Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New York's newspapers:
At war with himself: Trump dare not back the U.S. into a new Mideast war
New York Daily News
In 2016, then-candidate Donald Trump told voters weary of U.S. engagement in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere he would take great pains to avoid another Mideast war. In the wake of attacks on Saudi Arabian oilfields, President Trump proclaimed himself "locked and loaded," awaiting only the Saudis' official placement of blame, deferring to the Kingdom as to "under what terms we would proceed."
Monday, despite Yemeni Houthis' claim of responsibility, the Saudis strongly pointed a finger at Tehran. Also Monday, Trump walked himself back from high alert, suggesting Mohammed Bin Salman would not be determining the American response.
In the war inside Trump's head, that cooler-headed commander in chief must prevail. The president has one hell of a case to build with the American people before getting U.S. military assets or troops tied down in a conflict that would almost surely metastasize into a wider war.
In April, bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress took the extraordinary step of demanding the U.S. withdraw its support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, a powerful statement that America does not wish to be a party to a vast humanitarian catastrophe there. Trump vetoed the resolution.
Saudi Arabia is an American ally in the planet's most volatile tinderbox. The United States ought not take kindly to hostilities against it, including and especially those that threaten the world's oil supplies. But Iran, which sponsors destabilizing and anti-Israeli terrorist throughout the region, is already in a tightening economic vise, isolated nearly as much as any nation can be.
Assuming Tehran is confirmed as the culprit, what is the national interest in using U.S. military might to do Saudis a solid and invite fresh cycles of escalation?
The Saudi-Iranian proxy war is on the brink of becoming a direct conflict. Though America makes no secret whose side it is on, direct military engagement carries extreme risk. Walk softly.
Iran will keep escalating until Trump hits back — or folds
New York Post
Saturday's attacks on two key Saudi oil installations were plainly beyond the capabilities of the Yemen-based Houthis who took credit: The real villain, without question, is Iran.
Which means that Team Trump needs to find a response that will teach Tehran the right lessons.
Iran is clearly testing President Trump, to see if he can be bullied into unilaterally easing US sanctions. It has interpreted as signs of weakness his decision against a military response to its downing of a US drone, his recent openness to negotiations and his firing of national security adviser John Bolton.
To be clear: This wasn't just an attack on Saudi Arabia, it was a bid to destabilize the global energy market. The damage shut down half of the kingdom's crude oil production, taking out about 5.7 million barrels a day, or 5% of the daily world production of crude.
Oil prices surged about 19%, the biggest jump since the start of the 1991 Gulf War, on the news. If the Saudis report that repairs will take weeks or months, the jump will continue.
Nor is it Iran's only assault on those markets: Its ongoing seizure of oil tankers — another one on Monday — and other saber-rattling in the Persian Gulf also plainly aim to boost fears that supply will be disrupted.
All of which adds to pressure on Trump to let Iran sell its oil, which would both boost supply and reduce fears of an all-out effort to block the Gulf.
As a net energy exporter, the United States can weather the direct effects of this disruption just fine. But the rest of the world economy, including already-troubled Europe, is at higher risk — and the global slowdown has already been causing problems for US employers.
Trump said America is "locked and loaded" to respond, but he clearly needs to consult with the Pentagon about exactly how. In response to Iran's violence, US military action has to be on the table.
The regime in Tehran needs to learn that it can't get away with this escalation, or it will keep upping the stakes in order to make Trump fold.
Changes are coming to your polling place
Middletown Times Herald-Record
New York already has embraced one progressive move to increase voter turnout, allowing for early voting. Now, a commission empowered to study two other potential changes is taking testimony that will be given to legislators when they return to Albany in January, changes that could finally help loosen the grip of party bosses.
The most consequential potential is obvious from the name of the group, the Public Campaign Financing Commission. Legislators agreed on principles involved but left it to this commission to explore the details and then come back with recommendations for what could bring a significant change.
Already there is talk about the need for an approach that recognizes a campaign for governor might not be the same as one for highway superintendent and that having public funds match private donations might be more productive if smaller amounts were included rather than larger ones.
It's complicated, as will be the final recommendations, as will be the debates in Albany, both those in public and the more consequential ones in the private party caucuses. What is important is that New York finally is talking about this topic and seems on the way to doing something. If ever there were a situation that called for seeking the possible and not holding out for the perfect, this is it.
Another topic for the commission is the future of fusion voting, the practice that lets minor parties nominate candidates who are already running on major party tickets. If these parties, notably the Working Families Party, want to stay in existence, it is hard to see how the commission can justify the practice of cross-endorsement. Either the party has a philosophy and candidates or it does not. Letting Democrats run as Democrats and on the WFP line proves nothing except the irrelevance of the WFP.
Not all of the changes will come out of this commission. One of the most encouraging is the opportunity voters in New York City will get to approve something called "ranked-choice voting" on the November ballot. Under this system, voters choose one candidate they want to win. If their top choice does not prevail, they specify their second, third and perhaps more choices depending on how many are running.
The most immediate effect of ranked choice voting, an effort headed in New York by Common Cause, is the elimination of the spoiler effect, something that happens when a candidate with slim support ends up winning because voters split their votes among two others.
In New York state this is not a hypothetical. In 1970, liberal Democrat Richard Ottinger challenged incumbent Republican Sen. Charles Goodell. They split the majority vote and the winner with only 39 percent was James Buckley running on the Conservative Party line.
Had voters been able to rank the candidates, it is most likely that Ottinger or Goodell would have picked up enough second-choice votes to defeat Buckley.
With early voting, public campaign financing, an end to the charade of fusion voting and the possibility of ranked-choice voting, one day soon voters in the state might be able to enjoy that trip to the polling place.
Fracking ban would be irresponsible
Three Democratic candidates for president, and perhaps more, are hoping to gain votes by proposing all-out prohibitions on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, used in the oil and natural gas industries.
Sens. Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have all proposed the bans. Look for others to jump on the bandwagon.
Anything that hampers — or, preferably, in the minds of some extremists, kills — any aspect of the fossil fuel industry appeals to a certain bloc of voters.
But Americans capable of and willing to think for themselves understand the utter and complete lack of reason in such positions.
Fracking is responsible for the new energy boom in America. It benefits all of us, not just those in states where enormous quantities of natural gas are being produced.
Are there tradeoffs in any energy production — including that of so-called "alternatives"? Yes. But fracking has not resulted in the environmental cataclysm about which critics warn. The positives far outweigh the negatives.
Candidates advocating a fracking ban are being irresponsible — and one suspects at least some of them know that.
Convince kids vaping not cool
The Plattsburgh Press-Republican
Vaping among youth has become a hot topic in recent weeks as news of serious illnesses and even deaths caused by the practice has flooded communities across the nation.
The vaping issue has hit the North Country as well, as we've been made aware by local education and health leaders.
Vaping, or use of e-cigarettes, was introduced about a decade ago as a way for smokers to wean themselves off of traditional combustible cigarettes.
Large puffs of white vapor could be seen more and more in public places over the years as vaping became more popular.
You didn't hear much about the product the first few years it was mainstream, but then the market changed rapidly.
E-cigarette companies started marketing flavored pods and several different devices for vaping in addition to the original vape pens.
The sweet pods became a quick hit with kids, quite unfortunate since vaping has been connected to serious health issues and even some deaths.
The number of kids in high school, and even middle school, using vape products has shot up remarkably in recent years.
One local educator estimated that as many as 85 percent of high school students in his school have vaped at one point.
Student-athletes — kids who you would think put a premium on healthy habits — are also into vaping now, not a good move considering getting caught vaping will cost you at least one-third of your sports season.
Athletes caught vaping have to consider not only the penalties they will suffer, but how it will affect their teammates, one of the most valuable life lessons sports provide us.
Forget the old days of "smoking in the boys room"; the devices are so stealth now that kids can boldly vape while sitting in a classroom.
If the user holds the vape in their lungs for more than 18 seconds, no cloud is emitted, making it almost impossible to catch kids in the act.
Saranac Central School has installed vape detectors in some of the restrooms as a way of not only catching kids vaping, but to deter them from using.
We hope it works.
Of course, as with any concerning issue like vaping, education is the key.
Schools and organizations like the Tobacco-Free Clinton-Franklin-Essex network and its work with Reality Check, along with University of Vermont Health Network, Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital and the Clinton County Department of Health, are taking a proactive stance in teaching kids and their parents the dangers and tricks of vaping.
Some vaping devices are built into the drawstrings of hoodies for crying out loud, making the camouflage of vaping materials almost a joke.
But it is no joke, for sure.
There have been at least six deaths across the nation this year from vaping-related illnesses, and hundreds of others have fallen sick with serious pulmonary issues.
In New York state, there have been 34 reported cases of lung disease due to vaping.
It's gotten so bad that New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo and President Donald Trump, two politicians who do not agree on anything, are both considering banning flavored e-cigarettes statewide and nationally, respectively.
There's also the cost. A starting vape kit costs about $25 and the cost of vape pods can range from $10 to $20 each.
A serious vaper can spend more than $1,000 a year. That's money which could easily be used for more productive things in life.
Let's hope the fact that vaping can kill you and that it costs a lot of money, as well as the abundance of recent news stories, including the Press-Republican's two-day series on youth vaping, is a step in the right direction of convincing kids that vaping is just not cool.