Alabama editorial roundup
The Associated Press
Aug. 08, 2018
Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:
The Decatur Daily on a proposed rule change by the Food and Drug Administration that would prohibit anything not coming from a cow to be called milk:
Not all restrictions on trade take the form of tariffs and quotas, and not all of them are aimed at foreign goods and services.
Lawmakers from Wisconsin, for example, in cahoots with the Food and Drug Administration, are going after competitors to Wisconsin's fabled dairy industry, seeking to ban anyone from selling anything called "milk" if it doesn't come from a cow.
If enacted, shoppers would no longer see soy milk, coconut milk or almond milk on store shelves. They could still be there, but they'd have to be called something else. Even goat's milk and goat cheese, like that produced by Belle Chevre in Elkmont, could run afoul of the regulatory pedants in the FDA and their friends in Wisconsin dairy country.
Backers of the proposed ban say this is to avoid confusion, as if anyone thinks almond milk is anything other than milk in name only, anyway.
Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Cory Booker, D-N.J., introduced an amendment to stop the FDA's proposed ban in its tracks.
"No one buys almond milk under the false illusion that it came from a cow. They buy almond milk because it didn't come from a cow," Lee said on the Senate floor. "The amendment I am offering would protect . products like 'almond milk,' 'goat cheese,' and 'gluten-free bread' from accusations of being illegally labeled."
That sounds sensible enough, which is probably why the Lee-Booker amendment failed 84-14. Alabama Sens. Richard Shelby and Doug Jones sided with Wisconsin and the FDA and voted against it.
Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin, quoted at Reason.com, called Lee's amendment "an attack on dairy farmers across the country and in my home state of Wisconsin," which is absurd, but exactly the sort of argument one expects out of Wisconsin, where the powerful dairy lobby holds consumer choice hostage.
In 2015, Wisconsin officials began enforcing an obscure law dating to the 1950s that said all butter sold in the state must bear either a federal or Wisconsin grade mark. That made it illegal to sell butter packaged and graded elsewhere, such as a certain brand of highly regarded Irish butter with a large following in the U.S. One fan of it even sued the state. As IrishCentral.com notes, the matter was resolved only after the Irish agreed to meet Wisconsin's standards, as if anyone needs to tell Irish dairy farmers how to make butter.
To hear Wisconsin dairy farmers tell it, they're besieged on all sides, and their concerns about Canada's dairy tariffs are one reason for the current trade dispute between the U.S. and Canada. But, as the above illustrates, there are lots of rules besides tariffs that can tilt the playing field, and Wisconsin dairymen benefit from quite a few of them, no matter how absurd.
The labeling of almond and soy milk is just one example, but it best illustrates the issue because of its sheer absurdity. Imagine, for example, if some lawmakers from North Carolina got together with the FDA to mandate that anything called "barbecue" had to come from a pig.
That wouldn't go over well in north Alabama, where we have turned barbecued chicken with white sauce into an art form. And would anyone dare mess with Texas' smokers of beef brisket?
But we shouldn't pick on Wisconsin.
The Gadsden Times on lawsuits filed by Roy Moore and his wife:
We didn't think Roy Moore would exit the scene, quietly or otherwise, after his loss to Doug Jones in last year's U.S. Senate special election — and we were right.
The former Alabama chief justice and his wife have filed a second volley of lawsuits against people and entities they claim wronged them during the Senate campaign.
Defendants include the Highway 31 Super PAC, which was set up to back Jones and oppose Moore, and the political strategist and attorney who were behind it; four other political advocacy and communications firms; and a couple of political consultants.
They are accused of wantonness (gratuitous maliciousness, according to one dictionary), defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and loss of consortium (deprivation of the benefits of a family relationship, because they can't go out in public peacefully).
The Moores say the defendants were responsible for "misleading and confusing" advertising — including a video implying that votes are public record and people's neighbors would know who voted for Moore, who was described as a "child predator."
They say they've suffered damage to their reputations, financial damages and emotional anguish; that Roy Moore has wrongly suffered "public contempt" and that the defendants contributed to his losing the race despite his investment of time, resources and efforts; and that his chances of being elected to office in the future have been damaged.
The Moores' first round of suits, in April, were against four women who accused Roy Moore of sexual misconduct toward them when they were teenagers in Etowah County, and a local man who allegedly helped The Washington Post develop stories about those cases (coverage that earned it the Pulitzer Prize). The Moores accuse the defendants of defamation and causing lack of consortium, and of being part of a liberal conspiracy to keep Moore out of the Senate.
Lawyers for those defendants already have filed motions seeking to have those cases dismissed. One of them claims the Moores' efforts are "nothing more than a ploy to fundraise, remain in the political spotlight and seek retribution against an ordinary citizen for speech protected by the First Amendment."
We're not privy to Roy Moore's thought processes, so we're not going to touch those potential motivations.
We will note that under New York Times v. Sullivan, a public figure — and Roy Moore definitely is one and given her active role in his campaigns, his defense and his foundation, his wife very likely would qualify, too — must prove actual malice to have grounds for a defamation or libel case.
That's a significant obstacle to clear, as are the other allegations in the Moores' suits. Our prediction — and don't make any bets — is that they will accomplish nothing except to make the defendants spend a little money and cause them some hassle.
As "red" as Alabama is, it's not a crime to be a liberal or to advocate and raise money for the defeat of conservatives here. (The Moores have a point about the Highway 31 video. It was way over the top.)
However, another motion to dismiss strikes us as on target: "This lawsuit was brought as part of Mr. and Mrs. Moore's ongoing attempt to present Roy Moore's electoral defeat as something other than the legitimate result of an informed electorate exercising its will."
Anyone who's watched Roy Moore's political career knows that his campaigns are like an endless loop of "Onward Christian Soldiers," in which he's going on before with the Cross to do battle and save the U.S. and Alabama from the Philistines.
It's deflating to be rejected when you think you're an agent of God's Will. Perhaps at some point the Moores will come to terms with their supposed destiny being unfulfilled.
The TimesDaily on U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions saying he is creating a religious task force to deal with what he sees as growing attacks on religious beliefs:
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions says American culture is becoming "less hospitable to people of faith," and he is creating a "religious liberty task force" to deal with what he sees as growing attacks on religious liberties.
Is the attorney general right? That depends.
As the government creeps into more aspects of our daily lives, certainly some people are finding that acting in accordance with their beliefs is running afoul of government mandates.
One area where this has occurred is with the Affordable Care Act, which mandates that companies of a certain size provide health insurance to their employees and that insurance must cover certain things, such as birth control.
Speaking at a Justice Department summit on religious tolerance, Sessions said "nuns were being forced to buy contraceptives" — which the Associated Press reported was "an apparent, though not fully accurate, reference to an Obama administration health care policy meant to ensure women covered by faith-based groups' health plans have access to cost-free contraceptives."
That issue is still working its way through the courts, after the U.S. Supreme Court punted it back to the lower courts for another look.
This conflict is all the consequence of a health care system that makes employer-provided health insurance its linchpin. Anything more free-market oriented (such as individuals buying their own insurance, perhaps with the assistance of vouchers) is unacceptable to Democrats. Anything like the single-payer systems that predominate in Canada and Europe is unacceptable to Republicans.
This is a conflict between religion and government that literally couldn't exist in any other advanced democracy.
The Supreme Court also dodged the issue of whether or not a Christian bakery owner in Colorado must provide a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. The court ruled this year in favor of the bakery, but on the narrow grounds that the Colorado civil rights board that brought the case against the bakery displayed hostility and bias, not on the fundamental issue.
These cases, however, are few and far between. They make national news because they are so unusual. Still, they raise important issues.
Not too long ago, some people would have claimed religious objections for not renting to, for example, interracial couples. Today, virtually no one accepts that as a valid exception to anti-discrimination and fair housing laws. Is baking a cake — or providing any similar service, such as wedding photography — different, and if so, how can we define it as such without throwing all discrimination law into chaos?
But is Sessions even right? Is the U.S. more hostile to people of faith, or, rather, do we simply have people of more diverse faiths who don't all believe the same thing, and don't see the same activities as hostile?
It's all part of the constant churn that is America. This is a success story. America is home to more faiths than ever before, and if Sessions thinks America is hostile to them, he should look at how other nations deal with similarly diverse populations.