AP NEWS
Click to copy
Click to copy

Editorials from around New York

July 17, 2019

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

Follow the Emiratis’ lead, out of Yemen

The New York Times, July 15

The conflict in Yemen is unwinnable, dangerous for the region and remarkably cruel. So the drawdown of troops by the United Arab Emirates, the biggest outside ground force backing the Saudi-led intervention that has turned a civil war into a humanitarian disaster, should be an example for everyone else involved.

Given global revulsion with the Yemen war, which has created what the United Nations calls the world’s greatest humanitarian crisis, the country’s tacit recognition that the conflict is a waste of lives, resources and national stature is a dose of sanity.

The United Arab Emirates has not publicly explained its pullback, evidently for fear of irritating its Saudi allies. But diplomats say the Emiratis, who sent at least 5,000 troops to Yemen to train and lead a mélange of pro-government troops and militias, have wanted out for some time now. They say the United Arab Emirates has sharply cut its deployment of men, attack helicopters and heavy guns around the Red Sea port of Hudaydah, the main battleground last year. A shaky United Nations-mediated cease-fire in Hudaydah that came into effect last December provided the excuse and a reason to pull back.

Those talks, which resumed on Sunday, offer a potential framework for real peace negotiations if other combatants — most important Saudi Arabia, the leader of the coalition in which the United Arab Emirates had the lead ground role — followed the Emirates’ lead.

The conflict in Yemen is a composite of many struggles, old and new, local and regional. It traces back to the Arab Spring, when the ouster of a strongman president led to a rebellion by northern Houthi rebels. Their southward romp was stopped by a coalition of Arab states and local militias compiled by Saudi Arabia and actively assisted by the United States.

With help from Iran, the Houthis proved too strong for the Saudi-led coalition to defeat, but they were too weak to take full power. The conflict became a proxy struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Saudi bombing turned an already impoverished country into an unlivable one, with tens of thousands of civilian deaths and extreme shortages of food and medicine. Houthi atrocities contributed to the horrors.

In the United States, pressure grew on the administration to stop assisting Saudi Arabia with refueling, intelligence and arms sales. The pressure mushroomed after the Saudi murder of the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year and consequent disenchantment with the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the driving force behind the intervention in Yemen. A bipartisan resolution in Congress in April calling on the administration to curtail American involvement was vetoed by President Trump, but the House has now begun a new effort to block the transfer of munitions to Saudi Arabia.

The swelling American disgust with the war provided further incentive for the United Arab Emirates to distance itself from the Saudi-led intervention. At the same time, the rising tensions between the United States and Iran prodded the Emiratis to bring home troops who would be needed should the saber-rattling escalate further.

The Yemen conflict is bad enough without being embroiled in the greater power struggle in the Persian Gulf. The only solution there is a negotiated peace agreement among the Yemenis on sharing power and resources, and Saudi Arabia should seek its own agreement with the Houthis to end cross-border drone and missile strikes.

The conflict in Yemen is a composite of many struggles, old and new, local and regional. It traces back to the Arab Spring, when the ouster of a strongman president led to a rebellion by northern Houthi rebels. Their southward romp was stopped by a coalition of Arab states and local militias compiled by Saudi Arabia and actively assisted by the United States.

With help from Iran, the Houthis proved too strong for the Saudi-led coalition to defeat, but they were too weak to take full power. The conflict became a proxy struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Saudi bombing turned an already impoverished country into an unlivable one, with tens of thousands of civilian deaths and extreme shortages of food and medicine. Houthi atrocities contributed to the horrors.

In the United States, pressure grew on the administration to stop assisting Saudi Arabia with refueling, intelligence and arms sales. The pressure mushroomed after the Saudi murder of the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year and consequent disenchantment with the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the driving force behind the intervention in Yemen. A bipartisan resolution in Congress in April calling on the administration to curtail American involvement was vetoed by President Trump, but the House has now begun a new effort to block the transfer of munitions to Saudi Arabia.

The swelling American disgust with the war provided further incentive for the United Arab Emirates to distance itself from the Saudi-led intervention. At the same time, the rising tensions between the United States and Iran prodded the Emiratis to bring home troops who would be needed should the saber-rattling escalate further.

The Yemen conflict is bad enough without being embroiled in the greater power struggle in the Persian Gulf. The only solution there is a negotiated peace agreement among the Yemenis on sharing power and resources, and Saudi Arabia should seek its own agreement with the Houthis to end cross-border drone and missile strikes.

The agreement mediated by the United Nations in December to prevent a devastating battle over Hudaydah leaves a lot to be desired, but it does create a platform not only to safeguard Hudaydah but also to start negotiating a full cease-fire and peace agreement. The Emirati withdrawal from the port should be a major step toward encouraging the Yemenis to start focusing on how they can end the war destroying their land.

The withdrawal could also be the impetus for the Trump administration to start being part of the solution to the war, not an enabler, pointing the way for Saudi Arabia, the internationally recognized government of Yemen and the Houthi rebels to follow suit.

The means are there. This week, representatives of the Houthis and the government met under United Nations auspices on a ship in international waters to continue discussions on Hudaydah. With a dollop of the realism the Emiratis have provided, these could quickly become broader talks on the peace Yemen so desperately needs.

Online: https://nyti.ms/2XI8t1z

___President Trump shouldn’t divide our nation

Newsday, July 15

Speaking on the White House lawn Monday, President Donald Trump continued his racist rants against four members of the House of Representatives, saying they “hate the United States.” At a news conference later, however, the respect and love of these women for their country shone, perfectly framing Trump’s childish strategy to denounce opponents personally because he can’t debate policy.

Trump, plagued by static poll numbers, unleashed a Twitter assault steeped in racism, sexism and vile prejudices Sunday. His attack was un-American, degrading one of this nation’s most exceptional attributes, a willingness to welcome people of any race, hue or religion.

“So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world...now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

Trump has not denied that the four citizens he was referring to are Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York (born in the Bronx), Rashida Tlaib of Michigan (born in Detroit), Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts (born in Cincinnati) and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota (born in Somalia in 1982, came to the United States in 1992, became a citizen in 2000).

Ocasio-Cortez is free to say “how our government is to be run” because she won election by 110,318 to 17,762. Tlaib won 165,355 to 22,186. Pressley had no opponent, and won 98.3 percent of the vote. Omar won 267,703 to 74,440.

As much as we sometimes disagree with the political views of these members of Congress, no one has more of a right to express opinions than they do.

So what point was Trump making when he attempted to delegitimize these women? Was it to further cleave the the Democratic Party as it struggles to find a path between moderates and progressives? Clearly so.

It was more of the same bigotry that led him to make the farcical accusations that Barack Obama was not born in the United States, that a U.S. judge of Mexican descent cannot be impartial, and that people coming here from Mexico are drug dealers and rapists.

GOP officials were mostly muted in response to their leader implying that Muslims, African Americans and Hispanics are not real Americans even if born here and should leave because of their negative views. If negative views of America were a deportable offense, Trump’s catalog-of-horrors inauguration speech clearly would have qualified him.

Rep. Lee Zeldin chose to attack his four fellow representatives for a “blame America first mentality,” but said Trump should have stuck to policy disagreements.

Rep. Peter King said Trump’s tweets were “entirely inappropriate and wrong,” but did little else to make it clear that this was not acceptable behavior from the president.

Trump’s message is a dangerous one, that the other, the person who is different from you, is not a real American. Soon enough, if Trump’s hatred is not rejected, anyone who speaks against him will be the other.

Online: https://nwsdy.li/2JOCNO5

___

Trump’s racist words deserve stronger GOP response

The Auburn Citizen, July 17

President Donald Trump suggesting that some members of Congress should go back to the countries they came from demands widespread condemnation, but Republicans in Washington have unfortunately failed to give the issue the seriousness it deserves.

Trump on Sunday suggested that four of his most vocal critics — all women of color — should “go back” to their “broken and crime-infested” countries. The congresswomen are all American citizens, and just one was born outside the United States.

We saw the remarks for what they were — xenophobic and racist — and we became aware that white supremacist groups were celebrating the latest outrageous and divisive stance of the president of the United States.

And while many people immediately condemned Trump’s remarks, most Republicans in Washington had little if anything to say about it. Their statements regarding Trump mainly trickled out 24 hours or more after the fact, and many of them used the opportunity to attack Washington Democrats while at the same time saying that Trump shouldn’t have said what he said.

We give Rep. John Katko credit for being one of the few Republicans to say a discouraging word about Trump, but his brief statement on the matter was more about disagreeing with Democrats than disagreeing with racism.

To be specific, 23 of the 34 words in Katko’s release referred to Democrats in a negative light; the other 11 were directed at Trump.

“The President’s tweets were wrong,” he said. “I have vehemently criticized lawmakers on the far-left when I disagree with the direction in which they want to take the country - but criticism should focus on policy.”

And the tepid response from his own party appeared to embolden the president, who doubled-down on Monday by declaring that he wasn’t the least bit concerned about his critics.

“It doesn’t concern me because many people agree with me,” he said. “A lot of people love it, by the way.”

We’re glad that Katko spoke up, but we wish he and others had expanded their remarks to explain why they believe Trump’s remarks were wrong, and call on the president to apologize and do better. When the president acts downright unpresidential, it’s up to members of Congress to keep him in check — regardless of party affiliation.

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

___Legislators need to look at streamlining the foreclosure process

The Post-Journal, July 12

New York state needs to make up its mind if it wants foreclosures to proceed quickly or slowly.

Twice at the end of the legislative session in June, lawmakers voted on bills that dealt with foreclosures.

One of the bills would allow a homeowner to file a defense challenging a bank’s standing to file a foreclosure action at the last minute, an action Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown, said could add a month or two to a foreclosure process that is already the longest in the nation at slightly more than three years on average. Goodell said on the Assembly floor that allowing such a late claim of standing by the bank could make the problem of zombie properties even worse.

Sure enough, less than 24 hours later, the Zombie Property Remediation Act was debated on the state Assembly floor. The legislation grants new powers to municipalities to file a suit against a bank and force a foreclosure or settlement of a mortgage if a home has been verified to be vacant regardless of whether or not the home’s mortgage was actually in default. The act requires banks to try to wrap a foreclosure up within a year — timelines that can’t be reached as a result of legislation passed a decade ago at the height of the sub-prime mortgage crisis.

It’s as if state legislators never read the bills to see how they contradict each other or complicate an already complicated process. We agree with Goodell’s suggestion that the legislature should consider legislation to streamline the foreclosure process. Too much competing legislation has been passed over the years for the process to be anything but a tangled, confused mess.

Online: https://bit.ly/2JSkjN0

___

Mass transit funding pays off in many ways

The Middletown Times Herald-Record, July 10

Outside of metropolitan areas, mass transit is hit or miss. Because most people have cars and most families have two, the urgent needs of many who rely on public transportation — or would if it were available — is a bit of an abstraction to many elected officials. To them and most of their constituents, public transportation often seems like a nice alternative. Do you take the bus or train into the city for the day or evening, or do you drive?

Perhaps what we need to supply motivation for funding and more solutions is some official recognition with a twist. Local counties could declare a public transit week to raise the profile and show a real commitment. Elected officials could spend that week using only available public transportation to get to work and meetings as well as attending to their personal needs. It would let them really understand the challenges that the carless face every day and put into perspective the requests for funding that these officials ultimately will have to consider.

For many, especially many in our more sparsely populated rural areas, the lack of a vehicle or, in many cases, the lack of a reliable vehicle, is a daily struggle. Whether they need it to get to work, to a store, to a medical appointment or some seemingly less important appointments, they often have to rely on others with vehicles or the intermittent public services available.

It’s a frustrating issue because nobody ever disagrees that public transit is beneficial or that there are those who are effectively immobile without it. It just has trouble remaining on top of any to-do lists because there are other needs that seem more urgent.

Now, we have the good news that two counties are moving, albeit cautiously and slowly, toward providing more services. The Orange County Department of Planning is working to develop a smartphone app that would help riders plan their travel in Orange as well as Dutchess and Ulster counties. To make sure that the transit more often goes where the public needs it, the department also is collecting information on travel patterns. Most important of all is the work to prepare a marketing campaign, one that would make these routes and schedules more visible to those who might use them even though they have cars.

This is a very important development because if public transit is going to succeed in the region, if it is going to attract the numbers of people necessary to justify the inevitable subsidies that governments will have to provide, it will have to reach well beyond the carless population.

In Sullivan County, new routes are scheduled to start in mid-August with service at 17 stops, among them Liberty, Ferndale, Harris, Monticello, near the Resorts World Catskills casino, South Fallsburg, Hurleyville and Loch Sheldrake with a contract that the county and bus line have agreed to through 2022. Sullivan County Manager Josh Potosek said, “We’re considering this as like the foundation or the central core of a bigger transportation system ultimately.”

Sullivan County has already decided that it needs to invest in this service. Orange County should as well.

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

All contents © copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.