Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:
The Montreal Gazette on Brexit and Quebec:
Quebec sovereignists clearly are hoping that the United Kingdom’s vote last week to leave the European Union will breathe new life into their project: They hailed it as proving the continued relevance of national sovereignty, as a case of voters standing up to “fearmongering” by financial elites, and as a precedent for acceptance of a 50-per-cent-plus-one threshold.
Yet, the parallels with Quebec are far from evident, and Brexit seems more likely to prove cautionary tale than shining example.
It’s far too soon to know how Brexit will play out — or even whether it will. British Prime Minister David Cameron seems to be in no hurry to start withdrawal negotiations.
As we in Quebec well know, political uncertainty is bad for the economy, as are moves to disrupt economic ties. Thursday’s vote sent markets into turmoil. The broader economic fallout can be expected to continue for awhile. So far, the “fearmongers” have been proven right.
And, it should be remembered, what the United Kingdom has voted to do is withdraw from a partnership. This is a much smaller change than the creation of a new nation would be.
As for recognition of a vote by simple majority: This sets no relevant precedent. International recognition of a self-declared independent nation can be contingent on several factors; a majority vote does not guarantee anything. In the Brexit case, what is being generally recognized is that, having put a clear question to a popular vote, the U.K. government is likely to consider itself bound to act upon the result, and that doing so is its prerogative.
What the vote does demonstrate is the danger of allowing such a momentous change to hinge on such a slim majority.
Another thing that Quebec sovereignists should consider is that this simple majority vote might yet lead to the breakup of the United Kingdom. They might not care: sovereignists have been cheering on Scotland’s secessionists, with whom they identify. But it’s a reminder that if Quebec were ever to try to secede from Canada, it would be likely to face its own secessionist movements, as the Cree made clear in 1995. (Also, it should be recalled that Scots rejected independence in 2014; if Scotland does hold another independence referendum, it would be in order to remain in the EU.)
Of course, sovereignty remains a relevant concept, albeit in an increasingly interdependent world. But of what nation? In two referendums already, Quebecers have chosen to remain a part of the sovereign nation of Canada.
It’s still early days. But any suggestions that the British vote boosts Quebec’s sovereignist cause seems premature.
The Boston Herald on deadly attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport:
There is a price to be paid for fighting terrorism — a price the people of too many nations, including our own, have paid in recent days.
This isn’t the first time Turkey has been the victim of terrorism. Two earlier attacks, both blamed on ISIS, the most like suspect here, have targeted tourist areas of Istanbul. But the vast international airport in Istanbul has been among the most secure in the world, likely second only to Tel Aviv in its number of checkpoints.
That security likely saved many more lives yesterday, even as three suicide bombers attacked at those outer security checkpoints. Dozens of people were reported dead, another 60 injured and once again a nation grieves and the civilized world grieves with it.
“Our long summer of discontent has just begun,” a senior U.S. intelligence official told NBC News.
This particular act of terrorism was indeed exceedingly well-timed — intended no doubt to make an already jittery traveling public even more nervous at the height of the summer tourist season.
But the attack also comes during a week in which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made two significant moves to restore fractured relationships with Israel and with Russia. Just Sunday, Ankara reached agreement to resume full diplomatic relations with Israel after six years of estrangement. Monday, Erdogan issued a letter apologizing to Russia for downing a jet near its border with Syria.
It should have been a good week for Erdogan, who has spent too much time in recent days grabbing for power and losing sight of how best to drive his nation’s economic growth. This week he began to bring Turkey back into a family of nations that despite their differences remains united in the fight against the singular evil of our times — the kind of evil that targets the innocent among us.
There is no compromise with that kind of evil. There is only fighting it — together — in the same way we share the grief at our losses.
The New York Times on Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis:
The fiscal crisis in Puerto Rico is also a humanitarian crisis. The Senate now has an opportunity — and the obligation — to address both. It is scheduled to vote on Wednesday on a bill already approved by the House that would restructure the island’s debts and could create the conditions for recovery.
If the bill loses, Puerto Rico will default on Friday on a $2 billion debt payment, creditors will keep suing for full repayment and essential services on the island, including health, sanitation, education, electricity, public transportation and public safety, will continue to decline.
Even so, the bill’s passage is in doubt. Senators in both parties have objected to the yes-or-no nature of the vote, saying they want to amend the bill. But amendments would likely kill the bill, in part because it passed the House only after negotiations and compromise among both parties and the White House. Even if the House were inclined to pass an amended bill, it could not do so before the July 1 default date because it is not in session.
The bill is bitter medicine. In exchange for letting Puerto Rico restructure its debt in a federal process similar to bankruptcy, it requires the island’s government to submit to the decisions and oversight of a financial control board that would manage the restructuring. The bill also exempts Puerto Rico from having to obey labor law on overtime pay and grants the island’s governor the power to authorize sub-minimum wages for workers younger than 25.
Those drawbacks, however, do not outweigh the benefits. The bill would fight poverty by adequately financing public pensions. It would also impose a stay, or pause, in litigation by hedge funds and other creditors, a move to ensure that scarce public money is not diverted to creditors while the restructuring is underway.
The alternative is chaotic default and escalating human misery. Without a restructuring process that puts all claims on the table, creditors — who were or should have been aware of the risks in lending money to Puerto Rico — will never have an incentive to accept less than full repayment. The entire burden of the debt would fall on Puerto Ricans.
There is no better solution at hand than the bill now before the Senate. A “no” vote would be a vote for Puerto Rico’s creditors and against its people.
The Dallas Morning News on what the U.S. can learn from Brexit:
There are lessons for the United States from last week’s Brexit vote across the pond. The presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, has has tapped into the same populist sentiment here that caused UK voters to cast ballots in favor of leaving the European Union. The consequences could be just as frightful.
Here are three common manipulations.
1 Grabbing attention with populist appeals, the simpler the better
Brexit supporters, led by former London Mayor Boris Johnson, promised that going it alone would produce a quick remedy to all that ails the United Kingdom. No more immigrants taking jobs. No more edicts from far-away Brussels. Prosperity all around.
If this sounds familiar, it should. It mimics the most simplistic populist talking points of the Trump campaign. A wall on the U.S-Mexico border and Mexico will pay for it. A ban against Muslims entering the United States. We’ll have so many good trade deals that you couldn’t stand the winning.
If a solution to seems too simple, it probably is.
2 Contempt for practical questions
Economists warned of the folly of fleeing the EU. Breaking up a powerful trading bloc at a time when the rest of the world is seeking new trade alliances made no sense, they said. Financial markets would crash, billions of dollars would be lost. The EU and UK would be thrust into a period of grave uncertainty.
And guess what? It is happening and some voters are having buyer’s remorse for having purchased a pipe dream.
3 Ridicule of experts
Brexit supporters peddled magic beans, portraying anyone who questioned them as elitist and clueless. When pressed, Michael Gove, a pro-Brexit member of Parliament, offered this troubling response that has echoes of Trump: “I think people in this country have had enough of experts.”
Sound familiar? It could have been lifted from Trump’s playbook where doubters are automatically labled “losers” and “haters.” Memo to voters: Any person who stokes anti-establishment rage without regard to practical implications is dangerous.
It’s important to remember that elections do have consequences. Prime Minister David Cameron didn’t have to call the election. In doing so, he misread the tea leaves and gave a significant toehold to the pro-Brexit camp in a referendum. Now the future of the EU and the UK are in limbo.
Ditto to the GOP leaders here who said primary voters would never nominate a man as bombastic as Trump. They, too, misread the tea leaves. Now the GOP is badly fractured with a candidate many in party leadership want to disown.
Brexit should be a wake-up call to Americans about Trump’s campaign on this side of the Atlantic. Trump became the presumptive GOP nominee based on populist bluster. Bluster is not a policy, and the consequences of unchallenged assertions are written in the UK’s self-inflicted wounds.
The Seattle Times on regulations on marijuana businesses:
JUST four years after Washington and Colorado led in legalizing recreational uses of marijuana, the pot train has left the station.
Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia allow legal marijuana access in some form, with legislatures in Ohio and Pennsylvania approving medical marijuana in 2016. Full legalization measures are polling well in California and Nevada. Nationwide, a majority of Americans now support tossing out the drug-war ban on cannabis.
But Congress hasn’t gotten on board. Despite small tweaks in the law and promising cracks in the prohibition regime, leadership in the Republican-controlled U.S. House have again blocked meaningful changes needed to facilitate the state-level experiment on marijuana.
This time, it’s the issue of cash. Federal banking laws equate licensed, regulated marijuana businesses with cocaine kingpins. The Obama administration somewhat blunted the sharp teeth of law enforcement, however, with “guidance” memos — not a change in the law.
That allowed a small cadre of small banks and credit unions in Washington to more openly serve state-licensed marijuana businesses. Scott Jarvis, head of the state Department of Financial Institutions, estimates there are fewer than a dozen such institutions. His agency has been a model for artful, productive negotiation between federal regulations, state financial institutions and the cannabis industry.
But as long as the threat of federal banking regulators remains, the marijuana industry will remain a cash-rich target for thieves. Last week, U.S. Reps. Denny Heck, D-Olympia, and Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., tried to tack on an amendment to an appropriations bill that would have blocked federal enforcement against financial institutions servicing licensed marijuana businesses. But the House Rules Committee, led by U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, blocked a vote on the amendment, effectively killing it.
Nevermind that the U.S. Senate recently approved a similar amendment, thanks to leadership from U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and that the House itself approved the amendment two years ago. Those provisions, however, never survived budget reconciliation negotiations and did not become law.
The consequence of non-action was seen two weeks ago, when a 24-year-old former Marine, Travis Mason, was gunned down in an armed robbery at a Colorado marijuana dispensary where he worked as a security guard.
Heck, who has become a leader in pushing Congress toward sensible marijuana reforms, said Congress has a clear public-safety responsibility.
“I get opposition (to marijuana legalization), but that’s not what is in front of us. What’s in front of us is how do we make this a safe and well-regulated market,” said Heck.
Congress should see the shifting will of the voters on marijuana, recognize the revolt among the states and begin an end of the prohibition regime. Easing banking regulations on marijuana is a reasonable place to start.
The Miami Herald on the Benghazi committee:
The long-awaited report by House Republicans on Benghazi released Tuesday packed all the explosive punch of a 5-cent firecracker. Yes, it found a series of failings by the national security bureaucracy, but here’s what else it did: Cleared former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of the absurd accusation that she somehow knew about the attack on the diplomatic compound in Libya before it happened and did nothing about it.
The GOP-led committee’s desire to find evidence of malfeasance by Ms. Clinton to support all the conspiracy theories surrounding Benghazi went unfulfilled. Had there been real facts to support it, surely this committee would have found it. After all, that was the panel’s real mission, despite the talk of concern about national security.
Instead, the minutely detailed, 800-page document produced by the committee assigned blame far beyond Secretary Clinton’s State Department. As the McClatchy news story declared, “Actions of the Pentagon, FBI and intelligence community were also critiqued.”
But we already knew that from the eight investigations that preceded this politically inspired probe. The report — a product of the longest Congressional investigation in memory on possible wrongdoing in the executive branch, longer than Watergate or 9/11 — went a bit further and deeper than the earlier ones, but the general outline was already known.
The primary finding is that Washington officials, confronted by the fact that something terrible was happening in Benghazi, engaged in a lot of dithering instead of the immediate reaction that could have saved lives. That produced a policy disaster that tarnishes everyone connected to it.
That is genuinely scandalous, and it should never have happened. But again, Washington’s failure became evident in the weeks immediately following the 2012 attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three American colleagues: Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods. It shouldn’t have taken yet another investigation to tell the American public what it had already been told.
Also evident, by the way — although congressional Republicans have been loath to admit it — is that legislators failed to appropriate funding for security at U.S. diplomatic posts around the world at the level the State Department had asked for earlier. That was a critical element of the Benghazi debacle for which Congress is wholly to blame.
In terms of the big picture, there were no startling new revelations, no bombshells. But then, that was probably never the intent. The purpose all along was clearly to prolong the controversy in the hope of finding something — anything — that would produce embarrassing headlines for former Secretary of State Clinton just before her expected nomination as the Democratic candidate for president.
In that regard, the committee can take some credit for unearthing one political dustup that is still ongoing, Ms. Clinton’s email scandal, but that hardly rises to a level that justifies the panel’s alleged public policy purpose. Nor is it likely to affect the outcome of the presidential election.
Is there some lesson here for the future? Only one that we’ve heard before: Congress should never use its investigative power for political purposes. It discredits the investigative process, discredits the members who take part in it and discredits Congress itself.
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