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Editorials from around New York

By The Associated PressJune 19, 2019

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

The New York Post on the protesters in Hong Kong

June 18

Hong Kong’s protesters have won — for now. But the sword of the Chinese Communist Party still hangs above all 7 million people of the city.

On Sunday, 2 million marched in support of the smaller group that had faced down riot cops and the threat of tanks to blockade last week’s meeting of the city legislature, and so stop a bill to destroy the rule of law.

That proposal would’ve allowed extradition to the mainland courts — which are simply arms of the CCP. No activist, indeed no Hong Kong citizen, would be safe.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who’d pushed the bill, has given up on passage — again, for now. On Tuesday, she even offered a stilted “sincere apology” for “the deficiencies of the government.”

Lam refuses to resign, as Sunday’s protests demanded. Small loss: Beijing controls the committee that fills the job and might choose an even heavier-handed pawn.

The real challenge for the people of Hong Kong is to stay ready for the next effort to crush their liberty. Beijing doesn’t want to kill the golden goose of the territory’s economy, but the CCP won’t forever tolerate even a breath of freedom within China’s borders.

Online: https://nyp.st/2L2TXtQ

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The New York Times on tensions with Iran

June 14

What can be said with certainty about the explosions that rocked two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday is that attacks on civilian targets are reprehensible.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is a likely culprit, and a video taken by a United States Navy surveillance plane demands an explanation. It shows what American officials say was a Revolutionary Guards patrol boat pulling up alongside the Kokuka Courageous, one of the damaged tankers, several hours after the initial explosion, and removing a mine. Iranian officials denied involvement, and the Japanese owner of the Kokuka Courageous said Friday that the tanker was struck by a flying projectile, not a mine.

So there are unanswered questions about what happened, not just on Thursday but also last month when American officials blamed Iran for similar attacks against four tankers on the same waterway, which links to the Persian Gulf and carries almost one-third of the world’s petroleum.

The incident is the latest evidence that the United States and Iran are on a collision course, at a moment in which hard-liners on both sides have little interest in any diplomatic off-ramp.

After withdrawing from the 2015 agreement that restrained Iran’s nuclear program in fanciful pursuit of a “better deal,” President Trump embarked on a campaign of “maximum pressure” against Tehran. The United States has imposed crushing sanctions, and more are planned, with a goal of shutting off Iran’s oil exports, the country’s main source of revenue.

Administration officials say this strategy is working because Iranian financing for its proxy forces like Hezbollah in Lebanon has been reduced. But Iranian leaders were never going to just capitulate to American demands, and they continue working to thwart American objectives in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere across the region.

Iran is also edging toward exceeding the limits imposed by the nuclear deal, announcing plans to increase its stockpile of reactor-grade nuclear fuel. And it may well be that the Revolutionary Guards Corps, which wields important military and economic clout in Iran and has often been at odds with the country’s more pragmatic political leadership, intends to safeguard its own interests by threatening the oil transport on which the world’s economy depends.

Iranians understand how damaging a conflict with the United States could be. But officials have long signaled that if they cannot export their oil, and maintain their economy, no Gulf state will be allowed to do so.

The Trump administration’s lack of a coherent strategy for dealing with Iran has resulted in a series of conflicting messages, all of which contribute to a growing sense of foreboding and unpredictability.

While the president has said he wants to extricate America from foreign wars, he also ordered a carrier group into the Persian Gulf last month, and he has sometimes raised the possibility of military action.

Mr. Trump continues to rely for advice on leading hawks, the national security adviser, John Bolton, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who on Thursday went beyond the tanker incidents to accuse Iran of several other attacks without offering proof.

At the same time, Mr. Trump has dangled the possibility of talks with the Iranians, and, however inept his international deal-making has previously proved to be, that approach is far preferable to the escalation apparently favored by some of his advisers. But he seems to be backing away from that course. “It is too soon to even think about making a deal,” he wrote in a tweet on Thursday.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was, if anything, more adamant about not even talking. When Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, who was visiting Tehran when the tankers were attacked, presented a message from Mr. Trump, the ayatollah, according to Iranian state media, responded, “I do not see Trump as worthy of any message exchange, and I do not have any reply for him, now or in future.”

It may be too soon for a deal, but it is not too soon to chart a course out of this turbulence.

Once American and allied intelligence agencies thoroughly investigate the tanker attacks, the data should be presented to the United Nations Security Council. It may be necessary for the United States and its partners to reflag and escort oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, as happened in 1987 and 1988, during the Iran-Iraq war.

Dialogue between the Trump administration and Iranian government would be wise, though Iran may prove unwilling to talk unless sanctions are eased and the United States rejoins the nuclear deal.

Meanwhile, attacks against civilian shipping in one of the world’s most vital international waterways, which sent crude oil prices up more than 3 percent on Thursday, have to stop. Every new provocation will make it harder to avoid a new regional cataclysm.

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

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The Auburn Citizen on ethics oversight in New York

June 13

We support the growing chorus of voices calling for a complete overhaul of ethics oversight in New York, and we urge the Legislature to approve amending to the state constitution to make it happen.

The Joint Commission on Public Ethics, established in 2011 to investigate ethical misconduct, has never been able to achieve the results New Yorkers deserve — and it could never be fully trusted to do so anyway, because its members are all political appointees. The agency’s commissioners are appointed by the Assembly, Senate and the governor, and each of the three executive directors the agency has had so far have had close ties with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The agency’s current director recently announced that he would be stepping down this month, and a number of reform groups this week urged JCOPE to hold an independent search for a replacement that will be “independent in both reality and appearance.” The next executive director, the groups argue, should have no close connections with government or lobbying and not be chosen from among current members of JCOPE or the Legislative Ethics Commission.

Reinvent Albany, Citizens Union, the New York City Bar Association and other groups surveyed other states and reported last month that New York’s public accountability is “among the very weakest in the nation.” They have called on Cuomo and legislative leaders to create an independently appointed commission to replace JCOPE and the Legislative Ethics Commission though a constitutional amendment.

Amending the constitution can’t be done overnight, and that’s one good reason to start the process as quickly as possible. JCOPE has been operating ineffectually for more than eight years. It’s past due time for a public integrity agency in New York that operates with independence and transparency.

In the meantime, we see an open and independent executive director search as a good short-term step. The long-term solution is a totally revamped ethics oversight system.

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

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The Plattsburgh Press-Republican on national unity

June 19

Some people love President Trump; others hate him. That has been true, to varying degrees, of every president, with the possible exception of George Washington.

Unfortunately, for the sake of the unity of our country, the traits and habits that the haters hate most seem to be the ones the lovers are most proud of.

Again unfortunately, one of the primary duties of the president is to unify the nation - to help us all overlook what we perceive as a failing here, a weakness there and to meld our individual opinions into one big stew of national determination.

That is almost surely the one duty President Trump can’t seem to embrace. To the unrelenting despair of most (according to the polls) of his constituents, he’d rather be right than president. Or rather be president than right.

Compounding this personal peccadillo in his own character and personality are political opponents Schumer and Pelosi, who have taken the bait along with certain members of the national media, who continue to dig away at the national divide by furiously arguing for their side, which only fortifies the wall between us.

It’s no wonder average citizens avoid talking politics these days to someone whose views they don’t know; it might ignite a ferocious debate or even violence.

The reaction to the Robert Mueller report was a classic example of how, rather than trying to find common ground with each other, people tended to read into it something that satisfied a need to prove dissenters wrong.

The Republicans pounced on the fact that the report cited no direct culpability of Trump for collusion or obstruction; the Democrats rejoiced that it specified that if the investigation had found him not complicit in these transgressions it would have said so.

Trump undeniably set the tone for this kind of discord himself by insisting he was in every instance right about everything and refusing to give credit to anyone who ever disagreed with him.

We have all been infected with at least a touch of that quality.

And the president doesn’t civilly disagree. He is hostile. His tweets are bitter rebukes rather than encouragements for greater understanding.

He gives the impression of being more sympathetic and engaging toward America’s most dangerous enemies than toward any countryman who dares to criticize him.

Clearly, something needs to be done to change our own individual and collective tone. We would encourage our congresswoman, Republican Elise Stefanik, to try to express this notion to her peers in Congress and the president himself.

Instead, all we can ask is that each of us avoid the name-calling (Trump the other day called potential presidential opponent Joe Biden “a dummy”) and insulting attitudes ourselves, in hopes that a ground-up cleansing will wash over Washington.

But we acknowledge it’s doubtful.

Online: https://bit.ly/31FuAUE

___The Middletown Times Herald-Record on allowing undocumented immigrants to get drivers licenses

June 18

By becoming the 13th state to allow undocumented immigrants the right to get a driver’s license, New York has improved safety on the roads.

That is important to keep in mind because the aftermath of this contentious decision is likely to be as divisive as was the debate that came before the close vote in the state Legislature Monday night.

Before the law was passed, thousands — nobody knows just how many but nobody disagrees that the number was substantial — of immigrants without papers were on the roads because they had to be. Whether it was driving to work or taking a child to school, going shopping or taking a relative to a doctor’s appointment, the trips were necessary and because most of the state does not have extensive mass transit, most likely to be in private vehicles.

Before the law, those vehicles might or might not be inspected. Before the law, those drivers would not have had the kind of training that we assume all people behind the wheel have, would not have passed the tests we assume all have passed, would not be carrying even the minimum insurance that we assume all have.

This legislation makes our roads safer. Even those who voted in opposition and those who still believe that this was the wrong decision will be hard-pressed to dispute that.

But they do have other complaints, ones that we need to take seriously and act on. They have to do with the broader question of citizenship and immigration, the long-held belief that we have failed to tackle the root cause of a dilemma in which a license to drive was only one detail.

So who are these people who will now be on the roads legally?

Some findings from the Pew Research Center analysis of government documents last week show the changing nature of illegal immigration and indicate what needs to be done.

At the peak, there were 12.2 million undocumented immigrants in 2007 and that declined to 10.5 million in 2017 mostly because of a decline in migrants from Mexico. The big change, the one that should be driving public policy, shows up in another figure. Whereas the undocumented population in 2007 was evenly split between newcomers and those who had been here more than 10 years, that is no longer the case. Newcomers make up only 20 percent of that population while those who have been here 10 years or longer make up more than 66 percent.

They are people who live in our neighborhoods, whose children go to school with ours, who work in our communities and who have done so for decades while struggling to get around. Now, they can get a license, drive a car, get insurance all while they wait for Congress to do what those on both sides of this issue want — pass comprehensive immigration reform.

If Congress had made the move it was so close to making a few years ago and passed a package of comprehensive immigration legislation, many of those who have lived here for years, even decades, without documentation would be able to start and complete the application process.

Online: https://bit.ly/2ZA6etK

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