- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 21, 2018

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

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The (Middleton) Times-Herald Record on Cynthia Nixon challenging Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

March 20

In politics, timing is everything and no one could have timed it better than Cynthia Nixon with her announcement this week that she will be challenging Andrew Cuomo for the Democratic nomination as governor of New York.



In Albany, this is the time of year when the two houses square off, when the Assembly unveils its progressive visions for the state and the Senate unveils its vision for something just as expensive but more moderate.

In recent sessions, Cuomo has managed to have it both ways, more progressive than the Senate which he clandestinely encourages as a check on the power of the Democrats in the Assembly. Nixon will not change that by herself, but the entry of a true progressive in the race empowers those in the Assembly who have waited for many years for the governor to become the progressive he occasionally pretends to be.

Nowhere is that effort more lacking than in the realm of reform, a decades-long need in New York exacerbated by the embarrassing fall from power of two of the three men in the room with Cuomo only a few years ago and now magnified by the conviction of a one-time gubernatorial buddy in a blistering corruption trial.

The conviction of Joseph Percoco was really a trial of the governor as everyone outside his most intimate circle of loyalists knows. Percoco had the power to command attention, to demand favors, to collect bribes and to practice the traditional Albany forms of corruption not because of any innate talent or ability. No. He was Andrew Cuomo’s man and wielded such power only because those he targeted knew that.

Cuomo was being cute the other day when he said that his name “was never mentioned.” As a quick count of the references in the transcript showed, while there never was any testimony linking the governor to provable wrongdoing - something that would have resulted in charges - his full name was there 136 times, his family name 500 times and his administration more than 1,500 times.

Nixon also has timed her announcement well because as the wagons circle the White House, more and more attention will focus on what the Democrats have to offer. It’s not a good time for Andrew Cuomo to be fighting for his reputation and fighting the progressive wing of his own party, to be seen as the squishy progressive who talks tough to competing politicians but fails to deliver when needed.

Given his lack of self-awareness in the past, it is probably too much to hope that Cuomo will look into the political mirror and see what others do, a man who has yet to live up to the expectations of his big talk and larger legacy. Now, in the closing weeks of the legislative session, he has not only a chance but the obligation to show New York - and, by extension, the national Democratic party and the nation - what he values and what he is willing to work for.

If there ever were a time for true reform in Albany, the time is now and an actor just put the spotlight on Andrew Cuomo.

Online: http://bit.ly/2FQ0xSQ

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The Plattsburgh Press-Republican on Mueller’s investigation.

March 20

When Donald Trump entered the race for president, he was introducing a new component into our form of government.

He was making the leadership of the executive branch practically out of whole cloth - a non-Washington element that had appeal for many of his supporters.

After all, too much of Washington hadn’t been going over well across the country.

One characteristic of that new element was his way of communicating with his constituents - by tweet rather than solely via the news media.

Those tweets have been among his most controversial strategies. That’s because he has been unrestrained in his eruptions.

Last weekend, he erupted with one of his most controversial yet, assailing Robert Mueller, who is conducting a deep probe into alleged Russian interference with the 2016 election campaign that put Trump into office.

Last week, the New York Times reported that Mueller has now subpoenaed the Trump organization, presumably to determine whether it had a role in collaborating with the Russians.

Trump has avoided making public his personal financial information for the American people - in contrast to all his predecessors - so it’s not surprising that any review of his own, his company’s or his associates’ illegal connection with Russia to influence the election outcome is repugnant to him.

Yet he must resist resisting. If he is to retain the trust of enough Americans to remain in office, he must let Mueller’s investigation wander in whatever direction it takes.

And if he truly had no role in the Russian interference, as he insists, he has nothing to fear from the investigation.

As influential Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said, “If he tried to (get rid of Mueller and his investigation), that would be the beginning of the end of his presidency.”

Those are the words of a Trump ally.

North Country Republican Congresswoman Elise Stefanik has said she would oppose any effort by the president to short-circuit the Mueller probe.

Although the House Select Committee on Intelligence, on which she sits, ended its investigation, Stefanik said she believes Russia tried to interfere with the 2016 election and sought to hurt the Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Of the Mueller probe, she said: “I believe that they’re uniquely positioned. They have access to all witnesses and information; they haven’t had to deal with executive privilege claims; and they haven’t had lapses in confidentiality. I support the Muller investigation for this reason, to make sure we have an apolitical outcome.”

Democrats, of course, are issuing warnings, as well. Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said Trump “is engaged in desperate and reckless conduct to intimidate his law-enforcement agencies of this country and to try and stop the special counsel. That is unacceptable in a democracy.”

If Trump is to be an effective executive, he will have to abide the investigative process and live with the results. Like every other American, he is not above objective scrutiny, president or not.

For him to try to interfere with the investigation would be to forfeit the trust and confidence of the American people.

Graham is right: That would be the beginning of the end of his presidency.

Online: http://bit.ly/2DK8DXk

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The New York Daily News on Facebook’s response to controversies.

March 21

Direct message to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg: Come out of hiding. Now.

Your 2.2 billion active users globally, 230 million of them in the United States, deserve an accounting from you personally of how a data firm tied to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign was able to mine information from more than 40 million profiles on your social network without their permission.

Why this happened despite a 2011 consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission binding Facebook to obtain individual consent before sharing any users’ data with outsiders.

Why a Cambridge University psychologist was able to buy access nonetheless through a back door to 270,000 accounts, paying users to sign up for a personality quiz that accessed not only their profiles but those of their Facebook friends - and assuring them the information would be used for academic purposes.

Why, after British journalists exposed in 2015 that the presidential campaign of Sen. Ted Cruz targeted voters online using the resulting 40 million-plus psychological profiles - acquired by the firm Cambridge Analytica, backed by megadonor Robert Mercer - Facebook did not follow through on a pledge to ensure the data destroyed.

That left Cambridge Analytica - Trump campaign CEO Stephen Bannon, vice-president - free to mine the information trove on behalf of Trump’s presidential bid once Cruz dropped out, notwithstanding a convoluted denial.

And meanwhile, herds of Russian-sponsored trolls infected Facebook and other social media with inflammatory posts supportive of Trump, as detailed in an indictment of 13 ringleaders by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Mueller is rightly probing the Cambridge operation, too.

And Facebook’s CEO, who’s gotten gobs of media training amid speculation he might run for President someday? He hides under his hoodie, the behemoth he built forever blackened as host for virulent political infection that may be inextricable from the webs of interpersonal connections, tied to ad sales, that make Facebook Facebook.

His company’s failure twice over to batten down the hatches well merits the announced investigations by the FTC and by New York and Massachusetts Attorneys General Eric Schneiderman and Maura Healey.

Facebook no longer lets apps grab user profiles willy-nilly - but it has blown its chance big time to prove it can be trusted to put user privacy over shareholder profits without outside oversight.

Not even the sweetest baby picture can take the sting away.

Online: http://nydn.us/2HT31g0

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The (Syracuse) Post-Standard on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposal.

March 16

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, under the guise of bracing for the impact of federal cuts to health care spending, proposes a 14 percent tax on New York health insurers in his 2018-19 budget. The governor reasons that health plans can afford it because Congress just cut their federal tax rates by the same amount.

The tax unfairly burdens one industry, raises the cost of health care and, worst of all, is unnecessary.

Cuomo wants to put the $140 million collected through the tax into a “health care shortfall fund” to fill any holes created by the Trump administration. Except there aren’t any holes to fill. Congress already restored funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, for hospitals that care for a disproportionate number of indigent patients and for community health centers.

The tax would be on top of the $5 billion in other health insurance taxes the state collects. That raises health care costs for employers and policyholders. The state’s punitive health care taxes discourage insurers from expanding in the state or locating here, and raise the cost of doing business in New York state for everyone else.

The governor also is counting on $750 million in revenue from nonprofit health plans that convert to for-profit plans. With only one health plan contemplating a conversion, that is a risky assumption, according to a new analysis by the Citizens Budget Commission.

Health insurers are a key component in the delivery of health care in New York state. The governor’s proposed 14 percent tax on their earnings is punitive and unfair.

Online: http://bit.ly/2IxvpW4

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The Glens Falls Post-Star on ads targeting Republican congress members.

March 16

When the kids were talking, we were listening.

They had us.

And we think they had some of the politicians.

In Florida, the Legislature acted and did some meaningful reforms that both Republicans and Democrats could support.

But here in New York, it’s still about politics. The Democrats in the Assembly are asking for gun control, the Republicans in the Senate, school safety measures. There is no debate, just posturing.

So when Gov. Andrew Cuomo started talking about his record on gun control this week, it sounded opportunistic and exploitative.

He bragged of his record of action after the Sandy Hook shooting that led to passage of the Safe Act.

That struck the wrong chord, especially here in upstate.

What was even worse was Gov. Cuomo’s decision to use his political muscle and money to go after seven Republican members of Congress - including Rep. Elise Stefanik in our 21st Congressional District - in a political move to force gun control reforms.

It set the wrong tone.

He was using the 17 deaths in Florida as a political wedge. That’s not the way to address this important issue.

The six-figure advertising campaign kicked off with a mix of TV and digital ads that called out seven upstate Republicans for taking National Rifle Association money and their A ratings from the gun lobby.

These are the same tactics Democrats condemn the NRA for using.

The ad campaign is paid for by the state Democratic Party.

This is not the way to have this discussion.

It is too emotional.

We deplore it when this life-and-death issue becomes the subject of partisan attack ads.

We urge you to turn off the TV when they air.

We urge you to ignore them when they pop up on your home page.

There will be an election this year in the 21st Congressional District, and this should be one of the key issues. There should be a discussion. And middle ground should be discussed.

We wonder why elected representatives can’t support the Second Amendment while also looking for common-sense reforms to make children safer.

We don’t need the NRA and Gov. Cuomo egging anyone on.

We’d be happy to consider a candidate with a C rating from the NRA, and so should you.

Cultural change can only be accomplished when constituents in the 21st Congressional District demand it be done. That will take a lot of work.

We ask that Gov. Cuomo and the state Democratic Party stop showing the attack ads and inflaming the situation.

If Gov. Cuomo wants meaningful reforms, he should use his political muscle to force a debate in the Legislature and have both sides compromise like in Florida.

That’s a debate worth having.

Online: http://bit.ly/2GR3C2q

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