A round-up of Sunday editorials from Alabama’s leading newspapers:
The Anniston Star – Quite a legacy for Letterman
Twenty-three years ago, in May 1992, Johnny Carson stepped down as host of The Tonight Show on NBC. He was 66 years and had been at his post for 30 years.
David Letterman, who many expected to replace Carson on The Tonight Show, was 45 back then. Once Jay Leno was tapped to replace Carson, Letterman bolted NBC in order to star on a late-night program for CBS.
Back in 1992, Jimmy Fallon, the current host of The Tonight Show, was soon to graduate high school in Saugerties, N.Y.
Jimmy Kimmel, host of his own late-night program on ABC, was working in Los Angeles radio in 1992.
In 1992, The Daily Show host Jon Stewart, another stalwart of late-night TV programming who will soon step down, was a standup comic and regular performer on MTV.
Conan O’Brien, host of a late-night chat show on TBS, was a writer for The Simpsons in 1992.
The point is that Letterman’s retirement is an excellent time to reflect on the changing media environment. Time has passed and big changes have occurred since the early 1990s.
Carson left his program after 30 years. Most of that time he spent as the undisputed king of late-night programming. A standup comic’s career could either soar and collapse based on a five-minute performance on The Tonight Show. If Johnny laughed, it was a good sign. If after several appearances a comic was invited to have a seat on the sofa next to Carson, it was a treasured moment, a golden ticket to fame, fortune and maybe a starring role in a sitcom.
The Birmingham News – UAB conspiracy theories and trolls shout louder than state budget hawks
From unearthing conspiracy theories to praising Ray Watts, AL.com’s readers can’t seem to stop talking about UAB football this week. A few guest writers also want to remind us that there are some important budget discussions taking place in Montgomery this month.
John A. Knox, Ph.D., an associate professor of geography at the University of Georgia and a 1988 UAB graduate, has developed a cottage industry investigating alleged conspiracies involving the UA Board of Trustees – his work has appeared in illustrious, peer-reviewed journals like The Crimson White. As an expert on meteorology, Knox offers his forecast for the future of UAB in a column for AL.com. His take? A cold front of Board obstruction will move directly over Birmingham, casting shade on the development of any future academic programs.
The ongoing UAB saga raises another interesting question, says Molly Yanity, Ph.D, “are black students in college for my entertainment?” Citing a piece by AL.com’s John Talty stating that cutting football at UAB would decrease black male student enrollment by 12%, Yanity says this argument rings false. She cites additional reports stating that the Graduation Success Rate (GSR) at UAB ranked fourth worst among all NCAA Football Bowl Series schools, to say that we need to move past the notion that athletics are the primary way for minorities to mobilize socially.
Virginia Sharbel writes that UAB President Ray Watts should be commended for ending UAB football, not shamed. She suggests that the program has been a “waste of money.” Based on my experience this week…I hope she doesn’t have a Twitter account. The #FreeUAB crowd is relentless.
The Decatur Daily – Morgan DA: ‘I will beg for these people’
Morgan County District Attorney Scott Anderson does not often get riled up, but he did after a recent encounter with state Rep. Ed Henry, R-Hartselle. His frustration is increasingly common among those who want the best for Alabama and its citizens, yet are hampered by legislators who are caught up in political games.
The issue that prompted Anderson’s comments was a relatively benign bill limited to Morgan County. The Legislature, afraid of the political consequences of raising taxes to fund the essential services of government, has for years whittled away at the budget that funds courts and district attorney offices. To make up for the deficiency, many counties have successfully pushed their local delegations to increase court fees.
It’s not a good solution — high fees block many from the court system — but the increased fees at least keep the criminal justice system functioning. Morgan County’s court fees are below those of most neighboring counties, and Anderson joined with other local court officials in requesting an increase in the fees that fund their offices. The request was especially urgent because the House fiscal 2016 budget contains a 17 percent cut for all district attorney offices in the state.
Traditionally, the Legislature will pass a local bill if the local legislative delegation unanimously supports it.
Anderson’s frustration came in his dealings with Henry, whose support he needed.
“Rep. Ed Henry has informed me that he understands the court system in Morgan County is in need of these funds, he further instructed me to hound him publicly and ask him to do it,” Anderson said.
It’s a request that did not sit well with Anderson.
Dothan Eagle – Thin blue line
This week has been National Police Week, and the City of Dothan marked the occasion with a poignantly appropriate event honoring local officers who lost their lives in the service to our community.
Law enforcement is dangerous work, and officers put their lives at risk every day. The fate of Dothan’s fallen officers shows that death in the line of duty doesn’t necessarily come by the hand of a criminal:
Officer Hugh DeShazo died on Dec. 8, 1914, after having been shot while on duty the day before.
Sgt. Shelby Owens was on duty as a motorcycle officer when he was killed in a vehicle crash on Nov. 9, 1970.
Lt. Robert Jackson was shot at close range in front of his home on Jan. 31, 1978.
Cpl. Robert E. Armstrong was working on DUI detail when an intoxicated driver on the wrong side of the road collided with Armstrong’s patrol car in January 1985.
Sgt. Jeffrey W. Garrett died on Oct. 27, 2014, after collapsing during a department agility program.
We count ourselves fortunate to have lost only five officers in the last 100 years, and this week’s memorial program should remind us all that the men and women of the badge who put themselves between the people of the community and any threat to our security understand that they do so at their own peril. They deserve our thanks and our appreciation.
The Enterprise Ledger – Oh, the things we learned back then
We weren’t tested within a week on everything we learned at City Elementary School in the late 1950s; but some lessons we learned there we‘ve used daily throughout our lives, while others are just now making real sense, even though members of the Enterprise High School class of 1968 haven’t attended City School since May 1961.
For example, one of the first lessons we learned, and were frequently updated on, concerned walking on the right-hand side in hallways, a rule that applies to walking in malls, on sidewalks and in aisles inside stores large and small.
It’s a carryover rule that pertains to how and where we’re supposed to drive our cars, vans, SUVs, trucks, bikes and motorsickles!
Apparently, if you’ve left your home since childhood, not every school curriculum covered this material, and/or not every student thought it to be important or remembered it after school let out.
At City School, we also learned the value of teamwork, mostly at recess behind the building when we were playing kickball and softball, and during fierce tug-of-war battles, thinking all we were doing was having fun.
We learned about being in plays and about behaving properly when we were watching plays, other stage productions and other events where a lot of people gather.
One lesson wasn’t actually taught by any educator, and it’s the one about not crying when a nurse or doctor pokes a needle into our arm…or hinee.
Typically, shot pain isn’t a long-lasting one, but if anybody cried before, during and after getting inoculated, those of us around for the tears remember them to this day and will never let the criers live it down.
Shots were/are unforgettable.
Speaking of unforgettable, likely the City School lesson we remember most, one that shows up daily, concerns becoming active in a club.
Not “a” club, “the” club.
TimesDaily – Senators, not TVA, on wrong track
Some forward-thinking planners at the Tennessee Valley Authority are looking to renewable energy sources to help power the valley’s homes and industries.
But two U.S. Senators from Tennessee don’t like of the sound of that. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, in a meeting with TVA officials, seemed puzzled the agency wasn’t plowing ahead with its costly and risky nuclear program. Alexander, in fact, described renewable energy as a “fad.”
Alexander and Corker apparently think renewable energy is too expensive and could drive up TVA power rates. Maybe they have short memories. TVA has spent millions of dollars cleaning up emissions from old coal-fired power plants and have closed some fossil units to avoid further expense.
The nuclear program, which the two senators seem to think is the way forward for TVA, has not been without its share of excessive expenses and problems. Several reactors were canceled in an overly ambitious building program that got underway in the early 1970s, and Browns Ferry has been fraught with issues for decades. Getting a nuclear reactor license is a long and expensive process, and there is the issue of what to do with spent fuel rods.
Among the options in TVA’s power plan is buying electricity generated by wind farms in the Midwest.
Alexander criticized that as well, saying the agency’s mission “is not to build windmills; it’s to provide low-cost electricity.”
Having options for not only generating, but buying electricity is a sound policy. Alexander is out of touch with the reality of generating electrical power if he thinks nuclear reactors are the best option. Renewable energy is the way forward for TVA and other power suppliers as raw materials — especially coal — become more expensive and destructive to the climate.
A company is building a solar farm in Lauderdale County that will sell power to TVA. That’s as clean a source of electricity as one can ask for, and solar panels should become more affordable for homeowners in the coming year, further reducing the need for fossil fuels.
TVA serves residential and commercial power customers in portions of seven Southern states. A diversified portfolio of power generation options, especially clean, renewable options, is wise.
The Gadsden Times – Reinforcing federal supremacy
A federal judge’s ruling Thursday on same-sex marriage in Alabama preserved the status quo, but reinforced a legal point.
U.S. District Judge Callie Granade declared the state’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, as she did in January in a suit brought by two Mobile women. This time, however, she made clear that her decision applied statewide and forbade Alabama’s probate judges from enforcing the ban.
Granade then stayed her order until the U.S. Supreme Court’s upcoming ruling on whether same-sex marriage should be allowed and recognized throughout the country. That is due in late June or early July.
Both sides seem OK with that. Same-sex marriage opponents are confident the Supreme Court will rule in their favor. Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange praised Granade for “listening to our advice” and declaring a stay, which he said would’ve prevented “chaos and confusion” if she’d done it earlier. Strange’s preening aside, federal judges usually don’t ask state officials for advice or give them leeway in following their orders. Any “chaos and confusion” has come from Alabama’s intense resistance here, particularly by the state Supreme Court, which in March defied Granade and banned probate judges from conducting same-sex marriages.
Chief Justice Roy Moore didn’t participate in that decision, but has strongly criticized Granade’s rulings and said she had no authority over state probate judges.
The Huntsville Times – How can you live in this state and not be an Alabama fan?
It’s May 23, just 106 days until Alabama and Auburn kick off their 2015 football seasons.
I want to share today the story of Phillip Wade King of the small town of Phil Campbell, which is in Franklin County in north Alabama.
King is an enthusiastic Alabama fan who hails from a family of avid Bama fans. Proof of just how strong the family feels about Bama is shown in King’s middle name, Wade. It’s in honor of former legendary Alabama coach Wallace Wade who was head football coach at UA from 1923 through 1930. His Bama teams won or shared three national championships and the 1925 team played in the Jan. 1, 1926 Rose King has proudly carried his middle name in honor of Coach Wade. And when it came time to name his own son, King one upped his name when he named his son Bryant Wade King. Of course the first name is in honor of Alabama head football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant.
Here is King’s story of why he is an Alabama fan.
“I remember as a small child in the 1970’s of going to my grandparents’ house to spend time with them and many of those days started with a good southern country meal and then to the den for “the game’.
We publish the following views with the fervent hope that we are wrong about them. But it sure looks as though University of Alabama at Birmingham leaders are readying for a re-run of the flawed process and deep arrogance that led to the decision to kill the school’s football program.
The university will by June 1 reveal the outcome of its review of that decision. By the school’s own words, this announcement is going to be handled as badly as was the first. It will lack the heat and confrontation of the first, but only because UAB leaders seem intent on hiding from it.
UAB says the decision will be announced on its web site, social media and email. This will be the modern-day version of the wall posters of Maoist China: the leaders have spoken, now go about your day. No questions. Most certainly no answers. No discussion. None of your business.
We do hope to be wrong, we truly do. But this looks like another plan to announce a decision that was made long ago. It reinforces the cynicism and distrust the first process brought.
It looks as though UAB president Ray Watts and his advisors and masters have learned nothing, and worse meant nothing when speaking since about healing wounds, opening up communication and other reasonable things one might expect from such a great institution.
After the shambles of the first announcement, we editorialized: “The University of Alabama at Birmingham is a public institution. It belongs to the people of greater Birmingham and all of Alabama … run by a board of trustees, called that because they act in trust for the people. This week that trust was betrayed.”
Get ready for more of the same.
Montgomery Advertiser – Propane as fuel saves money and helps environment
Visions for future U.S. vehicles seem to be in a constant state of flux. What will we drive one year, five years, 10 years from now? Engineers and executives at U.S. and overseas auto companies agree on only two things: Cars and trucks will have to be more fuel-efficient, and they will have to be less harmful to the environment.
But you don’t have to wait for some distant point in the future to start trying to achieve these goals. A number of alternatives are available right now to reduce our reliance on foreign petroleum, stretch our fuel dollars and better protect our air.
Among them is a clean American fuel, propane. While some people associate it mainly with home heating fuel and backyard grills, propane is the most widely used alternative transportation fuel in the world.
Already on Alabama roads, you’ll find businesses, school systems, government agencies and others using propane autogas to fuel their vehicles, saving themselves thousands of dollars a year in fuel charges and maintenance costs.
Just from 2013 to 2014, propane autogas used for transportation in Alabama increased by almost 170 percent.
Propane has a proven record as a transportation fuel, and it emits about 25 percent less harmful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere than gasoline.
Because of fuel efficiency, cost savings and pollution reduction, propane autogas is being used by private businesses such as OnTime Electric in Birmingham and Lewis Pest Control in Thomasville. Taxpayers are also benefiting from this alternative fuel, with propane being used by vehicles in the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, city fleets in Mobile and Tuscaloosa, the Mobile County School System and the Alabama Department of Corrections, to name just a few.
Opelika-Auburn News – CIA leaks case and Petraeus
Disproportionate penalties given to two CIA employees who leaked secrets raise a question about the fairness of American justice.
On April 23 a judge sentenced retired general and former CIA director David H. Petraeus to two years’ probation and a $100,000 fine for admitting he had provided highly classified notes of his official meetings, U.S. war strategy, intelligence capabilities and the names of covert CIA officers to his mistress, who was writing a biography of him. Petraeus also lied to the FBI. The fine was comparable to what Petraeus earns for one speech. He was permitted to plead guilty to a misdemeanor as part of a deal with the Justice Department.
On Monday, a judge sentenced former CIA employee Jeffrey A. Sterling to three and a half years in prison for espionage. He was convicted of nine violations of the Espionage Act by providing New York Times reporter and author James Risen information about a CIA program on Iran that the reporter had used in a 2006 book.
It’s unfair that Sterling will go to jail for years while Petraeus gets a symbolic fine and no time behind bars. The former CIA director also retains a position as adviser to President Barack Obama.
The crimes are not identical. If anything, the information that Petraeus handed out was much more sensitive and comprehensive than Sterling’s leak. Most Americans would agree that Petraeus also had much greater responsibility as CIA director to protect highly classified information.
In these two cases two kinds of consequences were handed out. A stiff sentence went to an ordinary American who broke the law; a relative slap on the wrist went to another lawbreaker who was rich and famous. The difference reinforces many citizens’ perceptions of Obama administration law enforcement and the current state of American justice.
The Tuscaloosa News – Harsh choices are a part of political reality
Tuesday, the Alabama House of Representatives passed a General Fund Budget that includes $200 million in cuts to state agencies. Nobody seems happy, and Gov. Robert Bentley is calling for tax increases.
The budget does have one virtue, however. It balances.
Alabama law requires the state to pass a balanced budget, and that’s what the House of Representatives did. Yes, it was met with dire predictions of death, disease, pestilence and famine, gnashing of teeth and donning of sackcloth and ashes. Democrats called their Republican oppressors everything from murderers to Beelzebub. But the House delivered a plan for the state to live within its means.
Alabama residents say they want smaller government and don’t want tax increases. Alabama residents now have an idea of what smaller government looks like. It calls for cuts to the state Medicaid agency, the Department of Mental Health and prisons and even bigger cuts to other agencies.
Republican House members say this now gives them a baseline for talking about tax increases. Cigarettes, soft drinks and business licenses may all become targets for the euphemistic sobriquet, “revenue enhancements.”
How some Alabama legislators must envy their counterparts in Congress. They rarely, if ever, face such ugly decisions. In Washington, they avoid tax increases for the most part and still fund everybody’s favorite programs and projects.