Editorials from around New York
Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New York’s newspapers:
The Wall Street Journal on Greece’s election
When hundreds of thousands marched through the broiling streets of Hong Kong in recent weeks, they posed a serious challenge for the Chinese government. But when some of them stormed the Legislative Council and ransacked the chamber on Monday, they put their movement’s fragile gains at risk.
What first set off the latest wave of mass protests was a proposed law that would have allowed extradition from Hong Kong to mainland China. On the surface a legal formality, it was perceived by a large majority of Hong Kongers as yet another surreptitious attempt by the government in Beijing to erode the enclave’s rule of law and autonomy, guaranteed under the “one country, two systems” formula. The protests, by residents of all ages and walks of life, were a powerful and inspiring declaration that people raised in freedom will not easily surrender it.
For China’s hard-line leader, Xi Jinping, the reaction was a humiliating rejection of his basic premise that Western liberties and independent judiciaries are incompatible with the “people’s republic.” Yet so long as the protests were big but peaceful, he seemed content to have his captive media grumble about “Western” incitement and otherwise inform the mainland public as little as possible about what was going on in Hong Kong. The Beijing-backed leader of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam, was left to retreat, issuing public apologies and then indefinitely suspending consideration of the contentious legislation.
All that changed on Monday, the day Hong Kong’s Beijing-endorsed officials were to make their annual demonstration of fealty to China at ceremonies marking the anniversary of the handover of sovereignty from Britain to China. A small group of masked protesters broke away from a peaceful march and attacked the legislature, smashing down glass doors, destroying official portraits and spray-painting slogans in the formal chamber. It will be weeks before the legislators can meet there again.
Those masked protesters may well be convinced that peaceful action results only in tactical retreats by a system determined to bring Hong Kong more firmly under the heel of China’s central government. When they stormed the legislature, Ms. Lam had only suspended consideration of the contentious extradition law, and the angry protesters recalled that a 79-day occupation of major thoroughfares in 2014 to demand freer elections, the so-called Umbrella Movement, achieved nothing durable. Among the spray-painted messages in the legislature was one to Ms. Lam: “You taught me peaceful protests are futile.”
Yet they should be asking themselves whether violent protests can possibly be a better answer. The mass demonstrations in Hong Kong’s narrow streets, like the Umbrella Movement before them, had confronted China’s Communists, and China’s people, with the powerful message that people reared in freedom — normal people, not radicals or rebels — do not buy the notion that the rule of law or freedom of speech are affectations of a decadent West that would be harmful in the East.
Further, the sight of Ms. Lam publicly apologizing and finally shelving the extradition law was a demonstration of the moral power of the people, even if the greater struggle with the mainland was certain to continue.
The ransacked Legislative Council, by contrast, gave the authorities an excuse to crack down on all their detractors. China’s government assailed the vandalism as “totally intolerable” and demanded strong countermeasures from Hong Kong authorities.
No doubt the authorities are aware that a crackdown would carry a heavy price in global opinion and potentially drive away the many multinational businesses headquartered there. The protesters, for their part, stand not only to provoke a crackdown but also to forfeit the support of most Hong Kong demonstrators. Both sides need to consider whether violence is the best way forward. It rarely is.
The New York Daily News on the closing of Rikers Island
If a cherished criminal-justice-reform dream of New York progressives — closing down the arcane and often inhumane jail complex on Rikers Island — collapses, they will have to blame not tough-on-crime prosecutors or judges or Republicans, but some of their own closest political allies.
It is the arrogant missteps and utopian idealism of a handful of left-wing New Yorkers that now poses a clear and present threat to a project many of these very same New Yorkers insist is a moral imperative.
In the former category, we put Mayor de Blasio and Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s rushed decision last August to put one of five modern, new borough jails — actually, four, after Staten Island was stupidly ruled out — in a residential neighborhood in Mott Haven, on a site long intended for affordable housing, rather than on another available site far closer to the Bronx County courthouse.
At the time, given that local pols seemed lined up in favor, the Mott Haven site looked like the path of least resistance. But then members of the community, worried about guarding hard-won progress against crime and wise to how the proposed location failed pols’ own tests, revolted.
Thursday, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. added his voice to the opposition.
If that winds up sinking the plan, it’s on de Blasio and Johnson for picking the wrong site and shutting the public out of the process.
A second progressive threat arises in Queens, where Tiffany Cabán, embroiled in a recount, still could end up the next Queens district attorney. Should she succeed, her uberprogressive promise of “no new jails” would likely embolden those looking to block a modern new facility in Kew Gardens.
If Queens and the Bronx are back to square one, or off the table, you can kiss closing Rikers within 10 years goodbye.
Syracuse Post-Standard on the U.S. Women’s National Soccer team reaching equitable pay
The Women’s World Cup ends today. The defending champion Americans will face the Netherlands in the final. Whatever the result on the pitch, the U.S. women’s national soccer team successfully kicked the legs out from under their federation’s argument against equal pay with the men’s national team.
In March, the U.S. women filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against U.S. Soccer, alleging they are paid 38 cents to the dollar earned by their male counterparts. (The teams have different pay structures, which accounts for some of the difference.) The highest paid men’s player makes $200,000 more than the highest-paid women’s player. Even the head coach earns less. Women’s coach Jill Ellis earned $318,000 last year; fired men’s coach Jurgen Klinsmann made $3.35 million.
It’s not a performance issue. The women’s team has run rings around the men’s team. Since 1996, the U.S. women have won three World Cups, four Olympic gold medals and consistently ranks No. 1 in the world. The men’s team did not even qualify for the 2018 World Cup and hasn’t won an Olympic medal since Theodore Roosevelt was president. The men earned $5.375 million in bonuses for losing in the quarterfinal of the 2014 World Cup; the women earned $1.725 million for winning the World Cup in 2015.
It’s not a revenue issue. In 2017, U.S. Soccer reported the women’s team brought in $17 million -- $5 million more than it spent on the team. The men’s team ran a $1 million deficit. The women’s team brought in $50.8 million in ticket revenue from 2016-2018, while the men brought in $49.9 million, the Wall Street Journal reported.
It’s not an audience issue, either. TV ratings and live streaming records are being smashed. By the time today’s match concludes, a billion people worldwide will have tuned in to watch the Women’s World Cup, according to FIFA, soccer’s global governing body. Fox Sports recorded a peak of 8.24 million viewers watching last Friday’s quarterfinal match between the U.S. squad and host France.
So what’s the issue? Fairness and respect. Women and men should be paid the same for equal work. Women’s sports are not a pale imitation of men’s sports. They have value on their own - and so do the women who play them.
The excellence of the U.S. women’s team has set the standard for other nations, lifting the women’s game around the globe. Despite their stunning success, they’ve had to fight and scrape for better pay, better training, better playing fields and more professional opportunities. Their lawsuit for equal pay keeps the line moving.
Their play and their activism are inspiring. Inspiration doesn’t pay the bills.
Game over, U.S. Soccer. The women have already won. Now pay them what they’re worth.
The Post Star on New York representatives in supporting use of intelligence in confrontations with Iran
Republican members of Congress like Elise Stefanik face many dilemmas in dealing with and reacting to President Trump. For Stefanik, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, one of those dilemmas has been trying to support Trump and, at the same time, support the country’s intelligence services.
Her solution seems to be to point out how excellent the intelligence services are when their conclusions support Trump’s behavior and to ignore them when they contradict Trump.
But this becomes a difficult balancing act, as so many things do when dealing with a mercurial president. Constituents witnessed this tricky balance recently when Stefanik, while defending Trump’s right to take military action against Iran, praised the intelligence he was receiving.
“The president had a unique vantage point in terms of advice from military leadership, in terms of intelligence that is incredibly precise that congressional leaders do not have. I support the president’s decision,” Stefanik said.
Her statement was precipitated by Trump’s decision to launch, then abort, a missile strike on Iran. We’re glad that, as a well-informed member of the Intelligence Committee, Stefanik believes the president is receiving “incredibly precise” intelligence.
Back at the end of January, however, the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, put out the “Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community,” which includes conclusions that contradict Trump at every turn.
“We continue to assess that Iran is not currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons-development activities we judge necessary to produce a nuclear device,” that report says.
The report says Iran has been abiding by the nuclear deal worked out by the Obama administration with an international coalition, including China, the European Union, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom. It also says Iran’s leaders were threatening to break the terms of the deal unless they could realize the economic benefits it promised.
The reason Iran wasn’t realizing those benefits in January and still isn’t is because Trump pulled out of the Iran deal.
Trump has attacked his own intelligence services for many things, including for saying the Iran nuclear deal was working. Since pulling out, he has tightened sanctions on Iran, engaging in a back and forth that brought him to the brink of bombing the country. That context makes it difficult for people like Stefanik, who try to justify Trump’s aggression based on intelligence reports.
When a president repeatedly undermines the credibility of his intelligence services, it’s hard for a congresswoman to then say with a straight face that he is doing the right thing, based on “intelligence that is incredibly precise.”
All of this matter because presidents use intelligence for making consequential decisions, like launching air strikes on other countries. The intelligence must, therefore, be unbiased. We never want to repeat our experience with the invasion of Iraq, when the country realized, too late, that the decision to invade was based on bogus intelligence.
We also need to get back to the constitutional requirement that military action be a joint decision of the president and Congress.
Presidents Bush, Obama and Trump have justified various military actions with the use of force authorization passed by Congress shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks. That authorizations starts with the following:
“The president is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons .. ”
You can tie that 18-year-old authorization to our continued military presence in Afghanistan, but it does not cover starting a war with Iran, and Stefanik knows it. We need her to stand up for Congress, the Constitution and the intelligence services against warmongering. We’ve got more chaos than we can handle right now on the home front. The country will be shattered if we get pulled into another war.
Niagara Gazette on New York State police use of body cams
The death of Troy Hodge, who died after an interaction with Lockport police officers last month, highlights a larger issue facing communities across the nation, including Niagara County.
While the officers involved in the Hodge case work for a department that previously purchased body cameras, initial reports indicate that, in one instance, an officer’s camera fell off and, in another instance, the officer did not have their camera activated.
Family members have suggested a Taser used by an officer at the scene contributed to Hodge’s death on June 17. Questions also remain about whether Hodge was, as police allege, wielding a knife on the night in question.
The New York State Attorney General is currently attempting to sort out all the details.
Having body camera footage from all of the officers involved would most certainly help in drawing accurate conclusions over the course of the probe.
Larger question still looms where uniformity is concerned.
Why does it seem that so often, whether incidents of this nature occur here in Western New York or in other parts of the country, there are no solid standards regarding the use of body cameras by law enforcement officers?
Lockport Police Chief Steve Preisch recently noted that officers in his department are required to use body cameras only during traffic stops. The rest of the time, he said, cameras are activated solely at the discretion of individual officers.
As Preisch also demonstrated for members of the city’s police board last week, the department’s current set of cameras, while deemed adequate at the time they were purchased, are not as reliable as they probably should be.
Preisch is urging city officials to purchase a new set of cameras and, in light of recent events, it seems like a wise and necessary investment.
In the wake of Hodge’s death, Preisch has also prepared a draft body camera policy for officers that would mandate their use of body cameras at all times.
This is a no-brainer, something all departments across Niagara County should consider if they don’t have such policies in place already.
Taxpayers have already picked up the tab for body cameras in Lockport.
Many, especially in light of the Hodge incident, are probably wondering how one officer’s camera managed to fall off during the encounter and why another officer’s camera wasn’t turned on.
Having a uniform set of standards erases a lot of doubt for all parties involved.
Officials in the city of Lockport should find a way to heed the chief’s call and purchase a new set of body cameras so officers have operational equipment that serves their interest and the public interest.
The city won’t realize the full return on such an investment unless, as Preisch is recommending, there’s a policy in place for officers to use those cameras whenever they are on the job.