- Associated Press - Friday, November 18, 2016

Excerpts of recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New England newspapers:

The (Norwalk) Hour (Conn.), Nov. 16, 2016

It’s not likely that President-elect Donald Trump is against train safety.

But there’s also no doubt that come Jan. 20, 2017, the day he becomes president, there’s going to be not only a shuffling of the deck of cabinet members and top-level appointed officials, but also a reshuffling of the administration’s priorities deck.

And this is how it should be: Americans have clearly decided to go in a different direction.

In some cases, all this reshuffling is going to leave some Obama administration initiatives flopping on deck like a captured flounder.

We hope that the push for greater safety on the nation’s rail lines - and the Metro-North commuter line in particular - will not be left to flop about.

So we were pleased to see U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.,who won re-election resoundingly last week, call on the Federal Railroad Administration to push forward with its work in the two months left before the beginning of a new administration.

In a letter to Sarah E. Feinberg, the Obama-appointed administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, the senator urged Feinberg to push ahead with gusto on several fronts to “… keep our rail system from reverting to the dangerous, deadly network of days past.”

The first point was that Feinberg should work to “… ensure that railroads have concrete plans in place to complete the implementation of Positive Train Control by 2018 and that PTC is mandated everywhere it can save lives - such as in passenger rail terminals.”

Positive train control uses a web of radio transmissions and sensors that can seize control of a train, preventing it from, say, speeding into a curve that requires far lower speed. PTC could also keep a train out a designated work area.

These are just two examples of human slip-ups that had deadly consequences. Blumenthal also is now pressing for an expansion of the PTC system into train terminals. In September, for instance, a train traveling at 21 mph crashed into the end of the line in the Hoboken, New Jersey, terminal, killing one person and injuring 110.

Blumenthal’s second call to Feinberg is to keep pushing on advances achieved through the so-called 2015 FAST Act - Fixing America’s Surface Transportation - including requirements for redundant signal protection on rail lines and improved safety at grade-level crossings. The agency has addressed those two issues.

A host of other areas cry for attention. Inspections of track and equipment can always be intensified. Safeguards against fatigued workers, whether they’re at the throttle or working on the track, can always be strengthened.

As we said at the outset, even a man who travels by private jet is undoubtedly concerned about the state of the country’s public transportation. The FRA, often at Blumenthal’s incessant prodding, has taken steps to improve safety.

We’re hopeful Administrator Feinberg will stay at it till the end.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/2f556JW

The Portland Press Herald (Maine), Nov. 15, 2016

No president has ever abolished a national monument. But Donald Trump was elected last week because he promised to do things no other chief executive has ever done - and his vow to “turn it all around” shouldn’t be allowed to derail northern Maine’s recently created Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

Sixteen presidents, Republican and Democratic, have created monuments. Exercising authority granted them under the Antiquities Act of 1906, established by the famously conservation-minded Theodore Roosevelt, they’ve recognized the need to preserve wildlands and historic sites for future generations.

These protections have stayed in place, even during fraught transfers of power. In 2001, for example, the incoming administration of George W. Bush vowed to review Bill Clinton’s monuments (all but one designated during the last year of his presidency). They backed down - not because they’d reversed their views on the environment, but because reversing the designations would be a lengthy process involving congressional action.

Now Donald Trump’s pledges to upend the usual procedures have foes of Katahdin Woods and Waters hoping he’ll easily undo protections put in place by President Obama. But even if he could reverse the designation on his own, it wouldn’t return the region to the days when Maine’s paper mills were still booming. Northern Maine needs a more diverse economy, and the national monument designation is a step toward that goal.

Along with high-profile Maine Republicans, including Gov. LePage and 2nd District U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, Trump has blasted the designation as executive overreach by Obama. But the same could be said of the decision by one president to rip up his predecessor’s monument proclamations.

Why? Because when a president designates a monument, he’s exercising authority delegated to him by Congress. So any challenge to that action should be brought before Congress for debate and amendment.

And public input on Katahdin Woods and Waters wasn’t stifled - it was welcomed. Everybody on both sides of the issue had an opportunity to voice their views, at a pair of public meetings with the head of the National Park Service, held in Maine in May.

We don’t know if Trump’s bluster represents a credible threat to the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. But it’s clear that we shouldn’t take for granted the monument’s status: It needs active advocates, and they must speak up early and often.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/2fW0qoz

Greenfield Recorder (Mass.), Nov. 15, 2016

The nation is a mere eight days away from Thanksgiving, a holiday that increasingly is under siege, despite its prominence in the history and mythology of this country. This has less to do with how the holiday story of Pilgrims and Native Americans is perceived. Rather, we are thinking about “Christmas creep.”

Christmas creep is defined as the tendency for advertising and decorations associated with the Dec. 25 holiday to appear earlier and earlier. Or as Wikipedia puts it, Christmas creep “is a merchandising phenomenon in which merchants and retailers exploit the commercialized status of Christmas by introducing Christmas-themed merchandise or decorations before the traditional start of the holiday shopping season, which in the United States is on the day after Thanksgiving.”

It’s a phenomenon that has been building. Most of the time, Halloween has helped serve as a roadblock when it comes to Christmas creep. But the public is seeing Christmas creep in stores, even before the jack-o-lanterns, ghosts and black cats come down.

And perhaps it’s worse on television, where packages are seen with red ribbon or holly-jolly people wearing sweaters before there’s even a hint of frost in the air or a brightly colored leaf dropping from the tree.

We recognize that railing could make us sound a little like Ebenezer Scrooge. And there are other holidays and seasonal events that push the boundaries as well. School advertisements seem to be popping up just a couple of weeks after students were released for summer vacation. But do we have to trample over Thanksgiving to get consumers ramped up for the holiday season?

We don’t think so.

And we’re not alone here. “Six out of 10 Americans (63 percent) are annoyed or very annoyed when holiday items appear in the store before Halloween,” according to RichRelevance’s third-annual Holiday Shopping Survey. But this number is dropping. In 2014, 71 percent of those responding felt this way.

The same survey also found that more people had softened their stances on stores being open on Thanksgiving. In 2014, 65 percent of Americans surveyed were annoyed or very annoyed about shopping on the holiday while this year 55 percent remained opposed to the idea.

Maybe there’s no pushing back against Christmas creep. The National Retail Federation says more than 40 percent of Americans begin their holiday shopping before Halloween. But they can do so without having the baubles and trappings of the holiday announcing that Christmas is coming.

Christmas and the holiday season will be here before you know it. But let’s allow Thanksgiving to bask a little in the spotlight before we turn the page.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/2fY5V8U

(Claremont) Eagle Times (N.H.), Nov. 11, 2016

The corporate media threw all the dirt and garbage they could find or conjure up at Donald Trump and none of it stuck.

The more they tried to hurt him with printed words and sound bites, the better he looked to average people.

They predicted his electoral defeat by indignant media-saturated voters and they were wrong. Completely wrong.

What these media pundits and masterminds of Donald Trump’s political demise failed to realize was that people weren’t voting for The Donald - flawed and politically incompetent though he may be.

They were voting for the resonant message of the tactless billionaire tycoon which was pure populism, unapologetic nationalism, righteous anti-Globalism, and so much more.

It was the inevitable backlash by large swathes of voters to decades of “inclusive” multiculturalism and the growing sense of being relegated to the back of the line.

It was widespread anger over the bleeding away of lives and treasure in senseless wars in the Middle East and an establishment candidate promising more of the same.

It was Ross Perot’s “Giant Sucking Sound” of thousands of U.S. factories and good paying skilled jobs being sent overseas, never to return.

It was poorly enforced immigration laws and the awareness among voters of the impending loss of national sovereignty and national identity to a Globalist vision of a borderless hemispheric union.

And, finally, it was a mass awakening to the reality of a supranational financial ruling class directing America’s foreign and domestic affairs through the machinery of the government.

For this basket of “deplorable” voters, even crossing party lines in droves to vote for Trump, America was at a crossroads and in desperate need of a savior.

Donald Trump, in their minds, was that savior.

The outcome was truly astonishing, revealing the holes within and limitations of financial and media power.

Now, after the election, the credibility of Trump the egocentric businessman and his nationalist reconstructionist platform are at stake.

In Trump’s own jargon, America’s troubles are “yuge.” Some might say they’re insurmountably huge at this late stage - even for Trump.

When Trump is sworn into office in January he will inherit a growing national debt of $20 trillion along with $500 billion per year in foreign trade deficits, since America imports far more than it exports, because the country’s industrial base has been dismantled and offshored.

Factor in the nation’s unfunded liabilities like Social Security and Medicare and it’s a fiscal hole $200 trillion deep by some estimates. America’s GDP is around $12 trillion.

The situation is truly horrible and appears to be far beyond the simplistic remedy of Trump’s proposed tax cuts and his unarticulated plan to bring America’s outsourced factories back home.

Cheap labor and narrow Globalist foreign trade policy enabled the loss of these key industries to foreign competition. It will take an aggressive national trade policy and cheap labor to lure them back to the U.S., and years of retooling of long mothballed factories.

Until that day of industrial revival, the unemployed American factory worker won’t be reaping much benefit from a rapidly expanding part-time service economy.

With the Great Recession of 2008, America had a chance to set the scales right by allowing the big banks to fail and the financial system to purge itself of an ocean of toxic debt. Then Wall Street and the government got together and deemed these corrupt institutions “too big to fail.”

The ruinous results were taxpayer-funded bailouts and a monetarily destructive program of Quantitative Easing (QE) and zero-percent interest rates designed to reinflate the bubble economy, labeled a “recovery.”

When it comes to the media and winning a presidential election, Donald Trump seems bullet proof for now. But when it comes to a massively damaged and “rigged” U.S. economy, he may find it’s just too sick to try to save in one or two terms in office - if it can be saved at all.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/2f54Tqw

The Providence Journal (R.I.), Nov. 13, 2016

Football fans are voting with their fingers - the ones that control their TV remotes. Television viewership for National Football League games is down by a startling 12 percent so far this season, a figure league officials - including hapless commissioner Roger Goodell - are scrambling to explain.

Is it because of mishandled punishments like the one meted out to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady over a dubious allegation of underinflated footballs? Brady’s four-game suspension robbed would-be viewers of the chance to watch one of the league’s biggest names, while creating hard feelings among New England fans.

Is it because of the league’s double-standard about punishing serious off-the-field transgressions, such as domestic violence and drunken driving? The ever-lengthening list of arrests of NFL players makes for grim reading, heightening the impression that the league tolerates people who can’t control their tempers or impulses - as long as they can tackle or run with a football.

Is it because of the spreading pregame protests by such players as the 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick, who kneels during the National Anthem as a way of protesting social injustice in America? His actions have inflamed a vocal segment of the league’s fan base, which slings potshots at players and the league on social media.

Is it because of bitterness over behind-the-scenes maneuvering by the club of rich owners, such as the scheme that pushed the underachieving Rams back to Los Angeles, souring an entire region of football viewers in the Central Time Zone?

Is it because games simply aren’t much fun to watch? Even devoted fans were turned off by the 6-6 overtime tie between the Seahawks and the Cardinals, which occurred because kickers on both teams missed field goal attempts. The game was played before a prime time audience on a Sunday night, Oct. 23. Prime time game viewership has fallen especially steeply, by the way, down about 21 percent.

Is it because Americans are growing disenchanted with the violence that often sees players carried off the field on medical carts? President Obama has said he wouldn’t encourage his sons, if he had any, to play competitive football because of the risk of injury. He and many others have called attention to the league’s epidemic of brain injuries.

Is it because Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton sucked the air out of the football audience, which came to expect more drama from the campaign trail than from the football field? There’s usually an election year effect on football ratings, but not a double-digit effect.

Is it because viewers are increasingly weaning themselves from expensive paid television packages that NFL teams have milked so lucratively?

Or is it simply because people have begun to find better things to do with their time than sit in front of a screen, passively watching football, for hours at a time?

To be sure, professional football remains America’s most popular sport. In-stadium attendance remains strong - in the range of 97 percent of all available tickets. Fans in New England, Dallas, Denver, Seattle and elsewhere are still fanatically faithful to their franchises.

But if you, like Roger Goodell, are banking on the league’s continuing growth and prosperity, the trends are worrisome. Not that you would know it to hear him talk.

The league has problems and they seem to be getting worse. It will need stronger leadership than Mr. Goodell has displayed to address them.

Until then, more fans are likely to walk away from the couch on Sundays.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/2f11Pbo

The Barre-Montpelier Times Argus (Vt.), Nov. 16, 2016

It’s not 1992 anymore.

That was the year when a bright loquacious young governor who had established himself as a moderate Democrat from the New South unseated the incumbent Republican president. Bill Clinton had a handsome young running mate, also from the South, and a bright ambitious wife eager to be involved in the nitty-gritty of policymaking.

Clinton’s presidency took place in the shadow of the conservative revolution launched by Ronald Reagan in 1980. Clinton pursued a middle course politically, attacking the deficit and carrying out welfare reform. Hemmed in by ideologically emboldened conservatives, led by Newt Gingrich in the House, he never managed to gain sweeping health care reforms, though the first lady, Hillary Clinton, helped win health care for children.

The Reagan consensus was still predominant in the Clinton years, and Clinton acceded to it, saying that the era of big government was over. Meanwhile, he had to fend off increasingly destructive attacks from the right, numerous bogus investigations yielding nothing or inflating Clinton’s personal missteps to the level of the constitutional confrontation of an impeachment. Gingrich pioneered the nihilistic politics of government shutdown and obstruction that are now the modus operandi of Republicans in Congress.

The American people survived all of this, but through eight years of Clinton, eight years of George W. Bush and eight years of Barack Obama, the Reagan consensus has frayed. We have seen that starving government of the funds it needs while providing huge tax breaks for the rich has crippled the ability of the government to do its job. Meanwhile, global economic forces and technological changes have created economic inequality unprecedented since the Gilded Age. As the Reagan consensus has frayed, the politics of moderate Democrats trying to survive in the Reagan era are no longer necessary or even effectual. That’s why the Democratic Party is looking to a future where a stronger economic message, like that trumpeted by Bernie Sanders, will be heard.

Hillary Clinton campaigned this year as the battle-scarred veteran of this quarter century of history. As an individual she had been maligned and pursued since she showed herself as the young first lady of Arkansas to be something other than a demur and deferential political wife. Ambition and competence in a woman still excites vicious misogyny, in many fields, but quite visibly in politics.

Hillary had to absorb more than personal attacks. The machinery of vendetta that had created an atmosphere of lies and innuendo surrounding both Clintons in the 1990s pursued her throughout her career. The exaggerated pseudo-scandals (abetted unconscionably this year by the head of the FBI) became like quicksand that she constantly had to struggle against in her campaigns for president.

It seemed that this year she understood that the 1990s were history and that a new progressive economic agenda was necessary. Now Clintonism is a vestige of the past. What’s left is a new Democratic progressivism that will have its day in the era of Trump.

The Democrats will struggle to create a coherent message. Free trade, accommodated by greater protection for workers and the environment, is still a better policy than protectionism. Trumpian protectionism may push most Democrats, even Sanders, into the free trade camp. A senator from North Dakota, Heidi Heitkamp, was warning fellow Democrats this week that her farmers depend on foreign markets.

Jill Abramson, a former New York Times editor now writing for The Guardian, suggested that the tragedy of Hillary Clinton’s loss will be a tragedy for all of us. The progressive politics that she has been pursuing all her life have yielded for now to the quintessence of the nastiness Clinton has had to face her entire career. Now her defeat severs the party’s ties with the politics of the middle way necessary in the 1990s. Democratic politics in the era of Trump will have to be strong, forthright and forward-looking. Clinton has had those qualities, even if the cloud of mistrust created by those who opposed her made them hard for many people to see.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/2fXYLkZ

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