Thursday, August 22, 2019

Israeli and U.S. destruction of freedom of travel

  Proponents of trade and immigration controls oftentimes forget that there is another factor that comes with their socialist immigration system, that is, in addition to the death, suffering, police state, and destruction of the rights of economic liberty, liberty of contract, freedom of association, and private ownership of property. That factor is the destruction of freedom of travel, another fundamental, natural God-given right that adheres in all people everywhere and that preexists all governments.

  We are reminded of this fact in a current dust-up involving two members of Congress and the Israeli government, which, like the U.S. government, has a policy of governmentally-controlled borders. The two members of Congress are Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, both of whom are Democrats who have come out publicly in favor of the boycott Israel movement owing to the Israeli government’s longtime mistreatment of Palestinians.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Hot political summer in Montgomery

  It has been a long hot summer in Montgomery, and I do not mean at the Capitol or Statehouse, but in the City of Montgomery itself.

  There is a heated and pivotal mayor’s race. It has been considered a foregone conclusion that Montgomery will elect their first African American mayor this year. It is probably about eight years later than expected. Montgomery has been a majority-minority city for a decade. It is well over 60 percent today. 

  A good many Montgomery citizens have moved to suburban enclaves like Prattville, Wetumpka, Millbrook, and now Pike Road. Most of the young families with school-age children have fled for a school system. However, there are still a significant number of older people living in the Capital City. It is a tried and true fact that older folks vote. These older Montgomerians probably will not vote for a black person for anything, much less for the mayor of their beloved city.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Are social media companies going “too far” to regulate content on their platforms?

  In the past few years, social media companies have faced intense criticism for not taking a more active role in stopping the spread of hate speech and misinformation on their platforms. Meanwhile, the White House thinks those same companies are going too far in their efforts to regulate content and is currently drafting an executive order called, “Protecting Americans from Online Censorship,” which would give the Federal Communications Commission oversight over these decisions. The order seems to be an outgrowth of the social media summit that President Trump held last month, where his 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale said, “At a time when social media platforms are banning conservative voices and supporters of the president, it’s important for President Trump to emphasize that he appreciates their support and wants to protect their First Amendment rights.”

Monday, August 19, 2019

Slavery shaped America’s pathology on race and whiteness

  Four hundred years ago this month, the White Lion, a warship commanded by English privateers, docked at Point Comfort in the colony of Virginia.

  On board were “20 and odd” Africans who had been captured by Portuguese slavers in present-day Angola and then stolen during an act of piracy on the high seas. Once on land, the African men and women were bought by the “Governor and Cape Marchant … at the best and easyest rate they could,” wrote John Rolfe, the colony’s first successful tobacco planter.

  The arrival of the White Lion is frequently thought of as the beginning of chattel slavery in what is now the United States and, as such, the genesis of African-American history and culture.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Punishing Congress members for free speech violates First Amendment

  President Trump’s encouragement of a decision Thursday by Israel to bar two U.S. Congress members because of their alleged anti-Israel views ought to outrage all Americans — irrespective of domestic or international politics.

  The essence of our First Amendment freedoms is the government may not inhibit or punish us for our speech, regardless of the content of that speech, with few exceptions, generally tied to wartime considerations, child pornography, or causing immediate harm to others.

  On Thursday, Trump hailed the action by the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu — whom Trump publicly endorsed for re-election some weeks ago — to bar Democratic Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota from a planned visit. Israel later said it would allow Tlaib to visit her 90-year-old Palestinian grandmother, who lives in the occupied West Bank. Tlaib, in turn, chose not to make the trip, citing “oppressive conditions.”

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Political polarization is about feelings, not facts

  Politicians and pundits from all quarters often lament democracy’s polarized condition.

  Similarly, citizens frustrated with polarized politics also demand greater flexibility from the other side.

  Decrying polarization has become a way of impugning adversaries. Meanwhile, the political deadlock and resentment that polarization produces goe unaddressed. Ironic, right?

  Commentators rarely say what they mean by polarization. But if Americans are to figure out how to combat it, they need to begin from a clear understanding of what polarization is.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Assault weapons and high-capacity magazines must be banned

  Assault weapons and high-capacity magazines have repeatedly been used to commit some of the worst mass shootings in modern U.S. history, and they contribute to the daily toll of gun violence in communities around the country. They are weapons of war that have no place in civilian society. Congress must enact a federal ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines to keep these dangerous weapons out of U.S. communities.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Why do so many working class Americans feel politics is pointless?

  In sociologist Jennifer Silva’s first book, “Coming Up Short,” she interviewed working-class young adults in Lowell, Mass., and Richmond, Virginia.

  Most had a tough time earning decent wages. Many felt like they were in a perpetual state of limbo, unable to reach the traditional markers of adulthood: job, marriage, house, and kids. But Silva was surprised to learn that many blamed themselves for their situations and believed that relying on others could only result in disappointment.

  After the book was published, it bothered Silva that she never pressed her subjects further on their politics to see how they might be connected to their worldview.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - The story of Floyd Mann

  One of the legendary figures in Alabama political lore is Floyd Mann.

  Colonel Mann was Alabama Public Safety Director for two governors. His lifetime friend, John Patterson, made him his director while he was governor (1958-1962), and Gov. Albert Brewer chose Colonel Mann to be his director while he was governor (1968-1970). 

  The public safety director in those days was referred to as the Head of the State Troopers. It was during the Patterson administration that Mann made his mark in Alabama history.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Back-to-school tax holidays are a scam

  The arrival of the hot, heavy days of August means that, in many places, it’s time to think about back-to-school shopping. And thanks to the confluence of shrinking school budgets and the integration of more gadgets and gizmos into classrooms, the total that parents shell out to equip their kids is big and growing. The average household is expected to spend more than $500 this year on back-to-school supplies, an increase of several hundred dollars over the amount spent just a few years ago.

  In an attempt to give parents, particularly those with little disposable income, a break from those big numbers, many states turn to an old tax policy standby: sales tax holidays.

Monday, August 12, 2019

I worked at Capital One. Hacks like this are most dangerous for low-income people.

  The Capital One breach announced recently compromised the data of 100 million Americans, which is nearly 40 percent of all U.S. adults. After the Equifax, Target, Home Depot, and Marriott hacks, it can be easy to shrug off the news of another leak, but one group of consumers is at particular risk in the Capital One breach: 80,000 Americans who applied for secured credit cards with the company.

  The hacker, Paige Thompson, gained access to personal information such as income, address, and credit scores for seemingly all recent applicants to Capital One credit cards. For secured card applicants, who tend to be low-income, bank account information was compromised as well.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Calling 911 or not mowing the lawn can cost disabled people their homes

  Richard McGary lost his home because he wasn’t able to clean his yard.

  When McGary lived in Portland, Oregon, a city inspector decided he had too much debris in his yard and cited his home as a “nuisance” property under the city’s local nuisance ordinance. McGary, who was living with AIDS, asked volunteers from a local AIDS project to help. But before they could clear the yard to the city’s satisfaction, McGary was hospitalized with AIDS-related complications. His patient advocate informed the city that McGary was an individual with a disability and requested more time, but Portland refused. The city issued a warrant for violating the city’s chronic nuisance ordinance and charged him $1,818.83 for the cost of clean-up. When McGary couldn’t pay, Portland claimed rights to his home — and forced McGary to sell it to satisfy his debt to the city.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Harassment, accountability, and the erosion of judicial legitimacy

  Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court further weakened the public’s eroding sense of faith in the court’s legitimacy, a facet essential to its functioning as an institution. Kavanaugh’s vigorous denials of sexual assault allegations stemming from his youth, combined with aggressive efforts—by him and his powerful supporters—to discredit his accuser, mirrored how the judiciary has swept its own sexual harassment challenges under the rug.

  However, Kavanaugh’s confirmation went beyond simply exposing issues of sexual harassment; it opened the floodgates by drawing attention to a wider array of discriminatory practices and ethical quandaries. Today, for instance, the judiciary is under scrutiny for its alarming lack of diversity, its inability to hold judges accountable for misconduct, and the elitism reflected in its hiring practices. Because the Supreme Court’s legitimacy hinges on the public’s faith, it is critical that the judiciary address these issues to restore the sense that it is an impartial institution.

The impact of sexual harassment in the judiciary

  In October 1991, Anita Hill testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee that she was sexually harassed by now-Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, her superior during her time at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. After three grueling days of nationally televised hearings during which the all-male Judiciary Committee tore apart Hill’s character, Justice Thomas was narrowly confirmed to the Supreme Court. Twenty-seven years later, history seemed to be repeating itself when Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee that she was sexually assaulted by now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Despite the enormous controversy associated with its decision, the Senate confirmed Kavanaugh by a razor-thin majority.

  Not only did Kavanaugh’s confirmation cast doubt on just how far the women’s equality movement has advanced since Justice Thomas’s confirmation, it also reinforced the toxic power dynamics that govern the nation’s political system and damaged the legitimacy of the Supreme Court by threatening its image of nonpartisanship. Kavanaugh’s confirmation led to an increase in crisis calls from survivors and cast doubt on how sensitive the judiciary would be to issues of sexual harassment, while also raising serious questions about potential bias on the Supreme Court and the influence of politics and ideology on the rule of law. Ultimately, the confirmation process was a reminder of the broader failure of the judiciary to police itself, undermining its integrity as an independent institution.

  Survivors of sexual assault have been deeply affected by the aftermath of Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, and the effects are ongoing. For instance, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network experienced a 338 percent increase in its hotline traffic during the weekend following Dr. Ford’s testimony. For many, the hearings evoked memories of past pain and trauma. Dr. Ford’s testimony particularly affected survivors, many of whom were forced to relive their own experiences of sexual assault. Experts such as psychology professor Dr. Jennifer Freyd note that the entire confirmation process could have lasting impacts on the psychology of sexual assault survivors, as it invalidated their experiences and further tainted their image of the court, thus contributing to the broader deterioration of public faith in the judiciary.

  Perhaps one of the most significant direct impacts of Kavanaugh’s confirmation was the rightward shift it had on the ideological balance of the Supreme Court and the concerns it raised about ideology trumping the rule of law. Since his confirmation, hopeful anti-abortion legislators in numerous states have passed laws that effectively ban abortion outright or limit the procedure at specific points in pregnancy; placed unreasonable restrictions on health professionals and institutions; and generally restricted women’s decision-making powers. Kavanaugh’s confirmation incentivized conservative legislators across the country to pass laws restricting abortion. In fact, many legislators are passing these laws in hopes that they will be challenged and end up before the newly constituted—and more conservative—Supreme Court, giving it the chance to undermine abortion rights at the federal level.

  The number of abortion laws passed in state legislative sessions has skyrocketed in 2019, and these laws are significantly different from those passed before Kavanaugh’s nomination, signaling a considerable shift in tactics at the state level. They are going further than ever before to challenge Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s ruling establishing federal protections for abortion. For instance, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Ohio, and Mississippi have all instituted bills that ban abortion as early as six weeks, before most women even know that they are pregnant. Alabama has passed an even more restrictive ban on all abortions except those medically necessary to prevent serious health risks to women; the ban does not even make any exceptions for cases of incest or sexual assault. This restrictive abortion legislation is setting the stage for pivotal courtroom battles that could profoundly reshape abortion access in America. Given that the majority of Americans believe in upholding Roe v. Wade, this is further undermining the public’s faith in the judiciary’s legitimacy.

Part of a broader ethics issue

  In the wake of Judge Alex Kozinski’s retirement, Chief Justice John Roberts ordered an investigation of sexual harassment in the courts to see how the judicial branch has dealt with such allegations. Kavanaugh’s confirmation only further opened the floodgates to allegations of sexual misconduct hidden within the judiciary. However, uncovering issues of sexual harassment only begins to shed light on the pattern of unaccountability that exists within the judiciary.

  For instance, there currently is not an effective way to hold judges accountable for their actions. If federal judges are being investigated by their institution or their peers, they can easily put an end to the inquiry by retiring from their judgeship, as did former 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Alex Kozinski. When the Judicial Council of the 2nd Circuit received a sexual harassment allegation against the judge, it dismissed the complaint just eight weeks after it had been filed because Kozinski stepped down from his position—despite a growing number of women who came forward with accusations. In another example, Maryanne Trump Barry, President Donald Trump’s older sister, was able to avoid further investigation into her participation in fraudulent tax schemes that violated judicial conduct rules by retiring from her federal appellate judgeship. Ultimately, because panels of judges nationwide have concluded that they lack the authority to continue investigating a judge who has stepped down from the bench, both Barry and Kozinski are able to collect an annual pension of approximately $220,000 for the rest of their lives.

  Additionally, while the rest of the federal judiciary is bound by the Code of Conduct for United States Judges—a code that provides guidance on issues of judicial integrity, diligence, and impartiality—the Supreme Court is not. However, all nine justices are capable of committing various ethical oversights. For instance, in the past, justices have left assets off of their annual financial disclosure reports, spoken at partisan events, and ruled on cases despite obvious conflicts of interest. In 2014, the Supreme Court heard ABC v. Aereo, and Time Warner filed an amicus brief arguing that the court should rule in favor of the broadcaster. Chief Justice Roberts would not recuse himself from the case, despite owning as much as $500,000 in Time Warner stock at the time. In 2017, Justice Neil Gorsuch, a Trump nominee, attended a luncheon and gave the keynote address at the Trump International Hotel, whose revenue goes in part to President Trump. Just last year, Justices Stephen Breyer and Samuel Alito, who may own up to $300,000 in United Technologies shares, refused to recuse themselves in a certiorari case involving Rockwell Collins, a company recently acquired by United Technologies Corporation. The list of ethical oversights goes on and includes justices across the ideological spectrum. In the absence of a written code for the Supreme Court, the public is left in the dark about how to address and resolve judicial ethics violations, further compromising the public’s faith in the court’s legitimacy and fundamental integrity.

Conclusion

  In order to counter the diminishing perception of its legitimacy, the judiciary must address issues of sexual harassment in the workplace and repair its reputation of impartiality. Effectively tackling sexual harassment requires expanding and mandating training for all judicial actors—including judges, clerks, and judicial staff—as well as establishing a confidential system that allows individuals to report sexual harassment anonymously. Prioritizing increased diversity of judges, establishing mandatory reporting mechanisms for judicial staff and judges who learn about issues of sexual harassment, and strengthening judicial ethics requirements and enforcement mechanisms in order to hold judges accountable for their misconduct are all also critical to improving the situation. Ultimately, enhancing public confidence in the judicial branch and redeeming judicial legitimacy is an ongoing process, but taking the necessary steps to combat the lack of accountability is imperative to the successful function of America’s courts.

  About the author: Nina Reddy is an intern for Legal Progress at the Center for American Progress.

  This article was published by the Center for American Progress.

Friday, August 9, 2019

There’s a dark political history to language that strips people of their dignity

  Dehumanizing language often precedes genocide.

  One tragic example: Extreme dehumanizing language was a strong contributor to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. As I have written, the Hutu majority used a popular radio station to continually refer to Tutsi tribal members, a minority in Rwanda, as “cockroaches.”

  As support for this characterization grew among Hutus, it essentially stripped away any moral obligation to see Tutsis as fellow humans. They were just vermin that needed to be eradicated.

  Students of 20th-century history will also recognize this pattern of dehumanizing language in the lead-up to the genocide committed by the Turks against Armenians, where Armenians were “dangerous microbes.” During the Holocaust, Germans described Jews as “Untermenschen,” or subhumans.

  On July 27, President Trump tweeted that Baltimore was a “"disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” and “No human being would want to live there.”

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - The Phenix City story

  There are very few Alabamians left who remember the 1950s story of Phenix City, Alabama. After World War II, a good many of the military soldiers, enlisted men, stayed on for a while.  A host of them was stationed at Ft. Benning in Columbus, Georgia. As many of you know, Columbus, Georgia and Phenix City, Alabama are essentially the same city. They are only separated by a bridge and the Chattahoochee River.

  Phenix City figured that these soldiers needed some entertainment, so our border city became the poor man’s Las Vegas and Guadalajara, Mexico rolled into one. Phenix City became known as the most sinful place in America. It was openly run by a tough redneck mafia that made the New York mafia look like choir boys.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Donald Trump - Trade dictator

  President Trump announced that he is upping his trade war against China by imposing another $300 billion of tariffs on Chinese goods. According to the Washington Post, Trump said that his tariffs would begin at 10 percent on such products as cellphones, television sets, toilet seats, and pillows but could increase to 25 percent. As Trump adviser Peter Navarro declared, “We love tariffs. Tariffs are a wonderful thing.”

  Okay, so our nation’s Republican president loves taxes, which is precisely what tariffs are. No surprise there. Despite their customary “reduce taxes” rhetoric, Republicans have long been supporters of big spending, along with the taxes to fund them — income taxes, Social Security and Medicare taxes, tariffs, excise taxes, property taxes, poll taxes, sales taxes, inflation taxes, and, well, every other forcible extraction of money from people to fund the ever-voracious needs of the federal government.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Fighting an internal threat to our democracy

  In his recent testimony before Congress, Special Counsel Robert Mueller pointedly warned the nation about Russia’s ongoing attempts to meddle in our nation’s elections.

  All Americans, regardless of their political beliefs, should be gravely concerned about this threat from abroad. But we should be equally – perhaps even more – concerned about efforts to rig our elections from within.

  Since the U.S. Supreme Court gutted a key provision of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, partisan politicians at the state level have enacted a wave of voting restrictions that have disenfranchised hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of people.

Monday, August 5, 2019

How states are combating Trump’s ACA sabotage

  Following his failure to legislatively repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), President Donald Trump and his administration have waged a campaign to undermine and sabotage the landmark health care law. The administration has employed numerous strategies, including expanding access to short-term junk plans; eliminating cost-saving reinsurance programs; and cutting enrollment outreach funding. The Center for American Progress Action Fund (CAPAF) has been tracking these efforts to undermine enrollment, force coverage loses, and increase the cost of care for millions of Americans.

  The Trump administration and congressional Republicans delivered a blow to the ACA in its repeal of the act’s individual coverage mandate, which was included in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. With that provision of the law repealed, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, along with 19 other Republican state attorneys general, sued the federal government, arguing that the remainder of the law would now be unconstitutional. In 2018, a federal district court judge sided with the plaintiffs, ruling the ACA unconstitutional in a decision that is now being appealed to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The fate of the ACA remains uncertain the near future, as the case is likely to reach the U.S. Supreme Court regardless of the 5th Circuit’s decision.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Alabama must build more prisons, but taxpayers don’t have to foot the bill

  Vicious assault. Brutal rape. Cold-blooded murder.

  These are some of the crimes that will get you thrown into prison, but what if they’re also what could happen to you once you get there?

  Sadly, a federal investigation found this is happening in Alabama’s prison system, and part of the problem is we’ve simply run out of room.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Senate inaction on paycheck fairness harms women

  Under current federal law, it is illegal to pay women less than men for equal work. And yet, the gender wage gap still exists, and the persistent lack of equal pay is one piece of the puzzle. It is an issue that affects women at all levels, in all types of jobs, across race, ethnicity, and other factors. This includes women in high profile roles, such as the current World Cup champions, to roles behind the scenes, like clerical workers and teachers.

  The gender wage gap is caused by a number of differing elements, including some that can be measured. But a sizable portion of the wage gap—around 38 percent by some estimates—can not be explained by measurable differences between genders. Many researchers hypothesize that this unexplained portion, along with at least some of the other observable differences, are attributable to gender discrimination.

Tackling the gender wage gap

  Reducing the gender wage gap requires a lasting, comprehensive solution that addresses the different factors that drive the gap, including discrimination. The Equal Pay Act of 1963, enacted more than 50 years ago, established the core principle of “equal pay for equal work” to root out entrenched pay discrimination that consistently denied women fair wages. But, over time, the courts have narrowed the law’s reach, making it harder to hold employers accountable for discriminatory practices, even as the gender wage gap has persisted.

  On March 27, 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives took a significant, much-needed step forward to promote equal pay, combat pay discrimination, and—in the process—tackle a portion of the gender wage gap by passing the Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R. 7) with bipartisan support. However, as of the end of July 2019, the Senate has no clear plans to pass or even act on the equal pay legislation.

  If enacted, the Paycheck Fairness Act would close legal loopholes that have been used to foreclose plaintiffs’ opportunities to vindicate their rights; remove obstacles to plaintiffs collectively challenging illegal practices through class action litigation; and improve remedies for plaintiffs so that they are consistent with the remedies available for pay discrimination and other forms of discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It also will combat discriminatory pay practices by better protecting workers from retaliation; limiting the use of salary history in the hiring process, which can perpetuate entrenched pay disparities and pay discrimination throughout a woman’s career; and requiring regular, disaggregated pay data collection to enhance employer transparency, identify significant pay gaps, and to bolster investigations of discrimination claims. While the Paycheck Fairness Act alone will not close the gender wage gap, it will be an important step in the right direction.

The cost of the pay gap for women

  Long-standing pay disparities have depressed women’s earnings and weakened their economic stability for years. For millions of women and their families, the lack of equal pay is a pressing problem that impacts their daily lives and their ability to make ends meet. The Senate’s inaction on the Paycheck Fairness Act reveals a stubborn indifference to this real-world plight and, instead, sends the troubling message that women’s economic stresses are of little concern. In the 100 days after H.R. 7 passed the House, more than 55 million women working full time in the United States collectively earned $159 billion less than men due to the gender wage gap, according to new Center for American Progress analysis of monthly labor force numbers and median weekly earnings of full-time workers in the first and second fiscal quarters of 2019.* This number serves as a reminder that, while the wage gap is often referred to as a 20-cent gap between men and women, the cumulative impact is much larger than a couple of dimes. And, for most women of color, these disparities are far worse.

  According to CAP analysis*, a woman working full time earned, on average, $2,828.57 less than a man working full time, due to the gender wage gap in the 100 days after the House passed the Paycheck Fairness Act. Broken down further during that same time period, on average, an African American woman earned $4,628.57 less than a white man working full time; a white woman earned $2,957.14 less; a Hispanic woman earned $5,742.86 less; and an Asian woman earned $228.57 less. However, this calculation for an Asian woman may vastly underestimate the actual gap for a woman belonging to an ethnic Asian subgroup because of the wide diversity across Asian subgroups. For example, while Asian women overall earn 85 cents for every dollar earned by white, non-Hispanic men, Cambodian women earn just 60 cents in the same comparison. Due to the limitations of the source data, the authors could not analyze the wage losses for ethnic Asian subgroups nor for Native women.

Why the Paycheck Fairness Act is needed

  The Paycheck Fairness Act could begin to level the playing field by chipping away at the portion of the persistent gender wage gap that is likely caused, or at least affected, by discrimination. If the male-female earnings gap had been reduced by even 38 percent—the estimated portion that is unexplained and potentially attributed to discrimination—in the 100 days following the passage of H.R. 7, women would have earned an additional $60 billion. That would mean $60 billion that could have helped cover mortgage payments, student loans, childcare costs, prescription costs, household bills, car repairs, groceries, emergency expenses, and more.

  When the Paycheck Fairness Act’s co-sponsor, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), brought H.R. 7 to the floor on April 2 for a vote of unanimous consent, the motion was swiftly rejected. Sen. Murray introduced a Senate version of the Paycheck Fairness Act (S. 270) back in January of 2019, which was referred to the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. However, there has been no further formal action. Instead, the Paycheck Fairness Act is at a standstill, being blocked by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

  Inaction is unacceptable. Today’s wage gap has only decreased by two cents in the past 10 years.

  At the current rate, experts estimate that the gender wage gap in the U.S. will not close until 2059. That’s 40 years away. Over the course of a 40-year career, an individual woman loses more than $406,000 to the gender wage gap. And, predictably, the estimated losses are much higher for many women of color: An African American woman loses $946,120; a Native woman loses $977,720; a Latina loses $1,135,440; and an Asian woman loses $360,400.

Conclusion

  As the Senate fails to act, the losses to the gender wage gap will only continue to grow. Lawmakers must give more than the occasional feigned support for equal pay. They must demonstrate a true commitment to “equal pay for equal work,” and they must do so for all workers—not just the rich and famous who make headlines. Passing the Paycheck Fairness Act would be a great start. On this issue, inaction is injustice.

  About the authors: Robin Bleiweis is a research assistant of women’s economic security for the Women’s Initiative at the Center for American Progress. Jocelyn Frye is a senior fellow at the Center. Sarah Jane Glynn is a nonresident senior fellow at the Center.

  *Authors’ note: Unless otherwise noted, this analysis uses data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The individual earnings gaps reported compare median weekly earnings (Table 2) for full-time workers by race and gender from the first and second fiscal quarters of 2019. The cumulative earnings gap reported compares those same earnings to monthly labor force totals for employed, full-time working women for March, April, May, and June 2019. Authors did not have access to July labor force numbers at the time of publication and projected June labor force numbers for analysis of the first five days of July to calculate the earnings gap for March 27 to July 5. Women whose ethnicity is identified as Hispanic or Latino may be of any race.

  This article was published by the Center for American Progress.

Friday, August 2, 2019

School lunches

  Pennsylvania officials came under last week when they attempted to collect money owed for school lunches in one of the poorest districts in the state.

  After failing to reach families through other modes of communication, the director of federal programs for the Wyoming Valley West School District sent a letter to about 1,000 families, who owed an average of $28, stating that:

Thursday, August 1, 2019

You think airline food is bad? The conditions it’s made in are worse.

  On Tuesday evening, passengers at Washington D.C.’s Reagan National Airport (DCA) were greeted with shouts of “one job should be enough!” and “when we fight, we win!” by airline catering workers holding an informational picket and rally. The UNITE HERE union members were out in force to draw attention to the conditions they’re experiencing on the job and to warn that 15,000 fed-up airline catering workers across 32 U.S. airports just voted to authorize a strike.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Those who bake the pie get to eat it

  Governor Kay Ivey’s first legislative session of the quadrennium was very successful.  Her prowess at getting things accomplished with this legislature is remarkable. She knows what she is doing, but it should not be surprising given her background and experience.

  Kay Ivey has been around state government for most of her adult life. She has dealt with the Alabama Legislature for over four decades. 

  Her adroitness in the passage of the infrastructure package was similar to the legislative success enjoyed by Governor George Wallace in his prime years. Like Wallace, Ivey knows how to reward her friends and punish her enemies.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Let’s get "mad as hell" about the vital information we won't get to see

  The U.S. Supreme Court last month said we can’t see certain kinds of information we may well need to participate in democracy as self-governing citizens. To paraphrase a line from “Network,” the movie and play recently on Broadway, we should be “mad as hell” about it.

  The court ruled, 6-3, in Food Marketing Institute v. Argus Leader Media, that the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) does not provide the public with access to records from private companies given to a federal agency if the agency obtained the information with a promise to keep it secret.

  In the decision, the court voided a decades-long practice — supported by lower court decisions — that such “confidential” information could be released unless it caused “substantial harm” to the business, with an eye toward disclosures in the public interest related to safety concerns, or to the exposing of waste, fraud or abuse, among other points.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1676 - We should all be frightened

  “If you are not happy here, you can leave.” These words were a slap in my face. “So interesting to see progressive Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worse, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (If they even have a functioning government at all . . . )”  These words pierced my being. These words came from the President of the United States of America.

  "Go back to Africa!" These words have been spit in my face. I even observed these words written on signs shown on television and directed at President Barack Obama. Send her back! Send her back! Send her back! These words were shouted en masse at a Trump rally. I was frightened in the deepest core of my being. I was frightened for these four women. I was frightened for people of color. I was frightened for this country.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Donald Trump, big spender

  As much as conservatives would like to believe that the Trump administration has been different from the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations, the fact is that all three administrations have been one long disastrous continuum. Not only has Trump continued the forever wars that Bush and Obama waged, he has also continued every single socialist, interventionist, and imperialist program maintained by his predecessors, including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the minimum wage, the regulated economy, the war on immigrants, the war on drugs, the war on Muslims, the Pentagon, the military-industrial complex, the CIA, the NSA, and all the hundreds of federal welfare-warfare-state bureaucracies, departments, and agencies.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

New Trump rule could threaten school lunch for many students

  75 percent of school districts have outstanding “lunch debt” racked up by students who couldn’t pay for meals. In large districts, that number can approach $1 million. At the end of the school year, when that debt comes due, kids with outstanding balances are denied opportunities to participate in activities, prevented from graduating, or forced to watch school cafeteria staff throw their food away. Pennsylvania’s Wyoming Valley West School District even threatened to place children owing as little as $10 for school lunch into foster care.

  Now, a new Trump administration rule could make paying for lunch even harder for thousands of students. Via changes to a rule known as “categorical eligibility,” the Trump administration is trying to undermine access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This program is commonly used as a basis for certifying kids for free and reduced lunch. That could increase the number of kids going hungry at home and struggling to pay for lunch at school.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Ruler of the world

  Recently released secret documents from Chinese company Huawei provide insights into how the U.S. Empire rules the world. According to the Washington Post, the documents reveal that Huawei secretly helped North Korea “build and maintain the country’s commercial wireless network.”

  What’s wrong with that? you ask.

  It violates U.S. sanctions against North Korea!

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - 2020 U.S. Senate race

  The long, hot summer has brought some crystallization to the 2020 U.S. Senate race. This seat is the Senate seat held by Jeff Sessions for almost two decades. He unwittingly made a strange and probably very regrettable decision to join President Donald J. Trump’s administration as attorney general. Very few U. S. Senators with 20 years seniority would leave their permanent seat in the illustrious, powerful, and elite body for a temporary - four-year at best - tenure in a tumultuous and transient cabinet post. 

  Trump is tempestuous at the least and still likes to think of himself as the host of his TV reality show, The Apprentice, who famously says, “You’re fired!” Trump has recently tweeted that Sessions' appointment as U.S. Attorney General was the most regrettable appointment that he has made. You can more than likely ascertain that Jeff Sessions feels the same way about his decision to leave his safe Senate seat for a shot as Trump’s AG. However, you could safely bet that the reserved, squeaky clean, Dudley-Do-Right, Eagle Scout Sessions will not do any tweeting, or betting, on anything, much less his Trump controversy.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Racism is killing black Americans

  Racism affects every aspect of American life – none more so than our medical system.

  Numerous studies over the years have laid bare the gap in health outcomes between minority groups and white Americans.

  African Americans have a lower life expectancy than white people. They are more likely to suffer and die from chronic conditions like kidney, cardiovascular, and lung disease.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

John Paul Stevens had "indelible" commitment to First Amendment

  Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who served nearly 35 years on the court, left an indelible mark on many areas of First Amendment jurisprudence.

  Stevens consistently defended the principle of church-state separation in Establishment Clause cases and forcefully argued for significant protection for commercial speech, which was often relegated to second-class status in the First Amendment family.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Joseph O. Patton: Montgomery should pass on Artur Davis

Editor's note: This article was published in the Capital City Free Press on January 26, 2015. It has been updated to reflect Artur Davis qualifying as a candidate for mayor of Montgomery, Ala. The Montgomery Municipal Election is scheduled for August 27, 2019.

  Just when I foolishly believed I had washed the foul political aftertaste of Artur Davis out of my mouth, he's uncorking another bottle of his trademark bitterness, shameless opportunism, and ego-tripping.

  Last week, Davis qualified as a candidate for mayor of Montgomery along with 11 other candidates. It will be an open seat as Todd Strange is not seeking reelection. Strange spanked Davis and three other candidates in 2015, garnering enough votes to avoid a runoff. But which version of Artur Davis this happens to be would be anyone's guess....

Sunday, July 21, 2019

How child protective services can trap the parents they’re supposed to help

  I woke to the sound of my 3-year-old daughter crying. It was a hard, bitter cry. If you have young children, you know the one — it punches through the walls and triggers your heart into a frenzy. I sprang up, ready to run to her bedside. But as wakefulness returned, the sound faded. My daughter was not crying for me. She wasn’t even there. She and her 4-year-old sister were taken from my custody more than a year earlier by the State of Florida.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Attack on the ACA: Undermining protections for LGBTQ patients and language accessibility requirements

  The Trump administration is proposing to undermine strong and clear protections against discrimination in health care by giving health care providers, pharmacy benefit managers, and insurers a license to discriminate against LGBTQ people and many others. The existing rule implementing Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as the Health Care Rights Law, was promulgated by the Obama administration in 2016 after a rigorous six-year process. The rule characterized discrimination based on sex stereotyping and gender identity as impermissible sex discrimination under the law. It also prohibited insurance providers using the marketplace from discriminating against protected characteristics, provided strong language access and notice requirements, and established many other critical patient protections.

Friday, July 19, 2019

America, love it or leave it!

  President Trump’s rant against four members of Congress, all of whom are American citizens, in which he told them to return to their “crime-infested” countries, brings to mind the rant that conservatives have long used against anyone who disagrees with the policies or programs of the U.S. government: “America, love it or leave it!”

  Anyone who lived during the Vietnam War era will recall that this was a favorite refrain of conservatives against anyone who opposed the war. The opponents of the war were accused of hating America and were often told that since they obviously didn’t love their country, they should move to North Vietnam or some other communist country.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Like Chilton County’s peach trees, Alabama’s occupational license laws need regular pruning

  Motorists who travel I-65 between Birmingham and Montgomery during summertime often enjoy the tradition of stopping in Clanton for a freshly-picked basket of Chilton County’s famous peaches.

  There’s something special about that part of Alabama, a Goldilocks zone that produces those thick, juicy, tasty treats. Not too cold. Not too hot. Just right. Well, that and an awful lot of pruning.

  Thing is, peach trees need to be cut back annually so that they can continually produce the best and most fruit. A snip here. A lop there. Just planting them and walking away isn’t enough.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

How Medicaid cuts almost forced a disabled student to drop out

  Anna Landre is by every measure a highly successful student. The Georgetown University School of Foreign Service student and high school valedictorian has maintained a 3.9 GPA as a Regional and Comparative Studies major since she left her New Jersey hometown two years ago. She has also served as an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner representing the city of Georgetown and surrounding neighborhoods with policy recommendations for the District of Columbia’s government.

  Like nearly 20 percent of American college students, Landre is disabled. And because Landre has spinal muscular atrophy type 2 and uses a wheelchair, her success is possible in part due to Medicaid-funded personal care assistance. The hours of personal care she receives at home allow Landre to live and study independently, while attendants help her complete crucial daily tasks related to hygiene, eating, and safety. But just a few weeks ago, her insurance company’s decision to cut her care hours from 112 hours per week to 70 nearly brought her college career to an end.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Americans should adopt unilateral free trade

  Given the ongoing destruction of liberty and prosperity from President Trump’s trade wars, tariffs, sanctions, and embargoes, it’s time to think at a higher level, one that goes beyond mere criticism of Trump’s trade antics. It’s time to think in terms of individual liberty, free markets, and limited government, all of which translates to the idea of unilateral free trade.

  What does unilateral free trade mean? It means that the U.S. government should simply lift, dismantle, abolish, repeal, and end all of its tariffs, trade restrictions, sanctions, embargoes, import quotas, and trade wars. No meetings. No negotiations. No demands. No “free trade” agreements. Just free the American people to travel wherever they want and trade with whomever they want.

Monday, July 15, 2019

We once went “MAD” for the magazine — and it was fun and funny

  The world is soon going to be a little bit less MAD — and the poorer for it.

  The quintessential baby boomer-era satire mag, MAD magazine has announced it will soon contain only re-published content, on a monthly basis — industry-speak for trying to garner what nostalgia-tinged profits might still be obtained from those who recall better days.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

The Declaration of Independence applies to immigrants

  Now that the Fourth of July celebrations are over, it’s worth asking whether a particular phrase enunciated in the Declaration of Independence is true or false.

  The phrase in question? “The pursuit of happiness.” The Declaration states that the pursuit of happiness is a natural, God-given right, one with which all people are endowed. Not just American citizens. Everyone. Everyone in the world is endowed with the natural, God-given right to pursue happiness.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1674 - History either lifts us or holds us down

  I am still in my "power of history" moment. July 4th gives me a unique opportunity to explore the power of history. History either lifts us or weighs us down. When history weighs us down, everything is more difficult. When history lifts us up, everything is easier. When history lifts us, we see further, reach higher, and go farther. When history weighs us down, we cannot reach as high or see further, or go as far. History is about our past but, more importantly, our present and our future. History either lifts us or holds us down.

Friday, July 12, 2019

The Bernhardt Doctrine: Dismissing rules and dodging oversight

  U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt is hard to put a finger on. Attempts to understand what he’s doing or who he’s meeting with through Freedom of Information Act requests have yielded surprisingly few documents and sparse calendars. Bernhardt has granted relatively few—or brief, if at all—on-the-record interviews with reporters. He has also largely avoided testifying in front of Congress before May of this year.

  Despite this opaqueness, a picture of Bernhardt’s approach to governance is starting to emerge—one of a former oil and gas lobbyist pushing a destructive anti-conservation agenda with a flagrant disregard for the coequal branches of U.S. government. The U.S. Department of the Interior’s (DOI) Bernhardt era—his time as deputy secretary and now secretary—is marked by actions that consistently ignore Congress and the rule of law. While the courts have begun to provide a check on Bernhardt’s approach, he continues to both circumvent public input and accountability and undermine Congress’ oversight role.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Trump reminds us that America is a military nation

  President Trump is being criticized for surrounding himself with tanks, armored vehicles, flyovers, and generals and admirals during his Fourth of July celebration at the Lincoln Memorial. Critics say that it was unseemly for the president to be showing off the federal government’s military process on Independence Day. Some said it conjured up images of the Soviet Union when that communist regime would showcase its tanks and military hardware in parades in Moscow’s Red Square.

  But the fact is that America is a military nation. As Trump pointed out in his Independence Day address, the United States has the most powerful military in history, one that can pulverize any other nation on earth. His critics don’t have any problem with that. They just don’t want Trump to highlight it.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Supreme Court’s decision in vulgar trademark case affirms core principles

  The Supreme Court’s recent decision in Iancu v. Brunetti (2019), striking down a provision of federal trademark law barring the registration of “immoral or scandalous” trademarks, affirms fundamental First Amendment principles. These fundamental principles concern viewpoint discrimination and overbreadth.

  To recap, the court addressed the trademark provision in the case of Erik Brunetti, an artist and entrepreneur who founded a clothing line named FUCT. The name obviously bears a close resemblance to a profanity.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

SCOTUS should preserve workplace protections for LGBTQ people

  Soon after Y.B. took the night shift as a forklift operator, her boss started harassing her because she is a lesbian.

  “I want to turn you back into a woman. I want you to like men again,” he said. “Are you a girl or a man?”

  Y.B. endured the harassment for weeks, but eventually complained to the company’s human resources department. The next day, she was fired.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Is fear making us better news consumers?

  The majority of Americans consider fake news and misinformation to be serious threats to democracy — and that fear may actually be making us better and savvier news consumers.

  Last month, the First Amendment Center of the Freedom Forum Institute released the results of the 2019 State of the First Amendment survey. We’ve been conducting this survey since 1997, taking stock of what Americans know and how they feel about their expressive freedoms — and each year we brace ourselves for bad news.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Five revelations from children in border patrol facilities

  In the past year, at least seven migrant children—Mariee Juárez (age 18 months), Wilmer Josué Ramírez Vásquez (age 2), Jakelin Caal Maquín (age 7), Felipe Alonzo Gómez (age 8), Darlyn Valle (age 10), Juan de León Gutiérrez (age 16), and Carlos Hernández Vásquez (age 16)—have died after being taken into custody by the U.S. Border Patrol.

  As their families confront the grief of losing a child, it is important not to mistake these deaths for isolated tragedies. Recent accounts demonstrate that these events are symptoms of a broader agenda that victimizes families. Detention centers, a visible consequence of this agenda, are not just bad for children; they are deliberately run in cruel, dangerous ways.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

The solution to Trump’s Iran mayhem

  Undoubtedly, President Trump is fantasizing about the possibility of being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for deciding at the last minute to not bomb Iran in retaliation for Iran’s shoot-down of a Pentagon drone. Apparently experiencing a crisis of conscience, Trump called off the strike when he learned that it would kill an estimated 150 people, which he decided would be disproportionate to the downing of an unmanned drone.

  Meanwhile, Trump is not only continuing his brutal system of sanctions on Iran but actually ratcheting them up even more. His goal? To kill more Iranians through economic deprivation, either through starvation, illness, or domestic plane crashes arising from an inability to secure needed parts for maintenance and repair.

Friday, July 5, 2019

We know more about the First Amendment — for the wrong reasons

  Americans know more about their First Amendment freedoms than in many years previously — but if we’re honest about it, it may well be because we’re now worried about keeping them.

  The 2019 State of the First Amendment survey, released last week by the Freedom Forum Institute, shows the highest awareness of those basic rights than at any time in the 22-year history of the national sampling.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Craig Ford: This 4th of July, remember what it means to be an American

  Today our nation celebrates its 243rd birthday. Most of us will spend the day celebrating with family and friends, barbequing, and watching fireworks. But between the fireworks and cheeseburgers, it is important that we take a moment to think about what it means to be an American and pause to remember those who have fought for this country.

  It is easy to take for granted the freedom that we have in this country, or the fact that we get to choose who leads our government. We are blessed to live in a country where we can speak and worship freely without fear of persecution.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Legislative session for most part successful, especially for Governor Ivey

  The 2019 Alabama Legislative Session was one of the most controversial yet productive sessions in memory.

  Governor Kay Ivey’s first session of the quadrennial was a roaring success. It’s hard to remember a governor getting everything they wanted since the George Wallace heydays.

  Wallace in his prime simply controlled the legislature. It was more like an appendage of the governor’s office. Kay Ivey has apparently taken a page from the old Wallace playbook. By the way, that is probably apropos as she cut her teeth in Alabama politics working for and learning from the Wallaces.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

States are going around Trump to get more workers overtime pay

  Getting a promotion is usually a cause for celebration. But after Chip Ahlgren was made a general manager at a Jiffy Lube in Washington state, he moved from an hourly position to a salaried one and was no longer owed overtime pay when he put in more than 40 hours a week. Instead, Ahlgren could be asked to work as many hours as his boss demands for the same $52,000 a year.

  These days, he’s putting in around 60 hours a week, even though his contract says he’s supposed to work 50 hours and the payroll system only counts 40 hours a week for the purpose of accruing sick leave. His managers keep giving him more to do. “They just add and add and add,” he said. “There’s no way for us to get everything done.”

Monday, July 1, 2019

Five ways people of faith have led LGBTQ advocacy efforts since the 1969 Stonewall riots

  June 28 marked the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, often deemed as the catalyst for the modern LGBTQ rights movement. On June 28, 1969, police raided New York City’s Stonewall Inn, a bar and gathering space for members of the LGBTQ community. Riots ensued between the police and LGBTQ patrons and passersby, led by transgender women of color including Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. Despite high-profile examples of faith-based opposition to LGBTQ rights since the riots, these anti-equality viewpoints do not reflect the attitudes of all faith communities. Faith leaders and religious communities have also played a key role in the LGBTQ rights movement.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Horrific detention center conditions expose Trump’s true immigration policy: unmitigated, unrelenting cruelty

  A year ago, America awoke to the shocking images of children being held in cages – children who had been stolen from their asylum-seeking parents at the border by an administration that had no plan to reunite them.

  Now, on the anniversary of that nightmare (June 26), the Trump administration is demonstrating again what seems to be a deliberate strategy of unmitigated, unrelenting cruelty toward people of color who dare to seek asylum in our country.

  Once again, children are at the center of this real-life horror show.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

The anti-immigrant extremists in charge of the U.S. immigration system

  The anti-immigrant movement has increasingly gained influence over the past decade, reaching a high point during the Trump administration. Top administrative positions in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have been filled by right-wing extremists, many with close ties to hate groups. As a result, anti-immigrant policies that used to be regarded as extreme have been normalized, and dehumanizing rhetoric toward immigrants has become rampant in mainstream media.

  The new wave of anti-immigrant extremists leading DHS is responsible for overseeing the nation’s entire immigration system, from adjudicating visa petitions and applications for citizenship and asylum to handling arrests and deportations. These extremists have also played a role in, or defended, policies that outrage many Americans, such as family separation, the increased use of ICE raids, and the disparagement of locations that have sanctuary policies.

Friday, June 28, 2019

The first Pride was a riot

  Police raids were frequent and expected among the gay bars in Greenwich Village in the late 1960s.

  In every state except Illinois, simply being gay was a crime. At the time, New York City was seen as a relatively safe haven for LGBTQ+ folks across the nation. But law enforcement routinely seized on state laws authorizing the arrest of anyone for “crimes against nature” or not wearing at least three articles of gender-appropriate clothing.

  The city even made it illegal for licensed bars to serve gay or gender-nonconforming people. The Mafia, seeing a profit in accommodating a shunned clientele, ran several bars that catered specifically to this guarded community. Such was Stonewall Inn.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Congress must do more to counter Trump administration’s assault on climate science

  Since taking office, President Donald Trump and his administration have threatened to dismantle the federal climate apparatus. Earlier this year, the White House released a budget proposal for fiscal year 2020 that repeats many of the cuts to federal climate science proposed in Trump’s previous fiscal year budgets. At some agencies, proposed cuts to climate science far outstrip proposed reductions to the agency overall; according to Center for American Progress analysis of the FY 2020 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Budget in Brief and the FY 2020 EPA budget justification, for instance, the Trump administration proposed an 11 percent cut to the U.S. Department of Energy’s overall budget but a 47 percent reduction in its climate science-related activities.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - State ethics law not tough enough for ole Rankin Fite

  Alabama Senator Jabo Waggoner (R-Vestavia) has been in the Alabama House and Alabama Senate for over 40 years. That is a record in Alabama history and definitely a record of longevity for any Jefferson County legislator. Senator Waggoner has had a significant impact on behalf of the folks in Jefferson County over his stellar career.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The simple solution to lower drug prices for all Americans

  Last month, 43 states and Puerto Rico sued drug companies for inflating prices by up to 1,000 percent from 2013 to 2015. The lawsuit alleges the unlawful practice of price fixing. But even without collusion, drug companies gouge patients and taxpayers for one simple reason: They legally can.

  The price hikes affected the cost of more than 100 generic drugs that treat cancer, diabetes, HIV, arthritis, and other conditions. Far from unusual, they are part of a pattern. Insulin, for example—a drug that treats diabetes—has existed since the 1920s. Between 2012 and 2016, the average price of insulin nearly doubled. This price gouging has led some patients to ration insulin doses, a matter of life and death.

Monday, June 24, 2019

White House "chills" on free speech

  Two weeks ago, the Office of the Special Counsel publicly recommended that White House counselor Kellyanne Conway be fired for repeatedly violating the Hatch Act, prompting many people to Google what the Hatch Act is (it’s a law that bars federal employees from engaging in political activity in the course of their work) and President Trump to give an interview to Fox News where he stated that, “[I]t looks to me like they’re trying to take away her right of free speech, and that’s not just fair.” (Last week, the president tweeted his support for a proposed constitutional amendment to outlaw burning the American flag — an act the Supreme Court has repeatedly held to be a protected form of political expression — thus ending his streak as a First Amendment advocate.)

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Minimum-wage workers have lost nearly a year’s salary to inflation

  America’s lowest-paid workers have lost nearly a full year’s pay since Congress last raised the federal minimum wage a decade ago. Every day, these workers’ losses continue to mount.

  Inflation has steadily eroded their pay, and as a result, a full-time, year-round worker earning $7.25 per hour will take an effective pay cut of $2,578 this year alone.* Over the past 10 years, lawmakers’ refusal to act has cost America’s lowest-paid workers a total of nearly $13,330—just shy of the $15,080 that a full-time worker earning $7.25 per hour takes home annually.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Background checks violate property rights

  In the early 1990s, I accompanied a friend and his 12-year-old son to a local gun show. My friend wished to purchase a .22 caliber rifle with which to teach his son to shoot safely and effectively. After much browsing, he found one at a reasonable price, one that suited both his needs and those of his son. The seller, a federally licensed firearms dealer, handed my friend an ATF Form 4473 to fill out. When my friend asked him why he had to fill out the form, the dealer answered that he could not purchase the weapon without doing so.

  At this point, I inserted myself into the conversation. I told the dealer that the restriction was not on my friend, who was free to purchase firearms without filling out anything, but upon him. As a dealer, he had accepted a license from the federal government to engage in the business of buying and selling firearms and was thus subject to the terms of that license. One of the terms was that he could not sell them to anyone who didn’t fill out the ATF Form 4473. In addition, the dealer has to keep the form on file for inspection by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF). The same is true for the background check; it is imposed on the dealer as a condition of his license.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Arresting a person for profanity often violates the First Amendment

  Law enforcement officials should not assume that uttering profanity rises to the level of unlawful disorderly conduct. That is a lesson from a recent decision from a federal appeals court involving an Arkansas man thrown in jail for yelling a two-word expletive at an officer.

  Eric Roshaun Thurairajah was driving on a five-lane highway in Fort Smith, Ark., when he saw a police officer pulling over a minivan on the opposite of the road. The minivan contained a woman and two young children.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

The most important gun violence prevention agency you’ve never heard of

  The national conversation about gun violence in the United States is generally focused on the need to enact new laws or strengthen existing ones to help prevent the mass casualty shootings that occur stunningly often, as well as the daily occurrences of gun violence that plague communities around the country but never make the news. This focus on the gaps in U.S. gun laws makes sense: Glaring loopholes in the United States’ laws have made the country an outlier among high-income nations when it comes to lives taken by gunfire. But the debate about gun violence should not overlook another key role that the federal government has to play beyond enacting new laws: enforcing existing laws and regulating the gun industry. This crucial work makes up the core of the mission of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1671 - The end of slavery was monumental

  The end of slavery. The end of slavery. The end of slavery. The end of slavery was one of the most impactful events in the history of the United States of America. It changed so much. But we don’t celebrate the end of slavery. It’s a fateful failure. There are many reasons for this great failure. The end of slavery was monumental.

  To understand the huge importance of the end of slavery, we have to understand the profound dimensions of slavery. We have deliberately blocked out such knowledge. Slavery was so terrible that we don’t want to remember it. We don’t want to talk or read, or see movies or television programs about slavery. It is too painful. We act the way many respond to truly traumatic events such as brutal rapes. We often refuse to remember. Even when we don’t remember slavery, its impact is still deep and manifests itself in many ways. We cannot celebrate the end of slavery if we refuse to remember slavery.

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - One vote can make a difference

  Some of us who are former legislators and who served our counties in the legislature a long time are considered by many to always be their legislator. A good many of my former constituents still call me with questions or problems. Some ask me how to get in touch with their congressman or senator about a certain issue so that they can express their opinion. They invariably ask if their letter or email make a difference. My response is: “Yes, it will.” 

  All legislators and congressmen want to know what their constituents are thinking. They generally want to vote their district’s feelings and needs. When I was a legislator, I would cherish this input and actually solicit it.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

American foreign policy has left young voters behind

  Americans younger than age 50 have spent more than half—in some cases, all—of their adult lives with America at war. This group, that will constitute more than half of eligible voters in the 2020 presidential election, grew up in a time when America was involved in such a large number of overseas conflicts that even some American lawmakers didn’t know where the U.S. military had boots on the ground. Lengthy, largely unsuccessful military interventions in places such as Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria didn’t end with victory parades; in fact, some haven’t ended at all.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Teachers, retirees deserve better from state leaders

  The education budget passed by lawmakers in the final days of the legislative session is the largest in terms of dollars that the state has ever spent (though, when factoring in inflation, we still are not spending as much as we did before the 2008 recession).

  For the most part, the budget is a good one. Pre-K, school buses and transportation, K-12 classrooms and school libraries are all getting a boost in 2020. But educators and, particularly, retirees are still being left behind.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1670 - Little things can be so powerful!

  Little things can be powerful. We are conditioned to look for the big things in life. We think they are more powerful and more rewarding. Big things can be powerful and rewarding, but they are few and far between. Little things are many and come daily. Little things can be so powerful.

  A 'thank you' can be powerful. A 'thank you' lifts. A 'thank you' shows appreciation. A 'thank you' connects. A 'thank you' adds value. I often say "thank you" to my employees. Two of them have responded over the years with words to this effect: “You don’t have to say thank you to me. This was part of my job.” I believe that a 'thank you' is a gift. A gift transcends the realm of “have to.” A 'thank you' can make a moment. A 'thank you' can transform a day.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

More U.S. dictatorship against Cuba

  Lamenting dictatorship in Cuba, the U.S. government has decided to tighten restrictions on the freedom of Americans to travel to Cuba. Never mind that the restrictions were not enacted by Congress and signed into law by President Trump. When it comes to fighting totalitarian dictatorship, the reasoning goes, it’s necessary to adopt dictatorial policies here at home.

  Freedom of travel has long been considered a fundamental, natural, God-given right with which no government, not even the U.S. government, can legitimately infringe upon. Recall the Declaration of Independence, which Americans will be celebrating on the Fourth of July. It holds that liberty is among the rights with which all people have been endowed by their Creator. When God endows people with certain rights, including the right of freedom of travel, it goes without saying that Caesar behaves illegitimately when he infringes on such rights.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Corporal punishment in school disproportionately affects black students, students with disabilities

  Corporal punishment in school may seem like a practice that has long since disappeared from U.S. public schools, but every school day, there are students who are punished by being struck by an educator – proof that corporal punishment remains a painful reality in thousands of public schools.

  While 31 states have banned corporal punishment in schools – recognizing its harmful effects on students – 19 states still allow its use in a school setting. Even within states that allow the practice in schools, corporal punishment is banned in child care centers, foster care settings, and juvenile detention centers. In these 19 states, laws barring the practice in such settings sometimes describe corporal punishment as inappro­priate, abusive, and unethical – all the while, the practice continues in their public schools.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team is fighting for better pay and the rest of women’s sports depends on it

  When it comes to iconic U.S. soccer teams, none tops the 1999 U.S. Women’s National Team. That squad is still so special today because its tournament run, culminating in a shootout victory over China before a huge crowd in Pasadena’s Rose Bowl, created a wave of change that led to more funding and resources for the women’s national team as well as the founding of the first North American women’s soccer league.

  When asked about the ‘99ers, as they’re known, at U.S. Soccer media day last month, forward Alex Morgan simply replied: “Now it’s our turn to make our mark.”

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Past prominent state legislators

  The 2019 Alabama Legislative Session is now in the books. As each session is observed, it is apparent that primary, powerful state senators control the flow and outcome of any and all legislative sessions.

  Current Alabama state Senators Del Marsh, Jabo Waggoner, Greg Reed, and Arthur Orr wield immense influence.

  This has been true throughout history. The annals of political history reveal powerful state senators. Some of the most prominent include: Roland Cooper, the “Wily Fox from Wilcox”, Joe Goodwyn of Montgomery, Walter Givhan of Dallas County, Ryan DeGraffenreid, Sr. of Tuscaloosa, and later his son, Ryan, Jr. also of Tuscaloosa. The legendary Alabama state Senator Bob Wilson, Sr. of Jasper was powerful in his day.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1669 - To impeach or not to impeach

  To impeach or not to impeach? That is the question. Every time we view or read or listen to our televisions, radios, newspapers, internet, and other media, we face the question: Should President Trump be impeached? I have a thought or two to share on the issue of impeachment. To impeach or not to impeach.

  “If a president, vice president, and other civil officers commit treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors, the U.S. Congress has the authority to impeach them.” This authority is provided in Article 2 of the United States Constitution. This provision is 230 years old but has been utilized just three times in history to try to impeach a president.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Changing demographics of mass incarceration

  After decades of constructing a system of mass incarceration, it appears that our nation is beginning to turn the tide.

  Some of the Deep South states that incarcerate the highest percentage of their residents – like Louisiana, Georgia, and Mississippi – have enacted reforms that are beginning to bring down their prison populations. At the same time, the federal prison population has decreased by 40,000 since peaking at 219,000 in 2013.

  But it’s just a beginning. It will take much more reform to end the era of mass incarceration. It’s a period that began in the early 1970s – just after the civil rights movement – when President Richard Nixon declared a “war on drugs” following a “law and order” presidential campaign calculated to appeal to white anxieties about the changing social order.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

China’s scary rise as a regional hegemon

  What could be scarier than the rise of a regional hegemon? Right? It conjures up an image of a giant Transformer, one who is going on the march and stomping through smaller nearby nations and imposing its will on them. Scary!

  That’s the situation with China. While President Trump’s trade war that he has initiated with China gets most of the focus, the U.S. government’s aim with China goes much further than that. It goes to China’s rise as a regional hegemon, something that U.S. officials are always on the lookout for and that they will smash out of existence before the regional hegemon can become a global hegemon.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Craig Ford: Equal pay bill is a huge step in the right direction

  One of the positive things to come out of the 2019 Alabama Legislative Session is a piece of legislation that has finally brought pay equality to the state.

  Until last week, Alabama was one of only two states in the country that doesn’t have any laws requiring equal pay for equal work. The other state, if you were wondering, is Mississippi.

  This bill has been in the works since 2016, and the version that finally passed is the product of negotiation and compromise that ultimately received the approval of the business community and unanimous support from both houses of the Alabama Legislature.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Discomforting facts about World War II

  Given the predictable accolades regarding the 75th anniversary of D-Day in World War II — it’s important for Americans to keep in mind some discomforting facts about the so-called good war:

1) Prior to U.S. entry into World War II, the American people were overwhelmingly opposed to entering the conflict. That’s because of two things: (1) the non-interventionist foreign policy that was the founding policy of the United States and that had remained the foreign policy of the United States for more than 100 years; and (2) the horrible waste of men and money that had been expended on America’s intervention into World War I, not to mention the massive destruction of liberty that came with that war.

2) It was only because President Franklin Roosevelt intentionally provoked and maneuvered the Japanese into attacking at Pearl Harbor, where U.S. destroyers were conveniently based (FDR had wisely removed the carriers), that the U.S. ended up entering the conflict. Even many Roosevelt apologists now acknowledge what he did but defend it by arguing that his actions were for the greater good, i.e., preventing the Nazis from supposedly conquering the world. But what does it say about a democratic society in which people are overwhelmingly opposed to entering a particular war and in which their president circumvents that will by provoking and maneuvering a foreign regime into attacking the United States?

3) Hitler never had the ability to conquer the United States, much less the world. After all, his forces proved unable to cross the English Channel to conquer England. At the risk of belaboring the obvious, it would have been militarily impossible for Hitler’s forces to cross the Atlantic Ocean and successfully invade and conquere the United States.

4) Mainstream historians and newspapers have long pointed out that defeating Germany saved Europe from Nazi control. But it was always clear from the beginning that Hitler was moving east, not west — toward the Soviet Union, whose communist regime he considered the real enemy of Germany (just as the U.S. would consider the Soviet Union to be the real enemy of the United States after the war was over). It was England and France that declared war on Germany, not the other way around. If England and France had not declared war on Germany, it is a virtual certainty that the war would have been between Germany and the Soviet Union — i.e., Nazism versus communism, while the Western powers stood aside and let them fight it out among themselves.

5) The reason that England declared war on Germany was to honor the guarantee that England had given to Poland. But it was an empty guarantee because England knew that it lacked the military capability to free the Poles from German control. At the end of the war and ever since, mainstream historians and newspapers have waxed eloquently about how “we” defeated the Nazis. The operative word, however, is “we” because “we” included the Soviet Union, which was ruled by one of the most brutal communist regimes in the world. It was the Soviet Union that ended up controlling Poland … and Czechoslovakia … and all of Eastern Europe … and also the eastern half of Germany. So, yes, the Poles were freed from Nazi tyranny at the end of the war only to be made to suffer for the next 45 years under communist tyranny. U.S. officials and mainstream historians and commentators have always called that a “victory” for freedom. The Poles and Eastern Europeans have always felt differently about such a “victory.”

6) Virtually no Jews were saved by the war. By the time the war was over, almost all of them were dead. Of course, it should be kept in mind that when Hitler offered to let German Jews leave Germany in the 1930s, the Roosevelt administration, like all other nations around the world, said that they could not come to the United States. The reason? Anti-Semitism, the same anti-Semitism that afflicted Nazi Germany. Google “Voyage of the Damned” for more information.

7) After the war was over, U.S. officials immediately converted Hitler’s enemy (and America’s wartime partner), the Soviet Union, into America’s new official enemy, which, Americans were told, was an even bigger threat to the United States than Hitler had been. The fierce anti-communist mindset that had driven Hitler was now adopted by U.S. officials. Their Cold War against their wartime partner and ally was used to convert the federal government from a limited-government republic to a national-security state, a type of totalitarian structure that brought coups, assassinations, regime-change operations, alliances with dictatorial regimes, installation of dictatorial regimes, and ever-increasing budgets and power to the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA. In fact, the national-security branch of the federal government ultimately became the most powerful branch. Additionally, there was the entire anti-communist crusade engaged in by U.S. officials and the mainstream press against anyone who had socialist, communist, or even leftist leanings. (“Have you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?”)

8) The Cold War brought U.S. interventions in North Korea and Vietnam, which cost the lives of more than 100,000 American men as well as countless injuries, not to mention the massive death and destruction that U.S. forces wreaked on the people of North Korea and North Vietnam. U.S. officials claimed that absent intervention, the dominoes would fall to the Reds with the final domino being the United States. Despite the stalemate in Korea and the total defeat of U.S. forces in Vietnam at the hands of the communists, the dominoes never fell and the United States is still standing.

9) Mainstream historians and newspapers claim that Hitler would have ultimately conquered the United States and the world had he not been stopped. Of course, that’s impossible to say but it’s a problematic assertion given that Germany would have been just as weak and devastated as the Soviet Union was by the end of the war. War makes a nation weaker, not stronger. What we do know is that after the war, U.S. officials said that the Soviet Union, Hitler’s enemy and America’s wartime partner, was hell-bent on conquering the United States and the world. They never succeeded or even came close. If the United States could survive the communist Soviet Union, there is no reason to conclude that it couldn’t have survived a Nazi Germany.

  A U.S. president surreptitiously embroils the country in a war that the American citizenry overwhelming opposed, a war that left Eastern Europe and half of Germany under communist control for 45 years and that also gave us the Cold War, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War as well as the conversion of our government to a totalitarian-like national-security state, along with the anti-communist crusade, assassination, coups, regime-change operations, and alliances with dictatorial regimes. That’s quite a “victory.”

  For more discomforting facts about World War I, World War II, and America’s other foreign wars, read The Future of Freedom Foundation's book, The Failure of America’s Foreign Wars, edited by Richard Ebeling and Jacob Hornberger.

  About the author: Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

  This article was published by The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Six ways to reduce gun violence in America

  Gun violence in the United States is a public health crisis.

  It goes beyond the mass shootings that grab the nation’s attention. Every day, gun violence takes lives from communities all across the country in the form of suicides, unintentional shootings, and interpersonal conflicts that become fatal due to easy access to guns.

  In this country, an average of 35,000 people are killed with guns every year—96 each day.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Legends of Girls State

  For almost 100 years, two of the best annual events for young Alabama high school leaders in Alabama have been the Alabama Boys State and the Alabama Girls State programs.

  These events are sponsored by the American Legion and the American Legion Auxillary. Boys State and Girls State are sponsored nationwide by the American Legion. The programs epitomize the American Legion’s mission to honor those who have bought us our American freedom.

  The Girls State and Boys State programs bring the brightest high school leaders together every June. These young Alabama leaders will be Alabama’s governmental leaders in the future.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Challenging the whitewashed history of women’s suffrage

  Recently members of the U.S. House of Representatives wore yellow roses to commemorate the passage of the 19th Amendment in the lower chamber on May 21, 1919.

  Today marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment by the two-thirds Congressional majority – an action that sent the amendment granting women the right to vote to the states for ratification.

  But we must not forget that while the 19th Amendment was momentous, the reality was that it did not grant the franchise to all women in the United States. In practice, it ensured the franchise for primarily white, middle- and upper-class women; women of color largely did not enjoy the right to vote.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Sotomayor once again is the most speech-protective justice

  U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, as she has done in the public employee First Amendment context and often in Fourth Amendment cases, recently proved to be the justice most protective of individual liberty. She demonstrated her solicitude for free speech in an unusual retaliatory arrest case out of Alaska, where a patron at a winter sports festival was arrested for disorderly conduct.

  The majority of the court ruled in Nieves v. Bartlett (2019) that the lack of probable cause will generally defeat a retaliatory arrest claim, even if the arresting officer had some underlying animus. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that “the presence of probable cause should generally defeat a First Amendment retaliatory arrest claim.” In other words, if law enforcement officers have a valid basis for an arrest, a person can’t claim retaliation.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Trump’s new union-busting rule will wallop home health workers

  Earlier this month, the Department of Health and Human Services finalized an obscure rule that could have huge implications for an estimated 800,000 independent home health providers paid directly by the state for Medicaid-funded services. Under the rule, these workers will no longer be able to assign deductions from their paychecks to cover things like insurance premiums, retirement contributions, and union dues. The rule singles out the most isolated home health workers who are not employed or paid via agencies; those who are can assign deductions at will.

  Advocates argue the rule is designed to suppress unions by making it more difficult to collect dues. And there’s more than union dues at stake: Home care providers could, for example, experience lapses in health coverage by failing to keep up with premiums.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Delay of Harriet Tubman $20 bill undergirded by racism, misogyny

  Throughout my life, Harriet Tubman symbolized strength, courage, and determination.

  The abolitionist hero was the only woman of color in our school’s American history book while I was growing up in the 1970s and ‘80s. It was Tubman’s selfless and tenacious efforts to free enslaved people that inspired my own desire to make a difference in the world. That’s why I joined the board of directors for the Southern Poverty Law Center and now serve as its interim president.

  Last week, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin announced that the Trump administration is delaying the release of the new $20 bill featuring Tubman. Originally, it was scheduled for release in 2020 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote. Mnuchin now indicates it will not be in circulation until 2028, long after Trump has left office. He claimed the delay was based on a more immediate need to focus on anti-counterfeiting features of currency beginning with the $10 and $50 bills.

Friday, May 31, 2019

It’s time for an appointed state school board in Alabama

  A new plan by Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh and Gov. Kay Ivey seeks to replace a group of elected positions, those of the Alabama School Board members, to positions appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Alabama Senate. Though it will be first voted on by the legislature, it must ultimately be approved by the voters of Alabama as a constitutional amendment.

  Is this a good idea?

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Waging a new war on poverty

  The movement for racial justice in America is inextricably linked to the fight for economic justice.

  Prominent African-American activists like Frederick Douglas W.E.B. Du Bois, A. Philip Randolph, and Angela Davis recognized that black emancipation requires economic empowerment.

  That sentiment is probably no better exemplified in American history than by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s shift in messaging near the end of his life.

  King began to call for the redistribution of economic and political power in the United States, launching a national campaign that culminated in the Poor People's March on Washington in the summer of 1968. The march took place weeks after his assassination in Memphis, where he had traveled to rally support for the city’s striking sanitation workers.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - An act of Congress

  A good many people wonder why simple, straightforward, no-nonsense, good-government legislation fails to pass even though it appears to have universal, overwhelming support and appeal for many voters and legislators.

  You will recall old sayings that you heard from your elders when you were young, old bits of wisdom spouted from the lips of your grandparents and older folks, which went in one ear and out the other. Sayings like, “If you’ve got your health, you’ve got everything”, and “If it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it”. And if you are a golfer, there is no truer euphuism than, “You drive for show and putt for dough”, and “it ain’t how you drive, it's how you arrive”. The older you get, it occurs to you how wise these old adages are in actual life. They are golden facts.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Who actually pays tariffs?

  Donald Trump’s economic ignorance knows no bounds. And especially when it comes to the subject of trade.

  Trade is always a win-win proposition. In every exchange, each party gives up something valued less for something valued more. Each party to a transaction values differently the goods or services being exchanged. Each party anticipates a gain from the exchange or there would be no commerce between the two parties. And each party will repeat the exchange again if its estimated gain has proved to be satisfactory.