Editorials from around New England
Editorials from around New England:
Confronting our biases
Inroads cannot be made in reducing personal or institutional racial bias without first admitting it exists. That message was delivered by Connecticut Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard A. Robinson during “A Conversation on Race,” held Thursday evening at Connecticut College.
The first black man to serve as chief justice, which in Connecticut has the added responsibility of directing the Judicial Branch, Robinson has experienced discrimination, both subtle and direct. He discussed the frustration about the times he is judged by something as superficial as skin color by people oblivious to his personal achievements.
People need to accept that they make assessments about individuals based on first impressions, including race and ethnicity, Robinson told his packed audience of about 350 people in Evans Hall at the Cummings Art Center. Acknowledging this human reality can be a first step in guarding against making judgments based on stereotypes.
Breaking down those stereotypes that contribute to biases can begin with a conversation, which is exactly what The Day and its partner, Connecticut College, seeks to provide in a series of dialogues on the topic. Robinson urged people to reach outside their comfort zones, to welcome, even pursue, relationships with people different from them.
Bias contributes to inequitable treatment in the criminal-justice system, to differences in career and housing opportunities. Laws may now be on the books prohibiting explicit discrimination in hiring and housing, but to claim discrimination has been eliminated is to deny reality. Robinson gave the example of a young black woman in a law firm where a white senior partner prizes the relationships he forms on the golf course — relationships that can drive decisions on who becomes partners — but does not even consider involving the young woman. She doesn’t fit his golfing stereotype.
“Now you can say you didn’t exclude her because she was black — but you did,” said Robinson.
Questioned during the forum by The Day’s veteran court reporter, Karen Florin — with many of the queries provided by our readers — Robinson gave some insight into the implicit bias training he has provided to people in the legal system for the past 15 years.
Trump’s withdrawal from climate agreement is no surprise, but it’s still the wrong move
The Bangor Daily News
President Donald Trump’s announcement Monday that his administration had begun the formal process of removing the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord, a global agreement to tackle climate change, was not a surprise. He announced in May 2017 that he was going to take this ill-advised step.
Monday was the first day that countries could announce their intention to leave the global agreement. The withdrawal process takes a year. If Trump is not re-elected next year and a new president decides to resume American membership in the climate pact, reversing Trump’s move would be simple and quick.
But that is a big if, and either way, it is still disheartening to see the U.S., which had long been a leader on numerous international problems, walk away from a commitment to lower greenhouse gas emissions. With new reports, including ones from agencies within the Trump administration, showing that climate change — and its consequences — are worse than previously predicted, this is not a time for backsliding on needed policies and changes to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, which trap warm air around the Earth, leading to higher average global temperatures, more intense storms, increasing numbers of wildfires, and other deadly consequences.
In announcing that the U.S. had sent official paperwork to the United Nations to begin the withdrawal process, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo repeated the administration’s reliance on “innovation and open markets” rather than a global agreement to reduce emissions and provide secure energy supplies.
America, of course, could — and should — do both. The U.S. should be a productive participant in international debate about solutions to one of the most pressing issues currently facing the world, one that will result in mass migrations due to drought and hunger that will worsen global conflicts, as the Pentagon has repeatedly warned.
Innovation is also part of the solution. Already, there are far more Americans employed by the clean energy industry than by the fossil fuel industry. Still, the Trump administration has or is in the process of rolling back more than 85 U.S. environmental regulations. Many of them involve easing or eliminating air and water pollution restrictions, often in the name of boosting fossil fuel production in the U.S., which is itself problematic because burning fossil fuels like oil and coal is a major contributor to climate change. So, it is no surprise that carbon emissions are rising under the Trump administration.
Given this abdication from the White House, it is up to states and communities, as well as businesses, to take the lead on actions to address climate change.
“Maine will not follow the lead of the federal government. Instead, Maine will work with states across the country through the bipartisan U.S. Climate Alliance to stem the tide on climate change,” Gov. Janet Mills said in a press release Monday. “We may be small, but we are a mighty force — and we will not shirk our responsibility to protect our natural resources and defend the survival of future generations, nor will we forsake the opportunity to create clean energy jobs and expand our economy by embracing the green technology of the future.”
Shortly after Mills’ inauguration, Maine joined the U.S. Climate Alliance, a group of 23 states and Puerto Rico that have committed to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions and to creating policies to develop cleaner energy.
More substantially, Mills and lawmakers formed a state-level climate council to develop a plan for Maine to meet carbon reduction goals, which the governor pegged at achieving 80 percent renewable energy in the electricity industry by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050.
The climate council, which includes representatives of state government, businesses, Maine tribes, environmental groups, lobstermen and others, is tasked with identifying strategies to increase renewable energy generation and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. The group will also look for ways to prepare Maine for changes that will continue to come from a changing climate, including warmer and higher oceans, new diseases and changed growing seasons for crops and forests.
These commitments and actions are important. But they are no substitute for coordinated national and international leadership to address climate change. By taking steps to formally withdraw the United States from the landmark climate agreement, the Trump administration has made the U.S. less safe and less influential. That is a harmful and unnecessary step backward.
Televised impeachment hearings a bind for GOP
Once impeachment hearings are on TV, will Republicans who’ve been complaining mightily about secrecy begin to argue that the whole thing is just too show-business? Don’t bet against it, because with this crowd, anything seems possible, with almost nothing beneath them.
First up, on Wednesday, will be Bill Taylor, our nation’s top diplomat in Ukraine. He’ll answer questions from the House Intelligence Committee -- which has both Democratic and Republican members, so those who have been falsely claiming that President Donald Trump’s adopted party has been shut out of the process will no longer be able to make that nonsensical assertion.
Also on Wednesday: George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, will appear before the same committee.
Though the president and his sycophantic supporters will do everything in their power to paint both Taylor and Kent as secret Democrats and closeted never-Trumpers, the facts tell a very different tale. Each worked in the administrations of both Democratic and Republican presidents, with Taylor having served as ambassador to Ukraine under President George W. Bush. Kent has worked in the State Department for nearly three decades, again having served under both Republican and Democratic presidents. Those looking for some sort of deep-state conspiracy intent on taking down a duly elected Republican chief executive will have to look elsewhere.
Which leads to Friday, and the appearance of former ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who was recalled from her post by the White House, essentially for not mindlessly going along with Trump’s efforts to advance his political agenda by getting Ukraine’s president to announce an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who had worked for a Ukrainian oil concern. Card-carrying members of the conspiracy-minded set may see the opening trio as deep-state lefties with an obvious agenda, but reasonable people following the testimony, thankfully, won’t likely be so inclined.
Fair-minded folk watching the impeachment hearings will doubtless learn much about the machinations of the Trump White House, its stunning mix of politics and policy. All for Trump’s personal gain. Much has already been revealed by the transcripts of what was said in private testimony.
Republicans can either face the damning facts, or they can try to run from them. With the TV cameras rolling, running, thankfully, won’t be so easy.
Good riddance to Beto
The Nashua Telegraph
Beto O’Rourke, the former congressman from Texas who thought extremist demagoguery was the path to the presidency, has dropped out of the race for the Democratic Party nomination for that office.
Politicians do not drop out of races until they have been convinced they have no chance of winning. Often, that occurs when their fundraising wells dry up. O’Rourke’s did, as potential donors decided he was simply too far out on the left to win.
What is unsettling is that O’Rourke even made it to the top tier of Democratic candidates for a few weeks. At one point, he was viewed as a real contender.
This is the candidate who pledged that, if elected, he would be certain that all owners of certain types of firearms would be forced to hand them over to the government. In doing so, O’Rourke made it clear the Constitution means nothing to him.
He called for $5 trillion in federal spending to advance the so-called “Green New Deal” - a forcible, almost immediate ban on fossil fuels that would harm virtually every American.
He opposed immigration enforcement, calling for a virtual amnesty for illegal immigrants already in the United States.
He favors a government-run universal health care system, with Americans given no options for private insurance. His stance is similar to those who insist on “Medicare for All,” an unaffordable scheme that would, almost inevitably, lead to health care rationing.
On these and other issues, O’Rourke made it clear he stands far to the left of other Democratic candidates - and certainly of most of the American people.
Yet for a time, O’Rourke seemed to be a viable candidate with a chance of winning.
Fortunately, Democrats have written him off - at least for now. And that, the very fact that he was considered seriously as a candidate for president of the United States, ought to worry thoughtful Americans.
Resolving the Wyatt scuffle
Those who object to the rigorous enforcement of U.S. immigration laws as inhumane have strong emotions about the issue. They have worked to make their concerns heard at a series of protests outside the Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, which holds those who have crossed the border without documentation.
Unfortunately, a protest on Aug. 14 turned ugly. Protesters blocked access to the facility, a worker tried to drive through the crowd in his truck, and guards used pepper spray.
It was a mess. With 20-20 hindsight it seems clear police should have been on hand through the entire protest to make sure everyone behaved and that the event could proceed peacefully.
Last month, a state grand jury sifted through the evidence — including more than 70 interviews of witnesses, and a review of 75 pieces of video — and concluded that no one should be prosecuted.
Though the grand jury might have ruled otherwise, that’s a defensible decision, given the chaos that night. The driver of the truck, a captain at the facility, did not apparently seriously injure anyone. The grand jury evidently concluded prison personnel may have had reason to use pepper spray.
That’s our system. A grand jury of citizens drawn from around the state looks at the evidence, considers the nuances and decides whether to indict and precipitate a court case. It’s a good system that tends to tamp down the role of politics or prosecutors’ zealotry in the practice of criminal justice.
Some of the protesters, though, took umbrage with the results and excoriated Attorney General Peter Neronha.
Jessica Rosner, a member of the progressive Jewish protest group Never Again, was miffed that Mr. Neronha defended his prosecutors.
“They clearly had an agenda, and that was: feel free to drive a truck into a crowd,” she said.
That interpretation of the outcome seems wildly exaggerated. No one is urging drivers to plow into crowds of protesters. In this case, the grand jury found that the driver’s action, in stopping his truck and then moving forward in an attempt to get to work, however foolish, did not rise to the level of a crime.
Another protester, Jared Goldstein, associate dean for academic affairs at Roger Williams University Law School, accused Mr. Neronha’s office of ulterior motives. The “truth is anybody who sat through the grand jury knows the prosecutor came in with an agenda. That agenda was: let these guys off.”
That is preposterous, given the amount of resources the attorney general’s office poured into this case.
Mr. Neronha offered one of the wisest summations of the episode of any we encountered.
“A peaceful protest — a right enshrined in our Constitution — devolved into an extremely unfortunate incident that could have been avoided had better systems been in place to ensure public safety. There is much to learn from this incident. It is my hope that we will do so,” he said.
An officer on the scene could have, for example, advised the truck driver to park across the street rather than try to make his way through the crowd. An entirely peaceful protest could have taken place, without subjecting citizens to pepper spray or the threat of being struck by a moving vehicle.
We can learn without criminalizing every mistake.
Tale of Two States
The Caledonian Record
The American Legislative Exchange Council released its twelfth annual “Rich State, Poor State” review recently and Vermont continues to suffer one of the worst economic outlooks in the nation. It ranked 49 out of 50 for overall economic outlook. The Green Mountain state has finished last or second-to-last every year since 2008.
New Hampshire finished 16th, and continues to climb the chart.
“The Economic Outlook Ranking is a forecast based on a state’s current standing in 15 state policy variables. Each of these factors is influenced directly by state lawmakers through the legislative process. Generally speaking, states that spend less - especially on income transfer programs, and states that tax less - particularly on productive activities such as working or investing - experience higher growth rates than states that tax and spend more,” the report introduction explains.
Out of the 50 states, Vermont ranks as follows: Top marginal personal income rate of 8.75 percent is 43rd; Top marginal corporate income tax rate of 8.5 percent is 39th; Personal income tax progressivity (change in tax liability per $1,000 income) of $28.78 is 49th; Property tax burden (per $1,000) of $51.68 is 49th; Sales tax burden (per $1,000 personal income) of $12.29 is 7th; Remaining tax burden (per $1,000) of $27.21 is 48th; Estate/Inheritance tax is 50th; Recent legislative tax change (2017 & 2018 per $1,000 of personal income) of $0.22 is 25th; Public employees per 10,000 of 656.9 is 47th; State minimum wage of $10.78/hour is 43rd; Average workers’ compensation cost (per $100 of payroll) of $2.09 is 42nd; and Right to work (lack of) flexibility is 50th.
For collectivists, this is all good news. But a lot of talented, innovative job creators harbor a crazy notion that they should actually be allowed to keep some of their hard-earned wealth.
Unfortunately for Vermont, those job creators will continue taking their businesses to states that aren’t so hostile toward them. New Hampshire (which has long credited Montpelier for driving economic success in the White Mountains), continues to look great.