Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Jacob G. Hornberger: The fear racket

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

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

Monday, April 24, 2017

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

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

Sunday, April 23, 2017

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

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

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

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Michael Josephson: God helps those who help themselves

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

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

Friday, April 21, 2017

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

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

Thursday, April 20, 2017

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

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

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

Monday, April 17, 2017

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

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

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

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

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Keeping America’s schools safe from gun violence

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

Saturday, April 15, 2017

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

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

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

Friday, April 14, 2017

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

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

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

Thursday, April 13, 2017

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

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

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Harry Stein: Stop cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthy

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

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

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Gene Policinski: Mexican journalist killed for doing noble work

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

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

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

Monday, April 10, 2017

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

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

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

Sunday, April 9, 2017

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

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

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

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Music Review: Blue Yonder - Born of the Sky

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 7, 2017

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

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

Thursday, April 6, 2017

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

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

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

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

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

Monday, April 3, 2017

Horror film ‘Spiritus’ to screen in Montgomery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, April 2, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 1, 2017

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

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

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

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