- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 30, 2016

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

The Journal News on the Lower Hudson Valley’s response to North Carolina’s anti-gay, anti-transgender law.

March 28

Dear businesses and residents of North Carolina,

Concerned about your state leaders’ blind bigotry that would allow passage of the “bathroom bill,” formally known as House Bill 2? The law requires transgender people to use the public bathroom corresponding to the gender on their birth certificate; it overrides existing local gay and transgender nondiscrimination ordinances, and effectively bans any future non-discrimination legislation on the municipal level. In other words, it’s another attempt to feed an incendiary environment that targets the “other.”

So, North Carolinian business leaders who are expressing shock and disapproval via social media, want an environment of inclusion and fairness? Want a place that fosters a creative and diverse workforce? Come to New York!

We’re ready to host even more cutting-edge companies. Here in the Lower Hudson Valley, we offer a highly educated workforce; we already host a growing bio-tech industry, with key sites in Westchester and Rockland primed for growth in this expanding field.

We’ve got the kind of environment workers enjoy, and many municipalities are focusing on smart growth that includes the kind of housing and transit options that attract millennials.

Sure, we have our problems, but we’re a state that focuses on inclusion and creative solutions.

New York’s long led on social justice issues, from Seneca Falls to Stonewall. The NAACP was founded in New York City. The state led on marriage equality; our anti-discrimination law includes protections for people who are transgender; this year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo employed executive actions that effectively banned the use of unscientific, damaging “conversion therapy” on minors.

Our local communities, too, have a long history of tackling discrimination and fighting for equality: In the 1940s, Rockland’s tiny village of Hillburn provided a test school desegregation case for a young NAACP lawyer, Thurgood Marshall. He won that case and went on to champion equal treatment for all in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education.

We’re not perfect. But we acknowledge our faults, and fight to fix them.

Our communities continue to seek inclusiveness: A Rockland County Pride Center is slated to open by September. The center, to be located in Nyack, will offer programming and various supports for people who are part of the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning) community. In White Plains, the LOFT, The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, has offered support since 1983.

Our Census numbers show that people agree that the Lower Hudson Valley region is a great place to live. Westchester’s population was up 3 percent over the past five years; Rockland Country grew 4.6 percent in the same time period, with Putnam’s population dipping a mere 0.7 percent in the last five years. That demonstrates our communities’ livability, so businesses can be assured they will find the workforce they need.

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Online:

https://lohud.us/1XTbGAB

The Glens Falls Post-Star on state budget transparency.

March 28

We suspect an inverse rule applies to the statements of New York’s political leaders when it comes to budget transparency: The more they talk about it, the less it happens.

So the bad news is, lots of talk has been heard in the past year about increasing state government transparency on various issues, including the budget. We’ve also heard chatter from those in power about improving ethics in Albany.

Now that the budget is being wrapped up, we can report the rule has held: This year’s budget process has been even more opaque than previous years. Also, despite much hand-wringing over ethics and public pledges to do better, we are expecting little to nothing will get done in that arena.

Monday was the day by which a budget deal was supposed to have been struck, so that the required three days could pass before the budget deadline, which is Friday. Otherwise, the governor will have to resort to extraordinary measures such as “messages of necessity,” which bypass the three-day waiting period, making it even less likely that legislators will have read the budget before voting on it.

Whatever deal gets done early this week, the details will come as news to the public and to the great majority of state legislators, because this big spending stew is getting thrown together, as usual, by a handful of political leaders, the most important being Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan.

The only way this reprehensible concentration of power in the hands of a few men will get broken up is if legislators from around the state begin to balk at it.

We suggest this course of action for our local legislators: Refuse to vote on any bill you haven’t read. Refuse to approve funding for any program you have not had time to learn about.

We’re not saying our legislators should vote against the budget. But if, this year as in past years, they have not had time to review it before they are asked to vote on it, they should refuse. Abstain. Sit on their hands.

It’s not enough to say, as so many have said on so many occasions, that the way the state budget is put together is wrong and undemocratic and encourages corrupt deal-making. You have to express your displeasure through action. For legislators, that means refusing to vote on a budget they haven’t had time to read. For voters, that means refusing to support legislators who go along with the broken, corrupt system.

We also recommend they refuse to go along with any message of necessity. The real necessity is for legislators to be given enough time to review the budget. Without that, it’s irresponsible for them to sign off on it.

Do we know whether this year’s budget includes an increase in the minimum wage and to how much?

Do we know if it includes a new provision for paid family medical leave?

Do we know if the gap elimination adjustment, which has taken so much money from public schools, will be ended? Do we know if school aid is increased?

Do we know if taxes are going up or down? How about SUNY tuition?

We don’t know. The budget has not been debated in public, so we don’t have any idea what the state’s spending priorities will be nor what its effect will be on our personal budgets.

We don’t know because the handful of leaders at the peak of state political power who do know have chosen not to tell us or the legislators who represent us.

This is not a democratic system; it is a rigged game that concentrates power at the top. In a system like this, measures that curtail executive power, like government transparency initiatives or ethics reform, never end up getting funded.

Our local legislators - the Republican state senator from Queensbury, Betty Little; the Republican assemblyman from Queensbury, Dan Stec; the Democratic assemblywoman from Round Lake, Carrie Woerner; and the Republican senator from Halfmoon, Kathleen Marchione, don’t have the power, by themselves, to change the way the budget gets put together.

But they can at least pledge to abstain from voting on any budget bill they haven’t had time to review. If enough legislators do that, it could result in more than empty chatter; it could force a rethinking of the way budgets get put together in New York.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/1RynHHY

The New York Times on President Obama speaking more freely about the military’s campaign against the Islamic State.

March 30

With the military campaign against the Islamic State making some progress, American officials have begun to sharpen plans to expel the terrorist organization from two major cities it still controls.

Recapturing Raqqa, in northern Syria, and Mosul, in northern Iraq, from the Islamic State is critical. But President Obama has not made the case for expanding America’s role in the fighting, nor has he given a forthright assessment of the resources that would be required.

Since Mr. Obama authorized the first airstrikes in Iraq and Syria in 2014 to curb the rise of the Islamic State, administration officials have been vague and at times disingenuous about the evolution of a military campaign that has escalated sharply.

White House officials initially pledged not to commit ground troops to the effort. They later deployed small teams on the ground, which have been conducting raids in Iraq and Syria. After a Marine was killed in a rocket attack in northern Iraq, Pentagon officials last week said American troops were deployed in a previously undisclosed remote base and conducting artillery strikes.

Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sought to portray the artillery battery that came under attack as analogous to air power. “This is no different than aviation fires we’ve been delivering,” he told reporters last week at the Pentagon. “This happens to be surface fires.”

The two are, in fact, different, and they expose troops to different degrees of risk.

The Pentagon has refused in recent days to disclose how many American troops are deployed in Iraq. Last year Mr. Obama set a cap of 3,870 American troops, but the Defense Department has been exceeding it by not counting service members on short temporary assignments and those who overlap for a short period with units that are being replaced.

The White House last week provided a synopsis of the next steps in the campaign against the Islamic State in a seven-page report to Congress. It says that the group has not had a major military victory since May and that American warplanes have significantly cut its revenue by bombing oil trucks and other targets.

The report says the American military will “intensify airstrikes and raids,” continue to advise Iraqi and Kurdish troops and “increase training of local police and volunteer forces.” It does not acknowledge that a far larger number of ground troops would be needed to do that.

Mr. Obama needs to be straightforward about deploying more troops. “It has not been transparent for the public,” Representative Mac Thornberry, the Texas Republican who leads the House Armed Services Committee, said in an interview, referring to the evolution of the military campaign. “My view is that the president jumps through hoops because of his views of this politically.”

Mr. Obama has not made a clear argument that giving the Pentagon freer rein can lead to greater success against ISIS. It seems inevitable that the next president will be dealing with this fight. Mr. Obama would do his successor a favor by being frank with the American people about the struggle and choices ahead.

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Online:

https://nyti.ms/1RKGLC6

The Norwich Evening Sun on how Donald Trump got this far in the race for the Republican nomination.

March 29

A big question about Donald Trump is how did they get it soooo wrong? The pundits. The party elite. The consultants. The editorial writers. The other candidates. Howcum they were so totally wrong about the rise of Trump?

The answer is Joe the Plumber.

He’s the guy who dared to question Barrack Obama. During a campaign stop in 2008. He questioned his tax policies. He told the candidate he wanted to start a plumbing business. John McCain and Sarah Palin quickly made Joe the Plumber part of their campaign.

They did so because none of these guys knew a plumber. (Well, Sarah did.) And they don’t know any plumbers today. They don’t know electricians and bartenders and brickies. They don’t know barbers and cops. They don’t know Army privates and machine operators. They don’t know truckers and waitresses.

Candidates want votes from these folks. So in every campaign they assault us with fakery. The candidate bowls a strike with a bowling club. Or raises a mug of suds with miners. Or drives a tank or tractor. Or eats a hot dawg with county fair-goers.

But once the cameras quit, they don’t know these folks. These voters. They don’t sit in saloons with them. They don’t party with them at the Elks’ Club. They are not off to the church chicken supper tonight. This goes for the candidates as much as for the pundits, consultants, commentators, etc.

Because they don’t really know such folks, they did and do a lousy job predicting how they will vote. Because they don’t really listen to such folks, they don’t know how angry many of them are.

These are important voters. Because many are on the blue-collar side of the Democrat Party. They’re not crazy about the intellectual side of the party. The academics and social workers don’t do much for them. A lot of them jumped ship and voted for Ronald Reagan. They - the Reagan Democrats - helped elect him. A lot of them are voting for Trump.

Now Trump’s support is much broader than that. But if the pundit class had been slurpin’ suds with plumbers over the years they would have heard alarm bells. Bells so loud they would have known the noise would resonate well beyond the plumbers.

But they don’t hang out with the low brows. They don’t hear them. They sip Sancerre with their fellows. And hear only what their fellows think. Instead of what the Great Unwashed think. Most of them haven’t gripped a calloused hand in years. Unless they have a weight-lifting pal.

Novelist George Orwell wrote “Probably the battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton.” He was referring to the qualities of elite officers educated at Eton.

If Trump wins this battle someone may declare it was won in the truck stops, greasy spoons, factory floors, saloons and county fairs of this country. The very places the media and political elite meet and greet during campaigns. The very places they avoid between elections.

Now I am not recommending these birds change their social habits. But in an election like this they should hang up their predicting boots. Because they’ve got no mud on those boots. And most of their predictions thus far have fizzled.

A few elections ago a network media gal in the Big Apple made a big announcement. She wailed that she could not understand how Reagan got elected. Because nobody she knew voted for him.

A few weeks ago I saw a similar comment from a female movie star. About The Donald. She does not know a single person who plans to vote for him.

Maybe she should attend one of her movies. And chat up the guy or gal who vacuums the popcorn between shows.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/1Ryp4Gt

The Batavia Daily News on increasing terrorist attacks in Europe becoming the new normal.

March 30

Are the increasing incidents of terrorist attacks in Europe the “new normal”? Must Europeans and Americans become resigned to the inevitability of regular jihadist assaults? Must we endure more meaningless bromides about not “overreacting” because we might offend the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims, playing into the hands of terrorists who promote the notion that the “Christian” West is at war with Islam?

Following the Brussels bombings, Belgian Justice Minister Koen Geens noted his country has a law banning police raids on private homes between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. This is not a joke. Authorities think the mastermind behind last November’s terrorist attack in Paris, which killed 130 people, might have been holed up for at least two nights in Brussels and could have escaped because of this indefensible law.

The jihadists have no laws controlling their behavior.

It is the same with America’s “rules of engagement” in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. Does our restraint hold back the killers? Do we get points from extremists for trying not to kill women and children, when they make no distinction about age or gender while carrying out their heinous acts? Are we converting any of them to our way of life? Hardly. It is more likely they are encouraged by what they regard as our weakness.

Osama bin Laden revealed what he and many radical Muslims believe about American weakness in a 1998 interview with John Miller of ABC News: “We have seen in the last decade the decline of the American government and the weakness of the American soldier who is ready to wage cold wars and unprepared to fight long wars. This was proven in Beirut when the Marines fled after two explosions. It also proves they can run in less than 24 hours, and this was also repeated in Somalia.”

He added that jihad is a “form of worship” and “We do not worry about Americans’ opinion, or the fact they place a price on our heads. As Muslims, we believe our fate is set. Even if the whole world decides to get together and kill us before our time has come, we will not die.”

This week in the Washington, D.C., suburb of Lanham, Maryland, President Obama and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan are expected to open the largest American mosque in the world. According to the mosque’s website, the $100 million Turkish-American Culture and Civilization Center “was built with Turkish funding under the supervision of the Turkish religious foundation (Diyanet).”

In Northern Virginia there is also a large mosque named Dar al-Hijrah, which some have accused of serving as a Hamas front. It was the home of the terrorist spiritual leader Anwar al-Awlaki, who was accused of mentoring two of the 9-11 hijackers.

What a perfect setup for a jihadist pincer movement on the nation’s capital from Maryland and Virginia.

Also worth remembering is a statement by Turkish President Erdogan: “There is no moderate or immoderate Islam. Islam is Islam and that’s it.” Why would we not take seriously statements by bin Laden and Erdogan? Denying symptoms and refusing to see a doctor does not make an ailment disappear. Neither does denying the terrorist threat diminish the threat.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair wrote this following the attacks in Brussels, “We are at war with Islamist extremism. We need a different rhythm of thought in respect of it; preparing for a conflict that is longer than anything we have seen in modern times.”

There is still time for the U.S. to turn things around, less so in Europe. But we had better be serious about our efforts and respond as we have to other threats in the past. History and current events prove jihadists are serious.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/1RIUuME

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