Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Jacob G. Hornberger: The fear racket

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

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

Monday, April 24, 2017

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

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

Sunday, April 23, 2017

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

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

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

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Michael Josephson: God helps those who help themselves

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

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

Friday, April 21, 2017

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

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

Thursday, April 20, 2017

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

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

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

Monday, April 17, 2017

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

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

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

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

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Keeping America’s schools safe from gun violence

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

Saturday, April 15, 2017

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

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

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

Friday, April 14, 2017

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

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

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

Thursday, April 13, 2017

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

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

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Harry Stein: Stop cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthy

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

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

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Gene Policinski: Mexican journalist killed for doing noble work

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

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

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

Monday, April 10, 2017

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

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

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

Sunday, April 9, 2017

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

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

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

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Music Review: Blue Yonder - Born of the Sky

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 7, 2017

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

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

Thursday, April 6, 2017

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

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

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

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

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

Monday, April 3, 2017

Horror film ‘Spiritus’ to screen in Montgomery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, April 2, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 1, 2017

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 31, 2017

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 30, 2017

John Podesta: Battling climate change in the time of Trump

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

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

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

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

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

Monday, March 27, 2017

Jacob G. Hornberger: Prepare now for blowback

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

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Left Behind: How the Trump budget fails rural communities

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

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

Saturday, March 25, 2017

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

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

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

Friday, March 24, 2017

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

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

  Why? What’s the justification?

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

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

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Craig Ford: Hypocrisy and injustice from the Alabama Legislature

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

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

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

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Judge Gorsuch threatens the dignity of LGBT people

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

Monday, March 20, 2017

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

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

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

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

Sunday, March 19, 2017

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Ken Gude: Russia’s 5th Column

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

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

Friday, March 17, 2017

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

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

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

Thursday, March 16, 2017

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

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

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

  The problem is, that America never actually existed.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

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

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

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

Monday, March 13, 2017

John Norris: Trump’s siege on international development

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

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

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Justice Sotomayor expresses concern over Court’s true threat jurisprudence

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

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

Saturday, March 11, 2017

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 10, 2017

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

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

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

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Unfairness in class action: A new attack on civil rights

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

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

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Prisons bill will fail

  The premier issue of this year’s legislative session will be whether to borrow a massive amount of money to build new prisons in the state. This initiative appears to be our lame duck Gov. Robert Bentley’s primary agenda.

  Last year Bentley proposed an $800 million bond issue for new prisons. He has come forward with a similar proposal this year. His plan would close all existing prisons and replace them with three new super men's prisons and one smaller women’s prison.

  Folks, $800 million is a lot of money. There is no question that we have a prison problem. Alabama’s prison population is at 175% of capacity. It is among the highest in the nation. This overcrowding obviously causes violence and safety problems for our prison guards.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Naomi Tsu: This family was targeted by Trump's dragnet

  Last Tuesday night, President Donald Trump once again insisted that the immigrants he is targeting for deportation are criminals.

  “As we speak tonight,” he told a joint session of Congress, “we are removing gang members, drug dealers and criminals that threaten our communities and prey on our very innocent citizens. Bad ones are going out as I speak.”

  The speech echoed his earlier calls to rid the country of the “bad hombres” from south of the border.

  But as a civil rights lawyer representing immigrants in the Southeast, I’m not fooled.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Joseph O. Patton: Jim Zeigler's Confederate flag panties are showing

  Though I shouldn't be surprised, Alabama Auditor Jim Zeigler has once again slinked into the spotlight to flash his unique brand of embarrassment and dysfunction to taxpayers. Following President Trump's address to Congress, Zeigler felt compelled to share a disturbing, unfair and borderline slanderous bit of material on social media, equating female members of Congress to Ku Klux Klan members.

  The congresswomen in question simply wore white to the address, a classy, non-confrontational nod to the American suffrage movement. In Zeigler's post, it included the inflammatory and insulting text, "now appearing without hoods," and "Nancy Pelosi and the Klannettes" along with an actual photo of Klan members.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Sam Fulwood III: A black history lesson for the ages

  Black History Month drew to a close last week, and I’m guessing the White House is relieved. After all, the month that is reserved to celebrate African Americans began with President Donald Trump boasting his abject ignorance about the mortality of Frederick Douglass. Then the observances concluded with his education secretary revealing her lack of knowledge about the history of black colleges.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Charles C. Haynes: “Welcoming the stranger” in the Age of Trump

  On Feb. 8, a group of Latino men were leaving an overnight hypothermia shelter at Rising Hope Mission Church in Alexandria, Va., when they were surrounded by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers, arrested and taken away in vans.

  The church’s pastor, Kerry Kincannon, worries that ICE is now targeting churches, abandoning long-standing ICE guidelines that treat houses of worship, hospitals and schools as “sensitive areas” to be avoided when rounding up people for deportation.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1551: Standing on history is never a party

  I could not believe my eyes. I just could not be seeing what I saw. It was a Facebook message posted by the Mayor of Selma and forwarded to me. The Facebook message said that the Bridge Crossing Jubilee was a “four-day party for Senator Sanders and his wife.” After all the years of hard work, this was unbelievable. I could not believe my eyes.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Rethinking Tobacco Policy: The federal government should stop blocking alternatives to smoking

  Cigarette smokers who are trying to quit smoking have many new and innovative options to help them break the habit. At least they do as of now. E-cigarettes, as well as even newer products which heat but do not burn tobacco, allow those who are unable or unwilling to quit using nicotine to dramatically reduce their exposure to the deadliest components of cigarettes, the products of combustion in the smoke.

  However, the federal government is about to prevent individuals who desperately want to stop smoking from having access to these options.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The legacies of Alabama governors

  We have unbelievable natural resources in Alabama from the Tennessee Valley to the beautiful white sands at Gulf Shores. Many of our natural resources have been exploited over the years. A prime example would be the exploitation of our rich vaults of iron ore discovered in Jefferson County in the early 20th Century. It created the city of Birmingham, the Steel City of the South.

  U.S. Steel swept in and bought the entire region, used cheap labor in the mines and steel mills, and kept poor whites and blacks in poverty wages and shantytowns. They owed their soul to the company store. Finally they organized into labor unions. The United Steel Workers Union Local in Birmingham became the largest in the nation. Alabama also became the most unionized state in the south.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Sam Fulwood III: Milo’s fall from a hateful summit

  Until recently, I’d never heard of Milo Yiannopoulos. How I wish that blissful ignorance had remained intact.

  Over the past several years, Yiannopoulos has developed a fanatic following among a minority of Americans who’ve embraced his nasty bleating on Breitbart. Had he been confined exclusively to Breitbart, I might not have ever become aware of him. Alas, he crossed my path this month, turning up like a lightening bug smashing into my social media windshield.

  The bombastic provocateur accepted a headline speaking gig at the American Conservative Union’s Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC. That didn’t sit too well with some of Yiannopoulos’ critics, of which I’ve learned there are legions. He seems to enjoy attracting controversy as a means to burnish his reputation and line his pocket. Yiannopoulos is an unlikely hero for the conservative political action group; he’s an openly gay man who delights in thumbing his nose at mainstream social conventions.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Laurence M. Vance: Vouchers, thy name is welfare

  Elisabeth “Betsy” DeVos — whose father-in-law is a co-founder of Amway, the multilevel marketing company, and whose brother is the founder of the notorious mercenary firm Blackwater — was confirmed by the U.S. Senate a few weeks ago to be the eleventh secretary of Education. Because two Republican senators — Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski — sided with the Democrats and voted against her nomination, Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote to confirm her.

  Liberals and progressives are strongly to opposed to DeVos because she is a long-time big donor to the Republican Party and conservative organizations, a religious and social conservative who has spent heavily on Christian conservative causes, and especially because she is a strong proponent of charter schools and educational vouchers.

  Charter schools are publicly funded but privately operated schools. DeVos has said that she wants every family to have “educational choice,” which is code for government vouchers that allow parents to send their children to private or religious schools of their choice, at public expense.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Joe Valenti: First prepaid cards, then the rest of your wallet

  The U.S. Congress has wasted no time rolling back Obama-era regulations affecting health, safety, and the environment, and Americans’ wallets may be next.

  Congress is expected to soon attempt a rollback of a new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFPB, rule on prepaid debit cards used by millions of Americans. Through a once-obscure law known as the Congressional Review Act, the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate can quickly vote to undo rules put in place by federal agencies and even block regulators from considering new ones.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Michael Josephson: The Media – Enemies or guardians of democracy

  Is the truth still important? I know I tread dangerous ground inserting myself into the growing conflict between President Trump and the media he has labeled the “enemy of the American people.”  Much wiser and more informed folks than me have responded to this charge which escalated substantially a continuous campaign to discredit news organizations that we have counted on to tell us what’s going on and to hold people in power accountable. The problem is more complicated than it seems, and the stakes are higher than many people realize. To be sure the businessification of major media organizations has blurred the line between news and entertainment.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1550: The past, present and future that binds us all together

  There is a nexus of the past and the present and the future. The past is very important. The present is extremely important. The future is critically important. Each is separate, and yet all are tied together. The nexus of past and the present and the future binds us together.

  The Bridge Crossing Jubilee is just two weeks away, commencing Thursday, March 2nd and running through March 6th. The National Voting Rights Celebration is already upon us. The future is rushing headlong toward us, and we don’t know what to do. The nexus of the past, the present and the future binds us together.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Sam Fulwood III: President Trump has cheapened the dignity of his office

  It hasn’t even been a full month yet, but many of us who pay close attention to Washington feel like the Trump administration has aged us a full decade. Every day begins with a fearful peek at President Donald Trump’s latest insomniac posting on Twitter.

  Who is he attacking today? A fashion retailer? Or the all-knowing purveyors of “fake news?” Perhaps a beloved civil rights leader and member of Congress? In a way, starting the day with Trump’s tweets is like reading the comics before the front-page news.

  As tempting as it might seem, however, the president’s online hijinks are no laughing matter. It’s serious business when the leader of the free world expresses pique and ire daily in 140 characters or less.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The twisting paths of Bentley and Strange

  As I have suggested to you, we are looking at one momentous 2018 election year, and it has already begun. Get this, folks, we have an open governor’s race. We have openings at Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, State Treasurer, Agriculture Commissioner, three seats on the Alabama Supreme Court, including the Chief Justice position, all 35 Alabama Senate seats, all 105 House seats, one hotly contested congressional seat, as well as 67 sheriffs. Folks, that’s the most political marquee year in my long political life. If media outlets do not make money next year, they ain’t ever gonna make any money.

  As though the aforementioned cavalcade was not enough of a circus, we’ve got ourselves an open U.S. Senate seat. I believe that Ringling Brothers Circus closed in deference to us in the Heart of Dixie and our roadshow Vaudeville act called Alabama politics.

  Governor Robert Bentley has been a great ringleader. He is quite a show. Poor ole Bentley has relegated himself to not only being irrelevant, but considered a clown as well.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Gene Policinski: At long last, the stuff of journalism

  The resignation of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. White House internal disputes that stall policy decisions. Even a mini-crisis involving North Korea.

  At long last: the stuff of journalism.

  After seeming eons of the squishiness of reporting on campaign claims and counter-claims, email investigations that went nowhere, and distractions including faux-home TV shopping pitches, late-night tweets and daytime insults, a free press is now in full-operating mode in the role that the nation’s founders intended: as a watchdog on government.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Michael Josephson: A tribute to Lincoln

  I wish we still celebrated Lincoln’s birthday. I’m an Abraham Lincoln groupie. By sheer good fortune, my son Justin was born on his birthday, my daughter Abrielle was named after him, and one of our dogs is named Lincoln. My favorite place in Washington D.C. is the Lincoln Memorial where I stand in awe of the magnificent eloquence of this self-educated, self-made man.

  His ability to empathize and his genuine caring for others is constantly revealed in his letters and speeches. And though he felt the pain of others as deeply as any man could, fate and duty made him commander in chief during our nation’s bloodiest war.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Jacob G. Hornberger: Trump and Duterte: Birds of a feather

  When it comes to the drug war, the verdict is in: The big, drain-the-swamp, anti-establishment president, Donald Trump, is turning out to be just like all the other mainstream establishment politicians. He made that clear last week in a speech before a group of law-enforcement officials, where he vowed to be “ruthless” in the war on drugs. Trump told the group:

     We’re going to stop the drugs from pouring in. We’re going to stop those drugs from poisoning our youth, poisoning our people. We’re going to be ruthless in that fight. We have no choice. And we’re going to take that fight to the drug cartels and work to liberate our communities from their terrible grip of violence.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1549: The Transformative power of Black history

  “That Black History stuff is just going to make Black people mad.” Both Whites and Blacks made variations of this expression to me many years ago. At the time, I could not really explain the fatal flaw in their reasoning. I can now because I know how Black History made me love, not hate.  I know how Black History made me peaceful, not mad.

  When I was a child, I was always angry, always overreacting, and always being mean. I did not understand my meanness at the time. I did not know that I was really angry with myself. Even when I came to this realization, I did not understand why I was so angry with myself. Black History helped me to understand myself, Black people and all people. Black History made me love, not hate. Black History made me peaceful, not mad.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Why Americans should care about Russian hacking

  Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election was an attack on the American people, threatening the integrity and legitimacy of the democratic process, as well as the outcome of the election. And yet, the Intelligence Community Assessment on Russian activity in the election found that this was but the most recent and aggressive expression to date of a longstanding Russian desire to sow chaos and instability in the United States. Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election should be a wake-up call to every American about the diverse ways in which Russian malicious cyberactivity could affect every aspect of their lives.

  The so-called information warfare campaign ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin during the election is part-and-parcel of a longstanding and multi-faceted Russian intelligence strategy that “blends covert intelligence operations—such as cyberactivity—with overt efforts by Russian Government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social media users or ‘trolls’” in order to cripple its adversaries. The election is not the first time Russian cyberactors have been successful. Over the past decade, Russian hacking groups—many of which are backed by the government—have successfully deployed a technology-based strategy to infiltrate, tamper with, and steal sensitive information across government, military, banking, and communications systems in the United States and Europe.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Hate groups increase for second consecutive year as Trump electrifies radical right

  The number of hate groups in the United States rose for a second year in a row in 2016 as the radical right was energized by the candidacy of Donald Trump, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) annual census of hate groups and other extremist organizations, released yesterday.

  The most dramatic growth was the near-tripling of anti-Muslim hate groups – from 34 in 2015 to 101 last year.

  The growth has been accompanied by a rash of crimes targeting Muslims, including an arson that destroyed a mosque in Victoria, Texas, just hours after the Trump administration announced an  executive order suspending travel from some predominantly Muslim countries. The latest FBI statistics show that hate crimes against Muslims grew by 67 percent in 2015, the year in which Trump launched his campaign.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Changing the legislative landscape

  This third year of the quadrennium regular session of the Alabama Legislature has recently gotten a lot more complex. These next four months will be trying times for our lawmakers. They will not only have to deal with a beleaguered General Fund Budget that has to feed a money-eating monster named Medicaid; they have an overcrowding problem in the state prisons to deal with as well as major public school systems being taken over by the state because of mismanagement and underfunding.

  They now have been dealt a body blow that affects their own backyards. They will have to draw new legislative lines that will need to be in effect by June because legislative elections essentially begin this June. The primaries for 2018 political offices will be held in early June next year. All 105 House seats and all 35 Senate seats are up for election.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

30 Best love quotes for your Valentine

1) I love you, not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you. – Roy Croft

2) I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach. – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

3) Come live with me, and be my love, and we will some new pleasures prove, of golden sands, and crystal brooks, with silken lines and silver hooks. — John Donne

4) Love doesn’t make the world go round, love is what makes the ride worthwhile. — Franklin P. Jones

5) In real love you want the other person’s good. In romantic love you want the other person.  — Margaret Anderson

Monday, February 13, 2017

President Trump: Don't ignore terror from the radical right

  Last week PBS premiered Oklahoma City, an illuminating documentary that revisits the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and the broader climate of far-right extremism that spawned the homegrown terrorist Timothy McVeigh.

  The documentary couldn’t have come at a better time.

  We should all hope that President Trump and his advisers are paying close attention, because by focusing their attention exclusively on terrorism inspired by overseas groups like ISIS, they could be missing the next McVeigh.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Gene Policinski: Good news for the future of the First Amendment

  There’s good news from the new “Future of the First Amendment” survey being released this week: High school students nationwide show greater support for First Amendment freedoms that at any time since the survey began more than 10 years ago.

  As an advocate for those five core freedoms of religion, speech, press, assembly and petition, I don’t see any bad news that follows that finding.

  The Knight Foundation-funded survey of about 12,000 high school students, in spring 2016, found fully 91 percent of the students said it was important to be able to “express unpopular opinions,” up from 83 percent who felt that way in 2004.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Jacob G. Hornberger: Trump’s dictatorial tendencies are normal in a welfare-warfare state

  President Trump has lashed out in anger against a federal judge in Seattle for putting a temporary quietus on Trump’s recent immigration dictates. Trump labeled Judge James Robart  a “so-called judge,” notwithstanding the fact that this “so-called judge” has been a federal judge for 13 years, having been nominated by President George W. Bush, confirmed by Congress, and duly sworn into office. Referring to the temporary restraining order that Robart issued that temporarily blocked enforcement of Trump’s immigration edicts, the president went on a tweet attack, calling the order “ridiculous” and predicting that it would be “overturned.”

Friday, February 10, 2017

The Trump administration’s two-pronged assault on public health

  The 115th Congress and the Trump administration have already set their sights on gutting the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and other cornerstone protections that ensure that our air is safe to breathe and our water safe to drink. They have promised to get rid of pollution limits for power plants instead of shifting to clean energy and nullify pollution limits for oil and gas drilling—as they also promise to drill anywhere and everywhere. These actions alone would greatly endanger public health and environmental quality. If that was not enough, however, congressional Republicans and the administration are also set on eliminating health insurance coverage for millions of Americans. This extreme rollback of federal regulations and services would allow more pollution, affect public health, and, at the same time, remove health care options for treatment when people get sick.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1548: The time is upon us!

  The time is upon us. It comes every year like clockwork. It commenced February 7, 2017 this year. It will go until mid-May. The obstacle will be great. The challenges will be gigantic. The results will fall short. It’s the 2017 Alabama Regular Legislative Session.

  Even after 33 years, I can’t tell you all or most of the issues that will come before the 2017 Alabama Legislative Session. I can tell you two for certain. I can tell you others with a great degree of certainty. I can predict others, but predictions are worth very little in this legislative narrative. It’s the 2017 Legislative Session.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The looming dark cloud of Medicaid

  As the third regular session of this quadrennium begins, the paramount focus once again will be on the budgets. Even more specifically, it will be about the General Fund Budget.

  Alabama is one of five states that has two budgets. Our Education Budget now receives over two-thirds of our tax revenue due to the fact that our growth taxes, income and sales, are earmarked for Education’s coffers, whereas our General Fund gets the remaining one-third of revenue and that will continue to shrink because it has no growth taxes.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Charles C. Haynes: “A shameful day”

  On Jan. 27, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, President Donald Trump issued an executive order temporarily halting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries, suspending the refugee program and permanently imposing a religious test for refugees going forward.

  Jen Smyers of Church World Service spoke for many people of faith working on behalf of refugees when she called Jan. 27 “a shameful day” in the history of the United States.

  Numerous national security experts and diplomats — including more than 1,000 State Department officials — have also spoken out, warning that the order is wrongheaded and dangerous. The optics of an American policy that appears to target Muslims seriously tarnishes the reputation of the U.S. in Muslim-majority countries and throughout the world.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Craig Ford: My hope for the future of Alabama and the Democratic Party

  For the last six years, it has been my privilege to serve as Minority Leader in the Alabama House of Representatives. On Wednesday, I will step down and a new leader will be elected.

  While I will continue to serve in the legislature and represent the great people of Etowah County, I would like to share my outgoing thoughts on our state and the Democratic Party.

  One thing that seems to be clear after six years of the current supermajority is that their policies aren’t working for regular people in Alabama.

  Alabama’s unemployment rate continues to be well above the national average, and our public school system has lost millions of dollars to charter schools and the Accountability Act since the Republican supermajority took over in 2010.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Will Tucker and Cassie Miller: Systematic voter suppression — not 'voter fraud' — is the real cause for concern

  President Trump last week resurrected a big lie from the campaign trail, claiming that he lost the popular vote because as many as 5 million people voted illegally – all for his opponent.

  He offered no evidence. There is none. In fact, studies show conclusively that voter fraud is exceedingly rare.

  At best, Trump’s search for phantom voter fraud is a distraction from the very real voter suppression efforts carried out systematically by his own party – and from the recent, high-profile federal court decisions striking down those laws.

  At worst, it’s a precursor to a renewed push to suppress voting.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Gene Policinski: Wrong. Good idea – if it works both ways. Missed the point

  In order: Wrong. Good idea — if it works both ways. Missed the point. And, wrong.

  Trump administration senior advisers Stephen Bannon and Kellyanne Conway each vented — again — against “the media” in the midst of a turbulent week. Their comments are worth parsing.

  Bannon, not long departed from the perpetually vocal, ultra-conservative Breitbart News online site, said on Jan. 25 that “the media should … keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while.” In that rare news interview, he also called the news media “the opposition.”

  And then there’s Conway, complaining to “Fox News Sunday” on Jan. 29 that “Not one network person has been let go. Not one silly political analyst and pundit who talked smack all day long about Donald Trump has been let go….”

Friday, February 3, 2017

Deregulation Nation: Congress wants to let corporations take charge

  The new congressional session is still in early days, but members have wasted no time laying the groundwork to give Congress and the courts unprecedented power to vitiate critical federal regulations and prevent new rule-making. This push is in line with President Donald Trump’s promise to cut 75 percent of government regulations, but it goes against the wishes of Americans, a majority of whom oppose lifting regulations on businesses and corporations.

  Yet on January 4, the House passed the first in a suite of legislative actions to this end: the so-called Midnight Rules Relief Act, which expands an existing law giving Congress the power to review and disapprove recent agency regulations. The Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny, or REINS, Act, and Regulatory Accountability Act, or RAA, which create new mechanisms for blocking new rule-making and overturning well-established rules, followed days later.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: What's next for gaming in Alabama?

  During the past couple of months, everywhere I go people continually ask me why in the world the Alabama Legislature could not simply put the issue of whether they could vote for or against a lottery on the November ballot.

  The fact that this inquiry has lingered for this long tells me that folks are upset about this travesty. They are angry at the legislature. The blame, however, lies with the governor.

  Indeed, the legislature met in a special session to address this issue of whether or not to put the lottery proposal on the ballot and let the people vote on this lingering issue. Most polls indicate that the good people of Alabama would vote in favor of it, provided that there are no sweetheart deals, hidden chicanery or favoritism in the proposal.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Our Stand: Lay off our young people

  Monday evening we read the comments of many Montgomery-area Facebook users who unleashed a torrent of vile, misguided and utterly disgusting sentiments directed at young people who had organized and lead a symbolic demonstration at Montgomery Regional Airport. The demonstration was in opposition to President Trump's executive order banning travel from seven nations in the Middle East and indefinitely barring refugees from Syria from entering the United States.

  What troubled us most is that the target of the comments, which ranged from insults like "retard" to even accusing the participants of being aimless, unemployed and/or recipients of "government handouts," were in fact high-achieving students from the educational gem LAMP (Loveless Academic Magnet Program), home of some of Montgomery's best and brightest young people. Perhaps those hurling insults online were intimidated by these young people, and we were just witnessing their crippling insecurities bubbling up online.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Jacob G. Hornberger: The wall of a dictator

  On Wednesday President Donald Trump ordered the construction of his much-ballyhooed wall along the U.S-Mexico border to begin. Obviously Trump doesn’t see any need to go to Congress to seek approval for his gigantic, socialist, public-works, multibillion-dollar edifice. He’s the president. He can issue “executive orders.” He can do whatever he wants. Who needs congressional approval? Anyway, Congress might turn him down. Or they might delay construction by deliberating and debating the issue. Who needs all that when one can simply issue an executive order to get the wall built?

  This is how dictators have always operated — simply by decree. They don’t need legislatures and, therefore, they either ignore them or they abolish them. And they expect the judiciaries to fall into line and support whatever they do.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Craig Ford: Are our schools really failing?

  A lot has been said about the state of Alabama’s public school system. And for the last six years, state leaders have been obsessed with defining public schools as failing, even going so far as to require by law that at least six percent of all schools must be labeled as failing.

  Making the situation worse is that students and schools have seemingly been set up to fail.

  To decide which schools are failing, the state requires students to take the ACT Aspire test. But the ACT Aspire test is not designed to test accountability or academic progress, and no other state in the entire country uses the ACT Aspire like Alabama does.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Richard Cohen: Trump’s whisperer-in-chief is treading on dangerous ground

  The chief strategist in the White House, a man who rallied a growing white nationalist movement behind Donald Trump, is now telling the news media to “keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while.”

  We should all be outraged – and more than a little unnerved.

  We all know that conservative politicians have been trying to delegitimize the mainstream press for decades. And, indeed, conservatives have created a constellation of alternative media more to their liking – Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, to name the most obvious.

  But with Trump, we’re witnessing something different, something more insidious. Something that seems pathological.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Cassidy-Collins ACA ‘replacement’ plan forces states to choose from three bad options

  When Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) promoted his ACA “replacement” proposal, introduced this week with Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), he said, “Republicans think that if you like your insurance, you should keep it.” Yet a review of the Cassidy-Collins legislative text shows that the bill falls short on that promise.

  Under the proposal, the Patient Freedom Act of 2017, states must choose from one of three options: (1) to continue implementing the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, albeit with reduced funding for the financial assistance that makes coverage affordable for lower- and moderate-income individuals; (2) to opt for the legislation’s preferred State Alternative Option; or (3) to reject any federal funding, though the state would still have to follow some ACA provisions.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Jacob G. Hornberger: Copying the communists

  The biggest mistake the American people ever made was the conversion of the federal government from a constitutionally limited republic to a national-security state, a type of governmental apparatus that characterizes totalitarian regimes. A national-security state consists of a large, permanent military establishment and a secretive “intelligence” agency with omnipotent powers and whose purported mission is to gather “intelligence” about supposed threats to the country.

  That fateful decision ended up costing the American people their founding governmental structure of a republic. Even worse, it stultified the consciences of the American people, leading them to defer blindly to the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA as those three components of the national-security establishment led the country increasingly toward the dark side that characterizes totalitarian regimes.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Preserving international justice in the age of Donald Trump

  The election of Donald Trump as president of the United States imperils many of the accomplishments of the post-Cold War international order. Of these, perhaps none is more fragile than the project of international criminal justice and, in particular, its flagship institution: the International Criminal Court, or ICC. Since 1993, the United Nations—with strong support from the United States—has established tribunals with jurisdiction over war crimes and other human rights abuses committed in Bosnia, Croatia, Rwanda, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Lebanon, and Cambodia, along with the ICC, whose jurisdiction is currently recognized by more than 120 countries. Collectively, these bodies have investigated more than 300 cases, prosecuted more than 200 defendants, and obtained more than 150 convictions.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Alabama's glass ceiling was shattered in the 1950s

  Hillary Clinton’s quest to break the proverbial glass ceiling in American politics came up a little short. More than 100 men have been nominated for president by the nation’s political parties over the past 220 years. She was the first female to be the nominee of one of the two major parties.

  After Hillary became the Democratic nominee last year, former Colorado Congresswoman Patricia Schroeder, who ran for president in 1988, said it best, “It’s been the ultimate tree house with a 'no girls allowed sign' posted on it.”

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Michael Josephson: Meanness and bullying

  Though intensive media attention on bullying has died down, the problem persists in many forms, and it continues to diminish the lives of tens of thousands of young people every day. According to a recent survey, roughly half of all high school students said that in the past year they were bullied in a manner that seriously upset them. A similar number said they had bullied someone else.

  That’s an awful lot of meanness.

Monday, January 23, 2017

12 Faith leaders to watch in 2017

  The 2016 elections drew immense attention to religious identities and values. The news reported on a flood of hateful rhetoric about immigrants, women, people with disabilities, people of color, and religious minorities. Muslim Americans experienced the highest levels of hate crimes since the period immediately following 9/11. And state legislatures across the country introduced and passed an onslaught of anti-LGBT and anti-choice legislation.

  People of faith did not stand idly by. They are activists, advocates, educators, and organizers working tirelessly as forces for social change across many issues areas, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT, rights; reproductive justice; racial justice; religious liberty; economic justice; and education. The country will need them more than ever this year.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Gene Policinski: An 'open letter' to the rest of us

  Sending an “open letter” to President Trump has been in vogue these days.

  Social activists, business moguls, media chieftains and political leaders all have penned a multitude of them since the November election. Some offer advice, some raise alarms, some offer praise and some just convey insults.

  All well and good – those exchanges and more are in the “free speech and free press” ethos protected by the First Amendment of speaking “truth to power” – even if the response from Trump more often and not has been to vigorously tar unfavorable messages as “untruth.”

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Craig Ford: The goal of education

  When it comes to education policy, I don’t often agree with my colleague, Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur). But this year she plans to bring legislation that would set education goals for our state, and I like this idea.

  I like this idea because it finally forces us to address the most important and fundamental question concerning education: What is the goal?

  It’s a question that I’m afraid too often gets lost in the debate over education policy and reform. It certainly gets lost in our obsession with standardized test scores.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1545: What do you do when something is important, but the odds are greatly against you?

  What do you do when something is truly important, but the odds are greatly against you? Do you fight on regardless? Do you cave in and give up? Do you join what looks like the winning side? Do you let it ride and do nothing? What do you do when something is truly important, but the odds are greatly against you?

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Elizabeth Slattery: As government grows, so does need for Fifth Amendment

  We're all familiar with "pleading the Fifth" - the privilege against self-incrimination. But there's a lot more to the Fifth Amendment than that.

  Along with the Sixth Amendment, it lays the foundation for how government must treat suspects - providing all of us with several protections from arbitrary and abusive government actions.

  Under its grand jury requirement governing "capital, or otherwise infamous crime," 23 jurors must decide whether there is sufficient evidence to file criminal charges and proceed with a trial in federal court. The aim is to protect citizens from over-zealous prosecutors.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: On the passing of Albert Brewer

  The passing of Governor Albert Brewer on January 2nd at 88 years old, marks the passing of an era in Alabama politics.

  Albert P. Brewer was a good man and a true public servant. Brewer was born in Tennessee, but his folks moved to Decatur when he was very young after his father accepted a job with the Tennessee Valley Authority.

  He graduated from Decatur High School with honors, then matriculated to the University of Alabama where he earned his undergraduate and law degrees. Brewer returned to Decatur to begin his law practice. Soon thereafter he was elected to the Alabama Legislature at the ripe old age of 25. He was elected without opposition three times, and during his third term he became Speaker of the House. Brewer was the youngest Speaker in state history. In 1966, he beat two prominent state senators without a runoff to win the lieutenant governor’s job, which was much more powerful than it is today.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Donald Trump, Betsy DeVos, and a pay-to-play nomination

  Billionaire activist Betsy DeVos and her family have given a massive $4 million to the Republicans who will decide whether to confirm her as Trump’s secretary of education, according to a new analysis by the Center for American Progress.

  DeVos’ hearing begins this Wednesday, and her family has donated a quarter of a million dollars alone to the members of the education committee who are tasked with vetting her nomination. The DeVos family has given a total of more than $950,000 to 21 senators who will have the opportunity to vote on her confirmation.

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Wisdom and Philosophy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

  For a man who never reached the age of 40, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., left a powerful and
important body of thought. He was a preacher and orator, so rather than writing in the form of books or treatises, Dr. King spoke to the world in sermons and speeches and a few articles.

  His impact and image as a social activist is so prominent that I think his contributions as a philosopher are underestimated. Here is a very brief tour of a few things he said worth noting.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Sam Fulwood III: Bending toward justice

  As Donald Trump prepares to move into the White House, his impending presidency nonetheless refutes the now-fraught notion of American exceptionalism—an idea that our society is self-governed by informed citizens whose individual actions collectively work for the best interests of those who live in the nation. As this political theory goes, the United States stands alone among nations in world history as the “shining city upon a hill.”

  Rarely is this argument challenged as the nationalistic hubris that it is. Americans—and many others around the world—accept it as fact, I suspect, because they want to believe its veracity. Until now. Donald Trump promises to plunge a wooden spike through the heart of anyone who fantasized that the political horrors that befuddle lesser nations could never happen here.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Michael Josephson: Do you know when to back off?

  I’ve talked before about the ethical obligation to treat others with respect by attentive listening. Today, I want to talk about the flip side of respect: the duty to back off and accept the fact that while others should listen to us, we can’t demand that they agree with us.

  Such unreasonable demands are especially prevalent when someone in authority (boss or parent) lectures, criticizes, sermonizes, or berates an employee or child well past the point of legitimate communication. But it isn’t just people of authority who seek to impose their ideas through bulldozer tactics.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Jacob G. Hornberger: U.S. bombs and anti-American terrorism

  When the next terrorist attack against Americans takes place, you can be certain that there will still be at least a few Americans, including within the Pentagon and the CIA, who will come out with their standard line about how the terrorists are motivated by their hatred for America’s freedom and values. A few others will claim that the attacks are part of some centuries-old caliphate conspiracy by Muslims to take over the world.

  Consider this: According to a story on Alternet, the U.S. government dropped at least 26,171 bombs in seven Muslim-majority countries in 2016. In a related article on the same subject, Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin said that this amounts to three bombs every hour, 24 hours a day.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Fact Sheet: Affordable Care Act repeal

  Despite the fact that only 26 percent of Americans support repealing the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, congressional Republicans currently plan to repeal much of the ACA early next year. In addition, they plan to delay the implementation of this repeal by three years since they do not yet have a specific replacement.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: What Trump's presidency means for Alabama

  Alabama is going to fare wall under President Trump. There is an old adage that says, “Those that bake the pie get to eat it.” We truly baked the pie for Trump. We overwhelmingly supported him in the GOP primary and helped him secure the nomination. We then gave him one of the largest mandates in the nation in the November General Election.

  Trump is indeed returning the favor. He has named our own Jeff Sessions Attorney General. His confirmation hearings begin this week. In addition, speculation is that Alabama’s Bill Pryor is on a very short list to be named to the U.S. Supreme Court by Trump to fill the vacancy on the Court created by the passing of Antonin Scalia.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Laurence M. Vance: Time to smack down the Small Business Administration

  In 2012, Barack Obama elevated the administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA) to a Cabinet-level position, where the office had been under Bill Clinton. The current administrator, Maria Contreras-Sweet, is unknown to the overwhelming majority of Americans, as are the thirty-three administrators who preceded her. This ignorance is about to change, for, according to a statement issued last month by Donald Trump,

    My “America First” agenda is going to bring back our jobs and roll back the burdensome regulations that are hurting our middle-class workers and small businesses. To help push our agenda forward, I am pleased to nominate Linda McMahon as the head of the Small Business Administration.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Rex Tillerson’s Big Oil ties endanger the climate and national security

  The direct link between climate change threats and the duties of the secretary of state is strong. As droughts, floods, heat waves, and other symptoms of a warming world increase both in number and intensity—throughout the Middle East, Africa, Asia, the Arctic, Europe, and the United States—the next U.S. secretary of state will face urgent pressure to curb climate change and manage the effects of a warming planet that can no longer be avoided. Failure to do so will damage the global economy and destabilize an already wobbly security landscape, with potentially dire consequences for U.S. national security interests.

  The next U.S. secretary of state must, as Secretary John Kerry has, protect U.S. foreign policy and security interests and demonstrate a track record of personal and diplomatic credibility. President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for the job, former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, does not meet those qualifications.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Michael Josephson: We shape our own character

  Character may determine our fate, but character is not determined by fate.

  There’s no doubt that our character has a profound effect on our future. What we must remember, however, is not merely how powerful character is in influencing our destiny, but how powerful we are in shaping our own character and, therefore, our own destiny.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Liz Kennedy: Congress tries to kill independent ethics watchdog, Americans fight back

  The Office of Congressional Ethics, or OCE, is an independent, bipartisan ethics panel and fact-finding agency that is crucial to protecting the public’s interest in honest services and fair representation from government officials. It has limited yet critical investigative authority and an essential role in publicizing and deterring corruption. The office has been instrumental in successful prosecutions of lawmakers who violated ethics laws instead of working for Americans.

  It is truly unfortunate that House Republicans attempted to start their period of unified control of the federal government by dramatically weakening one of the most effective anti-corruption and accountability tools that exists in Washington. Monday night in a secret vote during a closed party meeting, the Republican majority voted 119-74 to change the proposed rules for the next Congress and eviscerate the independent congressional ethics watchdog. Public outrage ensued, and after members’ offices were flooded with calls in a few short hours, the majority dropped its attack on the OCE—for now.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Charles C. Haynes: To uphold religious freedom in 2017, do small things with great love

  Farewell to 2016, arguably the worst year for religious freedom in living memory.

  From genocide in Syria and Iraq to ethnic cleansing in Burma, religious oppression and persecution destroyed countless lives, exiled millions and fueled the greatest humanitarian crisis since World War II.

  Most of the world’s population – more than 5 billion people – now lives in countries with high restrictions on religious freedom.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1543: When we embrace struggle, we win victories

  “Senator Sanders, did you hear about the victory on the driver’s license offices?” This call came the day after Christmas and I considered it a gift. But it was a gift forged by continuing struggle. Victory often comes unexpectedly, but it never comes without struggle. To paraphrase the great Frederick Douglass, “Victory cannot come without struggle. It never did and it never will.” We struggled, and we won victories.

  The struggle started when the State of Alabama closed 32 driver’s license offices in 28 of Alabama’s 67 counties on October 1, 2014. It made no sense because driver’s licenses are necessary to drive, vote, board airplanes, participate in commercial transactions and much more. Driver’s licenses are critical but Alabama said certain citizens should go to other counties to apply. We struggled, and we won victories.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: What to expect in 2017

  This past year in Alabama politics was surprisingly more interesting than was expected. The Judicial Inquiry Commission removed Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore from the bench for telling the probate judges in the state to not perform marriage ceremonies for gay people. He said marriage should be between a man and a woman, as most people in Alabama in feel. This removal by this panel of former lawyers and judges has caused legislators to call for an investigation of the panel and how they have this much power.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Laurence M. Vance: The United States, China, and Taiwan

  There are 194 recognized countries in the world, all of which are member states of the United Nations (UN), except for Vatican City. There are also Palestine, Kosovo, and Taiwan.

  Palestine, which is recognized by 136 UN member states, is one of two permanent non-member observer states at the UN, the other being Vatican City. Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008. It is recognized by 114 UN member states. Taiwan, which is officially the Republic of China (ROC), represented China at the UN until 1971, but lost its UN membership after China, officially the People’s Republic of China (PRC), was given China’s seat.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Alden Abbott: Supreme Court’s Samsung v. Apple decision and the status of design patents

  On December 6 the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its much anticipated decision in Samsung Electronic Co. v. Apple Inc.  The opinion deferred for another day clarification of key policy questions raised by the design patent system.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Economic impacts of removing unauthorized immigrant workers

  In every state and in every industry across the United States, immigrants—authorized and unauthorized—are contributing to the U.S. economy. Immigrant labor and entrepreneurship are believed to be powerful forces of economic revitalization for communities struggling with population decline. Estimates suggest that the total number of unauthorized immigrants currently residing in the United States is approximately 11.3 million, or about 3.5 percent of the total 2015 resident population of 324.4 million. Of those 11.3 million, we estimate that 7 million are workers. What is the economic contribution of these unauthorized workers? What would the nation stand to lose in terms of production and income if these workers were removed and returned to their home countries?