- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 15, 2017

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

The Adirondack Daily Enterprise on New York legislation that would extend health benefits for volunteer firefighters.

Feb. 13

State legislators will again discuss legislation to extend health benefits covering cancer care to volunteer firefighters.

The case for the bill is clear.

Twenty-three types of cancer have been linked to firefighting, while only lung cancer is a presumed cancer benefit for volunteer firefighters. Recently, state Sen. Catharine Young announced she has co-sponsored a bill that would expand presumptive cancer coverage for volunteer interior firefighters, noting that certain types of cancers- including cancers of the digestive, hematological, lymphatic, urinary, prostate, neurological, breast and reproductive systems -are a result of overexposure to smoke and toxic fumes. State Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown, has joined 65 other co-sponsors of the legislation in the Assembly. A technical amendment caused a similar bill not to make it to the Assembly floor for a vote in the 2016 legislative session.

Volunteer firefighters deserve the same protections as do paid firefighters. As long as there is no impact to local municipal or volunteer fire department budgets, this legislation should be approved.




The Albany Times-Union on why poor voter participation is a greater threat to democracy in the U.S. than voter fraud.

Feb. 13

One good thing that has come from President Donald Trump’s persistent false claims about widespread voter fraud in America is the bipartisan rebuke from state elections officials across the country.

The real electoral problem in this nation isn’t voter fraud, but poor voter participation, a trend that threatens our democracy.

In New York, the state where both major party candidates in the presidential race resided, just over 57 percent of eligible voters cast ballots on Nov. 8.

Some states had significantly better turnout- states that make it easier to register and vote. For example, in New Hampshire, 69.1 percent of those eligible voted. In Minnesota, it was 74.8 percent, the highest state turnout for the presidential election of 2016, according to the University of Florida’s United States Elections Project.

Many reasons may explain why Minnesotans turn out in larger numbers, but two key differences between its voting laws and New York’s were undoubtedly major factors. Minnesota allows both registration at the polls on Election Day and permits voting early by mail. New York allows absentee balloting by mail, but only if you state a specific excuse, such as being physically unable to go to the polls on Election Day because of poor health or out-of-town travel.

New York’s multiple primaries and local elections schedule is another factor. They’re confusing and diminish public participation. Last year, depending on where you lived, you could have gone to the polls six different times.

Arcane laws and their rigid interpretation also discourage young voters and others new to the voting experience. For example, the trend elsewhere of millennials taking smartphone “selfies” showing their early voting brought a warning from New York officials that such a practice on Election Day violates state law. Is that really necessary?

Among those proposing sensible changes to remove many of the hurdles that discourage voting are state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and legislators from both major political parties. The suggestions include: consolidating national and state primaries into one day; establishing an automatic registration system; allowing registration on Election Day; later deadlines for switching party enrollment before a primary; an early voting system with “no excuse” absentee balloting; and using apps and better web software to expedite and simplify registration.

Republicans who control the state Senate, however, have balked at making voting easier, worried, it seems, that it will bring out more minorities, who have historically supported Democrat candidates.

That’s no excuse. Encouraging greater participation in elections is the democratic thing to do- the one with a small “d,” in which we all have a stake.




The Dunkirk Evening Observer on the values of the U.S.

Feb. 10

Donald Trump is president in part because many Americans disliked his predecessor’s habit of refusing to recognize the exceptional nature of our government and the American people.

Too often, former President Barack Obama cited our nation’s challenges - and there are many - in equating us with other, much more deeply flawed countries.

In a weekend interview, Trump seemed to draw a similar conclusion. He was asked about his desire to improve relations with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

Putin is “a killer,” the interviewer said.

Trump’s response: “What do you think? Our country’s so innocent?”

In many ways that matter, absolutely.

It is true U.S. history is far from unblemished. Slavery comes to mind.

And it is true U.S. leaders sometimes use brutal methods in combating our mortal enemies. Obama’s use of drones to assassinate Islamic terrorists, including some with U.S. citizenship, can be cited. It also is true that our government has been known to intimidate domestic opponents and the press.

But murder as a standard tool of domestic policy is unacceptable here. It is not in Russia and many other countries. Repression of the type Putin practices would not be tolerated here.

Ours is an exceptional nation in many ways. No one, least of all our president, should ever forget that.




The Middletown Times Herald-Record on the rebuke of Sen. Elizabeth Warren as the Senate weighed President Donald Trump’s choice for attorney general, GOP Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama.

Feb. 12

Yes, we’re talking about Elizabeth Warren here. The words in the headline, ripped from the hypocritical lips of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, may well prove to be a unifying message for Democrats, progressives, liberals, anyone opposed to the policies of the new president, as well as a rallying cry for the launch of the Massachusetts senator’s 2020 campaign for the presidency.

Wednesday, as the Senate debated Donald Trump’s nomination of Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions to be attorney general, Warren began reading from a letter written by Coretta Scott King in 1986. King was arguing against appointment of Sessions as a federal judge because of what she felt were racist attitudes he displayed as an attorney general, chilling “the free exercise of the vote by black citizens in a district he sought to serve as a federal judge.” He did not get that judgeship.

As Warren read from the letter, McConnell interrupted her, saying she was demeaning the integrity of a fellow member of the Senate. Warren insisted she was only reading from a letter written by a respected civil rights leader and continued. McConnell then shut her down, invoking the rarely used and now-infamous Rule 19, which prohibits members from saying nasty things about other senators, even if they are true.

“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted,” McConnell said in defense of his action. Several male Democratic senators then proceeded to read from the same King letter without being stopped by McConnell. Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York pointed out that McConnell had not silenced Sen. Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, when he called McConnell a liar to his face on the floor of the Senate.

Warren was effectively shut down from discussing the Sessions nomination. He was approved by the Senate on a party-line vote, but McConnell may have done Warren a huge favor by compounding the image of the Republican Party as anti-woman. Consider his choice of words. What seems to have really bothered him is that Warren did not meekly obey his order, but that she “persisted.” It’s a word men generally use with regard to women, not other men, who annoy them. The fact that several male Democratic senators were allowed to read from the King letter only adds to this suspicion.

Really, McConnell ought to know by now, if Warren is anything she is persistent. And consistent. McConnell on the other hand goes where he thinks the prevailing wind suits his needs. He proudly worked from day one of Barack Obama’s administration to thwart everything the Democratic president proposed, then called for Democrats to be “reasonable”- the way McConnell claimed Republicans were -and cooperate when Donald Trump was elected president as a Republican. Now, McConnell urges Democrats not to try to stall Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, yet he refused to even schedule hearings for Obama’s.

This is hypocrisy, not politics. It’s certainly not governing.

Shutting down a popular female senator from the opposition party while allowing her male colleagues to make the same argument is also hypocrisy. And misogyny. It’s also bad politics. Nevertheless, he persisted.




The New York Daily News on a proposal to shut down the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Feb. 13

Watch your wallet, because Congress is coming after the federal watchdog set up following last decade’s financial crisis to police against rip-offs of borrowers and buyers in the wilds of American commerce.

Dubbing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau “a rogue federal agency” and claiming its law enforcement harms Americans’ ability to borrow money, Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, proposes to shut it down and, first, eject its director, Richard Cordray.

Why? Because by all accounts Cordray, the former attorney general of Ohio, has become too effective- securing important wins and pushing tough fights for consumers at a price that law-breaking financial firms don’t care to bear.

Like fining the Wells Fargo bank $100 million last year for its notorious practice of opening hundreds of thousands of secret accounts in customers’ names without their knowledge, carried out by staff hustling to meet sales targets and earn bonuses.

Like fining mortgage lenders for taking illegal kickbacks in exchange for referrals from real estate brokers or for steering borrowers into higher-interest mortgages- the kind of maneuvers that stuck borrowers with unpayable loans in the real estate bubble.

Like shielding millions of student loan borrowers from costly debt-relief scams and corner-cutting billing companies.

Like this month ordering earlier Russell Simmons debit card operation UniRush, along with MasterCard, to refund consumers $10 million and fining the companies $3 million more for harm done during a 2015 system breakdown that left tens of thousands unable to access their accounts.

Like teaming up last week with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to sue a settlement-advance firm for ripping off sickened 9/11 recovery workers and former NFL players entitled to compensation after suffering concussions on the job.

All vital work that, before the creation of the CFPB in the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, no federal official had the will and wherewithal to do.

A Hensarling memo plotting strategy to gut Dodd-Frank reveals plans to severely scale back the bureau’s enforcement powers and allow the director, whose five-year term lasts until 2018, to be fired at will.

Surely that has nothing to do with the megabucks the congressman’s campaigns raise from the very financial firms the CFPB targets.

Separately, the Texas congressman advertises a gameplan to kill the bureau outright and roll the clock back to the days pre-Dodd-Frank, when consumers were sitting ducks for unscrupulous lenders barely reined in by banking regulators.

To bleed the consumers’ top cop to death or to execute it by firing squad: such is the unacceptable choice looming before Congress.

Every American who’s ever had a mortgage or a credit or debit card or a student loan should call their representatives in Congress and insist, loud and clear: This transaction will not go through.




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