What they're saying

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:

Dec. 4

South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Hugo Chavez:

If nothing else, the rebuke that Hugo Chavez suffered at the polls this Sunday should at least cool his charge toward a socialist state.

The Venezuelan president sought sweeping constitutional changes that would have given him great power to muzzle dissent, seize private property and allow him to rule in perpetuity. Venezuelans smartly rejected the plan, by a slim margin, and the rest of the hemisphere can breathe easily at least for the moment. In the aftermath of the vote, Chavez has reached a political crossroad. He can seek other ways to run roughshod over the opposition and continue dividing the country, or he can acknowledge his limits and compromise with an emboldened and far less fractured opposition.

Venezuela, and the hemisphere, would be better served if Chavez pretended less to be like Castro and more like a statesman.

Nov. 29

The Northwest Herald, Crystal Lake, Ill., on the future of the Republican Party:

So far, 23 Congressional Republicans -- six in the Senate and 17 House members -- have announced their retirement. This week, Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., called it quits. Closer to home, former House Speaker Dennis Hastert has resigned, triggering the need for a special election to fill the remainder of his term. Lott did not offer much explanation for his choice, other than he wanted to pursue work in the private sector. Hastert, too, has remained mum on his reasons for leaving.

This wave of departures will greatly dim any Republican hopes of recapturing the House or the Senate next fall. Add in the fact that Democrats have been raising more money than Republicans and 2008 is starting to look like a grim year for the Grand Old Party.

We would like to believe otherwise, but it is beginning to appear that Republicans have a fairly large contingent of either sore losers or plain old quitters.

Democracy works best when different points of view are fought for, vigorously, and the result is a compromise that all sides can live with. Democracy is not about getting your way 100 percent of the time. The minority should play a very significant role.

It's too bad that some Republicans apparently don't see it that way. Then again, it probably is time for some new ideas, new energy and new blood in Washington.

Dec. 3

The Daily Independent, Ashland, Ky., on a smoking ban near hospitals:

Lexington-area hospitals have joined in an alliance to ban all smoking on their property. In taking that step, the hospitals should realize that prohibiting smoking on their property could lead to problems on nearby property. That's the lesson Ashland has learned from King's Daughters Medical Center's total smoking ban.

Four Lexington hospitals -- Central Baptist Hospital, St. Joseph Healthcare, UK HealthCare Albert B. Chandler Hospital and UK HealthCare Good Samaritan -- have joined hospitals in Paris, Versailles, Maysville and Georgetown to form the Tobacco-free Healthcare Collaborative.

Smoking already is prohibited inside the hospitals, but in joining the alliance, the hospitals all agree to end all smoking on their property, eliminating designated smoking areas, by Nov. 20, 2008. ...

As a result (of the ban at King's Daughters Medical Center) smokers have become a major source of litter in (Central Park), and they also have been something of a nuisance for residents near KDMC.

The smoking ban at hospitals in central Kentucky will cause the same sort of problems. In the months leading up to the total ban, the hospitals would be wise to develop a plan for handling those related problems. That's part of their responsibility for instituting a policy that causes problems for others.

Dec. 3

Watertown (N.Y.) Daily Times on currency for the blind:

A federal appeals court recently heard arguments in a case that could force the government to redesign its currency to make it more identifiable by the blind.

The government's appeal seeks to overturn a November 2006 ruling ordering the Treasury Department to make changes to paper currency. A federal judge said changes were required in keeping with the 1973 Rehabilitation Act prohibiting discrimination against the disabled in government programs.

But two of the three appellate judges sounded skeptical of the case brought by the American Council of the Blind and questioned the reach of the court ruling in the group's favor.

"Where does this stop?" asked Judge A. Raymond Randolph. "Are postage stamps illegal? Government Web sites? When mail carriers leave handwritten notes on front doors, are they discriminating against blind people?"

However, even the one judge who appeared sympathetic to the American Council of the Blind's position wondered whether it was appropriate for the court to get involved in the debate since the Treasury Department is reviewing the issue.

The judges were concerned about the court being asked to make an end run around the political process. However, with that having failed so far to resolve the matter, the court may ultimately be asked to determine whether or how to accommodate the needs of the blind and visually impaired.

Dec. 3

Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal, on the death penalty:

Ohio must suspend its death penalty. So the American Bar Association rightly counseled in late September, issuing a 495-page report, 30 months in the works, on the way Ohio conducts capital punishment. It focused on the proposition: Does Ohio do all it can "to ensure a fair and accurate system for every person who faces the death penalty?"

That is the necessary standard. Commit an error, execute an innocent person, and there is no turning back, no making amends, no chance for the state to compensate the defendant for its enormous mistake.

The state faces the catastrophe of engaging in its own version of murder.

In 1991, then-Gov. Richard Celeste commuted the death sentences of eight prisoners. Many howled in response. The truly infuriating aspect is that all these years later, Ohio has done so little to address the Celeste concerns, concerns that have become more evident, that now have been exposed in full by the panel of the American Bar Association. The opportunity is there, and it is not about serving somehow the monsters among us. It is about our shared aspiration to see the state act justly and fairly in our name.

Nov. 29

Battle Creek (Mich.) Enquirer, on the Mideast peace conference:

Convincing Israeli and Palestinian leaders they should renew direct peace talks for the first time in seven years is a big step toward resolving Mideast turmoil.

So the Bush administration, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in particular, deserve credit for bringing the two sides together at Annapolis, Md., to relaunch formal negotiations.

But it is only the first step in what the world recognizes will be a long, arduous journey over territory that has been traversed before with little success.

The basic goal of establishing a Palestinian state involves many complex issues, including agreement on borders for such a state, the future of Jerusalem, the fate of Palestinian refugees and more.

But hopes for the renewed talks to succeed also are underscored by the fears of what may happen if they fail. The growing threat of extremism must be met by moderate leaders willing to do what is best for their people and the world.

Beleaguered Palestinians need to be given a reason to look toward a future of hope rather than be drawn toward the despair of terrorism. Israelis need to be able to go about their lives without the constant worry of coming under attack.

So we hope that when regular negotiations begin on Dec. 12, they will move toward an agreement that eventually can bring peace and stability to the region.