EDITORIAL: The bag story

HEY, BUDDY, CAN YOU SPARE A BAG? Not if it’s a single-use “carry-out” bag and you want it in New York. In case you haven’t yet gone shopping, we are switching to “bag-off” mode starting Sunday, March 1.

Bag-ageddon! Most of us will not—or at least shouldn’t–be able to obtain the thin plastic bags that shoppers have used for carry their food and household needs from the supermarket checkout to the parking lot for the last 40 years. Instead, we’ll all have to get used to bringing a re-usable bag that’s full of re-usable bags into the store so we can wrangle groceries or other purchases to the car. You could buy new, reusable bags at the stores every time you shop, but eventually you’ll have so many bags, there won’t be any room left for groceries.

The state law banning many types of plastic bags was signed by Governor Cuomo almost a year ago. (Seven other states around the country have similar laws.) Back in 2019 the law got some attention but, with implementation delayed by a year, other news stories captured our attention. The delay has given bag providers and bag users time to adjust. But if the state Department of Environmental Conservation was alerting the public to prepare for the bright bagless future, it didn’t register around here until last week. So who needed anything else to worry about? Read more…

EDITORIAL: Talking is teaching

HOW DID YOU LEARN to speak? How could you possibly recall the specifics? Infants hear and repeat and, for the lucky majority, the magic of growth does the rest.

A lot of factors govern that “magic” of early childhood development, things like nutrition and environment, human contact and, for most infants, sound. Not just crying, either. Hungry little kids have hungry minds too. Between birth and three years old most of what an infant does is eat and learn (yes, diapers, too, but thankfully that’s not the focus here).

Some parents have to spend a lot of their time doing their best just to provide safe homes and enough to eat for their families. Other tasks must be deferred—tasks like learning. It’s hard enough to cover the life-sustaining basics working two jobs or because the learning part was absent in the parents’ upbringing. Some parents may not have experienced how little it takes to engage in the learning process with a small child and how much a mastery of literacy can improve the lifelong prospects for almost every child. Read more…

EDITORIAL: Grrrrrrrrrrr

BIGGER ISSUES demand our attention, but they don’t have wet noses. Thousands of voices compete for our attention, but the ones from furry muzzles often are best at claiming our time.

Dogs do a pretty good job at public relations too, even allowing for the occasional very-bad-dog story. Right now there’s a dog tale in the Village of Chatham that has nothing to do with the thoughtless, lawbreaking humans who don’t clean up after their pets as village law requires. It revolves around a question of comfort and how much of it—if any at all—a government should provide.

The comfort in this case takes the form of a comfort dog. It’s hard to say for sure what the dog thinks about it, but evidence suggests that all sorts of people benefit from man (or woman or child)-meets-dog encounters with what are now called “comfort dogs.” Read more…

EDITORIAL: Are we transparent yet?

THE NEWS FROM IOWA this week sounded a lot like a re-staging of last November’s Columbia County early-voting melodrama. The Iowa cast was larger but both productions left the political theater audience wondering whodunit.

Who or what was eating our ballots? In both cases early reports indicated that all was going well with new technology that promised to make the process of voting more accessible and transparent. That word “transparent” has become a required part of the modern political vocabulary. It’s shorthand for: “We’re so honest, we show you everything we’re doing.” The Iowa Democratic caucus system relied on a new “smart-phone app,” which party officials described as quite transparent. But it wasn’t transparent at all. It just didn’t work right.

The situation here was different in what seemed like a simple problem with ballots that were incorrectly printed. That could have been easily remedied. It was only when unofficial results were not available on the day after Election Day and for some time thereafter that the scope of the disruption became clear… but not exactly transparent. Read more…

EDITORIAL: Antidote for ignorance

NEWS OF THE NEW CORONAVIRUS is scary enough, even though no cases have appeared yet in this region. But we are already seeing another contagion related to the illness: online misinformation and disinformation about the virus.

Misinformation is spreading fast through search and social media. It doesn’t target us specifically, but you don’t have to search long (less than 30 seconds on Google) to find a “Natural Remedy” for a viral infection that does not yet have any known cure. What we face is a simultaneous outbreak of a new sickness coupled with the old epidemic of ignorance. Fortunately, we have tools to counteract ignorance if we agree to support them.

The remedy requires both access to accurate, understandable information as well as a willingness to learn. That second part presents the bigger challenge. Conspiracy theories and phony remedies naturally command our attention. Who doesn’t want easy answers? But let’s assume people do want to know more. When that’s the case where should we turn if we’re not scientists? Read more…