- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Editorials from around Pennsylvania:



Few would envy Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred the responsibility of figuring out how to handle the complicated matter of disgraced former player Pete Rose.

The game’s all-time hits leader and perennial all-star has been giving commissioners fits for nearly three decades, from A. Bartlett Giamatti (who succumbed to a heart attack just days after banning Rose from baseball for life in 1989) to Manfred, who this week reaffirmed that decision, rejecting Rose’s request for reinstatement.

Rose took the decision like a gentleman, saying in a mid-week press conference that he was disappointed but continues to love the game. That he lobbed no criticisms - and appeared to harbor no ill will - toward its current custodians reinforced that contention.

It is worth a reminder that Rose’s continued ban comes from a misdeed that - while inarguably serious - seems almost quaint by today’s standards: He bet on baseball. More specifically, he bet on games in which he played and managed.

Rose has never been accused of cheating, or of throwing a game (in a characteristically misplaced bid at self-defense, he once declared, “I bet on my team to win”).

But in this post-steroid (allegedly) age, where Major League Baseball has made its peace (and a tidy profit) with daily fantasy betting by declaring that it is - cough, cough! - not gambling, it is worth reassessing whether the punishment continues to fit the crime.

After all, other sports induct players into their halls of fame based solely on their on-field merits. A perhaps-over-the-top example: the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, includes a bust of Orenthal James Simpson. Too, the perception of sports heroes as clean-cut, all-American Wheaties box icons went out with Jim Bouton’s 1970 book “Ball Four.”

And while Rose has proven over the past 26 years that he can live - albeit sullenly - without professional baseball, it may be incumbent on professional baseball to ask itself whether it can live without Pete Rose. Forever.

After all, baseball’s biggest monument to its most storied players lacks a plaque not only for its all-time hits leader, but its single season and all-time home run leader, and one of its best-ever pitchers.

Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, like other stars of the past two decades who have been tainted by suspicions or proof of performance enhancing drug use (think Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro), remain persona non grata at Cooperstown. The difference is, these players have not been banned; they have failed to garner the necessary votes among sportswriters who, understandably, are disinclined to award such a prestigious honor to players who may have been … let’s say ethically challenged.

The result, however, is a monument to the game’s best players that fails to include the game’s best players.

Baseball’s leaders haven’t yet gotten their arms around how to handle the so-called steroids cases. The issue is yet another reason not to envy commissioner Manfred. At some point, the game is going to have to find a way to incorporate the flawed greats in a way that neither obscures nor excuses their failings, but appropriately acknowledges their accomplishments.

In the meantime, if the players under the steroids cloud haven’t warranted formal suspensions from baseball - McGwire and Bonds are both coaches, the former with the San Diego Padres, the latter with the Miami Marlins - is the case as strong to continue to ban Rose?

True, Rose made his own bed, and his longtime evasiveness and excuse making before finally coming clean in 2004 did nothing to help his cause.

But is the integrity of baseball damaged more by gambling - in an era when online sports betting opportunities are ubiquitous and state governments balance their books via gaming and lotteries - than by allegations of performance-enhancing drug use?

If they are to avoid charges of inconsistency and hypocrisy, and maintain a hall of fame that celebrates the greats of the game, baseball’s powers that be are going to have to find a way to come to terms with their checkered champs.

- Pennlive



The “new normal” resulting from the Great Recession continues to exact an economic toll.

The term “middle class” used to apply to a broad swath of American society, reflecting a measure of income security and widely shared prosperity. But a recent Pew Research Center study found that the share of upper- and lower-income households have both expanded to a point where the middle class no longer constitutes a majority of the adult population. The middle class accounted for 61 percent of the population in 1971, according to Pew, and it now includes 49 percent.

The drop was quickly accelerated by the recession of December 2007 to June 2009, in which 7 million homes were lost to foreclosure and $16 trillion in household wealth vanished. The recovery has favored professionals and the highly educated at the expenses of working-class Americans and the majority of the jobs that have been created since the recession do not provide easy access to a middle-class life.

This bleak trend was reinforced in a recent Harvard University poll of people ages 18 to 29. The proportion of those polled who think the “American dream” is dead was 48 percent, just 1 percentage point behind the total who think it is alive. That disturbing ratio reflects not just a poor outlook about the nation’s economic direction and future prospects, but a lack of hope, which traditionally had been considered a fundamental American trait.

Both studies reflect difficult realty for millions of Americans experiencing the downside of an increasingly complex, competitive and intertwined global economy. As the middle class dwindles and more people believe the chance of joining that group is beyond their grasp, the character of a nation changes. The American myth that you can be whatever you want is losing credibility and that leaves Americans collectively worse off for the loss.

- The (Wilkes-Barre) Citizens’ Voice



It’s been nearly a decade and a half since the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks stunned America, which led to necessary and meaningful adjustments keep the United States safe.

Emerging were the Department of Homeland Security, the Patriot Act and the secret data collection outed by Edward Snowden. Agree or not, the idea behind each of them has been to give law enforcement personnel and federal agencies tools required to succeed.

The unnerving truth that lawmakers sight as justification to what some view as incursions is that officials must be correct every time to avoid another 9/11, while terrorists only need to breach the system once for success.

What Americans continually learn, however, is that agencies still aren’t sharing information and communicating well enough, a troubling point reinforced last week when a Harrisburg man was charged for attempting to provide support to terrorists.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey said Jalil Ibn Ameer Aziz was clearly discussing entry into the U.S. with potential terrorists. Casey notes the FBI and other agencies still lack tools and funds to identify and pursue homegrown terrorists. Additionally, the flow of information between agencies remains inconsistent, an unfortunate truth hammered home after the San Bernardino attack.

While Casey stressed the need for people to come forward with any information, U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta’s approach to information sharing and monitoring modern, more social, modes of communication, is just as important.

“It is extremely important that law enforcement at all levels - federal, state and local - communicate and share information,” Barletta said, “…to enhance and improve fusion centers, which are the collaborative efforts of two or more agencies, including federal, state and local entities, which share resources and information to improve their ability to detect, prevent and respond to terrorist or criminal activity.”

Homeland security has been a primary focus since Sept. 11, 2001. Billions of dollars in assets, personnel and programs have been put into place to shutter possible gaps. It is imperative all the pieces function as one unit.

- The (Sunbury) Daily Item



The state Court of Judicial Discipline should give citizens of Pennsylvania a Christmas present: Suspend errant Supreme Court Justice Michael Eakin posthaste.

Eakin appeared before the board Monday in a courthouse in Easton to argue why he should not be suspended over a series of emails that pundits now term “porngate.” Eakin has admitted receiving, sending and originating emails that he calls “male banter” but that included nude photos of women, jokes about domestic violence, racial and ethnic slurs, sexual orientation and others. In some he described visiting strip clubs on annual golf trips and made sexist and demeaning comments about women in his own office. Earlier this month, the state Judicial Conduct Board said someone of “reasonable sensitivity” would find them objectionable.

Part of Eakin’s defense is that he exchanged the emails on a private account, not his government email. But he took part in the offensive “banter” in his chambers, using a government computer. Further, what he terms banter is funny only to people who find humor in being deeply offensive to women, people of color and others. Since Eakin both works with all types of people and hears litigants in the many categories his jokes disparaged, his brand of humor raises questions about his judicial temperament.

An ordinary citizen might be able to say what Eakin did was not that bad. But a judge is not an ordinary citizen. Judges must uphold the very highest standard of conduct. Part of the required decorum includes doing nothing that will detract from the dignity of the position. The extent of Eakin’s involvement in “porngate” is such that the public and those appearing before him in the highest court in Pennsylvania must have questions about his integrity and fairness.

Eakin has fallen so far short of the expectations for a judge that his suspension should be immediate.

- The (Stroudsburg) Pocono Record



In the year since President Obama recognized the regime of Cuba’s Raul Castro, life on the Caribbean island has been as grim as ever. Today Cuba is closer to what China would hail as a “resilient authoritarian regime” rather than a land of civil opportunities, writes Mike Gonzalez, a senior fellow at The Heritage Foundation.

Nevertheless, President Barack Obama has called on Congress to lift the U.S. trade embargo and, in a recent interview, said he would like to visit Castro’s communist utopia.

But just days before Obama gushed about Cuba’s brighter future, Castro commemorated Human Rights Day (Dec. 10) by arresting up to 200 dissidents, Gonzalez reports. In fact, the detention of Cuba’s dissidents - more than 7,000 - is on pace to break previous records, according to Heritage.

Meanwhile, Castro, 84, insists that any normalization will require the United States to “remove all policies of the past.” And Cuba’s end of this bargain?

It’s no wonder Cuba’s freedom fighters denounce Obama. A letter signed by 100 former political prisoners calls the administration’s Cuba reset “a regrettable mistake” that is “worsening the human rights situation there, marginalizing the democratic opposition and compromising U.S. national security.”

And with Castro’s son-in-law, Gen. Luis Alberto Rodriguez, expected to continue the family tradition, don’t expect any policy reversals without regime change in Cuba.

- Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


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