Editorials from around New York

October 23, 2019 GMT

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

But Her Emails .

The New York Times

Oct. 21

What about her emails?

Donald Trump raised that question like a red flag for three years, as candidate and president, casting doubts on how Hillary Clinton used a private email server to communicate with her staff and others while she was secretary of state.

“Hillary set up an illegal server for the obvious purpose of shielding her criminal conduct from public disclosure and exposure, knowing full well that her actions put our national security at risk,” Mr. Trump said late in the campaign.

“Lock her up!” the crowds still chant at his rallies.

Now a three-year State Department investigation has found that, while about three dozen people violated protocols about classified material, they “did their best to implement them in their operations” and “there was no persuasive evidence of systemic, deliberate mishandling of classified information.”

This comes after the F.B.I. determined months before the election that, while Mrs. Clinton was “extremely careless” in having used a private email server for government communications, she did nothing illegal.

Federal employees are supposed to conduct business on government networks to keep communications secure from foreign adversaries and to create a record of how the American government carried out its affairs. Those records let current officials (and also future historians) understand why actions were taken and make informed decisions.

Despite Mr. Trump’s professed concern about the integrity of government communications, his administration doesn’t seem to take it too seriously.

Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, top White House advisers, used the messaging service WhatsApp for official — possibly classified — White House business, potentially violating federal records laws, according to congressional investigators. For example, Mr. Kushner may have used it to communicate with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, who the C.I.A. says ordered the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Both Ms. Trump and Mr. Kushner also used private email accounts for official business, according to their lawyer.

They were not the only ones. Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, used a personal email account for some government business, her department’s inspector general found. White House officials told The Times in 2017 that Stephen Bannon, the former chief White House strategist; Reince Priebus, the former chief of staff; Gary D. Cohn, the former economic adviser; and Stephen Miller, a top aide, all had used personal email accounts for government business, as did K.T. McFarland, the former deputy national security adviser.

The keeping and preservation of records isn’t just a matter of concern for historians, it is essential to the smooth functioning of the government. When government officials do business outside official channels, it not only hampers the business of governing, it also raises the concern that there is something to hide. A State Department investigation in 2016 found that other secretaries of state had handled classified information on unclassified email systems. While Mrs. Clinton’s name will always be associated with the practice, it is disappointing to see the use of personal email accounts proliferate across the government.

So the Trump administration’s widespread use of personal accounts for government work raises the unavoidable question: What about those emails?

Online: https://nyti.ms/2W1BTDI


A Brexit Deal They Love to Hate

Wall Street Journal

Oct. 22

British voters have had it up to their ears with different sorts of Brexit_hard Brexit, soft Brexit, Theresa May’s Brexit, Boris Johnson’s Brexit, Canada-plus Brexit or Norway Brexit, and the list goes on. Britain’s Parliament on Tuesday invented the worst version yet, the Augustinian Brexit. Lord, let us leave the European Union, lawmakers said, but not yet.

That’s the meaning of an extraordinary series of votes in which lawmakers voted 329-299 to endorse Mr. Johnson’s divorce settlement with Brussels_the first time any exit plan has won a majority_and then voted 308-322 against passing it in time for Britain to depart the EU on schedule on Oct. 31.

The 21 Labour Party and independent lawmakers who supported the deal but opposed fast-tracking it through Parliament say they agree with the contours of the plan but want to make sure no gremlins are lurking in the text. It’s hard to think of any legislation that has been so thoroughly and tediously debated before its formal introduction. What, at this late date, do lawmakers think can surprise them?

The practical result is that Brexit is unlikely to happen next week. Since lawmakers also refuse to leave the EU without a deal, they’ve forced Mr. Johnson to ask Brussels for another delay. EU leaders will decide in coming days how long a delay to grant. Mr. Johnson can then use the additional time to push his deal through Parliament at a more leisurely pace or call a new election in which voters can return a crop of lawmakers capable of ending this fiasco.

Mr. Johnson has already tried to go back to voters in search of a clear Brexit mandate, only to be thwarted by lawmakers afraid he might win. Anti-Brexit legislators have long argued that their obstructionist parliamentary maneuvers were designed to ferret out some exit deal that would be acceptable to their constituents. As of Tuesday night, the vote in favor of Mr. Johnson’s plan suggests they’ve found one. If they still won’t pass it, voters deserve a chance to pick representatives who will.

Online: https://on.wsj.com/2N1SnHW


State agencies need to be more transparent

The Auburn Citizen

Oct. 23

A long delay in getting an answer to a simple question is a good example of why New York needs to make the flow of information between state agencies and the public more efficient.

In July, a convicted rapist removed his GPS monitoring device and hid out in Skaneateles for two days before being captured. He pleaded guilty on Aug. 6 to violating his parole in exchange for an agreed-upon sentence of two years in prison. But when we inquired about the disposition of the case, we were told by the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision that the plea came in exchange for “a period of incarceration” and that the details wouldn’t be released “until a written decision is issued by the Administrative Law Judge.”

It turns out that the judge had ruled that same day that “the parolee is ordered to be held for 24 months.” Since we weren’t given that piece of information, we filed a request under the state’s Freedom of Information Law in mid-August and received a reply saying that “Your request has been forwarded to the appropriate program area” and “a determination as to whether your request is granted or denied will be reached in approximately 20 days.”

More than 60 days later, on Oct. 21, we received a copy of the parole revocation decision notice and we finally able to pass along to our readers that the convict had been given an additional two years behind bars.

This was not a complicated matter, and we still don’t know why DOCCS didn’t just say “two years” back on Aug. 6, but the stonewalling fits a familiar pattern in New York in which state agencies delay releasing public information when there is no legitimate purpose for doing so.

Freedom of information isn’t about our company — or news media in general — getting their hands of information. It’s designed to allow the public to learn about things that are important to them. In this case, how long did the state plan to hold a dangerous rapist who had violated the terms of his early release?

It would be a big step on behalf of the public if state agencies followed the spirit of freedom of information laws rather than looked for ways to stall. And state leaders should make it a priority to make sure that they do.

Online: https://bit.ly/2N3glm6


Health programs should avoid opioid drugs when possible

The Adirondack Daily Enterprise

Oct. 21

Encouraging people in pain to use opioids for relief if there are effective alternatives is, in a word, insane. Yet the federal government does just that, according to two U.S. senators from states hit hard by the drug abuse epidemic.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., are familiar with the risks of opioid painkillers. Both their states have been hit hard by the drug abuse epidemic. West Virginia has the highest drug overdose death rate in the nation at 57.8 per 100,000 people in 2017, the latest year for which data is available. New Hampshire is No. 4, at 37 per 100,000.

New York is better, at 19.4 per 100,000, under the national average of 21.7. Still, 3,921 people died of opioid overdoses in this state.

The two senators are urging federal Medicare officials to scrap a policy that provides health care providers with financial incentives to use opioid-based pain management treatments, rather than those based on other drugs and/or techniques.

“Under Medicare’s current reimbursement policy, the cost disparity between opiod-based pain medication and non-opioid drugs used to treat post-surgical pain creates a disincentive for providers to use the less addictive, non-opioid alternative,” Capito explained in a press release.

A critical aspect of the battle against drug abuse “is ensuring that the Medicare program does not create a perverse incentive for doctors to continue to prescribe opioids to patients,” the senator added.

Federal officials should look into the complaint by Capito and Shaheen. Uncle Sam should not be promoting use of opioids if viable alternatives exist.

Online: https://bit.ly/2W9zpTG


Must not be forgotten

The Leader-Herald

Oct. 21

It has been just two years since the #MeToo movement came on the national stage. Its founder and others concerned about sexual assault and harassment worry that the issue has been sidetracked by candidates for president next year.

#MeToo founder Tarana Burke is doing something about that. She has come up with a new hashtag campaign — #MeTooVoter. “You can’t have 12 million people respond to a hashtag in this country and they not be constituents, taxpayers and voters,” Burke told The Associated Press in reference to her original initiative.

Not a single one of the dozen or more Democratic candidates for president had spoken to her by this week, Burke said. “We need these candidates to see us as a power base,” she added.

Indeed, it is puzzling that Democratic candidates have not turned to #MeToo in an attempt to garner votes. Some of them and many others in their party were eager to portray themselves as champions of the movement last year, during confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh.

Kavanaugh, who now sits on the U.S. Supreme Court, was accused of sexual assault while he was a teenager.

Not a shred of proof of the allegations was brought forward, however. To the contrary, the credibility of his accuser was questioned.

That does not negate the need for more attention to sexual harassment and assault. Millions of women — and some men — have been victimized by sexual predators, in one way or another.

It may be that the candidates worry bringing that unpleasant topic up will focus attention on as aspect of it some people would prefer to ignore — the protection the elite grant to those in its ranks who are accused of sexual assault.

Need we bring up the late Jeffrey Epstein, with whom some entertainers and politicians continued to rub elbows after he had been convicted of sexually assaulting juveniles in Florida?

Or how about movie producer Harvey Weinstein, whose many chums ignored multiple allegations against him for many years?

And yes, there is film director and producer Roman Polanski, who in 1977 pleaded guilty to unlawful sex with a minor in California, then fled the country to escape punishment. Many in Hollywood continue to defend him.

Using unproven allegations of sexual misbehavior for political reasons is wrong — period.

But Burke and others working with her are right that the issue of sexual assault and harassment must not be swept under the rug and forgotten. There are too many very real victims. In all likelihood, you know some of them.

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