Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New York’s newspapers:
June 7 – The Times Herald Record of Middletown on the New York Senate ignoring climate legislation
There’s an impressive list of legislation piling up as the term ends in Albany. The problem is, the list is full of bills that are not going anywhere even if they are supported by state residents and, in some cases, crucial for our future.
Perhaps the most important orphan bill, one with support in one house but not even recognized in the other, regards the state’s natural climate as opposed to its moral or political one. As passed by the Assembly and not even acknowledged by the Senate, it would take the warnings that we can no longer ignore and show that there is something we can do even if other states or Congress are not yet motivated.
New York is large enough so that what it accomplishes can have an effect, one that would be magnified if others would join. In a political and historic sense, what happens in New York also can have an effect if others study the details, learn the lessons and then take their own action.
Our state once was admired for that kind of innovation and leadership. Now, with our reputation solidly based on dysfunction and corruption, with our legislators more and more likely to collect their pensions from prison cells, you might think that those who are not interested in campaign funding or other election reform issues would be at least tempted to take the lead on something as important as pollution and the ways we will ensure a steady and reliable supply of energy in the immediate and long-term future.
As the Albany Times Union reported, the legislation is “the nation’s strongest climate protection bill” requiring the state to shift to alternative energy, getting half of our electricity from alternatives by 2030, and with a goal of cutting all greenhouse gas emissions from major sources such as factories, refineries and electrical producers by the middle of the century.
It’s an ambitious goal, one supported to no one’s surprise by environmental groups but also enjoying support from labor because of the promise it holds for creating new jobs.
As Pete Sikora, legislative and political director of Communications Workers of America, said, “It is an incredibly important and ambitious bill . It’s just as much in our members’ interest to have a livable planet as it is to have a retirement.”
Many of the goals and provisions have been pushed by Gov. Cuomo but unless they are protected by laws, they can be reversed or ignored by future state leaders.
This package of legislation would seem to have everything going for it, including some real measures to reduce pollution, a genuine commitment to expanding the reach of alternative energy sources, especially to areas that have so far not been able to make the investment themselves, a transformation of the labor market from polluting legacy jobs to green new ones and some built-in accountability to make sure that what sounds good as a campaign promise actually does some good in years to come.
The only thing it does not seem to have is any interest from any senator whatsoever, something to keep in mind when your senators come home.
June 3 – The Gloversville Leader-Herald on proposed changes to New York’s alcohol laws
Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently unveiled a proposal to make several changes to the state’s alcohol control laws: allowing alcohol sales in bars and restaurants starting at 8 a.m. on Sundays instead of noon, reducing paperwork for craft manufacturers, reducing fees for craft beverage salespeople and reducing fees for small wholesalers. These changes, particularly allowing alcohol sales starting at 8 a.m. on Sundays, sound sensible.
There are two sticking points to this legislation as we see it: an increase in binge drinking, particularly during the NFL season, and Cuomo’s plan to give the state Liquor Authority more discretion to approve liquor licenses to businesses located within 200 feet of schools or places of worship. We would hope any changes to the 200- foot rule would take into account local input about allowing a drinking establishment near a church or school. It’s important for the state to remember the majority opinion can vary quite dramatically from municipality to municipality. For example, people in Gloversville may find having a drinking establishment within 100 feet of a church or school inappropriate, while residents of nearby towns might be fine with it.
Those in favor of the earlier 8 a.m. start for alcohol sales on Sundays should take heed of one note of caution: 19.1 percent of adults in Fulton County reported binge drinking, according to information from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. That is higher than the U.S. median of 16.3 percent. The earlier starting time will boost business to the hospitality industry during peak tourism times. Bar and restaurant owners who want the earlier 8 a.m. Sunday alcohol sales time should be aware they will have to make sure patrons aren’t overdoing it. Most area bars and their employees do that already. They shouldn’t lose out on potential business on account of a few bad apples.
Ultimately, Fulton and Montgomery counties could benefit from Cuomo’s proposal to update the state’s alcohol control laws. The state Legislature should approve them.
June 2 – The Times Union of Albany on Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s recent remarks about a federal judge
Even by the low standards of his grotesque parody of a campaign for president, Donald Trump sank to a once unimaginable depth when he singled out the ethnicity of the judge in a civil case he is embroiled in.
This isn’t about political correctness. It’s about the fundamental decency Americans expect — or should — in their public discourse and their public servants.
Nor is it about a candidate speaking his mind for a refreshing change. It’s about the bigotry Mr. Trump has shamelessly displayed and exploited since day one of his campaign.
At a rally in San Diego last week, Mr. Trump launched into an 11-minute rant over a lawsuit concerning one of his defunct enterprises, the for-profit Trump University (which is also the target of an investigation by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman). Some past clients — and some former employees — say the school was a sham that failed to deliver on its hype that enrollees would learn how to get rich in real estate. Training documents made available by court order revealed high-pressure sales tactics to recruit students and persuade them to rack up credit card debt to pay for tuition.
At the rally, Mr. Trump lashed out at the judge in the case, Gonzalo Curiel, calling him “a hater of Donald Trump,” and saying he should recuse himself, on grounds that he keeps rejecting Mr. Trump’s lawyers’ motions. In the course of this diatribe, he went off on this tangent:
“So what happens is, the judge, who happens to be, we believe Mexican, which is great, I think that’s fine, you know what, I think the Mexicans are going to end up loving Donald Trump when I give all these jobs, OK?”
It was a stunning example of the anti-Hispanic bigotry Mr. Trump has routinely employed in his campaign, ever since he announced his plan for a wall on the Mexican border and characterized Mexican immigrants as drug dealers, rapists, and murderers. He would later claim he only meant illegal immigrants.
But there’s no walking this one back. There’s no pretending that saying “I think that’s fine” in the same breath absolves him of this naked attempt to fire up the crowd over the judge’s ethnicity (Judge Curiel is, by the way, American born to Mexican parents).
If the vileness of this isn’t apparent, try replacing “Mexican” with “Irish,” ”Italian,” ”Black,” ”Asian,” ”Jew,” or “Catholic.” Or maybe “Kenyan,” in keeping with Mr. Trump’s long-running “birther” theory that Barack Obama, America’s first black president, was born in Africa. Like Mr. Trump’s depiction of Muslims as suspect terrorists, it’s all about dividing our world — and our nation — into “us” and “them.”
It may be too much to hope that this case is resolved before the election, so that voters can know just how far the presumptive Republican nominee’s hucksterism goes.
But voters don’t need a jury to confirm Mr. Trump’s bigotry. He has convicted himself, with his own words, and proven himself unfit to lead this nation — this great, diverse, and decent nation.
June 7 – The Wall Street Journal on critics of Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan
The impulse of some conservatives for self-destruction this year seems to have no limits. Many of the same people who paved the way for Donald Trump are now trying to excommunicate from polite conservative company the men in the best position to minimize the presumptive GOP presidential nominee’s damage.
That’s the only way to read the conservative journalists who are joining Democrats in denouncing House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for saying they would vote for Mr. Trump, albeit without embracing his rhetoric or all of his agenda. This has offended various Beltway grandees who are lecturing the two leaders that they have besmirched their good names, and for all time.
We can understand why the left takes this line, which is partisan and opportunistic. Democrats know that Mr. Ryan in particular doesn’t share Mr. Trump’s political style or his views on many issues, especially immigration.
But they want to use Mr. Trump as a battering ram to retake the Senate and House. Then they can go about fulfilling their Sanders-Clinton- Obama agenda of expanding the entitlement state without opposition. The swarm of tut-tutting progressive columnists want Mr. Trump to destroy the GOP.
The question is why conservatives would play along. Journalists on the right and left can afford to indulge their political preferences because they are only responsible for themselves. Political leaders have to consider the consequences of their actions for their institutions. For Messrs. Ryan and McConnell, this means preserving GOP majorities as a check against either Mr. Trump or Hillary Clinton.
Conservative pundits say Mr. Trump has authoritarian tendencies, but then they should want principled leaders in positions of power to restrain him. This week Mr. Ryan and his GOP colleagues are starting to roll out their own agenda for governing next year. It includes tax, health-care and financial reforms, as well as measures to reduce poverty and restore Congressional authority.
This is smart politics, not least because it gives GOP candidates for the House and Senate something other than Mr. Trump to promote and talk about. Voters will be able to see that Republicans stand for something beyond Mr. Trump’s passions.
There’s no guarantee Mr. Trump would agree to Mr. Ryan’s agenda, but there’s no chance if Mr. Ryan publicly refuses to vote for him. The Speakership is the second most powerful elected position in Washington. We’d rather have a free-trade, pro-immigration reformer like Mr. Ryan in that position than a Trumpian yes-man.
A GOP Congressional majority is even more significant if Mrs. Clinton wins. The wily Mr. McConnell knows how to use Senate levers to stop legislation and block judicial nominees. And with the GOP’s narrow Senate majority in jeopardy, Mr. Ryan’s House may be the last barrier to a Nancy Pelosi-Elizabeth Warren-Hillary Clinton government.
It isn’t clear what Mr. Ryan’s critics want him to do in any event. Do they really expect a House Speaker to deny support to the GOP nominee, making the Trump-Ryan division a running story through November? There’s nothing like a bloody Republican civil war to dampen turnout and produce an election rout for the other side. As for a third-party run, no one has volunteered for that duty precisely because it has almost no chance of success.
Mr. Ryan’s endorsement doesn’t include a vow of silence. In the last week he has joined other Republicans in criticizing Mr. Trump for saying a federal judge is biased against him merely because he is “Mexican,” saying Tuesday the remarks are the “definition of a racist comment.” He and Republicans in Congress can score their nominee’s excesses while still believing he is superior to Mrs. Clinton.
The criticism of Mr. Ryan comes with particular ill-grace from the conservatives who seeded the ground for Mr. Trump. Many of the most devout Never-Trumpers have spent years fanning grassroots hostility against immigration and Mexicans.
They also blocked Mr. Ryan’s efforts to reach a compromise on immigration reform to secure the border while recognizing the needs of the U.S. labor market. Mr. Trump saw his chance to hijack their softer hostility with his “wall” and mass deportation, and now these conservatives profess to be shocked that he is taking his ethnic broadsides to new lows.
The Trump ascendancy is a dangerous moment for Republicans and conservative ideas. But unless the convention delegates in Cleveland stage an uprising and nominate someone else (see below), Mr. Trump or Hillary Clinton will be the next President. Those who want to preserve space for a better conservative politics should support politicians who share those beliefs, not engage in Trump-like purges.
June 8 – The New York Post on the death of the last known 9/11 rescue dog
All dogs go to heaven — but if ever a pup was especially deserving, it’s Bretagne, the last Ground Zero search-and-rescue dog, who died Monday at 16.
The golden retriever was just 2 when she was rushed to New York to help in the 9/11 recovery. And help she did, for 10 days, with her owner-handler, volunteer firefighter Denise Corliss.
“In remembering her first deployment at the World Trade Center, there are images of her going to where she was directed to search, the unknown, the chaotic environment,” said a search-and-rescue teammate. “But even then, she knew who needed the comfort of a dog, which firefighter needed to hold her close and stroke her fur.”
In later years, Bretagne responded to rescue missions after such disasters as Hurricane Katrina, before retiring at age 9.
But she kept on serving — as a goodwill ambassador for the local fire department and as an elementary school’s reading-assistance dog.
“Her calm demeanor and warm heart helped the young and old through their own difficult moments,” the Cy-Fair Volunteer Fire Department in Harris County, Texas, said in a statement.
Yet there’s no greater testament to her service than her farewell ceremony — with firefighters and search-and-rescue workers lining the sidewalk, saluting.
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