California: oh, the agony. Oh, the insults.
It is bad enough that the worst fire in the state's history has done cataclysmic damage, killing 80 souls, leaving another 1,000 still missing and reducing 12,000 properties to ash.
Then came the President, whose job at such an awful moment, while first responders do what they must do, is to offer solemn condolences and expressions of national resolve.
First, Trump threatened to withhold aid if the state's forest management isn't overhauled. (The fire started in a National Forest; the federal government oversees these.)
Sunday, he said the key to preventing future tragedy is to follow Finland's lead and "spend a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things." Finns replied with a well-known Finnish expression: What the hell are you talking about?
Americans should be grateful for all the professionals capable of expressing empathy and delivering timely relief. The President just doesn't happen to be one of them.
— The Daily News, New York
Americans would rightly be incensed if their government were gathering information on them on the scale that companies like Facebook and Google do. But few of us seem much concerned that private enterprise is doing this on a scale beyond anything dictators or advertising executives dreamed of just a few decades ago.
Maybe that's because it's all free, and users even get something in return — social networking, easy shopping, kitten videos. Perhaps these enterprises seem too big to comprehend, much less figure out how to reasonably regulate. Or maybe users have adopted a laissez-faire view of an unfettered internet.
Whatever it is, that mindset needs to change. The enormous influence of companies like Facebook might not be so bothersome if they behaved ethically. But as we're learning more and more, that's not always so.
Google, for example, was found to be tracking the movements of cellphone users even when they turned the feature off on their phones.
And as if Russian exploitation of Facebook's platform to influence the 2016 election was not bad enough, The New York Times details how Facebook went to great lengths to downplay it. It even hired a political consulting firm to help it discredit critics, in some cases with its own disinformation.
Russia going to such trouble to interfere in a U.S. election is one thing; an American company trying to keep that secret is quite another. That alone bears Congress' scrutiny.
The internet is a bastion of free speech, particularly on social media platforms like Facebook, which reported nearly 1.5 billion daily users in September. The speech ranges from the benign — like personal celebrations or rants on life and politics — to the malignant — such as the state-sponsored disinformation campaign by Russia in our elections or the Myanmar military's use of Facebook to incite genocide of Rohingya Muslims.
Americans shouldn't tolerate infringement of free speech absent a clear and present danger. When nations and rogue actors have figured out how to weaponize free-speech platforms, the danger is clear.
As sensitive a task as it may be, it is time Congress engages in an earnest debate over what minimum standards companies like Facebook and Google should operate under. We offer a few for starters: They should be vigilant for disinformation, and diligent in curtailing it; they should give users the option to keep their data private and not be spied on or tracked; and they should be transparent about problems like data breaches, sabotage or manipulation that could compromise personal privacy or the national interest.
— The Times Union, Albany
We have long placed great trust in the state Senate to be a necessary speed bump on the costly policies proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Assembly.
The Nov. 6 election removed the speed bump and built a Democratic Party drag strip from Buffalo to Albany.
The news is particularly bad for Chautauqua County. State Sen. Catharine Young, R-Olean, has worked her way into key leadership positions in the state Senate, which helped give the county a greater voice on state issues. It will be interesting to see how rural counties like Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties fare when it comes to school and infrastructure funding with so much of the state's decision-making power centered downstate. It was a struggle dealing with upstate issues even with Republican control of the state Senate. We shudder to think that things could actually get worse.
To his credit, some items on Cuomo's list of priorities include things most reasonable people can agree should happen. New York needs ethics reform. The bail system in New York needs to be reformed, though not at the expense of public safety. Some voting reform is certainly worth discussion, though we hope Cuomo starts small.
The DREAM Act, which gives tuition assistance to college students brought to the country illegally when they were children, seems likely to happen. The "Flag" bill, which would allow a teacher or family member to petition a court to have weapons confiscated from a person who may be dangerous or emotionally disturbed, also seems a safe bet to become law.
The New York Health Act has been passed before in the state Assembly and we're sure it will be a talking point come January. The act would ban private insurance, eliminate all insurance options and force both employers and employee to pay huge tax increases and is sure to be a talking point come January despite an independent analysis that shows the cost could exceed $226 billion — or roughly 450 percent more than current state income tax projections.
We know the types of legislation that will be making news. No one knows if state government will run like children let loose in the world's biggest candy store or if someone in power will act like an adult.
— The Post-Journal, Jamestown