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.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Sessions lends credibility of office to anti-LGBT group

  Last week, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions lent the credibility of his office to a group committed to legalizing discrimination against the LGBT community.

  In a major speech to Alliance Defending Freedom at the group's "Summit on Religious Liberty" in Dana Point, California, Sessions expressed sympathy for the group's contention that its religious freedom is jeopardized by laws and court rulings that protect the rights of LGBT people.

  Southern Poverty Law Center President Richard Cohen noted the irony that the attorney general "would suggest that the rights of ADF sympathizers are under attack when the ADF is doing everything in its power to deny the equal protection of the law to the LGBT community."

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Craig Ford: You can’t fix schools by abandoning them

  We all pay our taxes; therefore, all of our kids should receive a quality education.

  You can’t fix something that is broken by abandoning it. A car that breaks down on the side of the road won’t repair itself. If you want the car to run again, you have to give it the repairs it needs.

  The same is true when it comes to education.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1570: The power of July 2nd and the power of the human spirit

  Some dates reflect power. It seems that powerful things happen on the same date over and over down through generations. These happenings sometimes change countries, sometimes change a people, and sometimes change the world. July 2nd is one such date.

  I want to share just three critical events that happened on July 2nd that changed the world. The spirit of each is connected to the spirit of the other. One happened in 1776. Another happened in 1839. The third happened in 1964. The connecting circumstances involved human oppression. The connecting spirit was a will to liberty.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Six things Betsy DeVos has done on higher ed

  July 1 marked the beginning of a new year for federal financial aid for higher education, bringing changes that will affect the millions of Americans who use these programs. On the positive side, low-income students will be able to access additional Pell Grant aid thanks to Congress bringing back year-round Pell, a program that provides additional funds for students who attempt more coursework—often during a summer session. In less fortunate news, the annual reset of student loan interest rates resulted in a 69-basis point increase to 4.45 percent for undergraduates.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Battle for U.S. Senate seat heats up

  The race for our open U.S. Senate seat is evolving. Folks, we are in a brief, 33-day sprint to the primary on August 15. The winner of the Republican Primary will be our next junior U.S. Senator. The December 12 General Election will be a coronation for the Republican. The eight Democratic candidates are irrelevant as are at least six of the Republican qualifiers.

  It is doubtful that either candidate can win the August GOP Primary without a runoff. Therefore, the two left standing will square off on September 26, after six more weeks of grueling and negative campaigning.

  All early indications pointed to a two-man race between Roy Moore and Luther Strange. However, both of these high-profile veterans of state politics have high negatives. These high negatives surrounding Moore and Strange point to the high possibility of a third person winning this race.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Laurence M. Vance: Liquor socialism

  As long as America has been a nation, governments at all levels have sought to tax, regulate, control, and even prohibit the manufacture, sale, and consumption of alcoholic beverages.

  The most infamous example, of course, is the era of Prohibition.

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Exportation of Trump’s anti-woman agenda

  The Trump administration’s anti-woman agenda seeks to deny women access to vital health services and stifle their economic security. That agenda—no longer aimed solely at women in the United States—is now transcending borders. Whether it’s the elimination of funding for vital women’s health programs, expansion of the Global Gag Rule, or failure to appoint an ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues, President Donald Trump has made it clear that women’s health and livelihoods are not even being considered as this administration develops its policy priorities.

  The failure to consider women will have consequences. Women make up half of the world's population and contribute to the greater good of our societies and the global economy. Their health, well-being, and ability to thrive are directly linked to world peace and security. The president’s anti-woman agenda not only hurts women here in the United States; it also hurts women in other parts of the world.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Jacob G. Hornberger: Don’t be surprised to see Trump bomb North Korea

  After the in-your-face Fourth of July “gift” that North Korea delivered to President Trump in the form of an intercontinental ballistic missile test, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see President Trump and the Pentagon retaliate by bombing North Korea. The reason goes not only to Trump’s erratic behavior, especially when teased or taunted, but also because a bombing attack would reflect the Cold War mentality that unfortunately still holds the Pentagon in its grip.

  I’ll bet that most Americans today do not realize that during the Kennedy administration, the Joint Chiefs of Staff were recommending that the president initiate a surprise nuclear attack on the Soviet Union, much like the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Gene Policinski: No ‘backflips’ in the newsrooms quite yet

  Attention you so-called “enemies of the people”: There’s reason to think fewer people than last year might see you that way, despite the ongoing, politicized attacks from multiple quarters on the news media’s credibility.

  President Donald Trump hurled that “enemies” epithet at journalists earlier this year, complaining about the news coverage of his administration – and of his presidential campaign in 2016. But such criticism comes at varying levels of vitriol from a variety of political quarters, and started long before Trump took office.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1569: The profound impact of people in our lives

  Her name was Margaret Montgomery. We students called her Peg Montgomery behind her back. She was also our Humanities teacher at Talladega College more than 50 years ago. She was white and female. She impacted my life in profound ways. I never told her how much I appreciated the ways she helped me.

  I remember the first time we connected. It was in September of 1963. I had been on the Talladega College campus just a few days. We had been discussing the importance of the August 28, 1963 March on Washington in her Humanities class. That’s where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous "I Have A Dream" speech. Then she said that she wished the marchers had done just one thing more. She asked if anyone could guess what it was. I looked around waiting for others to speak. No one raised a hand or spoke. I raised my hand, and she called on me. I said, “You wished the marchers had picked up all the trash from the march.” She said, “That’s right.” From that moment on she took a special interest in me and helped in so many ways.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Jacob G. Hornberger: Military spouses: Lead us out of the quagmire!

  For the life of me, I just can’t figure out why the American people do not rise up en masse against the forever wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan in which the United States has been embroiled for more than 15 years.

  After all, by now everyone must surely realize, despite the superficial rhetoric to the contrary, that U.S. soldiers are not over there killing and dying to defend our country or protect our freedoms here at home. They are over there killing and dying to protect the regimes the U.S. invasions and occupations put into power. That’s killing and dying for the sake of empire and interventionism, which, to belabor the obvious, is different from killing and dying for our country or to defend our freedoms.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Eventful 2017 so far

  As we take a mid-year look at Alabama politics, it has been an eventful first half of the year.

  It is not every year that a governor resigns mid-term. Governor Robert Bentley’s resignation from office on April 10 will more than likely be the most newsworthy story of the year.

  Bentley’s saga had begun 18 months ago. His troubles stemmed from his relationship with his primary and probably only advisor, who was married to a quiet man whom Bentley had placed in a vague $90,000 position with the state. It was a titillating story that led to an investigation and later a finding by the Alabama Ethics Commission that there was reasonable evidence that Bentley may have violated the law. Facing probable impeachment by the legislature, Bentley resigned in disgrace.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Lata Nott: Our love-hate relationship with the First Amendment

  Common practice for liberals and conservatives now is to take turns calling each other enemies of the First Amendment. The results of this year’s “State of the First Amendment” survey gave us the opportunity to consider these insults – and after the numbers are crunched, who is the real enemy of the First Amendment?

  Well, no one. And, everyone.

  Most of our fellow citizens, regardless of their political ideology, are quite fond of the First Amendment, at least in the abstract. The people who think that the First Amendment goes too far are a minority–22.5% of us. A majority of Americans (67.7%) think that the press plays an important role as a watchdog on government; a slightly narrower majority (58.8%) thinks that freedom of religion should extend to all religious groups, even those widely considered extreme or fringe.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Time to act on Russia sanctions

  On June 15, in a remarkable feat of bipartisan cooperation on a critical national security issue, the U.S. Senate passed tough Russia sanctions legislation by a stunning vote of 98-2. By taking this long overdue action, the Senate recognized clearly what the U.S. intelligence community described six months ago as Russia’s “unprecedented” attack on America’s democratic process during the 2016 elections and took the first step to a meaningful response.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Jacob G. Hornberger: Supreme Court upholds the right of churches to steal

  On Monday the U.S. Supreme Court held that churches have the right to steal from people to get the money to fund their activities. No, the Court didn’t use the word “stealing,” but that is the import of its ruling in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer, a case in which the Court held that states cannot discriminate against churches in the granting of government funds.

  Since all of us living today have been raised in what is called a welfare state, we have become accustomed to people using the political process to take money from some people in order to give it to other people. The tax-and-redistribute process has become such an established part of American life that few Americans ever think about the moral implications of what is happening.

  The Trinity Lutheran Church decision provides a perfect demonstration of the corruption of morality and conscience that has accompanied the welfare state.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Senate repeal bill will increase average costs for exchange enrollees by $2,294

  Now that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has released its score of the Senate’s Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), it is clear why the Senate majority worked so hard to keep the text of the bill a secret. The truth is now out: an estimated 22 million people would lose coverage under the BCRA compared to the ACA.

  But the people who would lose coverage are not the only ones who would be worse off. Many Americans who kept their insurance would still face higher costs under the BCRA. For the average marketplace enrollee in 2026, the BCRA would raise their total costs, including net premiums plus cost-sharing, by $2,294.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1568: History helps us understand

  “Hank, you are supposed to speak at the Juneteenth Celebration.” It was my wife, Faya Rose Toure. “When?” I asked. “At 6,” she said. It was 5 minutes to 6:00 p.m. at that very moment. “Where?” I asked. “The Bridge Crossing Theater,” she replied. I did not complain. I just got in my car and drove across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on June 19, 2017. I spoke about Juneteenth from previously acquired knowledge. I want to share with you some of what I tried to say.

  Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery in these United States of America. It originated on June 19, 1865 in Galveston, Texas when General Gordon Granger formally announced to enslaved persons that slavery was over. There was a great celebration which lasted for days. Juneteenth has slowly spread to limited pockets in other states. To understand why there was such a celebration, we must explore slavery itself. To understand why other dates were not chosen to celebrate the end of slavery, we must understand how slavery ended. To understand why so few celebrate the end of slavery, we must understand what happened after slavery.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

President Trump wants to restrict access to contraception under the guise of religious liberty

  Last month, the Trump administration took two significant actions to curtail women’s access to reproductive health care. On May 4, the president signed an executive order that expands the power of religious refusals in denying access to health care. The order limits the actions that the government can take against individuals and organizations who assert religious beliefs as a reason to deny their employees health care coverage—namely, contraceptive coverage. The order also gives Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a longtime foe of progressive efforts to promote equality and pursue robust civil rights enforcement, broad authority to issue guidance interpreting religious liberty into federal law.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The cloud over Big Luther

  In Alabama politics, many times appointments to political offices filled by an acting governor have an adverse effect on that appointee if and when they seek election to that office for a full term. Every time George Wallace appointed someone to a political post, even in the prime of his popularity and power, they invariably lost in the next election.

  Well, folks, ole Dr. Bentley ain’t George Wallace, and his appointment of Luther Strange to the Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions may come back to haunt Big Luther. His appointment is even more problematic due to the appearance of collusion surrounding the appointment. The stain of the Bentley appointment hovers over Big Luther’s tall head in Washington.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Jacob G. Hornberger: Tyranny at home to fight tyranny abroad

  President Trump has reminded us of how the U.S. government destroyed the liberty of the American people in the name of fighting tyranny abroad. Exercising the same dictatorial method that his predecessors have employed — executive decrees — he has made it illegal again for most Americans to travel to Cuba and spend money there.

  Trump’s justification? The communist regime in Cuba is tyrannical and engages in human-rights abuses.

  Think about that for a moment: A foreign regime is tyrannical and so what does a U.S. president do? Through a decree-law, he imposes his own tyranny on his own citizenry by punishing Americans who travel to Cuba or do business there.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Gene Policinski: Why protect speech we don’t want to hear? We need to hear it

  We periodically test and retest the limits of free speech — in effect, revisiting the legal and societal implications of that old childhood refrain, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

  Recently, free speech has been winning…even when it hurts, as surely it sometimes does.

  Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court said a Seattle rock band called “The Slants” had a right to register its name over the objections of the Patent and Trademark Office.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

James Abro: What people get wrong when they try to end homelessness

  When my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2007, she asked me to promise I’d never move her into a nursing facility. I promised, although I wasn’t sure how I’d keep my commitment.

  I pulled out of a four-book editing contract and moved in with her. I learned from a social worker that I could receive 20 hours a week of help from home health aides, as well as SNAP benefits and cash assistance to help compensate for my decreased work income. It was enough for us to get by.

  About a month after I moved in with her, we returned from grocery shopping to find a state trooper standing outside of our front door. He handed me a court summons:  My sister had sued me for custody of our mother. She wanted to place her in a care facility.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Supreme Court rules that trademark laws can’t discriminate based on viewpoint

  The most fundamental of all free-speech principles took center stage earlier this week when the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled 8-0 in Matal v. Tam that a federal trademark law prohibiting disparaging trademarks violated the First Amendment. The fundamental principle is that the government should not engage in viewpoint discrimination.

  This principle trumped another concept in free-speech law – the government speech doctrine. Under this doctrine, the government has its own free-speech interests and can further its own viewpoints without having to support other viewpoints.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1567: The bridge that brought me over - public education

  I fight for public education. I understand how public education opens doors for so many, from the powerfully privileged to the penniless poor. I know from personal experience. My life is a living example. That’s why I fight for public education.

  My father was unable to obtain an education. He did not complete first grade. My mother had to sign his name for him. If she was not present, he marked an “X” for a signature. My father was a very smart man, but he was unable to obtain an education. The doors of education were closed to him. As a result, he was economically limited for the rest of his life.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Courts have halted Trump’s bigoted policies, but the Senate wants to confirm all his judges

  The federal courts have proven that they can effectively serve as a check on the Trump administration’s violations of the Constitution, even in the face of President Donald Trump’s attacks on judges. But that may not be true for much longer if the president is allowed to fill a record number of empty seats on the federal courts with judges who will rubber-stamp his agenda.

  The administration has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn two federal appeals courts’ rulings to strike down the president’s travel ban blocking entry of individuals from six Muslim-majority countries. Both courts, one based in Virginia and the other in California, found that the ban targeted a certain religion, citing Trump’s repeated pledges to bar Muslims from entering the United States. Another federal court recently ruled that the administration’s executive order targeting sanctuary cities is unconstitutional because the administration cannot unilaterally withhold funding that Congress has appropriated.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The countdown to new legislative districts

  The much-anticipated 2018 election contests have been pushed back by about three months due to the unanticipated race for Jeff Sessions’ Senate seat. This ongoing contest will dominate the news through late September.

  It was previously thought that June 6th would be the opening bell since fundraising for next year’s June 5 primary could begin at that time. However, the bell will probably start chiming in full force by Labor Day.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The emerging Senate repeal bill eviscerates protections for millions in employer plans nationwide

  Last week Axios reported that the emerging Senate bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will allow states to waive coverage of essential health benefits for small employer and individually purchased plans. In waiver states, this cut in benefits would be catastrophic for people who are sick or have a pre-existing condition and need prescription drugs, treatment for opioid addiction, or other services that could be excluded.

  But the waivers would have a much broader impact, affecting millions of workers with employer coverage in every state—even nonwaiver states. As The Wall Street Journal reported, the waivers of essential health benefits would also eviscerate important financial protections that apply to large employer plans.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Kris Kobach wants to decide who has the right to vote

  Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has long had an appetite for nativist, anti-immigrant thinking.

  It led him to work as the legal counsel to a hate group. It led him to become the architect behind harsh anti-immigrant laws. And, recently, it led him to champion an anti-voter fraud effort at a time when restrictive voting laws frequently disenfranchise minority voters.

  Kobach began removing people from his state’s voter rolls in 2015, making anyone who did not provide proof of citizenship within 90 days ineligible to vote.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Five questions that the Trump administration needs to answer on parental leave

  The Trump administration recently released a paid parental leave plan in its fiscal year 2018 budget proposal. The plan has the stated goal of offering eligible workers six weeks of paid leave for the birth or adoption of a new child. The Trump proposal relies on the existing federal-state unemployment insurance (UI) system to provide the parental leave benefit. However, there are many outstanding questions and details about how this program would work and who would benefit from it.

  Last week, Ivanka Trump indicated that the plan is merely a jumping-off point and that she is soliciting feedback. With this in mind, here are five questions that the Trump administration needs to answer on its proposed parental leave plan.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Caleb Crosby: In Alabama politics, the easiest—not the best—road is often taken

  Developing sound public policy is complicated, and we need leaders willing to admit as much. That’s a heavy ask when the consequences for conceding complexity are often severe. When President Trump spoke to governors visiting the White House earlier this year, he announced, “Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.”

  It was a moment of candor from Trump that earned him nothing but jeers and scorn from cable news pundits and social media.

  Most of us don’t know how our health insurance works, the price doctors charge for basic services, or if better healthcare options exist. Even for the President, the myriad complexities of national healthcare policy are overwhelming.

Friday, June 16, 2017

SPLC supports lawsuit for higher minimum wage in Alabama cities

  A state law blocking Alabama cities from raising their minimum wage discriminates against black low-wage workers by preserving the racial pay gap – evidence that was not considered when a federal court dismissed a lawsuit challenging the law, according to an amicus brief filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Partnership for Working Families.

  The friend-of-the-court brief, filed in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals this week, outlines the racial pay gap in low-wage occupations across the state – such as a nearly 20 percent pay disparity in the food service industry – that could be reduced by allowing cities to raise their minimum wage.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1566: Seeing is believing

  I want to follow up on Sketches #1565 concerning our trip to Germany. In that Sketches, I shared a lot about the process of the trip but also a taste of the substance. Process is important, but substance is more important.

  We learned much about people, places, institutions, and relationships. We also learned profound lessons. The lessons are what I want to share with you in this Sketches. The first lesson involves what can happen in education when business, labor and government work together. The German education system provides a widespread apprentice program. Beginning in the equivalent of our ninth grade, most students participate in the apprentice programs for three years. They attend classes part-time and work part-time. This is a uniquely productively approach.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Who really has a shot at becoming Alabama's next CEO?

  Those of us who follow Alabama politics had circled June 6, 2017 as the beginning of the 2018 governor’s race. However, we did not foresee Donald Trump’s election as President in November and the subsequent appointment of our U.S. Senator - Jeff Sessions - as his Attorney General, thus, opening a U. S. Senate seat and causing the need for an unanticipated special election for the open Senate seat this year. Therefore, the race for Sessions’ Senate seat will dominate the political news for at least the next three months.

  This Senate seat race has pushed back the timetable for gubernatorial aspirants by about three months. The thoroughbreds who might enter the Derby for the Brass Ring of Alabama Politics probably have the luxury of waiting until Labor Day or maybe after the September 26 GOP runoff for U.S. Senator.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Trump’s proposed defense budget will not support U.S. national security

  Released in May, President Donald Trump’s fiscal year 2018 defense budget increases funding for the U.S. Department of Defense while cutting funding for other critical programs in the discretionary budget. In analyzing whether the proposed budget truly enhances national security, however, it is important to keep the following three ideas in mind.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Michael Conathan: Trump’s war on oceans

  In 2008, when President George W. Bush issued the traditional proclamation declaring June to be National Ocean Month, it was peppered with platitudes about America’s “precious waters” and included a shout out to the newly minted Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument he had established two years earlier.

  The proclamation President Donald J. Trump issued on May 31 of this year—as Toronto Star Washington correspondent Daniel Dale pointed out on Twitter—took rather a different tone. Trump’s language kicks off by mentioning the “mighty oceans and their extraordinary resources.” It then bemoans how “underutilized” these resources are and how much more money the ocean could generate from energy extraction and increased fisheries production.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Lata Nott: Trump’s use of Twitter puts him in constitutional hot water

  Twitter was an invaluable tool for candidate Donald Trump, allowing him to bypass traditional media channels and connect with a passionate base of followers. But as president, Donald Trump’s frequent use of Twitter is turning out to be a major liability for him.

  President Trump’s tweets last week about his controversial “travel ban” executive order may end up undermining that executive order in court. To recap: Back in January, the president signed the original version, which banned travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, but gave priority to refugee claims made by individuals whose religion “is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality.” This meant that the executive order effectively favored non-Muslim refugees over Muslim refugees, which many legal experts saw as a violation of the First Amendment. Freedom of religion — specifically the Establishment Clause — prohibits the government from favoring some religious groups over others.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Craig Ford: Alabama Legislature needs to pass the lottery in the special session

  Now more than ever, we need leaders – especially in the Alabama Senate where the lottery died last year – who will make the lottery a priority.

  The Alabama Legislature is quickly running out of excuses for failing to let the people vote on a state lottery.

  Last summer, Gov. Robert Bentley called a special session specifically for the purpose of passing a lottery. After passing out of the state Senate, the lottery went to the House where it passed on its second vote after a few changes had been made. Those changes meant the bill had to go back to the Senate, and the senators didn’t agree with the changes the House had made. So, the lottery once again died without getting a chance to go before the people.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Are Trump and DeVos waging a war on teachers?

  Throughout his campaign and time in office, President Donald Trump has touted being a “tremendous believer in education.” And Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has repeatedly called for “equal opportunity for all kids.” However, neither Trump nor DeVos has demonstrated any interest in supporting or leveraging the most critical resource for improving student achievement—teachers. Indeed, research shows that well-supported, highly skilled educators achieve an average of 1.5 years of academic growth among their students.

  In the most recent budget proposal, however, President Trump and Secretary DeVos have decided to completely withdraw federal investment from the educator workforce. This threatens every child’s access to a quality education. Throughout their first several months on the job, Trump and DeVos have shown nothing but disrespect for teachers and the teaching profession.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

David L. Hudson Jr.: Federal Court invokes "ministerial exception" to beat discrimination claim

  A former Milwaukee-based private elementary school teacher had her disability discrimination lawsuit rejected by a federal court, because of the so-called ministerial exception. This doctrine holds that government officials should not interfere with the internal affairs of religious institutions. Ostensibly, the doctrine gives churches and religious organizations religious freedom. In reality, it also leads to discrimination against employees.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The Bankhead legacy in Alabama

  Since we are in the midst of an election for a U.S. Senator, let me share the story of one of the most prestigious congressional families in Alabama history. The Bankheads of Jasper would likely be the most prominent political family in Alabama political lore. More than likely there has never been a father serve as one of Americas most powerful U.S. Senators while his son, William Bankhead, served as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.  

  The founder of the famous family was John Hollis Bankhead. He was the patriarch of a family that spawned sons John H. Bankhead II;  and Speaker of the U.S. House, William B. Bankhead; and daughter, state archivist, Marie Bankhead Owen; and granddaughter Tallulah Bankhead, who became a star of stage and screen.

Review: Josh Carples - "Live at Seville"

  If you've ever wanted to see Josh Carples naked, now's your chance! Stripped down to just his Seagull acoustic-electric, unique voice, unfiltered emotions, and honest songwriting, "Live at Seville" features the artist alone, sans audience, sharing his words and notes, and it's endearingly personal and a fulfilling experience for listeners.

  Filmed at Seville Beauty and Barber Shop, the EP includes five songs - including the new track, "Fake A Smile" - and the accompanying videos can be viewed for free online. It was released May 23.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Laurence M. Vance: Trump’s Democratic budget

  Although the Constitution doesn’t mention a federal budget, according to the Budget and Accounting Act of 1921, the president must annually submit a proposed federal budget to Congress for the next fiscal year by the first Monday in February. Because the government’s fiscal year runs from October 1 to September 30, the budget submitted in February is actually for the next fiscal year that begins in October. But since it is not possible for a new president, who takes office on January 20, to submit a budget within a few days of taking office, he is given extra time to submit his first budget.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Livia Gershon: Why it matters that poor kids don’t have time to play

  Last year, Allyn taught a second grade class in a high-poverty school in Saint Petersburg, Florida. The school had been in the papers for poor test results, and it was pushing to change by adding extra time for reading instruction.

  “We were very strictly monitored how each minute of our day was spent,” said Allyn, who asked me to use only her middle name. “I think we were in the spotlight so much from all the media that they were just super strict about how our day was supposed to go.”

  The school gave kids three days of physical education a week, and built five minutes into Allyn’s schedule to do “indoor recess.” But the schedule didn’t include a real recess.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Richard Cohen: Social norms fraying as hate rises in Trump’s America

  The moment seemed too surreal to believe.

  On the eve of a special election to fill Montana’s only U.S. House seat, GOP nominee Greg Gianforte was being pressed by a reporter. Ben Jacobs of The Guardian wanted his response to the Congressional Budget Office’s report showing the devastation that would be caused by the House-passed bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

  Gianforte did not answer the question. Instead, he grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him to the ground. Then he began punching the reporter, yelling, “I’m sick and tired of you guys. … Get the hell out of here!”

  Gianforte was charged with misdemeanor assault. The next day, Montana’s voters elected him to Congress.

  Welcome to Donald Trump’s America.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Lata Nott: Why social media keeps failing us

  Was there a time when people regarded social media in a wholly positive light? It’s hard to remember. The honeymoon’s been over for a while. We still recognize the benefits of social media — after all, the majority of Americans use platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram on a daily basis — but when we talk about these companies, it’s usually not to laud them for bringing the world closer together.

  Our conversations about social media often revolve around the problems that have come with it. There are the usual laments about how these applications have ruined our ability to focus and made us all unhappier. And then there are the more serious concerns: That social media can serve as a fertile recruiting ground for terrorist organizations. That it enables, and perhaps encourages, people to broadcast themselves committing heinous acts. That it allowed for the unbridled dissemination of fake news, which may or may not have impacted the outcome of the U.S. presidential election.

Friday, June 2, 2017

The Art of a devastating deal for distressed communities

  The broken promises in President Donald Trump’s budget, announced last week, seem to have no bounds, with cuts from Social Security to Meals on Wheels. Ultimately, his scorched-earth vision is wrong for so many Americans on so many levels.

  Many have already written about the numerous and devastating cuts to the safety net and to families struggling to get by. Yet this budget does not only betray struggling families. It also proposes one bad deal after another for distressed communities, struggling small businesses, and vulnerable consumers—and if adopted, it would devastate the very communities for which President Trump claims to fight.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1564: An open letter to the people of Alabama

  I write this letter out of reluctant hope and constant pain. I am reluctantly hopeful the perspective set forth in this letter will be heard. I am greatly pained because history tells me that it will not be heard. Still I write because the issue is both important and urgent. I am writing about the issue of monuments on public property. Some say monuments are just big statues or names on buildings, streets, roads, bridges and public places and do not really matter.  Therefore, we should just leave monuments alone. I pray to differ. Monuments matter a whole lot because they impact past, present and future generations.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Your next U.S. Senator will be....

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

  First of all, it will be a sprint. The race is upon us with the primaries on August 15 and the run-off six weeks later on September 26. The Republican primary victor will be coronated on December 12. We in the Heart of Dixie are a one-party state when it comes to major statewide offices. Winning the GOP primary is tantamount to election.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Attorney general takes us back to failed, mass incarceration policies

  Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently directed all federal prosecutors to pursue charges for the “most serious possible offenses.”

  He put it plainly: “By definition, the most serious offenses are those that carry the most substantial guidelines sentence, including mandatory minimum sentences.” If a U.S. attorney deviates from the new policy, supervisory approval must be obtained and the reasons documented.

  This is a serious mistake.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Michael Josephson: Memorial Day, a Day of Remembrance

  It’s not just an excuse for a three-day weekend or a day for barbecue and beer.

  Memorial Day is a time for Americans to connect with our national history and core values by honoring those who gave their lives fighting for this country.

  It’s said that this special day to salute fallen Americans was born during the Civil War in Mississippi when a group of grieving mothers and wives who were placing flowers on graves in a Confederate cemetery noticed a neglected graveyard for Union soldiers.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Trump budget’s attack on people with disabilities

  President Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric about people with disabilities during the presidential campaign is no longer just words. Now his budget threatens to set disability rights and inclusion back 50 years or more by stripping away critical protections and slashing vital programs that ensure basic living standards for the 1 in 5 Americans with disabilities. Meanwhile, despite media reports to the contrary, his budget breaks one of his core campaign promises: not to cut Social Security.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Gene Policinski: Montana millionaire charged with journalist assault – and headed for Congress?

  Sadly, shamefully, disgustingly, it has come to this: A Montana candidate for Congress was charged Wednesday evening with assaulting a reporter who was asking him a question about the American Health Care Act.

  The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported Thursday morning that U.S. House candidate Greg Gianforte, a Republican, was charged with misdemeanor assault for what witnesses and the reporter involved said was an unwarranted attack.

  Ben Jacobs of The Guardian, who has reported for weeks on the state’s close race for its only House seat, later tweeted that “Greg Gianforte just body slammed me and broke my glasses.”

Friday, May 26, 2017

Craig Ford: It’s not about right-wing and left-wing - It’s about right and wrong

  It would be easy to think nothing good has happened lately in the world of Alabama politics and that Montgomery is so mired in corruption and bickering that nothing ever gets done.

  After all, the legislative session that just ended began with one governor and ended with a different one. Tensions over legislative redistricting and a controversial email slowed its final days to a crawl, and important issues that were left unfinished will most likely lead to a costly special session.

  In what may be an historic first, we now have a governor, U.S. senator, chief justice of the state Supreme Court, and a state Attorney General – none of whom were elected to those positions.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1563: Ain’t no fun when the rabbit got the gun

  Ain’t no fun when the rabbit got the gun. Senator Bobby Singleton proclaims this phrase with gusto. He is making the point that the hunter usually has the gun hunting the rabbit, but on rare occasions, the rabbit gets the gun and hunts the hunter.

  Sheer power usually determines who has the gun. On occasions, circumstances determine who has the gun. In the Alabama Legislature, the majority nearly always has the gun. Republicans have super majorities in both the Alabama House and Senate. Therefore, they have the gun virtually all the time. But every now and then circumstances allow the rabbit to get the gun.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Crowded field lines up for U.S. Senate race

  Well, folks, the field is set for the sprint to fill the open U.S. Senate seat of Jeff Sessions. The primary is less than three months away on August 15. There will probably be a run-off on September 26, and the winner of that GOP run-off will be our Junior Senator from Alabama. In the Heart of Dixie, winning the Republican nomination is tantamount to election. The December 12 General Election will be a coronation for the winner of the September 26 Republican primary.

  It was an interesting closing day of qualifying last Wednesday. It was unbelievable how many people showed up to qualify. There are 11 candidates running in the Republican primary and amazingly, the Democrats fielded eight candidates. It was like ants coming out of the woodwork. It was similar to our olden days of Alabama politics when everybody and their brother ran for an open governor’s race or a seldom seen open Senate race. We ought to refer to this race as an ant race rather than a horse race.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Trump budget will worsen climate change while hurting the most-affected families

  Throughout his campaign, President Donald Trump referred to climate change as a “hoax.” And now, along with 180 members of Congress who question the legitimacy of climate change or humans’ contributions to it, he is undercutting progress toward limiting greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to warming our planet. At the same time, he is pursuing budget cuts that will make climate change even worse while hurting the families struggling most with its effects. Such cuts include eliminating the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which helps seniors, people with disabilities, and families with children pay for their utility bills.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Gene Policinski: Hassling journalists damages our ‘watchdog on government’

  It’s not just journalists who are getting hauled out of a state capitol, pinned to the wall in a federal office building, or serving as the butt of a recent tone-deaf “joke” from a cabinet member involving a ceremonial sword.

  The ultimate targets of these incidents are you and me, and our fellow citizens. Conservative and liberal. Republican and Democrat. People from all states, all regions.

  When it comes to the government, at any level, “we the people” are the ones who run the place.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Miscarriage of justice

  In rural Alabama, the men were told they were being treated for rheumatism, bad stomachs, or “bad blood.” They were promised free meals and free health care.

  They didn’t get the health care they needed most.

  Hundreds of men — mostly poor, all of them black — were recruited in 1932 for the infamous Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male. They were never told they were to be the subjects of a secret U.S. Public Health Service experiment. They were never informed that they had been diagnosed with syphilis. And they never received treatment.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Rosa DeLauro: It’s time to stop shaming students when their parents can’t pay the lunch bill

  Last spring, a third grader in an Alabama elementary school walked into the cafeteria to get lunch. But because his lunch account was running low, he was stamped on the arm by a school employee with the words “I need lunch money” for all his peers to see.

  Across the country, schools are using similar tactics to humiliate students with outstanding lunch bills. According to a troubling 2014 report from the United States Department of Agriculture, almost half of all school districts used some form of lunch shaming to get parents to pay outstanding bills. These tactics range from making children clean the cafeteria, to forcing them to wear a special wristband, to replacing their hot lunches with alternate food, to throwing away a student’s lunch right in front of their eyes—and the eyes of their peers.

Friday, May 19, 2017

David L. Hudson Jr.: First Amendment doesn’t protect public employees from all Facebook posts

  Public employees should enjoy a strong dose of personal freedom to express themselves on political and social issues online.  However, a recent example from Nashville, Tennessee, shows quite well that there are limits to free-speech protection for public employees who cross certain boundaries and denigrate those with whom they work with on a daily basis.

NewsChannel 5 reported this month that a teacher from East Magnet High School resigned after her students confronted her about some of her Twitter posts.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Richard M. Ebeling: Trade deficits don’t matter – unless caused by government

  In 2016, the United States exported goods and services equal to $2.209 trillion, and imported goods and services with a market value of $2.712 trillion. The balance of trade deficit for 2016, therefore, came to $502.3 billion. The trade deficit represented a little over 10 percent of the over $4.92 trillion of total trade in goods and services between America and the rest of the world. And was only about 2.7 percent of the entire $18.56 trillion Gross Domestic Product of the United States in 2016.

  But listening to the rhetoric coming from Donald Trump and others in his administration, it would be easy to assume that America’s balance of trade deficit is causing market misery and economic harm to the people of the United States.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Who to watch in the 2018 governor's race

  The race for our open U.S. Senate seat will be the marquee political event for the remainder of this year. It will be a great show. However, we have a sensational and pivotal 2018 governor’s race evolving simultaneously. This much-anticipated gubernatorial derby will be affected by the preliminary Senate horse race.

  The political landscape has changed dramatically with the decisive move by new Governor Kay Ivey to call for the election of Jeff Sessions’ successor to the Senate this year.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Gene Policinski: Attacking a free press: Actions speaker louder than heated words

  Much of the heated rhetoric directed by the Trump administration toward news organizations has been little more than that – just a blast of hot air. Uncomfortable, but deserving of little attention beyond the moment, and best simply endured.

  Of course, when a president of the United States calls journalists “enemies of the people,” it raises the verbal stakes a bit. It shows disregard for the checks-and-balances system of our democracy, and ignorance of the very role of a free press, which the nation’s founders saw quite clearly, even given the hyperpartisan press of that era. It also bears a disturbing resemblance to language used by dictators and thugs-in-power in nations where freedom is in short supply.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Rolling back LGBT rights

  Less than 48 hours after election day, Kyle Chester and Corey Hurley found a note taped to their front door. Scrawled on a piece of notebook paper, someone had written: “TRUMP is our president now! Get out of our neighborhood now faggots!”

  There were at least 95 separate incidents in which LGBT people experienced hate like this in just the first 10 days after the election. In West Virginia, LGBT people were the targets in one of every six bias-related incidents reported to us during the period.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Jamila Taylor: How President Trump’s policy agenda hurts mothers

  President Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office have been an all-out war on women. Despite statements he has made about supporting women and “invest[ing] in women’s health,” he has ushered forth an agenda that will go down in history as one of the most egregious efforts in decades to deny women’s fundamental rights. On the first Mother’s Day with Trump as president, let’s take a deeper look at how his anti-woman policies could have a particularly harmful effect on mothers.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Sam Berger: Trump’s Regulatory Accountability Act is a license to kill

  Don’t let the innocuous name fool you: The Regulatory Accountability Act recently introduced in the Senate is nothing less than President Donald Trump’s License to Kill Bill. Described as the means of realizing Steve Bannon’s dream to deconstruct the government, this bill is part of Trump’s two-step strategy to first strip people of important health, safety, and consumer protections and then prevent agencies from ever protecting people from these harms again. By hamstringing the dedicated public servants charged with ensuring everything from safe infant formula to clean drinking water to a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work, this bill would put corporate profits before people’s lives and livelihoods.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Oklahoma student forced to remove a “Black Lives Matter” T-shirt he wore to school

  Various sources report that a student in Deer Creek, Oklahoma, was forced to remove a t-shirt containing the phrase “Black Lives Matter.” The ACLU of Oklahoma has written a letter in support of the student’s right to wear the t-shirt and explains that school officials should apologize.

  The ACLU has a point, as the U.S. Supreme Court explained years ago in Tinker v. Des Moines Indep. Comm. Sch. Dist. (1969) that students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” The Court in Tinker protected the right of several students from Iowa to wear black armbands in protest of the Vietnam War.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1561: Mother’s Day is coming!

  Mother’s Day is coming. It’s always on Sunday. This year, it’s on May 14, 2017. It’s always a very special day. Let us all lift our mothers on this day. Let us lift all mothers every day.

  Mothers are one of God’s great gifts to humankind. Mothers conceive us, carry us, birth us, care for us, suffer with us, cry for us, pray for us, sacrifice for us, lift us, protect us and more. There is simply no end to what mothers do. That’s why they say, “A mother's work is never done."

  Mothers just give more. Yet mothers are the most taken-for-granted creatures on God’s earth. We take mothers for granted every time we fail to recognize their gifts. We take mothers for granted every time we fail to say thank you. We take mothers for granted ever time we fail to help when we should. We take mothers for granted every time we break their hearts. We take mothers for granted every time we disobey. We just take mothers for granted in ways too numerous to name.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Some positive political notes

  Most of the time political columns are critical of politicians. However, today I would like to share some positive observations from the first few months of this year.

  Sometimes I enjoy striding down the halls of our old Capitol reminiscing about my younger days when I would walk those halls as a page boy and then during my 30s and 40s as a member of the Alabama Legislature. In bygone days you would never see a constitutional officer in their offices working on Fridays, not even the governor. A few months ago I walked down the halls at about 3:30 on a Friday afternoon and popped into Secretary of State John Merrill’s office. To my amazement, Secretary Merrill was in his office working.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Jacob G. Hornberger: Madison was right about war

  Given that so many Americans continue to express gratitude to the troops for their forever service in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Syria, and elsewhere, it would be worthwhile to revisit the immortal words of James Madison, the father of the U.S. Constitution:

Monday, May 8, 2017

Reckless Endangerment: President Trump and the use of military force

  During his first 100 days in office, it has become clear that President Donald Trump views military force as his primary—if not only—foreign policy tool. From a botched special operations raid in Yemen to a cruise missile strike against an Assad-regime airfield in Syria, Trump has proven more than willing to order America’s armed forces into action. Moreover, his administration’s proposed “hard-power budget” cuts U.S. State Department funding by more than one-quarter to help pay for a $54 billion increase in military spending.

  President Trump’s reliance on military force at the literal expense of America’s other foreign policy tools is bad policy. No U.S. foreign policy failure this century has been due to insufficient military power. Having chosen to buy more ammunition rather than fully fund the Department of State—something his own secretary of defense, James Mattis, advised against when he served as the commander of American forces in the Middle East—Trump is painting America into a dangerous corner. In crisis situations, he will be faced with a stark choice between using military force or backing down.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Craig Ford: Alabama feeling buyer’s remorse over Superintendent of Education

  When we hear the words, “buyer’s remorse,” we usually think of somebody who bought a car they couldn’t afford or some luxury item that ended up not being as great as they thought it would be.

  But the term also applies to the way a lot of members of the Alabama Legislature and the state Board of Education feel about our school superintendent, Michael Sentance.

  The warning signs should have been there from the beginning.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Amy Crawford: White nationalists are targeting college campuses, and these students are fighting back

  In January, the night before alt-right figure Milo Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak at the University of California, Berkeley, two members of the white supremacist group American Renaissance got in a fistfight with other young men after they were caught plastering trees and buildings around campus with posters that proclaimed, “Embrace white identity!”

  In February, a spoofed faculty email address sent hundreds of University of Michigan students messages that threatened black and Jewish people, using the phrase “Heil Trump.” The emails, which the FBI is investigating, followed the appearance of racist flyers around campus the previous fall.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Caleb Crosby: Political power tests character

  Character needs to be a much higher priority in Alabama politics. While our state is blessed with many officials who conduct public service with integrity, the failures of relatively few cast a broad shadow on our political arena.

  As obvious a priority as that might sound, no candidate is going to campaign on his or her intent to violate the ethics laws, abuse our trust, or cause embarrassment for the people of our state.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Joe Valenti: Please stand up if you support financial deregulation

  The first 100 days of the Trump administration have had no shortage of broken promises to American workers and families. But the president’s troubling promise “to do ‘a big number’” on Dodd-Frank—the financial reform law passed in 2010—may actually be kept. Congress takes a big step toward that goal this week when the House Financial Services Committee votes on the Financial CHOICE Act, committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling’s (R-TX) bill that would largely undo financial reform. The sweeping, 593-page bill would take a wrecking ball to financial reform, undermining tools that regulators use to safeguard the financial system and decimating key consumer and investor protections.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The gubernatorial dark horses

  Well, folks, let’s put the final coup de grace to Robert Bentley's six-year reign as governor and move on. Ole Bentley was quite a story his last two years. He had become the ringleader of a circus and an infamous national cartoon character. The salacious and lurid details of his affair with Mrs. Rebekah Mason were a never ending, titillating saga. The story, along with his picture, could aptly be a plot for a tabloid or a soap opera. I will actually be surprised if it does not make it to television or even the movies.

  Unfortunately, this story will be his legacy as governor. He has no public policy initiatives to tout for posterity. He will be known as the “Love Gov.”

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Jacob G. Hornberger: South Korea should give U.S. troops the boot

  The best thing that South Koreans could ever do, both for themselves and for the American people, as well as the Japanese citizenry, is boot all U.S. troops out of their country.

  Isn’t the reason obvious?

  If President Trump, the Pentagon, and the CIA succeed in instigating a war with North Korea, guess who is going to pay the biggest price for such a war.

Monday, May 1, 2017

David L. Hudson Jr.: Controversial speakers and the problem of the hecklers’ veto

  A controversial speaker is invited to a public university to deliver a speech. Many people exercise their free-speech rights to protest the selection of that speaker. However, some of those opposed to the speaker cross the line and engage in non-peaceful activities. Their disruptive behavior leads to the university canceling the event. This phenomenon, which is not fanciful or far-fetched, shows the power of the “heckler’s veto” – a term that arose out of so-called “hostile audience” cases.

  “Heckler’s veto” refers to a situation involving a government official who allows a hostile audience’s reaction to shut down or silence an unpopular speaker. In other words, the speaker’s right to free speech is suppressed by the fear of disruption.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Alex Rowell: Trump’s 100 days of failing working Americans

  President Donald Trump ran for office promising to bring back good jobs, accusing entrenched corporate interests—as well as falsely blaming immigrants—for many Americans’ economic struggles. During the closing months of his presidential campaign, he spoke out against “economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities.”

  One hundred days into his administration, it is clear that Trump’s economic populism was mostly just talk. He has broken his promise to stand up for American workers, and his administration’s actions have combined the worst elements of right-wing policies: doing the bidding of corporate interests while attacking immigrants and people of color.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

The state of the Confederacy in 2017

  Before the sun rose on Monday – a day celebrated in Alabama and Mississippi as Confederate Memorial Day – one of the monuments to white supremacy had fallen in the Deep South.

  After more than a century on public property in New Orleans, The Liberty Monument was removed by construction workers clad in body armor and masks. The monument was erected to honor to honor a bloody uprising in which members of the White League – a violent white supremacist militia – attempted to overthrow the Reconstruction-era government.

  Despite the monument’s link to white supremacy, the prospect of its removal had enraged some people in the Crescent City, prompting death threats and requiring workers to don gear that was more suited for working a riot than removing a monument.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1559: Bending the arc of the moral universe

  The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. This concept was initiated by Theodore Parker in the 1850s, enlarged by others in subsequent years, and made famous by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1960s. I want to share a recent example of the long arc of the moral universe bending toward justice.

  Last week, Alabama’s newly-ascended Governor Kay Ivey signed a law that ended judicial override in Alabama. I will tell you what judicial override is in a moment. But first I want to share with you how we arrived at this bending toward justice moment.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Questions the Trump administration needs to answer about the border wall

  In the U.S.-Mexico border region, an area that stretches nearly 2,000 miles, decisions about border security affect the daily lives of roughly 12 million people. The United States already has 653 miles of border fencing, and much of the rest of the border is comprised of the Rio Grande or located in some of the country’s most inhospitable locations, where a wall would be impractical and unnecessary. In addition to fencing, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, or DHS, uses an array of surveillance and technology to monitor the border in real time.

  Yet both as a candidate and as president, Donald Trump has repeatedly called for the construction of a “big, fat, beautiful wall” along the entire U.S.-Mexico border. The administration recently concluded a request for proposals from firms to construct the wall, and it has already started to send out notices to landowners along the border notifying them that the federal government will likely be seizing their private property.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Sizing up the U.S. Senate field in Alabama

  The decisive move by newly-minted Gov. Kay Ivey to declare a Special Election for the Jeff Sessions’ U.S. Senate seat this year rather than next year changes the entire complexion of who will sit in that coveted seat.  It also redefines the landscape of an ever-changing Alabama political scene.

  This year will be an adventure as we elect a U.S. Senator, and concurrently the 2018 governor’s race will begin its evolution. We have already seen the downfall of a sitting governor this year. There is an assumption that only a Republican can win statewide office in Alabama, and winning the GOP primary is tantamount to election.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Jacob G. Hornberger: The fear racket

  Ever since the conversion of the U.S. government to a national security state after World War II, the coin of the realm has been crisis and fear. Seize on crises — and sometimes even instigate them — and then when fear strikes the hearts and minds of the citizenry, that’s when it’s time for the national security establishment, specifically the military, the CIA, and the NSA, to seize more power and more money, in the name, of course, of keeping people “safe.”

  None of this is new. It’s one of the biggest big-government rackets in history. And U.S. officials are not the only ones to employ it. So do other governments that are also national-security states, such as China, Cuba, and North Korea. Every government that is a national security state understands the importance of crises and keeping people agitated and afraid as a way of maintaining and expanding power.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Top 7 ways the Trump administration is attacking science at the EPA

  The core mission of the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, “is to protect human health and the environment.” As part of that mission, the agency works to ensure that “national efforts to reduce environmental risk are based on the best available scientific information.” During the first four months of 2017, President Donald Trump, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, and their allies in Congress have proven themselves hostile to the role of science in achieving the agency’s mission but all too willing to heed the requests of polluters.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Gene Policinski: When it comes to our freedoms, is a C+ grade good enough?

  When it comes to our core freedoms, is a C+ grade good enough?

  A new “First Amendment Report Card,” unveiled  Thursday by the First Amendment Center of the Newseum Institute, gives our First Amendment freedoms — religion, speech, press, assembly and petition — a barely passing grade.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Michael Josephson: God helps those who help themselves

  Bart’s home was in a flood area. The water was a foot high when a rescue truck offered to help him evacuate. Bart refused saying, “God will provide.” When the levee broke he had to climb onto the roof. A man in a rowboat came by and urged him to get aboard but again Bart refused, “God will provide.” Finally, the waters rose so high that Bart had to climb to the top of the chimney. A helicopter offered help but Bart said no. Soon, the water swept him away. About to drown, he yelled “God, why have you forsaken me?” The helicopter pilot heard the cry and yelled back: “Forsake you? God sent you a truck, then a boat, then a helicopter. Now, use the arms he gave you to grab this rope!”

  Our safety and survival in life does not depends on direct divine intervention, but from our ability to see and willingness to seize opportunities to save ourselves.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1558: The Alabama drama of fallen leaders

  “Senator Sanders, I called to let you know that Governor Robert Bentley will resign at 5:00 p.m. today and Lt. Governor Kay Ivey will be sworn in at 5:30 p.m.” This was Monday, April 10. The caller was Sen. Quinton Ross, the Senate minority leader. With these words, we moved toward the close of another act in the continuing drama of falling leadership in Alabama. Neither transparency nor accountability.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Craig Ford: When we vote this summer for a U.S. Senator, why not vote on a lottery, too?

  This week, Governor Ivey made the tough decision to hold the special election for our U.S. Senator this summer instead of waiting until next year's elections, as Governor Bentley had planned to do.

  This was not an easy choice to make. It is estimated that a special election will cost the state about $15 million.

  But if we also put a lottery on the same ballot as the U.S. Senate race, we can resolve two major issues for the price of one and take partisan concerns out of the equation.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Alabama rivals Louisiana in terms of political corruption

  We in the Deep South have a unique history of political theatrics. The only northern states that rival our colorfulness are New Jersey and Illinois. In those two states you are expected to be corrupt, especially in Chicago.

  Our most colorful southern state has always been Louisiana. The parishes and bayous of the Pelican State gave us Huey Long and other characters. No other states can hold a candle to Louisiana’s brazen corruption. They not only expect their politicians to steal and cavort, they frown on them if they do not. The environment of Louisiana politics is bred towards corruption and debauchery. They not only gave us the glamor of the King Fish, Huey Long, they are proud of their infamous reputation.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

In first 100 days, Congress took aim at the democratic foundations of America’s environmental laws

  A review of all roll-call votes cast in the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives in 2017 shows that Congress and the Trump administration have launched an assault on environmental and public health standards that is unconventional in its approach and anti-democratic in its objective. Instead of seeking up or down votes on high profile environmental topics—such as on whether to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, overturn limits on carbon pollution from power plants, or withdraw protections for national monuments—Republican leaders in Congress are pursuing lower-profile but highly consequential changes to regulatory and legal processes that restrict the rights of citizens and communities to shape U.S. public health and environmental policy. Simply put, the 115th Congress is dismantling the democratic foundations of America’s environmental laws and executing a radical and unprecedented transfer of policymaking power to corporations.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Taylor Dawson: It’s time to call for recall in Alabama

  Looking back on the last few days of Governor Bentley’s s now-infamous administration, I can’t help but think, “It never should have gotten this far.”

  But it did. At least part of that should be credited to the fact he knew there wasn’t anything the people of Alabama could do to him politically once he won his second term in office. Bentley’s pride was unflagging even during his farewell speech.

  As a result, Alabamians’ already-damaged trust in state government took a nosedive over the last year.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Keeping America’s schools safe from gun violence

  Current federal law helps ensure that schools remain safe places of learning for students, faculty, and other personnel by limiting the ability of individuals to carry loaded, concealed guns on K-12 school grounds. This law—the Gun-Free School Zones Act, or GFSZA—was enacted with overwhelming bipartisan support more than 20 years ago and should remain in place to help keep our school communities safe from gun violence.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

David L. Hudson Jr.: Federal appeals court considers Facebook posts a true threat

  One of the more intriguing lines in First Amendment jurisprudence is between a true threat and political hyperbole. True threats are a categorical exception to free-speech protection, while political hyperbole generally is protected speech.

  A Wisconsin man learned the hard way that posting incendiary messages on Facebook about killing then-President Barack Obama can fall into the unprotected category of true threats.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1557: Death by a thousand cuts

  Death by a thousand cuts. Reputedly this was a form of death by torture practiced centuries ago in China. Instead of a quick death by a stab to the heart or a slit of the throat, death would come slowly over a series of days from many cuts on the arms, legs, face and other parts of the body. Then hands, arms, feet, legs, etc. would be cut off.

  Public education is being subjected to death by a thousand cuts. Since December 2010, there have been many painful cuts on the education body. Some cuts on the arms, some on the legs, some on the face, some on other parts of the body. There has not been a slitting of the throat or a stabbing to the heart. However, every cut draws blood, and eventually the body bleeds to death.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Jacob G. Hornberger: Trump’s new war for America

  With President Trump’s undeclared attack on Syria, a sovereign and independent nation, he has confirmed, once and for all, that he is just another foreign interventionist, no different from his predecessors Barack Obama and George W. Bush. That means, of course, another four years of war, bombings, assassinations, shootings, terrorism, war on terrorism, travel restrictions, walls, surveillance, incarceration, POW camps, torture, out of control federal spending and debt, and everything else that comes with an imperialist and interventionist national security state.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Harry Stein: Stop cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthy

  President Donald Trump and House Republicans have championed massive tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations. They will likely try to enact these giveaways into law as part of what they call tax reform, as well as through other measures such as repeal of the Affordable Care Act and infrastructure legislation. While tax policy offers many complicated questions, one thing should be clear: The wealthiest Americans and big corporations do not need any more tax cuts.

  Anyone can clearly see whether proposed legislation would cut taxes for the wealthy or corporations, thanks to high-quality, nonpartisan analysis from the independent Tax Policy Center and the legislative branch’s Joint Committee on Taxation. Trickle-down tax cuts have repeatedly failed to produce broad-based economic growth. A significant majority of Americans not only oppose such tax cuts but would support higher taxes on the wealthy and big corporations.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Gene Policinski: Mexican journalist killed for doing noble work

  On March 23, journalist Miroslava Breach was killed in Mexico for being a “tattletale” – the epithet reportedly scrawled on a piece of cardboard left next to her body.

  Shot to death in front of her son, in her own driveway in Chihuahua. Killed for doing what journalists do – holding the powerful, even the dangerous, accountable. For speaking out on behalf of the oppressed. For investigating corruption and organized crime.

  Ironically, reports said, Breach had been reporting in recent days on a spate of murders, including the assassination of an environmental activist.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Sam Berger: Trump’s new plan to penalize the sick

  Republicans need to stop making a terrible health care bill even worse. A little over a week ago, President Donald Trump declared that the White House would be moving on from its efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or ACA. However, in an abrupt about-face, the administration is now reportedly considering a new proposal in an attempt to reinvigorate talks: allowing insurers to drastically raise prices on people with pre-existing conditions, even to the point of preventing them from obtaining insurance at all.

  First Republicans had a proposal that would lead to skyrocketing uninsurance and out-of-pocket costs while increasing premiums. Then they argued for driving up coverage prices for services like maternity care and substance abuse treatment while simultaneously weakening protections for employer-provided insurance. Now they’re threatening to eliminate protections for the up to 133 million individuals who have pre-existing conditions.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Richard M. Ebeling: Trump’s economic warfare targets innocent bystanders

  An often forgotten truth is that it is not just military warfare that can cause injury to innocent bystanders, the same happens in economic warfare initiated by governments as well. But in the latter case, the human “collateral damage” is a targeted victim.

  On March 29, 2017, The Wall Street Journal ran a story highlighting the Trump Administration’s likely intention on getting tough in trade talks about American beef sales to the European Union. Being more in tune with “nature” and the “natural” than the United States, the European Union long ago imposed trade restrictions on the importation of American beef that has been bred with the use of artificial hormones.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Music Review: Blue Yonder - Born of the Sky

  As a guy who generally listens to music that falls more on the rock, indie, post-rock side of the spectrum, I’m not going to pretend to be able to explain any differences - subtle or otherwise - between what may be Americana versus folk or any other related subgenre. So writing about a new EP from my friends in Blue Yonder is proving to be a bit of a challenge.

  But as I’ve seen them perform live as a duo and full band, I can say that I recognize the talent and songwriting prowess, even if precise descriptions of musical styles escape me.

  Blue Yonder consists of Johnny Veres, Beth Hataway Veres, Joseph Johnson, Russell Thomas Bush, and Andrew Mohney.

Alabama Legislature wants to block illegal internet content, allow access again for $20

  Alabama legislators plan on forcing your mobile phone company to block illegal content on your phone, then forcing you to pay twenty dollars to access it again.

  House Bill 428 requires all electronic devices providing internet access to contain an active filter that blocks child pornography, images used for sexual cyber harassment, prostitution, and human trafficking. If you’re annoyed that you can no longer view this content, there’s a simple solution provided in the bill: submit a written request, verify your age, receive a warning about deactivating the filter, and pay twenty dollars to the Department of Revenue. You’ll be back on your way to viewing illegal content in no time.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1556: Bending the arc of history

  Bending the arc of history: African Americans and the University of Alabama School of Law. This was the name of the conference at the law school last week. This phrase springs from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1965 speech at the Alabama State Capitol at the end of the Selma-to-Montgomery March. Dr. King said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Theodore Parker rendered a version of this concept years earlier. The conference was about the University of Alabama Law School’s exclusion of Black people from its inception in 1831 to the first graduating class of African Americans in 1972 and the impact of subsequent classes. I was one of several panelists.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Orin S. Kramer: Congress must investigate Trump’s ties to Russia

  We need a thorough congressional investigation into President Donald Trump’s Russia ties and we need it now. The explosive disclosure that the FBI is conducting a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to the Kremlin further demonstrated the critical role Congress can play in informing the public and advancing the investigation. Yet the farcical actions of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes have now cast doubt on the ability of the Congress to conduct a fair and impartial investigation. While the FBI will take its time working behind closed doors, it is imperative that Congress also investigate Trump’s connections both to keep the public informed and figure out a response to this attack on our democracy.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Will Luther Strange pay politically for being appointed?

  Lots of folks are still angry about our lame duck governor Robert Bentley naming Attorney General Luther Strange to Jeff Sessions' U.S. Senate seat.

  If the sitting attorney general of a state openly says that he is investigating the governor for misfeasance, and then that governor appoints that attorney general to the senate seat, it looks funny. It gives new meaning to the word collusion.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Five ways the nomination of Neil Gorsuch threatens women’s rights

  The principle of equality is a cornerstone of American democracy. From our nation’s earliest history to the present day, there has been a robust discussion about how to realize the promise of equality in the everyday experiences of people across the country. But equality in the United States has come with an invisible asterisk: Its principles have not been uniformly enjoyed across different segments of society. Given this reality, people who face discrimination have always depended on the courts to protect their access to equal justice.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Horror film ‘Spiritus’ to screen in Montgomery

MONTGOMERY- The producers of the horror film Spiritus are
holding a screening on Saturday, April 8, at The Sanctuary in Montgomery. The screening begins at 5 p.m., with a question and answer session to follow. Entry is $10. The Sanctuary is located at 432 S. Goldthwaite St. downtown.

  The film, written and directed by L.C. Holt, tells the story of a troubled girl named Marjorie Hines. One year after her mysterious death, Marjorie’s tormented spirit returns to seek vengeance on those responsible.

  “We were able to tell this story in an interesting, nonlinear way,” Holt said. “The story unfolds piece by piece as each of Marjorie’s friends, along with an unscrupulous documentary filmmaker, start to uncover secrets surrounding the circumstances of her death.”

Gene Policinski: Who brings us the news? Men, mostly

  Who brings us the news? Mostly it’s still men, according to a new Women’s Media Center study, “Divided 2017.”

  The report says that among the major TV networks, online versions of CNN, Fox, The Huffington Post and The Daily Beast, and the nation’s ten largest newspapers:

    -Male anchors and reporters predominate by about 3 to 1 among broadcast news outlets, which the Center notes is a “regression” from how things used to be. Work by women anchors, field reporters and correspondents actually declined, falling to 25.2 percent of reports in 2016 from 32 percent when the WMC published its 2015 “Divided” report.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Civil asset forfeiture: Tracking the cash seized by police in a Deep South state where transparency is not required

  Each year, law enforcement agencies seize billions of dollars in cash and other property from potential suspects – some of whom are never convicted or even charged with a crime – through a process called civil asset forfeiture.

  In nearly every state, the agencies get to keep some or all of the property.

  In 13 states and the District of Columbia, agencies don’t have to report or even keep records to show the value of the property they confiscate or why it was seized, according to the Institute for Justice.

  Alabama is one such state. A research analyst at the Institute recently wrote that Alabama’s civil forfeiture laws are among “the most unjust in the nation.”

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1555: Come go on a flashback with me, back some 45 years ago!

  Did you ever have flashbacks to something from years ago? Did something in the present so jolt you that you flash-backed to decades ago? I am having flashbacks from nearly 45 years ago.

  FLASHBACKS! It was late 1972 or early 1973. I had been in Selma for a little more than a year. Faya Rose (Rose Sanders) had not been here a year. She had a strong urge for fudge. She is not a lover of chocolate, but I think she was pregnant with our first child. I took her to the only place I thought might have fudge – A Dairy Cream or Dairy Dream or something like that. She got out and stood in line with others while I remained in the car.

  FLASHBACKS! I noticed that everyone in line was White except for Faya. At the time, I did not know that African Americans could not go to the Dairy Cream (or whatever its name was) because, after all, this was 1973, at least eight years after the passage of the Public Accommodations Act, which opened all stores to the public.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Our Stand: MPAC can, and should, do better than Ted Nugent

  We were thoroughly disappointed and disheartened when the Montgomery Performing Arts Centre announced that it had booked "performer" Ted Nugent. He's scheduled to play some time this summer, but we won't be providing ticket information in this space or through our social media accounts as we believe this booking decision reflects poorly on the venue and the Capital City as a whole.

  Since its inception, MPAC has hosted countless acts - ranging from theater to music - all highly reputable, award-winning, world-class performers and productions from around the globe. The MPAC stage has featured everyone from Willie Nelson to the Russian Ballet, not to mention phenomenal touring Broadway productions.

  But booking such a divisive, race-baiting, reckless, disreputable character as Ted Nugent - an individual whose talent isn't prone to overwhelm anyone either - marks a stark and sad departure from what we're accustomed to seeing and appreciating at MPAC.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

John Podesta: Battling climate change in the time of Trump

  There is no way to sugarcoat the outcome of the 2016 election for anyone who cares about the health of our planet. President Donald Trump has made clear that he intends to pursue a special interest-driven agenda that would make climate change worse. Since the start of his administration, he has taken steps to increase America’s dependence on oil, including foreign oil; eliminate limits on carbon pollution; and weaken vehicle efficiency standards at the expense of American families. His budget decimates scientific research and he selected an administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, who denies that carbon pollution is a main cause of climate change.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Are there any Democrats considering the 2018 governor's race?

  Last week we handicapped some of the potential horses in the upcoming 2018 governor’s race. We mentioned Judge Roy Moore, PSC President Twinkle Cavanaugh, Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan, Secretary of State John Merrill, State Treasurer Young Boozer, State Senator Del Marsh and Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle.

  Some others that may be considering pursuing the brass ring of Alabama politics are Lt. Governor Kay Ivey, Supreme Court Justice Jim Main, Jefferson County Commission President David Carrington, Trump’s Trumpeter in the state - Perry Hooper, Jr., Huntsville State Representative Jim Patterson and ADECA Director and former Prattville Mayor Jim Byard. You can also add former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville to the mix of possible gubernatorial candidates.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

President Trump’s budget breaks his promises to workers—again

  President Donald Trump ran on and was purportedly elected to deliver good jobs. So far, however, his jobs agenda has amounted to little more than threats to strip workers’ health care and promises to slash corporate taxes and reward companies shipping jobs overseas. His budget is the latest in a series of attacks on workers. Not only does it fail to deliver jobs; it also decimates programs designed to help workers.

  President Trump’s newly released “skinny budget” would make disastrous cuts to vital programs that have a real impact on the lives and pocketbooks of families across the country. If implemented, the cuts would reduce wages, hollow out protections that keep Americans safe on the job and ensure they are paid the wages they earn, and gut worker training programs that help workers secure good jobs and raise their wages.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Jacob G. Hornberger: Prepare now for blowback

  By this time it has become painfully obvious that Donald Trump is going to follow the interventionist road in the Middle East that Republicans and Democrats have been following ever since the Cold War ended in 1989. Like any good conservative, Trump is expanding the size of the military establishment, unleashing the Pentagon to wage its war on ISIS and terrorism, and continuing the bombing, shooting, and assassinations by the military and the CIA in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and other parts of the Middle East. At the same time, he’s keeping the entire NSA surveillance machinery fully intact and operational.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Left Behind: How the Trump budget fails rural communities

  Rural communities across the country continue to struggle to find the resources they need to strengthen their economies, improve quality of life, and maintain vibrant local connections. These communities rely on federal programs that support local economies and health and safety improvements.

Despite promises to the rural and small-town voters who supported him, President Donald Trump’s new budget blueprint delivers a massive blow to these programs, cutting or eliminating essential services for rural Americans.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1554: Come move with me through one legislative week

  Can you move with me? Can you move with me through one legislative week in this 2017 Session? Do you want to? I hope so because I want to share just a little of my legislative experiences this week.

  I had lots of meetings with various organizations, groups and individuals. But I’m not going to involve you in those meetings. I want to deal strictly with matters on the Senate floor, in Senate committees and other during Senate processes. Can you move with me?

Friday, March 24, 2017

Jacob G. Hornberger: Why are Americans searched at the border?

  Whenever American citizens travel to another country, they are subjected to intrusive searches at the hands of U.S. officials upon returning to the United States.

  Why? What’s the justification?

  Since Americans living today have all been born and raised under this type of system, hardly anyone questions it. It’s just accepted, passively and submissively, as part of living in a “free” society.

  Yet, when the government wields the authority to conduct a complete search of people without any suspicion of a crime having been committed, that is far from any free society.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Craig Ford: Hypocrisy and injustice from the Alabama Legislature

  State legislatures and the U.S. Congress typically have the lowest approval ratings of any government branch or agency, and last week the Alabama Legislature showed exactly why that is.

  The same state legislators who made their own pay raises part of the state constitution and are subsequently receiving more than a $2,000 pay raise this year for their part-time job, have decided our state employees aren’t deserving of a pay increase this year.

  It isn’t a question of money. The budget passed by the Alabama House of Representatives is holding back $97 million “for future needs and uncertainties,” while the cost of a four percent pay increase would only be one-fifth of that (about $19 million).

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The 2018 governor's race

  We are on the cusp of one of the best political years in modern political history in the Heart of Dixie. Prior to the 1970s, the Alabama Constitution disallowed succession of office for our state constitutional offices. In other words, you could not run for two consecutive four-year terms. That is why George Wallace ran his wife in his place in 1966. George and Lurleen campaigned side-by-side. George would wink at the crowds still drawn to courthouse squares by a country band and say, “I’m going to be her number one advisor.” By the way, she won in a landslide. She beat eight male opponents without a runoff, including two former governors, an agriculture commissioner, the sitting state attorney general and two powerful state senators.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Judge Gorsuch threatens the dignity of LGBT people

  Judges with Supreme Court aspirations tend to guard their views, avoiding stances and statements that could impede a nomination or confirmation. Judge Neil Gorsuch has done just that, leading observers to look to his influences rather than his issuances. Among them is Justice Anthony Kennedy, for whom he clerked. While Judge Gorsuch and Justice Kennedy may share a bond, they part ways on several issues. One lesser known but critically important point of potential disagreement surrounds a somewhat nebulous legal principle critical to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT, rights: the dignity of free persons.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Alexandra Werner-Winslow: State legislators attack the right to protest

  Fifty-two years ago Friday, famed civil rights judge Frank M. Johnson Jr. issued a momentous federal court ruling that prohibited Alabama Gov. George Wallace and a local sheriff from interfering with voting rights marchers.

  It came 10 days after Bloody Sunday, the day protesters began marching to the Alabama Capitol only to be turned back and brutally beaten by state troopers and a sheriff’s posse as they tried to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma.

  Four days after Johnson's ruling, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led more than 3,000 marchers across the bridge and then on to the steps of the Capitol in Montgomery – their right to protest upheld, their path unimpeded by law enforcement.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1553: It is not what we call it but what it answers to

  The name sounds so innocent. In fact, it sounds good. But it is not what it is named but what it answers to. This Senate Bill 60 answers to the call of rank oppression.

  It is called the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act of 2017. Each word sounds good in its own way. Alabama. Memorial. Preservation. Act. 2017. Together they sound real good. However, it is not what we call it but what it answers to. This bill answers to the beck and call of rank oppression.

  The bill moves in the name of Alabama. It moves in the name of memorials. It moves in the name of preservation. It moves in the name of 2017. It moves in the name of history. But its spirit is the opposite of the name. It is not about preservation as much as exclusion of symbols of other history. It is not what we call the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act but what it answers to. And it answers to the beck and call of rank oppression.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Ken Gude: Russia’s 5th Column

  Russia’s actions to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election and help then-presidential candidate Donald Trump win were similar to its activities to build a network of far-right political parties and movements in Europe. Russian President Vladimir Putin is using this network to advance his policy objectives at home and abroad.

  In this effort, Russia is motivated by both the desire to lead a conservative revival against Western liberal democracies and a flawed interpretation of recent waves of popular uprisings against autocratic rulers that sees an American conspiracy behind them. Putin has adopted a deliberate strategy to directly challenge the liberal international order led by the United States. That global system helped end the historical pattern of devastating wars among major powers and brought much of the world an unprecedented era of peace and prosperity since the end of World War II.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Craig Ford: Is the legislature about to pass a $250 million backdoor tax increase?

  It doesn’t claim to be a $250 million tax increase, but that’s exactly what would happen if the Alabama Legislature passes a proposed bill to privatize the state’s ABC stores.

  Though it may seem like a reasonable, pro-private sector bill that would decrease government bureaucracy and expenses, in reality this bill would hurt small businesses, cost the taxpayers $250 million (or more) a year, and worsen the “wild west” situation we already have with private liquor stores.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Dorian Warren: Trump romanticizes the White America of the past - It’s time to stop

  I’ve been reading a lot about how many of the people who ushered in the Trump era were driven by a longing for a white Christian America of the past. They harken back to a heyday when white men were the power brokers in all situations, women stayed home, and America was a stratified society where everyone knew their place.

  These folks hope the new president will bring us back to this romanticized vision: the U.S. as Mayberry, the small town from the The Andy Griffith Show that has become synonymous with an idealized, folksy life.

  The problem is, that America never actually existed.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The future of online sales taxes and Alabama's roads

  My tradition for over two decades has been to give my children money for Christmas. Under this system, there is no returning of items. They get what they want or need. There is no way that I would know what style of clothing, color or size they like. It works well.

  The most illuminating thing that occurred to me this year is that both of my daughters and my granddaughter bought all of their Christmas gifts for me online. Without question, our country and state have changed dramatically in my lifetime in terms of technology. As a result, Alabama and other states have to change the way that sales tax is collected. States have to find a solution and the will to derive sales tax from online purchases.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Richard M. Ebeling: The national debt limit equals a balanced budget

  Once again the United States government is rapidly approaching a fiscal debt ceiling: After March 16, 2017, Uncle Sam will not be legally allowed to borrow any more money to cover its budget deficits, unless Congress votes to raise the debt limit, once again, like it has every time in the past.

  Uncle’s Sam’s debt has been growing at a frightening rate over the last several decades. It took almost two hundred years, from around 1790, when the government of the United States was established, to 1980 for the federal government to accumulate $1 trillion of debt through deficit spending.

Monday, March 13, 2017

John Norris: Trump’s siege on international development

  Up until the news dropped in February that the Trump administration plans to boost military spending by $54 billion and make cuts of up to 40 percent to foreign aid, the international development community was in overdrive to put its work in the best light. Development experts had been making the case for foreign assistance in terms that they hoped would resonate with the Trump administration—which on the diplomatic and development side consists of only one appointee, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

  Some tried quoting Ronald Reagan to make their case: “Our national interests are inextricably tied to the security and development of our friends and allies.” Others argued that to “Make America Great Again” would require renewed investments in Africa through new energy projects and expanded investment opportunities to help shape the United States’ future markets. And in The New York Times, former Republican Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN) pushed to maintain support for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, insisting that buttressing weak states by combating AIDS is “a key element of America’s national security strategy.”

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Justice Sotomayor expresses concern over Court’s true threat jurisprudence

  U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor agreed with her colleagues that the Court should deny review in a true-threat case out of Florida, involving a man who uttered, while drunk, that he could blow up a liquor store.

  However, Sotomayor wrote a separate concurring opinion denying review in Perez v. Florida (16-6250) to express her concerns about holes in the Court’s current true-threat jurisprudence.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Craig Ford: Public leaders set the example whether we like it or not

  Bullying and intimidation are nothing new to American politics. In 1856, Congressman Preston Brooks famously beat Senator Charles Sumner with a walking stick. Just ten years ago, state Senator Charles Bishop assaulted state Senator Lowell Barron on the floor of the Alabama Senate.

  People can be passionate about their beliefs, especially their political beliefs. For the most part, these passions are not expressed in violent ways. But recently we have seen our country become more violent over politics, and part of that increase in violence is due to the example our leaders have set.

  This isn’t a partisan issue either. There are people behaving badly on both sides of the aisle, and leaders in both political parties have failed to speak out against the bullying, violence and intimidation. Some of them have even encouraged some of it as a means of keeping their base supporters energized.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1552: Come with me as we share the continuing Jubilee experience!

  Come with me as we share the Bridge Crossing Jubilee on the 52nd Anniversary of Bloody Sunday, the Selma-to-Montgomery March and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. I cannot share everything because I could not attend all of the more than 40 events. I don’t even have space to share all I participated in over these five days. Come with me as we share the continuing experience of the Bridge Crossing Jubilee.

  Let’s start on Thursday of last week. I returned from a Senate session in Montgomery. Two television reporters had set up interviews about the Jubilee. I agreed to do the interviews in spite of the potential for negative publicity. I met them at Tabernacle Baptist Church. Rather than respond to the controversy, I tried to address the big picture: the Jubilee would go on; the forty-plus events would go on as planned; and only one event, the Jubilee Festival, would be moved.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Unfairness in class action: A new attack on civil rights

  President Donald Trump’s budget proposal may eliminate the single greatest funder of civil legal aid in the United States, the Legal Services Corporation—a long-standing goal of Vice President Mike Pence. At the same time, Congress is working to block Americans from seeking justice on their own with the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2017. This bill was drafted to address an imaginary problem; if it passes, it will have very real, devastating consequences.

  For those who face systemic corporate abuses and failures of government, class action lawsuits are a critical tool for seeking justice. Through a class action, a few people or organizations can represent a larger group that has been harmed in a lawsuit against the perpetrator to seek a remedy, whether a change in practices or monetary damages. Actions that aim to force actors to change their behavior—for example, to follow the law or cease a bad practice—are referred to as seeking injunctive relief.