Thursday, November 23, 2017

Joseph O. Patton: Taking back Thanksgiving!

  I am genuinely elated to report that I have survived another Thanksgiving… or rather what remains of this rapidly deteriorating national holiday. I ate, I watched football, I napped. God ordained back in the Plymouth Rock days that we adhere to this sacred ritual, right? And doing so enables me to show my Turkey Day pride, get my festive gobble-gobble swerve thang on, but mostly just suffer from indigestion as a result of all that sweet, blessed gluttony.

  But increasingly each year something else is ominously creeping into the view from my yam-tinted glasses, vulgarly tinkling on my Thanksgiving joy and ruthlessly pushing all the pilgrim imagery to the side - its name: Christmas.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Turnout is everything

  The big question in the Alabama U.S. Senate race: Will allegations against Roy Moore and his purported propensities 40 ago cause him to lose? We will soon see. The election is less than three weeks away.

  The book on Moore is easy to read. The polls have consistently revealed that 30 percent of voters like him, and 70 percent do not like him.  He is a polarizing figure and is well known.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Building their own future, one house at a time

  The bad news about the criminal justice system can seem overwhelming: vast racial disparities; an incarceration rate unprecedented in world history and more than quadrupling over the past four decades; a school-to-prison pipeline that short-circuits our children’s futures.

  It’s a bleak picture of American justice.

  That’s why a prison re-entry plan conceived by — and for — Indiana women is such a breath of fresh air.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Jacob G. Hornberger: A positive shift among Americans on foreign policy

  One of the burning issues of our time is the role of the U.S. government in foreign affairs: Should the United States embrace interventionism or non-interventionism?

  Should the U.S. government be destroying democratically elected regimes? Should it be installing into power right-wing dictatorships? Should it be partnering with and supporting brutal dictatorships? Should it be using U.S. taxpayer money to fund foreign regimes? Should it be invading and waging wars of aggression against independent countries? Should it be intervening in foreign civil wars or revolutions? Should it be kidnapping, torturing, and assassinating people in other countries, including foreign leaders? Should it be maintaining military bases in foreign countries? Should it be spying on foreign regimes? Should it be imposing sanctions and embargoes on foreigners?

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Richard Cohen: Hate crimes rise for second straight year

  As we feared, the FBI’s hate crime report for 2016 shows a second straight year of increases – the first time that’s happened in a decade. It means that in the last two years, the number of reported hate crimes has risen by nearly 12 percent.

  Government studies show that the actual number of hate crimes may be as high as 250,000 – more than 40 times the 6,121 incidents that the FBI reports for 2016. But the FBI figures do serve as a rough barometer for what’s occurring in our country.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Craig Ford: Remembering our veterans this Thanksgiving

  Every Thanksgiving, I like to write an editorial about the things that I am thankful for. I’ve written about how thankful I am for my family, and for public servants like Alabama’s educators. But this year, I want to say how thankful I am for our country’s veterans.

  We just celebrated Veterans Day, of course, and we are blessed to live in a part of the country where our nation’s veterans are still revered and respected. Still, I feel that Thanksgiving is the perfect time to say thank you to the men and women who have served our great nation.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Gene Policinski: For source of fake reporter ‘robocall,’ look under a rock

  I know where that fake Washington Post reporter robocall, with its anti-Semitic undertone, came from.

  From under a rock.

  It’s a rock where, no doubt, guffaws went around at seeing real journalists having to report on this shameful, bigoted prank.

  It’s a rock where, no doubt, those responsible for the prank are slapping themselves on the back for folding anti-Semitism in with an anti-news media tactic.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1588: One moment! One chance! One vote!

  I spoke for fewer than five minutes. I had to leave Montgomery immediately to travel to Atlanta and on to Boston. The speech, if one can call it that, was at the Alabama New South Coalition Annual Fall Convention in Montgomery. Some people have asked for a copy of the video or audio. I did not know that it was recorded. After these requests, I thought I might as well use Sketches to share some of what I said, or tried to say, on this occasion. I say, “tried to say,” because I don’t recall exactly what I said.

  First, let me state that it was not a political speech in the usual sense. No candidate was endorsed. No candidate was attacked. No names of living persons were ever called. However, the power of voting was detailed. Changing Alabama for the better was raised loud and clear. Changing America for the better was lifted high and clearly. But no names were called and no officials or prospective officials were held responsible.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Alabama's community colleges are stepping up

  In March of this year, the Alabama Community College System took a giant leap forward when it brought on a giant in state government and one of Alabama’s preeminent leaders, Jimmy Baker, to be Chancellor.

  When you have a conversation with Chancellor Baker, he uses words that you do not normally hear in the same sentence, like exciting and community college. He says it is an exciting time. For many reasons, Alabama's community colleges and technical training have been viewed as second best when it comes to higher education options. Sit down with Chancellor Baker and you will leave convinced that Alabama’s community colleges can do more to move the state forward than any other entity in the state.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Not in a million years: The House’s proposed windfall for donors

  Congressional proponents of the House Republicans’ tax plan, called the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, claim that it will benefit the middle class. But in reality, it is a huge giveaway to the donor class—including a handful of top donors who have bankrolled the campaigns of Republican leaders in Congress. In fact, just the bill’s estate tax cuts alone would allow the families of 11 prominent donors, listed below, to pocket up to $67.5 billion. The typical U.S. family couldn’t earn that much in a million years.

  That’s not a figure of speech: The typical American family would have to work for 1,144,020 years to make the same amount of money as congressional majority leaders want to give away to the heirs of just these 11 wealthy individuals who helped them get elected.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Policing for profit, not justice

  If law enforcement agencies in Alabama want to seize and keep someone’s property — cash, cars, real estate, guns, TVs or other assets — they don’t have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it was used in drug trafficking or obtained through criminal activity.

  As in many other states, they don’t have to show that the property owner was convicted of a crime — or even charged with one.

  They can just take the property. And in the vast majority of cases, they get to keep it.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Leigh Hixon: We dare defend our rights

  From Obamacare to Common Core, Alabama is known for being among the first to react in high-profile cases of DC overreach. Under the banner of the state motto, “We dare defend our rights,” Alabamians seem to share an innate sense of self-determination.

  Yet, despite its long-standing reputation, the state has essentially welcomed much of the federal interference that jeopardizes voters’ treasured autonomy. Case in point, a 2017 study ranked Alabama the fourth most federally dependent state, having accepted enough federal funds to comprise more than 40% of the state budget.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1587: How do we deal with the death of our young as a result of violence?

  Sometimes death comes creeping into our lives. Other times death comes storming into our lives, our homes, our families, and our communities. We are born to die, but some die all too soon. It’s hard when death comes no matter the circumstances. But it’s really hard when death comes all too soon. It’s really, really hard when death comes violently and too soon at the hands of other human beings. Last week, death came storming into our lives all too soon.

Friday, November 10, 2017

The most horrifying provisions hidden in the House Republican tax plan

  Last week, House Republicans released their tax plan, finally providing long-awaited details on what they really mean when they promise “tax reform.” While they billed it as a middle-class tax cut, the new legislation is filled with gifts for wealthy corporations and the richest Americans. Meanwhile, middle-class and working families would at best get scraps—and in many cases, see their taxes increase.

  Many of the most extreme tax increases come in the form of eliminated tax credits or deductions buried deep in the text of the bill—and ignored by lawmakers and the media. With tax increases affecting groups ranging from seniors and people with disabilities, to families facing costly medical bills, to immigrant children, to people with student loans—to name just a few—the bill is a virtual laundry list of tax increases on populations who are often struggling to make ends meet.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Gene Policinski: We’re a big part of the fix for ‘junk news’

  Let’s stop talking so much about “fake news.”

  Not that we should ever cease identifying, talking about or countering misinformation, be it accidental error, the result of negligent work, or deliberately false — to which we must now add propaganda tactics aimed at destabilizing our democracy.

  We face all those types of misinformation today; amplified as they are by platforms that allow for instantaneous, worldwide communication.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: On to 2018

  We still have the culmination of the race for the seat of Jeff Sessions set to be determined in less than five weeks on December 12. Roy Moore, as the Republican nominee, is the favorite. However, the Democrat, Doug Jones, could make it a closer race than first thought. He has raised some money and gained some traction, and Moore has a good many detractors among Republican and independent voters.

  The 2018 races are looming on the horizon. All of the horses may not be at the gate yet. However, we are only seven months away from the GOP Primary. What at one time looked as though it would be a titanic race for governor may not be as good as first thought. Governor Kay Ivey is in the catbird’s seat to win a four-year term of her own. Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle appears at this time to be her most difficult hurdle. Birmingham evangelist, Scott Dawson, is poised to be a dark horse.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

4 losers and 1 big winner in the House GOP tax plan

  On November 2, House Republicans released a tax plan that would provide an enormous windfall for corporations and the wealthiest Americans. In fact, of the more than $1.4 trillion in tax cuts included in the bill over the next decade, $1 trillion would go to businesses and corporations, and nearly $200 billion would go towards reducing, and eventually eliminating, the estate tax. Millionaires would enjoy the biggest tax cuts of all thanks to the corporate tax cuts, the elimination of the estate tax and alternative minimum tax, reduced tax rates on higher incomes, and the creation of a special new loophole on so-called passthrough business income.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Emily L. Hauser: Sexual assault is universal, recovery isn’t

  When news broke of the seemingly bottomless Harvey Weinstein scandal, it released a flood of similarly harrowing tales of sexual harassment and assault in music, academia, science, media, restaurants, government, libraries, on and on and ever on. Near countless numbers of women and a decent number of men shared their own stories in private conversation, public essays, and as part of the #MeToo hashtag on social media. One inescapable fact immediately became manifest: Sexual harassment and assault are everywhere in the human experience, regardless of profession, ideology, ethnic identity, or financial privilege.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Hate in the White House

  President Trump’s pick to lead NASA, U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine, faced criticism last week for his skepticism of climate change and his conservative stances on homosexuality.

  But it was Bridenstine’s associations with anti-Muslim extremists like Frank Gaffney, Jr. that was perhaps the most alarming revelation to emerge from his Senate confirmation hearing.

  Gaffney is the founder of the anti-Muslim hate group Center for Security Policy (CSP), known for propagating paranoid conspiracy theories about the supposed infiltration of the federal government by the Muslim Brotherhood. Gaffney’s CSP is so extreme that it has been banned from participating even in the conservative conference CPAC.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1586: Doing what we’ve always done will get us what we’ve always gotten

  Habit is a powerful thing. Habit is when we do what we have always done. There is great security in habit. There is great stability in habit. There is great comfort in habit. However, habit does not change things; it maintains things. If we do what we’ve always done, we will get what we’ve always gotten.

  The author of the preceding statement is unknown. Some say it came from comedian Jackie “Moms” Mabley. Others say Henry Ford. Still others say Albert Einstein. Others say Tony Robbins and so on. We don’t really know the original source. But we do know the power of the statement.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Craig Ford: Repealing the Accountability Act should be a priority for the legislature

  When the Alabama Legislature returns to Montgomery in January, you won’t hear a whole lot about education. What you will hear a lot about is prisons (since a federal court ordered the state to solve the problems with staffing and mental health) and social issues that legislators hope will benefit them in next year’s elections.

  And that’s a real shame because one of the most important things our state government is responsible for is providing a quality education for all – and not just some – of our children.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Lata Nott: Shouting down free speech

  Is the First Amendment truly in danger? It can certainly seem like it when every week some new and alarming event happens that makes people wonder if our freedom to express ourselves is slipping away.

  But is that just a feeling that we get from being plugged into the 24-hour news cycle, or from listening to pundits argue with each other on cable television?

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The Silver Haired Legislature

  With all the changes and uncertainty surrounding Alabama government in recent months, including political appointments, high level resignations, special elections, runoff elections and a host of new candidates tossing their names into the 2018 election circus, Alabamians might be relieved to know one thing remains steady and solid and many may never have heard of it – Alabama’s Silver Haired Legislature is one of Alabama’s crown jewels.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

10 things you didn't know about the history of Halloween

10) While today's costumes channel an inner fantasy, they started with a much more solemn purpose.

  One of the earliest examples we have of people donning costumes comes from Hallow Mass, a ceremonial mass dedicated to prayers for the dead. People appealed to their ancestors for everything from happy marriages to fertility, and costumes were a part of that.

  It wasn't until the Victorian era that the idea of dressing up really went mainstream, and a lot of that started with the Robert Burns poem "Halloween." Originally, the best costumes were the ones that were creepy, which isn't entirely surprising. The Victorians were obsessed with the idea of spirituality and the afterlife, so pioneering the ghost costume made a lot of sense.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Women are driving the resistance

  The 2016 election season was a troubling reminder of the stubborn persistence of sexism and misogyny. Whether or not they chose to vote, millions of women across the United States were forced to confront a stark reality: Their country had elected a president who built his campaign on division, professing to want to empower women even as he consistently embraced and deployed hostile, disparaging rhetoric about and toward women. President Donald Trump has also surrounded himself with and elevated men—such as Vice President Mike Pence, former chief strategist Steve Bannon and Attorney General Jeff Sessions—who have consistently supported anti-women policies.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Trauma, not rehabilitation, in juvenile detention centers

  Elord Revolte died a tragic death in Florida’s juvenile justice system after he tried to get a carton of milk without permission.

  In a gut-wrenching series called “Fight Club,” The Miami Herald investigated more than a decade’s worth of records from the state’s juvenile justice system and found a culture of inconceivable violence that has resulted in at least 12 deaths of detained youths since 2000.

  It was such violence that cost Elord his life.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1585: Crazy can be good!

  Crazy. He is crazy. She is crazy. You are crazy. I am crazy. You are so crazy. Crazy can mean so much from a “low down put down” to a term of endearment. It can also mean beyond exceptional. I want to explore the beyond exceptional. Have you heard people say that “crazy” people are stronger, run faster, lift more, have greater stamina and perform all kinds of feats way beyond the ability of “normal” people? I don’t know whether there is truth in this perception of “crazy,” but I know I have heard it a lot. In fact, I sometimes apply it to myself. When we are crazy, we don’t know our own limitations so we keep exceeding them.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Jacob G. Hornberger: Isolationism and open borders

  In an implicit rebuke of President Trump, former President Bush delivered a speech last week in which he warned against “isolationism sentiments.”

  Isolationist sentiments? Is he kidding? Don’t make me laugh. Trump has made it very clear that he is firmly committed to continuing the forever wars that Bush launched in Afghanistan and Iraq more than 15 years ago and Bush’s perpetual “war on terrorism,” which he used to justify the adoption of such totalitarian powers as indefinite detention, torture, and assassination.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Poverty expert explains how we make it a crime to be poor

  Officially, the United States ended debtors’ prisons in 1833. Unofficially, as we saw in the Justice Department’s report on racially biased policing in Ferguson, there is a system of fines and fees for minor crimes that often result in jail time for the poor, mostly black citizens who cannot afford to pay them.

  To provide more context on the issue, I talked with Peter Edelman, Georgetown University law professor and former staffer for Robert F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton, about his new book Not a Crime to be Poor: The Criminalization of Poverty in America.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Around Alabama

  There have been quite a few political happenings in the Heart of Dixie during October. Birmingham has elected a new mayor. 36-year-old Randall Woodfin defeated two-term mayor William Bell. 

  I never got to know Bell that well; however, the few times I visited with him he seemed to be an affable fellow. He surely looked like a mayor. His distinguished demeanor and exquisite diction and appearance gave an elegant impression for Birmingham. He looked like he came out of Hollywood central casting.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Trump is the reason the Constitution has an anti-corruption clause

  The investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into the Trump campaign’s involvement in the Russian attack on the U.S. election system has garnered significant attention. But, more quietly, another effort to limit foreign influence over our government continues apace.

  On October 18, a federal district court in New York heard arguments in Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington v. Trump, in which the plaintiffs argued that President Donald Trump has violated the Constitution’s Foreign Emoluments Clause, an anti-corruption clause that prohibits government officials from receiving anything of value from foreign governments without the consent of Congress. While these cases are just beginning, the ongoing investigations into Trump’s ties to Russia have made clear that the problem of foreign influence in this administration is both very real and very dangerous.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1584: God bless the child that’s got its own

  Mama may have, Papa may have, but God bless the child that’s got his own. That is a key verse in the Billie Holiday song, "God Bless the Child." It captures a profound truth about the power of ownership. I will change the word “his” to “its” as I employ the verse as a refrain in this Sketches. God bless the child that’s got its own.

  I learned the power of ownership through an unforgettable childhood experience. Our family lived on heir property (real property inherited upon death resulting in multiple owners). However, my father Sam Sanders was not an heir to the property because my grandfather, Miles Sanders, was still alive. We had no ownership.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Craig Ford: Career tech should be just as much of a priority as college prep

  The largest school district in Maryland recently received a report from a consulting firm they hired to help improve their education system. The report’s conclusion was simple: career preparation has been marginalized as a priority, and the school system’s programs are not keeping pace with the changing nature of employment.

  More specifically, the report showed that the school system is putting most of its energy and resources into college preparation despite the fact that most of the available jobs are middle-skill positions that require less than a bachelor’s degree.

  Why should people in Alabama care about a report on Maryland’s school system? Because we – and the rest of America – have the same problem.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

For the cost of repealing the estate tax, Congress could buy everyone in America a pony

  You know how you’ve always wanted a pony? How as a child you dreamed of feeding carrots and sugar cubes out of the palm of your hand to a little chestnut-colored horse named Maple?

  It may sound fanciful to adults, but President Donald Trump and Republican leaders in Congress put together a wish list of tax cuts for the wealthy that are far more extravagant than ponies. It turns out for the cost of just one of these tax cuts—repealing the tax on wealthy estates—we could literally buy every single American a pony.

  A lovely little Shetland pony, specifically. For all 325 million of us. In fact, the benefits Trump’s own adult children could get from his estate tax repeal would fund nearly 1.4 million ponies—that alone is enough to cover giving a pony to everyone in the state of Maine.

Friday, October 20, 2017

This is how much average Americans will pay for Trump’s tax cuts for the 1 Percent

  On the heels of their humiliating health care debacle, President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans are stepping up efforts to push a tax plan designed to benefit the wealthy. The plan makes vague and unspecific overtures when it comes to provisions that could benefit working- and middle-class taxpayers, but it is crystal clear about the benefits it would bestow on rich individuals and wealthy corporations.

  For example, the plan removes taxes on extremely wealthy estates, slashes the top income tax rate from 39.6 percent to 35 percent, and abolishes the alternative minimum tax, which ensures that higher-income households—which are often able to take advantage of lucrative deductions and credits—contribute at least some modicum of taxes. It also gives a special low tax rate to owners of pass-through businesses, who are already able to avoid corporate taxes by instead paying personal tax rates on their portion of the businesses’ profits, allowing them a lower effective tax rate. All of these provisions would benefit the wealthiest Americans, including Trump himself.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

How a mass shooting made my town an advocate for gun safety

  My rough, unscientific estimate is that we are about three-quarters of the way through the national grieving process for Las Vegas. Americans are pretty familiar with the rhythmic mourning of mass shootings: Widespread shock, political chest-beating, internet rage, and then silence. Then our wounds start to heal and the nation moves on, leaving the thousands of people who were injured or lost someone they loved to recover on their own. Those individual broken hearts will keep bleeding for years—many, like mine, will burst open again every time there’s another shooting.

  My mind still flashes back to my hometown every time news of a shooting breaks even though Tomasz was killed almost five years ago. It was early on Christmas Eve in 2012 when a man set his family home on fire and shot the firefighters who responded to the blaze from a berm across the street. He used the same model of assault rifle that was used in the Sandy Hook massacre two weeks earlier.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Kay Ivey's stealth campaign

  Now that the dust has settled from the Republican Senate primary, we can focus on the much-anticipated 2018 elections.

  Kay Ivey is definitely running for governor. She raised over one million dollars in a few short weeks in August through an exploratory committee. As of the last reporting period, she has raised $1.2 million followed closely by Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, who is at $1.1 million.

  Ivey has been running a stealth campaign, traveling the state and looking gubernatorial. On a recent day in Tuscaloosa, she visited the University of Alabama and then mid-morning visited a pre-kindergarten class in the Druid City. Allow me to share a story surrounding the governor's Tuscaloosa visit. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Taylor Dawson: Religious liberty for all

  Free exercise of religion is a bedrock principle of American governance. As schoolchildren, we’re taught that Pilgrims fled to America to avoid persecution by the Church of England. While many of America’s founders were Christians, they prohibited government from favoring one religion over another. Our constitutional protection for religious exercise is listed first in the Bill of Rights. That wasn’t a mistake.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Bigotry is not an American value

  On October 14, 1979, more than 100,000 people marched on Washington to demand equal rights for LGBT people.

  But nearly four decades after the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is intent on rolling back their rights.

  Just over a week ago, Sessions issued a memo to Department of Justice lawyers asserting that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not protect transgender workers from employment discrimination. His directive overturned the protective policy established under President Barack Obama.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Gene Policinski: To Trump on NBC ‘license’ tweet: No!

  There’s only one appropriate, spirit-of-freedom response to the “Trump tweet” on Wednesday asking when it’s “appropriate” for the government to punish NBC News for a story the president didn’t like:

  Never. And yes, the repetition of “appropriate” and the use of italics are for emphasis.

  Trump is disputing an NBC report earlier in the day — based on interviews with three officials in the room at the time — that during a July meeting Trump had proposed a massive increase in the country’s nuclear arsenal, which critics immediately pounced on as evidence he was naïve and ignorant of the cost, policy and treaty barriers to such an increase.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1583: Vision is really, really powerful!

  Vision is powerful. Vision is really, really powerful. Vision helps us to know where we are going to. Vision helps us to understand where we are coming from. Vision helps us to know where we are in relation to where we are going and where we are coming from. Vision helps us to know how to take what we have and make what we need to get to where we are going. Vision helps us know that it is not what we are going through but what we are going to. Vision is really, really powerful.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Craig Ford: Committee looking into school suspensions and expulsions is a step in the right direction

  The late actor Nelsan Ellis, who grew up in Bessemer and went on to become famous for his role on the HBO series “True Blood,” was interviewed by al.com back in 2009. When asked about his experience at Jess Lanier High School, he said, "It's hard to get an education when teachers spend 70 percent of their time trying to discipline students. I grew up knowing I wanted to escape that life, and the only escape was education."

  I believe he hit the nail on the head. Discipline issues are at the heart of why some schools are failing, and addressing those discipline issues is essential for fixing failing schools.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Mississippi police called ICE then an agent shot an unarmed man

  Police in riot gear. Protesters blocking highways. A heated discussion about the acquittal of a white police officer for his role in the shooting of a black man.

  It’s becoming a familiar scene for St. Louis, Missouri.

  More than 300 protesters have been arrested in just 18 days following an innocent verdict in the non-jury murder trial of former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley, who fatally shot 24-year-old Anthony Lamar Smith in 2011.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Partisan drama in JeffCo and how it affects the race for Alabama AG

  Jefferson County is transitioning from a Republican to a Democratic county. In the process, they are having an interesting array of intriguing political happenings. You may recall that a few months back I wrote about the indictment of the newly-elected Jefferson County District Attorney, Charles Todd Henderson, on perjury charges. To say a lot has happened since then would be an understatement. 

  Dr. Robert Bentley has vacated the governor’s office under a scandalous cloud. Lt. Governor Kay Ivey has ascended to the governorship and appears to be the favorite to win election to a four-year term of her own in next year’s general election. We have had a special election to fill the remaining three years of Jeff Sessions’s six-year Senate term. Former Governor Bentley’s appointee, former state Attorney General Luther Strange, was overwhelmingly defeated by former state Chief Justice Roy Moore, and the Ten Commandments Judge is poised to become our junior U.S. Senator. And that brings me back to Henderson. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Laurence M. Vance: Decriminalization is not enough

  According to recently released FBI crime data, there were 1,572,579 drug arrests in the United States last year. That’s an average of one drug arrest nearly every 20 seconds. The total number is up by about 5.6 percent from the 1,488,707 arrests for drug crimes in the United States in 2015.

  Because of a change in how the annual law enforcement numbers are publicized, it’s harder to determine just how many people were busted for marijuana and how many were busted for other drugs. However, Tom Angell — founder of the nonprofit Marijuana Majority and editor of the cannabis news portal Marijuana Moment — was able to determine that “marijuana arrests are on the rise in the U.S., even as more states legalize the drug.”

Monday, October 9, 2017

Trump administration's guidance on religious freedom undercuts LGBT rights

  Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued guidance Friday setting forth the views of the Department of Justice about how federal agencies should protect religious freedom.

  The guidance directs agencies to give the broadest possible protection to people, companies and government contractors who cite religious beliefs to avoid compliance with anti-discrimination and other laws.

  This latest memo reflects the Trump administration’s continuing campaign to roll back the rights of the most vulnerable members of society, including LGBT people. By saying virtually nothing about how the invocation of religious exemptions can cause real harm to real people, it invites taxpayer-funded agencies, government employees, government contractors and government grant recipients to discriminate against LGBT people, as long as they cite a religious reason for doing so.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Myth vs. Fact: Debunking the gun lobby’s favorite talking points

  The gun lobby, led by the National Rifle Association (NRA), pursues a number of different policies in state legislatures across the country and in Congress, including eliminating permit requirements for concealed carry; expanding locations where guns may be carried; weakening regulation of the gun industry; and overriding duly enacted state laws that limit gun carrying. While each of these policies have different elements, all are united by a core set of dangerous and misleading arguments perpetuated by the NRA that more guns in more hands will lead to increased personal and community safety.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Trump’s anti-worker judges will outlast his administration

  President Donald Trump is transforming the federal judiciary through dozens of nominees to lifetime positions as federal judges, and many of his nominees have a record of siding with corporations over workers. By appointing Justice Neil Gorsuch, Trump has ensured that the U.S. Supreme Court will become the same pro-corporate, anti-worker tribunal that it was when former Justice Antonin Scalia was on the court. With a reliable fifth conservative vote, the court has brought back cases that could hobble public employee unions and make it harder for employees to have their day in court if their employer does something wrong.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1582: The Invitation

  I received an invitation to attend services at a “White church” (a church whose pastor and members are all White). I wondered about the invitation. This may have been the first time in 46 years of living in Selma and 34 years of serving in the Alabama Senate that I was specifically invited to a “White church” on a particular Sunday. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Eleven o’clock Sunday morning is the most segregated hour of the week in America.”

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Kate Bahn: Economics of misogyny

  The term misogyny is often used in feminist analysis but not often used to analyze the government and market institutions that make up our society. Outright misogyny—from catcalling to gender-based violence—has been gaining more acknowledgment recently, as society develops a better understanding of concepts like consent and toxic masculinity. But though society has gotten better at identifying misogyny, the systematic role it plays in our world remains largely unnamed.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: How Moore beat Strange

  Judge Roy Moore and his wife, Kayla, made their traditional horseback ride to their voting place in Gallant in Etowah County last Tuesday, and when all the votes were counted that night, they won a resounding victory. Moore’s capture of the GOP Senate nomination was impressive. A 55-45 margin is not a total trouncing, but it is considered a landslide.

  Despite being outspent by the Washington establishment 15-to-1, Moore prevailed. His solid bloc of conservative evangelical voters stood strong against an avalanche of negative ads.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Little Rock Nine – and America – 60 years later

  Sixty years before Colin Kaepernick took a knee, nine black teenagers in Little Rock, Arkansas, took a stand.

  The pictures have since become iconic: Elizabeth Eckford stoically walking as a white mob jeers and shouts at her; Terrence Roberts and Carlotta Walls LaNier clutching textbooks under the cover of armed soldiers; Minnijean Brown arriving at Little Rock Central High School, escorted by the 101st Division of the Airborne Command.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Supreme Court Preview: A Momentous Term

  As rumors of major changes circulate around the Supreme Court, the stakes have never been higher. The court has only set approximately half of its cases for the term, and the schedule already includes five blockbusters. These cases span issues from political representation and discrimination to the right to trial and the ability to form strong unions; several stand to affect the fundamental rights of millions of Americans.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Craig Ford: Sports teach lessons you might not learn in the classroom

  We all know that education and jobs go hand-in-hand. If you want to get a good job, you have to have a good education. And having good schools is an important part of recruiting jobs and industry to a community.

  Education gets a lot of attention in Alabama. You hear a lot about how we need to invest more in reading, math, science and computer courses, and we absolutely do need to invest more in those areas.

  You also hear a lot about sports. But what often gets overlooked is the educational benefits that come from playing sports.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1581: “Vote or die!”

  Vote or die! The slogan shouted at me. I stopped in my tracks. I wanted to think. The “Vote or die” slogan kept ringing in my head. It had such power. The slogan kept shouting at me, “Vote or die!” My mind asked, “How do we die if we fail to vote?” The first answer came easily: Health care! Health care is central to our existence. Virtually every “developed country” makes health care a right and therefore a priority. But not in these United States of America, the most “developed country” in the world.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Angela Rosa: Fighting for my life, again, under Trump

Content Warning: The following article contains graphic depictions of domestic violence.

  For 22 years, I did what many Americans do: I worked, I attended college, and I worked some more. I paid my taxes, I voted with my heart just as much as with my mind, and I obtained a career. I did everything right.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Arpaio claims he was target because of ‘birther’ involvement

  Former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, a guru of right-wing conspiracy theories, is spreading a new one, and this time it’s about him.

  In his first “interview” since being pardoned of a crime last month by President Trump, Arpaio claims he was prosecuted by the Justice Department because of his earlier involvement in the “birther” movement.

  “I don’t think it was so much the illegal roundups. . . I think it was the birth certificate issue they [the Obama administration] were mainly after me about,” Arpaio told American Free Press.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Jim Allen's place in Alabama history

  As one of America’s most conservative states, we have a history of electing very conservative senators. Jeff Sessions proved to be one of the most arch-conservative members of the U.S. Senate during his 20-year tenure.

  Another arch-conservative that served 10 years in the Senate from 1968 to 1978 was the great Jim Allen. Jim Allen had an illustrious career in Alabama politics. He was born and raised in Gadsden. He served in the Alabama House and the Alabama Senate from his native Etowah County. He was elected to his first term as Lieutenant Governor of Alabama in 1950, and to a second term in 1962. He was Lieutenant Governor during George Wallace’s first term as Governor. He was also a very successful lawyer in Gadsden.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Gene Policinski: Patriotism, respect for flag cannot be ‘ordered’

  Donald Trump is singing the wrong song about freedom, patriotism and First Amendment values.

  Over the weekend, Trump:

    -Called on NFL owners to fire players who kneel or otherwise protest during the national anthem and display of the American flag

    -Said fans should stop going to games to punish NFL team owners who fail to dismiss those players

    -Observed that patriotism should be required of athletes in return for “the privilege of making millions of dollars” on the field.

Monday, September 25, 2017

House Republican budget would eliminate critical disaster relief funding

  Families in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands are beginning the hard work of rebuilding their lives in the wake of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. House Republicans, however, are proposing to eliminate some of the critical tools people will need.

  When a natural disaster hits, affected communities rely on federal resources to rebuild homes, schools, and highways. But the proposed fiscal year 2018 House majority budget eliminates programs that provide disaster relief and the administrative resources needed to deploy funding quickly and effectively. If implemented, the budget will eliminate the Community Development Block Grant program, the office within the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that administers relief funds; eliminate the Legal Services Corporation, which provides free legal services to affected families; and eliminate AmeriCorps, which sends volunteers to help with disaster cleanup.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Trump's anti-immigrant crusader

  Stephen Bannon may have left the White House, but anti-immigrant nativism didn't go anywhere.

  President Trump made that abundantly clear when he trumpeted an “America first” philosophy at the U.N. General Assembly last week, touting the importance of national sovereignty and warning that “major portions of the world are … going to hell.”

  Behind the speech was none other than Stephen Miller, Trump’s anti-immigrant chief policy adviser.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Quiet attack on the ADA making its way through Congress

  In the current political climate, the assault on Americans with disabilities is no longer limited to attempts to strip them of health care, take away the services millions need to live independently and to work, or make deep cuts to programs that help many make ends meet. Now a bill making its way through Congress threatens to roll back the civil rights of people with disabilities by exactly 27 years. The bill, misleadingly titled the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017, would hack away at the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, the landmark civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability and mandates that people with disabilities have “equal opportunity” to participate in American life.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1580: Earth is shouting: Stop!

  The Earth is protesting. The Earth protests when terrible storms rage. The Earth protests when tsunamis ravage our coasts. The Earth protests when earthquakes shatter our communities. The Earth protests when fires burn our lands and homes. The Earth protests when waters flood our communities. The Earth protests when droughts invade our lands. The Earth protests when polar ice caps melt and oceans rise. The Earth is protesting. The Earth is shouting out in its most powerful language.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Veterans living paycheck to paycheck are under threat during budget debates

  President Donald Trump and congressional Republican leaders have promised to “take care” of America’s veterans—but the congressional and presidential budgets, which will be debated this fall, threaten several programs that help ensure basic living standards for veterans and their families, including Medicaid, affordable housing programs, job training, and nutrition assistance. Rather than taking care of America’s veterans and their families, the budget resolution is expected to pave the way for massive tax cuts, 61 percent of which would benefit the richest 1 percent of Americans.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The final stretch

  The very interesting and entertaining Republican Primary for our open U.S. Senate seat culminates Tuesday with a clash between two titans. Judge Roy Moore and Big Luther Strange will be in a Titanic battle to fill the seat left vacant when Jeff Sessions became U.S. Attorney General.

  We will see if Moses with his Ten Commandments and Hebrew children of rural Alabama can slay the Philistine Mountain Brook giant.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Gene Policinski: Speaking your mind, when free speech has consequences

  Some people like Donald Trump and say nice things about him.

  Some people don’t like Donald Trump, and some say things about Donald Trump that are unkind, hurtful and downright insulting. Some people say those things on social media.

  And sometimes people who like Donald Trump respond to those comments.

  All of that is fine in free speech terms. And all of that pretty well sums up the tempest in a TV teapot over ESPN host Jemele Hill tweeting last week that the president was a “bigot” and a “white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself with other white supremacists.”

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.