- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 23, 2015

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

New York Post on crime rates in the New York City.

Sept. 21

Mayor Bill de Blasio wants New Yorkers to think they needn’t worry about crime spiking. The facts suggest otherwise.

The NYPD’s “doing a better and better job” against violent crime, he asserted - even as seven people were fatally shot in just 24 hours over the weekend. That capped a week with 11 murders, five times the rate during the same week last year.

De Blasio says the violence is just “criminals against criminals.” Tell that to the family of Herbert Brown, 76, an apparent bystander shot to death near two others killed Sunday.

Or to Barry Mamadou’s kin. A cabby with three kids and a pregnant wife, Mamadou was slain Monday in The Bronx. He was “a very good man” who’d been saving cash for family in Africa, his sister said.

Two weeks ago, a Harvard-trained lawyer who worked for Gov. Andrew Cuomo was caught in gunfire on Labor Day. He died last week.

Truth is, for all the mayor’s spin, murders this year rose 5.3 percent through Sept. 13. Rapes were up 5.5 percent and misdemeanor sex crimes 19.3 percent.

All this comes after de Blasio rolled back the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program, slurred the department as racist and helped feed nationwide hostility toward police.

It also comes as cops have been writing fewer tickets for quality-of-life crimes, like drinking or urinating in public or riding bikes on sidewalks. As The Post reported Sunday, the number of tickets handed out for such crimes fell 26 percent over the first half of the year.

Even tickets for turnstile-jumping, a separate category but symbolic of laws meant to be enforced under the strategy of “Broken Windows policing,” dipped 5.5 percent.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton introduced that approach in New York in the ‘90s. He knows well that when cops ignore low-level crimes, it creates a sense of lawlessness - that anything goes.

The mayor may insist all’s well, but it’s fair to wonder if his approach to policing is fueling more violence, more quality-of-life crimes and perhaps even the spike in vagrants on the streets.

Monday, a video of a rat carrying a whole slice of pizza down subway steps went viral. Seems like a more fitting image for the city than the one de Blasio’s hawking.




The Albany Times Union on General Electric’s plan to dredge the Champlain Canal.

Sept. 21

Here’s a confluence of interests: General Electric needs a canal, and so does New York.

But while New York is doing what it can to help GE achieve what it wants, the company seems to have no such concern for what New York needs.

GE, though, isn’t the only one at fault here. Adding to the company’s outward dismissal of its responsibility for the holdup in dredging of the Champlain Canal is the government’s virtual silence on the matter. In that vacuum, GE and its public relations operation have been left to dominate the conversation.

GE surely can’t miss the irony here. The company is well aware of the benefit of New York’s canal system as it works with federal and state officials on getting its turbines to the canal channel in the Mohawk River. Right now, the company sends those products to locations like the Port of Albany, from which it ships them to power plants on the Great Lakes.

But the turbines are now so large that they’re getting too big for the rail line to the port. So GE wants to build a loading operation on the Mohawk closer to its Schenectady plant.

Of course, Interstate 890 is in the way. So GE is said to be in talks with state and federal officials on ways to deal with that obstacle.

Separately, meanwhile, GE is winding down its nearly $1 billion dredging of PCB-contaminated sediment along a 40-mile stretch of the Hudson River between Fort Edward and Troy. GE is doing that work under a 2002 agreement to clean up decades of pollution from its plants.

But more dredging is needed not far from that site, to deepen the Champlain Canal and make it commercially viable again. New York’s constitution requires the state to keep the canal open, but the state Canal Corporation has long put off that obligation because the sediment there also is contaminated with PCBs. PCBs, incidentally, that can only be GE’s.

We’ve urged that GE and the state work this out fairly, with the state paying its proper share for normal dredging the Champlain Canal, and GE picking up the added costs associated with removing the PCBs. We’ve also urged the company not to dismantle the PCB processing facilities it set up for the current dredging project.

The response? From the government - including the panel of river trustees comprising the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - crickets.

As for GE, its familiar line is that it’s meeting the terms of the 2002 agreement, which didn’t include the Champlain. It’s a mantra, like the one GE used to fight dredging for years: that the river was cleaning itself.

Whatever is going on behind the scenes to resolve this impasse, it’s time for Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the river’s trustees to steer the public discussion to a more productive course, and make it clear that the Champlain Canal will be dredged with GE’s help.

And it’s time for GE to declare that, as a good corporate citizen, it’s prepared not to get what it wants, but to do what it must.




The Wall Street Journal on the politics of Pope Francis.

Sept. 21

Pope Francis arrives Tuesday on his first visit to the United States, and the welcome event illustrates his unique and paradoxical appeal. The Argentine pope is being celebrated more for his embrace of progressive economics than for the Catholic Church’s moral teachings.

Millions of American Catholics will of course welcome the pope as a spiritual messenger and the head of a religion of some 1.2 billion world-wide. As a pastoral shepherd he has set a Christian example that Americans of all faiths might emulate with his modest life-style and manifest concern for the poor and least powerful. His public American itinerary - to a Harlem school, a Philadelphia prison - Congress, and this is where his tour takes on an extra-religious resonance. Pope Francis has overtly embraced the contemporary progressive political agenda of income redistribution and government economic control to reduce climate change.

President Obama, who shares both ambitions, is therefore giving the pope the kind of hearty embrace we can’t imagine him giving to his predecessor Pope Benedict. Secular progressives who disdain the Catholic Church’s teaching on abortion, same-sex marriage and divorce are ignoring all of that catechistic unpleasantness and claiming the pope as an evangelist for their agenda. You might call them cafeteria progressives, after the old line about Catholics who are selective in which church teachings they follow.

There is some risk for the pope and his church in this progressive bear hug. One is that the pope will come to be seen as a seeker of political popularity more than a speaker of hard and eternal truths. Another is that politicians may use the pope to serve their own political and cultural needs, as with the official White House guest list to meet the pope.

The Journal reported last week that the Vatican was upset that the presence of prominent dissenters from Catholic teaching will make it appear that the pope endorses their views. We doubt the White House intended any offense, but the oversight reveals how little secular liberal elites understand about traditional religious mores. You can bet the protocol office would not make such a mistake with a Muslim cleric of similar importance.

Our own hope for the papal visit is that he has a chance to better understand America and the capitalist roots of its prosperity. Like many Argentines of the left, Pope Francis seems given to suspicion about American wealth. But liberty and not coercion is the source of our strength and of the wealth that has lifted millions out of poverty.

Cuba, where Francis arrived this weekend, has denied its people economic freedom - and religious freedom - for the six decades of its revolution and remains poor and unable to develop the “new technologies” that Pope Francis has said should be available for all.

The U.S. has prospered by respecting property rights and relying on the voluntary decisions of individuals. The rule of law here means that unlike in countries such as Argentina, an American can build a large, successful business even if no one in the government likes him. And unlike in Argentina, capitalist success creates millions of jobs that allow men and women without political connections to support their families and live in dignity.

In Washington, D.C., the pope will visit a homeless program run by Catholic Charities. But he should know that Catholic Charities can do its good work because of the contributions from lay Catholics who succeed in a capitalist economy. The pope may also be surprised to learn that individual Americans voluntarily do far more than any government to assist the world’s poor.

A 2013 report from the Hudson Institute’s Center for Global Prosperity found that nearly $31 billion of annual U.S. government aid to developing countries was eclipsed by $39 billion of private charity, plus another $108 billion of private capital flows. Americans also sent more than $100 billion of remittances to the developing world, often from immigrants working in the U.S. Nobody goes to Cuba to earn money to support relatives in America.

As for the environment and climate change, Pope Francis is sometimes given to an almost Malthusian, anti-modern pessimism. In his recent encyclical, “Laudato Si,” Francis wrote that “the earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.”

Well, he should have seen East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall, or the air in Beijing today. Coercive governments are the worst befoulers of the environment. Democratic capitalism has created the wealth and electoral consent to clean the air and water, and only continued economic growth will create the resources to deal with climate change if it does become a serious threat to the Earth.

Catholics understand that while the pope speaks for God on matters of faith and morals, his infallibility does not extend to his economics or environmentalism. We hope he enjoys his visit to the land of the free, and that the education goes both ways.




The Utica Observer-Dispatch on the 2013 fraternity hazing death in Pennsylvania.

Sept. 18

The tragedy playing out as a result of a 2013 fraternity hazing death in Pennsylvania is a story that needs to be told in every home and classroom across America. The life it saves may belong to someone you love.

Earlier this week, five members of Pi Delta Psi fraternity, including its former national president, were charged with third-degree murder after officials say a freshman pledge from Baruch College in Manhattan died during a hazing incident at a rural retreat in the Pocono Mountains. A grand jury in Pennsylvania’s Monroe County recommended a total of 37 in all face a range of criminal charges, including assault, hindering apprehension and hazing in the death of Chun “Michael” Deng.

Officials say Deng was blindfolded and forced to wear a sand-filled backpack and run a gauntlet while fraternity brothers took turns tackling him. At one point, he complained that his head hurt but continued participating and was eventually knocked out, police said. Authorities said Deng died after fraternity members delayed seeking medical treatment. He was 19.

The death of a 19-year-old in any case is tragic enough, made worse by the circumstances here. But adding to the tragedy is the fact that five other young men, presumably with bright futures ahead of them, are likely to have their lives destroyed - all in the name of “brotherhood.” The third-degree murder charge does not involve premeditation or a specific intent to kill, according to a report in the New York Times, but it does carry a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.

Greek hazing is nothing new. It’s supposed to create a bond between pledges and members, and in most cases involves little more than harassing hijinks that result in public embarrassment and humiliation.

But despite strict college policies, hazing often goes from dumb to dangerous. Locally, Colgate and Syracuse universities have had problems in the past, not to mention the many incidents that go unreported.

Belonging to a fraternity or a sorority can be a rewarding experience and can result in lifelong friendships. Many Greek organizations today have found ways to maintain tradition by creating responsible missions that can help build a better college and community.

Brotherhood and sisterhood can be special, but anyone who really cares about you won’t put you in harm’s way. Anyone considering pledging a fraternity or sorority would be wise to remember that.




The Poughkeepsie Journal on allowing cameras during U.S. Supreme Court sessions.

Sept. 17

In an era when it is abundantly easier to foster open, accessible government, the U.S. Supreme Court alarmingly bucks the trend.

For years, good-government groups and others have been pushing for the High Court to embrace technology and open up these incredibly important proceedings to a much larger audience, but the court can’t bring itself to do that.

And now, according to a recent federal appeals court ruling, protesters can be kept off the Supreme Court’s sweeping plaza and relegated to the more distant sidewalk. While perhaps largely symbolic, this ruling shouldn’t stand.

The three-judge appeals panel ruled that “the government can impose reasonable restrictions on speech as long as it refrains from suppressing particular viewpoints.”

Yet, contextually, the court has seemingly gone out of its way to set itself apart from the open-government system.

To rectify that, the justices should allow cameras in the courtroom, and there should be a steady and consistent allowance of live audio broadcasts as well. The public has a right to hear arguments in cases that will have profound impacts on their lives, whether that be through cases on health care or privacy rights. The Supreme Court does release written transcripts for every case, but there is no compelling reason to stop there.

The court has allowed same-day release of audio recordings of certain high-profile cases, and there has been absolutely no detriment to doing so. Any case that makes it to the Supreme Court is important, yet usually only a few hundred people are able to get a seat in the courtroom - typically lawyers, journalists and guests of the court. In this day and age of sharp technology, that notion is absurd. The court ought to embrace far more openness.




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