A round-up of Sunday editorials from Alabama’s leading newspapers:
The Anniston Star – Truth, or lack of it, in politics
If you buy into the premise that everyone lies — especially politicians — then you face a choice: How much can someone lie and remain trustworthy?
The early slog of the 2016 presidential election cycle is answering that question, particularly for Republican voters. The first primary votes haven’t been cast, yet fact-checkers are showing Americans which candidates of both parties are most inclined to say the earth is flat as if it were fact.
On Friday, Angie Drobnic Holan, editor of PolitiFact, wrote an op-ed for The New York Times that every voter should read. Again, take politics out of it. (PolitiFact is a nonpartisan fact-checking website.) Her fact-checking of presidential candidates’ statements dates to 2007 and, given PolitiFact’s track record of accuracy, is imminently reliable.
If you vote Republican, consider that Ben Carson and Donald Trump, two of the GOP’s biggest newsmakers this fall, rank as the worst purveyors of falsehoods. Eighty-four percent of Carson’s statements were either mostly false or worse, according to Holan. Trump, who’s leading most Republican polls, is hardly better at 76 percent.
Taken another way, anytime Trump or Carson have made statements of fact during their campaigns, there’s a chance that 3 out of every 4 of them will be misleading or patently wrong. Or, flipped around, only 4 percent of Carson’s statements were true or mostly true. For Trump, it was 7 percent.
As you may have noticed, I’m not a politically correct guy. When I said we needed to kill these ISIS jihadis and their families, people got upset, but not you guys. You know we have to kill them. We have to kill their families. We have to kill their pets. And we have to kill their pets’ families. I know that sounds extreme, but if we don’t, one day you’re walking down the sidewalk, you look down and see a hamster, and boom! You’re dead.
Promising to kill people is good for my polls.
A lot of you don’t think I care about the polls, which is remarkable since whenever in my speeches I’m not saying crazy racist stuff, I’m talking where I am in the polls. But the polls just show you which way the wind is blowing. They don’t make the wind.
I make the wind.
When a lousy poll came out of Iowa showing that Ted Cruz was gaining on me — the thing was rigged, obviously — you know what I did? I went out on TV and said that we shouldn’t let any Muslim people into this country. That’s ridiculous by the way. I do a lot of business with Muslims. How am I going to do that if the princes and the sheiks and those other guys in the Middle East who care about money like me can’t come here?
I care about money.
I’ve said from the beginning that I’m spending my own money on this campaign. I have a lot of money. But I haven’t had to spend much of it. In fact, I have been getting money from other people, but that doesn’t matter because I don’t have to spend a dime. You know why?
I’m trending on Twitter.
The Decatur Daily – Bentley decries politics. Really.
Full of righteous indignation, Gov. Robert Bentley on Wednesday lashed out at the U.S. Department of Transportation.
“This USDOT investigation is nothing more than a weak attempt to embarrass the people of Alabama and exploit our state in the name of a political agenda,” Bentley said.
It’s amazing he could get the words out without choking on them.
The investigation to which Bentley referred is focused on his entirely political decision to close more than 30 driver’s license offices in the state, including the one in Moulton. He closed them in October in the midst of a petty battle with the state Legislature, which has consistently refused to raise taxes on its wealthiest constituents.
Typical Alabamians were stuck in the crossfire. On the one hand, the Legislature is content to run the state into the ground rather than offend the rich with levels of taxation that they would have to pay in almost any other state.
On the other hand, Bentley’s proposed taxes did nothing to inject fairness into the state’s tax system, and he took out his frustrations at the Legislature’s obstinacy on those Alabamians who are already at the greatest economic disadvantage.
The 31 driver’s license offices Bentley closed were in the poorest counties in the state.
The total savings from the closures amounted to $100,000 per year. To put this in perspective, the state paid $50,000 to Planned Parenthood lawyers to give Bentley the brief political pleasure of saying he would no longer spend about $2,000 a year for Medicaid recipients to receive contraceptives at the organization’s two Alabama clinics.
Bentley’s decision to close the driver’s license offices had nothing to do with state finances.
Dothan Eagle – Poverty is a challenge for Alabama
A report released by the child advocacy group Voices for Alabama’s Children reminds us that poverty remains a significant challenge for far too many Alabamians.
The organization’s most recent Alabama Kids Count Data Book reveals that about 25 percent of the state’s children live in poverty stricken households, with half of those in families with less than $1,000 per month in income.
In this season between Thanksgiving and Christmas, there are ample opportunities to give to the less fortunate among us, and many aid organizations count on increased support during the holidays to buoy their programs throughout the year. That’s an important consideration, as poverty isn’t seasonal.
There are strategies to help lift families out of poverty, but there is no quick fix, just as there is no single culprit. Job growth is a key factor, but if those jobs don’t grow in the most impoverished areas, they’re out of reach for many who would hope to find employment or better-paying jobs. Many areas of the state, such as Geneva County, where child poverty is as high as 33 percent, the jobs lost in the decline of the textile industry haven’t been adequately replaced.
On the bright side, economic recruiters and education leaders work diligently to lure job providers and develop job training programs to adapt a workforce for whatever jobs may materialize.
The challenge is daunting, but not insurmountable. Meanwhile, those who can should consider supporting those programs that give aid to the disadvantaged.
The Enterprise Ledger – Envious of Facebook posts? No way
Denmark, as it turns out, is home to the Happiness Research Institute. I guess Syria and Afghanistan didn’t have the infrastructure to draw such an industry.
Among the findings of the self-appointed happy know-it-alls included that the people who gave up Facebook for one week reported suffering less envy and were “more satisfied with their own lives.”
I guess this is as opposed to watching your classmate from the 1970’s be deliriously happy with the casserole she baked from a Pinterest idea. Yes, there was even a video, complete with Martha Mae holding a spatula and talking about how tasty it was (although by the looks of it there had not been a bite taken, yet, therefore I assume it was only presumed).
I was not what you would call envious, but I did decide to make a Mexican chicken casserole the very next evening. I didn’t get the idea from Pinterest, rather the fact that I walked past the shredded cheese in the grocery store and thought, ‘Hey, I feel like something chicken-ey, cheesy and loaded with hot peppers tonight.’ I had a lot to devour that evening, so there was no time to be envious.
When you begin seeing reruns of North Woods Law and it’s midweek so college football is at a standstill, you turn to Facebook for entertainment. Or, at least I do.
There’s the post from the girl I once dated bragging about her husband and how wonderful he is. Not envious there because if he can put up with her mood swings, then there is indeed someone for everyone.
Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler issued a news release this week criticizing calling the visit of three investigators from the United Nations “a major assault on Alabama laws protecting children.” Ziegler has plenty of more pressing problems that he should be focusing his attention on.
Sometimes it’s easy to spot when a politician is trying to advance his or her own career. Sometimes it’s more subtle.
But Alabama, like a lot of states, has a problem in which elected officials use their office to campaign for future seats – revealing their larger interest in advancing their careers rather than doing the job they were elected to do.
Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler issued a news release this week alleging that “investigators from the United Nations” came to Alabama and launched “a major assault on Alabama laws protecting children.”
In fact, the three women who visited Montgomery were not “investigators,” and despite Zeigler’s implications, the United Nations has no authority to make or change laws in Alabama or any other state.
It is a union of nations mostly known for wartime alliances that protect both our interests in overseas disputes and besieged ethnic minorities in lawless countries. But it also recently has taken up causes such as children in armed conflict, Rwandan genocide, democracy, sustainable development and messengers of peace.
So Zeigler’s claim that these so-called investigators “neither understand or respect Alabama’s values” is either an unintentional (bad) or intentional (worse) misrepresentation of the group’s interests. The U.N.’s Human Rights Division has an arm devoted to protecting women, which any reasonable person realizes is a critical global problem.
Zeigler’s problem with them, if he were to state it plainly, is that this group is preparing a report on global access to abortion related to women’s health. They have made trips to China, Iceland, Spain, Peru, Tunisia, Chile, Morocco and more. So it’s quite unlikely that Alabama is their biggest concern. They’re also going to other states, including Oregon, so if Alabama is in trouble, Oregon must be too.
A more significant concern than a visit by this fact-finding team is how exactly a press release, on Zeigler’s letterhead, is warranted from the state auditor.
According to Alabama law, his duties are “to perform post audits of the accounts and records of the Treasurer and the accounts and records of the Department of Finance.”
The Gadsden Times – An education Christmas miracle
The U.S. Senate earlier this week overwhelmingly voted for a rewrite of the No Child Left Behind law that President Barack Obama called a “Christmas miracle.”
Implemented in 2002, No Child Left Behind had ambitious goals but was fraught with unintended consequences.
NCLB was roundly criticized as forcing teachers to concentrate on making sure students could pass standardized tests, and the new law is supposed to help with that. Students will still take federally required statewide math and reading exams but states will be encouraged to focus less on testing. It will take some of the pressure off underperforming schools by giving states the option to consider performance measures beyond test results. Teachers had said using test scores alone ignored many factors and was an unfair way to measure their effectiveness.
That the end was coming was writ large on chalkboards (they still use those in schools, right?) across the country over the past few years. Many states, including Alabama, had sought and received waivers from the U.S. Department of Education regarding many NCLB requirements as state and federal officials recognized that the law’s goals of proficiency would not be met. Try as they might, teachers and schools just couldn’t get all students proficient in math and reading in the timeframe NCLB authors sought.
The Huntsville Times – Santa Trump is creeping out establishment Republicans
Y’all like pictures of kids crying on Santa’s lap, right?
Donald Trump has been this election season’s Santa Claus.
A few years ago, we had a cat that used to kill things in the yard and bring them into the house as trophies. One time, in the middle of the night, he brought a big ol’ rat into our bed and dragged it right across my wife’s face. It was big, wet and not quite dead yet.
But it was a gift, OK? Merry Christmas.
Dirty Santa Trump has been a prolific giver of such gifts. I’m not sure establishment Republicans fully appreciate his generosity, but my people – cartoonists – are grateful.
Press-Register –Drawing the line at Donald Trump
This Trump phenomenon – other, less kind descriptions, also come to mind – is getting curiouser and curiouser, as Alice might say.
First, Donald Trump has survived as a Republican presidential candidate despite a series of pronouncements that seemingly would have sunk anyone else: Mexican migrants are criminals and rapists; John McCain is no war hero because he was captured; a female debate moderator was too hard on him because of her hormonal cycle.
And now the latest: that we should bar foreign Muslims from entering this country, one-upping Ben Carson’s suggestion that a Muslim shouldn’t be president.
Through it all he has been at or near the top of opinion polls among Republicans –a current one shows him 20 points ahead. And it was the Donald – not Marco Rubio, not Ted Cruz, not Carly Fiorina – who got to host “Saturday Night Live.”
Serious political commentators have been doing their best to explain what’s going on. Trump, they say, through all his bombast and disdain for government experience or policy acumen, is effectively giving voice to the fury of a large number of voters who don’t believe in politicians or government in the first place.
The anti-candidate, so to speak, for the anti-voter.
Montgomery Advertiser – Black lives still matter
“Black Lives Matter” is a movement established in response to a series of notorious killings of unarmed African-Americans by law enforcement officers. Denigration of the movement by police officers and others has included challenging its name as unnecessary and exclusionary. Critics have even accused BLM advocates of causing a conspiracy – heretofore undocumented – to assault law enforcement officers nationwide.
As it has been since the beginning of the republic, black life is devalued. Of the many theoretical foundations for that proposition, two warrant discussion here. First, in this democracy that struggles to be democratic, black lives have typically been regarded as expendable. Second, society has a differential regard for adverse circumstances, depending upon whether they occur in the black or white communities.
The most prominent example of the expendability of black lives is the incidence of scape-goating black people, especially black men. Harper Lee understood that Mayella Ewell would be instantly credible when she accused Tom Robinson of rape in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Lee’s fictional proposition was founded on realism. Thirty years before “Mockingbird” was published in 1960, two white girls, Ruby Bates and Victoria Price had falsely accused nine black boys in Scottsboro of rape, forever ruining their lives.
This is not an ancient phenomenon. Since its founding in 1992, the Innocence Project, an organization devoted to exonerating inmates wrongfully convicted through DNA testing, has freed more than 330 persons, most of them black. The chief reason for the convictions was misidentification. Here in Alabama, our own Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative, maintains ever-growing documentation of wrongfully convicted black men, including Walter McMillian, who was famously exonerated in 1993 and Anthony Ray Hinton, who served 30 years on death row before his release in April of this year. Many remember Susan Smith, the white mother who, after rolling her car into a lake in 1995 and drowning her sons, told police in South Carolina that she had been carjacked by a black man.
Opelika-Auburn News –FDR’s words about fear still ring true
In his 1933 inaugural address, Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” The United States was in the throes of the Great Depression then, and economic fears gripped the nation. Roosevelt was able to bring hope to Americans that a New Deal was coming that would return prosperity to a country facing the hardest of times.
Eighty-two years later our country faces more tough times, and though the fear is different, Roosevelt’s words still ring true.
A Muslim couple who federal authorities say adopted extremist views killed 14 people last week in San Bernardino, Calif., creating the legitimate fear that radical Islamist terrorism is taking root in the American homeland.
Nobody wants that, and after more than a decade of American military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan and generations of unrest in the Middle East, it’s understandable that some would see all people with ties to the Middle East as our enemies.
After a terrorist attack in Paris last month, Gov. Robert Bentley announced Alabama would not accept refugees from the Syrian civil war. Earlier this week, a presidential candidate stirred controversy when he proposed that Muslims be barred from entering the United States altogether. Basically, their message is that America is no place for immigrants.
That’s not what America is about.
The Tuscaloosa News –Important to choose best leader for YMCA
Walt Larisey has served his country and his hometown with honor and distinction. He served his country fighting as a U.S. Marine in Ramadi, Iraq in 2005. He continues to serve in the Marine Reserves at the rank of major.
He has served his hometown just as impressively. He served as chief executive officer of the YMCA of Tuscaloosa County since May 2011. He has also been president and a driving force behind the founding and growth of the Druid City Business League, an organization aimed at building relationships between local business people and helping the local business community find ways to better Tuscaloosa. He has been the district chair for West Alabama Early Intervention and has sat on the Alabama governor’s Inter-Coordinating Council for Special Needs Children. And that’s just for starters.
Under his direction, the YMCA has begun an aggressive capital campaign to build a new home in Tuscaloosa. Construction of the $3 million first phase of the new downtown YMCA began in August.
Once that’s done, work will begin on Phase Two, which will have an additional $1 million price tag. But Larisey won’t be here to see the project to completion. An opportunity to run another YMCA in Florida has lured Larisey, his wife and three children away from Tuscaloosa. His absence will be felt, but we wish him the best and salute him for a job well done.