The Washington Post - 29.08.2019

(Joyce) #1

A20 EZ RE THE WASHINGTON POST.THURSDAY, AUGUST 29 , 2019


LETTERS TO THE EDITOR


letters@washpost.com

LOCAL OPINIONS


B


ORIS JOHNSON suffered from attenuated
democratic legitimacy when he took office as
British prime minister last month. Just
92,153 voters, all of them members of the
Conservative Party, chose to install him at 10 Down-
ing Street after the resignation of Theresa May. Now,
in an attempt t o deliver on h is promise t o take B ritain
out of the European Union by Oct. 31, “do or die,”
Mr. Johnson is further testing the limits of one of the
world’s o ldest democracies. On Wednesday, he moved
to mandate an unusually long parliamentary recess,
with the apparent intent of hamstringing opposition
to a “no-deal Brexit” — that is, a sharp break with the
European Union without agreement on the terms.
The result was a political crisis that is sure to further
polarize the c ountry.
It’s not obvious that Mr. Johnson’s move was the
“coup” or “constitutional outrage” that critics called
it. It is normal for new prime ministers to obtain
(formally, by order of the queen) a brief parliamenta-
ry suspension, which has the effect of clearing all

pending legislation. But Mr. Johnson sought five
weeks rather t han the u sual several days; a nd though
he claimed that his intent was to prepare the way for
his own governing agenda, virtually all in Westmin-
ster concluded that he intended to head off legisla-
tion, which opposition parties agreed to pursue
Tuesday, meant t o block a no-deal Brexit.
If the bill cannot be passed in the few days before
the recess, Parliament will not be able to take it up
until at least Oct. 14 , just a couple of weeks ahead of
the deadline. Mr. Johnson says he still hopes to
negotiate an exit agreement ahead of an Oct. 17
E.U. s ummit, a llowing time f or Parliament t o convene
and approve it. But he clearly wishes to retain the
option to pursue a no-deal exit — even though a
majority of the Parliament opposes it and govern-
ment studies s how it could cause far-reaching disrup-
tion to the economy.
The best w ay f or opponents to counter Mr. Johnson
would be to force new elections; a vote of confidence
in his government could come next week. If the

Conservative leader won an election between now
and Oct. 31, he would have a mandate to pursue
Brexit, whatever the cost. Ye t Mr. Johnson might seek
to dodge that accountability, as well. His aides are
telling the British media that he would schedule any
election after the Brexit date. He could be unseated
before then if Parliament rallied behind an offer by
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn to form a transi-
tional government. But many who oppose Mr. John-
son would be equally loath to support Mr. Corbyn, a
radical Marxist.
It was not easy to foresee Wednesday what the
ultimate consequences o f Mr. Johnson’s r eckless gam-
bit would be, other than a further weakening of
Britain’s polity a nd its ability t o play a meaningful role
as a vital U.S. ally. So it was perverse, if predictable,
that President Trump chose to cheer on Mr. Johnson,
tweeting that he “is exactly what the U.K. has been
looking for.” I f that were true, M r. J ohnson w ould have
had no qualms about allowing Parliament to debate
Brexit — and he would c all an election before a ny e xit.

Mr. Johnson’s gambit


Delaying Parliament — and trying to scuttle no-deal Brexit opposition — is reckless.


Thirteen years ago, the D.C. Council passed the
Parking Enhancement Amendment Act of 2006,
which specified that, for residential blocks, the
minimum distance of parking to an intersection
could be 25 feet, vs. the 40 feet specified by the
general parking regulations. The D.C. Department of
Transportation (DDOT) accepted this law, with the
provision that any intersection where it proved
unsafe could be exempted.
Not once has DDOT exempted an intersection,
which might be taken as evidence that the 25-foot
spacing has not been a problem. But on Aug. 16,
DDOT arbitrarily terminated this law, with advance
notice neither to the public nor to the D.C. Council of
its intentions.
In A ugust 2016, DDOT issued a Notice of Proposed
Rulemaking noting that the 25-foot regulation

would be continued without change. In October
2018, a second notice was issued in which the 25-foot
provision again was continued. Then, this August,
DDOT issued a Notice of Final Rulemaking in which
the 25-foot provision was abruptly eliminated, effec-
tive immediately.
The 25-foot minimum distance has been a signifi-
cant help to residents of our high-density neighbor-
hoods, adding just a few parking spots to a neighbor-
hood. This has now been abruptly and arbitrarily
eliminated by DDOT, with no opportunity for anyone
to speak in opposition. One might debate whether
25 feet is an adequate distance to an intersection, but
that discussion never took place because DDOT made
the change without a dvance notice, unilaterally abro-
gating a law passed by the D.C. Council.
Jack McKay, Washington

DDOT’s arbitrary decision hurts parking in neighborhoods


ABCDE


AN INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER


“J


USTICE HAS never been served in this case.”
That is how Courtney Wild, one of the many
women who says she was sexually abused as a
child by Jeffrey Epstein, bitterly — and aptly
— characterized government failure to hold
the wealthy financier to account for his alleged crimes.
Her words should be more than an epitaph; instead,
they should serve as a powerful prod to federal pros-
ecutors to leave no stone unturned in determining if
there were others culpable in Mr. Epstein’s c rimes.
A Manhattan courtroom on Tuesday became a
forum for Mr. Epstein’s alleged victims to vent their
anger and frustration as formal charges against him
were dismissed after the financier died by suicide
while awaiting trial in federal custody. “Jeffrey Ep-
stein robbed myself and all the other victims of our
day in court to confront him one by one, and for that
he is a coward,” s aid Ms. Wild, the f irst of more than a

dozen women who spoke.
U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman, who over-
saw the case before Mr. Epstein’s Aug. 10 death,
ordered Tuesday’s unusual hearing as a matter of
respect to the alleged victims, saying he wanted to
allow them to “be heard, if they wish to be.” That’s a
courtesy — indeed, a right — that had too long been
denied to the girls and young women whom Mr. Ep-
stein preyed upon, even as concerns about his behav-
ior mounted. Consider the recent chilling account by
the New York Times of two sisters who 23 years ago
went to New York police and the FBI with their
complaints of inappropriate contact, to no avail. Or
how Mr. Epstein’s legal team in 2008 brokered an
infamously lenient plea deal with federal prosecutors
without the knowledge of his victims. It w as o nly a fter
Miami Herald reporter Julie K. Brown gave voice to
the victims that federal prosecutors in New York

brought s ex-trafficking c harges against h im.
Those prosecutors told the court Tuesday their
investigation continues and that charges against
potential co-conspirators and the civil forfeiture of
Mr. Epstein’s assets are still possible. That is reassur-
ing, because if you listen to the women who were
victimized, they w ill t ell you t hat Mr. Epstein got help
in procuring teenage girls and women for sex with
him and others. That names of some prominent
people have come up — all of whom deny any
knowledge or wrongdoing — demands there be a
thorough investigation and a full airing of the find-
ings. By the same token, there are questions about
Mr. Epstein’s suicide — including skepticism about
the r eported f acts expressed by his lawyers Tuesday in
court — t hat hopefully w ill be a nswered w hen investi-
gations ordered by Attorney General William P. Barr
are c ompleted.

Leave no stone unturned


Lenient investigation of Mr. Epstein’s crimes would betray his alleged victims.


P


RESIDENT TRUMP was not the only populist
conservative leader who drew criticism at the
Group of Seven meetings last weekend in
France. I n between discussions o f Mr. Trump’s
trade wars and historically bad idea to readmit
Russia to the G-7 was concern that Brazil’s new
president, Jair Bolsonaro, is presiding over an envi-
ronmental catastrophe, as fires burn in the irreplace-
able ecological wonder that is the Amazon River
basin. The Amazon rainforest is a crucial r esource f or
all of humanity; the trick will be to persuade the
current B razilian government t o act without crossing
Mr. Bolsonaro’s extreme sensitivity to any perceived
insult to Brazil’s sovereignty.
NASA reported last week that satellites have
confirmed an uptick in fires in t he Brazilian A mazon,
resulting in the most vigorous fire season since 2010.
“A ugust 2019 stands out because it has brought a
noticeable increase in large, intense, and persistent
fires burning along major roads in the central
Brazilian Amazon,” the NASA statement explained.
“While drought has played a large role in exacerbat-
ing fires in the past, the timing and location of fire
detections early in the 2019 dry season are more
consistent with land clearing than with regional
drought.” This indicates that deforestation, not pre-
paring already cleared land for meat or soybean
production, is a major culprit.
This is no surprise. Official Brazilian govern-
ment figures suggest that deforestation is rising
under Mr. Bolsonaro, who prioritizes development
of the Amazon over environmental protection.
Mr. Bolsonaro dismissed those numbers as “a lie,”
igniting a fight with experts within and without
Brazil. A recent New York Times analysis f ound that
enforcement actions from the country’s primary
environmental authority have dropped 20 percent
during the first six months of this year, compared
with the first half of 2018.
The good news, if one can call it that, is that
deforestation does not yet appear to have hit the
breakneck levels of the 1990s and early 200 0s. But
that is little reason for comfort. Amazon deforesta-
tion must be stopped. Experts worry that the rainfor-

est is getting ever closer to a tipping point at which
the water recycling that underlies the ecosystem will
break down, transforming the region f rom rainforest
to savanna or some other landscape. This “forest
dieback” scenario would see massive amounts of
heat-trapping carbon dioxide, stored within the
Amazon’s vast amount of flora, released into the
atmosphere. The rainforest will face increasing stress
as global warming progresses, making the region
more vulnerable to forest fires. It needs no further
challenge from humans.
Ye t Mr. Bolsonaro has held up a $22.2 million
emergency aid package that the G-7 nations pledged
to help f ight t he c urrent f ires, as he f ights with French

President Emmanuel Macron. The Brazilian presi-
dent often accuses t hose worried about the fate of the
Amazon of colonialism. Unfortunately, Mr. Macron
played into Mr. Bolsonaro’s hysterics as he stressed
the interest other nations have in the Amazon’s
future.
Mr. Bolsonaro should stop fighting and take the
aid money, and he should allay concerns donor
nations might have that he will divert i t to agricultur-
al interests, which led Germany a nd Norway t o freeze
rainforest aid this year. Meanwhile, Mr. Macron and
other world leaders should be willing to pony up
more — and to take care that their tone expresses
concern rather than command.

A delicate balance


for the Amazon


Brazil and the world must cooperate
to save the ecological wonder.

ABCDE


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Regarding the Aug. 24 front-page article “A peril-
ous new phase for spiraling U.S.-China trade war”:
Democrats need to be ready to work, mostly
behind the scenes, with Republicans standing for
reelection in 2020 who fear that a Trump-initiated
recession will negatively influence their chances.
The numbers of such Republicans are likely to
increase over the next year. The trick will be to
manage impeachment so Republicans can allow it to
happen while blaming it on the Democrats.
R.M. Titus, Alexandria

Get ready, Democrats


The Aug. 25 Business article “Comparing the
‘Trump economy’ to Obama’s, in 15 charts” was very
telling. Anyone remember the phrase “voodoo eco-
nomics”? It s ure a pplies to t he Trump administration.
The current administration has been riding the
tail wind of the Obama recovery and juicing it up
with a tax break, which basically gave away t he store
to the corporate sector and the very rich with a token
to the middle class. Sure, if you give away the store,
those who walk out with the goodies feel great, at
least until they come to realize that the store will not
be able to keep it up and still stay profitable.
Stephen Robin, Leesburg

‘Voodoo economics,’ Trump edition


In her Aug. 23 Friday Opinion essay, “Questions for
the impeachment hearings,” Danielle Allen gave the
House Judiciary Committee far too much credit for its
“quiet, important work exploring whether the presi-
dent of the United States should be impeached.” Chair-
man Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.) and his fellow committee
Democrats are not trying to judge “whether the evi-
dence requires impeachment.” They have already
made up their minds. By calling their proceedings an
“impeachment inquiry,” they have effectively commit-
ted themselves to that outcome. They cannot now back
away without looking inept and impetuous. Besides,
any failure to produce articles of impeachment would
infuriate the zealots in their caucus. In any case,
Democrats still lack sufficient votes to follow through
in the full House. The Judiciary Committee is merely
trying to cobble together an argument that might
justify a conclusion its members have already reached.
Whatever one’s view of President Trump, seeking to
overturn an election by impeaching a president is a
grave constitutional undertaking. Democrats should
make the case before determining the result.
Patrick Louis Knudsen, Alexandria

A predetermined conclusion


In 2 016, I championed the I mmigrant Services and
Language Access (ISLA) Initiative as an affirmation
that all Prince George’s County residents should be
treated equally and t hat immigrants are a vital part of
the s ocial fabric of the county. We h ave been a pioneer
within the legal representation space, and the ISLA
model has expanded to several jurisdictions in the
metropolitan area.
The Aug. 21 editorial “Playing into hard-liners’
hands” feeds into, if not fuels, a false narrative of
immigrant criminality that has taken hold in our
country at a stomach-churning pace. Undocumented
immigrants are far less likely to commit crimes than
native-born individuals. So why did the editorial
focus on the small number of undocumented immi-
grants who commit crimes and might be served by
this program?
As the editorial noted, ISLA and other immigrant-
defense funds are modest. Editorials such as this
undermine the first steps many l ocalities are taking to
disrupt the severe limitations to legal representation
immigrants face, such as language barriers, fear and
isolation.
Twenty-one percent of Prince George’s County
residents are foreign-born. These Prince Georgians
are parents, workers, taxpayers and members of our
community. Deportation means children lose their
primary caretakers, businesses lose their employees
and p atrons, and we lose residents who are contribut-
ing to the revitalization of neighborhoods across the
county.
Deni Taveras, A delphi
The writer, a Democrat, represents District 2 on the
Prince George’s County Council.

Legal services for immigrants


Regarding the Aug. 24 news article: “Brazil
suspicious of global attention on Amazon fires”:
The oxygen that tropical rainforests produce is a
valuable commodity, and such forests’ extraction of
carbon dioxide from the atmosphere provides a
valuable service to humanity. Therefore, I suggest
that the world’s tropical rainforests be divided into
one-kilometer-square areas using satellite imagery
and that each area be given an identification
number. Then a calculation should be made of the
maximum income that each of these areas could
generate after deforestation. Based on this, the
country that owns the still-forested areas should be
offered twice this calculated amount on an annual
basis for as long as the area remains forested.
John Tremaine, Silver Spring

The Amazon’s calculated value


Regarding the Aug. 24 editorial “Why curtail the
definition of human rights?”:
It should surprise no one that Secretary of State
Mike Pompeo’s C ommission on Unalienable R ights i s
ahistoric nonsense. That women’s rights have always
been human rights might be inconvenient to his
ideology, but creating a commission to obscure that
fact won’t change it. Over the past 2½ years, the
Trump administration has made it its mission to
devastate human rights around the world. The scorn
this administration has reserved for reproductive
rights was etched during Mr. Trump’s signing of his
global gag rule in one of his first acts as president.
The spike in unsafe abortions, rising maternal
mortality and denial of crucial health care that we
know results from the global gag rule betrays any
proclaimed c ommitment t o protecting h uman r ights.
Mr. Trump’s g lobal gag rule and the Commission
on Unalienable Rights threaten the health, well-
being and equality of people around the world.
Unalienable rights are meaningless if they include
a limited few.
Rebecca Harrington, Washington
The writer is senior director of advocacy and
outreach at Population Connection Action Fund.

Unalienable rights are not exclusive


EDITORIALS

TOM TOLES
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