, Salem, MA

March 5, 2014

A look at what others are saying

The Salem News

---- — Excerpts from the editorials of other New England newspapers:

Perhaps Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro thought it would be useful to wait until the world was preoccupied with the conflict in Ukraine to unleash a vicious attack on civilian protesters. Whatever his rationale, in recent days, Maduro’s government has undertaken a brutal crackdown on demonstrations throughout the country.

The protesters are mostly young people who are fed up with their repressive and incompetent government, and they’ve taken to the streets to vent their frustration (mostly peacefully). In response, Maduro has sent in security forces armed with tear gas and guns.

According to Slate online magazine, meanwhile, “Bands of regime supporters — paramilitary gangs known as colectivos — swarmed neighborhoods and public squares on their motorcycles, firing live ammunition at anyone who remained in the open.” At least eight people have died in the clashes.

While the latest spasm of violence in the country is deeply troubling, the truth is that Venezuela has been falling apart for a long time. Under its last president before Maduro, Hugo Chávez, who died a year ago and who ruled the country for 14 years, civil society was smothered. The media came under government control. The independent judiciary was weakened. As Human Rights Watch put it: “By his second full term in office, the concentration of power and erosion of human rights protections had given the government free rein to intimidate, censor and prosecute Venezuelans who criticized the president or thwarted his political agenda.”

Things will change only when Venezuela gets a new government that will restore the rule of law.

— The Providence Journal

There’s hardly an ingredient in that candy bar you just unwrapped that the government didn’t have a strong, distorting hand in producing — the peanuts, the sugar, the milk, to name a few. U.S. sugar companies, for example, benefit from a series of overlapping trade protections that the last “reform” farm bill left untouched.

Getting rid of these supports is the right thing to do economically. But what about public health? The distress, diminished quality of life and premature deaths associated with obesity, diabetes and other related ailments demand a government response. Eliminating the subsidies for corn would raise the price of corn syrup, which might help. Eliminating the sugar program, though, would lower the price of that ready substitute for corn syrup. Obviously, the government shouldn’t stop there.

An effective anti-obesity policy would include taxes on certain bad-for-you foods, which would tend to discourage unhealthy habits without objectionable restrictions on consumer choice. This is preferable to current sugar policy, which nudges prices up but channels the difference to companies that haven’t earned it, in part because the federal Treasury would benefit from the tax revenue.

— The Hour of Norwalk, Conn.

Normally, we are skeptical when a celebrity/politician/entertainer/athlete announces that he is resigning/retiring/withdrawing/walking away in order to spend more time with his family. Perhaps, that’s because such announcements are so often followed by sordid disclosure of bribery/philandering/drug abuse and so on and so forth.

But in the case of Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster, we are going to extend the benefit of the doubt. In announcing that he definitely will not pitch in 2014 and probably not thereafter, the 36-year-old Dempster cited neck issues that in recent years “have made it harder and harder to throw a baseball and throw it like I’m accustomed to throw it.” That, and, “I’ve got three amazing children that I want to watch grow up and be around.”

This has a certain amount of credibility. For one thing, in walking away from the game, Dempster is leaving on the table $13.25 million due him under the two-year contract he signed with the Red Sox before last season. At a time when professional sports so often seem synonymous with greed, it is a healthy sign that someone who has made nearly $90 million over a 16-year big-league career is willing to say that enough is enough if he is physically unable to perform to his satisfaction and wants to take a more active role in his family’s life. It is easy to think of many examples of athletes who hung on after their time was manifestly up just in order to collect one more big payday.

— The Valley News of Lebanon, N.H.