ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The Kingston Daily Freeman on mismanagement at the Thruway Authority and determining fair toll levels.

Aug. 21

Poor governance in the Empire State took on a new wrinkle last week, when one state agency took to blaming another for its historical ineptitude.

We speak of the state Thruway Authority, which was been beaten to a bloody pulp for its plan to raise truck tolls 45 percent. Taking the lead in that beating was state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who said authority costs have risen 36 percent over 10 years, but alleged the authority has failed to make management improvements that have been recommended by the comptroller's office.

In a bizarre riposte, Thruway Executive Director Thomas Madison blasted the comptroller, accusing DiNapoli's office of failing to adequately monitor the authority's performance.

Madison stated that the "comptroller, and his audits over the years, have actually contributed to past problems at the Thruway Authority by failing to report years of fiscal gimmicks and deferred expenses."

In effect, you've got some nerve to blame us for our mismanagement. Where were you when we needed you to save us from our own ineptitude?

OK, we get the point. Presumably, today is a new day and the authority claims to be setting things right, no thanks to the comptroller.

But, still, the Thruway Authority is seeking a 45 percent increase in tolls because, well, the authority mismanaged its affairs.

Trucks may or may not be paying their fair share of Thruway tolls.

The cash toll for a car to travel from Kingston to Buffalo is $15.50. The current cash toll for a big rig is $116.35. Under the proposal, the truck toll for that trip would rise to $168.70.

On the one hand, the Thruway Authority says tolls for "large trucks on the Thruway — mostly long distance haulers — are 50 to 85 percent less in New York than in comparable states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania."

On the other hand, DiNapoli says the tolls are 43 percent higher for large trucks in New York than in Massachusetts.

Then, again, the question may be what constitutes a fair share.

Madison asserted that "large commercial trucks cause nearly 10,000 times the damage to the road system as do passenger cars. Yet commercial tolls are only five times greater than passenger tolls on the Thruway. The proposed adjustment begins to address this disparity."

Where exactly that observation leaves the authority in its search for equity is unclear.

In principle, we're all for pay-as-you go on toll roads. We rather doubt, however, that pegging the truck tolls at 10,000 times the toll for passenger vehicles is practicable.

But a 45 percent increase in one fell swoop strikes us as a lot, too.


The Glens Falls Post-Star on agriculture's place in New York's economy.

Aug. 16

Agriculture is the often-overlooked economic engine that drives much of our state's and our region's economy, chugging along like a trusty old tractor, bringing in the cash and spinning off the jobs that are the foundation of our prosperity.

A 100-head dairy farm may employ only a handful of people at relatively low wages, but it's a capital-intensive business that requires major and ongoing investments in equipment and feed. Dairy farmers keep multiple other businesses alive, from tractor-sellers to milking system dealers to feed-sellers to contractors who put up silos and milking parlors and cow barns to large animal veterinarians to milk truckers.

Lots of money flows into a dairy farm and lots of money flows out of it.

So, although it would be easy to mock the yogurt summit held this week by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in which he brought together state officials and dairy farmers to talk about opportunities in yogurt production, we'll refrain. Instead, we'll praise the governor for recognizing how important the dairy industry is in New York and grabbing the opportunity to capitalize on consumers' growing taste for yogurt.

Cuomo announced at the summit he is loosening restrictions on dairy farmers, allowing farms with up to 300 cows to operate without a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations permit. Obtaining the permit can cost a single farm from $50,000 to $150,000, according to the New York Farm Bureau. Previously, the permits were required for farms with more than 200 cows.

The action is meant to lighten the regulatory burden on dairy farms and take advantage of a boom in yogurt production in upstate New York. Farming is both a highly regulated industry and one that benefits from various government supports, such as special agricultural zoning districts, milk price supports, federal crop insurance and so on. The state and the country have a tradition of recognizing with public support the critical importance of maintaining a stable and healthy food supply.

But, just as farms tend to blend in with the rural landscape, farming's role in local economies is too often overlooked. Farming is the largest and most important industry in Washington County, and statewide it is more than a $4 billion industry, with almost a quarter of all the land in the state used for farming.

We were also heartened to see Wednesday's front-page story on the growth of food-buying clubs in New York City that are buying meat and produce from farmers in our area. Urban consumers who have educated themselves about food are seeking meat from animals raised in healthy, humane conditions and produce that hasn't been genetically altered or soaked in pesticides. They're looking for the type of food products that come out of family farms in northern New York, and they're willing to pay a premium for them.

The embrace from the buying public of smaller, family farms is encouraging for local farmers and for everyone in the region, since the farmers' success is important to the region's prosperity.

The national movement toward a more traditional supply chain, where food and livestock are grown and raised within a day's drive of where they're sold, is also good news for the personal health of our population. The benefits of efficiency in large-scale operations are eventually outweighed by the poor quality of the product, especially when it comes to food.


The New York Times on Rep. Todd Akin and extremism in the Republican Party.

Aug. 20

Republicans are frantically trying to get Representative Todd Akin to drop out of the United States Senate race in Missouri after his remark about abortion and rape, but not because it was offensive and ignorant. They're afraid he might lose and cost them a chance at a Senate majority next year. He would surely be replaced by a Republican who sounds more reasonable but holds similarly extreme views on abortion, immigration, gay rights and the role of government because those are the kinds of candidates the party nominates these days in state after state.

Like many Republicans, including the vice presidential candidate, Paul Ryan, Mr. Akin opposes abortion even when a woman has been raped. But, in an interview that was aired on Sunday, Mr. Akin went further and decided to explain his position by saying that pregnancy rarely results from rape because "if it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."

His comments betray more than a remarkable unfamiliarity with the human reproductive system. They expose a widely held belief among many fierce abortion opponents that a rape exception will be abused by women whose rapes were not "legitimate." This came up last year, for example, when the Indiana House was debating a stringent abortion restriction and Republicans objected to a rape exception. State Representative Eric Turner said the exception was a "giant loophole" that could be abused by a woman who falsely claimed she had been raped.

The principal difference between Mr. Akin and most other Republican candidates is that they would be more decorous in inventing reasons to strip women of their abortion rights. One of the two candidates Mr. Akin defeated in the Republican primary last week supported the overturn of Roe v. Wade; the other supported a constitutional amendment saying life begins at conception.

All three positions are outside the mainstream of American opinion, but they are pretty much in the dead center of Republican thinking. Mr. Ryan has said he doesn't believe in a rape exception when outlawing abortion, and he worked with Mr. Akin in the House in trying to narrow the definition of rape so Medicaid would pay for fewer abortions of poor women. Mitt Romney says he supports a rape exception, but many of the politicians he has invited to speak at next week's Republican convention disagree with him.

As several recent Republican primaries demonstrated, the party continues to nominate Tea Party candidates who create increasingly ludicrous definitions of "far right." Ted Cruz, who won the Senate primary in Texas and is all but certain to be elected, favors the closure of the Departments of Energy, Commerce and Education, along with the Transportation Security Administration and, naturally, the I.R.S. He says he is very worried that the United Nations is trying to ban golf courses and paved roads.

Ted Yoho, who won a Congressional primary in northern Florida, wants to abolish the income tax and replace it with a sales tax, believes life begins at conception and considers gun ownership a "birthright."

The Republicans pressuring Mr. Akin to leave the race didn't seem to care when he said he doubted that Medicare was constitutional or warned that same-sex marriage would destroy civilization. If the party wanted to end these kinds of embarrassing moments, it could return to the days when it nominated mainstream candidates.


The Oneonta Daily Star on praising rather than trivializing the accomplishments of female Olympians.

Aug. 17

The London Summer Olympics have been called the Olympics of the Woman. And rightfully so. For the first time, every nation participating in the Games had at least one female athlete competing. And for many nations — including the United States, China and Russia — women earned more medals than their male counterparts.

The women competitors included Tahmina Kohistani, Afghanistan's only woman at the Games, who, according to a story in The Washington Post, had to convince her family and her country it was acceptable for a Muslim woman to leave her home and compete in the Olympics.

Facing ridicule and scorn, she ran the 100-meter dash as a way to inspire girls to reach beyond the confines of traditional Muslim culture. The Islamic nations of Saudi Arabia, Brunei and Qatar also fielded female athletes for the first time.

Unfortunately, inspiring stories such as these were drowned out amid the torrent of tweets about the state of American gymnast Gabby Douglas' hair, or accusations that Douglas was unpatriotic because one of the leotards she wore in competition was pink, not red, white or blue. These people seem to forget that Douglas is 16 years old, left her family in Virginia to move to Iowa to pursue her Olympic dreams and received two gold medals, including the first all-around gold medal won by an African-American female gymnast.

And rather than talk about the strength of will and work ethic needed by American Kerri Walsh Jennings to return to win her third gold medal in beach volleyball with partner Misty May-Treanor after having two children, more was made of the skimpy uniforms that she and others wore during the competition.

Added to this are the many comments about Lolo Jones, namely the story by New York Times sports writer Jere Longman, who spent way too much time on a tirade about the hurdler's beauty and lack of talent. If he was irate about the excessive coverage of Jones, he, as a writer, could have chosen to bring attention to others he felt had more ability. Instead, he decided to degrade Jones for being a 30-year-old devout Christian woman and a virgin.

We should laud the efforts and abilities of these amazing female athletes. They have dedicated their lives and made many sacrifices to achieve their dreams of being able to represent their countries at the Olympics.

Rather than focus on superficial details and worn-out stereotypes, we should be highlighting their talents and achievements. We could learn a thing or two from them — like how to become stronger, healthier and more confident in who we are as individuals. That would truly be honoring the Olympic spirit.


The Watertown Daily Times on the low level of debate in the presidential race.

Aug. 20

The selection of Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin to be Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's running mate was expected to "elevate" the national debate about the issues confronting America. The first week, though, has seen the campaigns degenerate into more name-calling and scare tactics.

In the never-ending cycle of campaigns, one cannot point to a beginning of the negative ads. However, they have increased in intensity with the release of the Obama campaign's misleading ad shortly before Mr. Ryan was chosen.

The ad blamed Mr. Romney for the death from cancer of the wife of steelwork Joe Soptic after he lost his job when the steel plant he worked at was closed by Bain Capital years after Mr. Romney left Bain to work on the 2002 Olympics.

The tenor of the campaigns has gone downhill in the past few days.

Vice President Joe Biden played the race card Tuesday at a campaign stop in Danville, Va., where he told a group of supporters that Romney would "unchain Wall Street" by rolling back regulations and "put y'all back in chains." The Romney campaign responded, saying the comments were unacceptable and a "new low" for the Obama campaign, which in turn called the GOP complaints "faux outrage."

Mr. Romney in Ohio said Vice President Biden's comments showed an "angry and desperate presidency" and told President Obama to "take your campaign of division and anger and hate back to Chicago." The Obama campaign could not let that pass. Spokesman Ben LaBolt said Mr. Romney's remarks "seemed unhinged and particularly strange coming at a time when he's pouring tens of millions of dollars into negative ads that are demonstrably false."

Mr. Romney, though, pushed back on Wednesday telling "CBS This Morning," that "unhinged would have to characterize what we've seen from the president's campaign."

President Obama weighed in with a clarification of his vice president's rhetoric intended as a warning that Americans will be "a lot worse off" if Wall Street reforms enacted during his administration are repealed.

Has all this helped to better understand the differences between President Obama and Mr. Romney's complex Medicare plans? Or their tax policies? Deficit reduction proposals? Entitlement reform?

The candidates need to raise the level of the campaigning and have that meaningful debate on the real issues that Americans are waiting to hear.