Alabama editorial roundup

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

Dec. 1

The Gadsden (Ala.) Times on organ transplant rules:

There’s only one country on the planet where it’s legal to sell human organs for transplantation. That’s Iran, and only kidneys qualify.

The National Organ Transplant of 1984 codified the prohibition in the United States, and violators face five years in prison and a $50,000 fine. That act doesn’t just cover hearts, lungs, livers and kidneys, it specifically includes bone marrow.

However, a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2011, ruling in a suit filed against the federal government by a libertarian organization, opened the door for bone marrow donors who give in a specific way to be compensated. Most donations now are done through a blood-filtering process that’s much like donating blood plasma. Since blood plasma donors can be paid, the court ruled bone marrow donors can be as well, as long as the blood-filtering process is used to collect the material.

The Obama administration wants to shut that door. It plans to revise some regulations to make clear that the ban applies to bone marrow and the stem cells it contains, period, regardless of how it’s obtained.

Those who support compensation for donors argue that it would entice more people, especially those with rare types of bone marrow, to become part of the national registry and increase the chances of those in need finding a match.

That might very well happen. However, we’re talking about a process that can take four hours to complete and, in difficult cases, can require veins in the groin, neck or collarbone to be used. Plus for up to five days before the actual collection, a donor must take injections of a drug that stimulates stem cell growth, but typically causes bone pain and headaches.

We have visions of desperate people, with no other options and nothing to lose, lining up to undergo all that just for a paycheck, not to help others.

Libertarian absolutists will say, “So what?”

Well, the head of the national bone marrow registry, which would benefit the most from an expanded donor base, wants the ban left in place, and pointed out that compensation is banned by all other bone marrow registries in the world. We’d prefer the U.S. not be mentioned in the same breath as Iran as far as what’s permissible.



Dec. 2

The Gadsden (Ala.) Times on cellphones should remain off on airlines:

Commercial airlines have been the last refuge from the ubiquity of cellphone chatter and text messages that just can’t wait. Call us Luddites of the worst sort, but we hope it stays that way.

The Federal Communications Communication on Dec. 12 will consider whether to lift a more than two-decade ban on cellphone calls in flight (calls still would be prohibited during landing and takeoff).

That prohibition stemmed from fears that calls while in the air could interfere with cell towers on the ground or with a plane’s navigation and communications systems. Improvements in technology have alleviated those concerns, and the FCC has lifted a similar ban on electronic devices like tablets and e-readers while planes are under 10,000 feet.

Playing Angry Birds or reading a novel while airborne is one thing. A Boeing 767 loaded with 300-odd people jabbering on cellphones or clicking out texts with their thumbs is another.

There’s been talk of “quiet rows” where cellphone conversation would be banned, but honestly, where can one really hide in a pressurized aluminum can at 30,000 feet?

Of course, there also are folks who simply cannot abide being disconnected for even one of the 86,400 seconds in a day. They’ve pushed for the ban to be lifted, and the FCC likely will do so.

However, if the FCC lifts the ban, airlines still would have the final call on whether to allow cellphone use on their planes.

The non-connected public also is speaking up. A petition against allowing cellphone use in flight on the White House’s website has drawn 2,000 signatures, and the largest flight attendant union in the U.S. has come out against it. (We’re sure attendants would rather not experience the nightmare of trying to interrupt umpteen phone calls to pass out coffee, tea or a magazine.)

Luddites or not, a lot of people are making the point that just because something is safe doesn’t mean it’s desirable.



Dec. 2

The Anniston (Ala.) Star on woe to the defenders of the state’s 1901 Constitution:

Fixing Alabama’s form of state government one constitutional amendment at a time is very much like trying to tear down a rotting barn one splinter at a time.

It’s possible in theory, but takes too much time and is a waste of resources.

After years of avoiding the topic, Montgomery set about in 2011 to repair parts of the 1901 Constitution. The politicians preferred the splinter method.

Even that timid attempt has fallen short of expectations. The Constitution’s racist language remains. An attempt at granting local governments more powers has largely flopped. Fixing the unfair way the state taxes residents and businesses was never even on the table.

Members of Alabama’s Constitutional Revision Commission are mostly left with splinters stuck in their fingers and very little to show for their efforts.

The arguments for going slow are that the state and its institutions aren’t ready for rapid change. Better to get what little you can from the special-interest groups like ALFA and hope for gradual change, says the conventional wisdom of Alabama’s ruling political class.

That puts the everyday Alabamian in no better position than he or she was in 1901. Back then, Alabama’s ruling elite rigged the game on their own behalf.

The elites locked away smart and efficient government. They created a bottleneck in the Legislature that helped to keep the favors flowing their way and out of the hands of working-class blacks and whites.

The elites designed a school system that kept most in the state from the opportunities a top-notch education affords. All the better to control the masses, the elites thought.

In other words, for the past 112 years Alabamians have lived under a Constitution that is designed to keep them down. Even worse, this is no accident. The 1901 Constitution works exactly as its proponents hoped.


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