Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:
The (Johannesburg, South Africa) Mail & Gazette on climate denial within political parties:
Local government is on the front line of the climate crisis.
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And its local governments that can make or break tackling climate change.
Around the world, they are seen as key to the success of national climate strategies, with more than 70% of climate reduction measures and as much as 90% of climate adaptation measures undertaken by them, according to the United Nations Development Programme.
That’s because municipalities plan disaster risk reduction management responses against extreme weather; develop green infrastructure; implement waste reduction plans; source clean local energy, improve public transport and create more green spaces, among others.
Yet, from our three major political polities — the ANC, the Democratic Alliance and the Economic Freedom Fighters — there is a near-deafening silence in their election manifestos about how they will prioritise climate action, environmental justice and South Africa’s just transition to a low-carbon society.
They are in climate denial.
As the climate crisis deepens globally, both the ANC and DA manifestos mention climate change just once and, although the EFF has a brief section in its manifesto devoted to climate change and the environment, environmental justice activists have described this as lacklustre.
Climate change is largely absent from the DA’s manifesto — other than in the mention of LED street lighting to keep carbon emissions low and recycled plastic roads in Jeffreys Bay — while the ANC’s manifesto gives a vague nod to “sustainability” and “green issues”.
It makes promises to increase the share of renewable energy but lacks any ambitious goals for the phasing out of greenhouse gas emitting fossil fuels. The EFF, meanwhile, plans on giving businesses incentives to use clean energy and to install solar power on houses built in EFF-run municipalities.
Both climate change and the environment occupy the least amount of space in these unambitious manifestos. Worse still, the ANC, DA and EFF seem oblivious to the climate shocks that are hammering the region such as El Niño induced droughts, cyclonic storms and more frequent and intense heatwaves.
The recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that in just a decade, the planet’s temperature will exceed a 1.5°C increase. For Southern Africa, which is warming at twice the global rate, this means at least a 3°C rise, which will collapse the maize and livestock sectors and dry out our limited water sources.
A new report from the United Nations this week, ahead of COP26 climate negotiations, warned that the latest climate promises pledged by governments put the world on track for a temperature rise this century of at least 2.7°C, which will be devastating for our region.
South Africa already faces numerous crises including hunger, poverty, unemployment, inequality, rampant corruption and the epic failure to deliver basic services — all of which are being worsened by the climate crisis. Many people in rural areas are already living in a perpetual Day Zero, and small-scale subsistence farmers have had to stop farming because of the relentless drought.
Yet our major political parties choose to be ignorant to the harmful effects of extreme weather and the importance of environmental integrity in delivering basic services.
As one environmental justice activist put it, if we don’t deal with the issues of climate change by making that link to the food-energy-water nexus, “we are basically imploding”.
The Wall Street Journal on the results of the Virginia governor’s race:
Glenn Youngkin’s victory in the Virginia Governor’s race on Tuesday is a political thunderclap that should warn Democrats about their ideological overreach. But it may be more important as a template for how Republicans can win back the suburbs after their alienation from the GOP during the Trump Presidency.
The rebuke to Democrats was also clear in New Jersey, where Republican Jack Ciattarelli was neck-and-neck Wednesday morning with incumbent Gov. Phil Murphy. Mr. Ciattarelli won back suburban counties in a huge voter swing that pollsters didn’t see coming in a state Joe Biden won by 16 points.
Mr. Youngkin, a businessman and first-time candidate, defied the historical trend by winning a state that has been trending Democratic. The GOP hadn’t won a statewide Virginia race in more than a decade, and Mr. Biden beat Donald Trump by 10 points. The decisive swing vote had moved away from the GOP in the suburbs around Washington, D.C., Richmond and Virginia Beach.
Mr. Youngkin clawed back enough of that vote to defeat former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe and sweep the other two top statewide offices. He did so by focusing on quality-of-life issues such as education, public safety, and the cost of living. He didn’t shrink from disputes over culture and school curriculum, but he didn’t approach them as a zealot. He didn’t run a single immigration ad that we heard about, a contrast with the Trump era. He talked like a normal human being.
The Republican was helped because this time the zealotry was on the left. Mr. McAuliffe, a centrist when he was raising money for Bill and Hillary Clinton, indulged every obsession of the party’s dominant progressive wing. Keep schools closed, ignore parental objections to teaching critical race theory in schools, and call Mr. Youngkin a “Trumpkin” with sympathy for white supremacists. Mr. McAuliffe closed his campaign by appearing with Randi Weingarten, the teachers union chief who fought to keep schools closed. There’s a political mood killer.
Off-year races for Governor aren’t a predictor of 2022, but they should tell Democrats that they’re on a losing path. President Biden ran as a centrist who would unite the country, but he has governed by bowing to the left on nearly everything. He has pushed identity politics and radical spending programs when people care about the soaring price of gasoline. The President’s approval rating has tanked, as independents and even many Democrats have grown disillusioned.
The Democratic temptation will be to dismiss their Tuesday thumping as a normal reaction against the party that controls Washington. Congressional leaders will make the case that they must now, more than ever, pass their $4 trillion tax and spending bill lest they demoralize their supporters going into 2022.
That’s easy for Speaker Nancy Pelosi to say. She’s probably retiring anyway. But that strategy is volunteering 20 to 30 Democrats in swing suburban districts for political suicide. Virginia Reps. Elaine Luria and Abigail Spanberger are prime targets. Without Mr. Trump on the ballot, Democrats are less motivated to vote. Their agenda of record social spending and higher taxes has compromised, with inflation and supply shortages, what should be a booming recovery.
The smart strategy would be to drop the Bernie Sanders agenda, settle for the Senate infrastructure bill, and recalibrate to win some bipartisan victories. The Virginia defeat gives Mr. Biden the opening he needs to finally say no to the left. It may be the only way to salvage his Presidency. Senator Joe Manchin and the swing-district House Democrats would do their party a favor by withdrawing support for the Sanders-Pelosi entitlement blowout.
As for the GOP, the Youngkin strategy won’t be replicable everywhere. But it does show a path to regaining support in the suburbs that was lost under Mr. Trump. The GOP in the Trump years won a larger share of the vote in shrinking parts of the country, but a smaller share in the rising areas. Much of this was due to Mr. Trump’s persona and polarizing style that alienated college-educated voters and women.
Mr. Youngkin triangulated the Trump dilemma with skill. He didn’t attack the former President but he also didn’t invite him to campaign with him. Mr. McAuliffe tried to wrap Mr. Trump around the Republican but it didn’t work because Mr. Youngkin was so un-Trump-like. He could talk about some of the same cultural issues, such as critical race theory in schools, but without playing into the hands of the Democrats who want to portray all Republicans as racists.
Mr. Trump, naturally, tried to take credit for Mr. Youngkin’s victory in statements on Tuesday night. But he was jumping in front of the victory parade. The former President would have hurt Mr. Youngkin had he campaigned for him. The message from Virginia is that voters don’t want the agenda of the progressive left, and they’ll listen to a Republican who forthrightly addresses problems they care about without being a jerk.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune on voters rejecting measure to reshape police force:
The ill-conceived proposal to replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a Department of Public Safety has been soundly defeated.
In the face of rising crime, including a 40% increase in carjackings, Minneapolis voters on Tuesday rejected an empty plan that featured promises and interpretations of what might happen, but few actual details.
That was always the proposal’s major failing. It would have rolled back minimum law enforcement staffing and funding requirements in a city that already has far too little of both. It also would have extended the City Council’s power over policing and put another layer of bureaucracy above the police chief — if one remained in the new structure — in the form of a commissioner.
No one, however, should take the rejection of the amendment as a vote for the status quo. There is hunger for real change that will finally rid the Police Department of the toxic culture that was on full display with the murder of George Floyd.
The critical elements that allowed that culture to flourish would not have changed under the amendment. A union contract that has protected rogue officers must be renegotiated. State laws that handcuff the police chief from dealing with such officers must also be revisited.
Additional funds will be needed to rebuild the depleted department, ensure that more mental health professionals are available to answer calls, and expand violence prevention efforts. (And, yes, some of that work already is underway.)
Those and other reforms should be enacted — as the Star Tribune Editorial Board has argued for years. We will not stop pressing for real rather than cosmetic changes that will translate into better, more effective policing and a safer community for all.
As of the deadline for this editorial, it was unclear if Mayor Jacob Frey would be re-elected — and several council races were too close to call. Whoever leads the city going forward must make public safety and police reform equal priorities.
And that governance structure, as the Editorial Board recommended, is set to dramatically change. In one of Tuesday’s surprises, a ballot proposal to strengthen mayoral oversight won handily, ending decades of a dysfunctional system that saw individual council members attempt to exert power over departments, undercutting mayors’ ability to control their own administrations.
Under this new system, the mayor will function as a chief executive, with full oversight on day-to-day operations of city departments. The council will be charged with developing policy, passing budgets and responding to constituents in their wards. That will be a welcome change that brings Minneapolis in line with other big cities.
In another sweeping change, voters in Minneapolis and St. Paul opted to bring rent control to the state’s two largest cities. The Minneapolis amendment will allow the City Council to develop a policy to stabilize rents. Under state law, cities have to develop a plan first that voters can either accept or reject. That insistence on an actual plan, with details, is sensible and a needed protection for voters who deserve to know what they are getting.
But such is the frustration over rising rents and unaffordable housing that voters were willing to take a chance even though legal challenges are expected.
In St. Paul, where Mayor Melvin Carter easily won a second term, voters approved what may be one of the strictest rent control measures in the country. Property owners there will be prohibited from raising rents by more than 3% in a one-year period even if there is a change in occupancy. Landlords can apply for an exemption.
Both cities must ensure that such new policies bring relief to renters in the form of more stable rents without stifling the development of rental housing overall and limiting incentives to maintain rental properties — critical concerns that led the Editorial Board to oppose both amendments.
The Dallas Morning News on creating a West Point for cops:
It’s been a year and a half since the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer sparked national protests and a broad, sustained call for police reform. Yet, many of the reform ideas pushed forward have stalled and will likely never advance for a simple reason: What’s really needed is sound leadership in the ranks and in the top-brass of our police departments, and that’s nearly impossible to force into practice through the policy arena.
Fortunately, we do have a model for driving systemic change that would build and even strengthen the leadership of inspired and moral leaders, many of whom are already in the police ranks, while draining away bad leadership and bad leaders in the process. And this model wouldn’t undercut the ability of average police officers to do their jobs. Nor would it require tens of billions of dollars of new expense.
What we should do is build a National Police Service University based on the model of our national military service academies of West Point and Annapolis as well as the Air Force and the Coast Guard academies.
There are actually a lot of military-based universities in the United States. From Norwich University in Vermont to the Virginia Military Institute and many others, a broad range of public and private universities are dedicated to turning out a high-caliber military officer corps. Many of these universities already feed into the ranks of police departments across the country.
But the federal government could significantly ramp up leadership training and, therefore, the leadership ranks of police departments across the country if it creates a new central training point for others to emulate and measure themselves against.
The beauty of a four-year university type setting for such a service academy can be found now at West Point and our other national service academies. Each has its own unique traditions, policies and curriculum. But broadly speaking, each engages a program that uses physical rigor to test the body and mind of its next generation of leaders. It then employs four years of academic study that recognizes how math and engineering training can broaden the mind and how the humanities can sharpen a person to make sound, moral and inspired decisions.
By the end of this process, those who graduate have a solid, moral grounding and a strong network of leaders to draw from as they build their own careers. The Long Gray Line of West Point (and the long history of the other academies) has been a quiet and powerful force in forging the leadership class of our professional military.
Not every military officer has attended a national service academy, but the culture and the ethics of those institutions have had and will continue to have a profound and dramatic effect on our military’s culture.
The same would be true if we created a prestigious national police service academy. Graduates would go on to serve in police departments across the country after meeting state licensing standards. Over time, a disproportionate number of them would rise up the ranks and become chiefs in departments big and small. As they did they would carry with them what they learned at the service academy and be able to draw on a network of other officers also rising up the ranks.
What’s more, creating such a national police service academy would make it easier to develop and offer as a model the full range of skills and development programs needed to forge the leaders we need in our squad cars and at the heads of various teams of our police departments. Key skills such as the proper use of force, as well firearms and other training would be key features of the curriculum at such a university. But practical skills would only be one component. Such an academy would also include other intellectual rigor that can only come from studying history, literature, economics as well as math and science.
And finally, such an academy could go on to offer graduate programs and degrees that could range from two-week-long intensive executive programs to full-time master and doctoral degrees. A national police service academy might even go on to offer MBAs and law degrees. But the main aim would be to make it a research institution that had a culture of strong ethics and serious intellectual training that would prepare the leaders of the future of the stressful and dynamic career of performing a key function of our society — ensuring public safety.
This is a new idea that we have not heard anyone propose. And we’d go further to say that there would be no better place for such a university than North Texas, where many military veterans live and where rapid population growth as well as our social history makes us a key testing ground for many of the challenges facing our society today. But regardless of where it is built, such an approach could have a profound effect over time that would be constructive and help ensure that we are forging the right culture and supporting strong leadership among many already in the ranks.
If we are looking for systemic change, a national police service academy is one way to forge that change. We hope Congress considers the idea and gives us a West Point for police officers.
The Lorain (Ohio) Morning Journal on guns and ‘flight rage’:
Federal aviation officials say more airline passengers than ever are showing up at airports with guns. Combined with the general uptick in belligerent behavior by passengers, this is an issue with the potential for real mayhem. Those who get weapons confiscated at security already face penalties, but it’s time to talk about making them steeper.
Transportation Security Administration officers stopped 4,495 passengers trying to carry guns through security at 248 airports around the country during the first nine months of this year, the TSA reported recently. That’s the highest number in at least 20 years. More than 80% of the guns were loaded.
Fewer than 5,000 confiscations over nine months may not sound like a lot, given that millions of Americans fly every week, but in context, the number is concerning. It represents an average of 11 firearms discovered per 1 million passengers, a rate that’s more than twice that of 2019, the next-highest year of overall firearms confiscation.
The spike may be another indication that Americans are simply carrying guns more often in general these days — the same factor that many believe helped drive last year’s historic spike in homicides nationally — in the absence of even the most basic federal gun restrictions like universal background checks.
And it’s happening as problems with unruly passengers are escalating at airports, including verbal and physical attacks on flight attendants and fellow passengers. The Federal Aviation Administration says more than 70% of those incidents are fueled by anger at the requirement that passengers wear masks during flights.
Loaded guns and infuriated, unreasonable passengers are obviously a bad mix. Just as the airline industry is seeking to impose stricter penalties on passengers who create havoc with their behavior on planes, the penalties for attempting to bring a gun on board should be reviewed.
Currently, that infraction can merit as little as a $2,500 fine for a first-time offender with an unloaded gun.
Mistakes do happen — it’s not impossible to forget that a weapon is in a carry-on bag — but responsible gun owners should be aware of where their firearm is at all times. Infractions with loaded guns especially should trigger far harsher fines, potential for prosecution and bans from future flying.
If penalties are stiff enough and publicized enough, passengers will think twice about crossing this particular boundary, inadvertently or otherwise. It’s bad enough that the toxicity of America’s politics today is slipping into these pressurized cabins, where it can be far more dangerous than it is on the ground. Anyone who tries to introduce firearms to the mix should face a zero-tolerance response.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on coral reefs as the rainforests of the oceans:
Most people have a vague awareness that huge swaths of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil are either on fire or being clear-cut by farming and lumber industries.
We also know that much of the scrubbing of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is accomplished by that same massive rainforest, a region that has been poetically but accurately described as the “lungs of the world.”
Just as the Amazon helps us land creatures to breathe, coral reefs provide a similar function for the fragile ecosystems beneath the world’s oceans. For the millions of sea creatures living in proximity to the great reefs, they are indispensable and irreplaceable links in the ocean’s ecosystem.
Last month in the science journal “One Earth,” a study concluded that half of the world’s coral reefs have been destroyed since 1950. This is a catastrophe.
Climate change, over-fishing and pollution are believed to be the primary culprits in the destruction of the source for food and shelter for the fish, crustacean, algae and plant life that have depended on a symbiotic relationship with the reefs since before humans took to the seas.
The accelerating destruction of the coral reefs also affects the economies of nearby indigenous populations who depend on fishing and tourism to provide a living. There isn’t much demand to visit once-healthy multi-colored coral reefs now bleached white and marinated by acidic waters toxic to all life.
Because they are extremely sensitive to changes in water temperature and acidity levels, coral reefs provide an early warning system indicating the general health of the oceans. Even so, those who deny the reality of global warming won’t be convinced that a global coral collapse has been triggered by human activity.
We are rapidly approaching the point where it won’t be possible to reverse the damage to the coral reefs and, by extension, the world’s oceans. Somehow, we have to find the collective will to curb the fossil fuel emissions that lead to temperature rise in the oceans.
This is not a problem that humanity can afford to look at in isolation. The likely death of the world’s magnificent coral reefs isn’t the same as a species or two going extinct. It is a sign of a dismal future where biodiversity is willingly sacrificed on the altar of profit, regardless of the cost to humanity and the planet.
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