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Alabama editorial roundup

June 6, 2018

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

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June 6

Tuscaloosa News says party absolutism keeps the country divided:

Not all that long ago, political party conventions held a great deal of intrigue and drama. The liberal, moderate and conservative factions of each major party pushed, pulled and cajoled to get to one candidate. Now, the conventions are merely long, scripted infomercials, and party positions on the issues appear to be driven more by polls than principles.

At every level, those who would be candidates toe the party line, or the party doesn’t support them. To be a Democrat or a Republican, you’ve got to support the entire platform and every other candidate of the party, or you’re toast. Each party, to differentiate itself from the other, has become more extreme, more unwilling to consider the other’s ideas. It is why you rarely hear about a pro-life Democrat or a pro-choice Republican. This two-party, all-in, absolute partisan divide suffocates diversity of thought and discourages any incentive to find common ground.

The many voters who might consider a less ideological candidate instead are left to choose one extreme or the other. Remember when it was common for people to say they vote for the person, not the party? We don’t hear that so much anymore. Candidates of either party are little more than interchangeable parts because the party has determined their positions on the issues and will brook no dissent.

The Democratic Party took it to another level in the 2016 presidential election when its power brokers determined well in advance that Hillary Clinton would be the nominee. The primaries were for show. Agree with him or not, Bernie Sanders brought some nonconformist ideas and got some unexpected traction — but he never really had a fair chance.

Not to be outdone, Republicans put party discipline above all in last year’s special U.S. Senate election in Alabama. It is why Gov. Kay Ivey said she believed the women who accused Republican candidate Roy Moore of inappropriate behavior but declared that she would vote for him anyway. She knew the state’s GOP leadership demanded it.

It is also why Lee Garrison, a Republican, should have known what to expect from the state party when he publicly praised Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate, last month. Garrison, a former Tuscaloosa City Council member, and Maddox worked together in city government for more than a decade.

Garrison appeared on the Republican primary ballot Tuesday, seeking a seat on the party’s state executive committee. But last Thursday, long after the ballots had been printed, the state GOP leadership decided that votes for Garrison would not be counted, because he had spoken out in support of Maddox.

“Walt’s my friend and my colleague, and I said some positive things about him,” Garrison said Monday. “I said I thought he’d do a great job and he’s a good man. I’m mainly Republican, but I’m going to support him.”

We understand the parties’ desire to ensure their candidates are loyal, but such absolutism ensures that our country will remain bitterly divided. We desperately need to come together. Our would-be leaders must be given the freedom to try.

Online: http://www.tuscaloosanews.com

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June 6

The Decatur Daily on recent tariffs that have increased steel prices:

Steel prices have spiked in the wake of President Donald Trump’s tariffs, which may be good news for domestic steel producers but is bad news for companies that use steel and consumers who purchase products made with it.

Already this year, U.S. steel prices have risen 40 percent and are now nearly 50 percent higher than in Europe or China, according to John G. Murphy, senior vice president for international policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. That means not only are American businesses and consumers paying more for steel, steel made in Europe and China is even more competitive in the rest of the world than it already was.

As Cato Institute trade analyst Scott Lincicome notes, this has happened even though half of all imports were exempt from Trump’s 25 percent tariff. Now, however, Trump is promising another round of tariffs aimed squarely at some of our closest trading partners and allies, which will raise input prices further.

The economy is currently humming along well. On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that 223,000 jobs were created in May, beating expectations, and that the unemployment rate fell to 3.8 percent. This continues the steady decline since unemployment peaked at 10 percent during the first year of the Barack Obama administration. (It had dropped to 4.8 percent by the time Trump took office in January 2017.)

The first rule of inheriting a growing economy is not to screw it up. That can be a delicate balancing act, especially when the Federal Reserve is finally inching up interest rates, which were at record lows during most of the past decade, helping enable the Obama expansion. Yet Trump either believes or at least wants Americans to believe that the economy he was handed was a basket case, routinely complaining “we have the worst financial recovery in 65 years,” although it is to date the second-longest after March 1991-March 2001 and has seen slightly better job growth (most of it under Obama) than the November 2001-December 2007 expansion’s 0.9 percent. It’s also worth noting this employment growth has come even as the Baby Boomers leave the workforce to enter retirement.

Trump, however, is not content to preside over a growing economy that is transitioning from 20th century industries to 21st century ones. If President Obama was sometimes guilty of trying to pick the economy’s winners and losers, such as backing the failed solar-power company Solyndra, President Trump has upped the ante, picking winners and losers at the level of entire industries, such as steel over automotives and coal over just about everything.

China already has threatened retaliation for Trump’s previous tariff proposals, and China’s threat to levy tariffs on U.S. agricultural products strikes right at the heart of parts of the country that supported Trump in 2016. The European Union is preparing similar retaliatory measures.

It seems the “bromance” between Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron, if it was ever really anything other than perception, is well and truly over. Macron has warned Trump that the new U.S. tariffs on European, Mexican and Canadian goods are not only a mistake but illegal, too, under international trade rules.

On Friday, The EU filed a formal request for consultations at the World Trade Organization in an attempt to resolve the matter without a trade war, but EU negotiators are dealing with a president who has said trade wars are “good” and “easy to win,” and who routinely sabotages deals before they can happen. The Trump administration scuttled a possible meeting between Trump and the Canadian prime minister over North American Free Trade Agreement re-negotiations by insisting on a poison-pill precondition of including a sunset clause in the new agreement.

Congress can and should rein in Trump’s rogue trade policy. Trump is acting unilaterally by claiming his trade restrictions are for national security purposes, something he never mentions when he claims to be saving American jobs. By antagonizing America’s closest allies, Trump’s restrictions are, if anything, threatening U.S. security just as surely as they’re threatening an economy that was getting along fine. Ultimately, however, Congress has the constitutional authority to regulate or liberalize trade. It’s time it reasserted itself.

Online: http://www.decaturdaily.com

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June 3

The Gadsden Times says Noccalula Falls should be kept off limits to divers:

Don’t.

Just don’t.

Don’t do it, don’t even think about doing it.

What in the world are we so negative about?

Well, we’re envisioning a lot of Facebook devotees out there with their hands raised, bellowing “I know, I know.”

They’ve seen the video that was posted of a group of adrenaline junkies making the 95-foot dive from Noccalula Falls into the waters of Black Creek.

A spokesman for the group — which included people from California, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, even one from Germany — described them as “pretty much professionals.” They have years of experience in making such dives and plan their vacations around such activities. Many have dove from considerably higher perches than Noccalula’s rim.

The group also takes and treats this pastime seriously. They do advance research on potential dive sites — they were in Tennessee last week scouting out another waterfall — and train before leaping.

At Noccalula Falls, they checked the depth of the pool before diving and found it to be 14 feet, right at the safety margin.

So it’s no surprise that everyone in the group — each made two dives; there were back flips, quads and even an improvised off-axis misty move from skiing — unscathed.

It’s also not surprising that park officials escorted them to the gate and told them not to come back. (The city’s parks and recreation director did invite them back for the Barbarian Challenge, though, so apparently it’s not an inflexible ban.)

Park officials say they don’t want to promote such antics — with good reason.

We accept that these folks knew what they were doing. Our usage of “adrenaline junkies” was intended to be descriptive, not ridicule or an epithet. We have no problem with people who get a rush from taking chances and doing exciting things to break up the monotony and drudgery of everyday life. Go for it at places where such things are permitted.

Unfortunately, there are more folks out there who wouldn’t have a molecule of a clue how to do something like this without getting splattered or drowned, but might be emboldened enough after seeing the video to hand off their beer cans and seek a transitory bit of social media fame and a bunch of “likes” by giving it a try. The legitimate need to prevent tragedies and protect those live-in-the-moment people who aren’t thinking about the consequences from themselves has to take priority here.

So, visit Noccalula Falls Park all you want. It’s a gorgeous place that will impress visitors. (We’ve said locals tend to take it for granted; when was the last time you home folks were up there?)

No diving, though.

Online: http://www.gadsdentimes.com

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