Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:
The Los Angeles Times on the Dodgers’ World Series win:
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For the second time in this strange and awful year, Los Angeles has found a reason to cheer.
The World Series championship won by the Dodgers on Tuesday night is its first in 32 years, a drought made all the more frustrating by the near-misses in recent seasons. Twice in the previous three years, the Dodgers made it to the World Series only to lose — and in 2017, to a Houston Astros team that cheated its way to victory.
So the Dodgers were due. All the more so considering how heavily the team’s owners — Guggenheim Baseball Management, which bought the team after Frank McCourt put it into bankruptcy — have spent over the years. Just before the season started, they opened the cash spigot again for the newly arrived outfielder Mookie Betts, a game-changer at the plate and in the field. Betts, who starred for the Boston Red Sox when they beat the Dodgers in the 2018 series, scored what proved to be the winning run Tuesday.
The expensive, star-infused lineup is one thing the Dodgers had in common with the city’s other titleholder, the Lakers, who won the NBA championship a little more than two weeks ago after missing the playoffs for seven agonizing years. Another thing the teams share is the giant local fan bases they have built up, each of which cuts across ages, races, ethnicities, incomes and political views.
With all the challenges thrown in our way this year — the pandemic, the recession, the monstrous wildfires, the reckoning with systemic racism, the exceptionally divisive election season — we need as many sources of joy and unity as we can find. And it’s hard to imagine a better one than these wins.
Also like the Lakers, the Dodgers claimed the championship by beating a team from south Florida, 4 games to 2. To get to that point, though, they came from behind again and again, scoring a record number of runs in innings with two outs. That’s a remarkable sign of resilience and determination.
Plus, the team appears to have gotten lucky. Star third baseman Justin Turner was pulled late in the final game after a coronavirus test he’d taken earlier came back positive. That development could have disrupted the Dodgers’ lineup had it happened earlier in the series, or had the series gone to a seventh game Wednesday.
If there’s anything bittersweet about the Dodgers’ win for Angelenos, it is how the pandemic kept the fans out of Dodger Stadium for the entire truncated regular season. In fact, it kept the team out of Dodger Stadium for the league championship and World Series games. There was something off about watching the Dodgers win the championship as the home team playing in a largely empty stadium in Arlington, Texas.
From a distance, then, let’s be grateful that the magnificent Clayton Kershaw, he of so many disappointing postseasons, finally has a World Series ring, thanks in no small measure to the two games he won (one with spectacular stuff, one with a lot of grit). And we can bask in the redemption manager Dave Roberts must feel, having finally ended a season without a chorus of second-guessing about his personnel moves.
Yes, the Dodgers are a big-market team with all the advantages that conveys. Yes, they were the second-highest-paid team in baseball, with a payroll almost four times the size of the team they beat in the series, the Tampa Bay Rays. But as the Dodgers have demonstrated so painfully in recent years, money doesn’t translate into championships. Talent and determination do, salted liberally with good luck and good health.
Let’s all be thankful for that.
The Washington Post on preventing foreign interference in the U.S. election:
One week away from the 2020 presidential election, the United States finds itself in almost the opposite predicament from four years ago: Far from ignoring foreign interference, we’re in danger of imagining more of it than exists — and that in itself could cause big problems.
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Adversaries from Russia to China to Iran are indeed assailing our democracy, a reality that should come as no surprise to anyone paying attention — but the good news is that this time, our government is paying attention. Influence operations on social media sites are getting caught before they can gain much ground. What the hack-and-leak experts have dreaded so far hasn’t happened; even if investigators do find a link between the Kremlin and the dubious Hunter Biden laptop story published by the New York Post, the tale hasn’t caught on because cautious mainstream media organizations haven’t let it and many American voters have grown warier.
President Trump has refused even to acknowledge what happened last time around, yet that hasn’t stopped top security agencies from taking action. The Treasury Department has sanctioned multiple individuals who have attempted to meddle, including Ukrainian lawmaker Andriy Derkach for acting as a Russian agent to launder disinformation through U.S. sources discrediting former vice president Joe Biden; this step, in turn, empowered platforms like Google and Facebook to kick the criminals off their sites. The State Department has revoked the visas of similar actors. U.S. Cyber Command and the National Security Agency are preemptively keeping malicious botnets off the Web to prevent ransomware attacks and other nefariousness on Nov. 3.
The Department of Homeland Security is coordinating with officials in all 50 states and D.C. to secure their infrastructure and spot intruders — which may have helped authorities spot the same sort of probes by Moscow into local computer networks they missed in 2016. Last week, DHS said a group sometimes known as Dragonfly or Berserk Bear was targeting these systems again. That’s concerning, but not because the hackers have changed or could change any vote tallies or registration information: The attackers’ intention, officials worry, may be to sow discord in the days after the election ends, perhaps by claiming they’ve achieved more than they actually have.
The spoofed emails purportedly from the far-right group the Proud Boys threatening voters, which according to the administration came courtesy of Iran, worked to this same end. The authors claimed they were “in possession of all your information” — but really, they were in possession only of what was already public or commercially available.
The United States, in short, faces two threats next week. One is genuine foreign interference. The other is the specter of foreign interference tricking us into distrusting our democracy at every turn — the so-called perception hack. Irregularities occur every election. They are bound to occur this election, too. Already, the president and his allies are alleging the untrustworthiness of mail-in ballots. We must guard against meddlers creating even more chaos, but we also must guard against being manipulated into creating it ourselves.
The Philadelphia Inquirer on calls to release body camera footage in the shooting of a Black man by police:
Again a Black man is killed by police — this time 27-year-old Walter Wallace Jr. from West Philadelphia.
On Monday afternoon, Philadelphia police officers arrived at the 6100 block of Locust Street, where they encountered Wallace with a knife. Wallace “advanced toward the officers,” according to a police spokesperson.
A video taken by a bystander shows Wallace walking toward police officers who are pointing their guns at him. Wallace’s mother and another man try to hold him back in an effort to defuse the situation. As Wallace continues to walk toward the two officers, they both suddenly open fire, striking him 10 times, according to his father.
Wallace’s mother wails, and cradles his body. According to Walter Wallace Sr., his son was a father with a known history of mental health issues.
Having someone walk toward you with a knife is frightening. But as the agents of the state with the monopoly on the use of deadly force, police officers are supposed to be trained in de-escalation and to have tools to utilize before they discharge their weapon multiple times.
Again, protests erupted after the shooting. The residents along the commercial corridor of 52nd Street that is still recovering from unrest and police brutality in response from late May again saw smoke from dumpster fires and a burning police cruiser outside their windows — and police responding with batons.
Again, officials responded with somber statements. Mayor Jim Kenney said: “I have watched the video of this tragic incident and it presents difficult questions that must be answered.” Commissioner Danielle Outlaw added that she will be “leaning on what the investigation gleans to answer unanswered questions.”
But it’s Kenney and Outlaw who need to provide us answers. And considering that the city is still waiting for many answers on the police response to the protests this spring, there is little reason for confidence that the investigation into the killing of Wallace will be swift and transparent.
Again, the Fraternal Order of Police immediately defended the officers.
If the police officers who shot Walter Wallace Jr. 10 times indeed did nothing wrong according to PPD use-of-force protocol — which has been revised in recent years and is again under review — then the state of policing in Philadelphia is even more dire than we thought. It also makes it more urgent to explore non-policing responses to behavior and mental health crises, as other evolved nations and cities do.
Both of the police officers who shot Walter Wallace Jr. wore body cameras. Mayor Kenney and Commissioner Outlaw should release the footage. In too many incidents, including the original excuse for the use of force on I-676, official footage contradicted the official account given to the public. The lack of trust in police also extends to its investigations of their own. Residents must see the evidence for themselves.
After a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd, Kenney released strong statements condemning police brutality and Outlaw applauded the Minneapolis police chief for his “swift and certain response to this tragedy.” Now when the tragedy hits closer to home, their action should match their rhetoric — and release the footage.
The Wall Street Journal on preparing for the upcoming “COVID-19 Winter”:
Perhaps you’ve heard winter is coming. Or as Joe Biden warned last week about a third virus wave, “We’re about to go into a dark winter, a dark winter.” He’s playing up the worst case as the election nears, so some context is in order.
Virus cases are increasing, but this is inevitable as cooler weather arrives and Americans go indoors. Cases have also been climbing across Europe, in some countries more than in the U.S. But the good news is that America is better prepared to handle another virus surge, and progress toward a vaccine continues.
The seven-day U.S. rolling case average has nearly doubled from the recent low in mid-September. Cases are more geographically dispersed than in the spring and summer, rising even in states with strict restrictions and mask mandates. This includes New York and its neighbors whose governors were hailed for supposedly controlling the virus. The increase has been most acute in upper Midwest states that weren’t hit as hard earlier. Some of the increase is due to more testing, which is detecting more asymptomatic cases.
Most concerning are hospitalizations, which are up by about 40% since mid-September though are still 30% or so below spring and summer peaks. Most hospitals have ample capacity to treat virus patients while continuing elective procedures, which were stopped during the spring. Covid patients occupy 13% of hospital beds in Wisconsin, 15% in South Dakota and 15% in North Dakota. According to North Dakota’s virus data dashboard, 45% of non-ICU hospital patients classified “with Covid” are admitted for other reasons and test positive for the virus.
Some hospitals report being swamped, but resources can be deployed to areas that need the extra beds. In El Paso, where Covid patients make up 40% of hospital beds (about twice the summer peak), Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has announced an alternate care site and the feds are sending critical-care personnel.
Wisconsin has set up a field hospital in the Milwaukee suburbs to treat patients who aren’t severely ill but may still need medical support. As of Monday that hospital was treating four patients. Hospitalizing patients with moderate illness can prevent complications that cause long-term damage and can turn deadly.
Governors seem to have learned from mistakes during earlier waves, including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s failure to use field hospitals set up by the feds in New York City. Mr. Abbott was slow to deploy resources to the lower Rio Grande this summer but has responded more swiftly in El Paso.
Death rates have also fallen tremendously as treatments have improved. This includes therapeutics like Gilead’s antiviral remdesivir and Regeneron’s antibody cocktail, but also medical protocols such as prone positioning, low-flow oxygenation in lieu of invasive ventilation, and anticoagulants to treat blood clots.
A new study by the NYU Langone hospital system reports its mortality rate declined by 70% from March to August after accounting for age, health risks, admission vital signs and other factors. The Houston Methodist hospital system reported its mortality during the early summer surge was about 3.5% versus 12.1% in the spring.
Deaths have also trended lower because the public is doing a better job of shielding the elderly and those at high-risk. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported last week the share of deaths in nursing homes declined by 45% between May and August. Individuals over age 85 are 630 times more likely to die than those between 18 and 29, says the CDC.
This is why the epidemiologists who wrote the Great Barrington Declaration, which has been signed by tens of thousands of doctors and scientists, advise a focus on protecting the elderly. They also warn that government lockdowns lead to worsening heart-disease outcomes, fewer cancer screenings and more mental illness.
Nearly a third of the so-called excess deaths in the U.S. this year have been attributed to causes other than Covid, including cardiovascular disease and uncontrolled diabetes. Covid has accounted for less than 10% of deaths among those over 65 this year, and a much smaller share among younger people.
Treating non-Covid health ailments can reduce virus deaths. Masks can also help at the margins, and wearing them to protect others indoors and in crowds is public-spirited and important until a vaccine is widely available, which may be as early as this spring.
Meanwhile, vaccines continue to progress, and four in the U.S. have entered Phase 3 trials, meaning they have already shown evidence of generating antibodies in vaccinated patients. Mr. Biden says most Americans won’t be able to get vaccinated until the middle of next year, but Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health this month suggested April.
If Mr. Biden is elected, he’ll benefit from vaccines developed thanks to drug-company innovation and the Trump Administration effort to streamline the bureaucracy. Expect his winter to become less dark soon after Jan. 20.
The New York Times on the U.S. Supreme Court’s Republican majority:
What happened in the Senate chamber on Monday evening was, on its face, the playing out of a normal, well-established process of the American constitutional order: the confirmation of a president’s nominee to the Supreme Court.
But Senate Republicans, who represent a minority of the American people, are straining the legitimacy of the court by installing a deeply conservative jurist, Amy Coney Barrett, to a lifetime seat just days before an election that polls suggest could deal their party a major defeat.
As with President Trump’s two earlier nominees to the court, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, the details of Judge Barrett’s jurisprudence were less important than the fact that she had been anointed by the conservative activists at the Federalist Society. Along with hundreds of new lower-court judges installed in vacancies that Republicans refused to fill when Barack Obama was president, these three Supreme Court choices were part of the project to turn the courts from a counter-majoritarian shield that protects the rights of minorities to an anti-democratic sword to wield against popular progressive legislation like the Affordable Care Act.
The process also smacked of unseemly hypocrisy. Republicans raced to install Judge Barrett barely one week before a national election, in defiance of a principle they loudly insisted upon four years ago.
The elevation of Judge Barrett to be the nation’s 115th justice was preordained almost from the moment that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died last month. When she takes her seat on the bench at One First Street, it will represent the culmination of a four-decade crusade by conservatives to fill the federal courts with reliably Republican judges who will serve for decades as a barricade against an ever more progressive nation.
This is not a wild conspiracy theory. Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader and one of the main architects of this crusade, gloated about it openly on Sunday, following a bare-majority vote to move Judge Barrett’s nomination to the Senate floor. “A lot of what we’ve done over the last four years will be undone sooner or later by the next election,” Mr. McConnell said. “They won’t be able to do much about this for a long time to come.”
That’s the perfect distillation of what this has been all about. It also reveals what it was never about.
It was never about letting the American people have a voice in the makeup of the Supreme Court. That’s what Mr. McConnell and other Senate Republicans claimed in 2016, when they blocked President Obama from filling a vacancy with nearly a year left in his term. As of Monday, more than 62 million Americans had already voted in the 2020 election. Forget the polls; the best indicator that Mr. McConnell believes these voters are in the process of handing both the White House and the Senate to Democrats was his relentless charge to fill the Ginsburg vacancy.
It was never about fighting “judicial activism.” For decades, Republicans accused some judges of being legislators in robes. Yet today’s conservative majority is among the most activist in the court’s history, striking down long-established precedents and concocting new judicial theories on the fly, virtually all of which align with Republican policy preferences.
It was never about the supposed mistreatment that Robert Bork, a Reagan nominee, suffered at the hands of Senate Democrats in 1987. That nomination played out exactly as it should have. Senate Democrats gave Judge Bork a full hearing, during which millions of Americans got to experience firsthand his extremist views on the Constitution and federal law. He received an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor, where his nomination was defeated by Democrats and Republicans together. President Ronald Reagan came back with a more mainstream choice, Anthony Kennedy, and Democrats voted to confirm him nine months before the election. Compare that with Republicans’ 2016 blockade of Judge Merrick Garland, whom they refused even to consider, much less to vote on: One was an exercise in a divided but functioning government, the other an exercise in partisan brute force.
How will a Justice Barrett rule? The mad dash of her confirmation process tells you all you need to know. Republicans pretended that she was not the anti-abortion hard-liner they have all been pining for, but they betrayed themselves with the sheer aggressiveness of their drive to get her seated on the nation’s highest court. Even before Monday’s vote, Republican presidents had appointed 14 of the previous 18 justices. The court has had a majority of Republican-appointed justices for half a century. But it is now as conservative as it has been since the 1930s.
Of all the threats posed by the Roberts Court, its open scorn for voting rights may be the biggest. In 2013, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the lead opinion in the most destructive anti-voter case in decades, Shelby County v. Holder, which gutted the central provision of the Voting Rights Act and opened the door to rampant voter suppression, most of it targeted at Democratic voters. Yet this month, Chief Justice Roberts sided with the court’s remaining three liberals to allow a fuller count of absentee ballots in Pennsylvania. The four other conservatives voted against that count. In other words, with Justice Barrett’s confirmation the court now has five justices who are more conservative on voting rights than the man who nearly obliterated the Voting Rights Act less than a decade ago.
In 2015, when the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution protected same-sex marriage, Justice Antonin Scalia angrily dissented. “A system of government that makes the People subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy,” he wrote.
The American people, who have preferred the Democratic nominee in six of the last seven presidential elections, are now subordinate to a solid 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court.
Republicans accuse those who are trying to salvage the integrity and legitimacy of the Supreme Court with trying to change the rules or rig the game. Having just changed the rules in an attempt to rig the game, that’s particularly galling for them to say.
The courts must not be in the position of resolving all of America’s biggest political debates. But if Americans can agree on that, then they should be able to agree on mechanisms to reduce the Supreme Court’s power and influence in American life.
As Justice Scalia would put it, a democracy in which the people’s will is repeatedly thwarted by a committee of unelected lawyers is not a democracy at all.
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