May 12, 1998
Two weeks ago Governor Fob James spoke remarkably straight about prayer in Alabama's public schools. While signing a bill mandating a moment of silence, he had this private exchange with the bill's sponsor:
Fob: You realize that ain't worth the damn paper it's written on, I guess.
Hooper: We're going to require the teachers...
Fob: You ain't gonna require [expletive] until you get some relief from the U.S. Congress. Y'all are just goin' through the motions, and I'm going along with you. That's the bad part.
The "bad part'' is that we must all go along, at least until the courts dispose of Hooper's bill. No thought has been given to the confusion and tension that the bill will cause in Alabama's public schools. Neither has any thought been given to the effect that the bill will have on Alabama's image. Last week's New York Times editorial entitled "Bama's Governor Tells All'' undercut the Governor's own efforts to attract new industry to the state.
James is determined to woo conservative Christian voters with his antics. He has imitated an ape in a juvenile critique of evolution. He has threatened to call out the National Guard to keep the Ten Commandments in a judge's courtroom. He has even declared that the Bill of Rights does not apply to Alabama. All of these acts were intended for the media.
James' recent remarks were not meant to be heard by the press. Ironically they reveal the most about his character.
-- Dan Silver
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The recent article by Mr. Michael Flannery (Clinton vs. The Republicans: The Evil of Two Lessers, April 14-27, 1998) was interesting mostly for its lack of substance, a failing I seem to find in many news articles. To be specific, the first point is his contention, i.e., *belief*, that Ronald Reagan "did his best to spend us into bankruptcy and damn near wrecked the economy." Mr. Reagan did nothing of the sort. Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, and a Congress controlled by Democrats at the time, authorized the spending that Mr. Reagan proposed, and often more than he proposed. It is a myth that Mr. Reagan *caused* these expenditures. The economy made a strong comeback compared to that during Mr. Jimmy Carter's Democratic administration, and the Congress had a fun time trying to spend the increased revenues.
Second, there are likely many reasons there is no public uproar about Bill Clinton's administration. Besides the opiate of a good economy, and the lack of publicized facts to support any wrongdoing on his part, I would suggest that Americans have little understanding of what happens in Washington, D.C., and how Federal policies may directly affect them in taxes as well as in income. The fact that many Americans give Bill Clinton credit for the good economy is a measure of their lack of economic understanding outside their personal budgets. They also miss the point that his political appointees at the highest levels of government can and have instituted a host of regulations, outside the purview of Congress, that daily affect how each of us lives. Certainly, much of that may be good, but who knows about the rest, except the people it more directly affects. Medicare regulations that impact upon doctors and patients is a notable area with which I am familiar, and those regulations have significantly affected my ability to teach medical students, and treat Medicare patients.
Third, if the American public has such a low opinion of the Republican Party, why is Congress filled with Republicans? And why are most state governorships held by Republicans?
Fourth, Newt Gingrich did have an ethical problem, but so have a lot of other Congressmen and politicians, both Republican and Democrat. Barney Frank and Ted Kennedy are the Democrats who most easily come to mind, but there are others, and Republicans as well. It makes no sense to me, except as political flappery, for Mr. Frank and Mr. Kennedy to pillory Mr. Gingrich about his closet when their own closets are dirty.
Finally, "that the Republicans are so afraid of Al Gore is a very strong argument in favor of him" is a ridiculous and superficial argument. It makes more sense to me for a reporter or commentator on politics to ask why they fear him. Maybe it's because of what he stands for and how, as President, he may implement policies the Republicans find distasteful. Maybe it's because Mr. Gore is himself ethically challenged by his admitted involvement in the Democratic Party's fund raising fiasco of 1996. And maybe it's because Mr. Gore has learned well the political lessons of Mr. Clinton, and we'll just get more of the same political trash even after Mr. Clinton is gone.
If Mr. Flannery truly believes what he wrote, then I decry his shallowness and lack of objectivity. If he does not, and merely wants to stir controversy, then at least write some facts about whose interpretation we can disagree rather than proselytizing a bunch of myths and falsehoods. If I want either of these, I can read plenty of other newspapers.
Daniel A. Dansak
There have been so many letters published by tobacco supporters complaining about the upcoming restrictions on tobacco distribution. These selfish adults are so concerned about being inconvenienced, they don't realize that these restrictions are for their own good and especially for the good of their impressionable children.
The tobacco supporters are arguing that if we restrict tobacco sales, this policy will lead to more restrictions on other "vices." They're worried that "Big Government" restrictions will become more and more oppressive. These vocal individuals cry out that one restriction will lead to another and there will be eventually a prohibition on alcohol, gambling, handguns, salt, and caffeine! These inflammatory statements are carefully worded to draw attention away from their true concern. Nicotine addicts don't want price increases or additional restrictions on cigarette sales.
Most informed adults know that prohibition doesn't work. It didn't work with alcohol in the 20's and it would not work with cigarettes in the 90's. The issue is not about restricting the sale of cigarettes to everyone. Tobacco opponents just want to prohibit the distribution of cigarettes to minors. If parent have to pay $5.00 a pack for their cigarettes, they'll be less likely to buy smokes for their teenagers. The high prices will annoy adult smokers, but some of the taxes will be going to good causes, such as federally subsidized smoke cessation programs.
There have been many studies about the habits of smokers. It has been documented that teens that reach eighteen without developing a nicotine habit probably won't pick up that habit. By that age, many teenagers can resist the peer pressure since smoking isn't as "cool" as it seemed to be. And their education and maturity help them to be skeptical about the high-pressure advertising ploys that urge them to smoke. If we can guide them through their high school years smoke free, parents are home free!
As a former heavy smoker with small children, I'm doing my best to educate my kids now so they won't want to experiment with tobacco later. If the prices are high for cigarettes and tobacco sales are heavily restricted, my job will be that much easier.
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