Online Opinion Outpost: Jan. 13, 2014

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The Online Opinion Outpost features opinions and commentary on the latest hot topics from national news sources. As much as you love hearing from The Universe, we thought you might like to hear from journalists around the nation.

France’s mini-9/11
Jim Hoagland, The Washington Post

The slaughter by Islamic fanatics on Wednesday of nearly a dozen French journalists is a bitter, heavy price for that nation to pay for being what it is: a haven of free expression and intellectual combat; a country that has taken in the foreign-born more easily than most and worked, if imperfectly, to assimilate them; and a military power willing to fight enemies abroad in the name of universal values.

The gunmen who staged the massacre at the Charlie Hebdo newspaper will have acted to punish France for one or all of those traits.

“This is a mini-9/11 for us,” Philippe Labro, a leading French author of fiction and journalism, told me Wednesday by phone as he mourned a number of friends who perished in the attack.

But it is not clear that the Middle East conflicts were directly related to the attack on Charlie Hebdo. It is more likely that this bloodshed was payback of a particularly brutal kind for the magazine’s repeated mockery of the thugs and quacks who have taken over some Islamic movements and leveled death sentences against any who disagree with their perverted interpretations of Islam.

 

The message of ‘Selma’
Donna Brazile, CNN

“Selma,” the new feature film about the civil rights struggle, is igniting a struggle of its own over who deserves credit — or blame — in the events of 50 years ago that are depicted in the movie.

Some have taken issue with the portrayal of President Lyndon B. Johnson. Former LBJ administration officials are crying foul, saying that the portrayal of Johnson distorts and tarnishes the record of a man who had become an ally in the fight, committed to the goal and focused on how best to achieve the goal — given the role of Congress and outside forces.

Once you take those real people and events and put them into a movie — even one that strives for historic accuracy — you add even more complications and ambiguity. It’s not possible to re-create, or even agree on, exactly what happened in the past. If those who forget the past are condemned to relive it, it seems that those who re-enact the past are condemned to revise it.

“Selma” is a movie, not a documentary. It neither claims nor tries to give a 100% accurate telling of the story — or the events that led to this seminal moment in the civil rights struggles in the 1960s.

Is “Selma” a note-perfect recreation of everything that happened regarding the struggles in passing the Voting Rights Act of 1965? No, because it’s not meant to be.

 

Gun runners
The New York Times

Anyone who has spent time waiting shoeless on an airport check-in line — in fact, anyone who flies — should pay serious attention to the recent revelation that an airline baggage handler was allegedly able to smuggle 153 firearms in an accomplice’s carry-on bag on 17 Delta flights from Atlanta to New York during a seven-month period. The reason, shocking in its simplicity, is that most back-room airport workers are not required to pass through metal detectors on the way to the job.

Now, each airport works out separate security requirements; very few, if any, require physical screening of the full array of workers like airplane cleaners, mechanics and baggage handlers.

T.S.A. officials conducted a special inspection this week in Atlanta. But in the past they have said that cost and potential disruption of airline operations have argued against the use of metal detectors for all workers. The agency insisted it was alert to insiders’ threats and required regular background and criminal checks on employees. This hardly seemed enough after the backdoor path blazed by the Atlanta gun runners.

 

Immigration lawsuits
The Los Angeles Times

One thing we’ve learned about President Obama’s opponents over the last six years is that they like to sue. A lot.

Among the most recent targets: the president’s executive directives on immigration and his 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Both aim to provide breathing room to some immigrants living in the country illegally, including those who were brought here as children and others who are parents of U.S. citizens or who have legal permanent resident status. Neither policy confers legal status on people who don’t currently have it or creates new law; rather, they are efforts to focus limited immigration enforcement resources on those who pose a threat to public safety. These are humane steps to take until the immigration system can be reformed.

Their arguments come down to policy decisions and enforcement priorities and do not constitute a well-grounded legal challenge to Obama’s authority. They accuse him of violating his constitutional responsibility to “take care that the laws are faithfully executed.” But prioritizing enforcement targets does not abrogate that responsibility.

Polls routinely show high support among voters for immigration reform, though there is disagreement over exactly what form it should take. Chest-thumping on the courtroom steps does not move us closer to what we need. If the Republican state officials really want a fix, they should pressure their congressional delegations to negotiate meaningful reform in Washington.

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