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Alabama editorial roundup

August 29, 2018

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

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Aug. 29

Decatur Daily on the United States support of a Saudi-led military campaign and Alabama Senator Richard Shelby blocking an attempt to demand some accountability:

It takes a back seat to the Russia investigation and President Donald Trump’s every frivolous tweet, but Saudi Arabia’s war against the tiny, impoverished state of Yemen is nevertheless one of the major, under-reported stories going on right now.

We have been critical previously in this space of the United States’ blanket support for the Saudis’ war, a conflict that dates to President Barack Obama’s administration. Some in the national media have finally started to take notice, too, although it took a Saudi aircraft blowing up a bus full of schoolchildren, 44 in all, between the ages of 6 and 11, according to The Guardian, to get their attention.

As CNN reported earlier this month, the bomb that killed those schoolchildren was manufactured in the U.S. ...

Soon after the CNN report, Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, according to The Guardian, introduced an “amendment to the defense appropriations bill that would have cut off funds for the (Saudi) coalition until the secretary of defense could certify that rules for the protection of civilians were being properly followed.”

The amendment was blocked, however, by Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, who rarely takes such an interest in international affairs but, as The Guardian notes, counts military contractors Lockheed Martin and Boeing among his donors.

“Working with local Yemeni journalists and munitions experts,” CNN reported, “CNN has established that the weapon that left dozens of children dead on August 9 was a 500-pound laser-guided MK 82 bomb made by Lockheed Martin, one of the top US defense contractors.”

The implication, made by left-wing newspapers like Britain’s Guardian, is that Shelby is simply doing the bidding of his financial backers. This, however, is simplistic.

According to financial records accessible at OpenSecrets.com, military contractors give relatively little to Shelby compared to the financial and insurance industries, and the most obvious and innocent reason either Boeing or Lockheed Martin donates to Shelby’s campaign and political action committee is because both have a presence in north Alabama.

None of that, however, excuses Shelby for blocking what would have been a modest exercise of American oversight over how its weapons are used abroad. Whether Shelby sought directly to benefit campaign contributors who also happen to provide jobs in his state, or whether Shelby simply thought he was deferring to the executive branch, Congress holds the purse strings and has a vital oversight role to play.

The Pentagon, meanwhile, according to CNN, has warned the Saudis that it is prepared to reduce military and intelligence support for its campaign against Yemen if the Saudi regime doesn’t demonstrate it is trying to limit civilian casualties. And while he has sent, at best, mixed signals, Defense Secretary James Mattis warned the Saudis on Tuesday that U.S. support is “not unconditional” and urged them to “do everything humanly possible to avoid any innocent loss of life.”

The bottom line is an American ally, with American support and American-made weapons is waging a brutal war with little to no regard for civilian casualties. A recent United Nations report detailed war crimes on both sides of the conflict and attributed most civilian casualties to Saudi airstrikes.

If Shelby is going to insert himself in debates with international ramifications, he needs to look beyond parochial interests, and those of us back home should demand he do so.

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

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Aug. 26

Gadsden Times on participation in the census:

Gov. Kay Ivey is concerned about more numbers than her vote count in the upcoming general election — and rightfully so.

Ivey has launched the Alabama Counts initiative to try to maximize participation in the 2020 Census. That will include efforts to ensure that addresses are correct; efforts to engage groups that can help with difficult-to-reach population groups; and a publicity drive to make people aware of the census and educate them on its significance.

For those who have unwillingly or deliberately forgotten the details from their government classes in high school or college, the U.S. Constitution in Article I, Section 2, requires a census to be conducted every 10 years to document the total number of people living in the country.

The last count in 2010 pegged that at 308,745,538. The total includes people not in the U.S. legally; Alabama is challenging that in court, but we’re going to avoid that particular pool at present.

The census is used to apportion members of the House of Representatives and to calculate the levels of federal funding states receive. So we understand the potential ramifications that have the governor so concerned.

Alabama’s population count in 2010 was 4,779,736, which ranked No. 23 among states and was a 7.5 percent increase over the 2000 Census.

However, data from the Census Bureau shows that Alabama’s population growth has slowed markedly since 2010, to 1.7 percent, and its estimated total population has dropped to 24th among states (South Carolina is now 23rd).

That means Alabama could, depending on how the entire census goes, conceivably lose one of its seven seats in the House (something that hasn’t happened since 1973). It would set up an apocalyptic redistricting battle in the Legislature that, given past events, likely would end up in court.

By extension, a lost House seat also would cost Alabama a presidential vote in the Electoral College. It’s not like this state is a major player in presidential politics, other than being reliably Republican. However, given the polarization nationally, which has led to desperate battles for every vote, we can see where Ivey wouldn’t be thrilled with the prospect of her party losing one.

Here’s the thing, though: Census participation is mandatory, not optional. We doubt it’s a high-priority crime for law enforcement, but individuals can be fined $100 for not responding, and the penalties get higher for business managers, especially if they provide false information.

So you ought to just go ahead and answer the questions — the next survey will be mostly online, so you don’t have to put pencil or pen to paper — without prodding from Ivey or those involved with her initiative.

There have been 22 previous U.S. Censuses, so it’s not like you’re being asked to do something that was just thought up by some Washington bureaucrats.

This has been part of being an American since the 19th century. Just do it and move on.

Online: http://www.gadsdentimes.com/

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Aug. 24

Tuscaloosa News on the punishment handed down to Ohio State coach Urban Meyer:

Urban Meyer will live to coach another day, a day that will come sooner rather than later, given the slap on his wrist meted out by the Ohio State University administration following an investigation into how he handled domestic-abuse allegations against a former assistant coach.

The punishment: Meyer, who was placed on administrative leave as Ohio State’s head football coach on Aug. 1, will be suspended without pay for the first three games of this season, and he won’t be paid for the time he’s been on leave. Also, Ohio State athletics director Gene Smith will be suspended for the period covering those three games.

The suspensions were based in part on the ad hoc investigative committee’s finding that Meyer and Smith did not follow proper procedure in reporting what they knew about domestic-abuse allegations made by Courtney Smith in 2009 and 2015 against her then-husband Zach Smith, who was coaching under Meyer on both occasions.

We won’t get into the entire 23-page summary of the investigation, except to make a couple of observations — first, that investigators decided Meyer had not “deliberately” lied about what he knew; second, that no text messages more than a year old were found on his phone and that an assistant athletics director had discussed with Meyer — on Aug. 1, the day a news report came out that referred to text messages between Courtney Smith and Meyer’s wife — how to adjust the settings on his phone so that text messages more than a year old would be deleted. (The committee said it could not determine whether Meyer’s phone settings were adjusted before Aug. 1 or in response to the news report.)

Clearly, Ohio State didn’t want to fire Meyer, one of the best coaches in college football, and found a way to avoid it despite plenty of public pressure to do so. If Nick Saban is No. 1 among active coaches, which he is, then Meyer would be 1A. His record in 16 years as a college coach is a ridiculous 177-31, a winning percentage of .851. And like Saban at Alabama, Meyer is an economic engine for Ohio State, where he is 73-8 during his six years there.

But his behavior and comments since this controversy came to light have seemed designed to protect himself, with no sincere expression of concern for Courtney Smith. They have not appeared to be in the interest of transparency from someone with nothing to hide. With his $40 million contract on the line, we get it.

And based on what we know thus far, we won’t argue adamantly that Meyer should have been fired. A three-game suspension, however, strikes us as the product of a negotiation, rather than the objective result of an independent investigation. A one-year suspension would have been more palatable. Still, we concede that firing him would have been justifiable (though not as cut-and-dried as a legal matter as some have made it out to be).

The abuse allegations against Zach Smith are troubling, and though no criminal charges resulted, subsequent revelations about his inappropriate behavior paint a picture of a man who was enabled by the failure of those around him to hold him accountable — Meyer, in particular.

We live in a society that too often downplays, even looks to excuse, domestic violence. Ohio State had a chance to send a powerful, countervailing message by punishing Meyer more severely. Football and money mattered more.

Online: http://www.tuscaloosanews.com/

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