A round-up of Sunday editorials from Alabama’s leading newspapers:
The Anniston Star – Which summer blockbuster most closely resembles the Alabama Lege?
Maybe it’s just me, but over the past week the Alabama Legislature brought to mind a movie. Not great cinema, either. It’s a summer blockbuster with all the trappings: unoriginal storyline, tired dialogue and lots of loud crashes and explosions.
Thursday, both houses of the Lege worked on the state’s General Fund budget, the one that finances everything but public education. Granted, “worked” is way too generous. Better to describe last week as a slow and uninspiring shuffle toward inaction.
The competing plans to withstand a $280 million shortfall — tax increases or deep budget cuts or expansion of gambling — seemed to cancel each other out. Now it appears the General Fund will be put aside until a special session of the Legislature in August, which will leave lawmakers less than two months to come up with a solution.
It’s just like the movies, right? We wait until the very last minute for the hero to sweep in and save the world.
With that in mind, I tried to fit Montgomery’s budget dithering into the plot of some of this summer’s blockbusters.
The Birmingham News – Readers battle over casinos, common core and Kings: week in review
Gambling legislation may have stalled in the state house but reader opinions seem to be shifting the odds in favor of casinos. Additionally, a former state Republican chairman has some bold claims about Hillary Clinton.
You don’t become a beloved football coach without taking a few gambles. So it makes sense that former Auburn head coach Pat Dye would support Senator Del Marsh’s lottery and gambling plan. He even frames it in football terms: “From a coaching standpoint, these surrounding states have a tremendous advantage in their athletic programs due to the lottery and gaming revenues that are allocated to scholarships.”Jim Stein, Sr., agrees. He says that the states happiest about Alabama’s current lack of gambling are our neighbors.
Carl Dimnick, however, writes that Alabama would be “selling our soul for $70 million a year” in its pursuit of gambling revenue. Instead, he recommends generating $150 million a year by adding a five cent gasoline tax increase.
The next generation of feuding over the legacy of a King? That may sound like the subject of a Shakespeare play but it’s also the reality of a dispute between the niece and daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Earlier this week, King’s niece, Alveda, pleaded with Alabama lawmakers to repeal Common Core. In response, his daughter, Bernice, argued that we should honor King’s push for equality and respect by respecting our students enough to hold them to higher standards. Here’s hoping you make your decision based on the content of their arguments.
Speaking of Civil Rights Era icons, what are the odds that Hillary Clinton will wind up like Lyndon Johnson? Bill Armistead, former chairman of the Alabama Republican Party, says that Clinton and Johnson share a history of “failed foreign policy,” which will ultimately be Clinton’s undoing. He also argues that Clinton may eventually drop her pursuit of the Democratic Nomination. He notes there are some differences though. He points out that Clinton is older, for example. I agree with part of Armistead’s argument. I do think Clinton and Johnson have something in common – they’ll both be listed in the history books as “president.”
The Decatur Daily – All’s quiet when China comes up
Our politicians can argue until they turn blue about what the United States should do about terrorists in the Middle East and missile launches from North Korea. But the country that will exert the greatest impact on the United States’ place in the 21st century is China.
And for all the atrocity committed by the group calling itself the Islamic State, for all the absurd stories about Kim Jong-Un and his temper, everyone in Washington wants to share their opinion until the talk turns to China.
That’s when the room grows quiet.
A strategy paper issued by the Chinese military this week only hinted at the country’s ulterior goals in its recent appearance in the Spratly Islands. You probably saw video on TV or the Internet last week of a U.S. military surveillance plane flying near a contested atoll in the islands and the subsequent response from Chinese military, ordering it to “leave immediately.”
That’s not how friends behave, and the Chinese strategy paper makes it quite clear that it considers the largely uninhabited Spratly Islands its sovereign territory. Even though Vietnam has claimed the island chain since the 1600s, China rarely takes no for an answer, as it has shown in “claiming” parts of India, Tibet, Japan, Taiwan and others.
So far, the bully has gotten its way, not without stern lectures from Western leaders who know how to posture but have little will to show the growing Chinese power their teeth.
China is pursuing a policy of expanding its military footprint, certainly its naval prowess, in a way that should cause concern. Other world powers have done the same, or tried and failed: Britain, France, Germany in the most recent past. And the United States.
Yes, even though the United States was more politically correct in its strategy to establish a worldwide presence, our forefathers had a similar goal in mind: create forward bases to reach foreign countries for military operations and for trade.
That’s why we have or had bases near key passes such as the Strait of Hormuz, the Panama Canal, the Suez Canal, etc. The U.S. now has more than 300 bases on foreign soil, if you’re counting, and these bases serve us well. Without “colonizing” like the British did in so many lands, America used its far-flung presence to establish itself as the world’s pre-eminent power, at times both militarily and economically.
Dothan Eagle – Positive news from the cops beat
In recent months, several incidents involving police and unarmed suspects have led to rioting and seemingly endless rhetoric about excessive force by officers in many parts of the country. Surely these situations, and the impact of the ensuing negative perception of law enforcement has taken a toll on the legions of men and women entrusted with keeping the peace in every community.
The story of a young boy’s triumphant mastery of his bicycle, a theft and police response in a small Alabama town won’t likely resonate across the nation like the controversial shootings have. But it should.
Reporter Carol Robinson of Al.com tells of the theft of 7-year-old Tripp Noles’ bicycle from the back of his father’s truck outside a Walmart store in Hueytown. The youngster had just ridden the bike without training wheels, and his father had taken his son to wash the bicycle and buy the boy a treat.
While they were in the store, thieves swiped the bicycle. Hueytown police officers who came to take the report decided to replace the youngster’s bike, and purchased one while they were at the store.
A short while later, they recovered the original bike.
Officers often perform such quiet acts of compassion, but they don’t usually make headlines. They’re human, like the rest of us, and see a lot of the bad side of life.
However, these officers’ kindness had quite an impact on the Noles family: young Tripp, with no real need for two bicycles, is looking for a youngster without a bike, and plans to give him one.
That’s the sort of police interaction that deserves far more publicity than it gets.
The Enterprise Ledger – King one of those to cherish… forever
I saw B.B. King once at an outdoor concert. He was far less mobile by this point in the early 2000’s and sat in a chair while he played. It would have been sad, but who had time to feel sad when such beautiful music came from those fingers. Diabetes may have been kicking his feet and legs, but it had not managed to affect his mind, heart and fingers.
There are people who we cherish that will never know us.
I still believe Julius Erving (Dr. J) is the most graceful basketball player to ever lace up a pair of sneakers, but the closest I ever got to him was from the stands at a preseason game in Kansas City, Missouri, that and the fact that we share the same birthday. I had idolized him as an ABA player. And though I was never on his payroll, I basically served as his p.r. firm in my neck of the woods, telling friends that what they saw of him in the NBA paled in comparison to what his did with the New York Nets of the ABA.
I shook Bear Bryant’s hand – twice — after and before he had shaken millions more, so the fact that I felt – at that age — as if I had shaken the hand of God himself probably didn’t register with him.
The occasions I got to hang out with Levon Helm (The Band) and listen to his stories may have well been my favorite moments ever outside of spending time with my children. I was fortunate enough to know his sisters and was asked to join in on some family visits. I named a dog after Levon. Does it get more honorable than that?
TimesDaily – Around the state
Dothan Eagle on giving back the state’s beachfront mansion:
There’s a tradition among Alabama politicians to kick the can down the road, ignoring intractable problems or situations that may cause them to look bad to voters.
That would explain why many Alabamians were not aware the state owns a million-dollar beachfront mansion in Gulf Shores for the governor’s use until an Associated Press story about the structure ran in newspapers across the state during the holiday weekend.
When the state continually is cutting budgets and threatening tax increases, the idea taxpayers are footing the bill for a high-dollar gubernatorial getaway would not go over well with the masses.
As reported by The Associated Press, the beach mansion story reveals a series of governmental missteps, from its creation more than half a century ago to its more recent deterioration brought on by hurricane damage almost 20 years ago.
It began in the Wallace administration, with beachfront property donated by a Louisiana developer, E. Lamar Little and his partners. Material for the construction was given by private interests. The agreement with donors states that the property cannot be sold.
Now the property is in disrepair, boarded up and largely abandoned except for an elderly caretaker who drives over from Mobile to check on it a couple of times a week. It’s a source of consternation to owners of neighboring property, but officials don’t want to spend taxpayer money to fix it up — that would look bad. Because of the binding agreement, they also cannot sell it.
But what they can do, they won’t. They could give the property back to the original donor. In fact, the Associated Press reports that he’s sue d unsuccessfully to get it back twice.
The answer seems clear. Gov. Robert Bentley should return the property to Little, whose most recent attempt to reclaim the beach retreat was 2010. Then it won’t be the state’s problem — or embarrassment.
The Gadsden Times – Be on guard against identity thieves
In most cases, a determined thief is a successful thief, and the digital age has opened a whole new arena for thieves to practice their cunning. A look at some of the items filed with the Gadsden Police Department this week provides proof.
In addition to stolen and forged checks, several cases of identity theft and fraud were reported in the span of a few days, one dating to 2012. In that instance, the thief used another person’s identity to obtain a payday loan and to obtain a cellphone service.
In the “slow and steady” category, a woman reported her debit card has been used to make thousands of dollars in transactions, with the fraudulent purchases dating to 2013. In general, small transactions are easy to hide on a bank statement unless it is given thorough scrutiny, so a crafty thief got away with a big monetary gain, one bite at a time.
Another thief did not have the patience for that. A woman reported that she dropped her debit card at a local business. By the time she realized it, her bank account had been wiped clean.
One of the more disturbing cases went unnoticed for about 10 months. A Gadsden man had a credit card he never used. He didn’t realize it had been stolen — apparently taken last July — until he applied for a credit card and was denied because of bad credit on that account. The thief seems to have changed the mailing address for the credit card bills so the victim remained unaware of the theft.
The Huntsville Times – Yes, this is a real ad for Rand Paul
We’re early in the 2016 presidential campaign season but the awesome – or, depending on your perspective, awesomely bad – ads are already making an appearance.
Take for example this one from a super PAC supporting Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, one of the growing number of candidates seeking the Republican presidential nomination. America’s Liberty PAC’s ad includes an image of Paul’s face on a bodybuilder fighting against the Patriot Act and President Obama’s “Washington spy machine.”
The ad doesn’t pull any punches on fellow GOP challengers, either, calling Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, “The Capitulating Canadian,” for supporting a compromise bill (and apparently for being born in Canada while holding dual citizenship) and accusing Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., of reading personal emails while “doing donuts in a 1997 GEO Metro while it’s on fire.”
The barbs all center on Paul’s fight against the Patriot Act. The Senator was successful last week in his efforts to block renewal of a provision of the controversial program that allows the government to collect data on American’s phone calls.
The Senate is expected to take up the issue in a Sunday session, or, as the wrestling-promo style ad says it, “Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!”
Times have changed, technology has changed, but clear limitations on the government’s reach into the lives and information of Americans should not be abandoned.
Many Americans, including groups ranging from the ACLU to the NRA, have strongly opposed the NSA’s bulk data collection of Americans’ private information. Recent developments suggest that our courts and political leaders are beginning to agree.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently held that “the text of § 215 [of the Patriot Act]…does not authorize the [NSA’s] telephone metadata program.” In other words, the court determined that the NSA exceeded its authority by creating a massive database of telephone metadata.
Just last week, the Senate rejected a two-month extension of section 215 that would have permitted the NSA’s mass surveillance activities to continue. If the Senate fails to act by the end of May, the NSA’s bulk data collection program of items like telephone records will cease for the first time in almost a decade.
Let’s just focus on the telephone metadata collection program for a minute.
The basic requirement for mass metadata collection under section 215 is that the records be relevant to an authorized investigation.
Montgomery Advertiser – Don’t waste opportunity in special session
The refrain about Alabama’s General Fund problems taking a long time to develop and thus requiring a long time to solve is getting more than a little old. The latest version, from House Speaker Mike Hubbard, is just more of the same dithering politician-speak Alabamians have heard over and over again:
“We didn’t create this overnight. It’s going to take us a while to get out of it. It’s been building for decades and decades.”
Enough of that. There are members of the Legislature who have been there for decades and decades. Hubbard himself has been there since 1998. For five consecutive annual sessions of the Legislature, Republicans have held supermajorities in both the House and Senate. They’ll have those supermajorities for the next three annual sessions.
They’re the guys in charge. They’ve had ample time and opportunity to face the fiscal facts and formulate some sort of sensible strategy for funding the crucial state responsibilities paid out of the chronically strapped General Fund. They haven’t done it.
Now the regular session enters its last days with little progress on any significant revenue measures for the General Fund. A sadly inadequate General Fund budget with grim consequences for the state has been proposed, and Gov. Robert Bentley has vowed to veto it. He should veto it; it’s irresponsible on fiscal and policy grounds and unconscionable on moral grounds.
To his credit, Bentley offered a sound tax package that would stabilize the General Fund and provide enough funding for key departments such as prisons, Medicaid and law enforcement to allow them to operate at reasonable levels of service. The major components of the proposal have gone nowhere.
Opelika-Auburn News – Don’t forget to celebrate National Donut Day
Next Friday, June 5, is National Donut Day. The first Friday in June has that honor every year. What a great thing to happen. Hard to have a better designation.
National Donut Day, or National “Doughnut” Day, was created by The Salvation Army in 1938 to honor those who served doughnuts to soldiers during World War I. It was a young doctor’s idea to hand out the doughnuts that grew into an annual event taken up by nurses all over.
The doughnut is a 19th century creation that has several possible origins. Basically, it’s fried yeast-raised dough. The hole came along as a way to allow the doughnut to cook more evenly.
The filled doughnut is just that. All sorts of fillings are piped in, and there’s no hole. Both jellies and creams are popular. In some cases, an actual fruit filling is used.
There are also cake doughnuts. These are an actual cake batter that is fried. This batter is often chocolate or has fruit-like blueberries mixed in it.
Cinnamon twists, crullers, honey buns and cinnamon rolls are extensions of the doughnut process. And don’t forget doughnut “holes.” Not a hole, but the resulting leftovers of making a hole or a specially made non-hole.
Most doughnuts are glazed or iced in some way. Sometimes the cake versions are simply dusted with confectioner’s sugar or cinnamon. The toppings now reach far beyond simplicity. You will find nuts, sprinkles and other items being used.
Here is the “skinny” on donuts. They are fried dough. In the frying process, some oil is absorbed. For the basic glazed donut, that a smooth 25 percent of its weight. The cake models absorb less due to a shorter frying time. Don’t worry. There’s shortening or butter in the batter to make up for it. Then there’s the glaze. It appears there’s not much “skinny” about one at all.
Sometime around 1900, the donut spelling came along. Allegedly, it was to make the word easier for non-English speakers to pronounce. Whatever the case, it stuck in the U.S. and became entrenched with growth of Dunkin’ Donuts.
The Tuscaloosa News – Dizzy Dean was a colorful character
The 20th annual Rickwood Classic was played Wednesday at the nation’s oldest surviving baseball park in Birmingham, with the Jacksonville Suns defeating the homestanding Barons, 8-2.
The yearly “throwback” game at Rickwood Field in West End celebrated the 1948 season, in which both the Barons and the Black Barons, led by 17-year-old phenom Willie Mays, won their respective league pennants, with the Barons going on to take the Dixie World Series title against the Texas League champions.
Thousands of games have been played at Rickwood over its 111 years, but perhaps none was more significant than the opening game of the Dixie series in 1931, between the Barons and the Houston Buffs, when 43-year-old Ray Caldwell bested future Hall of Famer Dizzy Dean, 1-0.
The brash Dean was 21 years old and destined for greatness with the St. Louis Cardinals’ Gashouse Gang where he was the last National League 30-game winner, in 1934. Caldwell, a hard drinker and party animal, was on the way down. He would be out of baseball by the end of the next year, after winning 133 Major League games, primarily with the New York Yankees through 1924.
“Old Diz” was, of course, one of the more colorful characters in the game, and my father, who took me to my first game at Rickwood in 1958, used to regale me with stories of his exploits.
A favorite was of the time when Dean had been beaned by a pitch and subsequently admitted to the hospital for observation. “X-rays of Dean’s head show nothing,” the headline said the next day. Yuk, yuk. Indeed, Dean had made it through only the second grade in his native Lucas, Ark., and was a notorious mangler of the Queen’s English.