Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Business Council should dump Billy Canary

  During my tenure in the Alabama Legislature in the 1980s and 1990s, political party affiliation was not as pronounced as it is today.

  We were identified within the Montgomery/Capitol arena as either a conservative, pro-business legislator or a liberal, pro-union/pro-trial lawyer legislator.

  Similar to when someone new arrives in Alabama and they are asked to choose sides in college football, you have to make your allegiance with either Alabama or Auburn. We had to make the same choice as legislators. I chose early to be on the side of businesses. I even took a leading role and was the sponsor of most of the tort reform legislation. Therefore, most observers rated me as an arch pro-business conservative.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Jacob G. Hornberger: Trump’s dictatorial travel ban to North Korea

  Last Friday, President Trump issued a decree-law that prohibits Americans from traveling to North Korea. His justification for infringing on one of the most fundamental rights of man — freedom of travel — is two-fold: to watch over and take care of Americans by refusing to permit them to travel to a brutal communist regime that might do bad things to them and to punish North Korea by depriving the country of tourist revenue.

  It’s not difficult to see the irony.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Trump vacations while slashing summer programs for low-income kids

  President Donald Trump’s frequent and lavish vacations have been well documented. He has been away on vacation at his resorts in Mar-a-Lago and Bedminster Township more than 40 percent of the weekends he has been president, asking taxpayers to foot a record-breaking $28.6 million bill.

  The job of president is grueling and taking some vacation is understandable. But Trump seems to have two standards for spending taxpayer dollars. When it comes to his own vacations at his family’s properties, money is no object. After all, it’s going back into his family’s own pockets anyway. But when it comes to the nation’s children, his Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney emphasizes that the government needs to eliminate summer enrichment programs for low-income children out of “compassion” for the taxpayer.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

How 'highway robbery' allows police to seize cash, property

  In cities and towns around the country, law enforcement agencies have the power to seize people’s cash and property through a process called civil asset forfeiture.

  And they need only to suspect the property owner of wrongdoing.

  Law enforcement may keep some or all of what they take, depending on the state. In 13 states and the District of Columbia, agencies are not required to record or report what they’ve taken — or how much it’s worth, or why it was confiscated in the first place.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Full 4th Circuit invalidates legislator-led prayer, could lead to Supreme Court review

  Rowan County, North Carolina’s practice of having its Board of Commissioners lead off meetings with prayer violates the Establishment Clause, a divided full panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled. The decision very well could be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and may be a good candidate for high court review.

  The County’s Board of Commissioners opened each session with prayers, asking attendees to stand and pray with the commissioners. All of the prayers were Christian. Three citizens sued, contending that the exclusively Christian prayers at the Commissioner meetings violated the Establishment Clause. A federal district court agreed the prayer practices were unconstitutional, but a divided three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit reversed and found the practice constitutional.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Craig Ford: Replacing ACT Aspire with the actual ACT is as dumb as it gets

  Last week, our state superintendent of education announced a decision that is so spectacularly stupid that you almost have to assume the intention is to hurt our schools.

  That decision is to replace the ACT preparation exam, called the ACT Aspire, with the actual ACT as a measure of school accountability.

  Think about that for a second. Replacing the preparation exam with the actual exam is like sending a minor league baseball player who has a low batting average up to the major league and expecting him to start knocking balls out of the park.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Mainstreaming of Trump’s reckless worldviews

  When former FBI Director James Comey testified before the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, he referred to conversations with President Donald Trump as “a very disturbing thing. Very concerning.” While politicians and pundits characterized the president’s alleged comments as obstruction of justice, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) had another take. He defended the president by saying Trump is “new at this” and “learning as he goes.”

  In Speaker Ryan, the president has an expert partner willing to try to enact his plan to pay for his vision of government and America’s place in the world. Ryan, a former vice presidential candidate, is also a former budget committee chairman famous for his efforts to shred the social safety net while heaping tax breaks on the wealthiest few Americans; he knows a thing or two about writing a budget blueprint. While Trump’s initial budget proposal released earlier this year earned widespread criticism even from Republican lawmakers, the 2018 budget proposal released by House Republican leaders Tuesday reflects the president’s imbalanced approach to national security that slashes critical tools of American power.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Caretaker or ideologue?

  As the horse race for our open U.S. Senate seat heads down the stretch, let’s look at the lay of the land.

  All indications are that Roy Moore and Luther Strange are headed for a one-two finish on August 15 and ultimately a runoff on September 26. The winner of that match will be our junior U. S. Senator for the next three years of the Jeff Sessions’ seat term.

  The short window for the campaign helps Moore and Strange. They both have name identification and have run several successful campaigns for significant statewide offices.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Jacob G. Hornberger: Constantly shifting array of official enemies

  After George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq ended up producing ISIS, which was quickly made into a new official enemy of the United States, I am sure that there were lots of Americans saying to themselves, “Oh my gosh, another official enemy. But once we vanquish this one, it will finally be over. We will finally have peace, tranquility, and prosperity.”

  Those people were living a pipe dream. Now that ISIS has been vanquished, is the Pentagon bringing the troops home? Is there going to be a ticker-tape military parade in New York City? Is George W. Bush going to do a painting entitled “Mission Accomplished”?

Monday, July 17, 2017

Betsy DeVos: Secretary of Discrimination?

  The opportunity to learn is a fundamental American value, which no student should ever be denied because of discrimination or harassment. But just months into her tenure, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is sending mixed messages about her commitment to protect young people from discrimination in schools. During a congressional hearing in May, she refused to cite a single example of a time when she thought it was appropriate for the federal government to intervene in cases of discrimination by private schools receiving federal voucher funds. Secretary DeVos has said that she opposes discrimination in any form—but under her leadership, the U.S. Department of Education is rolling back its enforcement of civil rights laws and undermining critical protections for vulnerable students.