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Alabama editorial roundup

January 30, 2019

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

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Jan. 28

Dothan Eagle on lessons from the partial government shutdown:

... Congressional leaders and President Trump reached a tenuous agreement that ended a 35-day partial government shutdown — at least for the next few weeks. Unless a more concrete agreement is solidified in that time, the government could shut down again.

That must not be allowed to happen.

In a report released Monday from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the shutdown resulted in an $11 billion loss for the U.S. economy — $3 billion of which can never be recovered. What did Americans get for that $11 billion? Nothing — the agreement to end the shutdown was essentially the same offer on the table before the standoff began.

What we did get from the shutdown is information, and it’s particularly chilling. We discovered that the men and women we sent to Washington to represent the interests of the people are willing to disregard the welfare of their constituents in favor of their party. We learned from the ill-informed remarks of U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross that some of those in power are so disconnected from ordinary Americans that they’ll admit that they don’t understand how government workers who are furloughed or forced to work without pay — or worse, civilian contractors who won’t be paid for a month of down time — could be in a financial bind.

Perhaps the most jarring realization is that many working American families are less than two paychecks from the food bank, that despite having stable work in reasonably well-paying jobs, they don’t have enough of an economic cushion to weather four weeks without cash flow.

The government shutdown laid bare some alarming truths about our leadership and our precarious economies, from household operations to large-scale budgeting.

Lawmakers should make their first priority averting another crippling shutdown, and then address the conditions that would improve the economic security of every American.

Online: https://www.dothaneagle.com/

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Jan. 27

The Decatur Daily on how a newly enacted “hands-free” law in Georgia is working out:

The Alabama Legislature opens its regular session on March 5, but lawmakers are already filing some of the bills they will try to get passed into law in this year’s session.

One lawmaker getting an early start is state Sen. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, who wants to make it illegal even to hold a mobile phone in your hand while driving. This would go beyond the current prohibition against texting and driving to make it against the law to use a cellphone in any way, except hands-free.

The bill is similar to one recently enacted in Georgia.

“Their early results are showing a decrease of crashes and a decrease in texting and driving,” McClendon told ABC 33-40 in November. “Basically, the bill says you can’t touch your phone. You can’t prop it up. You can’t have it in your hand. You can’t physically come in contact with your telephone.”

Georgia’s law has been in effect for about a year, but contrary to McClendon’s claim, there’s scant evidence it has had an effect on vehicle crashes, although Georgia officials would also like you to think that.

Fatal crashes in Georgia were down 6 percent in 2018, according to Harris Blackwood, director of the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.

The Newnan Times-Herald reported Blackwood said he can’t say with certainty that the hands-free law is completely responsible for the decrease but “it is certainly a contributing factor toward the decline in overall fatalities.”

Maybe and maybe not. According to Blackwood, traffic fatalities also declined in the year before Georgia’s hands-free law went into effect, from 1,561 in 2016 to 1,549 in 2017, before dropping again under the new law in 2018.

Some in law enforcement think the new law is encouraging even more dangerous behavior.

“Now I see more people looking down into their seat, into their laps, instead of looking forward — because they’re hiding their phones,” Sgt. Mike Searcy, commander of the Georgia State Patrol Newnan Post, told the Times-Herald.

One thing is for sure: The new law has resulted in a lot of traffic citations, more than 8,000 issued in its first six months of enforcement, according to Blackwood.

There are potential downsides to the law, such as selective enforcement and the law’s potential to have a disproportionate impact on the poor, who tend to buy inexpensive cellphones and not smartphones with the latest hands-free capabilities.

And unlike texting while driving, simple talking on a mobile phone seems less likely to distract a driver than many other activities drivers undertake, such as simply adjusting a radio.

Some will say the Legislature should pass McClendon’s bill because “if it saves just one life, it will be worth it,” which is said of lots of laws. But outlawing radios in cars would no doubt save at least one life, too, and no one treats that as a serious proposal.

Alabama lawmakers should put McClendon’s proposal in neutral, at least until it has racked up more miles across the state line.

Online: http://www.decaturdaily.com/

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Jan. 30

The Decatur Daily on the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute deciding to go forward with awarding Alabama native Angela Davis a human rights award:

The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute’s 180 is now a full 360.

Having first decided to honor Alabama native Angela Davis with a human rights award, the group rescinded the award after a local Holocaust education group asked it to reconsider on the basis of Davis’ vocal support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which seeks to put pressure on Israel regarding its treatment of Palestinians.

This resulted in a counter-backlash from an assortment of mostly left-wing groups, some of whom blamed the “Israel lobby” for the snub.

This month, the BCRI announced its board had reconsidered and would give Davis the Fred L. Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award.

The BCRI should have left well enough alone. Giving Davis any human rights award is, to put it bluntly, absurd. This is not because of her support for the BDS movement. Rather, it is because of her decades of involvement with groups fundamentally opposed to human rights in any meaningful sense of the term.

It starts, but certainly does not end, with Davis’ support of the Communist Party USA throughout the Cold War, when it answered to the Soviet Union, which was its principal source of funding. She was the party’s vice presidential nominee in 1980 and 1984, and received honors from the Soviet Union while posing for photo ops in every communist dictatorship from Cuba to East Germany.

“On her trip to East Germany, Davis visited the Berlin Wall, where 262 people were killed trying to escape from communist paradise to capitalist hell,” writes Cathy Young, who emigrated from the USSR to the U.S. as a teenager, in The Forward. “A 1972 photo shows her glowing as she shakes hands with Erich Honecker, the general secretary of the East German Communist Party who gave orders to shoot at escapees.”

Davis opposes the U.S. prison system, but appears to have had no problem with Soviet gulags. Charlene Mitchell, a friend of Davis’ who said she was acting as Davis’ spokeswoman at the time, told Britain’s Guardian newspaper in 1972 that people in Eastern European jails were there only for the crime of undermining the government. In other words: They got what they deserved.

Davis was involved in the U.S. civil rights movement as a teenager, but her record since then makes clear her support for someone’s human rights is contingent on the person’s political beliefs.

Davis has never apologized for her support for the most brutal, totalitarian regimes in human history.

One can argue about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the BDS movement, but there’s no argument about Davis’ support for anti-human regimes.

Giving Davis a human rights honor is as ludicrous as allowing Saudi Arabia to chair a United Nations human rights committee. But then that happened, too.

We won’t bother calling for the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute to rescind the award yet again. Rather we’ll note simply that the award is tainted, possibly for good.

Online: http://www.decaturdaily.com/

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