- Associated Press - Monday, May 11, 2015

Excerpts of recent editorials of statewide and national interest from Ohio newspapers:

The Salem News, May 7

Initial indications were that two gunmen killed during an assault on an art exhibit in Garland, Texas, were motivated by extremist Islamic hatred. Their goal may have been nothing less than intimidating Americans into abandoning our tradition of freedom of speech.

Garland police were ready for the assailants, who shot a security guard before being mowed down themselves. Authorities had reason to expect the art exhibit - of cartoon depictions of the prophet Muhammad - might attract terrorists.

Some Americans - including our president - seem to believe an appropriate response to such intimidation is to give in and refrain from actions that might anger the tiny percentage of Muslims who see violence as an integral part of their religion. The excuse is that we should be sensitive to other cultures.



That is not uncommon among Americans. For example, at one time some people argued the Ku Klux Klan was formed only to defend fundamental values. Now, nearly all Americans understand that was and is no more than a charade.

Giving in to those who would tear down our American traditions and guarantees of liberty is more than a mistake. It is a pathway toward losing those freedoms.

Everyone - including Muslims and those of other non-Christian faiths - benefits from our nation’s dedication to liberty and real tolerance. The sooner we unite in defense of those values instead of in appeasing those who would destroy them, the better.

Online:

https://bit.ly/1bBhSed ___

The (East Liverpool) Review, May 6

Too often, law-abiding gun owners are the targets of those who want to reduce violent crime. That makes no sense. As many gun enthusiasts point out, criminals don’t obey the law anyway.

Ohio legislators are considering a bill that would establish higher-caliber punishments for those who use firearms to commit crimes. Repeat offenders are in the lawmakers’ crosshairs; if arrested and convicted, they would face substantially longer prison terms than under current law.

Another provision of the bill is that those judged to be violent career criminals would be banned from owning firearms. Assuming an appropriate definition of the term is used, few Ohio gun owners would object to that.

One objection is that enactment of the measure would increase the cost of operating state prisons, simply because they would have to handle more inmates. One estimate is that prison expenses could go up by as much as $50 million a year.

That should have little or nothing to do with debate over the bill. Felons who repeatedly use guns in crimes are the biggest threats to the safety of Buckeye State residents. One way or another, there has to be room in prisons for them.

Lawmakers should proceed with the bill, which was attempted last year but sidelined due to concerns over prison costs. Cracking down on those who repeatedly use firearms for crime makes sense from a public safety standpoint.

Online:

https://bit.ly/1IlThqv

___

The (Toledo) Blade, May 6

Ohioans face serious threats to the integrity of our democracy: income inequality, partisan gerrymandering, big-money politics. Voter fraud is not among these threats.

Yet rather than address such pressing concerns, Republicans in the state House are again taking up a bill that would require Ohioans to present photo identification when they vote. This unnecessary measure would do nothing to make elections more secure. But it would do much to keep voters, especially poor and minority Ohioans, away from the polls…

In reality, voter fraud is exceedingly rare in Ohio, as it is elsewhere in the country…

The federal Voting Rights Act prohibits governments from posing discriminatory barriers to voting, such as literacy tests and poll taxes. Photo ID laws effectively function as a poll tax on poor voters who cannot afford the fees for a driver’s license or passport.

The Ohio bill would provide a free state ID to residents below the federal poverty line. But requiring poor residents to apply for one still poses an unnecessary barrier - and the poverty line, at $11,700 per year for an individual, is an absurdly low standard…

Republicans who back the photo ID bill claim they’re committed to keeping elections open and secure. Yet they continue to advance needless legislation that would disfranchise poor Ohioans, minorities, and other groups that tend to vote Democratic…

Ohio law already provides reliable ways of verifying voters’ identities at the polls. If lawmakers want to improve Ohio’s election system, they should focus on making voter registration easier and more accessible, not restricting the vote.

Online:

https://bit.ly/1ETjryv

___

Akron Beacon Journal, May 10

Fourteen years after the Sept. 11 attacks, terrorists turning commercial airliners into missiles, it remains worth recalling that intelligence officials and law enforcement officers knew something about the plot that brought such death and destruction. They had pieces of information. The problem was, they did not bring them together. Thus, they missed the chance to see the whole and possibly prevent the attack.

In short, they failed to communicate. Unfortunately, that mistake too often has been overlooked as the country has mobilized in response.

Nothing quite captures the neglect like the massive eavesdropping apparatus of the National Security Agency, exposed by Edward Snowden, its bulk collection of data including phone calls and other communications of ordinary Americans. This was supposed to make us safer, yet increasingly the surveillance has been seen as too high of a price to pay.

For Congress, the task has been to curb the excesses, at the least narrowing the potential for abuse of privacy. Now, a bipartisan majority of lawmakers appears in position to make needed corrections. The House Judiciary Committee recently approved legislation to reauthorize the surveillance program under new limits.

The bill would end the sweeping roundup by the NSA of “metadata” (phone numbers, times of calls and their duration) from domestic and international telephone records in the United States. The information would be held by telecommunications providers. If the government wants access to data, it must get an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

That is how it should be, the concept of probable cause in play, government officials needing a “reasonable, articulable suspicion” of a specific connection to international terrorism. Telecommunications firms would be permitted to challenge orders obtained by the government. A panel of independent experts would provide counsel concerning questions of civil liberties that may arise as the special court weighs requests.

Critics of the USA Freedom Act argue that it still does not go far enough in limiting the surveillance. They have a point, and their argument was bolstered last week. A federal appeals court in New York ruled that the law doesn’t allow for the bulk collection of domestic calling records. One temptation may be to let the program expire on June 1. But that isn’t realistic, in view of the continued support for the surveillance on Capitol Hill.

Better to accomplish the job of applying significant restrictions on the program, and then press forward with the argument for steady assessment of what the program actually delivers in the effort to combat terrorism.

In December 2013, a task force appointed by President Obama concluded that the surveillance provided minimal intelligence values and put individual privacy at too much risk. Recommendations of the panel have surfaced in the House bill. More recently, the New York Times reported that a 2009 evaluation of the surveillance, now declassified, found intelligence officials without telling evidence about how the program helped to thwart potential terrorist attacks.

That isn’t to say the intelligence community fails to collect information. It does, and if it has room to get better, that doesn’t so much involve gathering droves of information as it does sharing what it has more effectively across agencies.

Online:

https://bit.ly/1zVHzSC

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