A round-up of Sunday editorials from Alabama’s leading newspapers:
The Anniston Star – The Snake was my leader
Football was the surest way to polarize my elementary school classmates. The most stark division among the boys in my class was to bring up the Auburn vs. Alabama rivalry, as was only natural for Alabamians.
The second line of gridiron conflict was loyalty to one of two pro football teams. You could be a fan of the Dallas Cowboys, organized, structured, coolly calculating in how the franchise selected players, and led by upstanding figures like coach Tom Landry and quarterback Roger Staubach, the sort of people modern NFL scouts would describe as “high-character performers.”
The alternative was to root for the Oakland Raiders, a team that in many ways was the polar opposite of the Cowboys. The Cowboys might have appeared buttoned-down, but the Raiders were like punk rockers who didn’t look the part but, boy, could they rock. The team was full of misfits, talented players whose wild off-the-field antics made them a distraction to less-indulgent teams. The Raiders organization was fine with that so long as the wins mounted.
To my fifth-grade eyes, Kenny Stabler, the Raiders’ quarterback, even looked like a pirate. He had long hair, a full beard and a swagger that made no secret of what he intended to do to opponents. As a bonus, the Snake, as he has nicknamed, was a native of Alabama and had played for the Crimson Tide in the 1960s.
So, well before Stabler led his team to a Super Bowl title in 1977, I was hooked, destined to pull for the team in silver and black.
The Birmingham News – Gay Baptists and black Rebels
Alabama’s always been a state of contradictions, and it’s been interesting to see how those have played out over the past several weeks. This week we heard from a few unexpected voices, including a gay Baptists and a few black Rebels.
Earlier this week ESPN NFL reporter Adam Schefter published a tweet showing Jason Pierre-Paul’s medical records. By publicly sharing an athlete’s medical records, did Schefter violate journalistic ethics? John Carvalho, associate professor of journalism at Auburn University and a former sports journalist, offers keen insight about the legal and ethical dilemmas at play.
Bryan Kessler grew up in the Baptist church. He was also born gay. In a moving essay, Bryan wrestles with the complexities of his soul and his desire to be true to himself while maintaining his faith. It’s a must read.
Last week, BP announced a settlement with the five Gulf States seeking damages following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Alabama will receive approximately $2 billion in economic and environmental restoration funds, but the state’s political leaders are divided about whether it’s a good deal for the state.
Attorney General Luther Strange argues that it is a good deal and will continue to rejuvenate the state’s coastal environments.
Congressman Bradley Byrne, however, says that the state deserves better. He says that too much of the settlement will go to the federal and state government and that “less than $500 million will be under the control of Alabama officials on the Gulf.”
Another Alabama congressman responded to a harsh critique about his immigration policy from AL.com’s Kyle Whitmire. Rep. Mo Brooks told Kyle to “bring it on,” and argues that “the damage illegal aliens do to struggling American families is undeniable.”
The Decatur Daily – Alabama ranks last on health of its democracy
A recent survey on the health of democracy in the 50 states and the District of Columbia ranked Alabama 51st in the nation.
The survey, by the Center for Progress American Action Fund, looked at numerous factors. The healthiest democracies, by the group’s standards, were those that provided broad access to voting, equal representation in state government and a limited concentration of influence over the political system.
The Center for Progress is a liberal group, but the standards by which it evaluated state democracies are ones the nation has long cherished.
On one factor after another, Alabama exhibits a pattern of discouraging people from voting.
On accessibility of the ballot, the state allows no voter preregistration for 16- or 17-year-olds. It does not offer online voter registration or portable voter registration.
Early voting is not allowed, and its requirement voters show photo identification adds a major hurdle to those without driver’s licenses.
The state also scores low on representation in state government. Females, blacks and Hispanics are underrepresented in government. Districts are drawn in such a way as to minimize the influence of black voters, a fact being scrutinized by federal courts.
Ex-felons remain disenfranchised even after they served their sentences.
Alabama also is one of the worst states in the nation in terms of the influence of money on the political system. There are no contribution limits on individual campaign donations and weak campaign disclosure laws. Legislative data is not easily accessible to the public.
It has become almost cliche to marvel at how frequently Alabamians vote against their own interests. We routinely reject tax initiatives that would have minimal impact on the majority, but that would improve schools and thus increase income mobility. We elect representatives who siphon money from the public schools that educate 90 percent of our children, and who fight federal programs that would benefit most Alabamians.
We endure a tax system that exacts a far greater percentage of the income of the poor and middle class than it does of the wealthy.
Dothan Eagle – Community involvement on Fort Rucker pays off again
Four months ago, some 1,600 people turned out for an economic impact summit at Fort Rucker, a gathering designed to help high-level military personnel understand what the installation means to the Wiregrass community from an economic standpoint. The gathering had been arranged for visiting military officials charged with gathering information that would be considered as the Pentagon decided how to determine where deep cuts in the nation’s defense budget would be best directed.
The involvement of the people of the Wiregrass apparently impressed the military leaders. According to a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, Fort Rucker is slated to lose 186 soldier positions out of an Army-wide 40,000-troop reduction.
While even a reduction of 186 soldiers will have an impact we’re saddened to see, it could be much, much worse, and Fort Rucker’s slight loss may well be a best-case scenario in the context of the broader span of military reduction.
It’s an important validation of the value of public input and organized community effort to ensure the decision-makers in the Pentagon understand how important Fort Rucker is to our area and how important our area is to Fort Rucker and the accomplishment of its mission.
We applaud those who took the time to have their voices heard, as well as those involved in the Friends of Fort Rucker and area elected and economic development officials.
The Enterprise Ledger – Ibis in the morning… and evening, too
On the morning of Independence Day, I made the groggy walk toward the kitchen, going more on memory than actual sight because what little the eyelids were open were focused on avoiding the new puppy’s chew toys. If you think stepping on a child’s Legos will leave a mark, try putting your weight down on a half-gnawed rawhide with sharp edges. That will make you say things that would have had Mama putting soap in your mouth. Not me, of course, but some people.
As I glanced out in my backyard I noticed something out of the ordinary. I saw something white with what I believed was a long tail pointed skyward. A white cat, I figured, but what was he (or she) up to? My neighbor has a cat that ventures over on my side of the fence on occasion, which I appreciate just in case the dreaded copper-headed-water-rattler is looking for new real estate to claim. This was obviously not my neighbor’s cat. In fact, upon better focus, I realized it was no cat at all, rather a long neck of a bird stretched upward.
But what kind of bird? It was not a chicken with a neck that long. We have seagulls that have strayed north, but these were not seagulls. My first thought was a heron or stork of some sort. A quick Google on my phone and I realized that herons and storks have a straight beak and have black feathers near and around their tail. This bird had a long beak that curved downward toward the end.
I texted my oldest brother, the one who works all over the state in tributaries for the U.S. Geological Survey office, to see if he could identify the winged guests. He has seen everything from alligators, snakes, turtles and prehistoric-looking fish that the more common resident of the state does not see outside of a magazine on occasion.
I was informed that the bird was indeed an Ibis. There are, as I later learned, dozens of types of Ibis, but mine are apparently the American White Ibis and is supposed to be found only on the Gulf Coast or mid-Atlantic regions. My Ibis must have asked some man for directions and were told to take a left at the old Johnson farm.
The birds have stayed around for the better part of a week.
Alabama legislators who demanded significant cuts from agency department heads aren’t exactly getting their money’s worth.
The TimesDaily reported recently the amount of overtime paid to state employees increased 32 percent from 2009-14. That’s an average of almost $5,000 in extra income for 8,800 state employees.
While we have no reason to suggest these workers do not deserve that overtime pay, it’s obvious the $41.4 million in OT paid out during the 2014 calendar year is not representative of state government’s intentions when it has given the order to trim departmental budgets in recent years.
State personnel director Jackie Graham said the overtime is a result of layoffs and unfilled senior staff positions, and hiring of less-trained, lower-level workers eligible for overtime.
Today, overtime in the 2015 calendar year hovers around $20 million, which puts it on track to be similar to last year. Even though some agency chiefs said paying the overtime is less expensive than additional workers, the outcome is misleading to taxpayers who believed their legislators and government were engaged in meaningful austerity.
While we can’t say with absolute certainty who is to blame, we can narrow judgment down to one of two conclusions: Either the cuts were poorly thought out, or our state government simply is underfunded.
And it’s not unfair to consider a little of both.
Some facts continue to rear their heads:
The Gadsden Times – Legislative game of chicken
Games of chicken can be fun, but they don’t end well if taken too far. We hope that’s not the case with Gov. Robert Bentley’s surprise call for a special legislative session beginning Monday to deal with Alabama’s General Fund budget crisis.
We use the game of chicken analogy because there won’t be any legislating going on Monday.
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, countered Bentley’s move by saying the Legislature would immediately adjourn Monday and reconvene Aug. 3. That’s the time frame originally contemplated for the special session, and would allow legislators time to come up with their own budget ideas.
Bentley didn’t deny he was trying to catch legislators off guard with his announcement, but Marsh made clear something we’ve often noted.
All state governors can step up to the bully pulpit and draw attention when they speak, but Alabama’s governor is pretty much defenseless when the Legislature really wants to assert itself.
The regular session ended without a budget agreement.
Legislators dismissed Bentley’s request for $541 million in new revenue to prevent massive cuts in state services, and Bentley vetoed a budget that would’ve cut $200 million from state agencies.
The latest strife doesn’t inspire much confidence that the divide has been breached.
Bentley, citing changing conditions, slashed his request for new revenue by a little more than $200 million in his special session call, but lawmakers don’t seem any more favorably inclined to go there.
The Huntsville Times – So Atticus Finch has feet of red clay?
Obviously, there’s a danger opining about “Go Set a Watchman” when only a few select reviewers have been privy to its secrets, but as one of my college professors once said, the secret to being an English major is being able to talk at length about books you haven’t even read.
And I didn’t spend six years in college for nothing.
In case you haven’t read the early reviews, here’s your chance to bail before I let loose with any spoilers.
Jem’s dead. Nothing noble or notable. Just dropped dead one day.
Atticus is kind of a bigot.
Well, not kind of. He’s been to a Klan rally and he’s apparently a member of the White Citizens’ Council.
And he spouts off the same kind of trash you might have heard over Thanksgiving dinner — about the NAACP lawyers being buzzards, and how the Supreme Court is some sort of bunch of tyrants who should leave us Southerners to mind our business, and how blacks (Oh, please, God, don’t let Atticus use the n-word) don’t need to be integrating with whites in churches and schools and whatnot.
Need a hug?
I loved watching Kenny Stabler play. Even when he was beating one of my favorite teams, I couldn’t help but admire the guy. He always looked like he was having the time of his life.
And that’s pretty much the way he lived life — like it was supposed to be fun.
For this tribute, I depicted kind of a heavenly scene for The Snake. Truth is, Stabler’s idea of heaven probably looks more like the Flora-Bama. I can see him drawing up plays in the sand, flipping dart-like passes to a corps of always-open receivers and occasionally keeping the ball and weaving through defenders to the end zone — just for the fun of it.
Stabler’s idea of heaven probably looks more like the Flora-Bama.
Hopefully, Baldwin County’s greatest athlete will eventually get his due from the Hall of Fame. It’s a shame he won’t be around to give his induction speech.
But that’s OK. My bet is, The Snake’s soul is in the Hall of Fame that counts.
Rest in peace, Kenny.
Montgomery Advertiser – ASU’s Boyd must be more candid with trustees
How can it be that the football program at Alabama State University, the institution’s highest-profile athletics operation, and two other sports programs are under investigation for NCAA rules violations – unbeknownst to the chairman of the board of trustees? Talk about some communication issues.
Much of the information that seeps out of ASU does so indirectly, coming to light in other inquiries and other contexts. In the most recent case, as the Advertiser’s Josh Moon reported, word of the NCAA investigations came in depositions from ASU’s president and athletic director in the wrongful termination suit filed by former football coach Reggie Barlow.
The football investigation involves allegations that first-year coach Brian Jenkins’ staff violated the spring practice restrictions imposed on the program for its poor record of academic progress rate scores. Jenkins has yet to coach a game for the Hornets, but his program is already under NCAA scrutiny. That’s hardly a great way to kick off his ASU career.
ASU’s baseball and softball programs are being investigated as well.
All of this was news to Locy Baker, chairman of the board of trustees, who also has oversight of the athletics department. He learned about it when Moon contacted him.
What kind of university governance is this? Why would ASU President Gwendolyn Boyd, who said in her deposition that she had been notified of the NCAA investigation, not have shared that information with Baker and the rest of the trustees? The baseball and softball inquiries have been going on for some time, yet athletic director Melvin Hines evidently chose not to inform Baker. Why?
Opelika-Auburn News – The Dish: Bizilia’s Café passes the test
Any place with “café” or “coffee shop” attached to its name should provide two things.
No, offering great coffee is not one of the three — that much should be a given.
The two-prong test is personal and arbitrary; there’s no definitive way of proving or disproving such aspects. It’s a matter of feel … comfort … relatability.
Bizilia’s Café in downtown Auburn passes the test.
Let’s get to why …
The café/coffee shop must have character. Bizilia’s Café has an appealing style to it and that much is noticeable upon walking in. Several feet from the door is where the register is located and behind that there’s the handwritten menu. Handwritten menus are personal, intimate and essential. There are no numbers for combinations on the menu. There are no corny names attached to sandwiches. There are no over-the-top ways of marketing. That’s a good thing. Most successful businesses thrive because there’s a keen understanding of what it’s supposed to be and whom it’s supposed to cater to.
The café/coffee shop must be a comfortable place to both work and engage in conversation. The inside walls are painted in complimentary shades of green, giving it a different look. The portraits of flowers and dimly lit light bulbs add to the amazon-like feel, making it seem like a laid-back atmosphere. So, too, do the picnic-style tablecloths. When it’s time to take a seat, however, the mood changes. Whether in a booth or in a chair, the seating is very sturdy and upright. It’s a casual setting with an ergonomically designed interior. At the intersection of calm and focused is where Bizilia’s Café resides.
Bizilia’s Café in downtown Auburn passes the test.
The Tuscaloosa News – In Cosby’s case, bad messenger, good message
There’s a common saying, “Don’t shoot the messenger.” By that, it’s generally meant if someone doesn’t like the message, don’t blame it on the person or organization that merely delivered it.
In this case, we say go ahead and shoot the messenger — figuratively. But the messenger didn’t invalidate the message.
Documents recently unsealed by a judge reveal that it is very likely that Bill Cosby drugged women in order to have sex with them — a truly repugnant act. If Cosby did that, and the probability seems to grow with every new revelation, he deserves the full wrath and indignation of the civil and criminal court system. And he deserves all of the public condemnation he receives.
It appears that he will receive plenty. In unsealing documents from a 2005 trial, the judge in the case noted what The Associated Press called Cosby’s public moralizing as one reason for unsealing the documents.
“The stark contrast between Bill Cosby the public moralist and Bill Cosby the subject of serious allegations concerning improper (and perhaps criminal) conduct is a matter to which the AP — and by extension the public — has a significant interest,” U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno said in agreeing to release the documents to the wire service.
There is nothing the public loves to condemn more harshly than a hypocrite, particularly one that has taken a position on anything that could be classified as a moral issue. But to be honest, for many people it’s not the moralist they would like to condemn as much as the morals. And they use the hypocrite’s stumble to condemn his or her message — a disingenuous practice at best.