Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:
The Los Angeles Times on the Atlanta-area massage parlor shootings where eight people were killed:
It will be a while before we get a full picture of the motives behind the shootings at three spas in the Atlanta area late Tuesday afternoon, which police allege were committed by a 21-year-old white man. But the contours of the violence make one explanation plausible. Among the eight dead were six women of Asian descent, leading the Stop AAPI Hate advocacy group to describe the killings as an “unspeakable tragedy — for the families of the victims first and foremost, but also for the AAPI community — which has been reeling from high levels of racial discrimination.”
Police on Wednesday morning said they were still trying to unravel what drove the gunman, but said he may have been propelled by sexual addiction and his desire to, in effect, eliminate temptation. Yet the targeted businesses employed a high number of Asian workers — one spa, in which four women were killed, is named Young’s Asian Massage Parlor — so even if the motive sprang from another darkness, the result still left at least six people of Asian descent shot dead.
If it turns out that the spark for this particular mass shooting arose from a tortured mind and libido, Asian Americans still are right to worry about possible connections between the killings and the surge of violence targeting them.
Also worth noting: Police allege that the gunman targeted women (only one of the dead was male) for the “crime” of being the object of his sexual temptation. Ironically, the killings happened a day before the House of Representatives was set to vote — again — to revive the federal Violence Against Women Act.
There’s a lot at play here, but more broadly, racial animosity, misogyny and easy access to firearms are a disturbingly routine confluence of three of the ugliest aspects of American society. That the violence in the Atlanta area quickly led minds to presume, rightly or wrongly, that another act of anti-Asian racism had occurred was not at all surprising, given the current backdrop.
As we noted earlier this month, former President Trump’s persistent racializing of the origins of the virus that has now killed more than 530,000 people nationwide put a target on the backs of Asian Americans.
Racism, from the colonial-era genocide of Native Americans to the new nation’s constitutional embrace of race-based slavery to our present de facto segregated schools and institutional biases, is not just our history, but part of our national character. It is a poison for which we have never been able to find an antidote. ...
Yes, there are interventions that can be done, anti-violence programs that can be better funded, more education about diverse people and cultures to break down the walls behind which fear and suspicion turn into irrational hatred. But it’s a powerful poison, this racism. ...
Lately the hate has been directed against Asian Americans, but they’ve been targeted before, from the immigration ban imposed by the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 through the herding of Japanese Americans into concentration camps during World War II to the murder of Vincent Chin by Detroit autoworkers angry over which country was selling more cars. It’s a long history. And the perpetrators are not always white men. Our fears and hatreds are functions of being human.
Our whole history of racial animosity, in fact, is long and staggeringly persistent, complicated and omnipresent. But after the anguish of the moment, the mouthing of the right words of rejection of racism and violence and the need for tolerance, we’ll still be who we are: a society in which racism festers, guns are ubiquitous, misogyny persists, violence seems inevitable, and lessons stubbornly refuse to be learned.
The Korea Times on U.S. relations with North and South Korea amid the U.S. Secretary of State's visit to Seoul:
North Korea has come under criticism for repeating its outdated hostile rhetoric against South Korea and the United States. While denouncing the springtime joint military drill between Seoul and Washington, Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, warned of the possible collapse of inter-Korean relations Tuesday.
The warning came in time for a March 17-18 visit to Seoul by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin for a “two-plus-two” meeting with their South Korean counterparts. Kim’s statement is apparently in line with the North’s stance calling on the U.S. to withdraw its hostile policy toward North Korea. She threatened the U.S. not to make a “stink” if it wants to “sleep in peace.”
In response, Blinken said he would cooperate with allies in the process of reviewing policies toward the North. He said the U.S. is looking rious options including pressure and diplomacy to achieve the complete denuclearization of North Korea, during a press conference after meeting with Japanese foreign and defense ministers Tuesday.
In a statement from the Rodong Sinmun, the mouthpiece of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, Kim threatened to end the military agreement between the two Koreas and disband South Korea-related organizations like the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country and the Mount Geumgang International Tourism Bureau.
“The warm spring days seen three years ago will not come again,” she said referring to the detente with the three inter-Korean summits in 2018. Kim never appreciated the efforts by Seoul and Washington to abandon field exercises to facilitate dialogue atmosphere. Concern is growing that Kim’s hostile remarks could possibly lead to the North resorting to military provocations or causing further military tension on the peninsula.
As a matter of fact, the North demolished the inter-Korean liaison office in its border town of Gaeseong only days after Kim Yo-jong’s previous warning over South-North ties. Should the North want to take a similar path this time, it would bring about a very precarious situation. The inter-Korean military accord, struck in Sept. 19, 2018, has been playing the role of a safety bumper on the peninsula. North Korea should refrain from taking such reckless actions under any circumstances.
Pyongyang has remained silent despite the relentless efforts by Seoul for dialogue. It never accepted the South’s proposal for talks on the combined drill in accordance with the military agreement and has yet to respond to the requests for contact by the Biden administration.
Should the North make any attempt at military provocation to turn the situation to its advantage, it would be a grave mistake. Its possible show of military strength will only further isolate the country and face growing diplomatic and economic pressures. Seoul and Washington should concentrate on working out more concrete measures to lure the recalcitrant North back to dialogue. All relevant parties should cooperate more closely to bring a warm spring back to the peninsula.
The Houston Chronicle on the Biden administration's immigration policy and the U.S.-Mexico border:
Here we go again. Thousands of unaccompanied children are being detained at the border, stretching the shelter system to its limits and leaving the government scrambling in crisis mode, prompting one side to complain of “kids in cages” and another to scream for a crackdown.
President Biden faces a challenge that demands striking a balance between border enforcement and humanitarian concern, between slamming the door and living up to America’s reputation as a beacon for the oppressed.
So far, Biden is at least trying to strike a balance and his administration should be commended. But there are no simple solutions and much more must be done to ensure the safety of immigrant children traveling alone.
These kids, many of them teenagers but some much younger, are fleeing violence and poverty. They are making the risky trip from Central America across Mexico in the hopes of being reunited with relatives in America.
The latest numbers from U.S. Customs and Border Protection are alarming. Detentions at the border are up overall, with the agency reporting encounters with 9,457 unaccompanied children last month, up from 5,858 in January. Early data predict March figures will be even higher.
Most unaccompanied minors coming from Mexico eventually are sent back. Those from other countries are turned over to the Office of Refugee Resettlement to be housed in privately run shelters while the government attempts to place them with a vetted relative living in the United States.
The sudden increase in new arrivals has overwhelmed the system. About 8,500 minors are living in shelters and the government has been unable to add capacity fast enough, leaving nearly 4,000 kids crammed in Border Patrol holding facilities not designed for minors, according to the Washington Post. They are also being held longer than the 72 hours that the law allows.
The simplistic answer to why shelters are overrun is that the Biden administration has reversed President Trump’s get-tough immigration policies, including a reversal of a pandemic plan that turned away all immigrants at the border.
The reality is that immigrant kids did not stop coming to the border during the last four years. As late as May 2019, more than 11,000 unaccompanied minors were detained. Using COVID as an excuse, Trump shut down the border, but nothing changed in Central America. If anything, the pandemic has made a dire situation worse, pushing out immigrants looking for relief.
While Trump’s emergency health order remains for most other illegal border-crossers, an exception was made in January for unaccompanied children. Lifting a bad policy that left kids to fend for themselves in border cities, oftentimes in dangerous conditions, was a good call by the administration, but no good deed comes without consequences.
To meet shelter demand, the administration has reopened a tent facility in Carrizo Springs, southwest of San Antonio. It has converted a camp for oilfield workers in Midland. And it plans to house up to 3,000 minors inside the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas. It also wants to reopen a shelter in Florida and set up temporary ones in California and Virginia.
Such shelters have a long history of problems, such as poor transparency, little oversight and allegations of abuse. But accusing Biden of keeping “kids in cages” in Carrizo Springs or equating the move with the family separation policy implemented by the Trump administration is inaccurate.
There’s no evidence that the Biden administration is housing children in the cage-like chain-link partitions that were first used by the Obama administration. Nor have there been reports of the kinds of squalid conditions that were confirmed under Trump, when children at the Clint, Texas shelter lacked enough food and water and were unable to bathe.
Another important distinction: Biden, much like Presidents Obama and George W. Bush, were forced to respond to an influx of children who crossed the border on their own, while Trump made the situation worse by choosing to forcibly separate children who had crossed with parents, thereby rendering accompanied children unaccompanied. Trump also prolonged children’s stay in the facilities by scaring off would-be caretakers with a policy to share their information with immigration officials. Biden has wisely terminated that agreement.
Other smart moves the Biden administration is making include deploying the Federal Emergency Management Agency to the southern border to help care for arriving children and re-instituting an Obama-era plan that reunites Central American children with a parent who is a legal U.S. resident. Nearly 5,000 kids had taken advantage of the program before Trump discontinued it in 2017.
The administration must continue to find ways to speed up the process of transferring minors from Border Patrol custody to shelters to vetted adults while their cases wind their way though the immigration system.
Members of both parties need to offer solutions, not use the increase in immigrant detentions as a political weapon.
After a four-year abdication of our obligation to the world, the federal government is taking America’s laws and responsibilities seriously, but the Biden administration must continue to look for long-term solutions that address the root causes of migration.
Otherwise, we’ll see you at the next crisis.
The Wall Street Journal on Republican opposition to Democrats changing legislative filibuster rules:
The biggest question in Washington for the next two years isn’t about a single policy or whether President Biden will expose himself to a press conference. It’s whether Democrats use their narrow Senate majority to kill the legislative filibuster rule requiring 60 votes in order to ram a radical agenda into law with a mere 50 votes plus Vice President Kamala Harris.
Two Democrats — Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia — promised at the start of the year that they wouldn’t vote to do so. But progressive and media pressure is building on the pair to renege on their pledges, as legislation passed by the House piles up at the Senate door. Democratic Senate leaders are vowing that they’ll find a way to evade the filibuster one way or another.
Republicans can see these signs, and on Tuesday Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made clear what would happen if they do kill the filibuster. It won’t be pretty.
“Some Democratic Senators seem to imagine this would be a tidy trade-off, if they could just break the rules on a razor-thin majority. Sure, it might damage the institution, but then nothing would stand between them and their entire agenda, a new era of fast-track policy-making,” the GOP leader said.
Don’t count on it, Mr. McConnell continued: “So let me say this very clearly for all 99 of my colleagues. Nobody serving in this chamber can even begin, can even begin to imagine what a completely scorched-earth Senate would look like. None of us have served one minute in the Senate that was completely drained of comity and consent.”
He then explained what that could mean in practice if Republicans responded by withdrawing the unanimous consent required for the Senate to function: “I want our colleagues to imagine a world where every single task, every one of them, requires a physical quorum—which, by the way, the Vice President does not count in determining a quorum.”
That’s right. A quorum without unanimous consent is 51 Senators, and there are only 50 Democrats. If Republicans kept their nerve in opposition, Democrats couldn’t confirm nominees or vote on legislation. The Nancy Pelosi-Joe Biden agenda couldn’t move any more than if there were a filibuster.
Democrats may think this is a bluff, or that the public would revolt if Republicans ground Senate business to a halt. But are they willing to take that bet?
Democrats shouldn’t underestimate how united Senate Republicans would be, and how much GOP grass-roots support they’d have, if Democrats break the filibuster in a 50-50 Senate to federalize 50-state election laws, force mandatory unionization on 27 states with right-to-work laws, add two new states to pack the Senate, or pass the Green New Deal.
Mr. McConnell pointed out the obvious that majorities aren’t permanent and eventually Republicans would be in position to rule the Senate without a filibuster. Imagine what they might pass? Mr. McConnell gave a few examples—defunding Planned Parenthood—but for political flavor think GOP Sens. Josh Hawley and Rand Paul unbound.
These columns have been frustrated by many Democratic filibusters over the years, but the rule exists to protect minority rights and require large majorities for significant reforms. If Democrats blow it up on the narrowest of majority votes, they will own the unintended consequences.
The Chicago Tribune on a spate of fatal shootings:
News of Chicago’s latest mass shooting traveled across the United States and around the world Sunday, landing in a news feed in Moscow, Russia. Latest mass shooting. Let that sink in for a moment.
“At least 15 shot, 2 killed in Mass Shooting in US’ Chicago,” the international headline read.
A “pop-up party” at a business in the Park Manor neighborhood turned deadly when a shooting erupted inside. At least 15 people were hit, two fatally. Police will need the help of witnesses to put a case together, to find and arrest the perpetrators. Will anyone help them? Or will the murderer, or two or three, remain free, protected by silence?
Big city violence is on the rise across the country. Chicago ended last year with a startling 55% increase in homicides over 2019. This year is not off to a good start. And summer is coming.
Last summer, 24 children under the age of 11 were shot, five fatally during a one-month stretch: 20-month-old Sincere Gaston, shot in the back seat of a car; 3-year-old Mekhi James, also shot in the back seat of a car; 13-year-old Amaria Jones, shot by a bullet that flew into her residence; 7-year-old Natalia Wallace, shot on a sidewalk; 10-year-old Lena Nunez, hit by a bullet while inside her home.
On Sunday, a 13-year-old was shot in the South Shore neighborhood because, apparently, he happened to be standing near an unfolding armed robbery. Earlier this month, an 11-year-old boy was shot while driving with his aunt in West Pullman. He survived.
But the numbers, the stories, the analogies fail when a city is so routinely, so grievously overcome by recklessness and gunfire.
Ald. Jeanette Taylor, whose 20th Ward is home to the business where the party took place, expressed frustration with the lack of coordination between city and law enforcement agencies that allow bad actors to get liquor licenses and host large gatherings. She suspects this was not the host’s first “pop-up party” and said business owners should be held accountable.
She was awakened around 5 a.m. Sunday to texts and messages about the party. “It’s one part of the job I could do without. I get calls consistently about shootings in my ward. I’m a woman, a feeling person. It’s not easy. There is no comfort I can give a family ... (except) say we’ll do better and make sure we do. The city needs to take whatever extreme measures to prevent this from happening again.”
And what will happen now, in the days and weeks following Sunday’s mass shooting? More retaliation, on the streets, the homes, the neighborhoods, maybe even at a funeral? That was another mass shooting, July of last year, when a drive-by shooter aimed out the window of a moving vehicle and unloaded a weapon at mourners waiting outside a South Side funeral home. A disabled woman dove from her wheelchair to avoid being hit. As we said then: “The chaos is so beyond reason that it threatens to no longer shock.”
Big city mayors, police chiefs and academics have blamed the steep rise in gun deaths last year on the coronavirus pandemic — more stress, more isolation, fewer constructive alternatives for young people. Millions of kids have been out of school for a year. Police departments are stretched and weary. And cops face increasing hostility for doing their jobs.
Sunday’s violence also included a Chicago police officer grazed by a flying bullet from unknown origin outside the Gresham police station. While we were writing this, another officer, off duty, was shot and wounded Monday afternoon in the Calumet Heights neighborhood while he was sitting in his personal vehicle, police said.
At least 13 officers so far this year have been shot at. Last year it was 79. When will it end?
Will it end?
The Mankato (Minnesota) Free Press on jury selection for the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer who pressed his knee against George Floyd’s neck:
In a courtroom in a well-barricaded tower in downtown Minneapolis, a judge this week — and for days to come — is presiding over jury selection for the trial of Derek Chauvin.
Needed are more than a dozen conscientious citizens willing and able to set aside what they already know, feel and believe about one of the most radioactive deaths in Minnesota history. The death last Memorial Day of George Floyd at the knee of Chauvin, then a Minneapolis police officer, sparked nights of rioting in the Twin Cities and elsewhere.
It hardly the first case of civil unrest from a populace that feels itself less protected by police than oppressed. This nation has had decades of such incidents. Watts in 1965. Detroit in 1967. Ferguson in 2014. Kenosha in 2020. But the death of Floyd felt different; the nation, indeed the world, has seen the video of Chauvin kneeling nonchalantly on Floyd’s neck for as much as nine minutes as the Black man pleaded to be allowed to breathe.
It is difficult to imagine a more symbolic case of police impunity than that one.
Finding residents of Hennepin County without an opinion on the killing of George Floyd, and its reverberations, is probably impossible. Anybody that isolated from the world probably isn’t fit to sit in judgment of another human’s actions anyway. A more reasonable goal is a jury that can block out last spring’s trauma and reach a verdict strictly on what is revealed in the courtroom.
The prosecutors and defense have other goals. They want jurors who can be expected to vote their way. One day into jury selection the prosecution was already complaining to the judge that the defense was striking jurors on the basis of race. (The judge disagreed, at least in that specific case.)
The selection of the Chauvin jury, then, will be drawn out and contentious. It is also vitally important, not only for the defendant’s future but for the community. Justice must not only be done, it must be seen to be done.