A round-up of Sunday editorials from Alabama’s leading newspapers

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A round-up of Sunday editorials from Alabama’s leading newspapers:

The Anniston StarSaying ‘no’ to more executions

Everywhere they turn, Alabama officials are being told no.

No, U.S. District Court Judge Keith Watkins said Thursday, the state can’t kill five death-row inmates with large doses of midazolam, a sedative.

No, Watkins said earlier this week, the state can’t kill a death-row inmate by hanging because it isn’t set up logistically to do so.

For the same reason, Watkins also said the state can’t kill a death-row inmate by firing squad. No to that, too.

So here Alabama sits, desperately wanting to set execution dates for a handful of death-row inmates, and it can’t do it. It’s blocked at every turn. The nation’s slow move away from eye-for-an-eye justice has, for the moment, at least, backed the state against a wall.

Our wish is that this court-caused slowdown would cause Alabama officials — and Alabamians themselves — to re-evaluate their love-affair with state-sponsored killings. On this, though, we’re realists and expect nothing but full-steam-ahead stances from Attorney General Luther Strange, Gov. Robert Bentley and the Republican-controlled Legislature. But we can wish nonetheless.

Alabama’s in this mess because the three-drug cocktail it had previously used to kill its condemned is no longer an option. Two of the three drugs aren’t available. Five death-row inmates are fighting the state’s new three-drug recipe in court, citing the chance for an “unconstitutional level of pain,” which is why the state “offered” to kill them with just one drug, midazolam. Two other inmates asked about being shot to death or hanged.

The Birmingham News – Deontay Wilder’s next fight: Duke Williams?

Deontay Wilder is looking for someone to fight. Duke Williams is available and angry. Let’s do this.

The 6’7 Wilder is an active WBC heavyweight champion. The man just loves to fight, and he’s really good at it. 35-0 with 34 KO’s. Why wouldn’t the Tuscaloosa native want to take on Auburn’s most prolific fighter? 

Why wouldn’t the Tuscaloosa native want to take on Auburn’s most prolific fighter?

Williams, a talented 6’2 wide receiver, was removed from Auburn after he punched 4 people at a local bar, according to witnesses. Apparently there was some alcohol involved. So he messed up and is looking for a new gig. Why not take a shot at the champ?

It’s time to move the T-Town/Auburn thing into the boxing ring, y’all.

Are you ready to GRRRRRumble?  

The Decatur Daily – Racism claims wrong, this time

At first glance, the Sept. 30 announcement the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency would close 31 driver’s license offices appeared to be the latest of many exhibits demonstrating the state’s determined effort to suppress the black vote.

A year after requiring all voters to present photo identification at the polls — a move that had disproportionately burdened black voters — the state made it harder to get the most common form of photo ID. Indeed, the closures meant state driver’s license offices no longer exist in any county in which 75 percent or more of registered voters are black.

It’s a narrative that spread fast and wide. Alabama media jumped on it, then the national media. Would-be presidents highlighted it, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson adjusted his travel plans to include Alabama.

The facts do not support the narrative, however.

Anyone with the fortitude to follow the three torturous sessions of the Legislature this year sees the problem with ascribing racial animus as the motivating force behind the closures. ALEA Secretary Spencer Collier and Gov. Robert Bentley are in an all-out feud with the Legislature, which failed to adequately address the state’s desperate need for more revenue. Whether or not the closure of the offices was financially necessary, it clearly was intended as a slap at lawmakers. Indeed, the budget included language seeking to prevent Bentley from carrying out the threat to close driver’s license offices, language that was consistent with the legislative dream-world in which budget cuts have no consequences.

While the choice of offices to be closed was tone deaf to Alabama’s history of racial relations, it was neither arbitrary nor malicious. The satellite offices closed were those with low traffic.

Dothan Eagle – Top-notch nursing programs complement health care

Dothan has long enjoyed a reputation as a regional hub for health care, anchored by Flowers Hospital and Southeast Alabama Medical Center. With highly competent specialty programs at both facilities, area patients have access to top-notch care without the need to travel to larger medical facilities, in most cases. And if that need should arise, facilities for those specialties are within easy driving range.

In recent years, Dothan has become home of a medical school, which has just held a white coat ceremony for its third class of doctors.

But doctors and hospitals are only part of what makes excellent health care. Without nurses and professionals in associated health fields, the delivery of health care would likely screech to a halt.

That shouldn’t be a problem in the Wiregrass. Wallace Community College has been turning out nurses with varying training levels for years, as does Troy University in Troy. Graduates of these schools’ nursing and associated health care programs create a strong pool of training candidates to fill the needs of the region’s broad array of health care services.

Recently, a trade publication called Nurse Journal ranked nursing programs across the nation, and found that programs at Wallace Community College and Troy University rank in the top 100 for schools in the eastern region. Of more than 1,100 schools in the region, Wallace was ranked at 90, while Troy ranked 36.

Our community is fortunate to have nursing programs available for interested students who can receive their training close to home, and then have a strong chance of finding jobs right here in the Wiregrass. And the Nursing Journal rankings should be of great comfort to residents who may someday be under the care of local graduates, because they’ll likely be among the best trained professionals in the region.

We congratulate both schools and the faculty and staff who helped the programs earn stellar reputations. It’s the patients who’ll benefit most.

The Enterprise Ledger – What this world needs is a better GPS

I remember a couple of years back, before my phone’s GPS got on track with the 21st century, I was led to a logging road on a return trip to Enterprise from somewhere in east Alabama. I guess I should have known better than to not check how to get back before I left earlier in the day, but I figured GPS would not lead me astray. Sometime around 1 a.m., I felt a little like the people in San Diego that were being told to turn into the Pacific Ocean before Google straightened out its mapping problem.

So, to whoever is mapping out the direction our country is heading, please RECALCULATE NOW!

Oklahoma has removed the Ten Commandments from its Capitol grounds.

A group called the “Military Religious Freedom Foundation“ is demanding the removal of a “God Bless the Military” sign on display at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, saying that it gives preference to those who hold religious beliefs.

Our President invites the clock-making teenager in Texas to the White House.  The Muslim kid built a clock that looked much more like a bomb, yet, teachers were scolded for thinking it could be a bomb. Yeah, Ahmed Mohamed is invited to the White House but the family of a murdered Marine in Chattanooga doesn’t even warrant a phone call from the president. And he wonders why his approval ratings are 21 percent lower that they were in 2009 and 5 percent lower than average for U.S. presidents. (Source: Gallup Poll.)

Russian leader Vladimir Putin, yes, that guy, is doing to ISIS what we should have done many, many months ago. When Putin gets kudos from anywhere over the leader of your country, your country has some serious leadership issues.

TimesDaily – Sessions stokes bogus ‘war on cops’

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile, is, along with Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, of Pennsylvania, sponsoring legislation that would impose tough penalties on individuals deliberately attempting to harm law enforcement officers and other emergency first responders.

Most would agree law enforcement and emergency responders deserve extra protection for doing their job, which is to protect the rest of us. But there is no reason to believe this needs to be a federal matter. Most local responders already are given extra protection by state law, and state legislatures are perfectly capable to passing new laws, or strengthening existing ones if necessary.

Normally, Republicans are against making federal issues out of matters that best belong to the states — unless they see political gain to be had.

Sens. Sessions and Toomey announced their bill, the “Thin Blue Line Act,” with a press release saying the bill affirms “police lives also matter,” an obvious reference to the Black Lives Matter movement, which has arisen in response to a string of high-profile incidents in which black men, suspected of trivial offenses, died at the hands of law enforcement.

Sessions and Toomey claim the real problem is an increase in violence directed against law enforcement. They’re not the only ones who say so, and “Blue Lives Matter” has become a common counter-protest at Black Lives Matter rallies.

“The alarming spike in violence directed against the men and women entrusted with ensuring the safety and order of our society must be stopped,” Sessions said in his and Toomey’s press statement.

According to a Rasmussen poll released last month, 58 percent of likely voters think there is a war on police in America today. Just 27 percent think there is not, while 15 percent don’t know.

Fortunately, the statistics do not support the idea there is a “war on police.”

The Gadsden Times – Monitor kids’ online activities

We understand parenting is difficult in these stretched-to-the-limit days. There are households in which both fathers and mothers work, sometimes multiple jobs. There are single-parent households, and households where grandparents or aunts and uncles have had to assume parental roles. That’s not conducive to keeping close tabs on youngsters or teenagers.

We also understand those stretched-to-the-limit folks might be unappreciative and snarl “we’re doing the best we can” at kibitzers judging their parental skills or offering unsolicited advice.

Pardon us if we do just that, adding a “bravo” to comments by Gadsden Police Chief John Crane at this week’s Gadsden Kiwanis Club meeting.

Crane’s message was simple and pointed: “… It’s time to step up to the plate and be a parent.”

His target was the electronic devices, cellphones and otherwise, that seem to be permanently melded to the fingers of most young people these days.

There’s nothing inherently negative about such devices. We’ve praised their usage in schools as a way to engage today’s kids on their level in the learning process.

As with most everything, however, there can be dangers. Those devices can be conduits for sexual predators looking for victims; for bullies practicing a different but equally sadistic type of abuse, even more emboldened because they aren’t doing it face to face; for the kind of silly, juvenile and downright stupid things kids are capable of doing, but which in bygone days didn’t have eternal life in cyberspace.

The Huntsville Times – For black Alabamians, Voter ID law feels like déjà vu

The State of Alabama has decided to close 31 driver license office locations around the state due to budget restraints. This will happen in eight of the ten counties populated by with the highest percentages of non-white registered voters.   

Opponents of the closings, suggest that this will present a barrier to the right to vote, given the Voter ID law that Alabama also recently passed in 2011.  Unfortunately, Alabama is no stranger to controversy when it comes to access to voting.  Poll taxes, literacy tests, and gerrymandered districts were tools used to discourage or outright deny access to voting, during much of the twentieth century in Alabama.   

These tools were almost always reinforced with the threat of physical violence for those who wished to exercise their right to vote or encourage others to register. 

The poll tax was instituted by a number of states in the country in response to the enactment of the Fifteenth Amendment, which extended the right to vote to all citizens regardless of race.  Poll tax fees were an effective tool that kept many poor African American voters from the voting booth.  

Individuals who were willing to brave the intimidation tactics used by governmental and non-governmental forces, by going to the polls were often unable to sacrifice their household finances for the cause. 

Several states also had a cumulative feature that required an individual to pay all previous years’ poll taxes before voting in the current year.  For instance, if the poll tax for an area was two dollars and the person voting for the first time was thirty-one years old, (the voting age was not lowered to 18 from 21 until the 26th amendment in 1971) they would have to pay twenty dollars to reconcile ten years of poll taxes.  

Press-Register –If this is justice, then set Larry Langford free

It’s not in my nature to defend Larry Langford, but there’s a part of me right now that thinks we should let the old crook go free.

Five years ago, a federal jury found the then-Birmingham mayor guilty of an assortment of corruption charges, all related to Langford’s involvement in sophisticated municipal financing deals when he was president of the Jefferson County Commission. In exchange for his support on the commission, Langford received clothes, jewelry and money to pay off old debts. All together, he got $235,000, according to the feds.

Those bond-swap deals Langford helped enter the county into later imploded, leaving the new commissioners with no choice but to declare bankruptcy.

Langford betrayed the public trust for his own personal benefit, and he deserved the 15 years he got.

But so did other people — people who are still walking around free today.

Commissioner Mary Buckelew is one. She went cheaper than Langford. On trips to New York ostensibly to meet with Wall Street bankers, she sold out her constituents for a fancy handbag, some designer shoes and a day at the spa.

She got probation after pleading out to an obstruction charge.  

Montgomery Advertiser – ‘Selective Consideration’ plagues right wing

Selective hearing, any parent will tell you, is a common problem that affects nearly 100 percent of children.

A child that can hear someone whisper “cake” from 50 yards away somehow can’t hear “Stop doing that” shouted from 5 yards. That is selective hearing.

A similar affliction has been making its way through America’s conservatives, and it has become just as annoying and unbearable.

Known as Selective Consideration, the faux-mental disorder prevents those with a more conservative lean from considering the parts of historic writings, judicial decisions and plain ol’ everyday reality that differ from their beliefs on any issue.

Take, for example, the case of Alabama Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker and his views on the rights of same-sex couples to marry.

During a recent interview on a far-right radio show – with a host who once compared the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage to 9/11 and compared gays to Nazis – Parker first expressed his admiration for the host before launching into a defense of the state’s stand against the U.S. Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling.

Parker cited the country’s founders often, noting Thomas Jefferson’s stance against the power of an unelected judiciary and the Federalist Papers’ position that the judiciary would be the weakest branch. He then said any stand that Alabama takes against the Supreme Court’s decision granting same-sex couples the right to marry would be supported by Wisconsin’s positions against the Dred Scott ruling in 1856.

Immediately, the signs of Selective Consideration are obvious.

Opelika-Auburn News –Time for VictoryLand to reopen

A volley of paperwork has already been filed since Montgomery County Circuit Judge William Shashy ruled last Friday that the state must return 1,615 electronic bingo machines and $263,000 seized in 2013 from VictoryLand, the casino and racetrack in Macon County.

That facility has been closed down for two years while other gambling operations in the state using the same type of machines have been allowed to remain open.

Shashy actually ordered the state to return the money and gambling machines to VictoryLand or, within 45 days, bring legal proceedings against all Alabama casinos.

The state appears to want to do neither.

On Monday, the Attorney General’s office appealed the ruling to the state Supreme Court and asked for a stay of Shashy’s order, and on Tuesday, VictoryLand attorney Joe Espy III filed an opposition to the state’s motion to stay.

In his ruling, Shashy said, “… the Court reiterates its ruling that the State of Alabama is cherry-picking which facilities should remain open or closed, and this Court will not be used as an instrument to perpetuate this unfair treatment.”

Also, “It is interesting to note that since the Court’s Order of June 25, 2015, and the last hearing on Aug. 4, 2015, the number of machines and casinos in Alabama has increased. … The State obviously is not enforcing the law equally,” Shashy wrote.

The Tuscaloosa News –Not the time to raise Northport officials’ salaries

When people or businesses spend money, they expect to get something for it. They want to see a tangible return. What can the residents of Northport reasonably expect to get in return for raising the salaries of their elected officials?

It’s the question that ought to be asked. Because at the moment, the rationale for increasing the salaries of Northport’s city council members and mayor seems to be only that the salaries are too low and should be increased.

“If we’re going to be a progressive city, it’s something we ought to consider,” Northport Mayor Bobby Herndon said. He wants to compare Northport’s salaries to the salaries of officials from similarly sized cities.

But what is particularly progressive about paying public officials more money? And not all cities of similar size have the same financial means. Northport, for instance, is heavily residential and lacks a particularly strong tax base. Should it pay its officials the same salaries as cities of similar size that take in more sales tax per capita?

The salaries for Northport’s mayor and city council are low, $15,000 annually for the mayor and only $8,500 for the council members, and once the amount of time officials spend on their duties and the aggravation they put up with is factored in, it really isn’t a particularly profitable part-time job.

Of course, it’s not supposed to be. The argument is often made that officials’ salaries should increase to enlarge the pool of qualified candidates willing to run for office. The problem with that logic is that being a public official in a small city isn’t about the money. It’s about public service. Anyone who seeks the office for its salary probably doesn’t deserve the support of the city’s voters.

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