- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Editorials from around Pennsylvania:



The “dump Trump” movement is back. Back for one last defeat.

The Dump Trumpers failed to defeat Donald Trump in the primaries with Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and John Kasich, in both one-on-one efforts and united fronts. The same folks returned at the near-end of the primary season, with Mitt Romney as their tribune. Mr. Romney equated Mr. Trump with Beelzebub and warned that something had to be done to stop Mr. Trump, though he knew not what, and he wasn’t going to run. That died away. Then we had pundit William Kristol informing the world that there would be a “significant” rump Republican candidate - running as a third party option. His movement to draft an obscure writer for National Review fizzled in a matter of days.

Now we have the latest permutation of the Dump Trump movement - a proposal to change Republican convention rules and unbind delegates to “vote their consciences” on the first ballot.

That would be illegal and undemocratic, but the anti-Trump forces portray it as a somehow just and holy cause.

Even if such a rule change were to pass, who would delegates vote for instead of Mr. Trump?

Mr. Trump won 37 primaries. Mr. Cruz won eight. Mr. Rubio, three. Mr. Kasich, one. Mitt Romney, zero.

Would it be intelligent for the GOP convention to spurn the top vote-getter, in favor of someone who got many fewer votes? Would it be fair?

Mr. Trump won the nomination under the rules, even with many party functionaries opposed to him. Against the odds, he won and won big. According to what concept of fairness and due process are the rules changed after the game is won - and a loser declared the winner?

The anti-Trump forces say they are making a last-ditch effort to scuttle the Trump candidacy because: a) he is a sure loser and b) the voters must be saved from themselves.

But Mr. Trump has beaten the odds electorally for a year now. The politics of denying Mr. Trump the nomination are sure-fire self-destruction. Trump voters would feel, correctly, that their man was robbed and either stay home or vote for a third party candidate. The party would be committing suicide.

Embarrassing the nominee at the convention would have the same but lesser effect: It would only hurt the ticket in the fall.

As for saving the country from itself, the elites are simply revealing their contempt for the people. The people do not want, or need, to be saved from themselves.

The voters can handle the choice in November without cheat sheets or tutors.

This is really about saving the GOP establishment, which does not trust Donald Trump because he does not think as they do - on trade, foreign entanglements, Wall Street or a host of other matters.

But Mr. Trump does think like a lot of American voters. Which is why he won so many primaries by such large numbers.

His core voters are much like the British citizens who voted to exit the European Union. They have the same grievances.

Unemployed or underemployed residents of the Mon Valley, like Brexit voters, may well decide to trust their guts and vote for change, though their self-appointed “betters” are aghast.

If the Republican Party wants to change its rules for the next contest, it has every right. A party makes its own rules and it could, for example, prevent another populist takeover by making 51 percent or more of the delegates super delegates.

But not this time. The rules for 2016 say that most of the delegates are awarded based on primary victories and, as the overwhelming primary victor, the nomination is indisputably Donald Trump’s.

What is also hard to dispute is that elites in America, like the elites in Europe, truly fear the people. They have no faith that nonprofessionals can govern or that ordinary people can make important decisions about their country and its future. They say they fear the ignorance of the people. But they really fear loss of their own power. Mr. Trump is his own man and they cannot control him.

- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette



There is an unfamiliar atmosphere approaching civility in Harrisburg these days.

Gov. Wolf spent last week saying he isn’t asking for hikes in sales or income taxes to balance this year’s budget despite having insisted on both last year. This so pleased House Speaker Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) that he tweeted the self-congratulatory message “Applauding @GovernorTomWolf statement that we’ve said and done for years: We can balance #PABudget without a broad-based tax increase.”

Though somewhat misleading, Turzai’s tweet was a grand departure from his antics during the previous budget season, which culminated when he dismissed the House rather than vote on a deal he had agreed to.

Now bills chipping away at the budget and related issues are moving through the legislature without overt power struggles between the Democratic governor and Republican legislative leadership. The legislation is flawed but demonstrates progress where there had been so little.

A pension reform bill passed by the House would address future deficits though not the current crisis. The Senate and House disagree on the issue, but Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R., Centre) said that is not likely to kill a budget deal. And while stopping well short of privatizing the state wine and liquor monopoly, another intractable issue, the governor signed a bill to allow consumers to buy wine at more private stores. A new school funding formula is also a moderate move forward, though it applies only to future funding and doesn’t address past inequities.

These compromises are far more than anyone watching the unprecedented nine-month standoff over the last budget would have expected - partly because Pennsylvania’s elected leaders set the bar so low. Their dysfunction forced schools to run up debt, shelters and other charities to shut their doors, and the state’s credit rating to take yet another hit.

Wolf helped break the impasse in March when he let a Republican budget pass without his signature, signaling that he didn’t like the deal but was ready to move forward. Soon afterward, both sides agreed on medical marijuana and other initiatives.

Wolf wants the new budget to be balanced responsibly based on real revenue. The recession and budget gimmicks employed by the legislature and his Republican predecessor, Tom Corbett, including magical revenue projections and drastic cuts to social services and education, exacerbated the state’s structural deficit.

The governor also correctly insists on $250 million more for schools and additional funds to combat the state’s serious heroin problem. The new sources of revenue being considered include higher tobacco taxes and expanded gambling. While raising the state’s low income tax or introducing a natural-gas tax would be more fiscally defensible than carpeting the state with slot machines, Wolf has rightly recognized the need to make concessions on those and other points.

It’s too early to assume that the state will have a budget by Friday’s deadline, but both sides deserve credit for at long last trying to do what they were elected to do, which is to govern the state together.

- The Philadelphia Inquirer



There is sad historical symmetry in Great Britain’s retreat into isolationism through its vote Thursday to leave the European Union.

For much of its history England was a global superpower. Its adventurism underlies many of the problems roiling the world today. Tribal and religious wars in the Mideast are echoes of British dominion; arbitrarily drawn boundaries reflect British interest rather ethnic, tribal and religious realities. Likewise in Africa, where British and other European colonial enterprises generated profits while leaving post-colonial countries in poverty.

Now as refugees from war and poverty in those regions stream across Europe, England has raised its drawbridge.

English advocates for leaving the EU contend that they acted to save British sovereignty. The EU structure, they claimed, transferred to Brussels decision-making that belongs in London.

That view, however, has corollaries that the separation advocates might come to regret.

The sovereignty argument plays into the argument of Scottish separatists. As English critics of the EU lament being told what to do by Brussels, Scottish separatists lament being told what to do by London. Scots voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, with 62 percent of the vote. The Scottish Independence Party says it will work for a new vote on independence.

In Northern Ireland, where voters voted 56-44 to remain in the EU, First Deputy Minister Martin McGuinness has called for a poll to assess the possibility of unification with the Republic of Ireland, an EU member. Northern Ireland is the only UK province with a land border with an EU member, thus the only one that likely would have to establish customs and passport controls along that border.

Across the UK, even in England, younger voters favored remaining in the EU. Coupled with implications for remaining UK countries and provinces and the early impact on the value of the pound and markets, London might have to use its sovereignty to deal with buyer’s remorse.

- The (Scranton) Times-Tribune



Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down Texas’ restrictive abortion law is an object lesson for Pennsylvania lawmakers contemplating legislation that would sharply limit a woman’s constitutionally protected right to the procedure.

The court’s 5-3 decision, which would have reduced the number of abortion clinics in Texas from around 40 to about 10, further clarified the already bright line between a state’s reasonable interest in regulating the procedure and unreasonable legislative overreach.

That standard, set down nearly 25 years ago in the court’s 1992 decision, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, said states could not impose an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to abortion before fetal viability.

That very clear language appears to apply to legislation now before the state Senate that would limit abortions to cases of “medical necessity” after 20 weeks of pregnancy, down from the current ceiling of 24 weeks.

In the Roe v. Wade decision, the court accepted medical wisdom of the time that a fetus was not viable outside the womb until the 24th to 28th week of pregnancy.

Abortion opponents have since argued that medical advances have rolled made it possible for a fetus to survive earlier than the 24th week. Doctors view the matter differently.

Language in the Pennsylvania bill, sponsored by Rep. Kathy Rapp, R-Warren, would also all-but ban a common second-trimester technique called “dilation and extraction” and rename it to the more gruesome, and medically inaccurate, “dismemberment abortion.”

Joining Justice Stephen Breyer, Anthony M. Kennedy, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan in the majority for the Texas case, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote that “so long as this court adheres to Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, targeted regulation of abortion providers laws like (the Texas law) that do little or nothing for health but rather strew impediments to abortion cannot survive judicial inspection.”

Susan Frietsche, the senior staff attorney at the Women’s Law Project, said Monday that lawmakers backing the Rapp bill should take heed of the majority’s warning.

“For now, the main message is that the Pennsylvania Legislature should really put the brakes on (the Rapp bill) and any other bill criminalizing safe, effective and generally accepted abortion methods,” Frietsche said. “That (bill) was unconstitutional yesterday. And after this decision, it is even clearer that it is the wrong direction.”

We concur.

If the Rapp bill is not now thrown into doubt by the high court’s decision, it was already on shaky constitutional ground thanks to a 2007 Supreme Court ruling banning a procedure commonly referred to as “partial birth abortion.”

In that decision, the Supreme Court found that a woman’s right to an abortion would not face an undue burden as a result of the ban because she could still obtain a dilation & extraction - the very procedure Rapp and her allies are trying to outlaw.

Less clear, however, is what Monday’s decision will mean to a 2011 Pennsylvania law substantially similar to the now-invalidated Texas statute requiring abortion clinics to adhere to the same standards as outpatient surgery centers.

The bill, prompted by the horrifying revelations of the conditions at an abortion clinic in Philadelphia operated by Kermit Gosnell, was signed into law by former Gov. Tom Corbett. Gosnell, a butcher by any standard, is now in jail where he belongs.

Since 2013, 12 abortion clinics in Pennsylvania, including six operated by Planned Parenthood, have closed their doors as a result of the law, according to LifeNews.com, an anti-abortion website.

Unlike Texas, Pennsylvania does not require abortion-providers to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital (which the court found also violated the undue burden standard).

Maria Vitale Gallagher, legislative director for the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation in Harrisburg, said her organization is still studying the impact of the high court’s decision on the existing Pennsylvania law.

So, too, is Frietsche, of the Women’s Law Project.

It could be days or weeks before the full impact of the high court’s ruling becomes clear. This has not stopped one lawmaker, Sen. Daylin Leach, a Montgomery County Democrat, from saying he plans to introduce legislation seeking its repeal.

Thus we would strongly urge the Senate, if it is, in fact, determined to proceed with Rapp’s thoroughly unnecessary and apparently unconstitutional bill, to tread carefully - or risk running afoul of the very clear standard set down by the high court on Monday.

While the General Assembly has a legitimate interest in regulating abortion, its power does not extend to trying to legislate a constitutionally protected right out of existence.

- PennLive.com



People around the world continue to hear about the warped dedication of Islamic State fighters to their terrorist organization’s murderous, destructive objectives.

However, an article in the June 7 Wall Street Journal provided a different and still-evolving picture - the growing disenchantment among that terrorist group’s “soldiers” who’ve been recruited from Western nations.

Accompanying that disenchantment is a serious issue for countries to which those fighters seek to return: deciding under what terms and conditions those individuals should be allowed back home to reintegrate into their respective societies.

What is predominant is that those who allowed themselves to be duped into joining what they believed to be ISIS’ “worthy” cause should now face worthy consequences as part of being allowed to return home. They should not be allowed immediately to enjoy the full range of freedoms under which they lived before choosing to become traitors to their homelands.

Concern is justified over whether they truly have disassociated themselves from Islamic State, or whether they remain loyal to ISIS and have terrorist intentions for when they’re back on their home soil.

Even if they are sincere about having deserted ISIS, that change of heart shouldn’t be rewarded with public praise for having come to their senses.

In the eyes of their native nations, these purportedly former ISIS sympathizers must continue to be regarded with suspicion and as a potential serious risk.

According to the Journal article, about 150 citizens from six countries have sought help to flee from ISIS in recent months, or did so on their own, since a step-up of departures began last fall.

Many of those who have sought advice and help were ISIS fighters. However, diplomats representing Western missions in Turkey have reported that others seeking help to return home have been non-fighters who were enticed to move to the group’s so-called caliphate, purportedly for a better life - but now realize how badly they were misled.

The immediate challenge for individuals seeking to escape from ISIS is to get to Turkey, but that journey is perilous.

For those Westerners who do reach Turkey, officials there must try to assess whether the defectors pose an ongoing threat - what the Journal described as “a risk driven home by attacks in Paris and Brussels linked to Islamic State.”

Only an estimated 150 Americans have left this country to join ISIS, a figure much lower than the United Kingdom’s and Germany’s 760 each and France’s 1,700. However, this country as a prime terrorist target makes America’s challenge much greater than its ISIS sympathizers number would seem to indicate.

The immediate task for the United States in regard to these individuals is to ensure that their purported reborn loyalty to this country is sincere.

It’s one thing to make wrong choices based on immaturity or the lure of worldly temptations; it’s another to be a traitor.

The full range of how to handle such traitors might not yet be fully clear or be a topic of disagreement, but sympathy and leniency shouldn’t be priorities.

- The Altoona Mirror


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