A roundup of Sunday editorials from Alabama’s leading newspapers:
Anniston Star – We’re still arguing Roe v. Wade
During a 2012 Republican presidential debate, ABC News moderator George Stephanopoulos posed a question: “Gov. [Mitt] Romney, do you believe that states have the right to ban contraception? Or is that trumped by a constitutional right to privacy?” As Romney hemmed and hawed over his answer, Republicans in the audience began to boo. Afterward, conservatives carped that the question wasn’t relevant. After all, the Supreme Court in 1965 took away the ability of a state to broadly regulate contraception.
Today, the question over the legality of contraception seems more relevant than ever. In this decade, the Supreme Court has heard two cases on the topic — Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores in 2014 and this year’s pending Little Sisters of the Poor v. Burwell, which was recently argued before the high court. The Hobby Lobby case allowed small, privately held corporations to opt out of the birth-control mandate under Obamacare.
So, yes, the legality of birth control and other matters of reproduction are apparently still a topic up for debate.
Confirmation came last week at the Alabama Legislature. The House Health Committee heard from supporters of a “personhood amendment.” The proposal is a sop to opponents of abortion rights who hope to see the amendment make its way to a Supreme Court that would be willing to undo Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case legalizing abortion in most cases.
Birmingham News – You are 1 of 7 billion. Aren’t you special.
Election season got you down? Fretting about the economy? Terrorism? Global warming? Your children’s future? Your own future? Time to put you – and your problems — in perspective.
You are only one of more than 7 billion people on this planet. While that is an easy number to write – 7,000,000,000 – neither you nor I can grasp it easily.
Our brains evolved to deal with small numbers to solve immediate problems.
How many lions were in that group that was stalking me? How many mouths do I have to feed tomorrow? Is my clan bigger than my neighbor’s? Questions like these can be answered by grasping numbers not much bigger than you can count on your fingers and toes.
We need help to grasp bigger numbers.
Decatur Daily – State AG hiding info from public
You can’t handle the truth!”
It’s the memorable line by Jack Nicholson in “A Few Good Men.” Playing a colonel whose certainty that his value to the public is so great that it merits cover-ups and deception, he yells it at a defense attorney.
Attorney General Luther Strange was less theatrical, but he said basically the same thing when The Decatur Daily submitted a public records request for documents that would identify the defendant in a case for which Strange hired outside counsel. The hit to taxpayers on the legal contract is $195 per hour, up to $990,000.
Instead of revealing the name of the defendant whose prosecution merits $1 million in outside legal fees, the attorney general carefully blacked out references to the defendant or the judge in the documents it produced.
Dothan Eagle – Gaining ground in the War on Drugs
Recently, Harper’s Magazine published a 22-year-old interview with John Ehrlichman, one of Richard Nixon’s top advisors and a pivotal figure in the Watergate scandal. In the interview, Ehrlichman made a show-stopping admission about the beginnings of an initiative that continues to this day – the War on Drugs:
“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people,” Ehrlichman said.
“You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders. Raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
Ehrlichman died 17 years ago, and obviously cannot illuminate remarks from 22 years back, and his children have taken issue with the information, saying they don’t remember their father ever making derogatory racial remarks.
Enterprise Ledger – Fact aside, here’s Pt. 1 of my spring training report
Boy howdy, when Enterprise Ledger editor G. Kyle Mooty hands out assignments, he hands them out!
When the one-time, Pulitzer-nominated Mooty asked R. Adams, along with Charlie Abernathy, to travel to Central Florida to watch the Atlanta Braves play St. Louis, Houston and Miami on consecutive days and write up a scouting report, we quickly agreed.
Little did we know what else Kyle had cooked up for us, but we began finding out mid-afternoon Tuesday, March 15, after we arrived at the motel where he’d reserved commodious digs for us.
We found a sealed packet, opened it, then stood quietly a few seconds before realizing we were holding press credentials and a parking pass for that evening’s media event at the Arnold Palmer Invitational sponsored by Master Card at Bay Hill, not three miles from our motel.
We quickly got ready and headed for what proved to be quite a night!
The latest employment statistics for the Shoals Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) show 576 more people were working in February than the same period a year ago.
The jobless rate for the Shoals remains the highest of all of Alabama’s metropolitan statistical areas. In February, unemployment locally stood at 7.4 percent — up slightly from the 7.3 percent reported in January by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Alabama Department of Labor. The local rate was significantly higher than the state’s overall unemployment rate of 6.2 percent.
Thankfully, the trend in Lauderdale and Colbert counties is positive, but realistically it’s a small consolation for an area hit hard by the closing two years ago of three manufacturing plants.
Our economy was rocked that year with announcements of the closure of Hillshire’s Florence plant, HON Corporation’s Central Heights location, and International Paper’s Courtland mill. All told, 2,300 workers lost their jobs.
Gadsden Times – Ignoring problem won’t make it go away, governor
Closing your eyes, putting your hands over your ears and humming loudly is a common response when someone wants to blot out something unpleasant.
That strategy never works, because the actions ultimately get boring, the hands, eyes and vocal chords eventually get tired — and reality never goes away.
Gov. Robert Bentley needs to heed that lesson, instead of humming away while his embattled administration keeps imploding a little more as each day passes.
We called for Bentley’s resignation last Sunday, a few days after he admitted to making inappropriate remarks to his now former chief adviser, Rebekah Caldwell Mason.
Huntsville Times – How our strange, complex history of drug regulation affects our prisons
Alabama has some of the strictest drug laws in the nation, but it also taxes the proceeds from the sale of illegal drugs, such as marijuana, by requiring sellers to have tax stamps — similar to the excise tax imposed on cigarettes. How’s that again?
Anyone caught with large quantities of drugs but no stamps face not only jail time but prosecution for tax evasion.
I asked State Revenue Commissioner Julie Magee how many people have bought self-incriminating drug stamps.
Well, there’s been a few, some by collectors looking to add something weird to their collections, and on rare occasions some on drugs themselves. Twenty-five were bought in 2014, 39 in 2015. The law’s real purpose is to make it tough on drug dealers.
Press-Register –What happens to community hospitals if Medicaid isn’t funded?
Imagine a community without adequate health care.
No emergency room, no local cancer treatments, no intensive care beds, no hospital to provide needed surgery in your local community. This is what could happen if a proposed plan on the table to drastically cut Medicaid funding is not reversed. The people of Chilton County didn’t have to imagine it. In 2012, Chilton Medical Center closed, leaving the county without a hospital. Citizens woke up one morning, and the care was no longer available.
Think about what might happen in your community if the only hospital closed. Where would the child who broke his arm sliding into home go to be seen? Or, worse, where would someone go if they thought they were having a heart attack or stroke or if they were ready to deliver a baby? Driving to Montgomery or Birmingham might be an option for someone with a scheduled surgery, but it’s not convenient, and in an emergency, it’s life threatening.
In addition to the loss of health care access, the community would lose hundreds of good jobs and would likely have difficulty recruiting new businesses to the area … all creating a devastating blow to the local economy.
Montgomery Advertiser – Money vs. honor: No contest
Often, when someone describes an incredibly expensive acquisition or experience, the listener sighs and mutters: “… when money is no object.” When money is no object, couples fly to Belize for lunch, men buy brand new vehicles every two years, and families decide that, of their five homes, the one in Aspen should have the biggest Christmas tree.
But what happens when money is the object? What happens when money confers recognition and status? When money is available in larger sums than the imagination ever contemplated?
Well, sometimes, in exchange for money, people compromise or abandon their values. They betray loved ones. They subjugate themselves into oblivion, and – in a perverse sale of their pride and dignity –they make deals with the devil. That appears to be the fate of Governor Bentley’s former Senior Political Advisor, Rebekah Caldwell Mason, and her husband, Jonathan P. Mason.
Mason was a consultant to the Bentley for Governor Campaign, her only client, through her company, RCM Communications. She has said that “the company acted as a standard advertising agency in placing … media buys.” Mason herself received $57,727 in 2013, and $179,320 in 2014. In 2015, she received $76,830 from Bentley’s campaign funds and $15,000 from the Alabama Council for Excellent Government (ACEGOV), a non-profit established to advance Bentley’s beliefs and policies. Mason acknowledges that “most” of her duties “relate to advising the Governor on matters related to the conduct of his office.”
Opelika-Auburn News –Auburn council makes its decision with difficult zoning issues
The Auburn City Council made several important zoning changes at its most recent meeting that will lend a big hand in shaping the future landscape of Auburn’s vibrant downtown.
It was important work with important ramifications for many. Decisions needed to be made, and kudos to the council, other city officials and interested residents in giving the due diligence such work deserved.
Much of the focus was on where and how to preserve a small-town business district with an influx of proposed projects for more housing, especially student housing geared toward those moving close to campus at Auburn University.
Now that an area is more clearly and specifically designated for that, the student housing issue is in a better state.
Tuscaloosa News –Bingo amendment worse than original
State Sen. Bobby Singleton has introduced a proposed constitutional amendment that would supersede an amendment that allows gambling on bingo in Greene County “for charitable or educational purposes.” The original amendment, adopted in 2003, has been the source of much consternation over the years because it defined bingo in the traditional sense — covering called-out numbers on a paper card — and state courts have ruled that the “bingo” played on machines at Greenetrack and other facilities did not meet that definition.
A gambling task force put together by then-Gov. Bob Riley in 2008 raided Greenetrack and similar bingo operations in the state and confiscated the machines, leading to ongoing court battles that to this day have not been fully resolved. Bingo proponents charged that the raids were politically motivated, and perhaps they were. But, to us, the questions of legality and political motives have always been beside the point when it comes to the Greene County amendment.
The primary issue is that the original amendment was presented as a means to allow any non-profit entity in Greene County to operate a traditional bingo game to raise money – but it contains no provision that requires a public accounting of bingo revenue. The citizens of Greene County have had no way of knowing for certain how much money the games have generated over the past 13 years or whether all of it has been distributed to charities and other non-profits, as required by the amendment. To give some idea of the amount of money at stake, though, the state filed liens against Greenetrack in 2009, claiming it owed more than $61 million in sales tax revenue for the years 2004-2008.
Now, Singleton, whose district includes Greene County, is proposing to replace the deeply flawed original amendment with one that is worse.