Editorial Roundup: United States

Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:

March 14

The Washington Post says the Supreme Court has declared open season on constitutional rights

The Texas Supreme Court on Friday effectively extinguished a lawsuit challenging the state’s antiabortion law, all but ensuring that Texas’s extreme restrictions will remain on the books for the foreseeable future. But do not imagine that Texas’s success, the result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s permissive attitude toward the state’s aggressive legal maneuvers, will affect only pregnant people within its borders — or that the consequences will be limited to abortion rights. The high court’s complacency might open the way for states that seek to restrict constitutional rights of many kinds.

Texas law bars abortion when fetal cardiac activity is detectable, usually around a pregnancy’s sixth week, which is before many women even know they are pregnant. This contradicts Roe v. Wade and other Supreme Court dicta. But rather than tap state authorities to enforce the ban, Texas lawmakers empowered private citizens to bring civil suits against anyone abetting a restricted abortion. This means that abortion rights groups had no discrete entity to sue to prevent the law’s enforcement. Meanwhile, Texas abortion providers would have to shut down in fear of ruinous lawsuits.

Rather than block this end-run around the Constitution, the U.S. Supreme Court threw up its hands. The Texas Supreme Court’s action Friday — declaring that, indeed, no state authority had any power to enforce the law, and therefore no state entity could be sued to stop it — ended the last hope of substantive judicial review anytime soon. Unsurprisingly, lawmakers in at least 12 other states have proposed similar abortion bans.

Perhaps the U.S. Supreme Court justices anticipate that the Texas abortion controversy will soon be moot; they are set to rule by this summer on a major abortion case that could scrap Roe, and with it any argument that Texas’s ban violates the Constitution. Yet by condoning Texas’s approach in the meantime, they have opened up a legal Pandora’s box that could do extreme damage to the constitutional order.

A Missouri lawmaker has proposed empowering private citizens to sue anyone — even beyond the state’s borders — assisting a Missourian in getting an out-of-state abortion. The notion that a state could regulate out-of-state activity is absurd. But so is Texas’s abortion vigilante enforcement program, and the Supreme Court failed to stop it. In fact, states could use a Texas-style system to restrict practically any constitutionally protected activity. California lawmakers are already moving to restrict firearms by empowering private citizens to go after gun-shop owners. State officials across the country are rushing to create vigilante systems to crack down on anti-vaxxers and speech in schools. If the court treated such cases with the same nonchalance as it did Texas’s abortion ban, those restrictions could remain on the books for long periods of time.

The court should act to close the legal loophole Texas exploited and make clear that it will not tolerate any state seeking to export its abortion policies beyond its borders. Meanwhile, those states that hope to preserve legal abortion must consider how to protect their own abortion providers from punishments that other states might try to impose on them.

ONLINE: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/03/14/texas-abortion-law-supreme-court-constitutional-rights/

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March 14

The Wall Street Journal has a question for President Joe Biden regarding oil and gas

Every so often President Biden makes himself available to the press to ask a question—when he’s not walking to or from a helicopter—and we have a suggestion for the next opportunity:

“Mr. President, will you do everything in your regulatory power to make it easier for American companies to produce more oil and gas to make the U.S. and its allies in Europe and elsewhere less dependent on Russian energy?”

The question is straightforward, and the goal is to elicit a straight answer that gets to the heart of the current geopolitical moment. Oil and gas prices are soaring amid fears of reduced global supply. The Ukraine invasion has shocked Western Europe into recognizing that its reliance on Russian supplies has made it vulnerable to Vladimir Putin’s blackmail.

In the U.S., consumers are increasingly dismayed by rising gasoline prices, which are weighing on pocketbooks and could result in a Democratic Party wipeout in November. Mr. Biden has dispatched officials to cajole the Saudis to pump more oil, but they won’t take the President’s call. The mob bosses of Venezuela and Iran will have to be bribed with U.S. sanction concessions to be able to sell more.

Why not do everything possible to expand American energy production instead? The question will give the President a choice. If he says yes, we can hold him to that policy standard. But if Mr. Biden says no, we’ll know he’s siding with his climate emissary John Kerry and the progressive left against the urgent economic and strategic interests of the United States. The voters can judge accordingly.

ONLINE: https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-question-for-president-biden-on-oil-and-gas-russia-energy-11647295400

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March 9

The Los Angeles Times argues that, along with banning Russian imports, the U.S. should end its dependence on fossil fuels

President Biden’s announcement Tuesday that the U.S. will ban imports of Russian oil and gas underscores the inherent instability and danger of our reliance on fossil fuels.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is fueled by the oil and gas that underpins the Russian economy, and Europe’s reliance on Russian energy hinders its ability to respond. The ban is a righteous move that, in the short term, ensures that Russian President Vladimir Putin does not continue to profit off selling oil to the U.S. and that Americans do not subsidize his brutal war.

The ban should make it clearer than ever how urgently we need to accelerate renewable energy and hasten the end of fossil fuels that empower autocrats and are incompatible with a safe and secure planet.

Europe is far more dependent on Russian oil and gas than the U.S., which gets less than 10% of its imported oil from Russia, and the European Union is already proposing swift action to dramatically reduce its reliance on Russian gas, in part by speeding up the replacement of fossil fuels through renewable energy, electrification and efficiency projects. The U.S. should do the same and respond to this crisis with a leap forward on climate action and an aggressive move to non-polluting energy sources.

Priority No. 1 has to be salvaging the climate provisions from Biden’s Build Back Better Act, which opposition from West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin III has all but killed.

The $555 billion for renewable energy and clean transportation in Biden’s proposal includes an increase in the electric vehicle tax credit from $7,500 up to $12,500 for lower- and middle-income families, and a new credit of up to $4,000 for used zero-emission vehicles. These measures, in combination with surging gasoline prices, would make switching to an electric car pencil out financially for many more Americans, including working-class people who have been left behind in the adoption of zero-emission vehicles.

As frustrating as it may be to pass the expansive Build Back Better agenda piecemeal, Biden and congressional Democrats should strike a deal with Manchin, who has repeatedly indicated openness to narrower legislation that would include big spending on climate change and renewable energy. We cannot let the failure of the entire package derail a once-in-a-generation opportunity to take the nation’s biggest step ever to fight climate change.

Biden should also find a way to fast-track implementation of the parts of the already-passed bipartisan infrastructure bill that will help cut demand for fossil fuels, including billions of dollars to build up the nation’s electric vehicle charging network and weatherize low-income homes.

But Biden needs to think bigger and pursue more ambitious measures to deploy clean energy in the United States and Europe within months to a year. That means quickly ramping up programs that make it easy and attractive for people to switch from gas-fueled cars to electric vehicles and replace natural-gas-fueled water heaters and furnaces with energy-efficient electric heat pump models. These actions will fight climate change, save American families money and insulate them from spiking energy prices at the gas pump and on utility bills.

Everything should be on the table in pursuit of this goal, including use of the Defense Production Act — the law that President Trump and Biden used to increase production of ventilators and protective equipment to combat the COVID-19 pandemic — to launch a swift and massive deployment of heat pumps, air-conditioning-like systems that can heat and cool homes and buildings across the U.S. and Europe. The Washington Post reported that the White House has studied using that authority or Department of Defense procurement programs to dramatically scale up U.S. production of heat pumps at low cost, an effort advocates have compared to the “Lend-Lease” program the U.S. used to supply European allies during World War II.

U.S. lawmakers should also take aim at the sky-high profits oil and gas interests are reaping from high energy prices. They can follow the European Union in proposing a windfall profit tax to raise funds for renewable energy and efficiency projects that will reduce demand for fossil fuels.

Some of these steps may not roll out fast enough to make an immediate and decisive difference in the Ukraine crisis. But over time, they will weaken Putin and other authoritarian rulers who derive their power from fossil fuels, increasing our ability to isolate them economically during future conflicts, while also accelerating the global fight against climate change.

Biden is under pressure from oil and gas companies and politicians who are exploiting the tragedy of war to push for more domestic drilling and looser environmental protections in the name of energy independence. But the president should stay focused on true energy independence, where investment in clean, renewable energy positions America and its allies for peace and security while avoiding a catastrophic heating of the planet.

ONLINE: https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2022-03-09/ukraine-fossil-fuels

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March 15

China Daily asserts that the U.S. is trying to “pass the buck” on Ukraine

Some US politicians and media outlets have repeatedly fabricated and spread false information to take advantage of the Ukraine crisis to smear China.

This despicable behavior does not in any way cover up the United States’ responsibility for the Ukraine crisis, which it has essentially engineered as a way to weaken Russia and tighten its grip on Europe.

As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China has always made its own judgments and it has expressed its views on the Ukraine crisis in an objective and impartial manner. It believes that the complicated historical causes of the frictions between Ukraine and Russia that the US has aggravated, exploited and lost control of cannot be resolved without a new European security mechanism that is not wedded to the divisions of the past.

As the escalation of the fighting indicates, the US-led maximum pressure tactics, including imposing sanctions on Russia and providing weapons to Ukraine, only makes the situation worse.

The most pressing task at present is to promote peace talks instead of pouring oil on the flames. China, as always, stands on the side of peace, cooperation, fairness and justice. It actively supports any effort that is conducive to easing tensions and securing a political settlement, and opposes any action to the contrary.

That is why China, shouldering its responsibilities as a major country, is doing what it can to promote talks between the two warring parties and has been in close communication with various parties trying to help promote a consensus on the way to end the fighting and how to move forward.

What China has been doing is the opposite of the malicious disinformation campaign Washington is waging against China and in stark contrast to the actions of the US, which, far removed from the consequences of its actions, continues to make trouble in its bid to profit from the crisis.

China does not support the use of sanctions, since it believes that rather than being a solution to crises, they only serve to exacerbate them at the expense of people’s livelihoods.

Over the past 20 years, sanctions have been a weapon of choice for the US against various countries. Over that period, the unilateral sanctions imposed by the US have increased tenfold, according to data published by the US Treasury Department. The US imposed 3,800 sanctions on governments, individuals, organizations and market entities worldwide during the previous presidency. That’s three new sanctions a day on average.

That many other countries have refused to join the Western countries in sanctioning Russia reflects their sober judgment of the situation.

The US is not in a position to dictate that China join its sanctions targeting Russia. That the US is smearing China for not doing so only exposes how it has been unable to exert control over the troubles it has orchestrated and how desperate it has become after realizing the dilemma it has created for itself.

ONLINE: http://global.chinadaily.com.cn/a/202203/15/WS62307675a310fd2b29e510b1.html

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March 11

According to The Guardian, McDonald’s and other western brands pulling out of Russia contributes to an existing economic shift

The Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention once proposed that no two nations with McDonald’s franchises would go to war; people in those kinds of economies would rather queue for burgers. The thesis was not only crass, but soon disproven. Yet it nodded to a broader truth: that economic ties were drawing countries closer together, creating a global interdependence which would not quickly be undone.

Times have changed. On Tuesday, the American fast-food giant suspended its operations in Russia. It is part of a dramatic exodus by international brands – from Uniqlo, Netflix and Chanel to Apple, PwC and American Express – due to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, the western sanctions imposed in response and the public outcry. Shell and BP are selling their Russian assets. Britain and the US are banning Russian oil, while the EU is slowly phasing out gas imports, on which it is heavily dependent. On Friday, the US announced that, with allies, it was revoking Russia’s “most favoured nation” status.

This huge and abrupt retrenchment is contributing to an existing economic shift of deglobalisation. The arrival of McDonald’s in Moscow in 1990 exemplified the incoming tide of global integration. Economic liberalisation in China, the Soviet Union’s collapse and the advent of new technologies created a world connected as never before – one in which it would soon seem mundane for a Russian oligarch to own an English football club; for a Chinese state firm to invest in a British nuclear plant; for American teens to dance to Korean pop on a Chinese-owned app; for identical products to be sold from Dubai to Durban and Bangkok to Buenos Aires.

The economist Douglas Irwin argues that the financial crisis of 2008-09 marked the moment the process slowed, then reversed. The costs of globalisation, from the impact of shocks far away to the stunting of industrialisation in parts of Africa and low wage growth in developed nations, became increasingly evident and fostered populism. Donald Trump’s love of tariffs and trade war with China accelerated the protectionist trend. Beijing excluded US internet giants and increasingly looked towards domestic consumption and self-sufficiency in key technologies.

The pandemic dramatically demonstrated the vulnerabilities in long supply chains, and made countries look closer to home. Narendra Modi announced a Self-reliant India scheme; Japan introduced incentives for companies to onshore production. Emmanuel Macron, the French president, declared that “this kind of globalisation was reaching the end of its cycle” anyway.

The change should not be overstated. Most of the companies pulling out of Russia have said they are only pausing their business – though Moscow has now threatened to seize the assets of western firms exiting the country. It is doubtful that they would be so quick to quit China, where a much larger market is at stake: thousands, not hundreds, of McDonald’s branches. Concerns about human rights there are regularly brushed aside.

Deglobalisation does not mean we will see a new age of autarky – the kind of drastic reversal seen in the 1920s and 30s, when protectionism surged and global trade collapsed. Even the emergence of discrete spheres of activity, cold war-style, would be a very big shift; China has boosted economic ties with Russia, but its trade with the EU and US is far greater. The pandemic demonstrated the need for international cooperation as well as national self-reliance – and if we are to tackle and adapt to global heating, technology transfer will be central. But the high tide of globalisation has passed for now; the question is how far the water will drop.

ONLINE: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/mar/11/the-guardian-view-on-deglobalisation-mcdonalds-quits-moscow

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Copyright © 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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