Editorials from around New York

August 1, 2018

Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New York’s newspapers:


The New York Daily News on 3-D printed guns

July 31

Months ago, by abruptly reversing its legal position and settling a case it could and should have won, the Trump administration folded rather than fighting to limit the spread of homemade, 3D-printed guns.

Following that inexplicable capitulation, President Trump now has the gall to tweet that he is “looking into 3-D Plastic Guns being sold to the public,” adding, it “doesn’t seem to make much sense.”

This is stupidity, or bad-faith posturing, atop insanity.

At issue are handguns and rifles that can be assembled just about anywhere, via increasingly inexpensive and sophisticated consumer technology.

Forget about background checks to root out felons, domestic abusers and the deranged. Forget about laws like those in New York that ban assault rifles. Forget about serial numbers, which enable cops and prosecutors to trace guns used in crimes.

In some cases, forget even about metal detectors; some firearms can be made from plastic, and while firing pins have to be metal, those are easy enough to smuggle around security equipment separately.

A libertarian-anarchist young man named Cody Wilson envisions what he sees as a utopian future of guns on demand: scroll, click, print and shoot. He started out by building his own, then started offering plans for popular weapons on a website.

While it’s true that under federal law, metal-shop hobbyists have generally been able to make weapons for personal use, it’s neither cheap nor easy, which is where 3D-printing is heading.

Starting five years ago, the U.S. State Department tried to shut down Wilson and anyone who might follow in his footsteps for violating a firearm export law. He and absolutist gun-rights allies took the feds to court, claiming a market for complete gun plans was fully protected under the First Amendment to the Constitution.

The government fought back, winning early motions. The plans quite obviously aren’t simply speech, and even if they are, some speech can be regulated when the government defines a compelling interest.

Five years into the legal back-and-forth, in April, Trump’s Department of Justice even filed a persuasive brief calling on courts to dismiss the case.

Then weeks later, out of nowhere, the administration folded — settling, and letting Wilson go full steam ahead with his ambition of building what is essentially an Amazon for free deadly weapons on demand.

Three thousand people and counting have already downloaded AR-15 plans. More than 3,000 have downloaded Beretta plans.

Democrats in Congress and Gov. Cuomo are trying to stop the madness; eight state attorneys general, New York’s included, have taken the feds to court.

And with the horse already galloping far from the barn, the President of the United States suddenly claims to care about a major public safety problem his own administration unleashed.

Online: https://nydn.us/2Azfpmw


The Albany Times Union on the state ethics commission investigation into a complaint against a former top governor’s aide

July 30

Is this about ethics, or political cover?

Here we are, about to waste more taxpayer time and money in a lawsuit trying to get the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics to do the right thing.

The suit, filed Friday in state Supreme Court in Albany, comes from Marc Molinaro, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, and Ed Cox, the state GOP chair. It follows complaints they lodged with JCOPE earlier this year, calling for the panel to look into whether ethics rules were broken when Joe Percoco, a former top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, improperly used public resources after leaving state government to work on the governor’s campaign. They asked JCOPE to investigate whether the governor or others in his office knew about or aided Mr. Percoco’s activities.

Those are certainly fair questions. A corruption trial earlier this year that ended with his conviction for taking bribes revealed that Mr. Percoco used a desk in the governor’s Manhattan office for eight months in 2014, a time when Mr. Percoco was off the state payroll and managing Mr. Cuomo’s re-election campaign. Phone records show dozens of calls on his state phone to the Cuomo campaign headquarters. Those actions appear to constitute state ethics violations, right under the governor’s nose. Mr. Cuomo says he was unaware of any violations.

Mr. Cox and Mr. Molinaro, however, say the investigation seems to be going nowhere. If so, there are only two explanations that would comport with the law: Either JCOPE’s board voted to pursue a probe, or it voted not to. A vote had to be taken within 60 days of the complaints, and if an investigation is closed, the complainants must be notified within 15 days. All those deadlines have long passed.

JCOPE’s position has been that it needs to notify a complainant only if a case has been closed, and only if the board voted to open an investigation at all. If the board never opened a probe, or if one is just dragging on, JCOPE wouldn’t have to say anything.

No credible ethics law would allow cases to fall into such limbo. So either JCOPE is violating the law, or this flimsy accountability is what was baked into the law creating JCOPE by Mr. Cuomo, along with former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and ex-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver — the latter two of whom have since been convicted of corruption. And there’s more: Details of votes are secret, so the public can’t know anyway if the complaint was squelched by the governor’s allies.

JCOPE’s answer? Sorry, it doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

Yes, these are political complaints and a political lawsuit brought by two political figures at the onset of the political season. That doesn’t make JCOPE’s stonewalling any more excusable — or, maybe, any less political itself.

In a more ethical state of things, the governor and Legislature would end this sham and create an ethics commission that’s far more accountable to the public, and not a tool of state leaders. Until then, New Yorkers will have to look to courts to hold this ethics commission to its own sub-standards of ethical behavior.

Online: https://bit.ly/2n0y4xP


The Plattsburgh Press-Republican on tariffs on Canadian paper

July 29

Last year at this time, the Press-Republican paid $587 a ton for newsprint; now the price is $739.

That’s a 26 percent hike, attributable to preliminary (that means they aren’t yet permanent) tariffs on Canadian uncoated groundwood paper, the product from which newsprint is made.

If this year we use the same amount of paper as we did in 2017, we’ll be shelling out a whopping $100,000 more.

It’s a tremendous rise in the cost of putting out a newspaper, the kind of burden some papers may not be able to bear — it’s no secret newspapers have been struggling in recent years as reliance on digital news sources has increased.

Besides, uncoated groundwood paper is not available anywhere in the Northeastern United States — newspapers have no choice but to buy from Canada.

The Trump administration implemented the import tariffs, totaling as much as 32 percent, on the paper from Canada in January.

All may not be lost, however, as there has been a groundswell of support across the aisle from our representatives in Washington, D.C., and also those in Albany have helped get the word to our nation’s capital.

The U.S. Senate’s PRINT (Protecting Rational Incentives in Newsprint Trade) Act would suspend the import taxes and mandate the Department of Commerce to perform a study on what consequences the tariffs would have on the U.S. newspaper, printing and publishing industries.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) went to bat for newspapers this week, telling reporters: “Upstate New York’s hometown papers are fundamental to an informed citizenry, healthy communities and a vibrant democracy.”

Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-Willsboro) co-sponsored the PRINT Act bill in the House.

“Our district is home to a thriving local press corps that would be unfairly burdened by the cost of tariffs on Canadian paper,” she said in a statement. “Local news is a critical part of our North Country community.”

On July 17, members of Congress, publishers, printers, newsprint producers and newspaper advocacy groups expressed their strong opposition to the tariffs before the International Trade Commission.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, called on President Trump last week to rescind the tariffs, saying they have “raised the costs exorbitantly on a newspaper industry already struggling in today’s changing economy.”

We newspapers much appreciate the support, which even includes most U.S. newsprint manufacturers and the American Forest and Paper Association — the trade association for the U.S. paper industry.

For those who don’t know, the U.S. Commerce Department instituted the tariffs based on a complaint made by one paper manufacturer, North Pacific Paper Corp., a single entity located in the state of Washington.

“A single paper producer, with less than 300 employees, is manipulating the trade laws, while threatening hundreds of thousands of workers and companies,” says STOPP (Stop Tariffs on Printers and Publishers), the coalition of associations and companies fighting the newsprint tariffs.

More than 600,000 jobs across the entire U.S. printing and publishing industry are at stake, it says, urging supporters to sign its online petition and contact their representatives in Washington.

Time is running out.

The Department of Commerce is expected to make its ruling on whether the tariffs should stand sometime this week.

The International Trade Commission is slated to do so on or about Aug. 28.

If both approve, the decision to keep the tariffs will be carved in stone. If so, that’s just as well, since paper may be too pricey to print that news.

Online: https://bit.ly/2LTbLrT


The Observer-Dispatch on early education programs

July 31

Hey — there’s still a whole month left of summer vacation. Who thinks about school at a time like this?

You’d be surprised. Some educators never stop thinking about it. They can’t.

That’s because in many cases, the children starting school aren’t ready to learn. And because they’re so far behind the curve, they may never catch up. As a result, they never really hook into education, and that disadvantage can stalk them for a lifetime.

That’s what makes the Ready For Kindergarten — R4K for short — so valuable. The program was born of necessity several years ago after Susan Butler, former principal of Dolgeville Elementary School, found that they were getting children with very low language skills that just weren’t catching up.

“They were learning,” she said, “but they just weren’t catching up with their peers by third grade.”

Butler began pushing for more universal pre-K classes in her district so fewer children would come to school already behind. Other districts soon came on board, and as a result, R4K was born. It began in the fall of 2016 in Dolgeville, Central Valley and Remsen Central school districts, and expanded this year to the Town of Webb Union Free School District. Essentially, the program aims to remove barriers that can get in learning’s way.

School “navigators” work with families to get services and provide support and develop necessary skills so children come to school ready to learn.

The program is funded by the United Way of the Valley and Greater Utica Area, and now partners with CNY Health Homes Network, SUNY Polytechnic Institute, Oneida-Herkimer-Madison BOCES, the Oneida County Department of Mental Health, SUNY Polytechnic Institute and seven school districts.

It all makes sense. In fact, the same philosophy led to the development of the Utica Reading Tutor program, founded in 1969 by the late Katharine “Kitty” Kernan, Roberta Frank and Mrs. Albert Schwartz. That program, nearing its 50th year of operation, focuses on children whose poor reading skills may cause them to slip through the educational cracks and fall behind. Helping them overcome reading difficulties early on can avoid that by raising their consciousness and boosting self-esteem, thereby establishing the foundation all children need to succeed in school.

Ultimately, the founders believed, this can help fight poverty. Children who struggle to read often become discouraged because it affects their overall academic performance. As they fall further and further behind, they eventually give up and drop out of school. That puts them at a great disadvantage when it comes to find a good job in the future.

Becoming a better reader can break than cycle by establishing an incentive to learn from the start. By doing so, children are more apt to embrace education and work toward a successful career.

That’s why these programs must be supported. There are myriad reasons why children might come to school ill prepared. It doesn’t mean they are not capable of success. Good educators know that. And anything that helps put them on the same playing field is a worthy pursuit because every child has value.

We must never forget that.

Online: https://bit.ly/2KhFp5t


The Post-Journal on sending U.S. aid to Mexico

July 30

Most immigrants come to the United States without legal permission for economic opportunity. A few make the journey to escape political repression or crime. In many ways, what they do is entirely understandable — though, of course, immigration laws need to be enforced.

Making their own homelands more prosperous, free and safe would do more to curb illegal immigration to ours than any amount of border security here.

Mexican President-elect Manuel Lopez Obrador is pledging to do just that. In a seven-page letter he sent to President Donald Trump, Lopez Obrador said he hopes to improve Mexico’s economy and security.

Lopez Obrador added that, “in this new atmosphere of progress with well-being, I’m sure we can reach agreements to confront together the migration phenomenon as well as the problem of border security.”

Unfortunately, it appears Mexico is not where many immigrants who enter the United States illegally originate. Other countries in Central America and some in Asia are contributing increasing numbers to the problem.

Still, Mexico is No. 1. About half the 11 million or so immigrants living without legal permission in our country came from there, it has been estimated. So, if Lopez Obrador can to something to stem the flow, it will be most welcome.

Among Trump’s biggest campaign promises was to build a new border security wall and force Mexico to pay for it. That will never happen, of course. The wall may be constructed, but U.S. taxpayers will foot the bill.

Perhaps the flow of aid should be the other way around.

If Lopez Obrador is serious about his goals — and if he can manage to overcome his own country’s version of “the swamp” — some assistance from the United States would be appropriate.

Our country’s economy takes precedence. But that said, if Trump can do anything to help Mexico keep more of its people at home instead of sneaking across the border into the United States, it might be money well spent. First, of course, U.S. officials need to ensure Lopez Obrador means what he wrote and is not merely repeating empty promises of the past.

Online: https://bit.ly/2Ma2VTF

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