EDITORIAL: What the drawing says

A FRIEND POSTED a photo of his backyard picnic table early last week. It had a foot of snow on it. Nothing special to look at except that he lives in Austin, TX. The news cycle has moved on to new miseries. Here the thermometer readings lurch from January to April and back.

We know March always triggers screwy weather here, but check out the column by The Catskills Geologists, Robert and Johanna Titus, on Page 20. Spoiler alert: the drawing with the column is not a new emoji. It represents the northern hemisphere of Earth. The diagram represents the big picture. The local angle to all this is electricity.

One of the biggest local electricity projects in recent years was scheduled to start work this week. It’s the upgrade of high voltage transmission lines running 54 miles from Schodack in southern Rensselaer County southward through the Columbia County Towns of Stuyvesant, Stockport, Claverack, Livingston and a slice of Clermont and on into Dutchess County on its way to New York City. Read more…

EDITORIAL: Hate speech spoken here

IT WAS A FORBIDDEN ITEM. Literally. The law made it a crime to possess this small, hardcover book. But it was the center of the party. It sat alone on a table in the apartment. Guests approached hesitantly. Some leafed through it. No one picked it up.

The cover was a painting of two children on a hillside. The boy, dressed in khaki shorts and shirt, stood while holding a kite. The girl sat at his side. I don’t remember the title. My eyes went immediately to the boy’s red armband with the swastika.

This was in Munich, 1974. Our hosts and their guests were young artists and media people, most of them born after World War II. Their political views might today be called progressive. Their interest in the Hitler Youth “textbook”—what drew them to that table—was that most of them had never seen a book from the Nazi regime before. Read more…

EDITORIAL: Can we find a better way?

THERE HAS TO BE A BETTER WAY to vaccinate a country of 331 million people, doesn’t there? Let’s assume some who read this agree. Does that mean we also agree on how we define what “better” means?

The statistics of the Covid-19 pandemic can make you dizzy even if you’re perfectly healthy. Some people get lucky and make an appointment on their first try just like some people win the lottery. In this pandemic, better would mean enough of the vaccine so that everybody could schedule appointments for their first and second shots at a time and place that is reasonably convenient.

If availability is part of “better,” then vaccinating the country will get a little better this week. The Biden administration will increase the number of vaccine doses by more than 20% to 13.5 million. Also this week the doses that go to pharmacies are scheduled to double, to 2 million. Read more…

EDITORIAL: Reinvent the police?

WHICH DID I SEE FIRST? The digital clock on the nightstand or the red-blue-white-red-blue-white police car lights through the bedroom curtains? It was 4:22 a.m. A speeding ticket? No. A second police car pulled up. My wife was at the window. She said the officers were talking to a young woman dressed for indoors, not the mid-20s. An ambulance arrived.

I got up to look. I didn’t see the woman. I saw a state trooper. His back was to me. He faced a man on the far sidewalk. The man was dressed in black. The man’s garment billowed as he waved his arms. His motions fell somewhere between flailing and dancing. He repeatedly lurched toward the trooper, then took a step back. A second trooper walked up to the first and casually handed him a trooper jacket. The first trooper put it on as if there was no man a few feet away.

We stopped watching. A few minutes later the lights, the cars, the ambulance and the people were gone. I don’t know how it played out. I’ve never seen anything exactly like it. The word that comes to mind is deescalation. Read more…

EDITORIAL: Not normal yet

THE MAP OF Covid-19 “HOT SPOTS” updated daily in The New York Times shows that Columbia County along with all the counties on the east side of the Hudson River between New York City and Rensselaer County to our north are “hotter”—more people testing positive for the novel coronavirus—than many counties elsewhere in the state.

But the rolling seven-day average of new cases has declined recently, which indicates transmission of the virus is, for now, slowing. And the trend is downward around the country, making it as hard as ever to determine what the figures might mean except that the illness remains with us.

That may help explain the short shelf-life of a news story last week that deaths from the virus at nursing homes in New York State “may have been undercounted by as much as 50 percent.” The finding was released by state Attorney General Letitia James in a report by her office: Nursing Homes’ Response to Covid-19. Read more…