The stolen base in the Trump argument is that if elected the other candidates would have agendas but he wouldn't. The truth is that even if he never takes a nickel from a lobbyist, Mr. Trump will still be influenced by his largest campaign donor_himself. To say the least, he's never been shy about pursuing his interests.

In business that's fine and plastering his name everywhere has built a well-known brand and accumulated a fortune that may even be as large as he says it is. But it's naive to examine his career and conclude that he lives only to serve others. It's not clear to us why the agenda of one rich guy in Manhattan is superior to one that incorporates the views of a thousand rich guys across the U.S.

Then again, Mr. Trump is new to the presidential campaign and on Sunday he said he also is open to taking contributions, large and small, as long as there are "no strings attached." Like any other politician.




August 23

The Oregonian on approaches to workplace culture

Two Seattle companies have taken roughly opposite approaches to building a workplace culture. Their founders sought to create an environment that they thought would help the companies succeed while also holding true to strongly held personal philosophies. And each corporate leader has faced recent blowback from employees, followed by national media attention.

The two companies are Amazon and Gravity Payments. Amazon grew to become the world's largest retailer by following founder and CEO Jeff Bezos' Darwinian management formula that values creative conflict and long hours and encourages employees to hold each other to ever-higher standards. Gravity founder and CEO Dan Price made the unprecedented decision to increase his much-smaller company's starting pay to $70,000 a year.

Each company has suffered defections - Amazon for some time and Gravity since its change in pay philosophy earlier this year, according to recent New York Times articles. Some driven, ambitious Gravity employees were upset by the company's decision to pay workers who had less responsibility and contributed less to the company's success as much - or almost as much - as they received, according to the Times and other media reports. At Amazon, on the other hand, it appears that you have to be really driven to want to stay at the company for the long haul, according to a Times report based on interviews with more than 100 current and former employees.

There are lessons in these two technology companies' experiences for other businesses, as well as for the Oregon Legislature and other state and local governments. The most obvious message is that extreme management approaches often have extreme, and undesirable, consequences. The less obvious point illustrated by the companies' experiences is that workplace culture cannot be controlled by government rules and regulations. That's the lesson the elected leaders need to study.

The Oregon Legislature just finished a session defined to a large degree by its attempt to force businesses to treat employees better. It required most employers to provide sick leave and forced them to adjust hiring practices with a law preventing businesses from asking about criminal history on job applications. The Legislature also created a retirement plan for workers without access to one. Businesses will have to administer payroll deductions for the plan, which will be operated by an entity selected by the state. Legislators did not take action on the minimum wage, but House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, has pledged to push for an increase to $13.50 in the 2016 session.

But consider this: Amazon offered employees sick leave, as well as vacation time. According to employees, though, using all of that sick leave and vacation time - even for cancer treatments or to recover from a miscarriage - could limit their careers. Amazon also pays its employees well and offers retirement plans, but many employees don't stay long enough to accumulate much money. And how would a worker with a criminal history - even if hired - fare in Amazon's culture, where employees are encouraged to criticize co-workers?

Gravity, on the other hand, likely would receive a seal of approval from the Legislature. CEO Dan Price chose to make a statement about equality by not only boosting the company's minimum wage but also cutting his own pay to $70,000. Not all well-paid employees were willing to sacrifice to allow less-skilled co-workers to get their big raises. Some left when they got smaller raises or none at all, despite shouldering more responsibility, the Times reported. The company's unique pay scale also reportedly upset some customers who viewed it as a political statement.

Both of these companies offer pretty much everything the Legislature wants businesses to provide employees. But at Amazon, those benefits come at a high cost to work-life balance. At Gravity, the question is whether the company can attract the high-level workers and maintain the relationships with customers that will be essential to long-term business success.

The tension at the two Seattle companies can't be solved by legislative edict. The best thing government - whether in Washington, Oregon or elsewhere - can do for workers is to create an environment that allows a wide range of companies to thrive. Then workers have a better chance of finding a company that fosters the type of culture in which they will be comfortable.




August 20

The Washington Post on Jimmy Carter's cancer diagnosis

Cool, composed and as forthright as ever, former president Jimmy Carter said in a news conference Thursday that, in the wake of a cancer diagnosis, he is "perfectly at ease with whatever comes." The way Mr. Carter handled the conference underscores the grace with which he has conducted his entire post-presidency, and only makes it harder for the rest of us to be perfectly at ease with the possibility of his passing.

Mr. Carter at times has stirred controversy with his deeply held views on the Middle East and other global challenges. Yet even those who have found themselves disagreeing with him, as we have from time to time, have stood in admiration of the honorable life he has lived and the model post-presidency he has shaped. Mr. Carter has spent the years after his single term as president focusing not on constructing a lavish library-memorial, nor on earning millions through speechmaking, but on substantive, civic-spirited initiatives intended to improve the world in ways both big and small.

With the Carter Center, Mr. Carter has advocated for democracy abroad and helped stamp out preventable diseases in underdeveloped countries. His work in both spheres has helped save lives, whether by countering dictatorships or Guinea worms. In and near Plains, Georgia, where he grew up and worked as a peanut farmer, Mr.?Carter lectures at Emory University, preaches at his local church and teaches Sunday school classes. He even continues to farm peanuts.

Now, as he begins treatment for a cancer that has spread to his brain, Mr. Carter again offers a model of quiet courage, neither fatalistic nor unrealistic, expressing more concern for his loved ones than for himself. We have no doubt that others facing illness will find inspiration in his example.

Despite his diagnosis, Mr. Carter said he still wants to travel to Nepal in November for his 32nd home-building mission with Habitat for Humanity. He also wants to spend more time fishing and with his wife, Rosalynn. Like all Americans, we wish Mr. Carter the best with his ongoing treatment. Any ex-president could do a lot worse than have it said that, after years at the helm, he just wanted to farm some peanuts, save some lives and then go fishing.




August 20

Toronto Star on hack of infidelity website Ashley Madison

Marvin Gaye may have heard it through the grapevine back in the day. But today, it's bad vibes from the Dark Web that have left Canadians about to lose their minds over relationships gone sour.

The 9.7-gigabyte data dump of confidential Ashley Madison customer information, courtesy of a blue-nosed band of hackers with a hurt on for "cheating dirt bags," has the owners of email addresses ending in ".ca" squirming over their errant mouse pads.

More than a few cheating hearts can expect to be "cryin' a river," as Aerosmith might put it, while saying "sorry. for being so untrue."

Customers of the world's "leading married dating service for discreet encounters" — the site boasts nearly 39 million worldwide — rue the day they bought into the slogan Life is Short. Have an Affair. They never counted on signing on for an "outing" as well. The hackers have now shared customers' names, email addresses, home addresses, sexual fantasies and worse for all the world to snigger at.

So much for putting any faith in a company that traffics in infidelity.

Yet as the Star's Sunny Freeman reports, this cloud of two-timing gloom has a silver lining, however tarnished. It serves as a cautionary reminder that Canadians tend to take Internet security for granted, and companies have little incentive to let us know when they've been hacked. The Toronto-based cheating site is just the latest victim that suddenly has some explaining to do. But broadly speaking we don't know how secure corporate Canada is because companies aren't required to report security breaches. Many don't, preferring to pull a silken sheet of commercial silence over any unfortunate incidents.

Happily, that will change when the new Digital Privacy Act comes into effect and throws open the bedroom windows, as it were. Passed in June, it requires companies to notify customers speedily about breaches that create "a real risk of significant harm," and tell customers what they can do to mitigate the damages. Significant harm includes identity theft, financial loss, damage to reputation, damage to a person's credit rating and loss of property.

Companies that violate the act face fines up to $100,000.

But the act won't come into force until Ottawa crafts implementing regulations. That won't happen until federal privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien's office is consulted, along with the private sector and other stakeholders. With a federal election campaign underway, there's no real timeline. A new government will have to prove it is up to the job.

When the public reporting regulations do come in, however, they should be demanding, and backed up by sufficiently robust fines to compel compliance. Protecting customers' data is a big investment in terms of time, human resources and money. Most companies know their reputations are on the line and will do the right thing. But some will need a forceful regulatory prod.

Ashley Madison's rueful clients are the living proof that doing the right thing doesn't always spring to mind.




August 24

China Daily on Chinese economic development

What is the focus of the coordinated development plan for Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei province and what are the guiding principles? What are the implications of the implementation of this development plan in the near future? An interview with a leader of the office under the central government's leading group for this strategy published by Xinhua News Agency on Sunday shed some light on these questions.

Why is coordinated development being emphasized? It is because the metropolises of Beijing and Tianjin and adjacent Hebei province have become too uncoordinated and unbalanced in terms of their economic development and social progress over the past more than three decades.

No matter how developed and modern Beijing is as the capital, it is no secret that its development has been accompanied by ills such as traffic congestion, too large a population, too high housing prices, serious air pollution caused by car exhaust emissions and industrial pollution from adjacent areas. Tianjin likewise.

However, Hebei has long been one of the most underdeveloped provinces in the country. Despite its lack of resources of water and energy, it produces a large percentage of the country's iron and cement, which has resulted in the province being plagued by serious pollution.

The coordinated development plan is meant to relocate the non-essential functions of Beijing as national capital to Hebei. It will not just make it easier for Beijing to cure its own ills. It will also help upgrade or replace the low-end industries in Hebei province.

At the same time, its extensive consumption of energy will be considerably reduced along with the pollution.

As a result, Hebei's economy will hopefully see a great leap forward and so will its social progress.

In an attempt to cure the ills of Beijing and improve the industrial structure of Tainjin and Hebei, new areas for economic growth will have to be cultivated, which will inject vitality into the country's somewhat sluggish economy. And at the same time, the industrial structure of Hebei province will be greatly upgraded. It is a single stone that can kill two birds.

Also, if the strategy is successfully implemented, the rest of the country can follow suit. In this way, China's development that has long been unbalanced among different regions will become more equal and so will the social progress in different regions.

In this sense, the importance of this plan can never be overestimated.




August 24

The Post and Courier, Charleston, South Carolina on U.S. defense budget

A federal budget straightjacket has set up another budget impasse between Congress and President Barack Obama. The House and Senate, under Republican leadership, have passed similar defense authorization bills that ease the squeeze. If their bills become law, the defense appropriations will follow.

But the president threatens to hold the defense budget hostage to a demand that spending for domestic programs also be unleashed from the sequester process. He has said he will veto the defense bills if his demands are not met.

Unless the sequester-related spending restrictions on the Department of Defense are eased, the Army will shrink from 490,000 personnel today to 450,000 in 2018 and 420,000 in 2019, smaller than at any time before World War II. The Navy, facing a similar squeeze, is down to 273 warships, smaller than any U.S. fleet since 1916.

The Army recently described how it will take the cuts to 450,000 mandated by budget caps. Fort Benning, Georgia, home of the infantry, will take the largest hit, losing more than 3,600 troops, 29 percent of its active-duty manpower. Fort Elmendorf, Alaska, which backs up U.S. forces in Korea, will lose 59 percent of its manpower as an airborne infantry brigade with about 4,000 personnel is downsized to a battalion of just over 1,000. Almost all Army units will be affected, and 17,000 civilian jobs also are on the chopping block.

Members of the Army brass gamely say they can accomplish their mission at 450,000.

But they also warn that a cut to 420,000 would make that impossible.

You can usually take such budget protests with a grain of salt. But since the president's 2012 campaign promises to shift money out of defense, the nation's interests in Europe, alarming developments in Asia and the Middle East have called U.S. military readiness into question.

Meanwhile, the Army has been required to deploy troops to Eastern Europe to reassure allies wary about Russian provocations in Ukraine. Some troops also had to be sent back into Iraq to rescue a failed White House policy.

The White House said in 2011 when it brought the last U.S. troops home from Iraq that it was leaving a stable government able to take care of itself. That has proved to be a delusion.

And as Mark Moyar of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, a Philadelphia-based think tank, wrote earlier this month in The Wall Street Journal:

"Though President Obama denounced sequestration, his actions suggest that at the very least he was comfortable with its gutting of the defense budget. During the 2011 (budget) negotiations the White House had already begun work on a new national-security strategy to accommodate drastic defense cuts. The Defense Strategic Guidance of 2012 proclaimed that the U.S. could afford to draw down the military because the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were ending and al Qaeda was on the run."

And now the U.S. is struggling to counter gains by the Islamic State in Iraq.

The lack of success in that operation so far indicates that the next commander in chief will face challenges there — and beyond — with a smaller Army.

America's enemies, current and potential, know that.

Yes, overdue federal fiscal restraint must include making our armed forces as lean and efficient as practically feasible.

But as history has repeatedly taught, if America's military strength is too severely compromised, our nation — and the world — will likely pay a tragic price that transcends monetary measure.



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