- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

April 7

Anniston (Alabama) Star on the Iran deal:

The reality-based mainstream of U.S. diplomacy rides again.

We see it in the recently agreed-upon framework to keep Iran’s nuclear ambitions in check … a pragmatic document, a clear-eyed view of the situation as it stands, not how we might wish it to be. This is part of a long bipartisan tradition of U.S. presidential administrations that carefully untangled global threats slowly over time without resorting to full-scale warfare.

When the United States deviates from this mindset, it’s usually disastrous. See the Bush administration’s reckless rush to war with Iraq. The puffed-up neocons tied to President George W. Bush even dismissed dissenters as members of the “reality-based community.” Sadly, the reality of pre-emptive war with Iraq squandered Americans’ lives and treasure, and the region is still paying the price.

The Iran nuke framework as promoted by the Obama administration is anything but the cowboy way. It’s more in line with the realists in the first Bush administration who resisted the calls to topple Saddam Hussein in the early 1990s. They knew that the tearing down and toppling would be easy, and the rebuilding would be extremely costly.

The realism of the Iran deal is similar to the path chosen by U.S. presidents during the Cold War who managed to avoid direct war with the Soviet Union. Instead, they slowly wore down the Soviets over time until the communists collapsed over their own failed ideology.

Will this same strategy work with Iran and its national dream to join the nuclear-weapons club? No one can say for certain, but it’s worth a try and far better than all-out war.

The recently announced framework is merely a first step in working out a deal to put Iran’s nuclear program on hold in exchange for lifting of economic sanctions. There’s a long way to go. An agreement is worthless without credible inspections to ensure Iran is sticking to its side of the bargain. Also, there must be a procedure to reinstall sanctions should the Iranians backslide.

The world has plenty of reasons to distrust Iran, a disruptive force in its region and a supporter of terrorists and brutal dictators. However, if a deal can be properly structured, the world would be better off with an Iran that paused its nuclear program for at least a decade. Americans can be assured that we’ve faced down bigger threats in a similar way.




April 7

The Gadsden (Alabama) Times on driver’s license fee fiasco:

The state Senate last week passed SB44, negating the 54 percent fee increase for an Alabama driver’s license enacted Feb. 9 by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency. The legislation offered by Sen. Bill Holtzclaw, R-Madison, also would give credits to anyone who purchased a license after the increase.

ALEA Secretary Spencer Collier insists that will hurt law enforcement and endanger the public, citing the fact there aren’t enough state troopers patrolling Alabama’s roads.

The problem is, that case wasn’t made when the fee increase took effect on a Monday morning, with no more notice than an email to probate offices across the state.

A press release from ALEA at the time pointed to an “inefficient and archaic” business model that needed changing, because the state was losing money every time it issued a driver’s license.

It touted steps that were being taken to make getting a license easier for Alabamians, such as online renewal and renewal kiosks being placed in various markets. It promised “the level of professionalism will greatly increase and wait times will greatly improve.”

We said at the time that if the price hike helped achieve those goals, we could accept it, but we had problems with the way ALEA sneaked this in.

Holtzclaw jumped on the issue in the Legislature, insisting that no state agency has the right to unilaterally increase fees to that extent. Collier disagreed and, since SB44 was passed by the Senate and sent to the House (where we’ll wager it will be greeted favorably), has changed the terms of the debate to make this about adequately funding law enforcement.

He cited a study by the University of Alabama Center for Advanced Public Safety that says Alabama needs more than twice its current trooper force of 431 to adequately cover the state’s 67 counties. He said there are plenty of candidates for trooper slots, but no money to hire them. He said drug enforcement also will be impacted, and this bill de-funds law enforcement when “providing public safety is the primary function of state and local government.”

We’re not unsympathetic to what Collier is saying. We wonder why we’re just now hearing it. And even though he’s playing the “Alabama is a pro-law enforcement state” card, we doubt he’s making many points with people who elect legislators to protect their interests against such things as unilateral action by state agencies.

ALEA may very well have had the right to raise license fees without asking or telling anybody, but it wasn’t a wise move. This situation has been mishandled from the start, and emails, press releases and warnings of carnage on the highways aren’t going to fix it.

All governmental agencies - even law enforcement - need oversight. There should be no blank checks, literally or figuratively. If SB44 passes, ALEA needs to step back, decide once and for all why it needs this increase and make that case in the normal budgetary process. It might find a little openness goes a long way.




April 8

Decatur (Alabama) Daily on legislature needing to separate church and state:

State legislators are busy imposing their view of Christianity when they need to be grappling with Alabama’s critical problems. It’s not new for governments to embrace a religion, or even particularly unusual. But do we really want to go there?

One law at a time, the Alabama Legislature is imposing its own gloss of Christianity on a state in which 84 percent of the population is Christian. Rather than try to convince people of their views of morality, they are using the power of the state to mandate those views.

Theocracies are not all bad. Vatican City seems to function well enough. If its state-run media is to be believed, the people of Iran are generally content with their Supreme Leader and Sharia-based legal system.

And state religions are downright common. Most such governments have embraced Sunni Islam.

Some U.S. states have had state religions, but it was a practice that petered out quickly with the adoption of a First Amendment that prohibited Congress from making any “law respecting an establishment of religion.”

Indeed, one of the last to give up on a state religion was Connecticut. Then-President Thomas Jefferson famously encouraged the state to disestablish itself from the Congregationalist Church by noting the First Amendment demonstrated America’s desire to build “a wall of separation between church and state.”

Jefferson’s comments resonated, because America was populated with many who left England because of their frustration with its state religion, the Church of England.

In Alabama, legislators are brandishing their Bibles as they condemn homosexuality, and condone those who would discriminate against gay couples. They can’t resist laws making abortion an option only for the very wealthy. They ensured that children can say “Merry Christmas,” have prayer meetings and give religious presentations at school.

Embarrassed that Indiana is getting all the attention for its law giving businesses the “religious freedom” to turn away gays and lesbians, legislators are seeking to amend Alabama’s similar law to make sure it is just as blatant.

Alabama has severe problems the Legislature needs to address. It has an archaic tax system that brings in too little revenue and places an excessive burden on the poor. Its corrections system is overwhelmed, its population is unhealthy and it has a broken health care system.

Rather than using the power of the state to impose religious views of morality, it is time for the Legislature to tackle the difficult task of running a state.



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