Thursday, September 24, 2020

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1737 - Whatever you count, that’s what you will have the most of

  My mother, Ola Mae Sanders, was a very wise woman. She had a seventh-grade education, but she was wise way beyond her schooling. She was a poor person, but she was wise way beyond her poverty. She had a bunch of children, but she was wise way beyond her huge family of fifteen. She was just a very wise woman with many wise sayings. One such saying was, Whatever you count, that’s what you will have the most of.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - All politics is local

  With it being a presidential election year, an election for one of our United States Senate seats, and all of the interest that goes along with those high-profile contests, it has gone under the radar that most of our cities in the state had elections for mayor and city council seats last month. Mayors serve four-year terms, and to most Alabamians, they are the most important votes they will cast this year.  

  The job of mayor of a city is a difficult and intricate fulltime, 24-hours-a-day dedication to public service. They make more decisions that affect the lives of their friends and neighbors than anyone else. The old maxim, “All politics is local,” is epitomized in the role of mayor. Folks, being mayor of a city is where the rubber meets the road.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Can Trump and McConnell get through the 4 steps to seat a Supreme Court justice in just 6 weeks?

  United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Sept. 18, thrusting the acrimonious struggle for control of the Supreme Court into public view.

  President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have already vowed to nominate and confirm a replacement for the 87-year-old justice and women’s rights icon.

  This contradicts the justification the Republican-controlled Senate used when they refused to consider the nomination of Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s pick for the Court after the death of Antonin Scalia in February 2016.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Ruth Bader Ginsburg helped shape the modern era of women’s rights – even before she went on the Supreme Court

  Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Friday, the Supreme Court announced.

  Chief Justice John Roberts said in a statement that “Our nation has lost a jurist of historic stature.”

  Even before her appointment, she had reshaped American law. When he nominated Ginsburg to the Supreme Court, President Bill Clinton compared her legal work on behalf of women to the epochal work of Thurgood Marshall on behalf of African-Americans.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Vaccine mandates vs. religious beliefs – the legal arguments for the upcoming coronavirus lawsuits

  The longer COVID-19 rages on, the more the United States appears to be hanging its hopes on the development and rapid, mass distribution of a vaccine.

  Getting a safe and effective vaccine out to the public could be a game-changer health experts believe. But stopping the virus’s spread will only happen if enough people choose – or are required – to get vaccinated.

  But while some people may see it as their “patriotic duty” to get vaccinated, others won’t.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Bridging America’s divides requires a willingness to work together without becoming friends first

  Amid two crises – the pandemic and the national reckoning sparked by the killing of George Floyd – there have been anguished calls for Americans to come together across lines of race and partisanship. Change would come, a USA Today contributor wrote, only “when we become sensitized to the distress of our neighbors.”

  Empathy born of intimacy was the pre-pandemic solution to the nation’s fractured political landscape. If Americans could simply get to know one another, to share stories and appreciate each other’s struggles, civic leaders argued, we would develop a sense of understanding and empathy that would extend beyond the single encounter.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Faith and politics mix to drive evangelical Christians’ climate change denial

  U.S. Christians, especially evangelical Christians, identify as environmentalists at very low rates compared to the general population. According to a Pew Research Center poll from May 2020, while 62% of religiously unaffiliated U.S. adults agree that the Earth is warming primarily due to human action, only 35% of U.S. Protestants do – including just 24% of white evangelical Protestants.

  Politically powerful Christian interest groups publicly dispute the climate science consensus. A coalition of major evangelical groups, including Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council, launched a movement opposing what they describe as “the false worldview” of environmentalism, which supposedly is “striving to put America, and the world, under its destructive control.”

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Trump’s law-and-order campaign relies on a historic American tradition of racist and anti-immigrant politics

  The Republican Party made it clear in its national convention that it intends to make restoring “law and order” central to this fall’s presidential campaign.

  As he did when he first ran in 2016, President Donald Trump highlighted law and order in his 2020 acceptance speech.

  “Your vote,” Trump said, “will decide whether we protect law-abiding Americans and whether … we will defend the American way of life or allow a radical movement to completely dismantle and destroy it.”

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - The presidential race is underway

  Now that the national political party conventions are over and the nominees have been coronated, the battle royale for the White House is in full throttle. The nominees, Donald Trump and Joe Biden, will shatter the age barrier. Whoever is elected will be the oldest person ever elected president. If Donald Trump is reelected, he will be 75 when sworn in.  If Joe Biden wins, he will be close to 79.  When I was a young man, folks at that age were in the nursing home... if they were alive. By comparison, 60 years ago when John Kennedy was elected, he was 42.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Monuments ‘expire’ – but offensive monuments can become powerful history lessons

  Historical monuments are intended to be timeless, but almost all have an expiration date. As society’s values shift, the legitimacy of monuments can and often does erode.

  This is because monuments – whether statues, memorials, or obelisks – reveal the values of the time in which they were created and advance the agendas of their creators.

Monday, September 14, 2020

The white supremacist origins of modern marriage advice

  When I was conducting research for my new book on the destructive aspects of modern heterosexual relationships, I started looking into the archives of early 20th-century books about courtship and marriage written by physicians and sexologists.

  In the process, I made a discovery that would radically alter my understanding of why so many parts of heterosexual culture remain mired in violence and inequality.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Judicial tyranny in the drug war

  If you still have any doubts about the tyranny of the federal government’s beloved “war on drugs,” perhaps the case of Juan Carlos Seresi, Vahe Andonian, and Nazareth Andonian will remove them.

  Back in 1991, a federal judge named William D. Keller sentenced these three men to 500 years in jail for a non-violent drug offense—i.e., laundering drug money.

  Yes, you read that right — 500 years!

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Getting a flu shot this year is more important than ever because of COVID-19

  With the coronavirus still spreading widely, it’s time to start thinking seriously about influenza, which typically spreads in fall and winter. A major flu outbreak would not only overwhelm hospitals this fall and winter but also likely overwhelm a person who might contract both at once.

  Doctors have no way of knowing yet what the effect of a dual diagnosis might be on a person’s body, but they do know the havoc that the flu alone can do to a person’s body. Public health officials in the U.S. are therefore urging people to get the flu vaccine, which is already being shipped in many areas to be ready for vaccinations this month.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Moving beyond 9/11

  I’ve become increasingly ambivalent about the way we commemorate the dark days and months that began on September 11th, 2001.

  Each year the memories and all the feelings they evoke are less vivid. Thus, the news articles, commentaries, and TV specials about the 9/11 attacks serve as important reminders, not only of the immeasurable loss of life and the permanent degradation of our sense of security, but of the lessons we should have learned from the events and its aftermath.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

How to read coronavirus news and learn what you actually need to know about staying safe in the pandemic

  With COVID-19, a news story that may be 100% accurate can still unintentionally mislead readers about the greatest threats of the pandemic. The unintended outcome results from a lesson taught to every journalism student: Use “real people” to “humanize” the news.

  The “real person” in COVID-19 stories may be a mom concerned about her child getting sick in the classroom, used as an example in an article about schools reopening. It may be the family member of a person who died from COVID-19 who gives a moving account for a story about the virus’s effects on young adults.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - 1960 presidential race marked beginning of television as premier political medium

  The 1960 presidential race between Richard Nixon and John Kennedy is considered by many political historians to be a landmark presidential contest. This race for the White House, exactly 60 years ago, marked a pivotal change in presidential election politics when the advent of television became the premier medium for political candidates.  

  John Kennedy was a 42-year-old, charismatic, Democrat U.S. Senator from Massachusetts. Richard Nixon was a veteran politico who was vice president under the popular war hero President General Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

When police stop Black men, the effects reach into their homes and families

  While much of the world was sheltering in place in the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, many Americans’ undivided attention was focused squarely on Minneapolis, Minnesota, where George Floyd was killed at the hands – and knees – of the police.

  Floyd’s murder evoked memories of other murders by the police, including those of Walter Scott, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, and Samuel DuBose. Most recently, another unarmed Black man, Jacob Blake, was shot seven times in the back in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Why are there so few women CEOs?

  Women comprise about 47% of the U.S. workforce yet they make up barely a quarter of all senior executives at large U.S. public companies. Even worse, only about 5% of Standard & Poor’s 500 companies have female CEOs.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Trump’s foreign policy is still ‘America First’ – what does that mean, exactly?

  At the Republican National Convention, supporters of President Trump’s reelection bid have celebrated his attempts to build a Mexico border wall, his promise to “bring our troops home”, and his pledge to end U.S. “reliance on China.”

  All are components of the “America First” agenda Trump ran on in 2016. Back then, he promised to “shake the rust off America’s foreign policy.”

Saturday, September 5, 2020

How to talk to vaccine skeptics so they might actually hear you

  An estimated 24,000 to 62,000 people died from the flu in the United States during the 2019-20 flu season. And that was a relatively mild flu season, which typically starts in October and peaks between December and February.

  The latest computer model predicts 300,000 deaths from COVID-19 by Dec. 1.

Friday, September 4, 2020

While the U.S. is reeling from COVID-19, the Trump administration is trying to take away health care

  The death toll from COVID-19 keeps rising, creating grief, fear, loss, and confusion.

  Unfortunately for us all, the pain only begins there. Other important health policy news that would ordinarily make headlines is buried under the crushing weight of the coronavirus. Many have not had time to notice or understand the Trump administration’s efforts to wreck health care coverage.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

It’s time to stop the deadly rhetoric and the dangerous dodge of "both-siderism"

  The fatal shooting of a man reported to be affiliated with the far-right group Patriot Prayer last Saturday night on the streets of Portland should not have happened.

  I’m angry that Aaron “Jay” Danielson’s life was taken from him. I’m angry about every one of the lives taken in the 100 days since George Floyd’s murder. Whether the victims are Trump supporters, Black Lives Matters protesters, or law enforcement officers, the deaths that have occurred in this time of upheaval are wrong. We mourn each of these lives, regardless of ideology. And we mourn the lost futures of those who were convinced that taking the life of another human being is how we solve our societal problems.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Labor Day

  Labor Day is upcoming on Monday. In bygone days, it was the benchmark day for campaign season to start. Historically, Labor Day barbecues were events where political campaigns had their roots. Camp stew and barbecued pork were devoured while folks listened to politicians promise how they were going to bring home the pork.

  The most legendary political Labor Day barbecues have been held in the Northwest corner of the state. There were two legendary barbecue events in that neck of the woods that were a must-go-to event for aspiring and veteran politicians, both locally and statewide.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Police solve just 2% of all major crimes

  As Americans across the nation protest police violence, people have begun to call for cuts or changes in public spending on police. But neither these nor other proposed reforms address a key problem with solving crimes.

  My recent review of 50 years of national crime data confirms that, as police report, they don’t solve most serious crimes in America. But the real statistics are worse than police data show. In the U.S., it’s rare that a crime report leads to police arresting a suspect who is then convicted of the crime.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Higher education’s market reckoning

  Want to buy a college campus? Maybe you’d like to commission the services of a psychology department. Perhaps you’re hoping to hire an associate provost for diversity initiatives.

  If so, you’re in luck! It’s a buyer’s market.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Mail-in voting does not cause fraud, but judges are buying the GOP’s argument that it does

  The Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee filed lawsuits recently against New Jersey and Nevada to prevent expansive vote-by-mail efforts in those states.

  These high-profile lawsuits make the same argument that Republicans have made in many lesser-known lawsuits that were filed around the country during the primary season. In all of these lawsuits, Republicans argue that voting by mail perpetuates fraud – an argument President Donald Trump makes daily on various media platforms.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Trump’s dictatorial tendencies

  We have seen President Trump’s dictatorial tendencies in the past, such as when he diverted Pentagon slush money to build his Berlin Wall along the border, or when he launched his vicious and destructive trade war against China, or when he raised taxes (i.e., tariffs) on the American people. All of these actions were done without congressional authorization, which is what dictatorship is all about.

Friday, August 28, 2020

4 science-based strategies to tame angry political debate and encourage tolerance

  “Climate change is a hoax,” my cousin said during a family birthday party. “I saw on Twitter it’s just a way to get people to buy expensive electric cars.” I sighed while thinking, “How can he be so misinformed?” Indeed, what I wanted to say was, “Good grief, social media lies are all you read.”

  No doubt my cousin thought the same of me, when I said Republican senators are too afraid of the president to do what’s right. Not wanting to create a scene, we let each other’s statements slide by in icy silence.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

It’s past time to grant D.C. statehood

  For more than 200 years, the residents of Washington, D.C. have been subjected to systemic inequality and denied the full rights of citizenship that the residents of states enjoy—including voting representation in Congress.

  The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed H.R. 51 to remedy this imbalance and make Washington the 51st state. This column explores the history underlying D.C. residents’ fight for their full rights as Americans, including efforts to both advance and suppress statehood. The district’s more than 700,000 residents deserve not only to have a vote in Congress but also to enjoy the full benefits of citizenship without being subjected to the uneven and punitive oversight of the federal government and Congress in particular.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Legendary U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black was from Alabama

  The most enduring legacy a president will have is an appointment to the United States Supreme Court. A lifetime appointment to the high tribunal is the ultimate power. The nine Justices of the Supreme Court have omnipotent, everlasting power over most major decisions affecting issues and public policy in our nation. President Trump has had two SCOTUS appointments and confirmations. This is monumental. These appointments may be his lasting legacy.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

9 reasons you can be optimistic that a vaccine for COVID-19 will be widely available in 2021

  As fall approaches rapidly, many are wondering if the race for a vaccine will bear fruit as early as January 2021.

  I am a physician-scientist and infectious diseases specialist at the University of Virginia, where I care for patients and conduct research into COVID-19. I am occasionally asked how I can be sure that researchers will develop a successful vaccine to prevent COVID-19. After all, we still don’t have one for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

  Here is where the current research stands, where I think we will be in five months, and why you can be optimistic about the delivery of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Trump’s war on the Postal Service hurts all Americans

  Donald Trump has declared war on the U.S. Postal Service in order to make it harder for people to vote by mail. The pandemic has placed financial strains on the post office—and when coupled with a 2006 law requiring the Postal Service to pre-fund retirees’ health care benefits, a requirement that exists for no other public or private entity, it is no surprise that the Postal Service is facing significant economic burdens. Yet Trump has repeatedly refused to provide it with the necessary funding to continue effective operations, noting that “they need that money in order to make the Postal Service work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots.”

Sunday, August 23, 2020

The state of women’s suffrage – 100 years later

  The 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote, but systemic sexism and disenfranchisement of Black women still block equitable access to the ballot.

  Like other disenfranchised people in the United States, women have employed many strategies over the years in their fight for the right to vote.

  In the late 19th century, some women pushed for equal suffrage laws in individual states. Others turned to the courts. Still others made their voices heard through public protests, silent vigils, and hunger strikes.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Here’s why some people are willing to challenge bullying, corruption and bad behavior, even at personal risk

  Utah Senator Mitt Romney voted in February to convict President Donald Trump on the charge of abuse of power, becoming the first senator ever to vote against his own party’s president in an impeachment trial.

  Two Theranos employees – Erika Cheung and Tyler Shultz – spoke out about their concerns regarding the company’s practices even though they knew they could face lasting personal and professional repercussions.

Friday, August 21, 2020

After the civil rights era, white Americans failed to support systemic change to end racism. Will they now?

  The first wave of the Black Lives Matter movement, which crested after the 2014 police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, had the support of less than half of white Americans.

  Given that Americans tend to have a very narrow definition of racism, many at that time were likely confused by the juxtaposition of Black-led protests, implying that racism was persistent alongside the presence of a Black family in the White House. Barack Obama’s presidency was seen as evidence that racism was in decline.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

“Small government” is an empty Republican mantra

  Favoring “small government” has long been a Republican and conservative mantra. It is also an empty one. It’s a shame that some libertarians have adopted it to describe libertarianism.

  After all, what does “small government” mean? A smaller IRS? A more streamlined DEA? A fascist Social Security system? A reformed Medicare system? A 10 percent cut in the military budget. Fewer CIA assassinations? Fewer coups and invasions of foreign countries? Reduced secret surveillance? Less immigration highway checkpoints within the United States? A reduction in no-knock raids and asset forfeiture? A smaller border wall?

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: We have six living former governors. How are they doing?

  Gov. John Patterson is our oldest living chief executive. Patterson is 99 years old and living on his ancestral family farm in rural Tallapoosa County in an obscure area named Goldville. Patterson is a legend in Alabama politics. He was governor from 1958-1962. He has the distinction of being the only person to beat George Wallace in a governor’s race in the Heart of Dixie. When he was elected in 1958, he was 37-years-old and was dubbed the “Boy Governor”. Patterson was Attorney General of Alabama for a term prior to being governor and served several decades on the Court of Criminal Appeals after his governorship.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Private browsing: What it does – and doesn’t do – to shield you from prying eyes on the web

  Many people look for more privacy when they browse the web by using their browsers in privacy-protecting modes, called “Private Browsing” in Mozilla Firefox, Opera, and Apple Safari; “Incognito” in Google Chrome; and “InPrivate” in Microsoft Edge.

  These private browsing tools sound reassuring, and they’re popular. According to a 2017 survey, nearly half of American internet users have tried a private browsing mode, and most who have tried it use it regularly.

Monday, August 17, 2020

The belief that demons have sex with humans runs deep in Christian and Jewish traditions

  Houston physician and pastor Stella Immanuel – described as “spectacular” by Donald Trump for her promotion of unsubstantiated claims about anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a “cure” for COVID-19 – has some other, very unconventional views.

  As well as believing that scientists are working on a vaccine to make people less religious and that the U.S. government is run by reptilian creatures, Immanuel, the leader of a Christian ministry called Fire Power Ministries, also believes sex with demons causes miscarriages, impotence, cysts, and endometriosis, among other maladies.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Money buys even more happiness than it used to

  Many factors determine happiness, but one has stirred considerable controversy over the years: money.

  While the old adage says that money can’t buy happiness, several studies have determined that the more your income increases, the happier you are, up until US$75,000 a year. After hitting that threshold, more income doesn’t make a difference.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Extremist profile: Stephen Miller

  Stephen Miller is credited with shaping the racist and draconian immigration policies of President Trump, which include the zero-tolerance policy, also known as family separation, the Muslim ban, and ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Miller has also “purged” government agencies of civil servants who are not entirely loyal to his extremist agenda, according to a report in Vanity Fair.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Why are SNAP benefits so confusing that even social workers can’t figure them out?

  Crystal Ortiz, a master’s student studying social work at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration, has been receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) benefits since 2017. The $200 a month she received made it possible for her to buy more fresh produce, especially bagged salad kits that made it easier for her to eat a healthy lunch when she didn’t have a lot of food prep time.

  This January, that was threatened when she received a letter stating that her benefits would be canceled if she did not fulfill a 20-hour-a-week work requirement.  When I first met with Ortiz, she stated that “I would have to make major cuts to the food that I get” if she lost her SNAP benefits.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

The evil, immoral, vicious, and hypocritical embargo against Cuba

  The banality of evil that characterizes the U.S. national security state is demonstrated perfectly by the continuation of its deadly economic embargo against Cuba, which has been ongoing for some 60 years.

  What’s the point of the embargo? After all, the Pentagon’s, CIA’s, and NSA’s official enemy, Fidel Castro, died years ago. Why continue to intentionally inflict harm on the Cuban people?

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

IRS budget cuts let wealthy tax cheats get away with it

  Over the past decade, Congress dramatically cut the IRS’ budget and with it, the agency’s capability to enforce the nation’s tax laws. New data released by the IRS, as well as reports from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), underscore the toll that IRS budget cuts have taken. The reports and data provide even more evidence that the IRS needs to be substantially rebuilt, with its priorities directed toward policing tax cheating by wealthy individuals and corporations.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Could employers and states mandate COVID-19 vaccinations? Here’s what the courts have ruled

  A safe and effective vaccine could end the coronavirus pandemic, but for it to succeed, enough people will have to get inoculated.

  Recent polls suggest that the U.S. is far from ready. Most surveys have found that only about two-thirds of adults say they would probably get the vaccine. While that might protect most people who get vaccinated, research suggests it may be insufficient to reach herd immunity and stop the virus’s spread.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Electoral College benefits whiter states, study shows

  States can force members of the Electoral College to vote for the winner of the popular vote in their state’s presidential primary, the Supreme Court recently ruled. The July 6 decision removed one of the two reasons why the framers of the U.S. Constitution created this election system: to empower political elites who may know more about the candidates than ordinary voters. Now, the founders’ only remaining justification for the Electoral College is structural racism.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Confederate symbols have no place in public spaces. Stone Mountain is no exception.

  Stone Mountain is the world’s largest monument to white supremacy. The enormous landform – the centerpiece of a state park that draws more than 4 million visitors a year, some 15 miles northeast of Atlanta – is marred by a massive carving commemorating the hateful legacy of the Confederacy.

  The carved surface depicts Confederate leaders Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson in a reverent light across three acres. The men sit on horseback, hats over their hearts, in a tableau that cannot be interpreted as anything other than a celebration of the Confederacy and the values – white supremacy and the enslavement of Black people – for which it stood.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Leaders like Trump fail if they cannot speak the truth and earn trust

  During a recent Senate committee hearing on the COVID-19 crisis, Dr. Anthony Fauci told lawmakers he was concerned about “a lack of trust of authority, a lack of trust in government.”

  He had reason to be worried. The Pew Center reported that July 7 only 17% of people in the U.S. have confidence in government to do the right thing. Never in the history of their surveys, which began in 1958, has that confidence been so low.

  Why is trust so low and why does that matter, especially during a crisis – and especially during this crisis?

Friday, August 7, 2020

Energy is a basic need, and many Americans are struggling to afford it in the COVID-19 recession

  Several months into the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, lower-income families are struggling to pay their energy bills. That’s a big concern during extreme events like summer heat waves, which can be deadly – especially for elderly people, young children, people of color, and the poor.

  We ran a nationally representative survey in May 2020 of U.S. low-income households to measure energy insecurity. We found that 13% of respondents had been unable to pay an energy bill during the prior month, 9% had received an electricity utility shutoff notice and 4% had had their electric utility service disconnected.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Street vendors make cities livelier, safer and fairer – here’s why they belong on the post-COVID-19 urban scene

  Cities around the world are emerging from pandemic shutdowns and gradually allowing activities to resume. National leaders are keen to promote economic recovery, with appropriate public health precautions.

  Recently, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang announced economic growth plans that included creating 9 million new jobs and reducing urban unemployment to less than 5.5%. One surprise was his emphasis on street vending. After decades of trying to clear city streets of vendors, the Chinese state is now embracing them as a new source of employment and economic growth.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Tommy Tuberville ran a good, disciplined primary campaign

  Old political maxims clearly played out true to form in the July 14 GOP runoff for our junior U.S. Senate seat.

  Tommy Tuberville ran a very wise and disciplined campaign. He steadily stayed on point and simply said, I am going to support Donald Trump. Undoubtedly, when Tuberville decided about a year ago to leave his Florida home and run for the U.S. Senate in Alabama, whoever was advising him knew that the only issue was going to be who could cozy up to Donald J. Trump the most. They gave Tuberville the script, and he followed his playbook to perfection. He never deviated and never got distracted by issues, questions, or debates. He simply rode the Donald Trump horse all the way home.  

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Keep a weather eye on the horizon – a legal storm is brewing

  I don’t know if you’ve ever had the displeasure of being at sea when a major storm develops. It is disconcerting to say the least. As the deck pitches and rolls, the mental review of the all-hands disaster planning takes place in the mind. Pulling into a safe harbor and putting feet on dry land is a multi-layered relief.

  In Alabama, we have a legal storm brewing on the horizon, and businesses, churches, hospitals, and non-profits are all sailing directly into the maelstrom.

Monday, August 3, 2020

To reduce world hunger, governments need to think beyond making food cheap

  According to a new United Nations report, global rates of hunger and malnutrition are on the rise. The report estimates that in 2019, 690 million people – 8.9% of the world’s population – were undernourished. It predicts that this number will exceed 840 million by 2030.

  If you also include the number of people who the U.N. describes as food insecure, meaning that they have trouble getting access to food, over 2 billion people worldwide are in trouble. This includes people in wealthy, middle-income, and low-income countries.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Black Lives Matter meets the moment

  After a neighborhood watch captain killed unarmed Black teenager Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26, 2012, I spent hours watching the media coverage. I turned to social media, posting, retweeting, and sharing my outrage at this senseless act that prematurely took a young man’s life.

  Like many others, I changed my profile picture to a selfie in a hoodie, like the one Trayvon was wearing when he was killed – a sign of solidarity with those who knew his murder should never have happened.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Empire kidnapping on American streets

  Lest any observer refuse at this late date to acknowledge that the full weight of the police state is pressed on the American citizenry’s neck, let the recent developments in Portland, Oregon settle the debate conclusively.

  Unidentified federal police are now snatching American citizens off the streets of Portland. Their victims receive no due process because the proceedings are entirely extrajudicial – no warrants, no Miranda warnings, no phone calls to lawyers.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Research on voting by mail says it’s safe – from fraud and disease

  As millions of Americans prepare to vote in November – and in many cases, primaries and state and local elections through the summer as well – lots of people are talking about voting by mail. It is a way to protect the integrity of the country’s voting system and to limit potential exposure to the coronavirus, which continues to spread widely in the U.S.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Black deaths matter: The centuries-old struggle to memorialize slaves and victims of racism

  In an open lot just a block or so from where George Floyd was killed while being detained by officers, 100 plastic headstones were carefully placed.

  Created by artists Anna Barber and Connor Wright, the “Say Their Names Cemetery” sprung up in south Minneapolis in early June as protests over police brutality prompted a more wide-ranging conversation over the legacy of slavery and racism in the United States.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Conventions will be anticlimactic

  The presidential race is on. It will be incumbent Republican Donald Trump vs. former Vice President and 36-year veteran Democrat, Delaware U.S. Senator Joe Biden in the November 3rd General Election.

  Both men have clinched their parties’ nominations. Therefore, the Democratic National Convention, July 31-August 2, and the Republican National Convention set for August 25-28, will be anticlimactic. It is doubtful that either convention will break any television rating records.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Three principles for reopening schools safely during the COVID-19 pandemic

  For months, parents and educators have worried about whether or not schools will be able to reopen safely this fall amid the COVID-19 pandemic. State and local officials have struggled to balance competing priorities and answer complicated logistical, educational, and public health questions. For the safety of students, families, and educators, science must drive these decisions. Yet recently, President Donald Trump began a politically-driven pressure campaign to force schools to physically reopen across the country. Over the past several months, the Trump administration should have been providing resources and assistance to local leaders that would help them implement social distancing, provide personal protective equipment, and plan for a safe reopening. Instead, President Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have undermined guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in an apparent attempt to deflect criticism over the administration’s failure to contain the COVID-19 crisis.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Russian cyberthreat extends to coronavirus vaccine research

  A Russian cyberespionage group that hacked into election networks before the 2016 U.S. presidential election is now attempting to steal coronavirus vaccine information from researchers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada. The governments of those three countries issued a warning on July 16 saying that the group known as APT29 or “Cozy Bear” is targeting vaccine development efforts. The group, which is connected with the FSB, Russia’s internal security service, had gotten inside the Democratic National Committee networks prior to the 2016 election.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

The Constitution doesn’t have a problem with mask mandates

  Many public health professionals and politicians are urging or requiring citizens to wear face masks to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

  Some Americans have refused, wrongly claiming that mask decrees violate the Constitution. An internet search turns up dozens of examples.

  “Costco Karen,” for instance, staged a sit-in in a Costco entrance in Hillsboro, Oregon after she refused to wear a mask, yelling “I am an American … I have rights.”

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Rural broadband: It’s past time

  As it turns out, we just thought we understood how much we needed better broadband accessibility in Alabama. Rural farmers, hospitals, and schools have been telling us for years that the inequality of our broadband infrastructure created two classes of Alabamians: internet haves and have-nots. State leaders mostly agreed and promised to address it… eventually.

  But in a state with many pressing needs, rural broadband initiatives never pushed their way to the front of the line until a global pandemic upset our entire economy and educational system overnight.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Why ‘I was just being sarcastic’ can be such a convenient excuse

  After President Donald Trump said during his June 20 rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma that increased testing was responsible for the surging number of infections, the condemnation of the inaccurate claim was swift.

  Six days later, during a Fox News town hall, Sean Hannity asked Trump about those remarks on increased testing.

  “Sometimes I jokingly say, or sarcastically say, if we didn’t do tests, we would look great,” he replied.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

From preaching to the chickens to preaching to the angels

  News of the passing of Congressman John Lewis hit me hard. I have never met a more extraordinarily kind and generous man. He was a true testament to the goodness to be found in each of us. I never grew tired of hearing him tell his story.

  Congressman Lewis grew up just outside of Troy, Alabama, not far from the Southern Poverty Law Center’s headquarters in Montgomery. He was a wonderful storyteller in the tradition of Black family stories of struggle and triumph. And he was funny. I’ve heard the congressman’s story of “preaching to the chickens” dozens of times, and each time, I could see a young John Lewis preaching to the family chickens as he dreamed of becoming a minister one day.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - GOP primary over, fall elections begin

  The field is set for the November General Election and more than likely, the races were decided on July 14. We had some good races, including the race for our junior U.S. Senate seat as well as two open Congressional seats.

  Tommy Tuberville won an impressive 60-40 victory over Jeff Sessions in the GOP primary runoff for U.S. Senate. The tea leaves portend that Tuberville, the Republican, will defeat the Democrat Doug Jones by that same 60-40 margin. He will win for one reason. He is a solid Republican in a solidly Republican state.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Life on welfare isn’t what most people think it is

  When Americans talk about people receiving public assistance – food stamps, disability, unemployment payments, and other government help – they often have stereotypes and inaccurate perceptions of who those people are and what their lives are like.

  Statistics can help clarify the picture by challenging false stereotypes of undeserving people gaming the system, but people’s stories about their own experiences can be more memorable and therefore more effective in changing minds.

Monday, July 20, 2020

School buildings need more space to safely reopen

  When COVID-19 first arose, the battle cry was “flatten the curve.” As states make plans to reopen, get ready for another important strategy: “de-densify.”

  Simply put, to make it safer to go to schools, restaurants, and other places where people have to go in big groups, these places will have to become less crowded than they used to be.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

How fake accounts constantly manipulate what you see on social media – and what you can do about it

  Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram started out as a way to connect with friends, family, and people of interest. But anyone on social media these days knows that it’s increasingly a divisive landscape.

  Undoubtedly you’ve heard reports that hackers and even foreign governments are using social media to manipulate and attack you. You may wonder how that is possible. As a professor of computer science who researches social media and security, I can explain – and offer some ideas for what you can do about it.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

5 ways eating in a pandemic is improving your relationship with food – and why you should stick with them

  It’s 5 p.m. on who-can-tell-which-day, and instead of rushing from work to kids’ activities, I’m unpacking a box of produce while my 7-year-old peels carrots beside me. Rather than grab what we can from the fridge on the way to soccer practice, my family is all sitting down together to a homemade vegetarian meal. On the menu tonight: cauliflower lentil tacos.

Friday, July 17, 2020

A restart of nuclear testing offers little scientific value to the US and would benefit other countries

  July 15, 2020 marked 75 years since the detonation of the first nuclear bomb. The Trinity Test, in New Mexico’s Jornada del Muerto desert, proved that the design for the Nagasaki Bomb worked and started the nuclear era.

  The U.S. tested nuclear bombs for decades. But at the end of the Cold War in 1992, the U.S. government imposed a moratorium on U.S. testing. This was strengthened by the Clinton administration’s decision to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Although the Senate never ratified the treaty and it never entered into force, all 184 countries that signed the test ban, including the U.S., have followed its rules.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Don’t expect Biden’s VP pick to make or break the 2020 election

  As presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden gets set to pick his vice presidential candidate, here’s a reality check: Running mates have very little direct effect on voters. When people go to the polls, they are primarily expressing a preference for the presidential candidate, not the second person on the ticket.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Even very young children can become prejudiced, but schools can do something about it

  Racism has negative consequences for children’s health. It harms the kids who experience it personally and those who witness it, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, an organization that represents 67,000 doctors who treat children.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Del Marsh wants you to get coronavirus. State senators should remove him from leadership!

  I couldn’t believe it when I saw Sen. Del Marsh (R-Anniston) – the leader of the Alabama Senate – say he wants to see more people get the coronavirus!

  During an interview with CBS42 News, Senator Marsh was asked if he was concerned about the growing number of confirmed cases of people infected with COVID-19 in Alabama. His response was, and these are his exact words: “I’m not as concerned so much as the number of cases, in fact, quite honestly, I want to see more people because we start reaching an immunity as more people have it and get through it.”

Monday, July 13, 2020

5 COVID-19 myths politicians have repeated that just aren’t true

  The number of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. has jumped to around 50,000 a day, and the virus has killed more than 130,000 Americans. Yet, I still hear myths about the infection that has created the worst public health crisis in America in a century.

  The purveyors of these myths, including politicians who have been soft-peddling the impact of the coronavirus, aren’t doing the country any favors.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Developing resilience is an important tool to help you deal with coronavirus and the surge in cases

  We’re all exhausted and pushed to the limit by months of social distancing, and the recent news that cases are climbing in many states is especially scary.

  While you may feel like ripping off your mask and heading for a bar, there are more productive ways to deal with the challenges we face. And in fact, staying home may be the best course of action in the next couple of weeks, some experts have said. It’s also a good time to learn and practice resilience.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

President Trump revives J. Edgar Hoover’s tyrannical playbook

  Throughout his presidency, Donald Trump has denounced his critics for the same claims made against him, attacking their credibility, and portraying himself as a victim of conspiracies.

  His lies are well documented, yet he accuses reporters of perpetual deception. He was impeached for obstruction of Congress and abuse of power, yet he accuses Joe Biden of corrupt practices in Ukraine.

  By employing these tactics, Trump is lifting freely from former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s playbook. Hoover, for example, lived a closeted gay life yet networked with Nazis who murdered people for being gay, and he blackmailed gay people to amass power.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Voting rights advocates prep for perfect storm in 2020

  Carla Duffy and Janet Savage waited nearly three hours in the hot sun outside the George Ford Center in Powder Springs, Georgia to cast ballots in the state’s June 9 primary. Masked up to ward off the coronavirus, they were determined to vote despite lines that snaked down the street.

  After about 90 minutes in line, voters at the predominately Black precinct were told the state’s new voting machines were not working. In a scene that played out across the state, they were given paper ballots. The ordeal left Duffy and Savage with little confidence in Georgia’s ability to conduct a fair election in November’s presidential contest. The primary, for example, was originally scheduled for May 19 but was pushed back due to concerns about the pandemic, a delay that appeared to have little effect on the state’s readiness once voters arrived at the polls.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Why do libertarians support school vouchers?

  For the life of me, I simply cannot understand why some libertarians still support school vouchers. Libertarianism, after all, is about achieving a free society. What do school vouchers have to do with freedom? They are the very antithesis of freedom.

A genuinely free society necessarily entails getting government out of education entirely. That includes ridding our nation of the federal Department of Education. Most libertarians know that and advocate it.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Senate and Congressional runoffs next week

  Believe it or not, coronavirus notwithstanding, we have three important GOP runoffs next Tuesday to nominate two U.S. House candidates and a United States Senate candidate.

  It will be interesting to see how the turnout is on July 14. Older folks, like me, are the ones that vote in all elections and we have been told for four months not to congregate or gather with other people. There could be some concern among older voters about getting out and going to the polls. Also, most of the poll workers are retired volunteers. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Police bigotry and the drug war

  To suggest that all cops and all judges are racial bigots would obviously be ridiculous. But it would be equally ridiculous to suggest that there are no racial bigots within law enforcement or even the judiciary.

  In fact, the DEA, the state police, and local law enforcement all serve as a magnet for racial bigots. There is a simple reason for that. The enforcement of drug laws attracts racial bigots. End the drug war, and you get rid of that magnet.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Three moral virtues necessary for an ethical pandemic response and reopening

  The health and economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic are not equally felt. From the United States to Brazil and the United Kingdom, low-wage workers are suffering more than others, and communities of color are most vulnerable to the virus.

  Despite the disparities, countries are reopening without a plan to redress these unequal harms and protect the broader community going forward. Our ethics research examines the potential for using virtues as a guide for a more moral coronavirus response.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1725 - We must rename the Edmund Pettus Bridge “The Bridge To Freedom”

  The Edmund Pettus Bridge is a powerful symbol all over the world. The bridge is a symbol of voting rights, a symbol of struggle, and a symbol of freedom. The name of the bridge must be consistent with this powerful symbolism. We must rename the Edmund Pettus Bridge as The Bridge To Freedom.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Celebrating moral courage on Independence Day

  We call this patriotic holiday Independence Day, the Birthday of America, or simply the 4th of July. It celebrates a political act by 56 men who literally risked their lives and fortunes and pledged their sacred honor in issuing one of the greatest documents in human history: The Declaration of Independence.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Craig Ford: Solving Alabama’s unemployment crisis is a matter of patriotism

  Patriotism is at the top of my mind these days as we prepare for this weekend’s Fourth of July celebrations. I feel a great sense of pride in our nation, even though I often disagree with political leaders at various levels of government.

  You can love your country and love many things about your country but still see problems and areas where we can do better as a city, state, or nation. And one of the areas where we seem to be struggling in Alabama is with our unemployment situation.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

How racism in the US health system hinders care and costs lives of African Americans

  As the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the U.S., the virus hit African Americans disproportionately hard. African Americans are still contracting the illness – and dying from it – at rates twice as high as would be expected based on their share of the population.

  In Michigan, African Americans are only 14% of the population but account for one-third of the state’s COVID-19 cases and 40% of its deaths.

  In some states, the disparities are even more stark. Wisconsin and Missouri have infection and mortality rates three or more times greater than expected based on their share of the population.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - GOP Senate Runoff in less than two weeks

  Folks, we are less than two weeks away from the election contest for the U.S. Senate seat. The runoff between former U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions and former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville may be close and will definitely be interesting.

  The two conservatives were in a virtual dead heat in the March 3rd GOP Primary. Congressman Bradley Byrne (1st District) finished a strong third.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Seven years after Shelby County vs. Holder, voter suppression permeates the South

  JoAnne Bland was only 12 when she collapsed in horror on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama in 1965. State troopers were brutalizing people all around her – including her sister – with tear gas, clubs, whips, and rubber tubing wrapped in barbed wire, simply because they sought the right to vote.

  Television footage of the “Bloody Sunday” attack sparked national outrage, galvanized public opinion in favor of Black suffrage, and mobilized Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act, which outlawed racial discrimination in voting.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Coronavirus responses highlight how humans are hardwired to dismiss facts that don’t fit their worldview

  Bemoaning uneven individual and state compliance with public health recommendations, top U.S. COVID-19 adviser Anthony Fauci recently blamed the country’s ineffective pandemic response on an American “anti-science bias.” He called this bias “inconceivable,” because “science is truth.” Fauci compared those discounting the importance of masks and social distancing to “anti-vaxxers” in their “amazing” refusal to listen to science.

  It is Fauci’s profession of amazement that amazes me. As well-versed as he is in the science of the coronavirus, he’s overlooking the well-established science of “anti-science bias,” or science denial.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Devil in the detail of SCOTUS ruling on workplace bias puts LGBTQ rights and religious freedom on collision course

  The Supreme Court’s landmark ruling extending workplace discrimination protection to cover sexual orientation and gender identity was cheered by LGBTQ people and allies. Indeed, the June 15 decision represents a big win in the fight for LGBTQ equality.

  But buried towards the end of a 33-page majority opinion written by conservative stalwart Justice Neil Gorsuch is a sober warning that those celebrating the decision might have initially missed.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

The need for education reform didn’t die with the defeat of Amendment One

  When voters defeat a proposed state amendment, it is often thought that the matter is put to rest. That is often the case, but when Alabama’s voters went to the polls in March and shot down a proposal to replace the elected state board of education in favor of one appointed by the governor, they only answered the question of the board’s composition.

  They did not answer the deeper problem of the board’s accomplishment.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Don’t rename those military bases. Close them instead.

  A controversy has erupted over the naming of U.S. military bases here in the United States. The bases are named after Confederate generals and there are people who want to change that. They want the bases to be named for more politically correct military figures.

  I’ve got a better idea: Let’s not rename the bases. Let’s close them instead.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Can people spread the coronavirus if they don’t have symptoms?

  Screening for symptoms of COVID-19 and self-quarantine are good at preventing sick people from spreading the coronavirus. But more and more evidence is suggesting that people without symptoms are spreading the virus too. Monica Gandhi, an infectious diseases physician and researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, explains what is known about asymptomatic spread and why she thinks it may be a big part of what is driving the pandemic.

What does it mean to be asymptomatic?

  SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19 – can produce a range of clinical manifestations.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - How has the coronavirus affected Alabama politics?

  As we end the first half of 2020, there is no doubt that the coronavirus is the story of the year. The coronavirus saga of 2020 and its devastation of the nation’s and state’s economic well-being may be the story of the decade.

  How has the coronavirus affected Alabama politics? The answer is negligibly, if at all. The Republican Primary Runoff to determine the nominee for the junior U.S. Senate seat was postponed by the epidemic. It is set for July 14, which is right around the corner. The race between Tommy Tuberville and Jeff Sessions should be close and interesting.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

The ‘first scientist’s’ 800-year-old tonic for what ails us: The truth

  It seems that science has been taking a beating lately. From decades of denial by the tobacco industry that smoking causes cancer to more recent attempts to use the COVID-19 pandemic to score political points, a presumption seems to have taken root that it is okay to seek and speak the truth only when it suits personal interest.

Monday, June 22, 2020

A military perspective on climate change could bridge the gap between believers and doubters

  As experts warn that the world is running out of time to head off severe climate change, discussions of what the U.S. should do about it are split into opposing camps. The scientific-environmental perspective says global warming will cause the planet severe harm without action to slow fossil fuel burning. Those who reject mainstream climate science insist either that warming is not occurring or that it’s not clear human actions are driving it.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Stripping voting rights from felons is about politics, not punishment

  In 2018, Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment ending the disenfranchisement of ex-convicts. Though it excluded people convicted of murder or sexual offenses, Amendment 4 restored voting rights to felons “after they complete all the terms of their sentence including parole or probation.”

  Civil rights groups and prisoner rights groups celebrated the election result. In contrast, Republicans worried that allowing felons to vote would tilt Florida toward Democrats.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Craig Ford: You should consider voting absentee this summer

  The Republican and Democratic Primary Runoff Elections are still scheduled to take place on July 14th, and many voters are understandably concerned about trying to vote while Alabama is seeing record numbers of new cases of the coronavirus.

  Part of Alabama’s recent spike in cases of COVID-19 is the result of Memorial Day events where large crowds gathered together, and it only stands to reason that forcing large crowds together again in just a few short weeks for this election could create yet another spike.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Police reform must bring about meaningful accountability

  The killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by four Minneapolis Police Department officers has raised the consciousness of the United States on the issue of police violence. Yet there is still a failure by many to recognize the systemic nature of the problem and the racism that permeates the structures of policing and the criminal justice system. Those minimizing or ignoring the serious foundational issues plaguing American policing often use the term “bad apples” to cabin off police brutality and misconduct to a theoretical handful of officers. For example, in his comments about the George Floyd protests, President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien flatly denied that there is systemic racism and claimed that “a few bad apples” were giving law enforcement a bad name.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

George Washington would have so worn a mask

  The genre “What would X do?” – where X stands for a noted figure in history, say, Jesus or Dolly Parton – is silly. And yet, as a scholar writing a new biography of George Washington, I can’t help making a bold declaration: The Father of His Country would wear his mask in public.

  Face masks have become something of a political statement in the U.S. They are seen by some as a line in the sand between “effeminate” Democrats and “masculine” Republicans.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Why George Wallace said “no” to the U.S. Senate

  My next book on Alabama politics will expound on who I believe have been the top 60 political leaders in Alabama over the past 60 years.

  More than likely, in any political historian’s book, George Wallace and U.S. Senator Richard Shelby would rank as the top two. The question is, “Who gets the number one spot?”

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Trump, the politics of fear, and racism: How our brains can be manipulated to tribalism

  Tribalism has become a signature of America within and without since the election of President Trump. The nation has parted ways with international allies, left the rest of the world in their effort to fight climate change, and most recently the pandemic, by leaving the World Health Organization. Even the pandemic was not a serious issue of importance to our leaders. We did not care much about what was happening in the rest of the world, as opposed to the time of previous pandemics when we were on the ground in those countries helping block the progress so long as it was China’s or the European Union’s problem. This marks a drastic change from the previous U.S. altruistic attitude, including during World War II.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Trump and his standing army

  President Trump’s warning to state governors that he is prepared to send his military forces to quell violent protests in cities across the land serves as another reminder of why our ancestors had such a deep antipathy toward standing armies. They knew that giant, professional, and permanent military establishments constitute the biggest threat to the freedom and well-being of the citizenry.

  When it comes to shooting American protesters, make no mistake about it: Soldiers will do their duty. They will follow Trump’s orders. Their loyalty is to the president. In their minds, anything the president orders is constitutional because he has been elected pursuant to the Constitution. If their commander-in-chief orders them to fire on protesters, they will fire on protesters.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1722 - Black lives do not matter

  Being Black in America is a never-ending challenge of whether Black lives matter. If you have not lived it, you cannot really understand it. You may sympathize. You may even empathize. Still, you cannot really understand because it is a pervasive experience from the moment we wake up in the morning to the minute we fall into a deep sleep at night. And I cannot make you understand, so I will not try. However, I do want to share a few episodes of my experiences of being Black in this country. To even begin to understand, you must understand that to so many Black lives do not matter.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

What it tastes like to eat what you want for the first time

  All my childhood grocery shopping memories center on being poor: Walking 10 minutes from our two-bedroom home in the Malden Housing Authority’s projects to the local Stop & Shop and filling the cart with juice, eggs, and bologna. There was the joy of adding the small amount of treats we could afford — at the time, that meant fresh bakery chocolate muffins, apple turnovers, and Gushers fruit snacks — and the embarrassment of putting some of the food back at the register when it rang up over our limit.

Friday, June 12, 2020

What goes into the toilet doesn’t always stay there, and other coronavirus risks in public bathrooms

  Most public restrooms are grungy in the best of times. Now we have the coronavirus risk to contend with, too. There are lots of risks – dirty sinks and door handles, airborne particles, and other people in small, enclosed spaces who may or may not be breathing out the coronavirus.

  So, how do you stay safe when you’re away from home and you’ve really got to go?

Thursday, June 11, 2020

What – or who – is antifa?

  The movement called “antifa” gets its name from a short form of “anti-fascist,” which is about the only thing its members agree on.

  President Donald Trump and some far-right activists and militants have claimed antifa is allegedly conspiring to foment violence amid the protests sweeping the U.S. In my forthcoming book, “American Antifa: The Tactics, Culture, and Practice of Militant Antifascism,” I describe antifa as a decentralized collection of individual activists who mostly use nonviolent methods to achieve their ends.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Senate runoff resumes with Trump and Sessions in a Twitter battle

  The U.S. Senate runoff between former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville and former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was placed on hold by the coronavirus. The primary on March 3 had Tuberville and Sessions in a dead heat. The runoff was scheduled for March 31. However, the pandemic shutdown placed a freeze on everything politically. The runoff is now set for July 14.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Trump’s use of religion follows playbook of authoritarian-leaning leaders the world over

  It was a striking moment: Donald Trump, Bible in hand, posing for photos in an apparent moment of political theater made possible by the dispersal of protesters through the use of tear gas.

  The president’s visit to St. John’s Episcopal Church, known as “the Church of the Presidents,” came immediately after giving a Rose Garden speech framing himself as “your president of law and order” and threatening to send federal troops to “restore security and safety in America.” The next day, Trump made another high-profile visit to a place of worship, this time Washington’s St. John Paul II National Shrine.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Militarization has fostered a policing culture that sets up protesters as ‘the enemy’

  The unrest sparked by the death of George Floyd after being pinned to the ground by the knee of a Minneapolis police officer has left parts of U.S. cities looking like a battle zone.

  Night after night, angry protesters have taken to the street. So, too, have police officers dressed in full riot gear and backed by an arsenal that any small military force would be proud of: armored vehicles, military-grade aircraft, rubber and wooden bullets, stun grenades, sound cannons and tear gas canisters.

  The militarization of police departments has been a feature of U.S. domestic law enforcement since the 9/11 attacks. What is clear from the latest round of protest and response, is that despite efforts to promote de-escalation as a policy, police culture appears to be stuck in an “us vs. them” mentality.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1720 - An open letter to Vice President Joe Biden

Dear Vice President Biden:

  I write because the moment is critical and urgent. I write because the opportunity will soon pass. My dear departed mother said to me on many occasions, “Son, opportunity is like a man with long hair in front who is completely bald in the back. When opportunity is coming toward you, you can grab a good hold because the hair is long. However, when opportunity passes you, you can grab all you want but your hand just keeps slipping off the back of that slick bald head.” Vice President Biden, you have a great opportunity right now. If you cannot grab it now, you will be left grabbing at the back of the slick bald head. Opportunity is coming toward you.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

As states reopen, tensions flare between the rule followers and rule breakers

  Since Republicans, on average, are five times more likely than Democrats to believe it’s safe now to resume normal business activity, reopening the economy has often been framed as a partisan issue.

  But within households, many families are having their own arguments about how lax or strict they should be about the threat of the virus. Is it okay to have friends over? Can we invite Aunt Sally to our birthday party? Can dad slip away to the golf course? Can mom get a haircut?

Friday, June 5, 2020

A justification for unrest? Look no further than the Bible and the Founding Fathers

  The civil unrest seen across the United States following the killing of George Floyd brings to the fore the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous observation that “a riot is the language of the unheard.”

  Taken from his 1968 speech “The Other America,” King condemned the act of rioting, but at the same time challenged audiences to consider what such actions say about the experience of those marginalized in society.

  “Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention,” King said.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Authoritarian state or inclusive democracy? 21 things we can do right now

  I understand the rage. I was in 4th grade the first time I was chased by police. My best friend got caught; I did not. His life ended up very different from mine, in part because I ran faster than he did.

  I understand the rage. I lived ten blocks from the Signal Hill Police Department in Long Beach, California where Ron Settles was found beaten and hanging from a noose in his jail cell the day after his 1981 arrest just a few blocks from my house. Two years later, I was 17, on my bike, near that very spot. A cop pulled me over, put a gun to my head, and said, “I could kill you right now and no one would care.”

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Stellar group studying gambling in the state

  Another legislative session has passed and Alabama still has no lottery. Actually, the Alabama Legislature does not in itself have the authority to pass a state lottery; lawmakers can only authorize a ballot initiative to let you vote on a lottery. It requires a constitutional amendment.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Clap all you like now, but workers with meaningful jobs deserve to be valued in a post-coronavirus economy too

  The coronavirus recession has laid bare how illogically the U.S. labor market values work that matters.

  In the United States, as elsewhere, citizens have been extolling the role of essential workers – such as nurses, grocery suppliers, and delivery drivers – by, for example, rewarding them with nightly claps. Yet many of these employees receive low pay and few protections, suggesting a different appreciation of their worth in the market.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Trump tweets, 'When the looting starts, the shooting starts', extremists will respond

  Amid mounting protests against the death of George Floyd and other unarmed black Americans, President Trump took to Twitter early May 29, calling protesters “thugs” and warning, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

  When President Trump advocates violence against political opponents and protest groups, extremists hear approval for their actions. Trump’s tweet glorifies violence against protesters and coincides with the president’s and the Republican Party’s history of encouraging harm against Black Lives Matter protesters. Right-wing extremists have previously responded to such calls with violence and have already responded favorably to Trump’s tweets threatening “shooting,” raising fears that some may act amid the violence and tension surrounding public health closures amid the ongoing global pandemic.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Alabama law raised obstacles on his five-year journey to the ballot box but Richard Williams overcame them all

  Richard Williams had an epiphany on his birthday in February 2013.

  He was living in a house in Huntsville, Ala. with nearly a dozen men who, like him, were recovering from substance use disorder. “I turned 58. And it hit me like a ton of bricks: I am 58 years old, sleeping on a top bunk in a house with a bunch of men. Now, I thank God for that situation, because I was good,” Richard told the Southern Poverty Law Center. “But the reality is, man, I'm missing it. I'm not where I'm supposed to be. That sparked the fire into me.”

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Free trade raises standards of living

  I find it amazing that there are still people in life who favor trade restrictions and trade wars. If there is anything credible economists agree on, almost 145 years after the publication of Adam Smith’s treatise The Wealth of Nations, it is that free trade is a good thing.

Friday, May 29, 2020

A doctor shares seven steps he’ll review to decide when and where it’s safe to go out and about

  As we return to some degree of normalcy after weeks of social distancing, we all need a plan. As an immunologist, I’ve given this a lot of thought personally and professionally.

  When I venture out, I am first going to check the number of new COVID-19 infections in my community. In Virginia, for example, as of May 16, some health districts had 200 new daily cases and others fewer than 10. I am going to be less risk-averse when new cases fall to near zero.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Early Americans would have rejected the U.S. government

  Even though most Americans are obviously unhappy with the federal government, many of them don’t question the structure of the government itself. Their ire is directed toward officials, not the governmental structure that such officials manage. They are satisfied with how the federal government is structured and just want “better people” managing it.

  The irony is that if the type of federal governmental structure under which we live today had been proposed to the American people after the Constitutional Convention, there is no possibility that they would have approved it. They would have rejected the Constitution and, therefore, the federal government would never have come into existence.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Mike Hubbard conviction finally upheld

  Over the past four years during my travels and speaking events over the state, the most asked question posed to me has been, “Why in the world is Mike Hubbard not in jail?”

  It was four years ago in June 2016 that the Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives, Mike Hubbard, was convicted by a jury of his peers in Lee County of a dozen counts of violating the state's ethics Laws.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Skipping standardized tests in 2020 may offer a chance to find better alternatives

  The Education Department is letting states cancel standardized tests. The move is a practical one: School buildings across the nation are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic even though distance learning efforts are widespread.

  As a result, 2020 is the first year without federally mandated standardized testing in nearly two decades. Washington has required all states to use these tests to evaluate students, teachers, principals, schools, and entire school systems, first in accordance with accountability measures shaped by the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act and later under the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act.

Monday, May 25, 2020

The forgotten history of Memorial Day

  In the years following the bitter Civil War, a former Union general took a holiday originated by former Confederates and helped spread it across the entire country.

  The holiday was Memorial Day, and today's commemoration marks the 152nd anniversary of its official nationwide observance. The annual commemoration was born in the former Confederate States in 1866 and adopted by the United States in 1868. It is a holiday in which the nation honors its military dead.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

States should embrace voting by mail and early voting to protect higher-risk populations from coronavirus

  The COVID-19 pandemic poses a substantial threat to U.S. elections, as described in previous reports by the Center for American Progress. Unless officials make significant changes to state election systems before November, Americans who vote or serve as election workers will be forced to put their lives at risk in order to participate in the democratic process. And it is not just voters or election personnel who have good cause for concern. Even those who cannot cast a ballot could become ill by coming into contact with a family member, caregiver, or neighbor who contracts the coronavirus through the voting process.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

As reopening begins in uncertain coronavirus times, you need emotional protective equipment, too

  As millions across the U.S. return to work – and maybe, a level of normalcy – the phrase, “We’re all in this together,” heard constantly in the media, turns out to be both true and untrue. Yes, the pandemic is a global experience. But it’s also very much an individual enterprise.

  Your race, age, socioeconomic status, where you live, and whether or not children are in the house all have a dramatic impact on how you’re responding to the pandemic. For many, aside from the isolation, life has changed little. But others have lost family, friends, a paycheck, or a business. For some of them, any sense of security has vanished.

Friday, May 22, 2020

The evil of drafting women (and men)

  In March, a federal agency named the Commission on Military, National, and Public Service issued an official report on whether America’s system of conscription should continue and, if so, whether women (along with men) should be subject to being drafted should circumstances warrant it.

  After months of study and deliberation, the commission answered yes to both questions.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Here’s how to stay safe while buying groceries amid the coronavirus pandemic

  Here’s how to stay safe while buying groceries amid the coronavirus pandemic

  Wear a mask, but skip the gloves. Don’t sanitize the apples. And if you are older than 65, it’s probably best to still order your groceries online.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Speaker Sam Rayburn and Congressman Bob Jones

  The legendary Speaker of the U.S. House, Sam Rayburn, coined a famous phrase he used often and imparted to young congressmen when they would arrive on Capitol Hill full of vim and vigor. He would sit down with them and invite them to have a bourbon and branch water with him. The old gentleman, who had spent nearly half a century in Congress, after hearing their ambitions of how they were going to change the world, would look them in the eye and say, “You know here in Congress, there are 435 prima donnas and they all can’t be lead horses.” Then the Speaker in his Texas drawl would say, “If you want to get along, you have to go along.”

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

I ate lobster on food stamps and it was delicious

  I was a food stamp kid for a few years in the early 1990s when my mom started college. I remember the first time we went to the H-E-B grocery store on the south side of San Antonio with our stamps. We always drove to a store in the next neighborhood over to shop. My mom had worked at the closest H-E-B when she was pregnant with me. People she went to high school with shopped there and so did her former in-laws. There was no way my mom was going to walk into that store with a wad of food stamps. We felt enough shame that we needed the help without adding in other people’s judgment.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Celebrating the Freedom Riders

  On May 4, 1961, seven Black and six white civil rights activists known as the Freedom Riders boarded a Greyhound bus in Washington, D.C. to travel through the Deep South to test the 1960 Supreme Court decision in Boynton v. Virginia – a ruling that found segregation of interstate transportation, including bus terminals, was unconstitutional.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Essential US workers often lack sick leave and health care – benefits taken for granted in most other countries

  The COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated the degree to which we depend on the work of others. This is particularly true of essential workers like truck drivers, grocery store employees, and hospital nurses who are ensuring the rest of us stay safe and are able to get the supplies, food, and health care we need.

  The pandemic has also drawn attention to the fact that these workers, like all Americans, do not receive many of the basic workplace benefits and protections – like paid sick leave and basic health care – that workers in almost every other developed country in the world receive as a matter of course.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Coronavirus, ‘Plandemic’ and the seven traits of conspiratorial thinking

  The conspiracy theory video “Plandemic” recently went viral. Despite being taken down by YouTube and Facebook, it continues to get uploaded and viewed millions of times. The video is an interview with conspiracy theorist Judy Mikovits, a disgraced former virology researcher who believes the COVID-19 pandemic is based on vast deception, with the purpose of profiting from selling vaccinations.

  The video is rife with misinformation and conspiracy theories. Many high-quality fact-checks and debunkings have been published by reputable outlets such as Science, Politifact, and FactCheck.

Friday, May 15, 2020

A-lop-bam-boom: Little Richard’s saucy style underpins today’s hits

  Little Richard was washing dishes at a Greyhound bus station in Macon, Georgia when he wrote Tutti Frutti, Good Golly Miss Molly, and Long Tall Sally. The singer, who died May 9 at 87, sent the songs as demos to Specialty Records.

  Soon he was having lunch with talent scout Robert “Bumps” Blackwell at a New Orleans nightclub, leaping onto the piano and belting out: