Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse – Judicial races highlighted

  This is not just a gubernatorial year in the Heart of Dixie.

  We have every state constitutional office up for election, and that includes lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, treasurer, auditor, and Alabama Agriculture Commissioner.

  We also have a good many of the state judicial races on the ballot. We have nine seats on the Alabama Supreme Court. We have five judges on the Court of Criminal Appeals as well as five seats on the Court of Civil Appeals. All of these judicial posts are held by Republicans. Therefore, it is more than likely safe to assume that the winner of the Republican Primary will be elected to a six-year term and can be fitted for their robe, at least by July 17. In fact, Democrats usually do not even field candidates in state judicial races.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Trump got played in Singapore, but that’s a good thing

  Conservatives are a fascinating lot. Throughout the Cold War, they steadfastly maintained that the Cold War was necessary because communist tyrants were hell-bent on conquering the United States and subjugating the American people. That is, in fact, why the U.S. national-security establishment intervened in the Korean War and the Vietnam War and sacrificed more than 100,000 U.S. soldiers — supposedly to prevent the communists in North Korea and North Vietnam from ultimately coming to America and taking control of the United States.

  The conservative mantra throughout the Cold War was encapsulated by the title of a book written in 1962 by a conservative curmudgeon named Fred Schwarz: You Can Trust the Communists (to be Communists.) The idea was that the communists were incorrigible liars who had one goal in mind: the defeat and Red takeover of the United States.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Dylann Roof murdered nine people because of a lie about 'black-on-white crime'

  It’s been three years since Dylann Roof massacred nine black parishioners in a Bible study in Charleston, South Carolina.

  As he methodically shot his victims at the historic Emanuel A.M.E. Church with a Glock pistol, court testimony reveals that Roof said, “Y’all are raping our white women. Y’all are taking over the world.”

  How did Roof become so immersed in white supremacist propaganda about black violence that he would be driven to murder?

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Biggest threat to democracy might be the loss of local newspapers

  If you’re reading this column in your local newspaper, congratulations! Just by skimming your eyeballs over this page, whether it’s in print or online, you’re doing a vital service for your hometown, and for democracy as a whole. (Go ahead and take the rest of the day off.)

  It’s no secret that local journalism is in trouble and has been for quite some time. According to a 2017 report from the Pew Research Center, the weekday circulation for U.S. daily newspapers has been on the decline for twenty-eight consecutive years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that between 1990 and 2016, the number of newspaper employees in the U.S. declined from 456,300 to 183,000.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1618 - I learned so much, and I lift Bruce Carver Boynton!

  I learned so much. I had heard the stories on many occasions, but I never heard the full story. I did not even know that I had not heard the full story.

  The story is about Bruce Carver Boynton of Selma. The focus is on an act of resistance by a 21-year-old boy/man. It happened way back in 1958. It impacted him for the rest of his life. It impacted a whole lot of people for the rest of their lives. It impacted me for the rest of my life. I was sixteen years old at the time and did not know about this act of resistance. I learned so much.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Trump’s perverse view of patriotism

  In an act of petty revenge against the Philadelphia Eagles, President Trump put on display the concept of patriotism that unfortunately has come to characterize America in the era of the national-security state — a concept that perverts the genuine meaning of patriotism on which America was founded and which characterized the nation throughout the 1800s.

  The controversy began when Trump scheduled a ceremony at the White House to celebrate the Super Bowl win by the Eagles. Most of the members of the team, however, decided to boycott the event, which, not surprisingly, caused Trump to go ballistic. Rather than continue with the ceremony with the ten players who were coming, Trump disinvited the entire team and decided to hold what he considered to be a “patriotic” event at the White House.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Half-baked? The Supreme Court decision on Masterpiece Cakeshop

  The U.S. Supreme Court decided to “punt” last week on one of its most controversial cases of the year, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission — choosing a narrow legal rationale rather than the larger issue weighing laws on discrimination versus freedom of religion.

  In doing so, the court made “moot” many of the countless arguments, think pieces, and debates about how the Court’s decision might reshape the landscape of gay rights and religious freedom in the United States.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse – Analysis of the gubernatorial primaries

  Now that the dust has settled from last week’s gubernatorial primaries, let’s analyze the outcomes.

  Governor Kay Ivey and Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox won very impressive victories. Ms. Ivey beat three well-financed opponents without a runoff. She trounced them. She garnered 56 percent of the vote to 25 percent for Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. Evangelist Scott Dawson and Mobile Senator Bill Hightower brought up the rear with 13 percent and 5 percent respectively. All three men worked hard and raised money. It was a daunting task to attempt to defeat a sitting governor.

  The challenge now goes to youthful, vibrant, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox, who captured the Democratic nomination with a brilliant and impressive victory.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Jacob Hornberger: The bizarre Trump-Kim summit

  Overlooked in all of the hullabaloo over the summit in North Korea between President Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un are two bizarre things: One, the U.S. government is the root cause of the crisis that Trump is trying to resolve and, two, the fact that South Korean president Moon Jae-in is not an equal player in the summit.

  It’s important to remind ourselves of fundamentals. The Korean War was always been between North Korea and South Korea. It was never a war between North Korea and the United States. That is, North Korea never attacked the United States and it never invaded the United States. In 1950, North Korea attacked and invaded South Korea in an attempt to unify the country under communist rule. Thus, the war has always been a civil war between two halves of what used to be one country (just like the Vietnam War).

Monday, June 11, 2018

Executed for committing war crimes — then honored with a Confederate monument

  We’ve seen the monuments to Jefferson Davis. We’ve seen the ones to Robert E. Lee. But why is there a monument to a Confederate captain executed for war crimes?

  Captain Henry Wirz took command of a Confederate prisoner-of-war camp in Andersonville, Georgia, in 1864. The camp was originally intended to be a temporary holding pen for prisoners who would be exchanged with the Union. It was nothing more than an open-air stockade.

  But within six months of its establishment, Camp Sumter was holding 32,000 Union soldiers. Technically, it was the fifth largest city in the Confederacy.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Laurence M. Vance: A divergent convergence of epic proportions

  Social Security is in dire straits. Payroll tax increases and benefit cuts are on the horizon.

  According to the latest annual report by the Social Security Board of Trustees (“The 2017 Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Federal Disability Insurance Trust Funds”), Social Security’s combined trust funds face depletion in 2034, which means that 23 percent of benefits would lack financing.

  That results from a number of divergent factors.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1617 - Fear is powerful!

  Fear is powerful. Fear moves powerfully. Fear can be powerfully destructive. Fear can make us powerfully irrational. Fear is on the loose. Fear is everywhere. Fear is powerful.

  Dr. Robert White, an Alabama State University professor, says that most Black people are fearful. Fear is why Black people cannot overcome White supremacy, both past and present. He speaks of how fear is deeply embedded in our culture because of the violence of slavery, oppression of segregation, and the terror of lynching. Fear makes us turn on each other rather than to each other.

  I know fear firsthand. I know how fear can make us irrational – powerfully irrational. I want to share with you one firsthand experience with fear. It was fifty years ago, but I can still feel the fear, smell the fear, and sense the fear.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Jacob G. Hornberger: Do we still need the Bill of Rights?

  When you think about it, the U.S. Bill of Rights constitutes one gigantic insult against the Pentagon, the CIA, the NSA, and the FBI — yes, the very people that Americans profusely thank for “their service.” That’s because the Bill of Rights implicitly accuses these entities of being grave threats to the rights and freedoms of the American people.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

The UN just published a scathing indictment of U.S. poverty

  The United Nations has released a scathing report on poverty and inequality in the United States. The findings, which will be presented to the U.N. Human Rights Council on June 21, follow an official visit to the United States by Philip Alston, the U.N. special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, to investigate whether economic insecurity in the country undermines human rights.

  The conclusions are damning. “The United States already leads the developed world in income and wealth inequality, and it is now moving full steam ahead to make itself even more unequal,” the report concludes. “High child and youth poverty rates perpetuate the intergenerational transmission of poverty very effectively, and ensure that the American dream is rapidly becoming the American illusion.”

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Buck’s Pocket

  You voted Tuesday on a crowded ballot.

  Historically in Alabama we have voted more heavily in our governor’s race year than in a presidential year. That is probably because we were more interested in the local sheriff and probate judge’s races, which run in a gubernatorial year, than who is president. The old adage, “all politics is local,” definitely applies in our state.

  We not only have a governor’s race this year, we have all secondary statewide offices - with a good many of them open - including lieutenant governor, attorney general, state treasurer, state auditor, and two seats on the Public Service Commission. We have five seats on the Alabama Supreme Court, one being Chief Justice. All 140 seats in the Alabama Legislature are up for a four-year term. These 35 state Senate seats and 105 House contests are where most of the special interest PAC money will go. And, yes, we have 67 sheriffs and 68 probate judges as well as a lot of circuit judgeships on the ballot.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

An ongoing outrage, a tragedy — and a puzzling farce

  The reports came like thunderbolts last week: Another journalist beaten to death in Mexico. Two journalists killed in the United States while reporting on a dangerous storm. And a Russian journalist assassinated in Ukraine.

  An ongoing outrage. A terrible tragedy. And — as it developed in Kiev — a puzzling farce.

  The body of Hector Gonzalez Antonio, a correspondent for national daily newspaper Excelsior, was found in Ciudad Victoria, in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas, the sixth journalist killed in the country this year and the second found beaten to death in the last two weeks.

  At least nine journalists were murdered in Mexico in 2017, according to the international group Committee to Protect Journalists.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Jason Fernandes: The fight against cash bail is officially mainstream

  A few weeks ago, Google announced that it would no longer allow bail bond providers to advertise on their platform. The company pointed out that the $2 billion bail bond industry profits off “communities of color and low-income neighborhoods when they are at their most vulnerable,” and said its decision will help protect users from “deceptive or harmful products.”

  Google credited an odd arrangement of organizations for helping them with the decision, including the Essie Justice Group, a collective of women seeking to end mass incarceration, and Koch Industries, a multinational conglomerate run by the richest oil tycoons in the country.

  Facebook announced later that day that it would also ban bail bond ads, but that the details were “still being worked out.”

Sunday, June 3, 2018

On the far-right, Roseanne's cancellation isn't funny

  Roseanne always tried to walk a comedic edge. But, in a tweet about a former aide to President Barack Obama, that edge cut her.

  Now, the far right and the alt-right are trying to stop the bleeding and defend a racist tweet.

  “Roseanne learned today, like most of us, that Valerie Jarret identifies as black. Surprise!” conspiracy theorist and right-wing commentator Mark Dice tweeted.

  Barr is known to traffic in conspiracy theories, racist tweets and questionable comments online, but the tweet that did her in showed former Obama assistant Valerie Jarrett side by side with an ape.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Parker Snider: State elections matter more than most think

  Washington, D.C. – one of the most visited cities in the world – oozes a sense of superiority and power. How could it not? Our nation’s Capitol building is truly enormous, the Secret Service and Capitol police carry rifles regularly, and the President of the most powerful country in the world lives within its borders.

  Anyone, whether a visitor, summer intern, or permanent resident, feels that they are amongst the most formidable and important people in the world when in Washington.

  This sentiment is mostly true. The President, Congress, and Supreme Court do wield great authority and power to influence our lives – if they choose to use it.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Richard M. Ebeling: The myth that central banks assure economic stability

  The world has been plagued with periodic bouts of the economic rollercoaster of booms and busts, inflations and recessions, especially during the last one hundred years. The main culprits responsible for these destabilizing and disruptive episodes have been governments and their central banks. They have monopolized the control of their respective nation’s monetary and banking systems and have mismanaged them. There is really nowhere else to point other than in their direction.

  Yet to listen to some prominent and respected writers on these matters, government has been the stabilizer and free markets have been the disturber of economic order. A recent instance of this line of reasoning is a short article by Robert Skidelsky on “Why Reinvent the Monetary Wheel?” Dr. Skidelsky is the noted author of a three-volume biography of John Maynard Keynes and a leading voice on public policy issues in Great Britain.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

"He needs long-term care. Apparently we don't have that in the state of Mississippi."

  Tyler Haire was 16 when he was locked up. He was 20 before he went to trial.

  Tyler spent 1,266 days in the Calhoun County jail in Pittsboro, Mississippi, waiting for a mental health evaluation. He had called 911 on Nov. 17, 2012. When police came, they arrested him for stabbing his father’s girlfriend.

  Once in jail, he colored pictures of dragons and aliens for the sheriff and his deputies. Sitting in front of the television, Tyler held his feet and rocked back and forth. He misspelled his own name in two different court documents. He went without any of his prescriptions. He lost 90 pounds.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse – What Richard Shelby's committee chairmanship means for Alabama

  In my book, “Of Goats and Governors: Six Decades of Alabama Political Stories,” I suggest that based on seniority, tenure, power, and prestige that Alabama’s greatest senators have been Lister Hill, John Sparkman, and Richard Shelby.

  Folks, Richard Shelby has probably risen to the front of that triumvirate with his elevation in April to the chairmanship of the Senate Appropriations Committee. 

  The Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee makes the ultimate decision about how every federal dollar is spent. Alabama has never had a U.S. Senate Appropriations Chairman in our 200-year history.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Growing up as a child of the Little Rock Nine

  On May 27, 1958, Ernest Green became the first black student to graduate from Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas. He was among the group of black teens - known as the Little Rock Nine - who had integrated the school in 1957.

  Sixty years later, we sat down with Green and his daughter, MacKenzie Green, to talk about graduation, Hollywood, and activism today. We conducted the interviews separately but asked them the same questions. Their responses have been edited and condensed, and are presented together.

MacKenzie, what is it like being the child of one of the Little Rock Nine?

  MacKenzie Green: It’s funny because it’s not pressure from him; it’s pressure from me once I figured out who he was. Because it’s not like I grew up with him being like, “I’m Ernest Green, capital E, capital G,” no, it was — he was dad.

  Ernest Green: She’s absorbed this legacy and the history, and she wanted to be her own person. That’s kind of where I started out. I wanted to be my own person. I believed that [Little Rock] Central High at the time offered the best alternative for me, and I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t there.

Ernest, how did you end up attending Little Rock Central High School?

  EG: This was three years after the Brown [v. Board of Education] decision. The Little Rock school board was under a court order to desegregate in 1957, and spring of ‘57 I decided that I wanted to transfer. I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the process. All I did was to sign a piece of paper that I was willing to be a transfer student. I lived in the Central district, and I sort of left it at that.

What did your parents think?

  EG: My dad had passed, and my mother and my aunt were both schoolteachers. My grandfather was a retired letter carrier. I’m certain they had reservations about my going there, but they never imposed that on my decision. They said they would support me as much as I needed support, and that they were standing behind me. They didn’t think I was making a wrongheaded decision, but I’m certain they took some negative responses from people in the community because everybody in the black community wasn’t sold that this was something they wanted to support.

What kind of pushback did you receive?

  EG: I had a job for the summer as a locker room attendant at the country club. Sometime during the middle of the summer, the school board published the names of the students who were eligible to transfer, and I suspect that they did that to try to intimidate and whittle down the numbers. Of course, that’s what occurred. But while I was working at the country club, I had developed a friendship with one of the members’ sons who was about my age. The day they published my name in the paper, he came screaming into the locker room, very upset, agitated, wanted to know how I could do that. “You seemed like such a nice guy!” So that gave me some indication that this was not going to be a day at the beach, but we clearly didn’t anticipate that they were going to call out troops to bar our entrance.

What has it been like watching MacKenzie get an education in a system very different from the one you integrated?

  EG: It’s what I thought we were fighting to change.

  MG: I just finished my MBA at Columbia, and I remember the last day of orientation fell on the same day as the first day that he got to [Little Rock] Central High. I remember sitting there with one of my classmates and saying, you know, “This is kind of heavy.” I said, “I am starting at this Ivy League institution that didn’t take people who looked like me, and getting a degree that most people that look like me still don’t get.”

  EG: It’s rewarding to see that they don’t have to go through the same hassle that I had at their age. That’s the outcome we wanted to see occur.

  MG: It was a weird time to drop into Columbia, though, because you had the beginning of Black Lives Matter, and then the [2016] election. Sometimes, my peers would look at me for a perfect answer, or to be stressed or outraged. I was actually having a fight with a classmate recently, who was like, “I’m so stressed!” And I said, “That’s not a choice. That’s a state of paralysis that I can’t be in with you.”

MacKenzie, what’s next now that you’ve graduated from Columbia?

  MG: I looked around and said, “Why are there no black people? Why are there no women?” And I thought, “Oh my God, Hollywood!” It’s entertainment, it’s this world where there’s another glass ceiling — in my case a stained glass ceiling — to be broken. Sometimes he’ll look at me and say, “You know you don’t have to be the first at something. You know you can just find something you like,” and I’m like, “Well, I knew you'd say that,” and I go, “But for me, I’ll feel disappointed if you did all of this and then people are like, ‘Well what became of his daughter?’ and they’re like, ‘I heard she’s a really great soulcycle instructor!’”

  EG: MacKenzie has a lot to say. She really knows the subject matter, and I’m proud of what she’s achieved.

  MG: During my time at Columbia, I interned at a bunch of different entertainment brands, Harper’s Bazaar, Paramount Pictures, NBC Universal, so eventually my dream of all dreams is to be the chief marketing officer of a Hollywood studio. I just think there’s something very poetic and beautiful about an industry that was built on “Birth of a Nation” eventually having somebody sitting there looking like the faces that they said were going to destroy the business.

  EG: She has the vision, she has the energy, and I think she has the intelligence that she can achieve that.

  MG: Actually one of his gifts to me when I got the Paramount gig was a “Birth of a Nation” vintage poster. He was like, “When you’re ready, we’ll get it framed and put it up in your office right next to your Columbia MBA.”

  EG: I think she’s the kind of person that needs to be there.

Ernest, what was it like watching MacKenzie graduate from Columbia?

  EG: She’s a lady with a mission. She’s staying on point and trying to complete the things she wants to do.

  MG: There is no finish line to this. My dad taught me that the first one through the wall is the bloodiest.

  EG: I’m sure there’s somebody right now in Little Rock who thinks that we brought down the bubonic plague, we nine, but all you can do is just continue to push.

What was your graduation from Little Rock Central High School like?

  EG: Principal Matthews told me I didn’t have to attend the ceremony, that they would mail me my diploma. I thought about that for about half a millisecond. I didn’t go through all this not to participate in it. The night of the ceremony, they called out all the students who had received awards and scholarships, and I had received a scholarship from Michigan State. They didn’t cite me.

  MG: I was talking about this with my dad today, and he said, “I went to my 50th high school reunion” — not the anniversary of the Little Rock Nine [integrating the high school], but his actual senior high school reunion — and he said, “There was not a single person who was at that 50th reunion who did not think me going to Little Rock was the greatest thing that ever happened. They were so happy I was there, everybody was apparently my friend.” And he says, “That’s the funny thing about right now,” he goes, “Yes, there’s divisiveness, there is fighting, there are these moments of complete and total chaos, but I can guarantee you when, God willing, we have the 60th anniversary of the Colin Kaepernick kneel, people will be sitting around and saying, “I’ve always thought it was the greatest idea ever. I just thought it was so brave.”

  EG: I think there’s no reason to let up and not continue to push.

Especially when Martin Luther King Jr. personally attended your high school graduation.

  EG: Unbeknownst to me, Dr. King was speaking at Pine Bluff, Arkansas, which is 35 to 40 miles from Little Rock, and he wanted to come up and witness my graduation. He was close to Mrs. Bates, who was the head of the NAACP. This was the beginning of his career, so it’s almost impossible for anybody of this generation to believe anybody didn’t know who Dr. King was, but in fact, I’ve always said if local police had known who he was they probably wouldn’t have allowed him into the ceremony. Anyway, he sat with my mother and aunt and grandfather. Afterward, we had a chance to get together briefly. I had a party at the house and after, we said our hellos and all that. I’m a 16-year-old teenager that just graduated from high school, so I was more interested in hanging out with my friends.

  MG: But you know, he didn’t stop. He got to Lehman Brothers and looked at young black men who were coming in, and people would say, “I don’t think he has the potential,” and he’d say, “I see potential. I’m willing to take him on.”

  EG: I feel really recognized that Martin Luther King attended my high school graduation. My mother kept a diary of gifts and things I received, and in that diary is a notation of M.L. King of Montgomery, Alabama. He wrote a check for $15. I’m pretty certain I’m in some very rare company there.

Ernest, how did you juggle carrying on a civil rights legacy with raising small children?

  EG: We really didn’t start getting this kind of recognition until the 25th or 30th anniversary.

  MG: It didn’t seem strange to me that my father had to travel a lot during February, or that sometimes when I picked up the phone and said hello, it’d be like, “This is a call from the White House,” and I’d be like “Dad, it’s for you!” These things felt normal because he created a sense of normalcy. And yet he was on a plane traveling the world! But he traveled with my storybooks and read them to me every night.

  EG: Partly you’ve got duties as a parent, so some of that doesn’t interfere with the weight of history. But I’ve always said that I’m the oldest show-and-tell for each of my kids, from kindergarten through to graduate school. So I’ve gotten used to it.

  MG: I remember I didn’t know he’d been at Nelson Mandela’s inauguration, but he got home on a redeye, slept in the living room in his suit, woke me up the next morning to go to swim practice, and sat through the entirety of practice at 6 o’clock in the morning. He never said like, “Oh, honey, mom’s gonna have to take you to swim practice, I’m so tired, I was at Nelson Mandela’s inauguration.” It’s like, “She’s 8! She doesn’t know or care about any of this, this isn’t what she’s going to remember.”

  EG: We attended a lot of swim practices. But if she was willing to work that hard at it, there’s no reason I couldn’t get up and get her to events and practices and meets. I’ve been to more horse shows and swim meets than any other American I think.

  MG: I’m very good friends with Andy Young’s granddaughter — she and I grew up together — and we used to always tell our peers, “Our parents are alive, as are your parents and your grandparents, and they had an opinion on my father and her grandfather.” And I think now is that time when history is being created where I’m like, “You’re picking the stories you’re either going choose to omit to your grandchildren or the stories you’re going to be proud to tell.”

  EG: I call it the microwave generation, in which you put something in and it pops out in ten seconds. That’s not the case here.

  MG: I think the interesting thing is how the trials of now have created potential for the next generation of great thought leaders and activists to step into their own.

  EG: I always saw it as a very long-term situation. If those who had some opportunity to influence the opinions of other students [at Little Rock Central High] had spoken up a little more, it probably wouldn’t have been as tough a year for us as it turned out to be. I think we’re going to experience this for some while, that the pioneers are the ones who have to create the road and the path and all that.

  MG: That’s what I would hope to impart to my children: that the first step towards change is not easy, but you create an opportunity busting through that wall for others to come behind you.

  EG: [MacKenzie] understands the importance of it. I’m going to be a supporter of hers to the very end.

  This article was published by the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Michael Josephson: Memorial Day, a Day of Remembrance

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

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

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

Sunday, May 27, 2018

How Trump can still win his Nobel on Korea

  All is not lost. Despite the fact that President Trump has canceled his much-ballyhooed summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jung Un, the president and his army of Trumpsters and Trumpistas need not despair. There is still an opportunity for him to win his Nobel Prize for Peace.

  First things first, however.

  In 1962, a Cold War curmudgeon named Fred Schwarz published a book entitled "You Can Trust the Communists (to be Communists)". The idea behind the book, of course, was not that you could really trust the communists. The point was the exact opposite. Communists could not be trusted at all, on anything, especially since they were hell-bent on one overarching goal: to turn America Red.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Four principles for a free community college program that works for all

  Over the last several years, 16 states have implemented free or debt-free community college programs to ease the financial burden on students. These programs recognize that community colleges are an on-ramp to postsecondary education for millions of students, especially students of color.

  New Jersey and Connecticut are currently considering their own free community college legislation. Legislators there should look to how other states have implemented similar legislation in the past and build on the successes of current state programs. But policymakers must also ensure their proposals are not overly restrictive or based on inaccurate assumptions about students. To that end, policymakers in all states should consider the following four key principles in designing new proposals for a free community college system that works for every student.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Civil asset forfeiture and the Alabama Attorney General race

  An unlikely dynamic has emerged in the Alabama Attorney General’s race:  three of the four Republicans running and both Democrats have acknowledged that one of the most powerful local law enforcement tools, the authority to confiscate property from citizens without charging them with a crime, raises serious constitutional questions. Even the lone defender of the status quo, interim Attorney General Steve Marshall, concedes that the public is entitled to more information about how this process known as civil forfeiture works and what happens to cash and property once they fall into the arms of local authorities.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Jacob G. Hornberger: Time to end foreign aid to Israel (and everyone else)

  Given the recent shooting of unarmed Palestinian protestors at the hands of Israeli soldiers, leaving 58 people killed and 2,700 injured, isn’t it time for the American people to be asking the following question about the role of the federal government in the lives of the American people: Why should any American be forced to subsidize the salaries of the Israeli soldiers who did the shooting and the rifles and bullets they used in the massacre?

  I am referring, of course, to “foreign aid,” the federal program by which American citizens are forced to fund foreign regimes that many would choose not to fund if they had a choice.

  Even those who support the deadly mayhem in Gaza nonetheless would be hard-pressed to explain why anyone should be forced to fund something that violates his own conscience.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse – Less than two weeks to the primaries: The governor’s race

  As we get down to the lick log in the 2018 June primaries, there are few if any surprises brewing in any of the major state races. Polling indicates that all of the contests are about where they were three or four months ago when the races began.

  There is a tremendous amount of apathy and indifference as we head into the final days. This lack of enthusiasm has also affected fundraising. Most of the high-profile races have not attracted the level of spending as races in the past.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Calling people 'animals' is dangerous — and we've seen it before

  President Trump said at a conference on sanctuary cities last week: “These are not people. These are animals.”

  His insinuation that immigration status or criminal record somehow determines humanity is not only appalling — it’s dangerous.

  We’ve heard this dehumanizing rhetoric before.

  During the Holocaust, the Nazis called Jews Untermenschen — subhumans. Before the Rwandan genocide, Tutsis were called “cockroaches.” And just recently in our own country, we learned that extremists behind a bomb plot to kill Somali Muslims called their intended victims “cockroaches.”

Monday, May 21, 2018

Jacob G. Hornberger: A Nobel Prize for death to Trump

  Trumpsters are hoping that President Trump is able to enter into a peace treaty with North Korea that brings an end to the Korean War. If Trump is successful, the Trumpsters say, then he should receive the Nobel Prize for Peace.

  Actually, if such a peace treaty does come to pass, it would be more appropriate for Trump to receive the Nobel Prize for Death.

  After all, the Trumpsters are praising Trump for pressuring North Korea into coming to the negotiating table. Let’s assume they are right. What pressure are they referring to?

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Two states are pushing laws to criminalize some protests

  Rightly or wrongly, certain First Amendment issues tend to dominate the national conversation more than others. Bring up President Trump’s tweets criticizing the news media, college campus protests of controversial speakers, or the possibility of the government regulating Facebook and you’re bound to inspire a rousing and possibly heated discussion. Mention that state laws protecting critical infrastructure might actually erode the right to assemble and you’re more likely to get blank stares and a hasty topic change. After all, it’s an issue that combines the freedom of assembly, which barely anyone knows about, with state and local law, which barely anyone cares about. Throw in the word “infrastructure” and it’s practically anti-clickbait.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1614 - I appreciate teachers!

  I appreciate teachers. I struggled with teachers, but I appreciate teachers. I even fought with teachers, but I appreciate teachers. This week includes National Teachers’ Day and it is National Teacher Appreciation Week. It gives me a ready-made opportunity to express my profound appreciation for teachers.

  Teaching is one of the most important vocations in our society. In fact, it is a special calling. It is a calling that touches, shapes, and molds young minds for better or for worse. No other vocation provides such an opportunity to touch young, growing minds. Teachers often spend more time with our children than we do. Teaching is a precious gift.

Friday, May 18, 2018

When calling yourself a fascist is "edgy"

  A copy of Mein Kampf. A photo of Timothy McVeigh. A North Korean flag over the couch. An American flag for a doormat. And over the kitchen table, a banner for the hate group Atomwaffen Division.

  The four young men who shared this apartment in Florida got there by way of the internet.

  It started with video games. That led to 4chan, which led to the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website so extreme its followers recently bombarded a Jewish woman and her family with hundreds of threats like, “Put your uppity slut wife Tanya back in her cage, you rat-faced kike. … Day of the rope soon for your entire family.”

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Conservatives, we must be willing to talk about race

  I’m a proud product of public schools. My teachers were dedicated, the curriculum challenging, and the fierce competition between friends forced me to study harder.

  I do have one qualm, though. Thanks to historically-selective textbooks, I remember next to nothing of our nation’s history between the Civil War and World War I. My knowledge of that era is essentially three things: railroads, long-bearded presidents, and Henry Ford’s invention of the Model T.

  I don’t think I’m alone in encountering this knowledge gap. Thankfully, a new museum and memorial in Montgomery fills in some of the spaces left out of my historical timeline and beyond. The memorial demonstrates that, although formally war-less, these decades were anything but peaceful or boring. In fact, many Southerners faced a frightening reality during that period—a reality characterized by racial terrorism.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Secondary statewide races on ballot this year

  Folks, we are less than three weeks away from our June 5th primaries. Besides the governor’s race, all of our secondary state constitutional races are on the ballot.

  As we head into the home stretch, there appears to be very little interest in the primary elections. People seem disinterested and disillusioned. There have been a good many scandals and ethics convictions over the past quadrennium, which has put a damper on the enthusiasm generally associated with a gubernatorial election year. Even fundraising has been down considerably.

  This voting ambivalence will result in a lower than normal turnout. This will be an advantage for incumbents and those with name identification.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

President’s press credential threat will be ‘trumped’ by the First Amendment

  Donald Trump can fantasize all he wants about taking away White House press credentials from news outlets that he doesn’t like.

  It’s unpleasant for the journalists in Trump’s crosshairs to hear such bluster, but journalists and free press advocates ought not to even imagine a moment when, in misplaced solidarity, they all walk out of the White House press room in protest over even one credential being pulled.

  As strong a message as one hopes that would send to the nation, we must remember that Trump can’t really extinguish the constitutionally protected role of journalists as “watchdogs” — but journalists, in a moment of anger and hubris, could abandon it.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Craig Ford: Alabama wants its own bridge to nowhere

  You may have seen ads on TV recently talking about a bridge project in South Alabama. If you hadn’t heard of this project before those ads, you’re not alone.

  Most people, including legislators, were not aware of the plans to build this $87 million taxpayer-funded bridge to nowhere that even many Baldwin County residents are opposed to.

  So what exactly is this bridge, and why are some state leaders pushing it?

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Jacob G. Hornberger: The pathetic U.S. golden dollar

  I recently received a U.S. golden dollar from a vending machine. What a pathetic thing. Golden in color, Wikipedia reports that it actually has “a copper core clad by manganese brass.”

  Needless to say, this golden coin is nothing like the gold coins that, along with silver coins, were the official money of the American people for more than a hundred years. The gold coins that Americans used throughout the 1800s and into the early 1900s were real gold coins, not alloyed coins consisting of base metals, like today’s golden coin.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Supreme Court could make unions a lot more radical

  Fed up with the harsh conditions under which they were forced to labor, workers from West Virginia decided to call it quits. Together, they left their jobs, donned red bandanas, and amassed 10,000 strong near Blair Mountain, where a local sheriff had assembled a 3,000-man force of police, hired security, and militia to put them down.

  No, this isn’t the recent West Virginia teachers strike — it’s a 1921 coal miners strike, which escalated into what would come to be known as the Battle of Blair Mountain. The two sides battled for five days until more than 2,000 additional U.S. Army troops entered the fray to crush the workers' rebellion. Up to 100 laborers were killed, hundreds more were injured, and more than 1,000 were arrested. While the uprising seems like an episode relegated to the largely forgotten labor wars of past, the Supreme Court’s upcoming decision on Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) may make such conflicts part of the future for unions once again.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1613 - Unveiling history to heal and lift

  It was informative. It was enlightening. It was painful. It was profound. It was powerful. I am writing about my visit to the opening of the Legacy Museum and the unveiling of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, both located in Montgomery, Alabama. It is an experience to remember.

  The Legacy Museum was wonderfully presented in holograms, photos, newspaper headlines and articles, plaques, jars of dirt and much more. It traces the pain and degradation and oppression of slavery. It also traces the long reach of slavery and white supremacy through the following: segregation; forced labor; Black codes; lynchings; mass incarceration; police killings; and more. The National Memorial for Peace and Justice documents the scope and brutality of lynching in a unique and powerful way. Each exhibit is informative, enlightening, painful, profound and powerful. Together they are overpowering.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Laurence M. Vance: People who really deserve a Trump pardon

  President Trump has issued three presidential pardons in the fifteen months he has been in office.

  According to Article 2, Section 2, Clause 1 of the Constitution, the president “shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States except in cases of impeachment.” According to the case of Ex parte Garland (1867), the scope of the president’s pardon power is quite broad. And according to United States v. Klein (1871), Congress cannot limit the president’s grant of an amnesty or pardon.

  On August 25, 2017, Trump pardoned Joseph M. Arpaio, the longtime sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, for his conviction for criminal contempt of court on July 31, 2017. He had not yet been sentenced.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse – Low voter turnout expected for primaries

  We are less than four weeks away from our June 5th primary. Those of us who follow Alabama politics have pointed to this year as being a very entertaining and interesting gubernatorial year. However, last year’s resignation by Gov. Robert Bentley and the ascension of Kay Ivey from lieutenant governor to the governor’s office has put a damper on the excitement we anticipated in the governor’s race. 

  Kay took over the reins of state government and her appearance as a seasoned veteran of state politics seems to resonate with voters. Polling indicates that the governor’s race is hers to lose.  Therefore, the less she does, the better.  Her support is a mile wide and an inch deep.  A slip and fall could derail her train.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Journalists being killed, jailed, threatened – and that’s no joke

  Ten journalists were killed in a series of attacks May 1 in Afghanistan. The week prior, 14 journalists from Turkey’s leading opposition newspaper, Cumhuriyet, were given lengthy jail terms after a show trial based on trumped-up charges. Nine Turkish journalists who worked for Zaman, Turkey’s most widely-read newspaper until it was shuttered by the government, now face life sentences simply for writing columns critical of the government.

  And already this year, at least 26 journalists worldwide have been killed — some in conflict areas but many targeted for murder — according to tallies by the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders.

  For Americans, that ought to bring sobering perspective – and a refocusing – after the recent burst of media hand-wringing over a barbed routine by comedian Michelle Wolf at the annual White House Correspondents Dinner.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Advancing RBG’s vision of equality in the Trump Age

  Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has spent her career in unwavering pursuit of equality for women. A biopic of her life, now screening across the country, has been released at a pivotal time for all women—particularly for the Millennial women who adopted her as their icon.

  This generation does not know a world without the advances achieved by the woman affectionately dubbed RBG. But as the country faces significant rollbacks of gender equality laws and conservatives relentlessly work to distort the push for greater equality as unfair or “special treatment,” Millennial women are perfectly poised to use RBG’s framework of equality not only to resist such dangerous regressions but also to push progress even further.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

What Ben Carson doesn’t get about poverty

  “The prescription for the cure rests with the accurate diagnosis of the disease.”

  Apply Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words to Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson’s latest plan and you’ll see just how brainless public housing policy could become.

  Carson has unveiled a plan that would, among other things, triple the minimum rent for the poorest public housing residents—from $50 to $150. The change would affect an estimated 1.7 million people, 1 million of whom are children.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Craig Ford: Alabama’s pre-K program continues to lead the nation, but thousands of kids still don’t have access

  When I was growing up, kids didn’t start learning the alphabet until they began kindergarten. Today, kids are expected to be able to write their names and read at least some words before they even begin kindergarten.

  The expectations are higher, and starting off behind everyone else in their class can leave a kid feeling frustrated and affect their self-esteem. Trying to catch up to their classmates can be difficult, and it is hard for teachers and students when some students are ahead of others.

  This is why Alabama’s pre-K program is so important. And the program’s success is undeniable.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1612: Rev. Dr. F.D. Reese has marched his last march

  Rev. Doctor Frederick Douglas Reese marched his last march on April 5, 2018. He marched from the Earthly Realm into the Upper Realm. He joyfully joined other members of the Courageous Eight. They had already marched their last march.

  I want to lift Rev. Dr. F.D. Reese. I want to also lift the Courageous Eight as I lift Dr. Reese. First, let me tell you about the Courageous Eight. Their names, in alphabetical order, are Ulysses Blackmon, Amelia Boynton-Robinson, Ernest Doyle, Marie Foster, James Gildersleeve, J.D. Hunter, F.D. Reese, and Henry Shannon. Names are important but do not tell us nearly enough. All eight marched for freedom. All eight fought for justice. All eight have marched their last march.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Ban committee-related campaign contributions to state legislators

  Americans deserve elected officials who fairly represent them and fight for their interests, but too often they lose out to wealthy special interests who can make large campaign contributions to lawmakers. State leaders should fight for strong, clear anti-corruption solutions, including a policy that bars state lawmakers from accepting contributions from special interests with business before the legislative committees on which they sit. Voters overwhelmingly support breaking the link between committee membership and fundraising. 88 percent of voters—including 86 percent of Trump voters—said that they favor barring congressional committee members from raising money from corporations or special interests that fall under the jurisdiction of their committees.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse – Court of Appeals races on the ballot this year

  Alabama's Court of Civil Appeals and Criminal Appeals have several members up for election this year. The folks who sit on these courts essentially have zero name identification. Even when polling is done soon after Alabamians have voted for them, Alabama voters still cannot identify them.

  These courts do just what their name implies. They hear appeals from civil and criminal cases from around the state. They deflect a lot of cases from getting to the Alabama Supreme Court. Most states have these appellate courts. They are similar to and derived from the federal appellate courts.

  Alabama is in the minority of states that elect these judges. All of our judges in Alabama are elected, not only the Supreme and Appellate Court jurists, but also our local Circuit and District Judges. Judges in most states are appointed – usually by the governor. The crafters of our 1901 Constitution gave the people the right to vote on judges, a deference from having a powerful governor.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Parker Snider: When the government tells us no

  Sometimes the government tells us no.

  I’m not allowed to sit in the Oval Office and watch President Trump mull over Fox and Friends, ready to Tweet at a moment’s notice. I (begrudgingly) accept that. I also can’t read classified intelligence briefings or call a special session of the Alabama Legislature. I could ask, but I’m quite sure I’d be told no.

  Even so, in the United States, especially when compared to other nations, the government tells us no relatively rarely.

  Sometimes, however, our government tells us no in a most sinister fashion, by disallowing us to use our skills, experience, and knowledge to work.

Monday, April 30, 2018

We know the citizenship question will hurt the census. Alabama already tried it.

  Common sense tells you that adding a question to the 2020 Census asking about citizenship status will depress response rates from an immigrant community already traumatized by President Trump’s incendiary rhetoric and deportation machinery. But common sense was not enough for the Trump administration.

  Certainly, it was not enough for Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, whose department is responsible for administering the census and who has bowed to pressure from the Justice Department to include a citizenship question. Refusing to acknowledge the question’s predictable impact, Ross has instead insisted that “no one [has] provided evidence that reinstating a citizenship question on the decennial census would materially decrease response rates.”

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Hannity Hassle: Let’s apply ‘The Five W’s and How’

  If the burning national question of the moment is whether Fox News Channel star Sean Hannity is a “journalist” or not, let’s use the long-held set of journalistic questions to investigate: The proverbial who, what, when, where, why and how?

  First, the “who”: Sean Patrick Hannity is a cable TV conservative talk show host and best-selling author. Most recently he is said to serve as an unpaid advisor to President Trump — some say that relationship is so close that he “has a desk” at the White House. Hannity was born in New York City and has spent much of his broadcast career there.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Confederate monuments are going down. Lynching memorials are going up.

  The markers are about the size of a man. The color of bricks made from Alabama’s red clay, they hang from the roof, one for every county in America where a person was lynched.

  Appearing first at eye level, the markers read like headstones. But as the floor descends, they hang ever more ominously overhead, until visitors are forced to crane their necks — like the spectators who once gawked at the mutilated bodies of the black men and women who had been hung.

  The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, the nation’s first major memorial to the victims of lynching during the era of Jim Crow, opened this week in Montgomery, Alabama. It’s intended to help our country confront the racial atrocities of the past so that we can begin the path toward reconciliation.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Alabama Supreme Court races on the ballot this year

  Among the plethora of races on the ballot this year are the important seats on the Alabama Supreme Court. We have an unprecedented five out of nine seats up for election.

  Our Alabama Supreme Court as well as our Court of Criminal Appeals are extremely conservative, pro-business, and all Republican.

  This conservatism dates back to the 1980s and 1990s. During that two-decade run, the plaintiff lawyers controlled and dominated our Supreme Court. We were known throughout the country as a plaintiff’s paradise. It was like a fairytale jackpot justice system. It was not uncommon for ludicrous multimillion-dollar verdicts to be upheld daily for all types of cases. We were called "Tort Hell" by Time Magazine.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Prince-DeVos plan to privatize American institutions

  Despite President Donald Trump’s pledge to “drain the swamp” in Washington, D.C., it often seems like he is creating one. Take Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater Worldwide—now known as Academi—and his sister, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who both are leading efforts to privatize American institutions.

  Recently, Prince, the current chair of Frontier Services Group, took center stage in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections. It appears that Prince served as then-President-elect Trump’s surrogate to establish a back channel to connect Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Parker Snider: A guide to fake news

  More than once every day.... That’s how often President Trump publicly calls something “fake”—be it a story, poll, or news organization.

  Just weeks ago, Facebook CEO and Founder Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress about, among other things, the proliferation of falsities on his social media platform, including in Alabama’s special election for U.S. Senate last year.

  We see the term everywhere, hear it lobbied daily on cable news, and use it ourselves (although perhaps often in jest).  But what really is fake news, and how do we spot it?

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Michael Josephson: The peculiar concept of “ethics laws”

  Cynicism about the ethics of elected officials may be at an all-time high, continually fueled by news stories of outright corruption or bad judgment. At every level of government there are politicians who can’t seem to recognize or resist conflicts of interest, inappropriate gifts, improper use of the power or property entrusted to them, or the discrediting impact of shameful private conduct.

  Thus, it’s no surprise that news media are continually shining a light on real and perceived improprieties and putting the heat on federal, state, and city legislatures to pass new and tougher ethics laws to restore public trust.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Joseph O. Patton: The Great Pretenders

  Every self-described progressive or person of conscience is quick to tell you how they support social justice and equality. I sure as hell do… and I’m not shy when it comes to expressing it. But what does it say about someone who only brandishes some type of righteous anger when a victim of discrimination or racial profiling looks like them or shares their sexuality, religious preference, gender or some other key characteristic?

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Andrew Sasser: The shared foundation of liberals and conservatives

  Political discussion in the United States is often framed by party allegiance. When people are asked to explain the rationale behind their choice to identify with a specific party, however, they often cannot give an answer beyond listing particular positions that they support or oppose. While an understanding of specific policies is important, limiting debate to the realm of policy misses out on the deeper questions that lie at the heart of any political society.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1610: I am not retiring; I am just not running again

  “What are you going to do now that you are retired?” I get some version of this question all the time. Therefore, I decided to write about this concern. I am not retired. I am not retiring.

  I announced in February that I would not run again. I had already qualified to run for a tenth term. I did not withdraw my candidacy before qualifying ended on February 9, 2018. In fact, I only withdrew my candidacy in early March. But I knew in my heart that it was time.

Friday, April 20, 2018

"The Civil War is over, the Confederacy lost and we are better for it."

  In five Southern states, we’re in the middle of Confederate History Month, a dubious designation that’s at odds with the reckoning the region has engaged in since the Charleston church massacre by white supremacist Dylann Roof in 2015.

  Roof’s act of terror began to shake the South out of its 150-year reverence for the Confederacy, a glorification cemented, in part, by the widespread installation of monuments that peaked during the period after Jim Crow was established, and again during the civil rights movement. As the nation mourned the victims in Charleston, grassroots organizers like Take ‘Em Down NOLA modeled the kind of work necessary to persuade local governments to remove these monuments to slavery, white supremacy, and oppression from public places.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Trump’s executive order on work requirements punishes low-income people for being poor

  President Trump is quietly curtailing access to social safety nets for our nation’s most vulnerable people.

  The executive order he signed last week requiring federal agencies to establish or strengthen work requirements for social services — and reports that his administration is considering a proposal that would allow states to require drug testing for food stamp recipients — is not only heartless, it’s also based on false premises, including the assumption that poor people do not work.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Legislative races to watch

  Our antiquated 1901 Constitution was designed to give inordinate power to the Alabama Legislature. During the Wallace years, the King of Alabama politics himself usurped this power and controlled the legislature from the state's executive branch. Over the last couple of decades, the legislature has wrestled this power back and pretty much excluded the governor from their bailiwick. Governors Bob Riley and Robert Bentley were ostracized and pretty much ignored. Their proposed budgets were instantaneously tossed into the nearest trashcan.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Craig Ford: How we can make our schools safer

  Education is the most important service our government provides, and one of the top issues impacting education is school safety.

  Unfortunately, it seems like every conversation about school safety always turns into a debate about guns, and nothing ever gets done.

  But there are a lot of things we can – and should – be doing to make our schools safer without even getting into the gun issue. In fact, mass shootings are only one threat to our schools. Kidnappings, sexual assaults, fights and bomb threats are also concerns, and none of those have anything to do with guns.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Trump, Pompeo, and Bolton: The path to war

  President Donald Trump is putting the United States on a dangerous path to devastating wars by shuffling his national security team to assemble a war Cabinet. To fill the position of America’s top diplomat, President Trump has chosen the hawkish current CIA Director Mike Pompeo—a man who notoriously prefers regime change to diplomacy. And newly appointed National Security Adviser John R. Bolton was one of the principal architects and defenders of the Iraq War; wants to abrogate the Iran deal; and appears eager to launch preventive military strikes against North Korea. Both Pompeo and Bolton replace less hawkish advisers and will enable the worst instincts of the already erratic and reckless President Trump. By nominating Pompeo and appointing Bolton, Trump has chosen a path that could lead to war.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Trump’s trade war destroys our freedom

  It is a fundamental economic axiom that trade raises people’s standard of living. That’s because in every trade, both traders are giving up something they value less for something they value more. As soon as a trade is completed, both actors have raised their standard of living based on their individual, subjective valuations.

  You go to the grocery store and spend $100.You gave up the $100 to get things (groceries) that you valued more than the money. Your standard of living just went up. So did the standard of living of the grocer. He gave up something he valued less (the groceries) for something he valued more (the money).

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Jacob G. Hornberger: Immigration militarism

  Immigration statists are celebrating! Their icon, President Trump, has granted them their long-held wish. He has announced that he intends to militarize the U.S.-Mexico border by dispatching U.S. troops to that part of the country. You know — to defend our borders and our national sovereignty and, of course, to protect us from all those illegal immigrants who are “invading” our country (and stealing our jobs).

  Trump and his acolytes have been terribly frustrated over his inability to get his infamous wall built along the border. Not only has Trump failed to persuade or force Mexico to pay for it, he’s also been unable to get Congress to do so.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Sinclair: Next time, just put your name to the message

  Sinclair Broadcasting’s recent promotional message on the state of today’s news — delivered to its TV audiences nationwide — is as protected by the First Amendment as it was an oafish attempt to hide corporate messaging under the veneer of local news reporting.

  In other words, it was commentary from a conservative company that has a First Amendment right to express its views, but it was also a shoddy tactic that undermined the very thing Sinclair’s leadership claimed to support: good journalism.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Intersection of youth activism and faith-based values

  At times, young activists have been accused of being apathetic to the world around them, but history shows that they have played an important role in efforts to achieve critical change through progressive social movements. Today, student activists—some of whom are motivated by their faith—continue to drive such movements. On March 24, 2018, more than one month after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla., students organized the March for Our Lives, a massive rally demanding policy change to prevent gun violence and increase public safety. With an estimated 800,000 people in Washington, D.C., joined by approximately 800 sister marches across the country and throughout the world, the March for Our Lives was one of the largest youth protests since the Vietnam War.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The Congressional race to watch in Alabama

  There are dramatic differences between our congressional delegation of the 1940s-1960s and our group on the Potomac today. Obviously, their partisan badges have changed, as have Alabamians. There is also a tremendous difference in power and seniority of that era versus today’s group. That bygone era of Alabama congressmen was very progressive and they were New Deal Democrats, whereas, our delegation today is one of the most conservative in America.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

We need Dr. King's radical vision. We don't need a convenient hero.

  It was storming the night Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his final speech in Memphis, a storm so thunderous it made him jump at the pulpit.

  It was storming again on the 50th anniversary of that speech, the night we arrived in Memphis to take part in the National Civil Rights Museum’s ceremony outside the Lorraine Motel, where King was assassinated in 1968.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Taylor’s Top Eight: End-of-session edition

  It’s been just over a week since the 2018 Regular Session of the Alabama Legislature came to an end. After marinating on this year’s 26 legislative days, here are my takeaways in the final legislative review for 2018.

  There were a few pieces of legislation for which our legislators deserve a round of applause.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Fifty years after Dr. King’s assassination: I remember most how he lived

  I remember the day like it was yesterday. I was walking across the Harvard Law School Yard. It was dust dark. A fellow Harvard Law School classmate was walking in the opposite direction. He just said, “They killed him.” He didn’t say who they killed, but I knew from the tone, inflection and weight in his voice. It was April 4, 1968. The “him” was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

  It has now been 50 years since that fateful day. I can still feel the intense pain. I can still feel the exploding hurt. I can still feel the profound loss. Still, I don’t want to focus on the terrible death on that one day. Rather, I want to focus on the life Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. lived during the 14,324 days starting January 15, 1929, his date of birth, and ending April 4, 1968, his date of death. It was truly an extraordinary life.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Jacob G. Hornberger: Show me your immigration plan

  Whenever liberals or conservatives tell you that they favor immigration controls, one way to stop them dead in their tracks is to say to them: Show me your plan.

  They will stare at you blankly. They will be dumbfounded. They won’t know what to say. It is likely that they will simply respond with something like, “A nation has the right to control its borders.”

  Okay, but what is your plan for making your system of immigration controls work? What is your plan for finally bringing an end to the ongoing, never-ending “immigration crisis” that has lasted for at least 70 years?

Friday, April 6, 2018

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1608: Our children are more powerful and smarter than we know

  Our children are powerful. Our children are far more powerful than we know. They can go where we cannot go. They can do what we cannot do. They can unleash explosive energies that seemed securely bound. They can move those of us who know we need to move but can’t move. Our children are more powerful than we know.

  The power of our children was on full display with the March for Our Lives. There were more than eight hundred thousand participants at just one march in Washington, D.C., our nation’s capitol. And there were more than eight hundred other marches around the world with hundreds of thousands of marchers. That’s great power. But the power of our children did not start with the children of today. It started a long time ago. I can’t go that far back, but I can personally go back more than half a century.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Craig Ford: The most important decision Alabama will make

  The Alabama Legislative Session has come to an end, but legislators won’t be the ones making the most important decision our government will make this year. The State Board of Education will make that decision in April when they choose our next State Superintendent of Education.

  For all of the high-profile issues that have been raised in this legislative session, public education is still the most important issue our state government is responsible for. The education budget is three times the size of the general fund budget, and what happens in education can impact everything else, including job creation and even prison overcrowding.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Makeup of Alabama Legislature unlikely to change this year

  Republicans took control of federal offices and presidential races in 1964 in Alabama. It was referred to as the Goldwater Landslide. The Baxley-Graddick fiasco in 1986 was the game changer for the governorship. In the last 32 years, there have been eight governor’s races. Republicans have won all of them, with one exception. Don Siegelman was an interloper in 1998.

  During that same period, Alabamians have elected all Republicans to every secondary statewide office. There are six secondary constitutional offices. All six are held by Republicans. There are nine justices on the Alabama Supreme Court. There are also 10 judges on the Civil and Criminal Courts of Appeals. These 19 judges are all Republicans. If you add the three seats on the Public Service Commission to this list and include the governor, that is 29 state offices. All 29 are held by Republicans. In addition, we have seven seats in Congress. Six out of seven of our Congressional members are Republicans. Folks, that makes us a pretty Republican state. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Gun violence expert explains the link between inequality and gun deaths

  Support for gun safety laws is at an all-time high. More Americans than ever supported new laws to reduce gun violence—including nearly 70 percent of adults and half of all Republicans. But gun safety measures, while critical, are only the tip of the iceberg in addressing gun violence in the country.

  In both the United States and globally, gun violence is strongly correlated with both poverty and inequality. A recent World Bank study found that inequality helped predict the difference in murder rates between states in the United States—as well as between countries. Suicides, which make up the majority of gun deaths in the country, skyrocket in times of economic distress. The Great Recession alone was linked to more than 10,000 suicides, according to one study.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Environmental safety changes are threatening children’s health

  Imagine learning that water from your tap might be harmful to your family’s health. Imagine that in addition to thinking about the food you feed your children—something you can try to control—you must worry about the water they use to brush their teeth and wash their faces before school. For the past three years, Amy Brown has done just that. When Brown received a letter in 2015 from the NC Department of Environmental Quality warning that her North Carolina home’s water could be contaminated with heavy metals such as lead and mercury, she stopped using it. Today, she and her family continue to use bottled water for basic necessities.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Jacob G. Hornberger: The best hope for Korea: The North Korean citizenry

  With President Trump’s appointment of John Bolton as his new “national security advisor,” don’t be surprised if the Trump administration again begins banging the war drums against North Korea. Bolton has expressed support for initiating an attack against North Korea if it refuses to dismantle its nuclear bombs and missiles. For what it’s worth, Bolton was also a fervent supporter of the U.S. government’s attack in 2003 on Iraq, a country that, like North Korea, never attacked the United States.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Efforts by anti-choice advocates to redefine and limit contraception

  The U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 landmark decision in Roe v. Wade was a critical step forward for women’s equality, establishing vital, constitutionally protected privacy rights that enable women to access abortion services. However, the ruling also became a target for anti-choice politicians and advocates to organize around. Since the Supreme Court’s decision, these groups’ attacks on abortion access have become an everyday reality that reproductive health advocates, providers, and patients must face. From targeted regulation of abortion provider (TRAP) laws to mandatory waiting periods and biased counseling, there is a well-organized and widespread effort to limit a woman’s ability to make decisions about her own reproductive health when it comes to pregnancy.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1607: Women are powerful!

  Women are powerful. We don’t really appreciate the power of women. We don’t understand or even perceive the real power of women. Even women don’t fully understand their power. We are all weaker for our failure to understand and value the power of women. The month of March is Women’s History Month. Therefore, I want to lift the power of women.

  I began to appreciate the power of women when I was a child. I was in constant conflict with my mother, Ola Mae Sanders. We clashed over and over. I did not prevail in any of these clashes. This woman was too powerful.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Are high schools teaching students to devalue free speech?

  It seems like every few months we’re treated to the results of a new survey that has something dismaying to report about how young people approach free speech. Last fall, the Brookings Institute reported that college students have a number of misconceptions about how the First Amendment works — a significant percentage believes that it doesn’t protect hate speech and that it requires that an offensive speaker at a public university be matched with another speaker with an opposing view. A recent survey conducted by Gallup and the Knight Foundation found that 37 percent of college students think that shouting down an offensive campus speaker is acceptable; even more troubling, another 10 percent said that violence is also an acceptable tactic for silencing an offensive speaker.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Sizing up the 2018 statewide races

  Every Alabama constitutional statewide office is up for election this year. Just like the governor’s office, you can serve two consecutive four-year terms and then you are through.

  Kay Ivey would have been term-limited as lieutenant governor. She could not have run again for that post even though she ascended to the governorship last year. Young Boozer has served his two, four-year term limit as Alabama Treasurer. Young has chosen to not run again for anything. John McMillan has exhausted his eight years as Alabama's Agriculture Commissioner. He is running for State Treasurer and is favored to win that post. John Merrill can run for another four-year term as Secretary of State, which is what he is doing. The same is true for State Auditor, Jim Zeigler.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1606: My last legislative session is coming to an end

  My last legislative session is coming to an end. By the time you read this Sketches there will only be a few meeting days until we adjourn sine die (indefinitely). I am debating what to write about in this Sketches #1607. Should I write specifically about this session? Should I write about my service over the last 35 years? Should I just write? I don’t really know. I just know my last legislative session is coming to an end.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Taylor’s Top Four: Alabama Legislative review for week 11

  The countdown is on! What’s happening as the session winds down? Read below to find out!

1. Gun bills might be finished for this session

  With time quickly winding down in the legislative session, the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee had a meeting scheduled on Tuesday to consider several things: a bill that raises the age to by an AR-15 from 18 to 21; a bill that would allow judges to take firearms away from individuals who might use them for self-harm or harm to others; and a bill that would ban the sale of AR-15s and other similar guns. The meeting was canceled due to lack of participation—only 4 of the 11 representatives on the committee showed up for the meeting. Additionally, the house, on Tuesday, left without debating Rep. Will Ainsworth’s (R-Guntersville) bill to arm teachers. With the session expected to end this week and with no action on the bills last week, it appears that time has run out for these bills this session. Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) has said that Ainsworth’s bill will come up again next session, while Ainsworth has called on Governor Ivey to call a special session to consider school safety proposals.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Teacher strikes are about more than salaries, and they’re not over

  When I tell stories about the two years I spent as a public school teacher, I instinctively glance at my hands. I’ve learned to cover for it by stretching my arms out in front of me like I’m winding up to pitch, or sliding my hands into my pockets to strike my most casual conversational pose. What I’m actually doing is looking at the piece of graphite that’s still buried in my right palm.

  Every teacher has at least one class that they need to watch at all times, and mine was fifth period English in 2011. They were the students who made substitutes cry, and that once knocked down the temporary wall separating my room from the one next door. One day, after I passed out pencils, I tried to put the extras down on the desk behind me without turning around. I missed and hit the edge of the desk, driving the freshly-sharpened tips straight into my own palm.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Why prison reform is not enough to fix the U.S. criminal justice system

  The Trump administration kicked off 2018 by expressing a surprising, newfound interest in reforming the country’s prisons and strengthening opportunities for those incarcerated to successfully re-enter their communities upon completion of their sentences. In mid-January, the White House convened a group of conservative governors and advocates for a roundtable discussion on prison reform, organized by President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner. The president also mentioned prison reform in his 2018 State of the Union speech, stating that “this year we will embark on reforming our prisons to help former inmates who have served their time get a second chance.” Most recently, the White House relaunched a task force initially established by former President Barack Obama—now rebranded as the Federal Interagency Council on Crime Prevention and Improving Reentry—which comprises federal agencies to coordinate the federal government’s policies to reduce recidivism.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1604: Come share with me!

  Come share with me. If you participated in the 25th Bridge Crossing Jubilee in Selma, then you can remember with me. If you didn’t participate, you can share vicariously with me.

  The Bridge Crossing Jubilee was massive. The 2018 theme was "Many More Bridges To Cross". There were more than 50 events over a four-day period. Not every event is officially sponsored by the Bridge Crossing Jubilee. However, more than 40 of the 50-plus events are official Jubilee events. Still, all events are part of the Jubilee in spirit. The great majority of these events are free.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The radical right is thriving inside the White House - outside, it's falling apart

  He crisscrossed the country. He fought in court. But white nationalist Richard Spencer has a simple explanation for why he will no longer give speeches on college campuses to spread the racist ideology of the so-called “alt-right.”

  “They aren’t fun anymore,” he said recently.

  Spencer’s explanation — as though white nationalism has ever been, or should ever be, “fun” — was a harbinger of what was to come from the radical right last week.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Dramatic gubernatorial race brewing

  When talk turns to politics in Alabama, it usually leads to the governor’s race. In Alabama politics, the governor’s office is the Brass Ring. It is talked about more than anything else around coffee clubs and kitchen tables from Sand Mountain to the Wiregrass. It is comparable to college football being the king of all sports in Alabama.

  This infatuation with the governor’s office is borne out in the state's voting history. In most states, the presidential race sees the largest voter turnout, but that is not the case in Alabama where we have historically voted more heavily in gubernatorial years. Governor race years also have most of the important local offices up for grabs. “All politics is local.”

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Require background checks for all gun sales

  Under current federal law, some individuals are prohibited from buying and possessing guns for reasons such as a prior felony conviction, history of domestic abuse, or involuntary commitment for mental health treatment. Licensed gun dealers are required to conduct a background check for every gun sale in order to ensure that they are not selling guns to prohibited purchasers.

  However, a substantial gap in the law allows unlicensed sellers—such as private individuals who sell guns online, at gun shows, or anywhere else—to sell guns without first conducting a background check. This means that prohibited purchasers can easily evade the law by buying guns through private transactions.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Taylor’s Top Four: Alabama Legislative Session review for week 10

  The session looks to be winding down, but we aren’t going anywhere! Here’s your recap of week 10 in the Alabama Legislature.

  If you want to receive daily news from across the state and nation straight to your inbox each morning, click here to subscribe to the Alabama Policy Institute’s Daily Clips.

1. General Fund budget has almost cleared its last hurdle 

  On Tuesday, the house passed the 2019 General Fund budget, which passed the Senate in February. The Montgomery Advertiser reported that it was the fastest the budget has passed in years: “‘The Clerk of the House, who’s been here 30 years, said that’s the fastest he’s seen it,’ said House Ways and Means General Fund chair Steve Clouse, R-Ozark. ‘It’s my 24th year, and I know that was the fastest.'” There are a few things in this budget that have been widely talked about this year: a pay raise for state employees, a bonus for state retirees, a funding increase for the Department of Corrections, and another increase for Medicaid.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1605: It is so painful, it hurts deep down inside

  Sometimes I have to speak. Sometimes I have to write. I am not anxious to speak. I write every week, but I am not anxious to write. But sometimes I have to write. This is one of those times I have to write. It is so painful, it hurts deep down inside.

  It was a mass murder at a school. Seventeen school children and school personnel died. Another seventeen were shot and injured but did not die. That’s 34 persons shot in one mass shooting, one mass murder.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Craig Ford: Let’s make universal pre-K a reality

  I believe that everyone between the ages of four and sixty-four should either be in a good school or a good job. That is why one of my long-time goals has been to see every four-year-old in Alabama have access to the state’s nationally-recognized pre-K program.

  The State of Alabama has done a good job in recent years of expanding the program, and expanding the program has received broad, bipartisan support. In fact, in an age where Democrats and Republicans rarely agree on any major issue, pre-K has been the one program that has unified everybody.

  Why is the pre-K program so popular and so important? Because it works!

Friday, March 16, 2018

Rebecca Wood: The bill that would legalize discrimination against my daughter

  My daughter was born 26 weeks into my pregnancy. When Charlie arrived she weighed one pound and 12 ounces, and she was just as long as my finger. During the first few weeks of her life, I watched her overcome what felt like insurmountable obstacles. She struggled to breathe, her stomach wasn’t mature enough to digest food, and her skin was so thin it was agony for her to be held. I worried that we were asking too much of her, but she fought to survive. Today, she is a joyous 5-year-old, though she has residual effects of her significantly premature birth. Charlie was incredibly susceptible to infections, and she has delays in speech and fine motor development. She will go through life with a disability: she needs help tying her shoes, using scissors, and opening her lunch.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Gene Policinski: The White House is wrong. A free press is ‘the people’

  An angry U.S. president feels hounded by the news media and is infuriated and discouraged with the intense and personal criticism of his domestic and international policies.

  I would suspect virtually all of you read that opening paragraph and thought of Donald Trump – and not of George Washington.

  But, in fact, it was our first president who felt the pressure of critics who attacked not just his administration but his personal integrity: A leading newspaper criticized him for a 61st birthday party it said was “monarchical” – apparently, a real political body slam in 1792. A critical press was a major reason he declined a third term, scholars say.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Is this it for Martha Roby?

  Well, folks, the 2018 political year has begun and all of the horses are in the chute. It is going to be a good year for horse races.

  Perennially, the year of the governor’s race has been the best year for Alabama politics. Historically, most Alabamians have been more interested in who they elect as governor than who they elect as president. However, we have really been more interested in who is sheriff than president. If the old adage that “All politics is local” applies in Tip O’Neil’s Massachusetts, it applies doubly in the Heart of Dixie.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The problem with privatizing public education for military students

  On March 7, Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) introduced the Military Education Savings Act of 2018 to divert funding from a long-standing federal program, Impact Aid, into a voucher-like program to pay for private school tuition, tutoring, or homeschooling materials for military families. The bill is modeled off a Heritage Foundation proposal, which is supported by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, to create education savings accounts (ESAs) for certain military-connected students—or students who have a parent on active duty. The ESAs would create an account for military-connected students not enrolled in public schools that could be used for private school tuition, private tutoring, online programs, or textbooks. The proposal is yet another attempt to launch private school voucher programs, instead of investing public money in public schools.

Monday, March 12, 2018

We're deporting people who were Americans before the U.S. existed

  The screaming blocks out all other sound. In more than two minutes of footage, the only words audible above the girls’ sobbing:  “Get in the car.” “Mom!” “Where is she going?” “Are you guys alone?” “Yes.”

  The video, posted to Facebook on Thursday, shows at least two Border Patrol agents physically tearing Perla Morales-Luna out of her daughters’ arms and pushing her into a U.S. Customs and Border Protection vehicle.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Parker Snider: Alabama can do more for its military families

  According to a recent survey, a majority of military family members do not feel that they belong in their local civilian communities. This means that less than half of military families that live in our neighborhoods, shop at our malls, and attend our places of worship feel at home with us.

  Why is this the case?

  Perhaps it is because of one of the staples of military life – regular mandated relocation. Members of our military often have little to no say in where they live or how often they move, something they do an estimated 10 times more than civilian families. Nevertheless, they choose to sacrifice their desires and expectations for the good of our country.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Taylor’s Top 5: Legislative Session Review for Week 9

  We are back with your recap of another week in Montgomery! What happened last week in the Alabama Legislature and beyond? Read below to find out!

  If you want to receive daily news from across the state and nation straight to your inbox each morning, click here to subscribe to the Alabama Policy Institute’s Daily Clips.

1. Tax cuts might soon be in store for some Alabama families.

  On Thursday, the Alabama House of Representatives passed a modest tax break bill that increases the standard deduction for an estimated 180,000 lower-income Alabamians by a vote of 89-0. Residents who file Married Filing Joint, Head of Family, or Single and make between $20,500 and $32,999 could see a decrease in taxes if they typically accept the standard deduction and do not itemize. Those who file as Married Filing Separate must make between $10,250 and $15,249 to qualify. The bill passed the senate without opposition in January and now heads to Gov. Kay Ivey’s desk.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Richard M. Ebeling: Trump’s protectionist follies threaten a trade war

  President Donald Trump has announced the planned imposition of a new 25 percent tariff on imported steel and a 10 percent tariff on foreign-made aluminum entering the United States. This has brought about threats of trade retaliation by a number of America’s trading partners. The menacing clouds of a possible trade war are showing themselves on the global horizon.

  Claiming that other countries are taking advantage of the U.S., as reflected in American trade deficits, Trump, in one of his infamous tweets, has declared that “trade wars  are good, and easy to win.” How and why? Trump asserted: “Example, when we are down $100 billion with a certain country and they get cute, don’t trade anymore-we win big. It’s easy!”

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Michael Josephson: Truth matters and trustworthiness matters

  Truth matters and it's your moral responsibility to find it. Trustworthiness matters and it's your moral duty to insist on it.

  Never in my lifetime has truth been more important or more elusive.

  Though hard to find, within every mountain of careless claims, unsubstantiated assertions, fallacious reasoning and outright lies, there are true facts and credible sources. It is your moral duty to find them.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Political players to watch in 2018

  As the June primaries for our statewide races get closer, there is a lot of media attention on the power being wielded by special interests and PACs. The focus is on the large amount of cash and influence being bet on the horses for governor and the Alabama Legislature.

  The Business Council of Alabama and ALFA are getting prepared to protect their friends and allies and to punish their enemies. These two powerful and money-laden special interests will be players in the 2018 horse races. Surprisingly, these two pro-business organizations are not riding the same horses in a good many races, especially statewide. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Teen activists aren't new.... Celebrating them is

  Last week began with the sixth anniversary of Trayvon Martin's death. It ended with a march commemorating the 53rd anniversary of Bloody Sunday, the day voting rights activists were beaten by lawmen on Selma's Edmund Pettus Bridge.

  By any measure, it was a week steeped in not only the history of racial inequality in America but also in our rich history of activism.

  Nowhere is that more evident than at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where students have riveted the country with their pleas for gun reform after the horrific Valentine’s Day shooting that left 17 students and teachers dead.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Parker Snider: Increased polarization in politics: Bad for Alabama and the country

  Our politics is increasingly polarized. Yelling matches on cable news are the norm, and those with opposing viewpoints are labeled as bigoted or anti-American. The division has gotten to the point that, according to the Pew Research Center, most Republicans and Democrats have few or no friends in the opposing party.

  The question, therefore, is two-fold: a) What are the causes of increased polarization? and b) Is increased polarization something we need to address?

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Lawrence J. Korb: Trump’s defense budget

  Since coming into office a little more than a year ago, the Trump administration—with help from the Republican-controlled Congress—has added more than $200 billion to the projected levels of defense spending for fiscal years 2017 through 2019. Shortly after taking office, President Donald Trump added $15 billion to former President Barack Obama’s FY 2017 budget, and he proposed an FY 2018 budget of $639 billion. This represented an increase of $56 billion, or 10 percent, over the proposed FY 2017 budget.

  As part of the recent deal to keep the government open, Congress agreed to increase the FY 2018 defense budget to $700 billion—an increase of $108 billion, or 18 percent, above the proposed 2017 budget—and the FY 2019 budget to $716 billion. This means that since Trump took office, the defense budget will have grown by $133 billion, or 23 percent.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Taylor’s Top 4: Legislative Review for Week 8

  Our prayers and heartfelt condolences go out to Rep. Allen Treadaway and his family after the loss of his daughter Kelsey Treadaway earlier this week. 

  If you want to receive daily news hits from across the state and nation straight to your inbox each morning, click here to subscribe to the Alabama Policy Institute’s Daily Clips.

1. Changes to ethics laws are on the move. . . and then they’re not.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Retaliatory arrest case one of vital importance

  At first glance, a case about a Florida man arrested for speaking at a Riviera Beach City Council meeting doesn’t seem to have the makings of a seminal U.S. Supreme Court decision. But, make no mistake, the case of Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach is vitally important for citizens, particularly citizen-activists and members of the press everywhere.

  Fane Lozman opposed his city council’s attempts to redevelop the marina area where he lived in a floating home. City officials sought to redevelop the waterfront area through the power of eminent domain.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Jacob G. Hornberger: A heroic lawsuit against the border patrol in my hometown

  A controversy near my hometown of Laredo, Texas, provides a real-life example of the violations of liberty and privacy that come with immigration controls. The issue is especially relevant to the libertarian movement given that some conservative-oriented libertarians continue trying to persuade libertarians to abandon their position in favor of open borders and instead join up with conservatives and progressives by embracing their system of immigration controls.

  According to an article at CourthouseNews.com, a South Texas rancher named Richard Palacios has filed a lawsuit against U.S. Customs and Border Protection in U.S. District Court in Laredo. The lawsuit alleges that the border patrol repeatedly trespassed onto his ranch without a warrant and over Palacios’ repeated objections.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Legislative races are heating up

  The Alabama Legislature usually gets very little done during an election year aside from passing the budgets.

  However, the legislature may have to address issues pertaining to prison health care. A federal judge has ruled that our prison mental health care system is “horrendously inadequate.” This year the solution will probably be to simply add $30 to 50 million to the prison budget and kick the can down the road to the next quadrennium.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Year in Hate: Trump buoyed white supremacists in 2017, sparking backlash among black nationalist groups

  President Trump’s first year in office proved to be just as racially divisive as his campaign — but even more consequential.

  “President Trump in 2017 reflected what white supremacist groups want to see: a country where racism is sanctioned by the highest office, immigrants are given the boot and Muslims banned,” said Heidi Beirich, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project. “When you consider that only days into 2018, Trump called African countries ‘shitholes,’ it’s clear he’s not changing his tune. And that’s music to the ears of white supremacists.”

Monday, February 26, 2018

Taylor’s Top 4: Alabama Legislative Review for Week 7

  Didn't last week seem to fly by?

  If you want to receive daily news hits from across the state and nation straight to your inbox each morning, click here to subscribe to the Alabama Policy Institute’s Daily Clips.

1. General fund budget for 2019 has passed the Alabama Senate.

  Last week, the senate passed a budget for the 2019 General Fund (GF) by a 26-2 vote. If this budget passes, it will be the biggest GF budget in a decade. This budget includes  $755 for Medicaid and grants an additional $51 million to the Department of Corrections next year. Check out this run-down of funding increases and reactions from lawmakers in this piece by J. Pepper Bryars with Yellowhammer News. During the debate over the budget on the senate floor, Sen. Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) proposed an amendment that would add money to fund a facility that provides vocational training for inmates, similar to the Alabama Therapeutic Education Facility located in Columbiana. The senate approved that amendment 24-6. Another amendment was offered by Sen. Trip Pittman (R-Montrose), chair of the General Fund budget committee, which increased funding to the Alabama Department of Transportation by $4.5 million. The $2 billion budget passed by a vote of 26-2 and will go to the house.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

School walkouts in the wake of ‘Parkland’ — protected by the First Amendment or not?

  The national walkouts that students are currently organizing to call for new gun control legislation are commendable examples of “Generation Z” exercising its First Amendment freedoms. Unfortunately, students, teachers and other staff are likely to run up against legal limits around free speech and protest on school grounds.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Tax incentives: Not always the answer for Alabama’s economic struggles

  Last month, the state rejoiced with news that Alabama would be the home of a new Toyota-Mazda plant. The plant is expected to bring over 4,000 jobs and billions of dollars in net revenue to the state. With the execution of this deal, known as Project New World, state and local governments will give the two companies around $900 million in tax incentives.

  A tool used by state and local governments, tax incentives attempt to lure large businesses with the hope that the revenue brought in from that corporation will offset the incentive costs. Often, incentives leverage the taxes paid by small businesses and use them to bring a large, untouchable competitor into the state. Although small, loyal businesses pay the high tax rate year after year, tax incentives comprised of that money can hurt or destroy their business. While there are no small businesses competing with Toyota and Mazda, an increased reliance on tax incentives to bring in major consumable goods retailers can hurt local, small businesses that spend years paying into the system.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Conservative myths about Medicaid

  Access to health insurance in the United States is one of the most hotly debated issues in the national discourse. Prior to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), 44 million Americans lacked health insurance, including many low-income nonelderly adults who did not fall within traditionally covered Medicaid eligibility groups, including pregnant women, disabled adults, and low-income children. Since the ACA went into effect in 2013, 11.9 million newly eligible people have gained coverage through Medicaid in states that chose to expand their programs. In addition to producing better health outcomes, Medicaid expansion has resulted in new enrollees having access to quality care without the threat of financial turmoil.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1602: The Bridge Crossing Jubilee is back in full force!

  The Bridge Crossing Jubilee is back in full force. This is the 25th Jubilee. Twenty-five years is a long time. When this Sketches is published, Jubilee will be about a week away. The Jubilee starts March 1, 2018. But this Jubilee is different in important ways.

  The Jubilee draws tens of thousands each year. One year it drew more than 100,000. It is the largest annual civil rights gathering in the world, and it all happens right here in Selma, Alabama, a city of 20,000. However, people come from across America and faraway places such as Africa, Asia, Europe, South America, the Caribbean and other countries in North America.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Short legislative session playing out, but campaigns are taking shape

  The 2018 Alabama Legislative Session will be short and sweet. It is an election year. Historically, during the last year of a quadrennium, the legislature convenes early and passes the budgets, then members go home and campaign for reelection to another term. 

  Our forefathers, who wrote our 1901 Constitution, must have been thinking the same thing because they designed for the fourth year of the quadrennium legislative session to start and end early. It is set by law to begin in early January, whereas it begins in February in most years. This year’s session began January 9 and can run through April 23. The consensus is that they will adjourn sine die earlier than the April deadline. Most observers believe that they will pass the budgets and be out of Montgomery by the end of March and home campaigning by April Fools’ Day.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Five ways the Trump budget undermines gun violence prevention and school safety efforts

  In his address to the nation the day after the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 students and teachers and injured another 14, President Donald Trump vowed to take action, stating that he would soon hold meetings with governors and attorneys general in which “making our schools and our children safer will be our top priority.” He continued, “It is not enough to simply take actions that make us feel like we are making a difference. We must actually make that difference.” However, the president’s actions have already spoken louder than these hollow words. Just two days before the shooting, his administration released its fiscal year 2019 budget, which proposed cutting funding to crucial programs that help prevent gun violence and ensure school safety.