- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 14, 2018

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


The Post-Star on the voters and the immoral behavior of candidates.

Nov. 11

The question raised by the 1972 movie “The Candidate,” starring Robert Redford, is whether winning a political campaign is worth compromising or even sacrificing your values.

That is the sort of question traditionally ignored in American politics, but it seems especially relevant to us now, in the aftermath of our latest divisive and discouraging Election Day.

Examples of political dishonesty and cynicism abound, and they implicate not only the candidates but the voters. Consider the cases of Duncan Hunter of California and Chris Collins of New York’s 27th District, both of them re-elected Tuesday even though both have been indicted on felony charges and compelling evidence of their guilt has been put forward.

Collins is charged with engaging in insider trading in the stock of an Australian drug company, using knowledge he obtained as a congressman to warn relatives of the imminent collapse of the company’s stock.

Hunter is charged with running up a quarter-million dollars’ worth of charges on his campaign’s credit card. He tried the classy defense that it was really his wife’s fault.

Despite these performances, voters found them worthy to serve in one of the most important offices in the country. We can wonder what is wrong with these men who abuse the privilege of serving as representatives of the people, but what is wrong with us when we vote for them, knowing their character?

We saw several candidates who impressed us this election season, in particular Aaron Gladd, a Democrat running for the 43rd state Senate seat; Keith Wofford, a Republican running for state attorney general; and Marc Molinaro, a Republican running for governor.

They all displayed the intelligence, integrity and grasp of issues that we would hope for in a candidate. Unfortunately, they all lost, and this is nothing new - the better candidate has been losing at the polls, we’d guess, since colonial days, when candidates plied voters with “liquid cheer” to win their allegiance.

Many things affect elections. Money has an outsized and pernicious influence, and so does party loyalty. Too often, voters overrule their own common sense out of allegiance to a party and vote for someone unfit for the office. We have seen this on both sides - with Donald Trump, for example, and also with Andrew Cuomo.

We also allow political parties to make choices for us, when we cast ballots for candidates of our party whom we know nothing about. This is an abdication of our responsibility as citizens - an uninformed choice is worthless.

Some of the unfortunate aspects of American elections have been exacerbated by President Trump, although there is a hopeful note in the energy - for and against him - now coursing through the American public. We are heartened by the larger-than-usual turnout for the midterms and the greater engagement in political life evident across the country.

It may be, for those who feel that law and order and our political institutions are under attack, that this administration has been a necessary wake-up call. If our institutions are worth saving, it’s up to us to do it. The 2020 election is likely to generate even more interest, and perhaps we will emerge from that one with more hope for the future and unity as a country than we are feeling now.

Online: https://bit.ly/2RRUCOM


The Poughkeepsie Journal on legalized sports betting and its effect on New York.

Nov. 14

The state’s abject failure to define the parameters for legalized sports wagering has many consequences - and, oddly, you apparently can count bridge traffic among them.

In a peculiar story, the Associated Press conveyed how one Staten Island man runs his business by crossing over to New Jersey, where sports gambling is legal, pulls over and logs into a mobile account. He then places his bets and returns home. The Garden State, in fact, is capitalizing far more broadly, as many New Yorkers can easily cross the border, whether by bridge, tunnel or land, to place the bets that they like.

In an earlier story, Jeff Gural, who manages the northern New Jersey track, told The AP, “New York did me such a favor by not passing sports betting. That leaves me the entirety of New York City, Long Island, Westchester County. There are 15 million people that live within 20 miles of the Meadowlands. They gave me a tremendous gift.”

When Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers get back to business next year, they should rectify this problem pronto.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states can regulate sports wagering if Congress elects not to do so. New Jersey has reasonably challenged the ban, pointing out that such wagering is allowed in Nevada and Delaware. New York had no reason to delay, particularly when you consider state voters already had given their blessing to allow casinos to operate sports books if federal law changed - or if the court ruled such activities as lawful. New York voters made that decision about five years ago when they approved an state constitutional amendment allowing casino operations to expand beyond sovereign Native American land.

Regardless, New York lawmakers decided to delay addressing the sports wagering issue this past legislative session. Perhaps that was just the easiest decision to make considering November elections were coming. Legalized sports betting has its critics; there are undeniable concerns about gambling addiction and the emotional and financial toll that can take on people and families. The same holds true for legalizing casino gambling. But supporters counter that legalizing sports gambling not only will strengthen the state’s casino industry and the jobs it creates, it will bring this popular form of betting out in the open, making it a regulated, legitimate and taxable operation.

Three good reasons for the state to act sooner rather than later, especially since, once again, it is losing revenue to a neighboring state.

Online: https://bit.ly/2Q5KaGp


The Leader-Herald on giving during Thanksgiving.

Nov. 4

Most of us are lucky enough to not have to worry about where our Thanksgiving meal is going to come from. Unfortunately, there are literally hundreds of people in Fulton County who live alone, don’t make enough money, are unable to drive or do not have transportation in order to enjoy the feast we often take for granted.

Fortunately, our area is blessed with a number of local churches and organizations which offer free Thanksgiving dinners to local residents. It is a huge undertaking that stretches out over several days and requires the help of dozens of volunteers and monetary donations.

One of those organizations is the Twin Cities Council of Churches, which each year offers a delivered or take-out option. Families can pre-order up to five dinners and they can be picked up, or the organization has volunteers who will deliver the meals.

The more than 30-year-old program is in a corner. They are in dire need of volunteers and donations to make the program successful. Thanksgiving is a week away and the clock is ticking.

They have less than half the number of turkeys they will need to provide the more than 1,000 meals and only nine drivers so far to deliver the meals.

Churches and other organizations are chipping in. The youth group at Grace Lutheran Church in Johnstown is baking 20 pies and the Concordia Club will be cooking the turkeys.

The Deli Warehouse, also in Johnstown, offered non-turkey food at a “significant discount” and will be delivering $1,700 worth food this week for the dinner.

The Church of the Holy Spirit in Gloversville will be the host site for the meals, where volunteers will box up the dinners for delivery.

But what is needed the most to make the event a success is more volunteers. People are needed to donate turkeys or pies. Others are needed to assist on Nov. 21 and 22 to help cook and prepare the meals, and on Thanksgiving, people are needed early to prepare the dinners for delivery.

Volunteers are also needed to deliver meals within the county and help is needed for clean up afterwards.

As shown before, our area is one of the most giving in the region. All kinds of people volunteer for a number of great programs, giving time and money to help others a little less fortunate. Let’s do what we can to make this important event happen. …

Online: https://bit.ly/2QGOxof


Newsday on the challenges of a building an Amazon headquarters facility in Long Island.

Nov. 13

Amazon’s prime plan to deliver at least 25,000 jobs by locating a regional headquarters in Long Island City is exciting for its potential to dramatically change our region and overwhelming in its scope.

The tech giant’s decision to situate one of two new headquarters on the edge of the East River in western Queens promises not only new jobs and revenue for the city and state, but also a broader economic impact that should ripple through New York City and onto Long Island. That includes more jobs in construction and development, and others in the supply chain that supports all of it. Amazon ultimately could add up to 40,000 jobs. That’s more than Grumman Corp. ever had on the Island.

Long Island will benefit, too. Some of Amazon’s employees likely will live in the suburbs, boosting the region’s economy and home values. Beyond that, tech companies often follow one another, growing as a cluster. Amazon’s presence in Queens could certainly lead to other companies settling farther to the east.

But that hopeful picture is tempered by enormous challenges that must be addressed.

While it makes sense to have Amazon’s planning process go through the Empire State Development Corp., which handles large-scale projects, rather than be guided by New York City’s land-use procedure, the community and its representatives must be heard and their concerns answered. That also requires political leaders and residents to get beyond a reflexive “no.”

But Amazon must meet the community partway. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio have provided the company with a lucrative package of tax breaks. They promise the city and state will take in $9 in revenue for every $1 in incentives they give away. But it’s Amazon that must deliver on its grand promises.

A mammoth concern is the infrastructure and transportation required for a large corporate campus. Long Island City is a nexus for eight city subway lines, two Long Island Rail Road stops, 13 bus routes, a ferry landing and roads that all seem to lead to the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge. The promise of all that is what helped attract the folks from Seattle, but the subways are dilapidated and crowded, the roads are clogged, and neither LIRR station is a true commuter hub. Upgraded, expanded transit service is essential. That should include a new LIRR stop at Sunnyside Yards, a linchpin to connect the area to Grand Central Terminal once East Side Access is completed.

Long Island City already has grown exponentially, and employees might choose to live and work in the area. The company’s promises of a new school, a start-up tech company incubator, parks and other improvements are a good start. The pledge to put 50 percent of its payments in lieu of taxes directly toward the area’s needs is critical.

We often talk of dreaming big and planning for the future. Bringing Amazon to Long Island City does both. But this big dream will need to be matched with reality.

Online: https://nwsdy.li/2DpYhzB


The New York Times on the danger of laws against impious speech.

Nov. 13

It is good news that Pakistan’s Supreme Court has acquitted and freed a Pakistani Christian woman who had already spent eight years on death row for blasphemy. In a 56-page ruling, the three justices said Asia Bibi, a farmworker in her early 50s, was the victim of mob justice aroused by unsubstantiated claims of what she said about the Prophet Muhammad in an exchange with women angry that she had sipped water from a cup used by Muslims.

Though the trial was a farce, overturning it took courage. In 2011, the governor of Punjab Province, Salman Taseer, who had campaigned for Ms. Bibi’s release and for changes in the blasphemy laws, was shot and killed by his bodyguard. Two months later, the minister of minorities, the sole Christian in the Pakistani government, who had also called for the changes, was killed. The announcement of the Supreme Court ruling on Oct. 31 set off protests across Pakistan and a warning from Islamist firebrands that the justices were risking death. Ms. Bibi has been in hiding since her release and may have to flee Pakistan.

But this is not a story about the triumph of tolerance over antiquated law. Ms. Bibi was freed not because the court found that the blasphemy law violated her rights or was in any other way inherently wrong, but because the trial was flawed. Blasphemy, broadly defined as speaking insultingly about God or religion, remains a capital crime in Pakistan and illegal in many other lands, in the East and the West.

According to the Pew Research Center, about a quarter of all countries had anti-blasphemy laws or policies as of 2014, and more than a tenth have laws or policies against apostasy, or renouncing a religious belief. That does not mean people in the West risk being imprisoned for taking the Lord’s name in vain. In many countries, like Canada, old laws remain on the books simply because nobody has bothered to get them off - as the Irish did last month when they voted in a referendum to scrap their blasphemy laws. In the United States, six states still have old blasphemy laws, but no case would conceivably survive against the First Amendment.

The few instances when blasphemy laws have been enforced in the West have arisen from attempts to police hostilities between religious communities. A Danish man, for example, was charged with blasphemy in February 2017 for posting a video showing him burning a Quran. Danish courts were no doubt mindful of the furor that erupted over the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in 2005. (The Quran case was dropped after the blasphemy law was repealed in June 2017.)

Blasphemy laws are most common, and most commonly enforced, in Muslim countries, and the penalties are often brutal. Ms. Bibi was sentenced to be hanged; Iran executed 20 people in 2015 for “enmity against God,” and in Saudi Arabia, adhering to the wrong branch of Islam can mean death.

Sacrilege is painful to religious believers everywhere. But broad and subjective legal proscriptions not only contradict the fundamental right to freedom of expression; they also open the door to persecution of minority faiths, as in Ms. Bibi’s case, or of political dissidents. In Russia, the Pussy Riot band was imprisoned for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred,” though their target was not religion but Vladimir Putin.

History supplies ample evidence that when religions proclaim themselves beyond criticism or challenge, there is hell to pay. Or, as the Anglican archbishop of New Zealand, Philip Richardson, said on learning to his surprise that his country had a “blasphemy libel” law, “My view is, God’s bigger than needing to be defended by the Crimes Act.”

Online: https://nyti.ms/2DHwxqM


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