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.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Please don’t forget Memorial Day’s meaning

  America has undergone a lot of maturing between the Vietnam War and the conflicts of the 21st century. I know, I wore a uniform during both periods.

  On Memorial Day, let’s not regress in that maturity.

  When I was still a cadet at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, I watched our instructors (all multi-tour Vietnam veterans) deal with the end of the war.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

The Trump administration’s 10 most dangerous actions concerning Iran

  President Donald Trump’s erratic Iran policy has left America more isolated and less safe. In his first week in office, he alienated Iranians by banning them from America. Then he ignored the warnings of the world, nuclear experts, and his own national security team to shred a functioning nuclear agreement. For all Iran’s continued destabilizing behavior, President Trump’s actions have made America the instigator of the current crisis in the eyes of the world. He has ratcheted up tensions with no plan for success.

  Even now, there remains a serious risk that Trump and his team will blunder into a preventable and unnecessary war. Trump’s clumsy attempts at diplomacy with Iran are likely to fail—just as they have with North Korea. The chaos is obvious, and productive results are nowhere to be seen.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Trump is lying about immigrant crime – and the research proves it

  Since he began campaigning, President Trump has demonized Latino immigrants as “criminals.” He has called them “rapists,” drug dealers, “animals” and “bad hombres” who “infest our country.”

  He has claimed that immigrant gang members “take a young, beautiful girl, 16, 15 and others and they slice them and dice them with a knife because they want them to go through excruciating pain before they die.”

  Along the border, he has claimed without any evidence at all, that “[w]omen are tied up, with duct tape on their faces, put in the backs of vans.”

  Trump deploys this dehumanizing language to justify his inhumane policies of caging children, shredding the asylum system in violation of the law, shattering families across America, incarcerating tens of thousands of law-abiding people in inhumane prisons, and more.

  But he is wrong.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Iran, Venezuela, and North Korea’s nukes

  From the start of the brouhaha that President Trump initiated against North Korea for refusing to destroy its nuclear weapons, I have consistently maintained that the communist regime would never rid itself of its nukes. Even when Trump suddenly did an about-face and fell in love with North Korean communist dictator Kim Jong-Un and convinced himself that his new-found communist friend would “denuclearize,” I said it just wasn’t going to happen. I also said that there was zero chance that Kim would trade his nukes for Trump’s promise of beautiful condo projects along North Korean beaches.

  Why was I so certain that Kim would never let go of his nukes? Because he knows that his nukes are what is deterring U.S. officials, including Cold War anticommunist dead-enders like John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, and Elliott Abrams, from initiating a regime-change war against his regime.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Defending all of us by defending a free press

  Police raids in lieu of legal due process. Undercover surveillance on reporters because of their work. Street “sweeps” in which journalists are handcuffed and carted away to “headquarters.” The use of force as an alternative to courts and legal means.

  Such are the tactics of dictators, despots, and those for whom democratic ideals and the rule of law are expendable in the name of expediency, political gains, or a desire to avoid being held accountable to the public.

  Recent examples of these strong-arm methods have appeared here in our nation — and every citizen ought to hear his/her First Amendment threat alarm sounding.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Road rage and deer hunting bills take center stage in legislature

  Over 20 years ago when I was a legislator, the Alabama State Trooper assigned to my county asked if he could visit with me. “Of course,” I said. When he came, he had a somber look on his face. I thought maybe he had a serious personal problem or had lost a loved one.

  He began, “This may not sound like a major highway problem, but one of the things that causes a good many accidents and incidents on our roads is people driving slow in the left lane and not moving over.” I never pursued legislation to this effect. However, he made me aware of the need to remedy this problem.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

2.2 million Americans are behind bars, and that’s more than the prison system can handle

  Sam was no stranger to arrest. Since becoming addicted to methamphetamine after moving to Hawaii for a chef position, he spent years bouncing between jails, rehabs, and the streets. But when his module caught fire during a riot at the Maui Community Correctional Facility, he found himself faced with an impossible choice: Go back inside the burning building or extend his sentence.

  The conditions that led to the riot were nothing new. MCCC was designed to hold 301 people, but at the time was packed with over 400. The jail has a history of chronic overcrowding; in 2016 the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii filed a complaint that named MCCC as the most “egregiously overcrowded” on the islands, to the point that it was unsafe. Among other issues, the report notes that it was common for three, four, or sometimes five people to be placed into cells designed for two, forcing them to sleep on the floor among roaches and rats, sometimes with their heads beneath the toilet.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Immigration tyranny and cruelty come home

  I can’t help but wonder if what has happened to Theresa Todd will cause conservative-leaning libertarians to abandon their support of immigration controls, the system of immigration central planning, cruelty, and tyranny that both conservatives and progressives have unfortunately foisted upon our land.

  Todd lives in West Texas. One night she was driving down a highway when she was flagged down by three young Central American migrants — Carlos, 22, his brother Francisco 20, and their sister Esmeralda, 18.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Setting the record straight: Real talk about immigration courts

  The Trump administration’s recent “fact sheet” on U.S. immigration proceedings excludes critical information about the immigration system and only serves to spread misinformation and distrust of immigrants and asylum seekers.

  The document, issued by the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review sparked former immigration judges and members of the Board of Immigration Appeals to object to such “political pandering” that makes a mockery of the agency’s obligation to ensure the full and fair resolution of immigration cases. The document’s claims have also been rebutted by advocates and the media. What’s more, at the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative, our clients and attorneys have witnessed the routine abuses of a court system increasingly bent on deporting individuals rather than administering justice.

  Because Americans deserve the truth, here are some real facts about the immigration courts.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Craig Ford: Education and state retirees also deserve a pay raise

  Sometimes I feel like a broken record, but here we are once again. Another year, another budget, and another failure to provide our retirees with a cost-of-living pay raise.

  It’s becoming a disturbing tradition that every year I have to write about our legislature’s failure to treat our retirees with the respect they deserve. But for some reason, our state representatives and senators think that retirees only deserve the occasional, one-time bonus payments rather than a permanent cost-of-living pay increase.

Friday, May 17, 2019

It’s time to reform occupational licensing in Alabama

  Did you know that it’s against the law to braid hair, wash hair, or even plant flowers professionally in Alabama without a license?

  That’s because occupational licensing, originally meant to protect consumers, has gotten way out of hand. A video recently produced by the Alabama Policy Institute illustrates just how ridiculous it has become.

  Sure, licensing certain occupations is a good thing. We need to know our builders, physicians, attorneys, and those practicing many other specialized and potentially dangerous professions are being well regulated.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Congress should revive the Office of Technology Assessment

  In recent decades, the U.S. economy and society have been propelled forward by a boom in science and technology innovation—but the legislative branch has failed to keep pace with the resultant shifts in policy concerns. American life is rife with newly entrenched science and technologies that have been met with concern and confusion—from the genetic modification of food to personal data privacy on social media. Additionally, the emergence of highly technical concerns such as climate change, cybersecurity, and new energy technologies have had considerable domestic and geopolitical implications and require unprecedented levels of interdisciplinary analysis.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Infrastructure package a huge achievement for Ivey and legislature

  The five-day Special Legislative Session of the Alabama Legislature that addressed the increase in the gas tax to fund an Infrastructure Rebuilding Program for the state was a remarkable success. I still marvel at the adroitness, efficiency, and expediency with which the governor accomplished this monumental initiative. She called for a Special Session on the night of her State of the State Address and within one week, it was signed, sealed, and delivered.

  I have seen some successful special sessions in my lifetime of watching Alabama politics. However, I have never seen anything like this. George Wallace used special sessions regularly during his 20-year reign as King of Alabama Politics. He got things accomplished this way. It is the way to go to crystallize the importance of an issue. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Trump’s plan to lower poverty by redefining it, explained

  Last week, the Trump administration proposed changing how the official poverty measure (OPM) is adjusted for inflation. The Office of Management and Budget is describing the policy change as an opportunity to consider “the strengths and weaknesses of different indexes” and “best practices for their use.” However, this seemingly technical distinction would artificially decrease the count of people living in poverty, laying the groundwork for cuts to dozens of programs, such as Head Start, school lunch, energy assistance, and legal services.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Losing our core freedoms by not knowing we have them

  Ignorance may well have been bliss to 18th-century English poet Thomas Gray, but in 2019, widespread ignorance of our core freedoms and how our government functions is just plain dangerous.

  A just-released Survey of Civic Literacy, conducted by the American Bar Association (ABA) and released May 1 to mark national Law Day, finds many of us do not know much about either subject.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

I helped patients get through abortion clinic parking lots and what I saw was horrifying

  In the first three months of 2019, more than 300 restrictive abortion bills were introduced, proposing everything from making abortion a felony to increasing restrictions on clinics. Recently, the Georgia Legislature moved to join three other states in enacting “heartbeat” bans that will prohibit abortion after fetal pole cardiac activity can be detected — as early as six weeks, before many people know they’re pregnant — essentially outlawing the procedure in those states.

  Abortion barriers are not new. In order to receive an abortion, the average person will pay anywhere from $400-$1,000 for the procedure, travel up to 168 miles, and wait up to 72 hours. Low-income people and people of color face additional barriers, such as trouble getting time off, difficulty securing travel funds, and bans on insurance coverage. Even after jumping all of these bureaucratic hurdles, people still face physical obstruction and harassment at the clinics themselves from anti-abortion protestors.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Which new war next: Iran or Venezuela?

  Pity President Donald “America First” Trump, Secretary of State (and former CIA Director) Mike Pompeo, National-Security Advisor (and Cold War fanatic) John Bolton, and Special U.S. Representative to Venezuela (and Cold War fanatic) Eliott Abrams. Knowing that the American people have grown weary with their forever wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Yemen, these four interventionists can’t decide whether to initiate a new war against Venezuela or against Iran, or against both. They just know that they want a new war, an exciting war, a winnable war against a poor Third World country, a war that will cause Americans to forget about the ongoing fiascoes in the Middle East and Afghanistan and that will hopefully restore America to greatness through “mission-accomplished” conquest, bombing, death, destruction, and regime-change. One can easily imagine the arguments that must be taking place in the White House: “Iran! They ousted our Shah from power!” “No, Venezuela! It’s part of the worldwide communist conspiracy to take over America!”

Friday, May 10, 2019

Administration-sanctioned discrimination is keeping foster kids out of loving homes

  "Alex" (name has been changed for privacy) was adopted from foster care at age two and came out to her adoptive family when she was 14. After that point, Alex never felt safe at home. Immediately after coming out, her adoptive family began calling her names, making derogatory comments about her sexual orientation, and prohibiting her from participating in age-appropriate activities such as spending time with friends or participating in extracurriculars. “It was heck for me,” Alex said. “I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere, and I wasn’t allowed to do after-school activities, and [my adoptive mother] thought I was just lying to her to go meet up with a girl or something. Once I became 18, I actually got kicked out.”

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Flint still doesn’t have clean water, and it’s not alone

  April 25th of this year marked the fifth anniversary of when the state-controlled government of Flint, Michigan negligently chose to prioritize short-sighted cost-savings over its residents’ health and access to clean, safe water. The toll of this state-sanctioned poisoning affected more than 9,000 Flint children under the age of six, a portion of whom are set to start kindergarten this year.

  The children of Flint and another 3,000 communities across the U.S. with dangerously elevated lead levels in their blood face an uphill, lifelong road littered with lead-induced developmental challenges, caused and exacerbated by long-neglected infrastructure ill-equipped to meet their needs, and a national public seemingly reluctant (if not apathetic) to do anything meaningful about it. Infrastructure might not be the “hottest” policy issue to pursue, but the consequences of ignoring it are all too clearly costly and deadly.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - After Richard Shelby

  Our senior U.S. Senator, Richard Shelby, turns 85 this week. In March, he reached another milestone – he surpassed Sen. John Sparkman as the longest serving U.S. Senator in Alabama history. Shelby has been our senator for 32 plus years. 

  Alabama has a treasure in Richard Shelby. He is not only the longest-serving U.S. Senator in Alabama history; he is also the most successful U.S. Senator in Alabama history. During his illustrious tenure, Senator Shelby has chaired the Senate Banking Committee, Intelligence Committee, and Rules Committee. However, his current perch as Chairman of the Appropriations Committee is unparalleled.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Trump’s trade wars destroy our freedom

  Given President Trump’s trade wars against China and other countries, the natural tendency is to focus on Chinese and American producers and consumers as the victims of Trump’s destructive trade folly.

  Keep in mind that in every trade, both sides benefit by improving their respective standard of living. That’s because in every trade, both traders give up something they value less for something they value more. Thus, standards of living can rise through the simple act of trade.

Monday, May 6, 2019

New Jersey is proving that bail reform works

  Ever since the state of New Jersey approved comprehensive reforms to its money bail system in 2014, opponents have warned that the changes — which eliminate cash bail for people accused of low-level crimes — would lead to “dangerous and violent offenders [being] cut loose from jails and shoved into communities where innocent people suffer.”

  Numerous law enforcement officials, prosecutors, lawmakers, and local media outlets have been strong opponents of the elimination of cash bail, which is the payment required from a defendant in return for being released from jail as they await trial. The fiercest resistance to change has come from the powerful for-profit bail bond industry.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1663 - Raising children is a great challenge

  Raising children is a great challenge. Children are raised all over the world. Children are raised in every culture. Children are raised in every country. Children are raised everywhere. Nearly everyone says that it is more difficult to raise children today. Every generation says it’s more difficult now than in the past. But it was always difficult to raise children.  Raising children is a great challenge.

  I remember my mother by marriage, Mrs. Ora Lee Gaines, saying to Faya and me: "You all are doing your children wrong by bringing all these other children into this house. These children will be a bad influence on them." Mrs. Gaines loved our children. Mrs. Gaines loved McRae Gaines' children. Mrs. Gaines loved children period. But she was living with us during the week as she directed McRae Gaines Learning Center and going home to Birmingham on the weekends. She was also helping raise our children. We had to give consideration to the issues raised.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Divided 10th Circuit panel gives inadequate First Amendment protection to employee demoted for truthful sworn court testimony

  The 10th Circuit rejected the First Amendment claim of a public employee who was demoted after giving sworn testimony in a judicial proceeding involving a domestic child custody dispute between his sister-in-law and a fellow public employee. The decision gives inadequate protection to public employees who testify in court and creates a circuit split that may require ultimate review by the U.S. Supreme Court.

  Jerud Butler works as a supervisor for the San Miguel County (Colorado) Road and Bridge Department. He suffered a demotion after he testified in a court proceeding involving his sister-in-law and her ex-husband, who also works for the San Miguel County Road and Bridge Department. Two of Butler’s work superiors investigated his court testimony and gave him a written reprimand and demotion.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Trump’s border wall is an expensive, ineffective application of eminent domain

  The Trump administration has made building a wall along the southwest border a cornerstone of its overall agenda. The proposed wall has generated intense debate, and Congress—even while under unified Republican control—has repeatedly refused to appropriate the amount of money demanded by President Donald Trump to fund the project. At the end of 2018, the standoff resulted in the longest government shutdown in American history.

  As President Trump continues to blatantly misappropriate government funds—including $3.6 billion in money allocated for military construction—to build the wall, he has ignored an equally important element: land. Building the wall will require the seizure of thousands of acres of privately owned land along the border. Existing laws, namely the Fifth Amendment and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) of 1996, allow the government to seize land for public use—specifically, the IIRIRA allows the government to construct border fencing. However, while Trump has referred to eminent domain as “a wonderful thing,” past experiences with the 2006 Secure Fence Act prove that massive government land takings generally are neither well-received nor easy.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Trump’s citizenship question

  The Constitution requires the federal government to conduct a count of all of the people living in the United States every 10 years.

  The census determines each state’s number of federal representatives and the amount of money states and localities receive for infrastructure, health care, social safety nets, and other federal programs. It also influences where district lines are drawn for federal representation.

  The census has undercounted marginalized groups since it began. The Constitution outlines that: “Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned … according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other persons.”

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Alabama's prison issue is front and center

  Folks, taking care of prisoners is not a popular political issue. However, every so often Alabama politicians pragmatically have to acquiesce to the mandates of federal judges and grant our transgressing citizens their rights as determined by the courts.

  Federal courts have determined that our felons deserve the rights to adequate imprisonment. You just cannot log them in, lock them up, and give them a basic bunk and rations three times a day. Courts want them to have sufficient space and access to mental health care.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Abolish foreign aid, all of it

  As most everyone knows, the federal government is now in debt to the tune of more than $22 trillion. Since federal officials are now spending, on an annual basis, around a trillion dollars more than what they are bringing in with taxes, that is going to raise the federal debt by a trillion dollars every year. We are reminded of this phenomenon by the periodic debate on whether Congress should raise the debt ceiling, an implicit acknowledgment that too much federal debt is not a good thing, especially since the feds will ultimately tax the American people to pay back what they have borrowed to fund their welfare-warfare state.

  On the welfare-state side, the big-ticket items are Social Security and Medicare, the two crown jewels of the American welfare state. Abolishing them would go a long way toward resolving the fiscal problem.

Monday, April 29, 2019

When Americans get their tax refunds, they go to the dentist

  Megan, who currently lives in Pittsburgh, was hospitalized in September for pneumonia. It was just a one-day stay, and she had health insurance, but even so, the bills piled up, eventually totaling $6,500.

  The only thing that made paying them realistic, she said, was that she received a $4,200 tax refund this year.

  “I would have put off my medical payments [without the refund],” she told me via email. “Between rent and day to day expenses, I don’t have the income to pay both. … Even with insurance, the numbers seemed insurmountable until I got my refund. If it wasn’t for that I would have had to reapply for payment plans with the risk of being sent to collections.”

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Who will take Doug Jones out next year?

  It is a foregone conclusion that a Republican will take out our anomaly, liberal Democratic senator, Doug Jones, next year. The question is which Republican will be the nominee and capture the seat.

  The early favorite is U.S. Congressman Bradley Byrne. There is an old adage that often holds true: the early bird gets the worm.

  Byrne made the commitment to run over a year ago, and he has been dedicated to the race and is running full speed ahead. He is raising good money and crisscrossing the state in a very organized manner. Byrne ran a good race for governor in 2010, so he knows what he is doing. He has served coastal Alabama in the Alabama Senate and now for six years in Congress. If he is the only major candidate from the Mobile/Baldwin area in the primary, he will get a good “Friends and Neighbors” vote in his 1st Congressional District. Republican primaries begin and end in vote-rich Baldwin County now.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Five reasons why strengthening the EITC and CTC is the kind of tax reform America needs

  As Americans filed their taxes this season—a process filled with confusion for many and startlingly small refunds for some—Democrats in Congress offered a sharp contrast to President Donald Trump’s unpopular tax law in the form of two ambitious tax plans that actually work for working families. While Trump’s 2017 tax law rewrote the tax code to further enrich millionaires, billionaires, and wealthy corporations, congressional Democrats’ proposals—the American Family Act (AFA) and the Working Families Tax Relief Act (WFTRA)—would double down on two of the tax code’s most effective income boosters for working and middle-class families: the earned income tax credit (EITC) and the child tax credit (CTC).

Friday, April 26, 2019

Does sportsmanship matter?

  Editor's note: This article first appeared in the Capital City Free Press on November 14, 2009.

  To lots of athletes, coaches, and fans, sportsmanship is an outdated concept. Like the Miss Congeniality Award in beauty contests, many think it’s for runners-up and losers.

  The barbarians believe rules are made to be broken, that it’s wise and proper to do whatever you can get away with.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Getting out of jury duty

  Last week, I dyed my hair orange - not red, not the subtle hue of a delicate tiger lily bloom, but bright, shiny traffic cone orange. This is actually not an unusual occurrence. I've dyed my hair various less-than-conservative shades on the color wheel, and invariably I have received contrasting responses that have ranged from "Hey, cool!" to genuine concern from those who believe that I am yet another victim of the devil's crack rock.

  This kind of stuff has never bothered me, though. I have come to realize that there are certain individuals who can't handle discrepancies in what they consider to be "normal." I have also come to realize that I am and always will be one of those discrepancies. In fact, I celebrate it, and occasionally I even use it to my advantage.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

First Amendment includes separation of church and state

  The phrase “separation of church and state,” once a widely shared article of civic faith in the United States, has become a flashpoint for culture-war debates over the role of religion in American public life.

  On one extreme are those who insist that “separation of church and state” isn’t in the First Amendment. On the other extreme are those who interpret “separation” to mean eliminating religion from the public square entirely.

  The truth falls somewhere in between. The drafters of the Bill of Rights didn’t use the words “separation of church and state” in the First Amendment. But by prohibiting the federal government from passing any law “respecting an establishment of religion” — what is now called the establishment clause — the Framers clearly and unambiguously separated the institutions of government and religion on the federal level.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

The intimidating power of integrity

  A teacher once wrote me to, telling me that a parent with a great deal of clout at her school asked her to change attendance records to make her child’s record look better. The teacher said she thought long and hard about the request but eventually refused, knowing it would make the parent angry.

  I commended her moral courage. I wish it didn’t take courage to do the right thing, especially in such a clear case as this, but in the real world, people with power often retaliate when they don’t get what they want. This can make our lives difficult.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Gitmo confirms our ancestors’ concerns

  What the Pentagon and the CIA have done with their prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba reflects the concern of our American ancestors who demanded the enactment of the Bill of Rights immediately after the Constitution brought into existence the federal government.

  Recall that when the Constitutional Convention met, it was with the purpose of simply amending the Articles of Confederation, the governmental system under which the United States had been operating for 13 years.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

The Trump administration is making it harder for workers to hold big corporations accountable

  The government wants to make it much harder for workers to hold employers accountable for wage theft, hours violations, and union-busting by complicating the answer to a simple question: Who do you work for?

  Historically, if two entities oversee aspects of someone’s work experience — such as wages, hours, and policies — either separately or together, they could be considered “joint employers,” which means they are both liable for labor violations. While this standard isn’t used very often, it can be a powerful tool for holding large corporations accountable.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

What the Supreme Court ruling could mean for civil asset forfeiture

  As the U.S. Supreme Court pointed out on Feb. 20, the constitutional clause that protects Americans from having to pay “excessive fines” traces its lineage to the Magna Carta, which set forth certain rights in England more than 800 years ago.

  The Founding Fathers considered this concept so important to the new American democracy that they enshrined it in the Bill of Rights. The Eighth Amendment holds that “[e]xcessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”

Friday, April 19, 2019

IRS cuts have benefited wealthy tax cheats

  Recently, high-profile investigations have brought tax evasion to the forefront of the public consciousness. Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen, confidantes of President Donald Trump, were found guilty on counts of tax fraud and evasion, among other crimes. These investigations raise questions about why these individuals thought they could get away with tax evasion and why they only got caught after becoming entangled in separate investigations. One reason seems to be that when it comes to policing high-end tax evasion, there are nowhere near enough cops on the beat.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Drug laws versus freedom

  People who live in a society in which there are drug laws are living in an unfree society no matter how much they believe otherwise. That’s because, in a genuinely free society, people have the right to ingest whatever they want without being punished for it by the state.

  It never ceases to amaze me how both conservatives and liberals are unable to grasp this fundamental point about freedom. Even progressives who are now, finally, calling for the legalization of marijuana insist on keeping drug laws in place with respect to heroin, cocaine, meth, opioids, and other illicit drugs. They just don’t get it.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Host of young and female lobbyists have taken over the Statehouse

  As I observe the Alabama Legislature, it occurs to me that I am getting older. A lot of the legislators and lobbyists I have known over the years have moved on.

  Montgomery is no longer an “Old Boys Club.” A cursory look at a typical day at the Alabama Statehouse would surprise you. An increasing number of professional women are a major part of the lawmaking process. There is a host of brilliant women under 40 that is at the forefront and yield a great deal of influence over the process of policy-making in Alabama.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

A good solution to Alabama's "Tier 2" retirement system

  Unintended consequences are a common problem when it comes to making laws and government policy. A good example of this is the changes lawmakers made in 2012 to the retirement systems for education and state employees in Alabama.

  The economic recession that began in 2008 had severely hurt the Retirement Systems of Alabama’s investments. The slowness of the recovery made things worse, and the state was looking at a situation where, in the long run, the government wouldn’t have the money to pay education and state employee retirees the benefits they had earned.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1661 - The Hugging Senator

  The Hugging Senator. I have been called The Hugging Senator over the years. The Hugging Senator title reflects an important part of how I interact. It reflects a key part of my being. My hugs say, “I care about you.” And that is very important. The Hugging Senator.

  I recently began to reassess The Hugging Senator. I talked with several women about it. I sought their advice about The Hugging Senator. I will share some of their responses later in this Sketches.

  I believe that hugs are very therapeutic. Hugs make us feel better. Hugs make us do better. Hugs make us be better. Hugs impact our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health. Hugs are really powerful and therefore important for all the population, men as well as women.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

School voucher proponents love socialism too

  As the debate over socialism between President Trump and his potential Democratic presidential opponents heats up, we shouldn’t forget a socialist program that Trump and other conservatives have come to love — the school voucher program.

  Like other welfare-state programs, vouchers are based on the socialist concept of using the force of government to take money from one group of people and using it to pay for the education of another group of people. The irony is that conservatives justify their socialist program by saying that it is being used to save children from the disastrous consequences of another socialist program, public schooling.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Five ways Wheeler is dirtying our water

  In a recent interview, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler said that access to clean drinking water across the globe is “the biggest environmental threat.”

  However, these empty words represent the extent of Wheeler’s effort to support clean water. In reality, Wheeler’s countless actions show that the former coal lobbyist has actively dirtied our water. Since he stepped into the acting EPA administrator role in July of 2018 after the scandal-ridden tenure of Scott Pruitt, Wheeler has done nothing but maintain his predecessor’s dirty agenda.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Using transparency to deter Russia’s asymmetric attacks on the West

  Russia is a relatively weak state on the international stage. A former great power, today it has a gross domestic product roughly equal to that of New York state; this feeds into the country’s insecurity about its role in the world and its economic and military strength compared with those of its chief competitors. Russia knows it cannot compete with the West on an even playing field. Thus, it has developed a shadowy, asymmetric strategy to subvert opponents and alter the global status quo. A key part of this approach is the country’s strategic use of ambiguity. As the United States responds to these attacks and seeks to prevent future ones, it must take into account that public transparency, as well as its relationships with allies, are integral to any effective response.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

I’m disabled. The Trump administration’s new rule could take my SNAP anyway.

  Last month, the Trump administration introduced a new rule to cut Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. The rule is geared towards so-called “able-bodied adults without dependents” who are unable to document 20 hours of work a week. When I heard the news, I double-checked my schedule, and I was in the clear: 35 hours that week. If I had missed a shift or two, then the outlook wouldn’t be so optimistic.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Steve Flowers: Inside the State House - Other legislative issues

  There is no question that Gov. Kay Ivey’s infrastructure/gas tax program was the cornerstone issue of this legislative session. This monumental legislation will be a tremendous enhancement for Alabama’s economic development for decades to come. Governor Ivey and the legislative leadership deserve accolades for addressing this important issue. They were indeed thinking of the next generation rather than the next election. Governor Ivey deserves most of the credit. She reached across the aisle and garnered almost unanimous support from the Democratic legislators. Indeed, the legislation passed the House on an 84-20 vote and passed 28-6 in the Senate.

  However, other major issues will be on the table. The Alabama Department of Corrections is seeking a $42 million increase in its budget in order to hire much needed additional correctional officers. A federal judge has ordered the state to increase the number of guards and mental health professionals.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Conservative court packing

  There has been a recent spate of attention to court packing, stemming largely from remarks by former Attorney General Eric Holder and other prominent progressives about adding justices to the Supreme Court.

  While these comments highlighted the need for a broader discussion about court reform, the conversation they generated has lacked important context: Court packing is not a theoretical possibility but rather an ongoing effort by conservatives happening right now.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Democrats clueless on farm woes

  Last week, the Washington Post carried a story about five Democratic presidential candidates who took to a stage in Iowa to address an audience that was filled with farmers who are suffering severe economic and financial distress. The title of the article says it all: “No Democratic Candidate Has Been Able to Figure Out How to Help Farm Country.” The candidates were Julian Castro, John Delaney, Amy Klobuchar, Tim Ryan, and Elizabeth Warren.

  Not surprisingly, the five proposed “solutions” that involve more government intervention. They just don’t get it. They don’t understand that it is government intervention that is the root cause of farmers’ woes. How is more government intervention going to be the cure for a problem that is caused by government intervention? It’s like giving a patient who has swallowed poison more poison.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

The incorrigible hypocrisy of conservatives

  Last week, a Wall Street Journal editorial revealed the incorrigible hypocrisy with which conservatives have long suffered. Conservatives, of course, have long suffered this malady with respect to domestic policy given their ardent devotion to Social Security, Medicare, foreign aid, and other welfare-state programs even while decrying the left’s devotion to socialism. But this particular WSJ editorial revealed the incorrigible conservative hypocrisy with respect to foreign policy.

  The editorial was titled “Putin Pulls a Syria in Venezuela.” The opening sentence is comical: “Vladimir Putin has made a career of intervening abroad and seeing if the world lets him get away with it.”

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Alabama Voting Rights Project helps 2,000 people cast ballots in Alabama, but many more do not know they can vote

  Rodney Lofton had never cast a ballot before a felony conviction stripped him of his voting rights in 2015.

  After he served his sentence, the Alabama Voting Rights Project, a partnership between the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Campaign Legal Center, walked him through the paperwork to get his rights restored.

  He got a voter registration card and voted for the first time in his life in the November 2018 elections.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Free speech makes hypocrites of us all

  This month, President Trump signed an executive order to withhold federal funding from public and private colleges and universities that do not protect free speech on their campuses. Despite the dramatic lead-up, the order itself doesn’t say all that much. It requires public colleges to comply with the First Amendment and private colleges to comply with their own speech policies — things they’re already required to do — and unsurprisingly, it’s been described as redundant (it’s also been referred to as a “nothingburger”).

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Food banks warn they will not be able to meet demand if food stamp cuts take effect

  On the heels of the thirty-two-day government shutdown, a proposed administrative rule change to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) once again threatens food access for people who rely on the program for basic needs — this time for an estimated 755,000 people.

  For households that qualify for SNAP, February, the shortest month of the year, was a long one. During the government shutdown, 40 million Americans who participate in the program experienced as many as 60 days between the issuance of their February and March SNAP benefits. The shortages in household budgets meant that food banks across the country were inundated.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - State budgets are priority number one

  After their successful five-day special session, the Alabama Legislature has been in their regular session for a few weeks now. The session will end in June, so it is about one-fourth over. Almost one-third of the members are new, freshmen if you will. Even though they are for the most part a bright and talented group, they are still wet behind the ears when it comes to legislative ways. 

  Most are still striving to find their way to the bathrooms. Most major issues, especially revenue-enhancement measures, are addressed in the first year of a four-year quadrennium. Bless their hearts! Right off the bat, they were hit with a major vote to increase the gas tax to support an infrastructure plan. That will make the rest of their first year a downhill slide.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Debunking the Trump administration’s new water rule

  In February, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its revised “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule. The proposed rule dramatically restricts what falls under the purview of the Clean Water Act, the environmental law that has led to the cleanup of thousands of rivers and lakes in the United States. The U.S. Geological Survey has estimated that the rule would remove federal protections for 18 percent of stream and river miles and 51 percent of wetlands in the United States, putting protections at their lowest levels since the Reagan administration and leaving millions of Americans vulnerable to polluted water.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1659 - Selma must help Selma!

  I recently wrote a Sketches and editorial about how we must give back to Selma. Giving back to Selma is just one half of what must be done. One half comes from those outside of Selma – from Alabama, around this country, across this world. The other half must come from Selma itself. Selma must give to Selma.

  I do not claim to have any special knowledge or any special wisdom. However, I will venture a few thoughts. I invite you to share your thoughts, ideas, hopes, and fears. No thought is too insignificant; no thought is too crazy. I share my thoughts in spite of my reservations, my fears and the likelihood of attacks.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Equal pay is fundamental for women’s success in the new economy

  In recent months, opponents of strengthening equal pay protections have parroted a common refrain from the Trump administration and its supporters by focusing on the fact that women gained 58 percent—or roughly 1.5 million—of all new private sector jobs created in 2018. They tout this singular piece of data as evidence that the economy must be working well for women and their wages. However, this talking point obscures and oversimplifies the diverse experiences of working women—particularly women of color—and ignores why equal pay is so critical to women’s economic progress. Women’s full participation in the economy is indeed vital to U.S. economic growth and gender equality. Yet women must also have access to quality, well-paying jobs in which they have a fair chance in order to succeed and maximize their contributions to their families and the economy.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Conscription is slavery

  Last month a federal judge in Texas declared the all-male military draft to be unconstitutional because it applies only to men and not also to women. The decision flies in the face of a decision by the Supreme Court in 1981 that upheld the constitutionality of the draft-registration process. Back then, however, women were not permitted to serve in combat roles, which was the justification for the Court’s ruling. Today, women are permitted to serve in combat roles, a point cited by that Texas federal judge.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Existing libel laws protect the right to speak freely – for all of us

  There is a lot of “libel talk” — and filing of mega-million-dollar lawsuits — in the air, and as long as such stays there, the people’s ability to openly criticize public officials is safe.

  Advocates of free speech, free press, and holding government publicly accountable — liberals and conservatives alike — need to keep cautious eyes on new, perhaps coordinated, efforts to chill critics and water down legal protections regarding public comments about officials and famous individuals. In the space of a few weeks:

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1658 - Women’s History Month

  March is designated as National Women’s History Month. We have National Women’s History Month because the history of women, like that certain other peoples, gets lost in the shuffle of history. Women’s History Month is just a beginning step in recognizing and acknowledging women who overcame great odds to achieve great success.

  There is an African proverb that says, “Until the lion tells his side of the story, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” That’s true of the story of women as well. As long as men are telling the stories, they will always glorify men. It will always be history. Therefore, we will never know the great challenges and achievements of women. Women must tell the stories of women so it will be her story rather than "hisstory."

  Whoever tells his story or her story makes decisions about what the great challenges were, who faced the great challenges, who overcame the great challenges, and who celebrated the overcoming of the great challenges. We men have one set of criteria for determining these factors. For us men, the criterion is usually about the exercise of power in contests with other men. For women, it may well be other criteria. If the writer does not understand that something was a great challenge, he cannot go to the next steps of who faced, overcame, and celebrated the overcoming of the challenge. I do not know those criteria for women, and I am holding myself back from sharing my perceptions. However, I will offer one example that involves my mother, and every child can speak about his or her mother. March is Women’s History (Herstory) Month.

  Family is the very foundation of society. It is the most critical institution. However, men rarely tell the overcoming story of family. In my opinion, women usually value the challenges and achievements of family very differently. Our very language is pregnant with prejudices for the male character such as history and heroes. There is no place for "herstory" and "sheroes." My mother, Ola Mae Sanders, was heroic or should I say sheroic. She will not make the usual history books. She was "sheroic" because she met and overcame the great challenges of stifling poverty, a huge family, a limited formal education. and oppressive white supremacy.

  The Ola Mae Sanders family was not just poor, but “Po.” At one time the family lived in a three-room house with nine children, a mother, and a father. But she led the family in overcoming that poverty. Not only did she eventually do better herself, but all of her children escaped poverty. Every child has owned his or her own home and more. Ola Mae Sanders was sheroic.

  My mother overcame the great challenges of having a limited formal education. She had a seventh-grade education. Her husband, Sam Sanders, just went to the first grade and could not write his name. Yet, they managed to graduate 12 of their 13 children from high school. (The 13th died as a baby). All but two of her children went to college, and several obtained doctorate degrees. In the face of these challenging circumstances, this was a great achievement. March is Women’s Herstory Month.

  I have touched on the size of the family, the poverty, and limited education. However, I need to further explore the challenges of a big family. A big family meant not having the kind and amount of food needed. But Ola Mae Sanders took what she had and made what was needed. A big family meant stuffing 11 persons – nine children, a mother, and a father – in three rooms, (a kitchen, a middle room, and a front room). But Ola Mae Sanders took what she had and made what was needed. The family couldn’t afford toothbrushes, but she taught the children to take twigs from a certain tree, peel the bark, chew the end until it became soft and use salt to brush their teeth. Ola Mae Sanders took what she had and made what was needed. Poverty added to the challenges of a big family. A big family added to the challenges of poverty. But my mother met and overcame both challenges.

  The challenges of poverty, a big family, and a limited formal education were multiplied by the oppressive burden of white supremacy. White supremacy constrained my mother at every turn in what education she could get, what work she could do, what money she could make, what she could accumulate, what respect she could have, what she could say to white folk, where she could go and so forth. It was a heavy burden on her self esteem and the self esteem of her children. But Ola Mae managed to achieve a sense of self-worth for herself and impart a sense of self-worth in her children. Ola Mae Sanders met and overcame these collective challenges. In addition, she became a strong community leader. People came from miles around to seek her wisdom. She had her flaws, but so does every hero and shero. Ola Mae Sanders was sheroic. March is Women’s Herstory Month.

  History and/or "herstory" acknowledge and celebrate the overcoming of great challenges. Did Ola Mae Sanders not meet great challenges? Did Ola Mae Sanders not overcome great challenges? Is her story not history? Can you see most men perceiving and writing this as history? It is herstory. It is history. March is Women’s History Month.

EPILOGUE – Because the victors write the history, I hope more women will see their victories and write their stories so we can have "herstory" as well as history.

  About the author: Hank Sanders represented District 23 in the Alabama Senate from 1983 to 2018.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Infrastructure: Alabama needs a road program

  One of the obvious political changes in Alabama government over the last decades with the Republican takeover of the Alabama Legislature has been the reluctance to raise new revenue to fund state government. Many of the current Republican legislators came to Montgomery in 2010 with a "no new tax pledge". Voting for any kind of tax or fee increase was considered blasphemous.

  In bygone days, powerful governors like Big Jim Folsom and George Wallace would raise taxes at the drop of a hat, especially when it came to a gasoline tax to build roads. It was perfunctory and almost mandatory for a governor to have a road program. That was their legacy and how they and their legislative allies made friends. It was expected that a governor would build roads. Raising the gas tax was the only way to fund a road program. Folks didn’t seem to mind. Looks like this current legislature may have realized that they need a road program.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Craig Ford: Robbing Peter to pay Paul

  One of the problems exposed during the gas tax debate was the fact that $63 million a year gets diverted out of the Alabama Department of Transportation’s road and bridge funding to pay for state troopers and the court system.

  The logic (if you can call it that) for this transfer of funds is that the troopers patrol the roads and the courts process the tickets and arrests the troopers make, so therefore, they should be eligible for a portion of that road and bridge funding.

  Many of those who opposed the gas tax argued that the state should keep that $63 million in the Department of Transportation’s budget and find other sources of revenue for the troopers and courts.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Trump’s pick to run Interior looms large behind ocean sell-off

  On March 20, 2019, the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) opened all planning areas in the Gulf of Mexico for the fourth-straight offshore oil and gas lease sale since President Donald Trump took office. Throughout the past 35 years, the DOI has typically auctioned leases in 1 of 3 Gulf sections at a time. But ever since David Bernhardt, the current acting secretary, was sworn in as deputy interior secretary in August of 2017, the whole Gulf has essentially been up for grabs. These Gulfwide auctions are likely watering down the competition, allowing the oil and gas industry to buy up America’s taxpayer-owned mineral resources at fire sale prices—and Bernhardt’s former industry clients are among those who benefit.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

College executives need to pay up when their schools close abruptly

  Within the last few weeks, students attending several Argosy University campuses across the country received a nasty shock: Their campuses would be shutting down in 48 hours. The move leaves thousands of students in the lurch with unclear futures and millions of dollars in missing federal financial aid that the school received from the federal government but failed to disburse to students.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Free trade: A key to a rising standard of living

  Trade is a key to a rising standard of living in society, especially for those at the bottom of the economic ladder.

  In every exchange, both sides benefit from their own individual subjective perspective. That’s because, at the moment of the trade, they are both giving up something they value less for something they value more. Thus, trade enables people to improve their standard of living. The greater the ability of people to trade, the better off they are.

Friday, March 22, 2019

David Bernhardt is President Trump’s most conflicted Cabinet nominee

  On the whole, President Donald Trump’s Cabinet has not demonstrated integrity, honesty, or accountability to the American public. Four top Trump administration officials have resigned under a cloud of corruption after wasting taxpayer dollars or abusing their position for personal gain: U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt; U.S. Secretary of Veteran Affairs David Shulkin; and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke.

  Rather than cleaning house in the wake of these controversies and resignations, President Trump is doubling down on nominating conflicted individuals to his Cabinet. In February, the U.S. Senate confirmed former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler as Pruitt’s replacement at the EPA, the federal agency that enforces air and water protections. And this month, Trump nominated David Bernhardt to lead the U.S. Department of the Interior. Currently serving as the acting interior secretary since Zinke’s departure, Bernhardt is a former oil and gas lobbyist—and has so many conflicts of interest that he must carry around a list of former clients to remember them.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Horrific, long-term consequences of regime change

  84-year-old Emma Thiessen Alvarez has never forgotten the day in 1981 when Guatemalan officials came to her house looking for her daughter, a student leader who had escaped from military custody. Unable to find her, the officials settled for Thiessen’s 14-year-old son. She never saw him again.

  Thiesen’s story was highlighted in a recent New York Times article because the Guatemalan legislature is now contemplating granting blanket amnesty to military officials who participated in the reign of terror that the Guatemalan national-security establishment inflicted on the Guatemalan people for a period of some 36 years.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Rural roads need fixing

  Last week, we talked about the importance of roads to economic development. We spoke about urban growth and expansion, especially the need for highways in Huntsville and the improvement of the port in Mobile.

  Well, I overlooked the need for and importance of our rural roads. Make no doubt about it, our rural roads need fixing too. A good many of the rural bridges in the state have been condemned and are hazardous for heavy trucks and school buses to travel. Many folks figure it would be cheaper to pay more for gasoline than it is to pay for having their front-ends aligned and tires balanced every few weeks from hitting potholes in the road.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Trump’s effort to cut SNAP by fiat would kill 178,000 jobs over the next decade

  President Donald Trump’s latest budget blueprint is out, and it again calls for eviscerating nearly every program that helps families afford the basics, including cutting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—the United States’ largest food assistance program, which helps nearly 39 million people get enough to eat—by a staggering $220 billion, literally shrinking the program by one-third. While presidential budgets are often considered dead on arrival, since they do not themselves become law, one particular proposed cut to SNAP poses an immediate and dangerous threat, given that Trump is trying to sidestep Congress to enact it by fiat.

Monday, March 18, 2019

The ongoing, never-ending U.S. death star

  The U.S. national-security establishment’s death star continues operating at full-speed and on auto-pilot. According to an article in Newsweek, the Pentagon and the CIA have now killed half-a-million people since 9/11. The article didn’t say how many of those dead people are estimated to have participated in the 9/11 attacks, but I’d say that a reasonable estimate would be maybe 10 or 20 at the most. That would mean that 498,980 people who have been killed by the U.S. death star since 9/11 had absolutely nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks.

  Moreover, those half-a-million deaths don’t include the hundreds of thousands of people who have been killed in the U.S.-incited civil wars in Syria and Lebanon.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Trump’s education budget ignores needs of students and schools

  When it comes to education policy, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and the Trump administration have no new ideas. Much like the Department of Education’s proposed budgets for fiscal years 2018 and 2019, the FY 2020 budget asks for students and teachers to pay for the administration’s misguided policy aims in the form of cuts to education programs. Though DeVos’ education agenda has never been popular, this year’s budget proposal is particularly tone deaf to the needs of students and schools. The Trump administration has been fiscally irresponsible to the extreme, granting enormous tax cuts to wealthy corporations at taxpayers’ expense and letting a costly partial government shutdown drag on. And yet, every year when the budget is released, programs that help students and families seem to come last on its list of priorities, receiving huge cuts or being targeted for elimination.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

New Zealand attack shows white supremacy is global terrorist movement

  The atrocity in New Zealand shows us, once again, that we’re dealing with an international terrorist movement linked by a dangerous white supremacist ideology that’s metastasizing in the echo chambers of internet chat rooms and on social media networks.

  This hatred is even being amplified by our own president, who speaks of an “invasion of our country.”

Friday, March 15, 2019

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1657 - Selma has given so much; we must all give back

  Selma has given so much. We must give back. Selma has given so much to Alabama. Alabama must give back. Selma has given so much to the South. The South must give back. Selma has given so much to the United States of America. The United States of America must give back. Selma has given so much to the world. The world must give back. Selma has given so much. We all must give back.

  Selma is a powerful symbol. A symbol for struggle. A symbol for overcoming great odds. A symbol for freedom. A symbol for voting rights. A symbol for democracy. A symbol for nonviolence overcoming violence. Selma is a symbol all across this country and around the world.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Trump’s FY 2020 budget exposes his false promises and misplaced priorities

  If there is truth in the old adage that “budgets are moral documents,” then-President Donald Trump’s fiscal year 2020 budget is morally bankrupt. It aims debilitating cuts at programs on which American families rely in order to pay for tax cuts, strips regulators’ ability to stop corporate wrongdoers and polluters, and launches yet another brutal attack on Americans’ health care. Every year, pundits declare the president’s budget “dead on arrival,” but Americans should make no mistake: Trump’s FY 2020 budget is a clear statement of his priorities, and its policies are those the president would enact if given the opportunity. And Trump’s priorities and policies reveal his sheer contempt for the “forgotten men and women” for whom he pledged to fight.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Infrastructure package is sailing through the legislature

  Gov. Kay Ivey has made infrastructure improvement in the state her cornerstone issue for this year, and more importantly, for her term as governor. Within less than three months in office, she and the Alabama Legislature have successfully accomplished this mission.

  Last Friday, the Alabama House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed monumental legislation on an 84-20 vote. It was a remarkable victory for the governor and the House leadership. It was a bipartisan coalition of support. Only 18 of the 77 Republicans voted against the bills, and only 2 of the 28 Democrats voted no. It is expected to pass in the Senate this week.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Why is racism still America’s biggest problem?

  It rained on marchers from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965, and it rained on them again this month they commemorated the day when police beat civil rights marchers so badly that the date became known the nation over as Bloody Sunday.

  Fifty-four years have passed since that historic march for voting rights, but as speakers lamented at the commemoration, we are still fighting for the right to vote today.

  However, as Rep. John Lewis told a crowd at the Civil Rights Memorial Center in Montgomery as part of the Bloody Sunday anniversary, “We come with the spirit and the belief that we can change things. We have the power. We have the ability. We can do it.”

Monday, March 11, 2019

On campus speech: Thanks, Mr. President — but no thanks

  At first hearing, President Trump’s recent announcement of a planned presidential order to mandate free speech on college campuses might seem to be just what free expression advocates would support.

  However, regrettably, they should not. Keep reading, please.

  Taking a shortcut through the First Amendment in the name of free speech is not a good idea — and that’s what Trump’s approach will be, no matter how admirable the stated goal of encouraging and protecting the rights of all in university communities to speak freely.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

I paid 118 percent on a payday loan. The administration is canceling efforts to rein them in.

  There was a moment in my life when it felt as if everything that could go wrong went wrong — and all at the same time.

  I had just started a new job. My household went from two incomes to just one, and we were definitely starting to feel it. The mortgage was due, all of the regular household bills and responsibilities were still there, and my son still needed money to cover school and sports expenses.

  I managed to use the remainder of my savings to pay for everything, but I was still $500 short for my mortgage payment. I was stressed out, trying my best to make ends meet and keep some normalcy in my son’s life. I knew I had a paycheck coming, but it would not arrive in time to avoid all of the late fees and the credit hit for being 30 days late on my mortgage.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1656 - Come with me as I participate in the 27th Annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee!

  Come with me. Come with me as I participate in the 27th Annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee in Selma, Alabama. I will not go into the months of preparation. I will not share the behind-the-scenes developments. I will just start with the first day of the 2019 Bridge Crossing Jubilee. Come with me vicariously as I participate in the 27th Annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee.

  Jubilee is comprised of so many events I cannot possibly participate in all or most, or half or even a quarter of these 40-50 events. You are now vicariously experiencing some of my participation.

Friday, March 8, 2019

National-security statism and North Korea’s nukes

  The Pentagon and the CIA and their policy of foreign interventionism are the root cause of the nuclear crisis with North Korea.

  Keep in mind that we are talking about one country, Korea, which was artificially divided into two halves, North Korea and South Korea. Therefore, the war that ultimately broke out between North Korea and South Korea was actually nothing more than a civil war, one in which the North was trying to reunite the country under communist rule and in which the South was trying to retain its independence.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

'If I’d been white, I guarantee you they wouldn’t have taken my money'

  “The robber didn’t get anything, but the police got everything.”

  That’s what Isiah Kinloch told The Greenville News during its investigation into civil asset forfeiture in South Carolina.

  Kinloch fought off a home intruder, sustaining head injuries that put him in the hospital. He called 911, and when North Charleston police arrived at his apartment, they found an ounce of marijuana, charged him with possession with intent to distribute, and seized the $1,800 in cash they found in his apartment.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - State revenues up as legislature prepares for session

  The governor has been inaugurated and the Alabama Legislature has had its organizational session. The quadrennium has begun. It is time for our state officials to get to work.

  Among the three branches of government, legislative, executive and judicial, our 1901 Alabama Constitution renders our legislative branch as the most powerful.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

How one tribe is fighting for their food culture in the face of climate change

  As in many tribal communities, the Swinomish relationship with the environment is complex. The Northwest coastal tribe not only uses the land for food, medicine, and material goods, but many cultural traditions like ceremonies are land-based.

  The federal government has long attempted to sever tribes from the land — their source of knowledge, culture, and health. Through war and forced relocation, tribes were physically removed. Policies such as the 1887 General Allotment Act forced many to adopt sedentary lifestyles and use Western agricultural techniques. And contemporary legal restrictions on centuries-old fishing, hunting, and gathering techniques mean that tribes are still limited in how they can gather foods and medicines.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Gas tax increase should be ‘Even Steven’ – raise one tax, lower another

  Can Alabamians support raising our gas tax for better roads while remaining true to our belief in limited government and protecting a beneficial, low-tax environment for our businesses, our families, and our future?

  Yes … if taxes are lowered elsewhere so that the overall amount of money taken from the people doesn’t increase.

  The concept is called “revenue neutral tax reform.” It essentially means that if Alabama raises one tax by $100 million next year, then it should have a comparable decrease in something else.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

We should be building great schools, not great prisons

  Earlier this month, Gov. Kay Ivey announced her plan to spend almost a billion dollars of taxpayer money to build three new prisons for men (there will be no new prisons for women, even though it was the conditions at the women’s prison in Elmore County that started the whole prison debate).

  There’s no question that the hard-working men and women who staff and run our prison system deserve to have a safe and proper work environment (they also deserve to be paid a whole lot more than they are, and deserve some help in the form of more corrections officers and healthcare staff).

  But I question any state leader who would choose to spend a billion dollars on prisons instead of education.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

The legal loophole that lets companies like Doordash steal tips

  Popular courier services such as Instacart, Doordash, and Amazon Fresh have been making headlines recently with the news that they’re meeting minimum pay promises to drivers by cutting compensation and using tips to make up the difference. In other words, customers were tipping under the impression that drivers got tips on top of the delivery fee earned per trip, but instead, the companies subtracted the value of those “tips” from the payments that they had promised to workers — saving the company money but cheating drivers. (Under pressure, Instacart recently reversed its policy.)

  Why can these companies get away with such behavior, especially in states like Washington where the tipped minimum wage is illegal? The answer is that these workers aren’t employees. They’re independent contractors, and labor law for independent contractors is very different than it is for employees. As self-employed workers, they are entitled to fewer protections, but also, in theory, have a greater degree of freedom and control.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1654 - A 400-year sojourn of continuous struggle

  The year 1619 does not mean much to most Americans. For those who understand the significance of 1619, it was the beginning of a journey of 400 years of continuous struggle for Africans in America. It is now 2019, and the struggle continues and continues and continues.

  It was in 1619 that 350 Africans were stolen from the continent of Africa, likely in the area of what is now Angola. They were intended to be taken to Mexico on a slave ship named Bautista. Somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean, the ship was robbed by pirates. A number of enslaved Africans were stolen from Bautista. Of the 350 Africans who left the West Coast of Africa, 147 arrived in Mexico. More than 20 arrived in Jamestown, Virginia. Many died in what was known as the Middle Passage.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Meaningful protection from surprise medical bills

  Many Americans purchase health insurance under the impression that doing so will protect them from exorbitant, one-time costs associated with medical care. Insured patients pay premiums every month rather than having to worry about paying a large medical expense at once. In some instances, however, insured patients visit their doctors and receive a costly, unexpected bill. This is a consequence of the current structure of health insurance and provider networks, wherein insurers and health care providers negotiate to accept discounted payments as payments in full for services in exchange for sending patients to those providers. When patients visit out-of-network providers—those who haven’t agreed to these discounts—they can lose the benefit of their insurance. The provider may charge them the entire, non-discounted price for a service—and insurance may not cover any of the bill.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - 2020 campaigns are kicking off

  A lot has happened politically in the first quarter of 2019. The governor and all of our constitutional officials have been sworn in and have begun their four-year terms in office with Kay Ivey as governor, Will Ainsworth as lieutenant governor, John Merrill as Alabama Secretary of State, John McMillan as Alabama Treasurer, Rick Pate as Alabama Agriculture Commissioner, and Jim Ziegler in his second term as Alabama Auditor.

  More importantly, the Alabama Legislature has organized and the regular session begins next week. Lawmakers will be dealing with a myriad of major issues, not the least of which are the two state budgets. The legislature is more important than who the governor is in state government. The reason being is they appropriate the money. Those who have the gold make the rules. Another apropos adage is, the governor proposes but the legislature disposes.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Roscoe Jones – First Amendment hero

  For Black History Month, it makes sense to honor a First Amendment hero of the highest order. Roscoe Jones certainly qualifies. This African-American Jehovah Witness preacher had the temerity to travel all across the Southeast promoting his religious faith even in all-white areas.

  Courage apparently came naturally for Jones, who was born in 1895 in Raleigh, North Carolina. He saw heavy combat duty in World War I. Facing German bombardments in France, Jones recounted the German bombing in his 1968 Watchtower article “Putting Kingdom Interests First”:

Monday, February 25, 2019

What if the FBI hadn't caught the Coast Guard officer with a hit list and weapons?

  He called himself “a man of action” — but luckily, he never got a chance to prove it.

  The FBI arrested active-duty U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Christopher Hasson, labeling him a domestic terrorist who pushed for a “white homeland.”

  Hasson had a hit list of Democratic politicians and media figures that included U.S. Senators Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Richard Blumenthal, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, former Vice President Joe Biden, and MSNBC hosts Ari Melber, Chris Hayes, and Joe Scarborough.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

News — Can we own it? Should we be able to?

  News permeates our lives. In the words of Supreme Court Justice Mahlon Pitney, it’s “the history of the day.” We consume it constantly and analyze it endlessly. We debate its value and its veracity. But here’s another aspect to discuss: Can we own it? And should we be able to?

  Capitol Forum is a subscription news service that produces policy reports on mergers and acquisitions, corporate investigations, and antitrust enforcement. Not exactly page-turners, but the kind of information investors rely on to make business decisions.