Editorials from around New England
Editorials from around New England:
The Rutland Herald
A poll released Wednesday suggests a strong majority of Americans do not trust the nation’s voting systems.
With the midterm elections days away, Americans worry we still are vulnerable to hackers, according to the poll from The University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
The data suggests Democrats have grown increasingly concerned about election security while Republicans have grown more confident. That’s roughly unchanged from concerns about election security held by Americans just before the 2016 presidential election, except two years ago it was Republicans who were more concerned about the integrity of the election.
According to the AP report, by 58 percent to 39 percent, Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say they are very concerned about hackers affecting U.S. election systems. That represents a flip from the results of a similar survey taken in 2016.
The same partisan divide exists in the confidence Americans hold in the accuracy of vote tallies for the upcoming midterm elections. Republicans are more confident — a reversal.
Nearly 80 percent of Americans say they are at least somewhat concerned about the hacking of voter registration systems, voting equipment and final election results, with at least 4 in 10 saying they are extremely or very concerned about each.
Also on Wednesday, leading experts in the field of election security released a report outlining the serious and unaddressed threat to the integrity of the nation’s elections and democracy posed by the continued use of online voting in 32 states.
The report highlights that at the very least, nearly 100,000 ballots were reported to have been cast online in the 2016 general election. The report, “Email and Internet Voting: The Overlooked Threat to Election Security,” examines the threats faced by various forms of online voting, including blockchain internet voting. Due to the extensive vulnerabilities, the report emphasizes that online voting must be discontinued completely by 2020, and recommends short-term best practices for voters and election officials in the 2018 election.
The report was jointly released by experts in the field of election security from the National Election Defense Coalition, R Street Institute, Association for Computing Machinery, US Technology Policy Committee and Common Cause.
Experts in the private sector, government and military have studied the feasibility of internet-based voting for years and concluded that it is not secure and should be curtailed, the report finds. Despite those conclusions, and repeated warnings from leaders of the U.S. intelligence apparatus of ongoing attacks on our nation’s election system by foreign nations, voters are already casting ballots online in the 2018 election.
Obviously, the fear stems from news about foreign attacks on our systems.
This year, the nation’s intelligence agencies warned that Russia and others remain interested in interfering in U.S. elections, but have emphasized that they have detected no targeting of election systems on the level seen ahead of the 2016 vote.
The result: Nearly 8 in 10 Americans are at least somewhat concerned about potential hacking, with 45 percent saying they are extremely or very concerned. Just 22 percent have little or no confidence that votes will be counted accurately.
Here in Vermont, Secretary of State Jim Condos and his election division have been working diligently to look at safeguards against such attacks. In recent months he has been pushing cybersecurity and voter registration.
“You should know that Vermont is considered a national leader as we protect our elections systems from attacks by foreign bad actors to make sure that every vote is protected and accounted for,” Condos wrote in a recent op-ed.
Federal, state and local election officials have scrambled over the past two years to shore up cybersecurity defenses of election systems, improve communications about potential cyber threats and reassure the public that all steps are being taken to protect the vote. Congress has funneled $380 million to states to help cover the costs of adding cybersecurity personnel, conduct training and upgrade equipment.
We know foreign actors are interested in our election results and further disruption to our political system. These hacking threats are one of the top security concerns to our democracy. It is no wonder American voters are concerned.
We expect and deserve to have our ballots counted as cast. As a nation, we should proceed cautiously and demand the vulnerabilities are laid to rest. We need to trust the system to work, so that we can all set the course for tomorrow.
Knowing what one is NOT is a lot easier than knowing what one is.
It came as little surprise Wednesday morning when former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg officially switched his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat.
“At key points in U.S. history, one of the two parties has served as a bulwark against those who threaten our Constitution. Two years ago at the Democratic Convention, I warned of those threats. Today, I have re-registered as a Democrat — I had been a member for most of my life — because we need Democrats to provide the checks and balance our nation so badly needs,” Bloomberg posted via Instagram.
Some national media organizations speculate Bloomberg is positioning himself to run for president in 2020. If this is indeed his intention, he enters a very crowded field of Democratic contenders.
Some of Bloomberg’s positions firmly align him with the Democrats. He favors:
Strict gun control,
Strong abortion and gay marriage rights,
An end to burning coal to generate electricity.
According to Forbes Magazine, Bloomberg’s estimated net worth is $48 billion. To say Bloomberg is part of the Wall Street crowd may be an understatement, as he founded the financial news firm — Bloomberg L.P. — in 1981. After his term as NYC mayor ended, he returned to the company he founded as its CEO.
By itself, this seems to place Bloomberg at odds with the Democrats’ liberal wing. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, is another potential 2020 hopeful. On her website, she states: “Corporate profits and CEO pay are near record highs. But workers’ wages have barely budged for a generation, and, one after another, workers’ rights are getting wiped away.”
Another likely Democratic contender for 2020 is U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, who proudly declares himself a “democratic socialist,” and has attained national notoriety during the last three years by regularly decrying “billionaires.”
At this point, because Republicans control every branch of the federal government, it is easy for Democrats to ignore the differences among them to focus on their common foes: President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans.
If Democrats are successful in regaining control of at least one chamber of Congress this year, we will be very interested to see when they start fighting among themselves. Our guess is that it will be about as long as it takes them to get to Iowa and New Hampshire to start campaigning for 2020.
The Bangor Daily News
In 1967, there were 21 nesting pairs of bald eagles, with just four babies, in Maine. Six years later, the birds were one of the first animals added to the Endangered Species Act after it was signed into law in 1973.
There are now 733 nesting pairs of bald eagles in Maine, an increase of 101 from 2013, the previous time that the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife did a survey of the birds. Population increases were documented in very county in this year’s assessment.
The soaring eagle population is one of the “premiere examples of conservation success,” the department said in a press release last week.
The experience of eagles, which were removed from the federal endangered species list in 2007, shows that the Endangered Species Act remains necessary and should not be substantially weakened, as the Trump administration proposes. Critics argue that the act is slow in helping species to recover and that it can be too burdensome for industry and landowners. There is some truth to these criticisms, but the changes proposed by the Trump administration go too far.
The law gives the federal government wide leeway to regulate the use of land that is habitat for species of plants and animals on the list. It also requires that decisions be based on science, without regard to economic costs. And it allows citizen groups to sue the government to protect plants and animals.
One of the biggest changes proposed by the Trump would be to allow the federal government to consider the economic cost of protecting threatened and endangered species in making decisions about their protection. In its 45 years, the act has made protection of these species a priority “without reference to possible economic or other impacts of such determination.”
It is easy to foresee a situation where the cost of protecting needed habitat would be deemed to high to justify saving a little-known species.
Another proposed change would be to treat threatened species differently than those that are already endangered. While focusing more attention on endangered species may sound good, giving equal protection to threatened species is meant to keep them from becoming endangered.
Bald eagles were near the brink of extinction because of the use of DDT, a pesticide that weakens the shells of their eggs. Adult eagles sitting on nests crushed the eggs, killing the next generation of eagles. With the banning of DDT and stricter penalties for illegally hunting the birds, the species slowly began to recover, a process that has accelerated in the last decade.
The birds will remain protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, which prohibits anyone from killing eagles, destroying nests or disturbing the birds in a way that is likely to injure them, reduce productivity or cause nest abandonment.
The administration has already weakened the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which protects bald eagles now that they are no longer endangered or threatened. If someone destroys bird habitat but that was not their intent, they would no longer face penalties under the treaty. A mass killing of birds resulting from a catastrophic event such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which killed or injured up to a million birds, would no longer be punished under the treaty, the Washington Post reported.
Protecting plants and animals, like bald eagles, is important to maintain the planet’s biodiversity. In addition, their health is an important bellwether of our planet’s health. Although many species on the endangered and threatened lists have recovered, they face new threats from climate change.
That’s why weakening the act is a dangerous move.
Cape Cod Times
There is little question that the United States has moved to the right during the past 18 months, as conservative viewpoints have surged to the forefront, capped this past week by the ascendancy of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. But there has also been a steady and frightening move toward the far right, perhaps most vividly evidenced by President Trump’s reluctance last year to condemn white supremacists after the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the invigorating impact it had on that particular brand of hatred and ignorance.
But this country is hardly alone in terms of adopting an isolationist, anger-filled approach to its governance; from France and Germany to Australia, far-right politicians have begun to ascend to positions of prominence, spewing their hateful rhetoric and tapping into latent fears of anything or anyone who is different from what is loosely described as the norm. Europe has its own ugly anti-immigration sentiment, and those voices seem to only be growing in terms of numbers and volume.
Take Viktor Orban, prime minister of Hungary, whose country has played host to tens of thousands of displaced Syrian refugees. Orban continues to stoke anti-immigrant sentiments, even threatening to shut down nongovernmental organizations that work with refugees.
Then there is Heinz-Christian Strache, deputy prime minister of Austria, who has made statements about driving Islam out of Austrian public life and threatening to close mosques.
Or take Marine Le Pen, a failed candidate from France’s last presidential election. She supports policies that would ascribe certain privileges to those who are native to France, and is in favor of deporting so-called “irregular” migrants.
And these individuals only represent the tip of the ignorance iceberg. Leaders from Slovenia, Poland and Germany have openly espoused the sort of rhetoric that not that long ago would have immediately and rightly generated universal condemnations. But in today’s world, where the notion of political correctness has literally been turned upside down, moderate politicians seem to cower from addressing this fear-mongering for what it is, claiming that a plurality of voices should be heard while also fearing that they may alienate some of their own supporters.
Take as a case in point what happened in Australia just two months ago. A newly elected senator, Fraser Anning, used his first official speech on the floor of the Australian parliament to call for a nationwide referendum that would allow voters to determine whether “they want wholesale non-English speaking immigrants from the Third World, and particularly whether they want any Muslims.” Not content to stop there, Anning went on, without citing any sources, to claim that Muslims in Australia “in terms of rates of crime, welfare dependency and terrorism are the worst of any migrant and vastly exceed another immigrant group.” Then, tipping his true hand, Anning closed by saying that, “The final solution to the immigrant problem, of course, is a popular vote.”
Not surprisingly, Anning denied any connection between his “final solution” and that of the Nazis during World War II, essentially claiming that his comments were taken out of context. Although later condemned by numerous politicians, many of his fellow senators shook Anning’s hand at the end of his remarks.
Now the former face of U.S. alt-right populism, Steve Bannon, has begun a tour through Europe, trying to rally fellow fearmongers into joining a coalition known as The Movement. Bannon’s goal is to create a network that shares ideas, strategies, and philosophies, and which works together in terms of influencing the European Parliament. Bannon, the one-time advisor to President Trump who fell out of favor with Trump, sees the effort as pitting national populists against globalists.
But in truth, what Bannon’s efforts truly seek is to promote all of the sad, tired tropes of discrimination that are trotted out every time any ruling majority feels threatened in terms of their unquestioned place of power. Instead of acknowledging that the world is constantly changing and diversifying, Bannon and his ilk instead strive to impose their twisted vision of what is right on everyone, ignoring that it is in fact divergence of opinion and beliefs, not rigid ideology, that makes for a better, more robust future for everyone, not just a select few.
It is therefore incumbent on those who see this fear and hatred for what it is to call it out, not normalize it as some sort of alternative view. Politicians of all parties, countries, and persuasions must see this movement for what it truly is and condemn it as an unacceptable bastardization of the very political rights it seeks to strip from those who think, worship, or look different.
Once upon a time, Bradley International Airport was a dump. Now it’s Top 3 nationally in customer satisfaction. That’s what moving it from the state Department of Transportation to more entrepreneurial management has done. The airport is flourishing and is now New England’s second-busiest.
In 2013, the Connecticut Airport Authority took over operations of Bradley from the DOT. The airport had been a small piece of a large agency. Now it’s the main focus of the quasi-public authority, which is less constrained by state purchasing, personnel, contracting and other rules.
New airlines, new routes, new restaurants quickly followed. “Agreements that would have taken years we are doing in weeks and months,” says Kevin Dillon, head of the airport authority.
Passengers like the changes. Conde Nast Traveler ranked Bradley the third-best airport in its annual Readers’ Choice Awards. Bradley is just behind beautiful Portland International Airport in Oregon and Indianapolis International Airport.
The Windsor Locks airport is easy to navigate, and restaurants are far better than they were 15 years ago, when The Courant’s editorial writers called Bradley “a drab place, with dirty bathrooms, unappealing and overpriced restaurants, and a confusing terminal-concourse layout.” Passengers can easily park next to Bradley — far more easily than at Logan International Airport in Boston, the largest airport in New England. Wi-Fi is free at Bradley, and there are plenty of outlets for charging phones.
Bradley could get even better. The airport plans $1.4 billion in upgrades — better restrooms, more parking, a car rental center within walking distance, a mini-bus station near baggage claim with screens showing real-time arrivals. Best of all, the upgrades won’t cost taxpayers directly. They’ll be paid for through airline and other fees, as well as parking and other revenue.
Airports do need some government help, however. Bradley got a $13.2 million grant this year from the Federal Aviation Administration to fix two taxiways, for example. The state pays subsidies to airlines like Aer Lingus to provide transatlantic flights, but hopes those subsidies eventually will vanish as the route takes off. The state DOT couldn’t have offered such subsidies — and attracted overseas flights — under state contracting rules.
What a plus Bradley now is for the region and for the economy — to have people’s first impressions of Connecticut be a wonderful airport.
What a difference 15 years and different management make.
Rhode Island seems to have a problem advancing large economic development projects. It fumbled away the Pawtucket Red Sox, and has done nothing but offer impediments to what would be the largest private development in the state’s history, a $1 billion state-of-the-art energy plant. Meanwhile, a proposed $250 million skyscraper in downtown Providence seems to be at risk.
It is encouraging that at least one Rhode Island leader, Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, has noticed there is a problem.
President Ruggerio said at the recent annual meeting of the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council that he wants to advance legislation to streamline the process of developing the state land freed up by the Route 195 location.
This is something we suggested in an Aug. 12 editorial (“Frowning on economic growth”).
New York developer Jason Fane is proposing a gleaming 46-story skyscraper called Hope Point Tower, for downtown luxury housing. The idea has the enthusiastic support of the city’s most distinguished architect, Friedrich St. Florian, designer of the stunning World War II Memorial in Washington. He sees the tower as a crucial step toward the city’s renaissance.
A new stream of well-to-do inhabitants would mean desperately needed tax revenue for the city and state, as well as customers for restaurants, shops, grocery stores and other businesses. (The current approach has forced more and more landmark businesses to close their doors.) As nearby Boston demonstrates, development often spurs more development and economic activity.
Unfortunately, a clunky process enmeshed in immense amounts of red tape has made it extremely difficult to develop the state’s Route 195 land. City politicians, who often have narrow, parochial interests, have been given veto power, greatly enabling a tiny but vocal minority of BANANAs (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone).
As Mr. Ruggerio notes, a developer who wants to invest hundreds of millions of dollars to bring much-needed vitality to the downtown should be getting enthusiastic support, “but we have done all we can to chase him away.”
That approach may make sense to local politicians who wish to stick their hands into any project, but it flies in the face of the state’s interest. Blocking development is not a way to help Rhode Island change with the times and maintain a vibrant economy
“Too often,? Ruggerio noted, “we throw up barriers that impede opportunities for economic growth.”
A more streamlined process is obviously necessary. Other states welcome development, which permits them to have less punishing taxes.
“We need to move past NIMBYism (Not In My Back Yard) if we are going to grow and thrive as a state,? said Ruggerio, who promised to introduce legislation in the next legislative session “that removes some of the impediments to redeveloping the rest of our former highway land by granting more authority to the I-195 Commission.”
Obviously, the state made a mistake in making the approval process for development of the Route 195 land so unwieldy. Other vital state land is not treated in this manner.
We are glad to see Mr. Ruggerio challenging the insanity of doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. We look forward to his legislation and a vigorous debate at the State House about moving Rhode Island forward.