Editorials from around New York

September 26, 2018

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


The Wall Street Journal on Russia’s involvement in Syria

Sept. 24

Optimists who think Vladimir Putin is going to work with Israel and the U.S. to push Iran out of Syria may have to think again. On Monday Russia announced that it plans to send its highly capable S-300 missile system to its client regime in Syria within two weeks.

The Kremlin justified the decision after Syrian air defenses shot down a Russian reconnaissance plane last week, killing 15 Russians on board. The Syrian missiles were defending against Israeli planes that were bombing Iranian targets in Syria. The S-300 system is less likely to target Russian aircraft by mistake, but it is also far more lethal and will be a major threat to Israeli aircraft.

Israel is frequently sending planes into Syrian airspace to slow Iran’s relentless efforts to establish a military presence. Bashar Assad’s regime doesn’t object because Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and Russia helped turn the tide of the Syrian civil war. Iran wants permanent bases for weapons and militia fighters to extend its imperial reach and directly threaten Israel when the next inevitable war begins. Israel can’t tolerate that buildup, especially with Hezbollah in nearby Lebanon having an arsenal of missiles estimated to be as large as 150,000.

The U.S. and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have been trying to persuade Mr. Putin to distance the country from Iran, to little effect. Israel will no doubt try to avoid accidents that harm Russian forces, but the Jewish state has no choice but to prevent a Revolutionary Guard beachhead on its border. The S-300 sale is one more indication that Mr. Putin wants to make trouble for the U.S. and its allies.

Online: https://on.wsj.com/2QeBnOP


The Times Herald-Record on why the state Senate needs to flip

Sept. 25

Last week, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan announced that he had appointed a former federal judge to review how the Archdiocese of New York handled sexual abuse of minors and sexual harassment of adults.

It should come as no surprise that the cardinal has been motivated to act. He knows what happened when the attorney general in Pennsylvania convened a grand jury to look into similar allegations. The scathing report showed official and historic church indifference, yielding reports of abuse by more than 300 priests over seven decades with 1,000 victims and, as the report said, probably more.

He knows that the New York attorney general has launched a similar inquiry.

He knows that in addition to the scope of the abuse, any official report will include case after case, disgusting detail after disgusting detail, showing what youngsters endured and what the church not only failed to do but often actively worked to cover up.

And he knows that the next few weeks are crucial for his church because the control of the state Senate is on the line in this election. The Republicans who have held a narrow majority have lost their ersatz-Democratic allies. Half a dozen veteran Republicans, those with almost automatic re-election prospects, have retired. A strong top of the Democratic ticket, a blue wave fueled by national concerns over Republican control in Washington and aggressive campaigns by several new faces in the Democratic party make the Democratic takeover of the Senate more likely.

Should that happen, one of the first orders of business would be for the Assembly to once again pass the stalled Child Victims Act, a package of laws that would give abuse victims more time to report their crimes and, most crucial for the church, allow a one-time chance for victims to report crimes no matter how long ago they occurred. The Republicans who controlled the Senate would not even vote on those laws and their substitute would have created a new and untried system parallel to the courts to determine culpability, then taken any payments not from the church or other institutions held responsible but from state funds instead.

So Dolan knows that he has most likely lost the protection he has ensured for so long with millions of lobbying dollars. The most he can hope for now, other than an unexpected comeback in Republican state Senate campaigns, is some mercy from legislators come January.

No one in New York should be fooled by this. What Dolan proposes is a review of cases and procedures by someone he chose who will then report to him with no obligation to make anything public. As Michael Reck, a lawyer who represents victims of abuse by clergy said, “I think that the Cardinal’s move is basically a P.R. move that was made under duress. This is the type of thing that could have and should have been done years ago.”

But it was not. Even the members of the church who Dolan said have come to him and inspired him to take this action have to realize that it is far too little, far too late.

Online: https://bit.ly/2QXjNA1


The Times Union on the Trump administration’s proposal to deny public assistance to immigrants

Sept. 24

It’s a “reform” that will surely result in more poor, hungry, unhealthy people living in squalor.

The Trump administration’s plan to make it harder for people on public assistance to get green cards no doubt comes as welcome news to those who see immigrants as a blight on America. It’s one more instance, however, of the president turning thinly veiled bigotry into simplistic and harmful public policy.

Making the use of benefits a strike against immigrants won’t discourage immigration so much as it will worsen the lives of immigrants who are here already. And it will give President Donald Trump and the Republican-run Congress one more reason not to engage in any serious discussion of immigration reform.

Yes, some immigrants use public assistance programs. Exact numbers, though, are hard to come by. Anti-immigration factions like to point to a 2015 study by the Center for Immigration Studies, an organization that favors less immigration, which said that 51 percent of immigrant households used some form of public assistance. The study’s methodology, however, has been questioned; some experts say it substantially inflated the numbers.

Other analyses, such as one by the pro-immigrant American Immigration Council, argue that overall, the $90 billion immigrants pay in taxes far exceeds the roughly $5 billion they claim in benefits.

Anyway, immigrants aren’t just walking into this country and going on welfare. Those who might qualify for federal benefits already must wait five years to claim them. Some states have taken the practical — not to mention humane — approach of creating nutrition and health programs of their own so that low-income immigrant families don’t go hungry or go wanting for medical care.

For many, a green card would mean higher wages. It’s widely acknowledged that immigrants fill many low-wage jobs that few U.S. citizens are willing to take on. The pay for that work is too scant to live on without some form of public assistance — programs, incidentally, that Republicans have argued are a better solution for the working poor than raising the minimum wage.

Like Mr. Trump’s policy of ripping children from their parents at the border and his fantastical proposal for a wall, cutting public help for immigrants may satisfy some of the anti-immigrant animosity that helped bring Mr. Trump to power. But it avoids the broad debate that Congress should be having on the country’s labor needs; on how to handle the immigrants without proper documentation already here who are leading productive lives and contributing to the economy and their communities; and on designing effective, affordable border security.

There was a time that Republicans were willing to talk about these issues. Then rabid voices on the right elevated disdain for immigrants to an ideological and partisan purity test, and the Republican party turned to stone. True, this policy change doesn’t require Congress’ approval, but the GOP’s silence in the face of such cruel and misguided policies is as good as an endorsement.

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


The Observer-Dispatch on political corruption

Sept. 25

Poor Sheldon Silver. He’s lost his luster.

Silver’s plunge from power should be a burning example for other bigshot politicians who think they’re untouchable. Silver rode his high horse through Albany and around the state for many years, but in the end got bucked off and hit the ground not once, but twice, with convictions on federal corruption charges.

Now he’s headed to jail — where he belongs.

In July, Silver was sentenced to seven years in prison by a judge who said political corruption in the state “has to stop.” Last week, the former Assembly speaker made a last-ditch attempt to stay out of jail when he asked that he be allowed to remain free on bail while appealing his latest conviction.

Manhattan federal Judge Valerie Caproni turned him down and did not mince words. She said his appeal lacked merit, and wrote that “the true purpose of Silver’s appeal is simply to postpone his day of reckoning.”

Judge Caproni has been busy with corrupt politicos. Last Thursday, she sentenced Joseph Percoco, a former top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, to six years in prison for fraud and accepting bribes. Percoco, 49, was convicted in March of accepting more than $300,000 from companies that wanted to gain influence with the Cuomo administration.

Caproni said she hopes the punishment “will be heard in Albany.” She also said those seeking the modest salaries of government jobs should not seek to supplement their incomes by accepting bribes.

“If you do so, this court will show you no mercy,” Caproni said.

Silver, 74, is a prime example of the greed that so often consumes entrenched politicians. Those like Silver who reached the pinnacle of power get even greedier. On May 11, he was found guilty for the second time on seven corruption charges that included using his position as one of the state’s most powerful politicians to obtain close to $4 million in bribes and kickbacks. He was also found guilty in 2015 on the corruption charges, but dodged a bullet temporarily when the conviction was overturned on appeal amid questions about the validity of the jury instructions. He never served a day in jail.

That’s about to change, although Silver might have bought more time. As a result of last week’s ruling by Judge Caproni, Silver must surrender to the authorities on Oct. 5. But on Tuesday, a federal appeals court judge said he can stay out of prison until a judicial panel decides whether he can remain free on bail while he appeals his sentence for public corruption. Judge Peter W. Hall’s ruling will likely delay his surrender date. The judicial panel’s process usually takes a few weeks.

It would be sweet indeed if all crooked politicians and their cohorts got their just desserts. That has been happening more often lately, but it doesn’t seem to be discouraging others. Since 2000, more than 30 state lawmakers — from both sides of the political aisle — have left office because of criminal charges or allegations of ethical misconduct against them. That includes Silver as well as another one-time Albany power broker — former Senate leader Dean Skelos — and his son Adam, convicted of extortion, wire fraud and bribery charges of pressuring businesses to give the son no-show jobs or else risk losing the powerful Republican’s political support. Like with Silver, it was the second trial for them, too.

And elsewhere, a bunch of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s buddies had their day in court, ending with numerous convictions for crooked dealings. In addition to Percoco, Alain Kaloyeros, former president of the State University of New York’s Polytechnic Institute and a driving force behind the Nano Utica initiative in Marcy, was among four co-defendants convicted July 12 by a federal jury in New York on charges related to Cuomo’s “Buffalo Billion” economic redevelopment program. Prosecutors said Kaloyeros was part of a conspiracy to secretly enable developers who were big contributors to Cuomo’s campaigns to win the lucrative contracts.

Of course, corruption in politics is nothing new. But today’s political pies are a lot bigger these days, and everyone wants a slice. One thing is certain: If Diogenes is still looking for an honest man, he’d better not turn his lantern on Albany.

Online: https://bit.ly/2IgUg0s


The Adirondack Daily Enterprise on plastic bags

Sept. 24

Plastic bags can be handy, but they are one of the most common pieces of a litter, and they are the kind that is known to choke and kill large animals. Plus, over time they break down into micro-plastic particles that harm smaller animals throughout the ecosystem.

Paper bags biodegrade better, but they require an undue amount of resources to produce including roughly a gallon of water per bag.

If these short-term convenience bags were really necessary to people’s lives, they might be justifiable, but they aren’t. It’s easy to live without them.

So we are glad the Hannaford supermarket in Lake Placid is going to start charging 5 cents for each plastic or paper bag it gives customers, starting Oct. 1. Any other store that still gives away bags for free should start charging for them as well. And 5 cents, which seems to be roughly the current market value of one of these bags, is cheap — maybe too cheap. This is one thing where we’ll say, feel free to raise the price.

We doubt many customers will complain. It is now established practice at stores such as Aldi, for example, to either charge for bags or not give them out at all. Reusable shopping bags have become normal. Why must a business give a product away for free when there is significant public pressure not to?

That pressure is clear and present. Many nations have already banned plastic bags, including the United Kingdom, Kenya, China, Chile and Australia. San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Seattle have, too, and California and Boston’s bans starts in the next few months. Nearby Warren County is holding hearings on a bag ban of its own. The Saranac Lake Village Board of Trustees recently heard from elementary schoolers urging it to ban plastic bags here.

But government doesn’t need to get involved if businesses will commit to solving the problem on their own. Charging for bags or not providing them could be a free-market solution to a societal problem. We prefer it this way; government bans can be tricky to enforce and result in more pushback and less consensus.

Maybe a few plastic or paper bags have their place, but that place needs to be drastically shrunk from the omnipresence they have now.

But if businesses won’t fix it — and they have resisted doing so for many years — government will have to intervene.

The fact that Hannaford plans to give part of that 5-cent charge to local charities sweetens the deal. Not only is the supermarket taking a positive step toward limiting its environmental footprint, but it’s taking the opportunity to give back to the community.

We challenge other grocers, convenience stores, drug stores, dollar stores and others do the same.

Meanwhile, we urge our readers to politely decline plastic or paper bags when stores offer them, if you can. Bring or buy reusable shopping containers, and if you must use short-term plastic or paper bags, reuse them as many times as you can. The fewer, the better.

Online: https://bit.ly/2IjKpr0

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