- Associated Press - Friday, March 24, 2017

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

The (Manchester) Journal-Inquirer (Conn.), March 21, 2017

President Donald Trump still refuses to admit that he was not put under surveillance by former President Barack Obama, even after the directors of both the FBI and NSA testified Monday that there is nothing to Trump’s allegation.

Trump never retracted his initial “wiretap” claim made in a March 4 tweet, instead modifying it by claiming that he meant surveillance, not just wiretapping.

The subject was pounced on by the press and even by Trump’s fellow Republicans, some of whom admit the president’s charges against Obama are improper and unjustified.

At Monday’s House Intelligence Committee hearing, FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers both said there is no evidence that Trump was put under surveillance.

But even after the testimony of Comey and Rogers, White House press secretary Sean Spicer refused to let the matter die. “There’s a lot more questions that need to be asked about what was being done in terms of surveillance,” Spicer said.

Why are so many people surprised that Trump will not admit his error?

Trump, if you recall, claimed that Obama was not born in the U.S. and therefore could not legally be our president.

In spite of all the evidence, that lie gave Trump notoriety and publicity, and he refused to retract his charges until at least four years went by.

The pattern of making a false allegation and refusing to retract it is a standard Trumpism. We should accept it for what it is - a falsehood Trump stands behind to enlist his followers in his cause.

This tactic worked for him in that he became our president after living the “birther” lie about Obama for four years.

One can expect the wiretapping lie to remain at least as long - and we should not stand around waiting for an apology.




The Portland Press Herald (Maine), March 20, 2017

Believing doesn’t make it true, and when it comes to court records, it’s not belief that counts.

Consider this widely held belief that juveniles with a criminal record get a fresh start when they turn 18. Lawyers believe it and so do their clients. Judges believe it, and so do the clerks who manage the records.

But the problem is that it’s only sort of true.

A recent study by researchers at the Muskie School of Government at the University of Southern Maine found that there is a widespread misunderstanding about the law. A juvenile criminal record can be sealed by a court, but the process is not automatic and past offenses might be showing up in a job seeker’s criminal background checks without his knowledge, making a smooth transition to the straight and narrow adulthood tougher than necessary.

The report “Unsealed Fate: The Unintended Consequences of Inadequate Safeguarding of Juvenile Records in Maine” found few people who understood how the system really works.

“The myth of records being sealed automatically at 18 was being repeated by so many different players,” said Susy Hawes, one of the study’s authors. “Everyone we spoke to in the system had that belief. It’s a vicious cycle of believing something and then hearing it again and believing it.”

Juvenile records are treated differently than adult offenses for a good reason. The juvenile system is designed to rehabilitate a young person who has made some bad choices during a time when their brains are not fully formed. Most young people get through that period without violating the law with support from good families and strong communities, but even the best kids can be led astray.

It’s right to expect an adult to live with the consequences of his choices for the rest of his life, but it’s in the interest of both the juvenile and society in general to give them another chance to get on the right track.

Aside from the fact that it isn’t well understood, there is nothing wrong with the current law.

A juvenile has to wait three years after a conviction to petition the court to have his record sealed. To have a chance at closing that chapter of his life from others’ eyes, the offender has to have a clean record, paid all fines and completed all other instructions and requirements. Even then a judge could refuse to grant the petition, and the former juvenile offender cannot appeal.

It’s a good law because it gives a youthful offender the incentive to straighten out his act. The law gives the court a chance to help a kid who made a mistake while protecting the community from someone who would hide behind juvenile confidentiality while continuing to commit crimes.

Hopefully, this report will be used by lawyers, judges, clerks and probation officers in their training so they can give young offenders and their families the correct information.




The Cape Cod Times (Mass.), March 18, 2017

House Republicans this past week advanced the American Health Care Act, a plan designed to replace the Affordable Care Act, the signature piece of legislation of Barack Obama’s presidency. Not surprisingly, Democrats protested the move, but what was surprising was the fact that it also faced challenges from within the very party promoting it, albeit for totally different reasons.

In the end, however, it is the voters who must hold the ruling party’s collective feet to the fire and demand that any new plan meet the criteria set by the GOP’s standard-bearer in the Oval Office: that the plan cover all Americans, that it cost less than the existing plan, and that it offer better care.

By most accounts, the AHCA fails in all three regards, and the condemnation of the Republican effort is hardly restricted to partisan bickering. In fact, members of the Republican Freedom Caucus, a wing of the party most closely allied with the tea party movement, has condemned the AHCA as “Obamacare lite,” arguing that it continues to provide government subsidies, a position the Freedom Caucus finds untenable.

Then on Monday, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released its review of the bill, reporting that if the AHCA replaces the ACA, it will result in a potentially catastrophic reduction in the number of people who are covered. According to the CBO, the number of uninsured Americans will climb by 14 million by the next year. By 2026, that number would skyrocket to 24 million.

Even as the number of people being covered declines, the cost to those remaining in the system would increase. Average premiums would rise during the next two years - between 15 percent and 20 percent higher than those under the ACA.

Granted, the CBO also reports that after 2020, premiums would stabilize and actually decrease by 10 percent, but the report points out that these savings would not be across the board; older patients would pay more, while younger participants would pay less. In truth, the disparity between the bills of elder participants and younger participants would grow dramatically: under the ACA, older enrollees can pay no more than three times what younger enrollees pay. If the Republican’s AHCA plan moves forward, older Americans will be paying up to five times what younger participants will pay.

Some of the people who are responsible for delivering health care are also voicing concerns about the Republican plan. On Monday, the Massachusetts Medical Society released a statement opposing the AHCA, arguing that it would “force many low-income individuals in the commonwealth to lose their health coverage.”

Republicans, led by House Speaker Paul Ryan, contend that the real reason that the number of uninsured individuals will climb is because individuals will no longer be mandated by the government to purchase insurance, allowing instead for free choice. This may make for a good sound bite, but what Ryan fails to mention is the fact that just because someone no longer has insurance does not necessarily mean that that person stops being a cost to the health care system. Consider this scenario: poor and underinsured individuals who cannot afford emergency care are usually not denied such treatment. Instead, the hospital provides care and absorbs the expense, ultimately passing those costs along to the patients who can afford to pay. Would it not make more sense to provide everyone with routine medical care so that costly emergency care situations are reduced and replaced with far more affordable routine checkups?

As the MMS notes, “As physicians, members of the MMS know what happens when our patients do not benefit from comprehensive coverage and preventive efforts: people become sicker, our communities suffer, and overall health care costs rise as early diagnosis and treatment are replaced by acute care response.”

There is no question that there are problems with the Affordable Care Act. Numerous participants, for example, have purchased the least expensive options, only to discover that the cheaper premiums mean absurdly higher deductibles, by and large negating the value of the insurance. But for the past six years, Republicans have done little to offer an alternative to a noble but imperfect law.

Now, however, for better or worse, Republicans control the House, Senate and White House. The challenges associated with providing good affordable health care will likely prove no easier for them than for the Democrats. The only difference now is that they own it, and our health, as well as the health of the nation, hangs in the balance.




The Nashua Telegraph (N.H.), March 19, 2017

The United States has been involved in an ongoing military conflict in Afghanistan for more than 15 years, with nearly 2,000 American troops killed in action.

Some of our best partners in this battle half a world away are the thousands of Afghans who have worked on behalf of the U.S. government in their country or in a successor mission as an interpreter or translator for U.S. military personnel.

For those nationals, the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa program was established. There is a stiff vetting process - the program requires applicants to have at least two years of employment and must have experienced (or is experiencing) a serious threat as a result of their work with the U.S. Many of these individuals face a life-or-death scenario if they remain in Afghanistan.

According to the National Defense Authorization Act, the program will effectively end when 7,000 visas - not counting an applicant’s spouse and children - have been issued. And recently, the U.S. Embassy in the Afghan capital of Kabul stopped scheduling interviews for those seeking an SIV visa.

This cannot stand.

Last week, New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen co-sponsored a bipartisan bill to authorize an additional 2,500 visas as part of the Keeping Our Promise to Our Afghan Allies Act. The senator noted more than 30 prominent generals, including the armed forces commander in Afghanistan, have urged lawmakers to extend the program.

“We would never leave an American warrior behind on the battlefield. Likewise, we must not leave behind the Afghan interpreters who served side by side with our warriors and diplomats,” Shaheen said.

One woman who worked with the U.S. Agency for International Development, Patmana Rafiq Kunary, now lives in Keene. She became a “high-profile target for the Taliban” and other militants for her work, Shaheen said, and now she and her family are welcome, productive Granite Staters.

Those in the program, such as Patmana Rafiq Kunary, have supported U.S. efforts in a troubled region since the months following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It’s time for us to keep our promises to those Afghan allies.




The Providence Journal (R.I.), March 20, 2017

“Roll over, Beethoven, and tell Tchaikovsky the news!” With those defiant (and amusing) lyrics in his 1956 hit single, Chuck Berry declared that a brash new form of music was taking over. It was called rock ‘n’ roll, and he was the one of its great pioneers, perhaps the greatest.

His death Saturday, at 90, has generated enormous attention for that reason. Rock ‘n’ roll, cutting straight through to the heart of young people, swept the world during the 1950s and 1960s, breaking down racial barriers and transforming popular music. It was fresh, rebellious, powerful. And it still grabs young people, all these decades later.

Mr. Berry was born on Oct. 18, 1926, in St. Louis. Growing up in a segregated black neighborhood, he was steeped in blues, country and gospel music, and by his mid-20s had blended them into a new form of music. In 1955, he landed on the Chicago label Chess Records, and a rousing number called “Maybellene” - heavy on the backbeat - exploded on the charts.

A cascade of rock classics followed: “Sweet Little Sixteen,” ”You Can’t Catch Me,” ”Too Much Monkey Business,” ”Johnny B. Goode,” ”Roll Over Beethoven,” ”Rock ‘n’ Roll Music,” ”School Day,” ”Carol,” ”Memphis, Tennessee,” ”Back in the USA,” ”Brown-Eyed Handsome Man” (an open celebration of his black identity), and many others. The lyrics were witty, barbed, even poignant.

His hard-driving country and blues sound featured his twanging guitar and his bold, even arrogant, voice, belting out clearly articulated lyrics that he wanted people to hear. He was a master showman, popping his eyes, kicking his heels and crossing the stage - all the time playing along - with his celebrated duck walk.

Among the people he affected profoundly were four teenagers in Liverpool who later became the Beatles. Though they loved Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly and others, they performed more songs by Chuck Berry on stage than those of any other artist.

John Lennon, in particular, found Mr. Berry the embodiment of perfection in the form. “If you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry,’” Mr. Lennon said. He called Mr. Berry “one of the all-time great poets, a rock poet … In the Fifties, when people were virtually singing about nothing, Chuck Berry was writing social-comment songs, with incredible meter to the lyrics. We all owe a lot to him.”

Mr. Berry was, admittedly, a difficult man in many ways, and he ran into harsh treatment by the law. He spent 20 months in prison for transporting a teenage hatcheck girl across state borders for immoral purposes, and later went to jail for tax evasion. He gave such worshipful musicians as the Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards a needlessly hard time when they performed together. He even changed the key on Mr. Lennon during a piece on “The Mike Douglas Show,” leading to a chaotic and ear-wounding performance, not helped by a caterwauling of Mr. Lennon’s wife, Yoko Ono.

But he left a recorded legacy of 1950s and 1960s hits that still make for fun and exciting listening. And he will still be on tour, in a way, for a long time: His hit “Johnny B. Goode” was included on golden records aboard the Voyager I and II spacecraft that were launched in 1977, now floating through space and waiting for alien life forms to discover some of the best of the music from the planet earth.




The (Barre-Montpelier) Times Argus (Vt.), March 22, 2017

It is important to mark this historic moment following the statement by FBI director James Comey that the Trump campaign is the target of an investigation into possible collusion with Russians working to corrupt the 2016 election.

The FBI investigation of a president and his campaign is an extraordinary event that places the Donald Trump presidency under a “big gray cloud,” in the words of the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

Vermonters, like people all across the nation, have been struggling to prepare for damaging changes that may be in store following the election of Trump. Only this week the detention of Mexican activists by immigration officials raised concern that Vermont, too, would be touched by the anti-Mexican crusade launched by Trump. Meanwhile, officials working in a host of areas - health care, the environment, education, the arts and the humanities, among them- were preparing for the worst. The worst would mean enormous budget cuts undermining their missions, but also a repudiation of their missions altogether by Republican policymakers who have no use for environmental protection, health care reform or support for cultural institutions.

Now all of these Trump initiatives are shadowed by that “big gray cloud.” Trump is putting pressure on wavering House Republicans to pass a bill replacing the Affordable Care Act, but his credibility and ability to threaten and cajole may be seriously undermined by the possibility that the FBI will uncover evidence of traitorous behavior by him or his associates.

The potential crimes under investigation by the FBI are not ordinary dirty tricks. Russian interference in the U.S. election was an attack on democracy, with global implications. It is well known that Russian political espionage has been directed at European democracies - what would it mean to the Western alliance if Russia got away with it in the United States?

It is telling that Republican House members have been more alarmed by leaks revealing the Russian attack on America than they have been alarmed by the attack itself. The skein of lies told by everyone from Michael Flynn to Jeff Sessions to Trump himself denying, downplaying or deflecting attention from the Russian disinformation attack resembles the behavior of a guilty party.

The “big gray cloud” appears to thicken every day. On Tuesday The Washington Post reported on documents from Ukraine showing money-laundering by Paul Manafort, former campaign manager for Trump. Sean Spicer, Trump’s press secretary, tried to put distance between Manafort and Trump, saying Manafort, the campaign manager, didn’t actually have much to do with the Trump campaign. So much for loyalty among the rats on a sinking ship.

America will be well served if Republican members of Congress decide it is in their interest, and the interest of the nation, to put distance between themselves and Trump. After all, no president has had lower approval ratings at this point in his presidency. How long do they want to defend a president whose closest aides are in danger of indictment and who may try to save themselves by implicating their boss? Opposing Trump on health care or on his Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, may be a way for some Republicans to save themselves.

Trump’s strategy has been to try to discredit the intelligence agencies and the media seeking the truth about his activities. Trump loyalists will apparently believe anything he says, and in the end the dwindling few who remain true believers may decide that indictments and articles of impeachment are all a plot by the establishment or the elite or the deep state - all terms used by Trump to describe a perceived enemy against which he has sought to focus the people’s wrath.

But conspiring with a foreign nation to undermine American democracy is a crime truly meriting the people’s wrath. That the cautious, conservative director of the FBI is concerned enough about these potential crimes to mention his investigation in public underscores the fact that evidence, objectionably determined, may prove far more persuasive than unhinged, baseless tweets emanating from the fervid brain of a desperate man whose crimes and misdemeanors may yet see the light of day.




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