"The existence of such a comparative structural burden," Judge Cole wrote, "undermines the equal protection clause's guarantee that all citizens ought to have equal access to the tools of political change."
The result of the court's sound ruling is a level playing field, as the Constitution demands. But the issue may not be settled. The Ninth Circuit has upheld a California affirmative-action ban that was a model for Michigan's. With a conflict in the circuits on this issue, the Supreme Court may be persuaded it is ripe for review.
The Times Union of Albany on government's handling of post-Superstorm Sandy recovery efforts.
The devastation that remains from Superstorm Sandy can't be overstated. Two weeks after Sandy slammed into the Northeast, more than 50,000 homes and businesses remain without power. Early estimates put the damage in three states at $50 billion.
The magnitude of the crisis demands that Gov. Andrew Cuomo, his counterparts in New Jersey and Connecticut, and Congress focus on the task at hand — relieving the very real human suffering and doing all they can to help the region recover. Tragedy would be compounded if they were to turn the issue of federal aid into an occasion for haggling or ideological posturing.
There is ample precedent for us to worry about just that.
In 2001, following the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, then-Gov. George Pataki made an eye-popping $54 billion request for federal aid. Mr. Pataki's request went far beyond what New York needed for that emergency. The governor larded on some $20 billion for tax incentives to lure businesses to the state and pay for subways, light rail, roads and bridges statewide. A high-speed passenger rail service between Schenectady and Manhattan was on his list.
Even with the extraordinary sympathy for all New York City had endured, even with a fellow Republican in the White House, Washington balked at Mr. Pataki's opportunism, however well-intentioned it might have been for the benefit of his state.
Listen to how one observer put it:
"When he put (out) a plan for $54 billion . and he had projects that were in no way connected to the recovery, they said, 'Here comes a local government that is looking to seize this situation for their own financial benefit,' and they recoiled."
That observer was a former U.S. secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Andrew Cuomo.
Now Mr. Cuomo is governor, with a bold request of his own: $30 billion to cover the cost of Sandy. Not just 75 percent of the cost, as federal aid normally works. He wants it all covered.
If he's to make that case, the governor must remember his own political wisdom in 2001: no games. This is no time to slip pet projects onto the list, or tack on a little extra to make his 2013 budget easier. Washington has problems of its own.
As for Congress, this is not the time to get bogged down in another protracted debate over big government or the nation's debt, not when tens of thousands of Americans are suffering, many of them residents of a state already facing a deficit next year that is hardly in a position to handle this disaster on its own. Trying to score political points in such a crisis ought to be below even Washington's low bar.
If lawmakers really want to do something meaningful, they can start talking about how the nation will cope with what are expected to be more of these kinds of emergencies in the future. That starts, of course, with Republicans in particular acknowledging that a warming world, and human activity's contribution to it, is not some liberal myth, but the consensus of the vast majority of scientists. To ignore this reality in pursuit of wishful thinking is irresponsible.
Then they can start planning for appropriate government help when disaster strikes, and where the money will come from. They can talk, too, about this: Should government be in the business of helping people rebuild vulnerable homes and businesses in flood- and storm-prone coastal areas? Or does it make more sense to return such land to open space and public use? And yes, perhaps they can even have an intelligent discussion about energy policy that doesn't desperately cling to a past dependent on fossil fuels and instead seizes a more sustainable and ultimately more affordable future.
The storm has passed, and so has the election. No more time for games.
The Watertown Daily Times on September's attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya.
Congressional inquiries into the attack on the Libyan consulate that claimed four American lives in September call into question claims made by President Obama and the administration about the nature of the assault on the anniversary of 9-11.
From the beginning, there appeared to be some confusion or miscommunication within the administration about whether the attack was a terrorist plot or a spontaneous demonstration similar to what had been happening in other Muslim countries in response to an online film denigrating Islam. The latter was the administration's position advanced by U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice on television five days after the attack in which Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others died.
President Obama last week angrily denounced attacks on Ambassador Rice by some members of Congress, particularly Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who said they would try to block her appointment as secretary of state if she were nominated by President Obama.
Retired CIA Director David H. Petreaus told Senate and House intelligence committees in closed-door testimony Friday that he believed almost immediately that the assault on the Benghazi consulate was an organized terrorist attack. According to reports, Mr. Petreaus also told lawmakers about the involvement of militants linked to al-Qaida.
That information was left out of a list of "talking points" prepared by the administration and apparently used by Ambassador Rice. It is not clear who may have altered the talking points. The decision may have been, as some suggest, politically motivated during the presidential campaign, or as others say, to protect anonymous intelligence sources.
Administration officials have said the conflicting comments about the attacks were based on information available at the time. But it remains unclear what the administration knew and when in determining whether it responded appropriately in a timely manner to the attacks and whether there was adequate security at the consulate.
Some details may remain classified, but the congressional investigations should answer the questions.