Alabama editorial roundup: Aug 23, 2018 edition


Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:


Aug. 16

Decatur Daily advocates for vaccinations for schoolchildren:

Measles is making a comeback, and you can blame in large part parents who do not get their children vaccinated.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta is monitoring a multi-state outbreak of the preventable disease. According to the CDC, in the first six months of this year, “107 people from 21 states … and the District of Colombia were reported to have measles.” Alabama is not among those 21 states, but our neighbor to the north, Tennessee, is.

Measles can cause high fever, and complications from the disease can include encephalitis, pneumonia and death. According to a Feb. 21 article in Popular Science, “patients can also experience swelling of the brain, which can cause permanent deafness or blindness. Prior to the invention of the vaccine, between 15,000 and 60,000 people went blind because of the measles each year.”

The disease is so infectious, according to Popular Science, it “spreads to 90 percent of those who come in contact with an infected person. According to the CDC, however, transmission involves almost entirely unvaccinated populations, often when someone returns to the U.S. after traveling overseas in an area with a measles outbreak, then comes into contact with an unvaccinated population here.

The CDC traced an outbreak in California in 2008 to a boy who had been traveling with his family in Switzerland, then returned to California, where it was trendy for parents embracing an all-natural lifestyle not to vaccinate their children.

Parents in recent years have taken to not vaccinating their children in large part because of a debunked study that purported to link childhood autism to the MMR vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps and rubella. The British journal The Lancet, which published the study by Dr. Andrew Wakefield, retracted the article in 2010, 12 years after it was published.

Still, Europe has seen a rise in measles cases, due in part to “anti-vaxxer” parents still worried about autism and immigrants from countries without the benefit of the MMR vaccine.

Unvaccinated immigrants, however, wouldn’t be a huge problem if native-born populations vaccinated their children, as most parents in the U.S. do.

As children head back to school this month, it’s worth noting Alabama requires childhood vaccinations for children entering school, allowing only religious and medical exemptions. Tennessee, however, has similar vaccination requirements, yet shows even then enough children can slip through the cracks for an outbreak to manifest.

Measles is a dangerous and potentially deadly illness, but one that had been all but eradicated in the United States until the anti-vaxxer movement. With the study linking the MMR vaccine to autism retracted, there is no good reason for parents to skip vaccinating their children. Any other potential vaccination side effects are trivial and rare compared to the dangers diseases like measles pose.

History and science are on the side of vaccination.



Aug. 20

Gadsden Times on ethics issues becoming a political issue:

Elected officeholders, those who want to be elected officeholders and public employees who either make $75,000 or more annually or work in some specific roles are required to file a statement of economic interest each year with the Alabama Ethics Commission.

The full list of what must be on those SEIs is lengthy and detailed. Here’s the condensed version: personal information about those required to file and their families; information about the income, occupations and financial dealings of those required to file (and their spouses); and information about the number of clients their businesses serve, depending on their field of work.

We think it’s a completely justified requirement. Anyone who wants to be on the public’s payroll needs to be completely transparent financially and have no potential skeletons clattering around, poised to reveal their ribs and femurs at inopportune times.

However, it’s become a political rather than an ethical issue this year, as several candidates have been nailed for or accused of not filing their SEIs on time. Some candidates have been tossed off ballots. At least one was disqualified, but sued and a judge returned her to the ballot. There is pending legal action on a couple of situations in Etowah County. Some media analysts and professional or amateur political “watchdogs” are alleging inconsistent and unfair decisions by the Ethics Commission on approving or rejecting candidates as having met the SEI requirements.

We’re not going to address specific cases while they’re still being adjudicated. We’re more interested in how to quash this problem moving forward.

The statutory requirement is that candidates for office must file an SEI at the same time they file qualifying papers to run. The local official who receives it has five days to get it to the Ethics Commission. Conversely, the Ethics Commission has five days to get it back to the local official and confirm the candidate as qualified. The Ethics Commission can — “with good cause,” as specified in the statute — grant candidates a five-day extension to file their paperwork.

That seems as clear as the water in an unspoiled spring to us, plus the requirement is no secret and should catch no one by surprise. Even novice candidates generally don’t decide to run for office on the spur of the moment, or after a heavenly vision a la Joliet Jake in the imaginary Triple Rock Baptist Church from “The Blues Brothers.” We certainly don’t know individual circumstances, but we see no reason this information shouldn’t be assembled and ready to go at the proper time.

A lot of new candidates probably are more interested in taking on “Philistines” and changing the world than counting beans. Unfortunately, they don’t get to opt out.

We also think the Ethics Commission could do a better job of clarifying and defining the parameters here. This seems to us to be an “either/or” situation — the candidate either gets the SEI in on time or not — with no wiggle room other than the brief extension permitted.

The Ethics Commission’s executive director also said in an interview this year that the group interprets the law as requiring that a candidate either submit an SEI or have one on file at the time of qualifying. We don’t see that in the text of the statute; it needs to be if that’s going to be the policy moving forward.

Perhaps the only way to make this process fair in both appearance and reality — to ensure consistent application of the rules throughout the state in all situations for all candidates and parties, rather than giving local judges license to freestyle (which is a recipe for turmoil) — is for the Legislature to step in and provide clarity. Toss it on their “to-do” pile.



Aug. 21

Opelika-Auburn News on a parade and an Alabama city that is seeking an Air Force contract to build the T-100 trainer jet:

It was a foolish idea not only for the $92 million price tag to throw a parade, but also for the tremendous redirect it would have entailed for our military forces.

Not to mention, the much Trump-ballyhooed parade idea sent the wrong kind of message. Let the dictators do the goose-step type of showing off; the U.S. military makes its statements plenty clear enough in the fields of battle and the skies above.

That’s where our military forces should be, not gathered en masse in the streets of Washington, D.C., and parading before cameras instead of on watch.

U. S. military representation itself is fine and in fact greatly desired on a much smaller scale in parades and events, as it conjures up pride, re-enforces an image of strength and is good for recruitment to the armed services.

President Trump, however, had wanted to pull all the stops and had insisted that no ordinary parade would do, despite major concerns of costs and distractions voiced by not just military leaders, but others on Capitol Hill within his own party trying to reason with the president to scale things down.

Trump finally agreed on Friday, citing the “ridiculously high” estimated $92 million cost his plans would force taxpayers to cover.

“Now we can buy some more jet fighters!” he said in concession.

And to that, we call President Trump’s attention to Tuskegee, Alabama.

Although technically not a jet fighter, Tuskegee, home of the famous World War II Tuskegee Airmen, is seeking an Air Force contract to build the T-100 trainer jet that can prepare military pilots for combat in the F-35 fighter jet.

Italian-based Leonardo DRS wants to build the jet in Tuskegee and create 750 jobs in the plant, hundreds more in the region for support roles.

It’s the longshot bidder in a competition with American aviation stalwarts Boeing and Lockheed Martin, but both of them also would build their proposed trainer jets with inclusion of international partners, which somewhat evens the scales for Leonardo and its bid to use American workers in Alabama.

Trump, in typical Twitter fashion, likely was speaking off the cuff with his fighter jet remark, but if he was serious, we sincerely would love to have some of that rhetorical $92 million jet money come to Alabama.

Should the president decide to endorse the Air Force contract coming our way, Trump can be grand marshal, if he would like.

Bring it.

We’d be happy to give him his parade here.


Republished with permission from the Associated Press.