Editorial Roundup: United States
Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:
The Washington Post on the solar power trade war between the U.S. and China:
President Biden wants the United States to cut its greenhouse gas emissions in half by the end of this decade, an ambitious target that reflects the diminishing amount of time the world has to change its climate course. Meeting this goal will require massive deployment of green energy. That, in turn, will require Mr. Biden to do everything he can to restrain the costs of wind, solar and other clean energy sources.
He can start by finally ending a long-running, ruinous trade war with China over the price of solar power equipment, which has made these products more expensive than they need to be. His first step should be rejecting calls to extend tariffs on solar products such as the cells that make up solar panels, the fate of which Mr. Biden must decide by Monday.
The U.S.-China solar trade fight dates back to President Barack Obama’s administration, when U.S. solar equipment manufacturers complained about competition with cut-rate Chinese products. The Commerce Department agreed, slapping huge tariffs on Chinese-made solar panels, then expanding them in 2014. President Donald Trump in 2018 raised even more tariffs on solar modules and cells coming from any country. Mr. Biden must now decide whether to extend Mr. Trump’s tariffs.
U.S. solar manufacturers claim they need protection from predatory foreign governments that unfairly subsidize their solar industries and permit the use of slave labor in their factories. Tariff backers also argue that the United States should control every step of its solar supply chain to ensure national energy independence.
But the tariffs they favor have done far more harm than good. The duties are passed onto consumers in the form of higher prices for solar panels. This depresses demand. Tariff advocates point out that U.S. solar installations have boomed despite the trade barriers. True, but there is no doubt that, absent the tariffs, the country would have installed substantially more solar panels. Economists Sebastien Houde and Wenjun Wang reckon that U.S. solar panel demand would have been 17.2 percent higher without the solar trade war between 2012 and 2018, avoiding 7 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions. For all that cost, the U.S. solar manufacturing sector, which these policies are supposed to be encouraging, remains tiny.
Deploying renewables as quickly as possible would have not just climate benefits but national security ones, too. Running more of the economy on clean electric power is an essential step toward freeing the nation from dependence on foreign oil.
This is among the reasons that rapidly transitioning the nation’s energy sector must be Mr. Biden’s overriding priority. That does not mean the president should allow solar panels manufactured with slave labor to be sold in the United States. But across-the-board tariffs, which raise prices for U.S. solar consumers, are far too costly a response. The administration should seek to crack down on Chinese human rights abuses — not to prop up a small, coddled industry pleading for special help.
The Wall Street Journal on New York’s Democratic gerrymander:
Gerrymandering is an old enough practice that it was named for a Founding Father, Elbridge Gerry, but henceforth in New York it should be spelled jerrymander. See nearby the district that Democrats in Albany have staked out for Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler. Your first instinct might be to grab the cartographer and do a field sobriety test.
But Democrats didn’t draw loopy lines by accident. They did it with partisan malice aforethought. New York is losing a House seat, so it will have 26 districts next year. Today Republicans hold eight. Under the lines Democrats are proposing, the GOP would have the advantage in only four seats, or 15%. New York is a blue state, but not that blue: President Trump won 38% of the vote in 2020.
New York’s jerrymander is another reminder that drawing favorable lines is a bipartisan strategy. It happens every decade, but this time Democrats have been trying to convince the public that it’s some Trumpian threat to the republic. The National Democratic Redistricting Committee, led by former Attorney General Eric Holder, urges officials to sign a “Fair Districts Pledge” and “commit to restoring fairness to our democracy.”
What a pose. In reality Democrats and Republicans want the same thing. They want to win. New York’s maps were supposed to be drawn by an independent commission, a good-government reform that voters approved in 2014, with hopes of taking politics out of an inherently political process. But the commission deadlocked and offered two competing plans.
Nonetheless, the map that Democratic commissioners backed, according to one redistricting analyst, left as many as nine House seats competitive for the GOP. Nine of 26 is 35%, which is in the ballpark of Mr. Trump’s vote share. Albany could have accepted that plan.
Yet apparently Democrats only want “fair” districts when such maps work in their favor. So once the commission deadlocked, state lawmakers seized the opportunity to dump its work and redraw the map themselves to build in a bigger advantage for their party.
The rough barbell shape of Mr. Nadler’s district, connecting Jewish areas of Manhattan and Brooklyn, isn’t new. But the state Legislature’s map contorts it like a snake. Why? So that the GOP 11th District, anchored in Staten Island, can sweep north to include liberal Park Slope, Brooklyn. In 2020 Mr. Trump won the 11th District by 11 points, while Republican Rep. Nicole Malliotakis beat an incumbent, Democrat Max Rose, 53% to 47%. Mr. Rose is running in 2022 to retake his old seat, and the new progressive Park Slope voters could be enough to flip that margin.
The Albany plan makes similar moves upstate and on Long Island to erode Republican chances and shore up the Democratic advantage. Don’t expect to hear loud complaints from Mr. Holder and company, or for that matter from all the good-government poseurs in the media.
The congressional jerrymander could cost Republicans as many as four or five House seats, which might be the difference that helps Democrats keep their majority in 2022. Redistricting was expected to cost Democrats several seats nationwide this year, but aggressive Democratic gerrymanders in California, Illinois, New Jersey and elsewhere mean they may break even nationwide or even gain a slight edge.
GOP legislators this year have tended to shore up their suburban districts in states like Texas, rather than try to carve up Democratic seats and go for a bigger advantage. The loser is political competition, not Democrats. The most aggressive GOP gerrymanders, as in Ohio and North Carolina, may be overturned by courts.
However the partisanship plays out, this year should be the end of progressive sanctimony that gerrymanders favor Republicans. If Democrats keep their House majority this year, a big reason will be how they rigged districts in Albany, Sacramento and Springfield.
Toronto Star on Spotify and fighting COVID misinformation:
Over the past few days a number of brave artists have taken a valiant stand against the lies and misinformation being promoted on Spotify.
In particular, Neil Young pulled his music from the Spotify platform to protest against popular podcast host Joe Rogan, who has hosted several outspoken skeptics of vaccines for COVID-19.
Initially it appeared Young would lose the David and Goliath struggle with Spotify. Star columnist Vinay Menon wrote a great article on the battle and we agreed with his humorous, biting wit. “Joe Rogan doesn’t need Spotify. Spotify needs Joe Rogan,” wrote Menon. “Spotify doesn’t need Neil Young.”
So it looked like Young’s gambit was doomed to failure. And sure enough, Spotify decided to stick with Rogan and his podcasts containing misinformation and promptly dropped the music of the courageous Neil Young. An initial win for Spotify.
Since then, however, other artists, including Joni Mitchell, have joined the cause.
Spotify may have miscalculated. The controversy is continuing to gain momentum and the company has lost more than $2 billion in market value over the past week.
Spotify has now begun outlining steps it will take to combat COVID misinformation, making public its rules governing what content is and isn’t allowed on its platform.
Spotify CEO Daniel Ek said the company will add an advisory to any podcast episode that discusses COVID. “It’s become clear to me that we have an obligation to do more to provide balance and access to widely accepted information from the medical and scientific communities guiding us through this unprecedented time,” he added.
Joe Rogan himself apologized, and promised to find a better balance when he invites guests to discuss COVID and vaccines.
This attempt by Spotify to quell the growing controversy is too little, too late.
Borrowing lyrics from a Neil Young song, Spotify has “one wheel in the ditch and one wheel on the track.” In other words, Spotify has a commanding global presence in music and podcasts but it needs to hold its artists accountable for lies and misinformation beyond just internal warnings.
Like other media outlets, the Toronto Star included, Spotify should be required to publicly acknowledge and correct misinformation on their platform or face costly litigation brought by all those who suffer harm from it.
In the case of misinformation about the COVID pandemic, the damages related to wrongful death would be massive and would certainly ensure that Spotify gets serious about being better.
To the extent that current legislation in Canada is not strong or clear enough to support litigation against platforms like Spotify, steps should be taken to bolster our laws.
Internet media platforms like Spotify have made untold billions of dollars in profits while promoting lies and misinformation. These platforms would do more than just initiate internal rules if they were made to be financially accountable for the damage from which they are profiting.
The Guardian on the practice in England of forcing children out of care at the age of 16:
Terry Galloway and his siblings grew up in care. His sister had a difficult life, which ended when she was murdered by a partner. As children, the Galloways made a pact to try to improve the care system, which is part of the reason why he will travel to Downing Street as part of a delegation of care leavers on Tuesday. Their petition objects to a new law that, because it took the form of secondary legislation, has so far failed to generate the national outcry that it merits. That law makes official in England the practice of forcing children out of care at the age of 16.
Between 2018 and 2020, while living in this type of setting, 22 children aged 16 and 17 died. The government won’t say which councils were responsible for these children, but a review following the death of Caitlin Sharp criticised Worcestershire social services, and said that she should not have been living independently, partly due to her epilepsy. Forcing children to manage life on their own leads to other forms of harm too. Last year, the Together Trust found that 3,253 16- and 17-year-olds were not in education, employment or training while living in non-care settings. More recently, Ofsted published research showing that more than a third of care leavers don’t know where to turn in an emergency, and that money worries make many feel unsafe.
The Children Act of 1989 allowed for unspecified “other arrangements” to take the place of foster or children’s homes in some cases. But the increase in such arrangements is unprecedented: in the decade from 2010 to 2020, the number of non-care placements rose 89%. It was evidence of the damage this was causing, including the exploitation of children by criminal gangs, that forced ministers to tighten the rules. But while a small number of under-16s stand to benefit from new regulations, a much larger group of older teenagers face their lack of entitlement being made a permanent feature of the English care system. While Ofsted will have oversight of unregulated accommodation providers, individual properties will not be inspected. Young people will be expected to take full responsibility for their finances and medical care, and will not need permission to stay out overnight – all while doing their GCSEs.
It is hard to know whether to be more shocked by these details or the muted reaction to them. A small charity, Article 39, is taking the government to court, but the silence from the rest of the children’s sector, wider civil society, the Labour frontbench and the House of Lords is eerie. Do all these adults agree with ministers that 16-year-olds don’t need to be “looked-after children” any more?
Increasing the school-leaving age has long been regarded as a badge of progress – proof of a society’s commitment to the next generation. The care-leaving age may lack the same universal significance. But the principle, as well as the practical folly, of trying to make some of the most vulnerable young people in society independent before they are even fully grown should bother us all. Withdrawing care from teenagers deliberately shortens their childhoods.
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