- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 26, 2014

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - The Times Union of Albany on the reluctance of New York lawmakers to legalize medical marijuana.

Feb. 20

State politicians who have been hesitant to legalize medical marijuana for fear of damaging their law-and-order image got a reality check this week in a poll that found overwhelming support for the idea.

That really should be the last hurdle for a reform whose time came long ago.

The medical community, which should be the authority on medical issues, has for years seen marijuana as the right treatment for certain patients, including some with cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, chronic illnesses such as HIV, and Crohn’s disease. Depending on the ailment, marijuana can help people cope with nausea, pain, spasms or loss of appetite. It works in some cases better than legal pharmaceutical alternatives.

Yet somehow politicians have presumed to act as if they know better than doctors and patients, denying legal medical use of the drug in favor of less effective and sometimes more harmful medication. It’s not hard to see why: marijuana has long had a negative image in the public consciousness. No doubt lobbying and contributions from a deep-pocketed pharmaceutical industry have helped keep it so in the political consciousness, too.

But the public has gotten way ahead of lawmakers on this one. A Quinnipiac University poll found New Yorkers favor legalization of medical marijuana by an eye-popping 88-to-9 percent margin, even stronger than the 82-15 results that Siena Research Institute found last year.

So what are politicians afraid of? And whose interests are they representing?

Regardless of what national ambition any New York politicians may have, this is the state they were elected to govern. New Yorkers are the people they must represent.

This latest revelation should tell Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature that New Yorkers are ready for them - this session - to go beyond the governor’s flawed plan to allow 10 hospitals around the state to dispense medical marijuana. It’s too limited, the process too cumbersome, the treatment potential too timid.

The Legislature should pass a law, as 20 other states have, allowing medical marijuana to be prescribed by physicians just as they’re trusted to do with any other legitimate drug.

Just to be clear, this is not an endorsement of legalizing recreational marijuana use. While a majority of New Yorkers favor that - support ran 57-39 in the Quinnipiac poll - the more prudent course for New York is to closely follow what you might call a pair of live experiments under way in Colorado and Washington. Those states essentially give us a pair of case studies to observe what impact legalization has on such things as motor vehicle accidents, crime and access to pot by minors. They may also help inform the debate on whether marijuana serves as a “gateway drug.”

But with medical pot, any more delay is not only baffling, but inhumane. Nearly nine out of 10 New Yorkers agree: It’s time, New York.

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Online:

http://goo.gl/Q6Ums1

The Times Herald-Record of Middletown on local officials lining up with Gov. Cuomo on pre-kindergarten debate with Mayor de Blasio.

Feb. 16

It’s likely that a bunch of local officials has been this wrong before, but for pure nasty misdirection it’s hard to match the outburst this week concerning early childhood education.

Mayor Joe DeStefano of Middletown, Mayor Judy Kennedy of Newburgh and County Executive Mike Hein of Ulster all lined up faithfully behind Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his dispute with the new mayor of New York.

Pre-kindergarten education is not just a New York City issue, DeStefano said. Kennedy expressed surprise that Bill de Blasio would believe that children in his city were somehow more important than those in the rest of the state. Hein praised the governor’s plan because it would reach all children in all parts of the state.

If the rhetoric matched the reality, these comments would be worth considering. But it does not, so they are not.

Let’s start with philosophy.

De Blasio wants to raise taxes on some of New York City’s millionaires to pay for the programs. His proposal matches the expenses with the revenue. All it needs is approval from the Legislature, something that these and many other local officials complain about when it comes to something they want and feel is necessary for their communities. They show no signs of abandoning that anti-Albany sentiment for their own needs, just for the one that de Blasio has proposed.

Let’s compare the de Blasio funding plan to the one proposed by the governor, if you can find one proposed by the governor, that is. Cuomo’s educational advisers are on record saying that his vague call for universal pre-K would cost much more than he has estimated. And even coming up with the inadequate amount the governor wants would be impossible without tax increases in a year when he has vowed to decrease many taxes and help freeze others.

And even those plans rest on thin fiscal ice. The $2 billion surplus that the governor plans to use for much of the tax relief and program expansion in this budget comes from an illusory source, an estimated $7 billion in savings from unspecified cuts in several budget years to come.

Then there’s the question of just when Andrew Cuomo decided to become a champion of universal early childhood education, not to mention - and the governor doesn’t - the after-school programs that are part of the New York City plan.

De Blasio made these programs and their funding the centerpiece of his campaign and won not only a convincing general election victory, but also a much more impressive, come-from-behind win in a competitive primary.

He was pushing early childhood education with a comprehensive approach to delivering services and funding them for months and months while the governor and these local officials said nothing.

There is no reason that New York state cannot allow New York City to run and fund its own program while working to extend the same opportunities to children around the rest of the state.

What we are witnessing has nothing to do with helping children but it has everything to do with helping the leader of the state Democrats push back a populist upstart.

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Online:

http://goo.gl/hYprPw

The New York Post on Michelle Obama, young people and the Affordable Care Act.

Feb. 24

Michelle Obama had a laugh or two last week on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” while talking about ObamaCare and the silly - and potentially dangerous - things young folks do. She called them “knuckleheads.” But it’s starting to look like the joke may be on her and her husband.

“Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, young people can stay on their parents’ insurance until they are 26,” Obama said. “But once they hit 26 - they’re on their own. And a lot of young people think they’re invincible. But the truth is, young people are knuckleheads, you know? They’re the ones who are cooking for the first time and slice their finger open. They’re dancing on the bar stool.”

Maybe so - but unfortunately for the first lady and her husband, these knuckleheads are smart enough to know that ObamaCare isn’t in their best interest.

Yes, they may have occasional accidents, but their collective doctor bills don’t come to nearly as much as those of older folks. ObamaCare forces them to pay well more than their costs in order to subsidize the older group. Without those subsidies, the system collapses.

This explains why younger folks aren’t buying in. With little more than five weeks left for open enrollment on the state and federal exchanges, only 24 percent of young adults between the ages of 18 and 34 have signed up, well below the White House’s target.

These young adults don’t want it, not from the man who promised them hope and change, and not from the first lady.

Maybe Mrs. Obama should look on the bright side: If these youth are dancing on bar stools, at least they’re participating in her “Let’s Move” campaign. Oh, wait: That might make them healthier - and less in need of ObamaCare. Who’ll be laughing then?

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Online:

http://goo.gl/bE0F60

The Adirondack Daily Enterprise on politics and qualifications to serve as United State ambassadors.

Feb. 24

For most of U.S. history, presidents of all political parties have used ambassadorships to other countries for political reasons. Sometimes they reward friends. Sometimes they get political rivals out of the way.

Now the American Foreign Service Association, a group of professionals at the State Department, is insisting ambassadors should meet certain qualifications. Some knowledge of countries where potential ambassadors want to serve would be helpful.

The AFSA recommendation comes in the wake of embarrassing Senate hearings for President Barack Obama’s nominees as ambassadors to Argentina, Iceland and Norway. All three men - being rewarded because they raised money for Obama - confessed they know little about the countries. In fact, none of the three has ever visited the country where he is to serve.

Obviously, members of the association would prefer every ambassador’s post be filled by someone from the Foreign Service.

But remember the Victoria Nuland flap? Nuland, a career Foreign Service diplomat who has served under both Republican and Democrat presidents, was talking on the phone with another U.S. official recently, unaware Russian spies were recording the call.

At one point during a conversation on trade issues, Nuland alienated European Union officials by remarking, “–- the E.U,” using a profanity that begins with “F.”

So no, being a career diplomat sometimes is no guarantee things will go smoothly between the U.S. and other countries.

Still, the AFSA members have a point. Political appointees always will be part of the mix of ambassadors. Next time Obama nominates one, however, he may want to give him a current affairs quiz.

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Online:

http://goo.gl/1JrqcN

The Oneonta Daily Star on regulating the proposed Comcast acquisition of Time Warner Cable.

Feb. 24

Comcast, the biggest cable entertainment outfit in the United States, wants to take $45 billion out of petty cash to purchase Time Warner, a smaller cable outfit that dominates our local market.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the proposed sale for local Time Warner customers is that somehow Comcast executives were able to reach a real, live Time Warner representative on the phone.

Customer service issues aside, the deal would create a cable company of gargantuan proportions. Comcast has previously acquired movie studios, broadcast (including NBC) and cable television networks and theme parks.

If the merger is approved by the Justice Department and Federal Communications Commission, Comcast would own about a third of the country’s broadband subscribers and 30 million pay TV subscribers, according to published estimates.

“It just creates this massive player - this one entity that sits at the crossroads of everything,” said Michael Weinberg, a vice president at Public Knowledge, a Washington, D.C. digital advocacy group that opposes the merger. “They don’t just dabble in it. They dominate it.”

Comcast and Time Warner Cable don’t compete head-to-head here or anywhere else, so given that Time Warner already has something of a monopoly in the local cable market - and there is competition from satellite companies for most of the same services cable provides - perhaps we won’t see a rapid rise in our cable bills.

But then again .

Comcast could eventually charge more for streaming video from Netflix, YouTube and Amazon, among others content providers who might have nowhere else to go.

Comcast, as part of its deal to acquire NBCUniversal, promised not to hike those prices until at least 2018.

Comcast suggests that a merger with Time Warner would be swell for customers because of Comcast’s superior video-on-demand service and its improving broadband internet speed.

But Comcast Vice President David Cohen made us a bit wary when he told reporters last week that “we’re certainly not promising that customer bills are going to go down or even increase less rapidly.”

People love to hate their cable companies, often with good reason. Maybe it was the cable going out during a ball game, or an annoying weather alert that could be done less obtrusively, or a slower than slow Internet, or longtime customers not offered inexpensive rates available to new clients.

“I think there needs to be an aggressive approach from the government in putting conditions on this merger, Eric Sherman, CEO of health and lifestyle network Veria Living, told Adweek. “If you’re going to give someone so much power in the marketplace, you have to make sure it’s fair.”

We hope the Justice Department and FCC take a good, long look before agreeing to this sale.

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Online:

http://goo.gl/xIqIBm

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