Editorial Roundup: New York
Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New York’s newspapers:
Trump Finally Fires Back at Iran
Wall Street Journal
It’s about time. Finally, after multiple attacks on U.S. bases and allies, President Trump approved a military response against Iranian-allied militias in Iraq and Syria on the weekend. Mr. Trump has to be prepared to do more if the Iranians decide to escalate.
The Pentagon said U.S. F-15E fighters carried out the strikes on five targets occupied by Kataib Hezbollah, a Shiite militia allied with and armed by Iran. “Iran and their KH proxy forces must cease their attacks on U.S. and coalition forces, and respect Iraq’s sovereignty, to prevent additional defensive actions by U.S. forces,” Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said.
Kataib Hezbollah is a proxy arm of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani’s Quds Force and would not have acted against U.S. forces without his approval. The group is responsible for 11 rocket attacks in two months on bases where American soldiers were present. A Kataib Hezbollah attack on Friday on an Iraqi base near Kirkuk killed a U.S. contractor and wounded four American troops.
Had Mr. Trump not responded to these U.S. casualties, he would have invited even more attacks. Mr. Trump’s reluctance to use force in response to previous Iranian attacks is one reason Gen. Soleimani may feel he can get away with more attacks.
Last June Mr. Trump stunned his own advisers when he called off a U.S. retaliatory strike on Iran at the last minute after Iran shot down a U.S. drone. Mr. Trump also declined to act after Iran’s brazen September attack on Saudi oil facilities.
Mr. Trump’s frequent statements that he wants to withdraw from Syria, and from “forever wars,” are also an invitation to adversaries to impose casualties that might cause the President to follow through on his isolationist impulses.
This danger is likely to increase in an election year in several theaters where adversaries may test Mr. Trump’s resolve. Iran is feeling the pressure of U.S. sanctions and may believe that attacking Americans will coax the President to ease the pressure. North Korea’s Kim Jong Un has signaled that he may launch a New Year’s test of a missile capable of reaching America. Russia and China don’t want a direct military confrontation but are working against U.S. interests whenever they think they can get away with it.
The strikes in Iraq and Syria carry risks, including a nationalist backlash in Iraq against the U.S. military presence. But Iraqis have been demonstrating in the streets for weeks against Iran’s meddling in Iraqi politics, and the small U.S. force is there at Iraqi invitation. U.S. officials need to make clear the strikes are defensive to protect Iraqi and American lives, and that the U.S. will respond again if the Iranian militia attacks continue.
A strong statement from Mr. Trump would also help since the attacks are really aimed at persuading him to cut and run. A Commander in Chief can’t afford to show weakness with American lives and interests on the line.
The fight against bias and hate
A menorah in the window. It’s a simple act — a public display of light, accompanied by joyous song.
Saturday night, the light was darkened by a man wielding a machete, who stabbed five people during a Hanukkah celebration in the predominantly Jewish community of Monsey in Rockland County. Federal investigators found anti-Semitic journal entries and internet searches in suspect Grafton Thomas’ home and on his cellphone.
The horrific attack was at least the 10th anti-Semitic incident in the region in the past week. Men, women, and children wearing head coverings or the garb of Orthodox Judaism have been punched, slapped, kicked or screamed at, with anti-Semitic slurs. One man threatened to shoot and kill people at a Brooklyn Chabad center. Earlier this month, three people and a police officer were killed in a shooting spree targeting a Jersey City, New Jersey, kosher market. At least one perpetrator was connected to the Black Hebrew Israelites, a movement with hate-group elements, also referenced by the suspect in the Monsey attack.
There is a dangerous undercurrent here, in part fueled by social media and online forums where those with anti-Semitic leanings contribute to one another’s ugly rhetoric and action, so one crime can lead to another.
As Hanukkah ended Monday, the search for answers continued. But there is no simple answer. It’s not easy to stop hate, or people who act on it, and combating the internet’s dark corners is complicated. But we must not stop trying. In the last few years, anti-Semitism has come out of the shadows. In the past week, violence and public displays of hate occurred daily. We say “never again” about the atrocities of the Holocaust, but attacks on Jews are happening again, and again. It must stop.
An increased law enforcement presence in synagogues and Jewish communities is necessary. So is teaching tolerance, and addressing the internet’s role in providing a home for hate to grow. We must stand together in solidarity. Members of the Jewish community must feel able to live their lives in peace and in public, without fear or terror.
The celebration of Hanukkah is based in a time when Jews fought evil, found a way to rebuild, and discovered a miracle in a small jar of oil that lasted for eight days, now symbolized by the lighting of the menorah. As a year that had much violence and hatred ends, we must enter the next one with the promise that we, too, will rise against that hate, and find our own miracles to keep the light shining.
ExxonMobil Case A Prime Example Of Politics Gone Too Far
New York’s attorney general is elected to the position, so there will be politics involved in the job.
But what has happened between New York state and Exxon over the past four years is an example of partisan tomfoolery at its worst.
In 2015, former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman began an investigation under New York’s Martin Act probing ExxonMobil officials for allegedly denying the impact of climate change on company assets. That investigation turned into a lawsuit alleging ExxonMobil had misrepresented the company’s financial risks regarding current and future climate change regulations to the public and, more importantly, to investors.
The lawsuit took different forms over the years as various legal theories propagated by the Attorney General’s office failed. Barbara Underwood, who was appointed state Attorney General after Schneiderman’s resignation, alleged ExxonMobil relies on lower estimates to comply with government regulations than the estimates it used to report costs to investors, saying the company lied internally while telling the truth publicly.
Attorney General Tish James then withdrew two counts of fraud while moving forward with two counts based on the Martin Act, which has a lower burden of proof than proving fraud. Even then, the state was unable to prove that the company made misrepresentations to investors and that there were consequences.
NPR used two ways to estimate the costs of climate change regulations, one for future climate change legislation and another for specific projects. Justice Barry Ostrager of the New York state Supreme Court ruled the state failed to prove that ExxonMobil made any material misrepresentations that would have defrauded a reasonable investor and that the testimony of ExxonMobil officials and experts laid waste to the Attorney General’s case.
For four years, three different state attorneys general — all three Democrats — have wasted state taxpayers’ money on a flimsy case. Does anyone wonder what the state would have done with the $1.6 billion it was trying to get from ExxonMobil? It would have given the money to subsidize ExxonMobil’s environmentally friendlier, yet more costly, technology to make ExxonMobil’s competition appear more financially viable.
If the public needs an example of abuse of power from a political figure, here is a prime one. One of the involved attorneys general has already resigned in disgrace, perhaps his replacement should be “impeached.” Politics will always be part of an attorney general’s job. They are elected, after all. But the ExxonMobil debacle is an example of politics gone too far in the attorney general’s office.
No easy fix for nursing home staff shortage
Adirondack Daily Enterprise
The shortage of nursing home workers in our area and beyond isn’t likely to go away any time soon.
One reason for it is the current economy, which gives workers plenty of options but is tough for those competing to hire them. Nationally, just 3.5% of the workforce is unemployed, the lowest in roughly 50 years. In New York it’s not much higher at 4%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Local nursing homes are desperate for staff at all levels, from registered nurse to certified nursing assistant, a job that doesn’t necessarily even require a high school diploma. They offer competitive wages, but many restaurants and supermarkets are increasing their pay, too. And there’s no way around the fact that nursing home work is harder than most; it involves lifting, bathing, cleaning up after our elders who can’t manage on their own so well anymore. For nurses, it’s scary to have so few of them on each shift, and many flee to work at places that aren’t so understaffed.
On the upside, nursing home work is also more honorable than most jobs, and people appreciate the service — even if it doesn’t always seem like it.
The economy will eventually shift in favor of nursing home employers, but even then, demographics will keep exacerbating this particular staff shortage for at least a decade or two. Soon, the huge generation of Americans born in the baby boom after World War II will start entering nursing homes. The later generations that make up the work force are smaller, and therefore the ratio of people of nursing home worker age (18 to 64) to senior citizens (65 and older) has shrunk rapidly. In 1900 the ratio was 13.6 to 1, but by 2014 it was 4.3 to 1, and by 2030 it is projected to be 2.8 to 1. Management at Mercy Living Center in Tupper Lake says it’s already close to 2.8 to 1 in the Tri-Lakes area, which is credible since demographic studies consistently show the Adirondack Park has an older average population than all but a few parts of the U.S.
Again, there’s no easy fix. Raising wages would be nice, if those who run nursing homes can afford it. But much of their revenue comes from Medicaid, which is being blamed for blowing a big hole in New York state’s budget. Caring for the low-income and elderly is a better use of public funds than most, but New York spends more on Medicaid than other states. If state leaders cut Medicaid, nursing homes might find themselves unable to afford even the staff they have now. Will we have to get used to lower expectations of nursing home staffing?
Some Democratic lawmakers are going in the other direction. U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is concerned about neglect and abuse of nursing home residents, and she has proposed a bill that would enact more strict requirements for hiring staff in these facilities. Even now, however, the management at Mercy Living Center tells us one of its biggest obstacles to hiring is the “fingerprinting cliff,” which means many job applicants can’t pass a criminal background check. There is room for reasonable people to discuss giving a second chance to someone who got in trouble in their youth and hopefully learned their lesson, but as of now, nursing homes generally don’t hire anyone with a criminal history. Gillibrand’s bill would likely screen out even more applicants. It is good to hold a high standard, but is this the time to raise it?
Meanwhile in Albany, lobbyists are pushing a bill that would require “safe staffing” levels at all nursing homes. How could they require, by law, something that currently isn’t possible for many nursing homes, despite their best efforts? All it would do is punish the hardest hit with fines, perhaps even drive them out of business.
We want citizens and lawmakers to understand the reality of the nursing home climate, because no matter how much we complain or how many laws we pass, it’s going to be with us for a while. For now, perhaps the best things we can hope and work for are steady financial support and good workers to step up and serve our elders — who will include the rest of us in a few years.
School boards should encourage more participation from the public
The Auburn Citizen
It’s something we’ve noticed over the years: in the absence of an expensive pending capital project or a major controversy within a school district, board of education meetings are generally sparsely attended. Some schools are trying to reverse that trend, and we encourage those that aren’t to work a little harder to connect with their communities.
Port Byron recently invited its jazz band and choir to perform at a school board meeting as a means of encouraging more people to attend and learn more about what’s going on in its schools. To sweeten the deal, there were cookies afterward for anybody who wanted to hang around and chat. District Superintendent Neil O’Brien said the special night is part of a larger effort to make school board meetings more relevant and increase opportunities for interaction. The idea is to go beyond the legal requirements of approving agenda items and give parents and other community members a chance to talk about any concerns they might have.
The Cato-Meridian Central School District has a five-year plan to boost engagement that includes placing community members on committees as a means of gaining additional input from outside the board. So while there is no one-size-fits-all approach, it’s great that school boards are trying to reach out in different ways to engage the public. School districts should never throw up their hands at low meeting attendance; they should try to find ways to get as many people as possible involved.
That being said, making school districts the best they can be is a team effort, and the public has a part to play, too. We encourage people to check out a meeting or two when they have time and give board members some feedback.