Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from Pennsylvania’s newspapers:

Jobless numbers deceiving

Altoona Mirror

June 9

About 156.5 million Americans are categorized as members of the civilian labor force. At least 41 million people who can work and, by definition, want to, are unemployed.

In other words, approximately one of every four people able to work is not employed — and is being supported by the rest. That is unsustainable even in the short term. Money does not grow on trees.

In truth, the numbers probably are even worse. The 41 million people referred to above are only those who have filed new claims for unemployment benefits during the past couple of months. Nearly 5.9 million others were jobless prior to the COVID-19 epidemic.

Getting the economy back in gear may be more difficult than merely declaring that the epidemic is under control.

While tens of millions of us were under various levels of lockdowns and shutdowns because of the coronavirus, spending and consumption patterns have changed. More of us are saving money rather than spending it.

And the way many of us obtain what goods we are buying has been altered dramatically. Far more online purchases are occurring, simply because in many areas, far fewer brick-and mortar establishments are open.

Restoring economic normalcy will require changing our shopping habits back to what they were three months ago.

Plainly, that will not happen. A certain percentage of online shoppers will stick with that formula. That will mean jobs formerly available in our communities will not exist anymore.

Normally, government should not interfere with production, distribution and consumption patterns set by the public. These are not normal times.

Throughout the country, tens of thousands of businesses must find ways to evolve — or close their doors forever.

Going forward, government efforts to restart the economy will have to mature from simply handing out money to targeting specific sectors that require pump priming. Small brick-and-mortar businesses may well be the bullseye of such efforts.

Clearly, the sooner such a strategy is adopted, the better. Time is running out for many businesses that will either resume providing jobs in our communities — or will not.



A new call for police reforms

The Citizen’s Voice

June 10

This time might be different. George Floyd’s on-camera murder while under the control of Minneapolis police might go down in history as an event similar to Rosa Parks deciding to keep her seat at the front of the bus.

Over the last few decades the deaths of unarmed black men and women at the hands of police have produced mostly local demonstrations and a great deal of hand-wringing among politicians, but scant reforms.

The grim video of Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin grinding his knee into Floyd’s neck appears to have achieved political critical mass, spurring reform proposals from Congress through statehouses through city halls.

In the politically polarized U.S. House, Democratic Speaker and Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, both of California, said Friday that they can find common ground on key reforms, including: Tying federal funding to required police training on bias; ensuring that union contracts cannot preclude firing officers with multiple disciplinary findings; altering the legal immunity that prevents victims from seeking redress against officers and departments; and requiring detailed record-keeping on arrests of minority members.

Other sound proposals call for outlawing the chokeholds that have led to several deaths. Many departments already ban them as a matter of policy.

In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf called for reforms Thursday, mandating a review of use-of-force training standards, creating local citizens advisory boards through the Commission on Crime and Delinquency, creating a special prosecutor to investigate police violence rather than leaving it to local authorities, providing more state assistance to help officers deal with stress; mandating easy access to police camera videos; and other measures.

It’s also clear that civilian authorities must address police training to handle demonstrations. Over the last week, there have been many instances of police instigating or accelerating violence, rather than trying to control it. Video of two Buffalo, New York officers pushing an unarmed, unthreatening 75-year-old man to the ground and causing a life-threatening head injury was particularly disturbing — all the more so when police later filed a report claiming he simply had tripped.

Congress and state lawmakers should take on many other reforms. Police unions should not be allowed to donate to politicians running for district attorney or attorney general, for example, which creates the impression that police are a favored political constituency and casts doubt on investigations of police.

Nobody thinks police work is easy, and everyone knows it is crucial. But requiring accountability from public agencies does not constitute a lack of support.

As Wolf correctly put it: “It’s not about pointing fingers, it’s about building trust.”



NFL, NASCAR will have chance to prove they meant what they said

The York Dispatch

June 10

They’re saying all the right things. That was easy.

Now they must do all the right things. That will be much harder.

That’s the situation that both the NFL and NASCAR find themselves in.

Friday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league was wrong for not listening to its players fighting for racial equality and encouraged them to peacefully protest. He also said the NFL believes that Black Lives Matter.

It was Goodell’s strongest statement yet on social-justice issues and stands in stark contrast to the recent past, when the NFL threatened to impose fines on players kneeling during the national anthem. Teams that permitted kneeling were also threatened with fines.

Just two days later, NASCAR came out with a similar statement, vowing to “do better” when addressing racial justice. With its southern roots and its one-time embrace of Confederate symbols, NASCAR has a checkered racial history. The organization has launched diversity programs but still struggles to shake its reputation as a largely white sport. It has just one black driver on the Cup Series.

To have two of the most popular sports organizations in the nation acknowledging their past mistakes is a small sign of progress.

It will be a much more encouraging sign, however, when the two organizations actually follow through on the promises. That will not be easy, because standing up for social justice could very well have a negative impact on their bottom lines.

Unfortunately, both organizations have shown in the past that the color they value most is green.

How will the NFL react to kneeling players this time? Will it try to avoid the issue by keeping the players in the locker room during the national anthem? Will it revert to threatening punishments? Or will the league fully support the players’ constitutional right to protest?

If it follows the latter path, the league risks alienating many members of its fan base, which is overwhelmingly white and largely conservative. Many of those fans will see players kneeling during the national anthem as a sign of disrespect to the flag, to the military and to the police. They may voice their displeasure by no longer buying tickets or no longer watching games.

York College investigating allegations of racist social media posts by students

How will NASCAR respond: For NASCAR, the issue likely won’t come to a head until fans are allowed back at its races. When that happens, there will undoubtedly be numerous Confederate flags flying in the parking lot.

Bubba Wallace wants NASCAR to ban Confederate flag at races

How will NASCAR respond? Will it ignore the flags, or will it openly and forcefully condemn the racist symbol? As with the NFL, such a statement will certainly not sit well with some members of NASCAR Nation. Again, as with the NFL, they may express their rancor by closing their wallets to the NASCAR product.

Former Eagles linebacker Acho launches ‘Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man’

It will be fascinating to see how this develops. The NFL and NASCAR have a simple choice. Will they select justice or will they pick profit?

Time will tell.



Donate plasma, save a life

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

June 10

People who have recovered from COVID-19 have a unique opportunity to help patients now suffering from the coronavirus. Health authorities need more of them to step up and donate blood plasma to make it happen.

In recent weeks, the demand for plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients — blood that includes antibodies they developed while sick with the virus — has outpaced the supply of it by about 2 to 1.

The plasma can be used in a handful of treatments to help current and future patients.

A Mayo Clinic project is using plasma from survivors in transfusions to help treat patients who are seriously ill with COVID-19. In other projects, plasma can be used to help develop antibody serums and other treatments meant to help treat ill people.

In most cases, to qualify for plasma donation, survivors will need to have been tested for coronavirus. While testing has been limited, medical officials know that many people have gotten sick and recovered without ever getting a test to definitively diagnose their virus case. This unfortunately limits the pool of potential donors.

While rooted in experience with similar convalescent plasma treatments used with other illnesses, the COVID-19 plasma projects are all experimental as the coronavirus is new and treatments are only being developed. But medical officials believe the plasma treatments are promising and hope more of the growing number of recovered patients will donate blood to help develop them.

With more than 2 million cases of coronavirus in the United States, there are more potential donors every day. Those who want to donate their plasma should talk with their doctors to find out whether they are eligible and where they can donate.



Philly’s FOP is like the Wizard of Oz: powerful and mighty until you look behind the curtain

The Philadelphia Inquirer

June 10

As Philadelphia and the nation enter a third week of protests against police brutality, debates about how to reform policing are gaining momentum. But those debates will lead nowhere unless we dispel with the delusion that because police are funded with tax dollars, they will be accountable to the public. That’s a delusion because of a dangerous force: police unions that are actively fighting against change or accountability. That includes Philadelphia’s Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5.

On Monday morning, while the rest of the country was facing a moment of reckoning with police brutality, the president of the FOP, John McNesby, and over 100 other members cheered Staff Inspector Joseph Bologna as he surrendered himself to face aggravated assault charges for beating a protester — on video. A second incident of brutality against a protester is being investigated.

Bologna has been at the center of controversy over police misconduct and force used by those under his command since the early 2000s. None of that prevented Bologna from being promoted to staff inspector.

The FOP has a long history of supporting cops who have been fired or demoted for offenses, including sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking, and lying under oath. The FOP is able to protect officers because of the arbitration process laid out in the contract. The arbitration panels are secret and rulings are final. An Inquirer investigation found that more than 100 questionable cops were rehired or had sanctions against them overturned through arbitration.

Police should have avenues to appeal management decisions and disputes. But there are models around the country for a more just appeal process: placing the burden of proof on officers, allowing civilian commissions to adjudicate police disciplinary matters, allowing appeals to go to court, or requiring that City Council approve arbitration decisions.

Some of these models could require changes to state law, but there is more that the city can gain at the bargaining table next winter before the one-year extension of the contract expires.

There is a perception that the FOP is an all-powerful political entity. That no longer seems to be the case. In 2017, the FOP shelled out nearly $50,000 on Rich Negrin and Beth Grossman campaigns in their effort to stop Larry Krasner from becoming DA. Negrin came in third. Hardly a show of force. Ninety percent of the FOP’s money spent on City Council candidates in 2019 went to support five candidates who lost.

The FOP is like the Wizard of Oz — it seems powerful and mighty until you look behind the curtain. There is nothing for Mayor Jim Kenney, or any other elected official, to be afraid of. Hopefully, they finally recognize it: This week, 14 members of Council and Kenney announced support to changes in arbitration, among other reforms.

Employees of the Philadelphia Police Department deserve a union to advocate for them. The FOP, however, time and again ignored racial and gender discrimination, as well as sexual harassment and assault. If officers in Philadelphia really want to be part of the solution, they have to demand change from their union — even if it means disbanding it and starting a new union from scratch.