Editorials from around Pennsylvania
By The Associated Press
Feb. 14, 2018
Editorials from around Pennsylvania:
SPECIAL DAY TO CELEBRATE ALL THAT LOVE IS, Feb. 14
Love covers a lot of ground.
There is the love between a parent and a child. There's love for one's partner, sibling, friend, pet.
There is even the very real love a child feels for a favorite stuffed animal. Any parent who has had to wash that stuffed animal or search frantically for it can attest to that.
Some might say love varies in its degrees — that the love one has for a spouse cannot compare to the love between a tow-headed child and his pretend dinosaur.
The point is noted, but we won't quibble at this time over such technicalities. Because we feel love, in any of its forms, is essential — now more than ever.
Or maybe it just feels that way. Violence and hatred can end us individually, but we cannot let it take us down collectively. Therein lies the rub. Because it is as individuals that we must make choices that will change all of our lives for the better.
The CBS Evening News ran a story in 2012 on State College postman Mike Herr, known as Mike the Mailman. His kindness to customers over the last four decades has made him a local celebrity.
"My mission is to make them have a little bit of levity on the way out and say, 'Hey, it's not so bad after all,'" Herr told CBS News. "This is what I do. I'm just myself, that's all I can do."
Herr is humble in his response because the story goes on to tell how his outpouring of love, and in probably the most casual way, has brightened countless lives and influenced one man to conclude that Mike the Mailman probably taught him the most about life.
"It was honestly his example that kind of taught me it's not what you do in life, but it's how you do it," Michael Aitkenhead, a Penn State alumnus, told CBS News.
The story's author, Steve Hartman, at one point declared that Mike was "pure heart."
On this Valentine's Day, let's take a cue from Mike the Mailman who practices daily, it seems, the popular Bible verse for weddings about love being patient and kind, which is not specific to a husband and wife, but covers the love between all mankind.
By all means, kiss your lover, hug your friend and keep your children close. Buy the flowers, the chocolates, the paper hearts. But don't forget your neighbor.
Remember, maybe the man taking so long in line in front of you just lost a friend who was serving his country. Maybe a child crying to his mother in the bus seat next to you misses his father who is sleeping on a friend's couch.
And perhaps the woman who brushed you aside at the checkout counter doesn't know if she can pay her mortgage this month.
Love will save us. Love can keep us from having to carry alone the weight of this heavy, heavy world we live in.
Today, let's remember all that ground love can cover. Be kind. Love one another.
And Happy Valentine's Day.
ANOTHER LESSON IN SOCIAL MEDIA USE TO WHICH WE SHOULD ALL PAY CLOSE ATTENTION, Feb. 12
Parents, no doubt you've warned your kids about the dangers of social media. A photo or a thought, launched into cyberspace, can have the force of a SpaceX rocket — and can be even harder to retrieve.
That was the lesson learned by Ryan, who on Feb. 3 tweeted a comment from an Associated Press story about the new federal tax law. The comment was from Ketchum, a secretary at Hempfield High School.
Ryan tweeted: "A secretary at a public high school in Lancaster, PA, said she was pleasantly surprised her pay went up $1.50 a week ... she said (that) will more than cover her Costco membership for the year."
The tweet went viral. The reaction was ... not kind.
One tweet read: "If Paul Ryan threw in an extra $1.50, we could get one of those gigantic Costco hot dogs too, which, if you ask me, would really seal the deal."
Another read: "Coincidentally, this week at Costco there is a sale on Paul Ryan's awareness."
And another read: "Marie Antoinette: 'Let them eat cake.' Paul Ryan: 'Let them shop at Costco.' "
Ryan reacted by deleting the tweet. Ketchum herself responded with humor and grace: "Oh, internet," she quipped in an interview with LNP.
She was surprised her comment even made it into the AP report. "Especially since they picked up on my $1.50-per-week increase," Ketchum said. "People interviewed before and after me had hundreds, and when (Ryan) chose to tweet about me, that cracked me up."
(We don't know why Ketchum's increase was only $1.50 while she acknowledged others enjoyed increases of hundreds of dollars.)
Those of us who use social media frequently know all too well the terror of an ill-advised post.
Our advice, learned from experience: Think before you tweet. Make sure what you're about to post is not only accurate but sensible; contains no double entendres, profanities or insults; and cannot easily be fired back in your direction.
Even when you're tweeting about sports — those Eagles, for instance — tweet calmly. Posts dispatched in anger, or — as in Ryan's case — overenthusiasm, can lead to regret.
And while we're on the subject, a word or two for politicians about social media.
Twitter should not be used as a substitute for face-to-face contact, nor is it an alternative to meeting with the press to discuss pertinent issues. A one-way "conversation" on Twitter does not take the place of meaningful discussion and dialogue. And it will miss constituents who don't use social media.
This, by the way, applies to all of us, but especially to elected officials.
Once you hit that "tweet" button, there's no going back. You can delete and apologize until you turn purple. Once it's out there, it's out there. As New Jersey writer David Roth observed, "Every bad tweet lives a life."
So many, who tend to tweet first and think later, have learned this the hard way (see Weiner, Anthony).
And on Thursday, entertainer Bette Midler inflamed the Twitterverse when she suggested Republican Sen. Rand Paul should be physically attacked, again — this time for his stance on spending and the federal budget.
"Where's Rand Paul's neighbor when we need him?" Midler tweeted.
Paul was seriously injured when he was assaulted by a neighbor in November.
In the annals of ill-advised tweets, Ryan's is a mild gaffe compared to some of the reputation-killing streams of consciousness we've witnessed.
But, if nothing else, it's a relevant reminder.
Remember Ketchum's lament, "Oh, internet," and proceed with caution.
'DREAMERS' DON'T KNOW WHOM TO TRUST ON IMMIGRATION, Feb. 12
Immigrants brought into this country illegally as children by their parents may be wondering whom to trust. The political theater being played out in Washington hasn't settled the status of either the "Dreamers" or the estimated 11 million other undocumented residents living here.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi should get an Academy Award for her portrayal of someone who gives a damn about the Dreamers during last week's debate to avoid a government shutdown. The California congresswoman gave a record-breaking eight-hour speech Wednesday in a failed effort to include language protecting the Dreamers in a budget deal.
But Pelosi was one of the architects of that deal, and in fact praised its passage following her futile soliloquy. "We had a great bill; we got everything. Republicans gave away the store," she said.
Everything? The Dreamers didn't get anything. They are still facing a date with deportation unless Congress extends the life of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act.
Not to be outdone by Pelosi as a thespian, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took to the stage to promise debate on legislation to protect the Dreamers if Democrats didn't block passage of the budget deal to prevent a shutdown. He seemed sincere, but his statement left plenty of wiggle room.
"It would be my intention to take up legislation here that would address DACA and border security," McConnell said.
Need the Kentucky senator be reminded that good intentions provide the pavement to hell? The Dreamers need more than his intent. They need him to do more than allow debate on the issue. They need McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan to agree to earnestly work with Democrats on comprehensive immigration reform.
That shouldn't be hard for McConnell, whose wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Cho, emigrated to this country from Taiwan when she was 8-years-old. Cho's success story should put McConnell firmly in the corner of Dreamers, who only want a chance to continue their pursuit of the American dream. Yet he has seemed ambivalent about resolving their plight.
There are about 700,000 immigrants in this country who had little choice but to enter the United States illegally with their parents. Most are law-abiding, tax-paying individuals who have become our neighbors, our coworkers, our children's classmates, fellow church-goers, and friends. Many have lived among us for years. They know no other home. There's no good reason to insist that they leave.
Millions of others who by their own volition crossed the border illegally to get into this country also deserve an opportunity to stay. That can't happen without immigration legislation that goes beyond extending DACA. Congress has come close but each time lacked the political will to accomplish comprehensive immigration reform.
Passing the necessary legislation isn't impossible, but play acting by congressional leaders won't get it done. They need to stop talking about it and fashion a solution that keeps the dreams of people who want to be productive citizens from being held hostage to shortsighted political agendas.
NO EXCUSE FOR STATE'S BACKLOG OF UNTESTED RAPE KITS, Feb. 13
More than 1,200 potential rape victims across Pennsylvania have been left waiting in an intolerable limbo of law enforcement because the invasive rape kits to which they consented have sat untested in crime labs and police storage rooms. Equally intolerable is how this backlog grew while funding to keep up with kit testing apparently didn't.
It should never have reached this point.
By law, testing is supposed to be completed within six months. Some of the backlog dates to the 1990s, according to a Trib report.
In 2016, state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale flagged Pennsylvania's rape-kit backlog in an audit that found only a third of about 1,000 police agencies were complying with state law. He has called on Gov. Tom Wolf and the Legislature to allocate more funding for kit testing in 2018-19. And last year, Mr. Wolf increased the allocation by nearly $2.5 million, according to a spokesman.
But funding should have kept pace to meet the increasing number of untested rape kits. Now, Mr. DePasquale said, "it will likely take years to effectively eliminate Pennsylvania's backlog at the current pace."
The state has reduced its backlog from 1,800 untested rape kits last year, and testing can lead to identifying criminals, DePasquale said. Meanwhile, potential sexual offenders, who often are repeat offenders, remain free.
Failure to keep up with the caseload, when the means to identify potential rapists sits in storage, is inexcusable.
BUDGET PACT THREATENS U.S. FISCAL FUTURE, Feb. 14
The budget agreement that ended the second federal government shutdown of the year was instructive. It appears to have put a price tag on bipartisanship in today's Washington.
The two-year deal signed last week by President Donald Trump lifts spending caps adopted in 2011, boosting military and domestic spending by $300 billion. And many experts believe it sets the stage for a new normal of trillion-dollar deficits for the foreseeable future.
The nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, for example, expects $2 trillion annual deficits by 2027, with red ink worth 105 percent of U.S. gross domestic product - a high not hit since the end of World War II.
The key danger of increasing federal debt, especially now as interest rates can be expected to rise, is clear: A growing percentage of the federal budget will be going to interest payments on the $15 trillion Uncle Sam owes. Boosting that debt and future interest payments on it during a period of prosperity is irresponsible and an unconscionable burden placed on future generations.
One can argue about the GOP tax cut's contribution to the problem, but merely holding Republicans to their own standard - that the private sector is better at managing money than the government - makes Friday's deal a betrayal of the voters who helped them win control of Congress in the 2010 elections. They promised to reduce the deficit by cutting federal spending, a priority cast aside, some fear for good, in the recent budget agreement.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul made his objection inconvenient by filibustering the bill late last week.
"The reason I'm here tonight is to put people on the spot," Paul said Thursday night. "I want people to feel uncomfortable. I want them to have to answer people at home who said, 'How come you were against President (Barack) Obama's deficits and then how come you're for Republican deficits?' "
He's right. Deficit spending is a legitimate concern no matter who's in the White House.
Trump, who campaigned on his deal-making skills, tweeted Saturday that Republicans "were forced to increase spending on things we do not like or want" in exchange for Democratic votes to boost military spending.
Papering over disagreements with more spending is old-school Washington politics. It is essentially the buying of congressional votes with taxpayer dollars - just the sort of thing a candidate who promised to "drain the swamp" would be expected to avoid.
With the economy booming, Washington should be able to find a way to avoid deficit spending. While the deficit was not a big issue in Trump's campaign, he suggested concern with federal spending by promising to put a freeze on hiring and eliminate wasteful spending in every federal department.
If the president can build public confidence in his ability to streamline the federal government - and stop inflaming his opponents in Congress with impolitic tweets and statements - maybe there is still hope for reduced federal spending. But making the hole $300 billion deeper over two years was not a good start.