- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

July 20

Anniston (Alabama) Star on impact of Harper Lee’s book:

Books are dead, right? The Internet is where it’s at, powered by iPhones and iPads and Kindles and PCs and anything else bright, shiny and laden with technology. Wifi and Starbucks are better than serenity and the printed-on-paper word. Lattes work with either.

Printed books - not the downloaded kind - are so yesterday.

Well . Not so fast. Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee’s increasingly controversial second novel, hit the shelves last Tuesday. Its first-week sales total: more than 1.1 million (printed and digital) copies sold in the United States and Canada, becoming the fastest-selling book in the history of its publisher, HarperCollins.

Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble each set sales record with the book. A Spanish-language version of the book has already sold more than 150,000 copies. So popular is the hardcover edition of the book that it is outselling the digital version 2 to 1, HarperCollins chief executive Brian Murray told the Wall Street Journal.

Watchman provided booksellers with a heralded, reclusive Pulitzer Prize-winning author, a decades-long gap between Lee’s published works, and the painful questions concerning Lee’s health and her desire to ever have her second novel released. That combination has resonated with readers.

Like it or not, Watchman is a work of literary art and hasn’t escaped its share of uncomfortable reviews. In Detroit, the Free-Press reviewer wrote, “In the end, Watchman falls apart.” The Houston Chronicle carried this headline: “Harper Lee’s Watchman won’t ruin Mockingbird.” Across the pond in Dublin, Ireland, newspaper readers were told: “Betrayed — Harper Lee wrote the great American novel. She doesn’t deserve this.”

Even Connie Schultz, the Cleveland columnist whose work graces The Star’s pages each week, admitted over the weekend to her Facebook followers that she is “giving up” on Watchman. She wrote, “I won’t speculate on Lee’s mental capacity now, as that feels unkind and disrespectful, particularly from strangers who do not know her. However, knowing that this book was written so many years ago, and now seeing how editors failed to do their job and edit before publishing it, I feel absolved of the guilt that usually plagues me when I give up on a novel, which is rare . I am sorry for Harper Lee that this book ever saw the light of day.”

It may take a generation before Watchman’s true place in literary history is known, but this much is clear: printed books, and our interest in them, are not dead.




July 21

Decatur (Alabama) Daily on immigration crime wave:

The murder of a woman earlier this month in San Francisco has become a cause celebre for those looking to restrict immigration and seeking to blame undocumented immigrants in particular for the nation’s problems.

Juan Francisco Lopez Sanchez, an undocumented immigrant who had been deported five times previously, is in custody, charged in the shooting death of Kathryn Steinle, 32, who was walking with her father along the San Francisco waterfront when the incident occurred.

For immigration restrictionists, Sanchez has become the face of illegal immigration.

Donald Trump is probably polling close to the upper limit of the amount of support he is likely to get from Republican presidential primary voters, and sheer name recognition in a crowded field doesn’t hurt, either. But he wouldn’t have shot to the top of recent polls if he weren’t tapping into the same widespread populist discontent with immigration and foreign trade that propelled Ross Perot’s candidacy in 1992.

Ever the showman, Trump latched onto Sanchez to make his case. It’s a powerful anecdote, but it doesn’t reflect the broader facts of immigration, both legal and illegal.

Sanchez no more represents the typical immigrant - or even the typical undocumented immigrant - than Dylann Roof, the accused Charleston, South Carolina, mass murderer, represents the typical gun owner or the typical white Southerner.

According to the Congressional Research Service, non-citizens are underrepresented in state prisons and jails compared to their percentage of the overall population. Meanwhile, contrary to widespread public perceptions, there is no evidence to suggest immigrants - legal or illegal - commit crimes at a higher rate than native-born Americans.

Indeed, the notion that the U.S. is being flooded with criminals, as Trump insists now in every stump speech, is hard to square with the fact that America’s violent crime rates have been in decline all during the period when immigration has increased.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the foreign-born percentage of the U.S. population grew from 7.9 percent to 12.9 percent from 1990 to 2010. During that same period, according to FBI statistics, both violent crimes and property crimes plummeted. That isn’t what one would expect to see if immigrants to the U.S. are riding in on a crime wave.

The U.S. immigration system is broken, but its main flaw is it makes coming to the U.S. legally and becoming a citizen far too difficult. Once that is corrected, it probably will be the case virtually the only people trying to enter the U.S. illegally will be dangerous criminals.

That, however, will then be an illegal immigration problem manageable enough to address.




July 19

Dothan (Alabama) Eagle on state legislature’s diversionary tactics:

Members of the Alabama Legislature were called back into session on Monday by Gov. Robert Bentley because lawmakers failed to accomplish one of their constitutional duties by ending the regular legislative session without a General Fund budget.

With a gap of hundreds of millions of dollars between expected revenue and projected expenses, the budget needs a great deal of attention, including strategies like tax increases that most lawmakers see as a political third-rail. They bought themselves a little time by recessing until the first week of August - presumably to study possible budget cures - but at least one lawmaker is still distracted by matters of little material consequence.

State Sen. Gerald Allen pre-filed a bill last week that would prohibit the removal of historic monuments, markers and school names because of the current movement to remove display of the Confederate Battle Flag from public property. Dial said his legislation would protect all history in the state.

Never mind that there is no threat to historical monuments, markers or school names in Alabama. Gov. Robert Bentley, who removed four flags from a Confederate monument on the Capitol grounds, said he has no plans to remove any monuments.

Allen’s bill is unnecessary and distracting, a line in the sand over a non-existent threat in a contentious social debate, and would accomplish little more than creating a diversion from the difficult task of funding the operations of state government.

Allen would better serve the people of Alabama by bringing forward strategies to help resolve the state’s chronic budget crisis rather than dragging the state legislature into the contentious heritage-or-hate argument. There’s far too much of that already.



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