Monday, September 18, 2017

Déjà vu: Fighting for school integration in 2017

  History was repeating itself for U.W. Clemon.

  More than 40 years after winning a school desegregation case in Alabama, he found himself in a courtroom arguing once again for the integration of the very same school district.

  “I never envisioned that I would be fighting in 2017 essentially the same battle that I thought I won in 1971,” Clemon told The New York Times Magazine. “But the battle is just not over.”

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Two million parents forced to make career sacrifices due to problems with child care

  Child care is a pressing economic issue for working families across the country. At a time when 65 percent of young children have all available parents in the workforce, high-quality child care is a necessity. The exorbitant cost of child care has become a significant burden for parents who need it to support their families. Millions of parents must make an impossible choice between paying more than they can afford for child care; settling for cheaper, lower-quality care; and leaving the workforce altogether. Parents who decide to leave the workforce to become full-time caregivers stand to lose much more than just their salaries, earning less in benefits and retirement savings over the long run.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Richard Cohen: President Trump must push back against the hate he's unleashed

  As events in Charlottesville last month reflect, President Trump’s incendiary rhetoric has energized the white supremacist movement.

  By signing the bipartisan congressional resolution against hate, he now has committed himself to undo the damage he has caused. We hope Congress will hold his feet to the fire and ensure that he lives up to his commitment.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Household incomes are rising again, but share going to middle class is at record low

  The latest Census Bureau data show that for the second straight year, the typical U.S. household saw its income rise in inflation-adjusted terms in 2016, the last year of the Obama administration, and incomes have now recovered to approximately pre-Great Recession levels. The median U.S. household income was $59,039 in 2016, a 3.2 percent increase from real 2015 levels.

  While the data contain some good news, the overall story is still quite bleak.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Previewing 2018

  As I mentioned last week, we will have a plethora of political contests to follow next year, and the field is beginning to formulate.

  The governor’s race is always the marquee event. However, the most important races will be for the 35 Senate and 105 House of Representatives seats. These legislative races will be where most of the special interest money will gravitate.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Craig Ford: Should Alabama Superintendent of Education Michael Sentance be fired?

Editor's Note: Multiple Alabama news sources reported September 13 that Michael Sentance had resigned his position.

  On Thursday, the Alabama Board of Education will meet to discuss terminating State Superintendent Dr. Michael Sentance’s contract.

  Politics has surrounded Dr. Sentance’s time in Alabama, starting even before he was hired. And if the Board decides to fire him, his supporters will claim that politics was the driving factor.

  Dr. Sentance was the preferred choice of those who support charter schools and diverting tax dollars away from public schools to fund scholarships for private schools. And with his job on the line, most – if not all – of those who have publicly supported him have been those who support charter schools and the Accountability Act scholarship program.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Lata Nott: State high courts can provide greater free-speech protections

  Forty years ago in the Harvard Law Review, U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Brennan described state constitutions as “a font of individual liberty, their protections often extending beyond those required by the Supreme Court’s interpretation of federal law.” Brennan urged state high courts to provide needed protections to individual liberty, particularly as the U.S. Supreme Court began cutting back on individual freedoms.

Monday, September 11, 2017

5 Ways Congress can help to rebuild stronger and safer communities after Harvey

  Hurricane Harvey delivered a devastating and deadly blow to Houston, southeast Texas, and parts of Louisiana. The storm unleashed unprecedented amounts of rain—more than 50 inches in some areas—and caused catastrophic flooding that consumed communities, including the entire Houston area. As of this writing, the storm has killed at least 70 people, destroyed or damaged more than 185,000 homes, and inflicted economic costs that could rise as high as $190 billion.

  It will take years for many Texas and Louisiana residents to recover from the storm. For others, recovery will never happen unless federal, state, and local officials channel disaster assistance into rebuilding strategies that will reduce the costs, health impacts, and loss of life brought on by floods and extreme weather events. Scientists are confident that climate change will only intensify storms like Harvey in the future, as sea level rise contributes to bigger storm surges, warmer oceans fuel more powerful winds, and rising air temperatures trigger heavier downpours.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

We need activists now more than ever

  As Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program last week, he said, “We are a people of compassion.”

  But there is nothing compassionate about rescinding DACA for Mohammad Abdollahi. Iranian, gay, and a DACA recipient, Abdollahi would be in extreme danger if he were deported to a country that carries out the death penalty for “repeated acts” of homosexuality.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Jacob G. Hornberger: Interventionism and the Korean crisis

  If war ends up breaking out in Korea, President Trump, the Pentagon, and the CIA will be announcing that it was all North Korea fault. They’ll say that North Korea was “begging for war,” and that the United States was “forced” to act to protect “national security.” Of course, in the process they will be ignoring the interventionist sanctions that the United States and the United Nations have imposed on North Korea for decades, an indirect act of war that has targeted and killed countless North Korean citizens.

Friday, September 8, 2017

LaShawn Y. Warren: Race and the creditability of the church

  Since President Donald Trump came to office in January, many have expressed outrage, disappointment, and sheer disgust over his inability to exercise moral leadership. At no time has that deficiency been more evident than in the wake of the August white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Instead of offering words to catalyze healing and unity, the president made racially inflammatory remarks that not only pandered to the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, and other terrorist hate groups, but also drew moral equivalence between hate groups and anti-racist demonstrators. Ideally, the nation would look to the office of the president for moral clarity. It is increasingly clear that this leadership will not come from President Trump.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1578: When we lose our health, we lose everything

  When we have our health, we have everything. The old folks repeated this saying to us over and over. I have come to understand that while we may not have everything when we have our health, we have a great deal that is a critical foundation to our getting everything we need. Moreover, I’ve heard people say, “I would give everything to have my good health again.”

  We must have doctors to have our health. We must have nurses to have our health. We must have hospitals to have our health. We must have nursing homes to have our health. We must also have other health-related institutions to have our health. When we have our health, we have a chance to get everything we need. When we lose our health, we lose everything.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The 2018 election pot is already boiling

  Labor Day is the traditional kickoff to an election year. Folks, our quadrennial gubernatorial election year is going to be a doozy. We are in for one heck of a political election season next year.

  Besides the governor’s race, we have an open lieutenant governor’s race, an open attorney general’s race, an open treasurer’s race, and an open agriculture commissioner’s race. We have statewide races for Alabama Secretary of State and Alabama Auditor. We have five seats up for election on the Alabama Supreme Court. One of those will be a hotly contested battle for Chief Justice. We have two seats up for election on the Alabama Public Service Commission.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The War on Medicaid is moving to the states

  In the early 1960s, as the Johnson administration worked to enact Medicare and Medicaid, then-actor Ronald Reagan traveled the country as a spokesman for the American Medical Association, warning of the danger the legislation posed to the nation. “Behind it will come other federal programs that will invade every area of freedom as we have known it in this country,” he said in one widely distributed speech. “Until one day … you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it once was like in America when men were free.”

  Reagan set the tone for a conservative war against Medicaid that is now in its 52nd year. Recent congressional proposals to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act would have reduced Medicaid enrollment by up to 15 million people, and, despite being defeated, congressional Republicans aren’t done yet: It’s likely they will attempt to gut the program during the upcoming budget debate. Meanwhile, more than half a dozen conservative governors are trying to take a hatchet to the program—at the open invitation of the Trump administration—through a vehicle known as a “Medicaid waiver.”

Monday, September 4, 2017

DACA recipients’ economic and educational gains continue to grow

  Since it was first announced on June 15, 2012, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy has provided temporary relief from deportation as well as work authorization to approximately 800,000 undocumented young people across the country. As research has consistently shown, DACA has not only improved the lives of undocumented young people and their families but has also positively affected the economy more generally, which benefits all Americans.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Disaster might not discriminate, but recovery does

  There was nowhere to go from the kitchen counter.

  Trina Moore had already called the Coast Guard. The four children in her care were stretched out on top of the dishwasher, clutching pillows almost as big as they were while they slept. One little girl, hooked up to a ventilator, sat awake: She was watching the brown, murky water still rising towards her. It was 4:30 in the morning.

  Moore and her family are some of the countless Texans who had to fend for themselves this past week in the face of what the University of Wisconsin has determined was a one-in-1,000 year flood event that occurred when Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Houston.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Sharon Lauer: Why celebrate Labor Day?

  Samuel Gompers, founder and longtime president of the American Federation of Labor, summed up this holiday's importance with these words: "All other holidays are in a more or less degree connected with conflicts and battles of man's prowess over man, of strife and discord for greed and power, of glories achieved by one nation over another. Labor Day... is devoted to no man, living or dead, to no sect, race, or nation."

Friday, September 1, 2017

Tax cuts hidden in Congress’ tax reform, explained

  In a joint statement on July 27, top Republican policymakers in the House and Senate, along with President Donald Trump’s top two officials responsible for tax policy, re-upped their commitment to passing “comprehensive tax reform.” With the help of business groups and conservative organizations backed by the Koch brothers, they plan to ramp up their campaign for tax reform over this Labor Day weekend.

  The language that Republicans are using to push these proposals—“make taxes simpler, fairer, and lower” for American families—sounds appealing. But the policies on their wish list are almost entirely tax cuts, and almost all of the benefits (99.6 percent under House Speaker Paul Ryan’s plan) will go to the top 1 percent of taxpayers.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Jacob G. Hornberger: Only one way to end drug-war violence

  Two police officers in Kissimmee, Florida, were recently shot and killed while investigating illegal drug activity in a dangerous part of town. According to the New York Times, government officials praised the officers for their service and asked Floridians to pray for other law-enforcement personnel. President Trump weighed in with a tweet in which he offered his thoughts and prayers for the Kissimmee police and their families.

  There is one big thing about that picture, however: It is the drug war itself, which Trump and, no doubt, most of the Kissimmee Police Department, favor, that is the reason that those two police officers are dead. If drugs were legal, those two dead police officers would not have been investigating illegal drug activity because there would be no illegal drug activity.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Senate runoff too close to predict

  Most people would assume that as the race for the open U.S. Senate began that Luther Strange, the appointed incumbent, was the favorite. However, polling indicated that Roy Moore was the favorite and remains the favorite as we head towards the September 26 runoff.

  The initial polling showed that Moore had a hardcore 30 percent. It was and is as solid as a rock. He had 30 percent from the get-go. He had 30 percent midway in the race, and he had 30 percent at the end. It was also a fact that with a low voter turnout that his 30 percent would become accentuated because the final poll, and the one that counts, is election day and who actually shows up to vote. Moore’s supporters are more ardent and are going to show up to vote for him come hell or high water. They are also older, and older people tend to vote; 65- to 80-year-old voters are always more likely to vote.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Lawmakers must protect protesters — not the drivers who hit them

  Marissa Blair was walking down Fourth Street when the car struck. Her fiancé, Marcus Martin, had just a split second to push her out of its path.

  When she got up, all Blair could see of Martin was his bloodied baseball cap lying on the ground, she told The New York Times.

  “It terrified me,” said Blair.

  She found Martin, his leg broken. But the couple couldn’t find the friend who had been with them on Fourth Street — 32-year-old Heather Heyer.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Jacob G. Hornberger: The illegality of Trump’s Afghanistan war

  When President Trump attributed his flip-flop on Afghanistan to his team of military generals who informed him that a withdrawal from America’s 16-year war would leave a “haven” for terrorists, I couldn’t help but think of former presidential candidate George Romney during the Vietnam War. After opposing the war, Romney traveled to Vietnam and returned with the same flip-flop mindset that Trump has experienced. Like Trump, Romney blamed it on the generals, who, he said, had “brainwashed” him into supporting the war. Romney’s brainwashing, however, wasn’t permanent, as Romney later returned to an antiwar position. So maybe there’s hope that the same thing will happen to Trump.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Craig Ford: A crisis is coming to Alabama, but you aren’t hearing much about it

  Our state government is no stranger to crises. We’ve had multiple budget crises, Medicaid crises, and most recently, a crisis related to our prison system.

  But there is another growing crisis that hasn’t received the media attention these other issues have. It’s a crisis that could have a devastating impact on Alabama’s families, our economy, and the taxpayers.

  I’m talking about the opioid crisis.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

House Republican cuts to nutrition assistance would harm families in every state

  Budgets, it is often said in Washington, are moral documents meant to convey priorities. House Republicans’ fiscal year 2018 budget makes their priorities crystal clear—namely, delivering tax cuts to millionaires at the expense of America’s struggling working families.

  The budget’s radical, sweeping cuts to programs that everyday Americans rely on should be a wake-up call for anyone who believes that congressional Republicans are more reasonable than President Donald Trump. Like the budget the Trump administration released in May, House Republicans’ budget would gut services for people with disabilities, eviscerate Medicaid, cut Social Security, and hike costs for families struggling to afford college.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1576: What President Trump did is so dangerous

  What President Trump did is so dangerous. It’s dangerous for me. It’s dangerous for you. More importantly, it’s dangerous for this country. Let me tell you why. But first let me remind you of what President Trump did.

  On August 11, hundreds of Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, white nationalist, etc., marched near the University of Virginia at Charlottesville. They held high flaming torches as they chanted Nazi slogans used by German Nazis during the 1930s and 40s. “Blood and Soil!” they yelled. “Jews will not replace us!” they yelled. They also shouted slogans such as “Heil Trump!” and “Make America Great Again.”

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The American people deserve more answers on Afghanistan

  Eight months into his term, President Donald Trump is finally paying attention to the ongoing Afghanistan War, where thousands of U.S. soldiers are currently fighting. Trump’s new plan seems a lot like the old ones, with even less detail about how the war—or American involvement in it—will end.

  For 16 years, America has been fighting terrorists in Afghanistan and trying to help stabilize the country. America’s longest war has claimed the lives of more than 2,400 U.S. troops and 1,136 allied troops, with tens of thousands wounded. In addition to the loss of life, combat in Afghanistan has cost the American taxpayer an estimated $841 billion (if the fiscal year 2018 budget request is met) in defense costs alone.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Moore holds edge in U.S. Senate runoff

  When the race for the open Jeff Sessions seat began, it appeared to be a Roy Moore versus Luther Strange contest. Well, folks, that’s how it ended last Tuesday. We’ve got a runoff between our Ten Commandments Judge, Roy Moore, and Big Luther Strange.

  Roy Moore has been around Alabama politics for a while now. Alabamians know who he is and what he stands for. He has been standing up for Fundamentalist Christian values since his days as an Etowah County judge where he displayed a wooden Ten Commandments plaque on the walls of his courtroom. He became so famous for his stand that he rode that notoriety to being elected Chief Justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Danyelle Solomon: Black journalists are critical to our democracy

  The election of Donald Trump and the actions of his young administration have spotlighted the importance of facts. Since President Trump’s inauguration, truth and honest analysis have become rare commodities in the White House. In addition to promoting false narratives and condoning unrepentant lying, the Trump administration has also made it difficult to access government data, research, and other forms of information. His administration has directed government agencies to limit news releases, updates to agency websites, and communication with the press.

Monday, August 21, 2017

It took Charlottesville for Silicon Valley to stand up to hate

  Silicon Valley has a reputation as a liberal place, but it was a critical partner in the deadly “Unite the Right” rally that cost a counter-protestor her life.

  Hate groups of all stripes used their websites to advertise their participation in the rally. They turned to social media to urge their followers to join them. And they used services like PayPal and Patreon to fund their invasion of Charlottesville, Virginia.

  Such partnerships may soon be a thing of the past. By Monday morning of last week, service providers had begun to pull the plug on hate groups and individual extremists alike.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Trump premium tax will increase premiums up to $2,500 next year

  Since he entered office, President Donald Trump has taken numerous steps to sabotage the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by driving up costs and driving out insurers. With the failure of ACA repeal in the U.S. Senate, Trump has threatened to accelerate his efforts. In particular, by undermining enforcement of the ACA’s individual coverage mandate and threatening to stop billions of dollars in cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments that help lower consumers’ deductibles and copayments, Trump will significantly increase 2018 premiums.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Charlottesville shows that states must amend their open-carry laws

  We’ve all seen the pictures from Charlottesville.

  Peaceful protesters being met with men carrying military-style weapons. Many of those unarmed were probably intimidated. I certainly think I would have been.

  What did the scene represent? Were we looking at a clash of grand constitutional values, a clash between the cherished First Amendment right to protest peacefully and the revered Second Amendment right to bear arms? Or were we looking at something much more mundane?

  The answer is the latter. Our Founding Fathers didn’t tie us into a constitutional knot. Our state legislatures, bowing to pressure from groups like the NRA, did so not too many years back.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Confederate monuments expert explains how we memorialized white supremacy

  In the wake of the neo-Nazi attacks in Charlottesville, officials in several Southern states have renewed calls to remove Confederate monuments from public spaces.

  This week, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) called for the removal of all Confederate monuments in North Carolina. Mayor Jim Gray (D) of Lexington, Kentucky, announced the removal of two Confederate statues from a historic courthouse in the city. And officials in Florida and Maryland made similar announcements.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Gene Policinski: ‘Freedom’ is best response to white supremacy hatemongers

  Let them march in Charlottesville. Let them speak.

  Hate-propagating neo-Nazis and bottom-dwelling white supremacists — the dregs of our open society — have and should have First Amendment rights to speak and march in public.

  We need to see them for what they are: a disappointing collection of the disaffected; some parading around in silly costumes, often ignorant of the real meaning and history of the symbols they display, carrying torches meant as much to intimidate as to illuminate.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Will the next junior U.S. Senator from Alabama even matter?

  You know the results of Tuesday’s primaries for our U.S. Senate seat. I had to go to press before the vote. However, the assumption was that there would be a runoff in the Republican Primary. It is safe to say that the winner of that runoff on September 26 will be elected as our next junior U.S. Senator. We are such a reliably Republican state that winning the GOP Primary will be tantamount to election in December.

  It may surprise you for me to say that it really makes very little difference as to who ultimately wins this seat. Whichever Republican prevails will vote no differently than the other. Despite all the money spent, name calling, and campaigning, whoever the Republican Primary victor is will vote conservatively right down the line. They will have the identical conservative voting record as Jeff Sessions. They all would vote right on the litmus test, hot button GOP issues like abortion, immigration, balanced budget, pro-military, pro-gun and pro-agriculture. Whoever wins will support President Donald Trump and the most conservative Supreme Court nominee available.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Don’t let Trump start a war with North Korea

  North Korea’s recent launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that might be able to reach the continental United States is a stark reminder of the dangers posed by the rogue regime in Pyongyang. With the stakes so high, too often policy options are presented as a false choice: attack North Korea or allow it to have nuclear weapons. Instead, the United States needs a clear, consistent approach to deter threats from North Korea—one that ensures North Korea does not attack the United States or our allies or proliferate its nuclear and missile technology, while at the same time makes possible a path to the eventual denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Darryl Lorenzo Wellington: Let me remind you who Jeff Sessions is

  For the past several weeks, media coverage of Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a sympathetic turn. In article after article, the “beleaguered” Sessions is described as a victim of bullying, under Twitter assault by the president who appointed him. Meanwhile, Trump—angry that the law-and-order man he chose did not live up to his idea of loyalty—seems to be taking some joy in Sessions’ discomfort.

  I have been reading about Sessions with a kind of perverse fascination—but I have not read anything that makes me feel sorry for him. The things he stands for—the things he has stood for over the course of his decades-long career—are abhorrent. The President’s mean tweets haven’t made Sessions’ brand of law enforcement any kinder to poor and black and brown people.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Trump again refuses to take responsibility for a resurgence of white nationalism

  After the deadly clash between hundreds of white supremacists and counter-protesters yesterday in Charlottesville, Virginia, President Trump called for Americans to “come together."

  He used similar words in his victory speech in the wee hours of Nov. 9, even as white supremacists began to celebrate.

  The problem is that Trump’s words are hollow.

  His calls for the country to unite will continue to be meaningless as long he fails to take responsibility for his role in dividing it – something he conspicuously avoided again during his press conference yesterday.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Jacob G. Hornberger: The Cold War roots of a new Korean war

  While President Trump’s impulsiveness and erratic behavior are clearly bringing America closer to war with North Korea, the real root of the Korean crisis lies not with him but rather with the Pentagon and the CIA, whose overwhelming power within the federal governmental structure is what really governs foreign policy, especially with respect to Korea.

  Who would have ever thought that the national-security state’s anti-communist crusade in the 1940s and 1950s would lead to the possibility of another war in Korea in 2017, one that could lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, including tens of thousands of Americans?

Friday, August 11, 2017

Interior Secretary Zinke’s guide to running a sham review

  In April, President Donald Trump ordered the U.S. Department of the Interior to conduct a review of 27 national monuments, with an eye toward altering or revoking their status. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has been charged with leading the review and providing recommendations to the White House by August 24. So far, the review has amounted to nothing more than a popularity contest based on Zinke’s secret, ever-evolving, and seemingly personal criteria.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1574: Through the eyes of children

  Through the eyes of children. From the mouths of babes. We all, including children, have our perspectives. We reveal these perspectives through our words. On many national and state issues, we rarely view these issues through the eyes of our children. We rarely hear or read the words of our children. This is an opportunity to hear our children on voting. August 6th was the 52nd Anniversary of the signing of the 1965 Voting Rights Act into law by President Lyndon Johnson. It is truly a historic day. It is also a good time to share the experiences of our children.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Moore could finish first in special election

  Folks, we are getting down to the proverbial lick log in the much-anticipated vote for the open U.S. Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions. After 20 years in the U.S. Senate as our junior U.S. Senator, Sessions left to become Donald Trump’s Attorney General. He probably regrets this decision.

  When the race began it looked like a Roy Moore vs. Luther Strange race. However, the third horse emerged about a month ago. Tennessee Valley Congressman, Mo Brooks, got a $2 million bump from the shooting he endured while a member of the Republican Congressional baseball team. He seized the moment, and Mo’s momentum gave him the “Big Mo.”

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Kate Bahn: The value of equal pay to the U.S. economy

  This year, Equal Pay Day fell on April 4. This means that the average woman had to work from the start of 2016 through April 4, 2017 to earn as much as an average man did in 2016 alone. Put another way, women currently earn 80 cents for each dollar that men earn.

  As a result of these factors and others, women can lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in earnings over the course of their careers. But it isn’t just women’s individual bottom lines that suffer: The gender wage gap is also a drag on the U.S. economy, and closing the gap should be a top priority of any economic policy agenda that seeks to strengthen and grow the economy. In fact, comparing it to the current top priority of the GOP—tax cuts for the wealthy—equal pay would put twice as much income back into our economy as their current proposed tax cuts.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Domestic terror threat remains serious five years after Sikh massacre

  Five years after the deadly white supremacist attack on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, there are troubling signals from the Trump administration that it won’t be taking seriously the threat of violence and terrorism from white supremacists and other domestic extremists.

  It was Aug. 5, 2012, when a 40-year-old neo-Nazi walked into the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in the Milwaukee suburb of Oak Creek and opened fire with a 9 mm handgun, apparently thinking he was attacking Muslims. When Wade Michael Page stopped shooting, six people were dead and four wounded, including the first officer to confront him.

  Nearly three years later, on June 17, 2015, white supremacist Dylann Roof, just 21, massacred nine African Americans at the historic Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston in an act of racial terror that shocked the country.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Gene Policinski: Sessions' leak warning to journalists misguided, misplaced

  A threat from the Trump administration, apparently aimed at journalists as part of a larger campaign to prevent widespread government “leaks” that have enraged the president, is the wrong message delivered to the wrong messenger.

  Attorney General Jeff Sessions, only a few days removed from a  challenge from President Trump (issued via Twitter of course) to be tougher on tracking down leakers in the White House and elsewhere, made a statement Friday announcing ramped-up leak investigations and policy reviews–and included  a warning to journalists that they might be subpoenaed in these processes.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Why gutting gainful employment is a bad idea for Betsy DeVos

  On June 14, the U.S. Department of Education, led by Secretary Betsy DeVos, began a process to dismantle the gainful employment regulation. This crucial rule ensures that career training programs produce graduates who find jobs with incomes sufficient enough to repay their student loans.

  Since that time, the Trump administration has taken further steps to weaken the gainful employment rule while it works to rewrite the rule. On July 5, it announced a one-year delay for the requirements that institutions disclose information about the debt and earnings of graduates to students. It also announced that it would create a new process for the more than 2,000 programs that are in trouble under the rule to appeal their results in response to a narrow court ruling that affected about a dozen programs.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Craig Ford: A new school year is starting, but it should be starting later

  Remember when school didn’t start until after Labor Day? In a matter of days, students all across Alabama will start a new school year, and yet it’s only the second week of August!

  Instead of spending the last few weeks of August working summer jobs or on family vacations, teachers and students are preparing to head back to school. Why?

  It wasn’t always this way. In 2012, the Alabama Legislature passed a school start date bill that mandated a longer summer break for our public schools. It was a bill that had broad bipartisan support. Supporters argued that extending the summer break would benefit families, students, employers, Alabama’s tourism industry, and even the government.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

How the "religious liberty" executive order licenses discrimination

  The Trump administration’s draft religious liberty executive order, leaked in February, was explicit in its directives and sweeping in its implications. The order President Donald Trump signed in May—the “Presidential Executive Order Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty”—rather than formally codifying a view of religious liberty or instructing federal agencies on how to interpret the law, tasks the U.S. attorney general—currently Jeff Sessions—with advancing his interpretation of religious liberty through administrative guidance. Sessions has already taken steps to oppose workplace protections against discrimination for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. Now he will begin extending protections for those seeking a license to discriminate.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Friends and neighbors make the difference

  There is a proven theory espoused by political scholars that has prevailed in southern politics for decades. The premier political scholar, Dr. V. O. Key, first illustrated this repetitious theme that has weaved its way through the southern electorate. He called it “Friends and Neighbors” politics. It is not a complicated hypothesis. It simply means that southerners tend to vote for someone from their neck of the woods. It is a truism in all southern states. However, it is most pronounced in the Heart of Dixie.

  This friends and neighbors vote comes to light in open races for governor and U.S. senator. Folks in Alabama will consistently vote for someone from their county or surrounding counties, or region of the state overwhelmingly.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

David L. Hudson Jr.: High Court reverses woman’s conviction for profanity uttered at store

  A Connecticut woman who uttered a slew of profanity at a store manager during a customer service dispute had her conviction reversed by the state high court. The Connecticut Supreme Court explained that context matters in determining whether an individuals’ verbal outburst qualifies as fighting words – defined as words that can cause the recipient to react immediately with violence.

  "Fighting words" remains one of those narrow, unprotected categories of speech that sometimes leads to breach-of-the-peace or disorderly conduct convictions. The U.S. Supreme Court first identified fighting words as an unprotected category in Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire (1942), defining them as “words that by their very utterance inflict injury or cause an immediate breach of the peace.” Later cases have all but interred the first part of the definition – “words that by their very utterance inflict injury” – but fighting words cases still abound based on the “immediate breach of the peace” definition.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Four ways Trump and Congress are making it harder to breathe

  Over the past six months, President Donald Trump and his allies in Congress have taken unprecedented steps to undermine federal protections for air quality, putting Americans’ lungs and health at risk.

  President Trump has filled his administration with former oil, gas, and coal lobbyists who have sought for years to undo environmental protections. With their help, President Trump and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt have already started to dismantle key EPA pollution standards for power plants and oil and gas facilities. For its part, Congress is considering legislation to block the EPA from setting stronger air quality standards to protect the health of children and the elderly. Republican lawmakers in the House and Senate are working hand in hand with the Trump administration to slash funding for EPA programs that enforce laws to protect the environment and clean up the country’s air, land, and waters.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

For many rural Southerners, no health care to lose

  Last week, the Senate took a series of votes aimed at repealing parts or all of the Affordable Care Act. Under any of the plans put forth by Republicans – all voted down thus far – millions of Americans would lose their health care coverage, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

  But in places like southwestern Virginia, many simply have no health insurance — or access to medical care — to lose.

  Last weekend, more than 2,000 people in Wise, Virginia, waited in long lines and sweltering heat for basic health services from the Remote Area Medical Expedition. At a county fairground over a period of three days, volunteer doctors pulled teeth, performed chest X-rays, tested insulin levels, and handed out eyeglasses to people too poor or too sick to get health care any other way.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Jacob G. Hornberger: Killing and dying for minerals

  Americans might soon have a new reason to thank the troops for their service, at least in Afghanistan, where the troops have been killing and dying for almost 16 years. According to an article in Wednesday’s New York Times, “President Trump, searching for a reason to keep the United States in Afghanistan after 16 years of war, has latched on to a prospect that tantalized previous administrations: Afghanistan’s vast mineral wealth, which his advisers and Afghan officials have told him could be profitably extracted by Western countries.”

  If that doesn’t say it all, I don’t know what does. How do empire and foreign interventionism become more morally perverse than that?

Friday, July 28, 2017

David L. Hudson Jr.: There’s no First Amendment right to be a helicopter parent

  Public elementary school officials had the right to limit campus access of parents who were disruptive, a federal judge has ruled. Because of disruptive behavior, the school’s access in limiting access was reasonable.

  Corey and Misty Camfield had three children attending Jefferson Elementary School in Redondo Beach, California. Both parents were issued “disruptive parent” letters. Parents who receive a disruptive parent letter generally must give 24-hour notice and seek permission before coming to campus other than for picking up and dropping off their children. Corey Camfield had gotten into a heated argument with another parent. Misty Camfield allegedly called the principal a profane name and repeatedly entered the school’s Learning Center without an appointment in violation of school rules.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Minibus spending bill shortchanges American jobs and energy

  The House of Representatives is considering a spending bill for the upcoming 2018 fiscal year that would make huge cuts to groundbreaking science and energy research and development—and even cut jobs programs in coal country—all while shoveling even more money than President Donald Trump requested to the U.S. Department of Defense. This bill is known as a “minibus,” because it combines several of the annual appropriations bills that Congress must pass to fund the government; an “omnibus” package would include all 12 appropriations bills. This minibus includes four appropriations bills: defense, military construction and veterans’ affairs, legislative branch, and energy and water.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

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

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

  It’s not difficult to see the irony.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Trump vacations while slashing summer programs for low-income kids

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

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

Sunday, July 23, 2017

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

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

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

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

Saturday, July 22, 2017

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

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

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

Friday, July 21, 2017

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Mainstreaming of Trump’s reckless worldviews

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

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

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Caretaker or ideologue?

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Jacob G. Hornberger: Constantly shifting array of official enemies

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

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

Monday, July 17, 2017

Betsy DeVos: Secretary of Discrimination?

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

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.