Friday, December 31, 2010

Charles C. Haynes: A Tennessee mosque, a good American story

  The No. 1 religion story of 2010 was the emotional, often ugly debate over plans for an Islamic center two blocks from ground zero in Manhattan, according to Religion Newswriters Association members — and just about everyone else making a list.

  Not far behind was the media-driven obsession with the Florida pastor who got more than his 15 minutes of fame by dangling the threat of Quran-burning before eager reporters camped outside his church.

  But to really understand the growing fear of Islam in America in 2010 — and public reaction to it — we should move beyond the sensational and take a closer look at the lesser-known but more instructive mosque-building controversies in local communities, especially the yearlong fight in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Senator Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches # 1229

  Giving is powerful. I write this partly because we say that this is the season to give. However, I write to say that every season is the season to give. Every day in every season is a time to give.

  Some of us know how to give but don’t know how to receive. Too many of us know how to receive but don’t know how to give. The real challenge is to give and receive with equal facility for they are truly bound together.

  When I was a child I did not really know how to give or receive. I was bad at both. Then I learned to give but did not learn to receive. I still work on the receiving.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Peter Swire: Homeowners are consumers, too

  Press reports this week note that financial regulators are split about whether and how to create new consumer protection rules for mortgage servicers—those companies that collect monthly mortgage payments from homeowners and forward the payments to investors in those mortgages. The debate also prompted 52 prominent economists and industry experts this week to write an open letter to federal regulators calling for new national standards for mortgage servicing. That key recommendation in the open letter is correct—reforms are badly needed in this area.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Senator Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches # 1228

  When we dig a hole for someone else, we may as well dig two for we will surely fall in the first one we dug. I heard these words from my mama and other wise old folks. There was such wisdom in the saying I drew on it during my turn at the podium of an extended debate on Senate Bill 2, which stripped AEA (Alabama Education Association) and several other employee organizations of effective membership privileges.

  We had fought hard in the Senate to kill Senate Bill 2 on Friday. After four plus hours, the Republicans cut off debate and passed the bill. The Alabama House of Representatives then fought valiantly for many more hours starting Tuesday but at about 3 am on Wednesday morning, the Republicans cut off debate and passed the bill by three votes. Governor Bob Riley and others leading these efforts dug a hole for AEA and other employee organizations.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Charles C. Haynes: To end Christmas wars, separate secular from sacred

  Oklahoma Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe singlehandedly breathed life into the flagging “war on Christmas” debate when he announced earlier this month that he wouldn’t ride his horse in the Tulsa Holiday Parade of Lights this year — something he has done for decades.

  Offended by a change of name (that actually took place last year) from “Christmas” to “holiday,” Inhofe accused parade organizers of taking Christ out of Christmas.

  Last week, other Tulsans angered by the name switch demanded that City Council deny a permit to the parade, which is a privately organized and funded event. Fortunately, the city attorney was there to remind the council that it would be unconstitutional to stop a parade because it wasn’t called “Christmas.” In a 5-3 vote, a reluctant council granted the permit.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Gary Palmer: Christmas Bells

  It is hard to put the ideas of war and Christmas in the proper context. War represents our worst fears - death and destruction and subjugation to our enemies; Christmas brings to mind our greatest hopes - peace on earth and the hope of eternity.

  War has destroyed the hope of many people. The incomprehensible death and destruction of World Wars I and II led almost directly to the nations of Europe swinging from Christianity to being largely agnostic or atheistic. For the majority of Europeans, the ringing of bells on Christmas Day has no meaning beyond sentimentalism for a lost faith.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Eric Alterman: The Fox propaganda train rolls on

  Another day, and another piece of incontrovertible evidence that the folks at Fox News are exclusively in the business of pushing propaganda, rather than reporting “news.”

  Last week, The Daily Beast reported the existence of a memo by Fox News Vice President and Washington Managing Editor (and former Washington Times editor) Bill Sammon, on October 27, 2009. It advised all on-air personalities to “use the term ‘government-run health insurance,’ or, when brevity is a concern, ‘government option,’ whenever possible.”

  The memo followed an on-air conversation between right-wing Republican consultant Frank Luntz and Fox News host Sean Hannity, in which the former advised, “If you call it a public option, the American people are split,” but “If you call it the government option, the public is overwhelmingly against it.” “A great point,” Hannity replied. “And from now on, I'm going to call it the government option, because that's what it is.”

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Gary Palmer: Special session undermines AEA power

  Of the seven bills that passed during the special session, there was one bill in particular that hit Paul Hubbert and the AEA especially hard. It was the ban on the use of state resources to collect political contributions from state employees for A-VOTE, the AEA's political action committee (PAC).

  The AEA is by far the biggest source of PAC money in Alabama. From 2006 through 2010, A-VOTE collected well over $16 million in political contributions. And not all of the money came from education employees. One major contributor to A-VOTE during this time frame was gambling kingpin Milton McGregor. McGregor, who is under a federal corruption indictment, gave A-VOTE $603,000.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Senator Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches # 1227

  I was hoping I was wrong. I was hoping that this special session was not really about reducing the power of some and increasing the power of others. I was hoping that I was wrong about this special session being ostensibly called about ethics when it was in reality a pure power play. I was hoping against hope.

  The first indications came with who sponsored what bills. Four bills were introduced allegedly to deal with ethics. One was not centered on ethics and one was not about ethics at all. I looked to see whether the Senate President Pro Tem, the highest position in the Senate, was sponsoring one of the bills. He was, so I looked to see which one. He was the chief sponsor of Senate Bill 2, the vehicle to strip AEA (Alabama Education Association) of its organizational power base. I knew in my heart that was the real reason we were here in special session just two weeks before Christmas but I kept hoping I was wrong.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Michael Josephson: Character Counts: Keep your fork

  When a pessimist is told there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, he’s likely to assume it’s an onrushing train. According to journalist Sydney Harris, “A cynic is not merely one who reads bitter lessons from the past; he’s prematurely disappointed in the future.”

  Pessimism and cynicism are fashionable these days, but it’s the people who see and celebrate the positive aspects of life who live best.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Jonathan Gruber, Judy Feder: Why we need the minimum coverage mandate

  A district court judge in Virginia ruled Monday that the “minimum coverage” requirement in the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. The opinion is clearly at odds with other rulings in Virginia and in Michigan, where courts upheld the law.

  Judges may disagree, but there’s a consensus among legal and economic scholars that this requirement to purchase health insurance is essential to making health insurance available and affordable to everyone, without regard to health status or “pre-existing conditions.” Without this provision, the law is unworkable and the consumer protections it provides become unenforceable. As the issue wends its way through the courts, it is useful to review why this requirement is in the law and the valuable protections we have to lose if it’s eviscerated.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Douglas Lee: Pa. public-comment ruling could have unintended results

  As a long-time advocate for open government, I applaud the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision in Alekseev v. City Council of the City of Philadelphia. As a former school board president, however, I see why some might find it a bit naive.

  In Alekseev, the court held that Pennsylvania’s Sunshine Act requires city councils and other public bodies in the state to allow public comment during their meetings. In doing so, the court rejected the practice of the Philadelphia City Council, which for 60 years has channeled public comment only to meetings of its committees.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Eric Alterman: Florida 2000 forever

  As we pass the 10th anniversary of the Bush v. Gore decision—technically yesterday, December 12—it is interesting to note how much of our current political predicament can be discerned in the events of those days. The Bush-Gore election illustrates three key points about today’s political and media environment:

    * Conservatives fight harder and dirtier for what they want than progressives.

    * The mainstream media gives conservatives a pass for acting and speaking in their own political interest while criticizing progressives for the same thing.

    * Conservative commentators recognize few if any boundaries in their willingness to demonize progressives, with virtually no corollary of any kind among progressives.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Jennifer Marshall: 'Superman' exposes the myth of the common school

  'Each morning, wanting to believe in our schools, we take a leap of faith," filmmaker Davis Guggenheim says in Waiting for Superman. His much-acclaimed documentary then gives us every reason to doubt. By framing this account of the public school system's failure in terms of trust, the film manages to do something far more subversive than merely record union-induced systemic dysfunction. The documentary does nothing less than cast doubt on this core belief of America's civil religion: our faith in the public school system as the mediator of our national ideals and the gateway to opportunity for all children.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Gary Palmer: Extending tax cuts would make Christmas merrier for Alabama

  Alabamians and the state of Alabama have a lot on the line in the ongoing debate in Congress over extending the Bush-era tax cuts.

  On December 7th, President Obama agreed to support extending all the Bush tax cuts for taxpayers for another two years. Originally, Obama and the Democrat leadership in Congress were determined to raise taxes on everyone with a yearly income above $250,000. They tried to cast wealthy families as rapacious and selfish in their latest attempt to “spread the wealth around.”

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Joe Bageant: Ignorance and courage in the age of Lady Gaga

Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico

  If you hang out much with thinking people, conversation eventually turns to the serious political and cultural questions of our times. Such as: How can the Americans remain so consistently brain-fucked? Much of the world, including plenty of Americans, asks that question as they watch U.S. culture go down like a thrashing mastodon giving itself up to some Pleistocene tar pit.

  One explanation might be the effect of 40 years of deep fried industrial chicken pulp, and 44 ounce Big Gulp soft drinks. Another might be pop culture, which is not culture at all of course, but marketing. Or we could blame it on digital autism: Ever watch commuter monkeys on the subway poking at digital devices, stroking the touch screen for hours on end? Those wrinkled Neolithic brows above the squinting red eyes?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: What the legislative special session is really for

  Gov. Bob Riley has called a special session of the Alabama Legislature to pass ethics reform legislation. The major issues expected to be addressed include prohibiting the transfer of campaign money between political action committees, which essentially hides the original source of campaign contributions. This practice of PAC to PAC money laundering has rendered our campaign finance laws meaningless. The call will also include giving subpoena power to the Alabama Ethics Commission as well as requiring more stringent disclosure of lobbyists’ spending on public officials.

  The more logical and prudent avenue to address these issues would have been the way that Governor-elect Robert Bentley proposed. Gov. Bentley suggested that the wisest and most cost effective approach would be to tackle these issues in a special session sandwiched in between the March regular session. It would not cost the already depleted general fund much needed resources because Bentley’s way would expend no extra money.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Josh Carples: High Fructose Corn Syrup... not a fan

  I admit it. I have a sweet tooth. It’s true. Sometimes you just want some gummy bears or a Snickers. It happens.

  Luckily, it seems most of these products, while still not found in the health food aisle, are sweetened with sugar rather than High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS).

  I’m not a fan of HFCS, and it seems that a lot of other people are not either. If they were, there would be no TV ads sponsored by this country’s corn lobby touting the similarities of HFCS to regular sugar. Have you seen the ads? In the PR world, ads are usually judged by effectiveness, and these, I would say, are very ineffective.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Gene Policinski: Koppel-Olbermann dispute misses local-news picture

  Former ABC “Nightline” host Ted Koppel and MSNBC host and pundit Keith Olbermann recently exchanged sharply opposing views about the state of the news business — as they know it.

  Kicking off the high-level spat, Koppel used a guest column in The Washington Post to slam the current trend toward journalism-as-opinion, naming Olbermann and others. In response, Olbermann opined that Koppel’s era never was as free of bias as he claimed — and that so-called “objectivity” in the news media never served the public all that well, anyway.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Gary Palmer: The Special session is necessary

  The time has finally come. What we have needed and waited for, what was promised but never delivered, may about to finally be reality.

  On Wednesday, December 8th, the newly elected Alabama Legislature will go into a special session called by Gov. Bob Riley to take up the most comprehensive and most badly needed ethics and campaign finance reform legislation in Alabama’s modern history. The legislature will consider seven bills that constitute an historic transformation in state government and that will move Alabama to the top of the state rankings for tough ethics laws.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Dr. Israel Drazin: Repealing the military’s gay ban will enhance religious freedom

  Sixty-five retired military chaplains wrote to President Barack Obama earlier this year urging him to maintain the military’s ban on service by openly gay men and women. These chaplains alleged that allowing gay men and women to serve openly would compel them to violate their religious principles, such as forcing them to perform same-sex marriages. They claim that if they would not officiate at such marriages, the military would discipline, demote, and perhaps even dismiss them from military service. Repealing the ban, commonly known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” will force them to either “obey God or to obey man.”

  Nothing could be further from the truth. As a lawyer and retired assistant chief of chaplains with the rank of brigadier general, let me set the record straight.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Senator Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches # 1225

  “Hank, the black farmers appropriation passed the U. S. Senate. Isn’t that wonderful? I am celebrating!” Those words burst forth over the phone from Heather Gray of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund. It was indeed a moment worth celebrating. I celebrated as well.

  The appropriation had passed the U. S. House of Representatives many months ago. The U. S. Senate had tried to pass it five or six times to no avail. This was the last real opportunity. So much had happened. As the old folks say, “If it was not one thing, it was another.”

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: What the Republican takeover means for Alabama

  Now that the dust has settled on the November 2nd General Election and we have had four weeks to let the results permeate, my perceptions and conclusions remain the same. The Republican tidal wave that engulfed Alabama was more like a tsunami. The devastation was so pervasive and devastating that it probably changed the political landscape in our state for the foreseeable future.

  George Wallace, when asked about possible political options, would reply never say never. I am not saying that the Democratic Party is dead in Alabama; however, it is on life support. If any aspiring politician asked me what party banner they should run on to be elected it would not take me long to give them an answer. My guess is that if George C. Wallace, the greatest politician in state history, were still running as a Democrat last month and saw the results of November 2nd, he would have changed parties by now.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Ken Paulson: How obscene is video-game violence?

  My generation blew up blobs.

  Sure, the multicolored objects on the screen of my Atari 2600 video game system were supposed to represent alien invaders or menacing spaceships, but they were pretty much indistinguishable blobs with an occasional appendage or two. In the heat of battle, pixels would scatter, but nobody got hurt.

  Contrast that 1980 technology with the imagery of the highly sophisticated video games that are now the subject of a pivotal Supreme Court case (Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants Association). The justices are grappling with whether to uphold a California law that bans sales or rentals to minors of highly violent video games such as Postal 2, which graphically depicts beheadings, amputations and young girls pleading for mercy.

  It's not pretty stuff.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Laurence M. Vance: Why don’t conservatives oppose the War on Drugs?

  The war on drugs is a failure.

  According to the latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: “Drug use in the United States increased in 2009, reversing downward trends since 2002. ” There was a spike in the number of Americans admitting to using marijuana, ecstasy, and methamphetamine.

  Yet, no matter how much it costs to wage the federal drug war (more than $41 billion according to a just-released Cato Institute study), conservatives generally support it. I know of no prominent conservative who publicly calls for drug legalization. I know of no Republican candidate in the recent election (outside of Ron Paul) who has ever publicly voiced his support for the decriminalization of drug possession. Republicans in Congress — by an overwhelming majority — have even criminalized the purchase of over-the-counter allergy-relief products like Sudafed because they contain pseudoephedrine.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Heather Boushey and Jordan Eizenga: The Economic case for unemployment insurance and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

  Businesses can expect a dreary holiday shopping season if Congress does not continue benefits for the long-term unemployed. These benefits help families to weather hard times, and right now millions of American families remain out of work or underemployed. They help families keep a roof over their head and food on the table while they search for work and wait for the economy to improve.

  Unemployment insurance, or UI, along with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, stabilize the economy by increasing the demand for basic goods and services. Stabilizing demand remains critical to saving and creating jobs and boosting earnings at this point in the economic recovery. If Congress allows benefits for the long-term unemployed to expire at the end of November, this could potentially reduce the gains in retail sales in December by 14 percent compared to December 2009.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Michael Ciamarra: The Business of Alabama is small business

  A national ranking of Alabama was released that could become the blueprint to follow over the next decade but it was little noticed. The prestigious news was elbowed out by Cam Newton, political corruption, and ongoing saga of the BP oil spill.

  Alabama was ranked the 10th best place in the nation by the industry journal Site Selection. This ranking was the culmination of excellent workforce skills, necessary low taxes, transportation infrastructure, incentives and access to utility networks. Those criteria appear to be a template for consistent success. But do all politicians pay attention to this minimalist government approach?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Inside the Iron Bowl

  It is Alabama vs. Auburn week in Alabama. It is the fiercest of college football rivalries. It is the game of the year. It is a state civil war that divides friends and even families. It is bragging rights for the entire year. The loser has to live with his boasting next door neighbor for 364 days. It seems that one must choose a side regardless of whether you despise college football and could care less who wins. Newcomers to our state are bewildered on this fall day each year. They cannot comprehend the madness that surrounds this epic war. It is truly that – a war. It is the game of the year!

  Young boys all over Alabama grow up playing football in their front yards and dreaming of playing in this big game. It is said that when these two rivals meet one can throw out the record books. However, that is not true. In fact, in 90 percent of the games the favorite wins. A lot of SEC championships and bowl games have been decided by this game. It has made many Alabamians’ Thanksgiving holidays either joyous or sad.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Charles C. Haynes: Sharia fear-mongering threatens religious freedom

  Much of the news media seemed bemused or bewildered when Sharron Angle warned of an Islamic-law takeover in America during her unsuccessful bid to unseat Sen. Harry Reid.

  Angle was widely ridiculed for citing Frankford, Texas (a town that no longer exists), and Dearborn, Mich. (with a large population of Arab-Americans living under American law), as examples of the imposition of Islamic or sharia law.

  On Election Day, Angle lost in Nevada. But a thousand miles away in Oklahoma, voters took the issue seriously and adopted a state constitutional amendment barring courts from considering sharia law or international law when deciding cases. The amendment passed with 70 percent of the vote.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Gary Palmer: An empty place at the Thanksgiving table

  With so many American men and women deployed in the war against terror, it is fitting and appropriate in this Thanksgiving season to give special attention to, and thanks for, the sacrifices made by many American families who will have an empty place at their table on this Thanksgiving Day. Normally, we do not think of Thanksgiving in the context of war. But as an official United States holiday, Thanksgiving is inextricably linked to our nation's founding and to our times of war.

  The first official thanksgiving proclamation was issued in 1777 by the Continental Congress after the American victory in the Battle of Saratoga. The proclamation asked God to " upon us in the prosecution of a just and necessary war, for the defense and establishment of our unalienable rights and liberties."

Friday, November 19, 2010

Eric Alterman: When money talks, who listens (besides politicians)?

  Everybody knows money talks in politics, but people—and particularly the press—rarely pay attention to exactly how. It can define potential alternatives, invent arguments, inundate with propaganda, and threaten with merely hypothetical opposition.

  Politicians do not need to "switch" their votes to meet its demands. They can bury bills, rewrite the language of bills that are presented, convince certain congressmen to schedule a golf tournament back home on a day of a key committee vote, confuse debate, and bankroll primary opposition.

  The manner and means through which money can operate is almost as infinite as its uses in any bordello, casino, or Wall Street brokerage. Just about the only thing money can't buy in politics is love. But that’s okay because, as Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) or ex-Gov. Eliot Spitzer can tell you, politics provides plenty of substitutes.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sheldon Richman: Blood on his hands

  As George W. Bush hawks his memoir, “Decision Points,” he seems especially driven to justify his decision to invade and occupy Iraq. He emphasizes how sickened he was at learning that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction, though not too sick to kid about it at the White House correspondents’ dinner. While he refuses to say whether he would have ordered the invasion had he known the truth — and there’s good reason to suspect that he did know the truth — Bush insists that 25 million Iraqis are better off without Saddam in power.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Corruption not as rampant as it once was

  In addition to being a gubernatorial election year, this year has seen its share of political scandal and corruption.

  The junior college scandal led by Roy Johnson was one for the record books as far as outright open greed and blatant thievery. The indictment of 11 lobbyists, senators and casino owners four weeks before the election stole the headlines but seemed to have a negligible effect on the statewide races for governor and only minimal impact on the four senate races involved with the indictments.

  It might appear that Alabamians are becoming somewhat blasé and accustomed to corruption and indictments in Montgomery. It has been said by many a professional prosecutor that you can pretty much indict almost anyone for anything. The bar for an indictment is a lot lower than for a conviction. It is often said by prosecutors that you can indict a potato.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Charles C. Haynes: 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 flash point 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.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Joseph O. Patton: Ethically-speaking…

  What would you buy with $300,000?

  Outgoing Governor Bob Riley and a passel of newly elected Alabama lawmakers are leaping about, tongues wagging and slinging drool like overly excited puppies, aiming to hold a legislative special session and tackle ethics reform. And though the buying, selling and renting of Alabama legislators is a chronic problem facing our great state, it is nonetheless not the most pressing issue facing us. Revenues are down, unemployment rates are up, and yet many new office-holders are more concerned with itemizing and making public gifts to said lawmakers as insignificant as a cup of coffee.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Ian MacIsaac: Fear and loathing in the airport security line: Stripped of your clothing and your rights

  The new security methods being promulgated at airports across the nation by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) have received a huge amount of attention in the media and huge complaints from the public. Interest groups, online travel sites, and tourist destinations have all mounted serious complaints against the new, incredibly thorough methods of routine search being employed in major American airports by the government-run TSA. "Full-body imaging" machines have been installed in numerous airports across the country, which take, effectively, a full nude photograph of each passenger, ostensibly to make sure he does not pose a terrorist threat. When the scans are not required or where the scanners have not been installed, the only other option is metal-scanning and then a rigorous pat-down, in which rarely even the male genitals are spared a suspicious poke and prod.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Sam Fulwood III: The Leaders of the African-American Tea Party

  When the 112th Congress is seated in January, two newcomers, Allen West of Florida and Tim Scott of South Carolina, will make history as they become one of the rarest of political species. They are black and Republican, a combination that rarely finds success at the ballot box—or elsewhere in contemporary U.S. politics. Now, the question is how will the GOP receive them?

  Defying the odds, West and Scott were the only two winners of the 32 black Republican candidates seeking seats in the U.S. House this year. By surviving, they are poised to command the spotlight as soon as they arrive in Washington. No doubt they will be in great demand by conservative television and talk radio, offering up living proof that the GOP has a drop of melanin in its lily-white portrait. Scott, in particular, landed a plumb assignment within the first week of his victory. He’s one of three incoming freshmen legislators appointed to the 22-member transition team that will craft House rules under the Republican leadership.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Senator Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches # 1222

  It was a massive electoral wave, bringing massive victory to some and massive defeat to others. I was among those experiencing the pain of massive defeat. No, I was not swept out of the Alabama Senate, but I experienced massive defeat anyway.

  The wave swept across America bringing defeat and victory in equal proportion. For every defeat, there was a victory and for every victory, there was a defeat. I will not attempt to deal with the national implications of this massive wave in this Sketches although I reserve the right to explore them in the future. I will focus on Alabama in general and the Alabama Senate in particular.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Laurence M. Vance: NPR flap shows true nature of conservatives

  Although it isn’t often that conservatives and Fox News come to the defense of a liberal journalist, I come not to congratulate them, but to condemn them.

  Award-winning liberal journalist Juan Williams was fired by NPR on October 20 for politically incorrect remarks he made about Muslims on The O’Reilly Factor. Fox News then granted him a $2 million, three-year contract.

  Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich wants Congress to investigate NPR for censorship and calls for “consider cutting off its public funding.”

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Charles C. Haynes: Is civility America’s lost cause?

  From Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson’s ad in Florida demonizing Republican Dan Webster as “Taliban Dan,” to Republican Sharon Angle’s ads in Nevada demonizing Latinos, negative campaigning reached new lows in the 2010 election cycle.

  Grayson and Angle both lost. But since their opponents aired their share of attack ads, it’s hard to tell what worked with voters and what didn’t.

  What we do know is that going negative was the preferred strategy in most campaigns. According to The New York Times, more than half of all political television ads during the mid-term election campaign were attack ads, continuing a trend that has tracked steadily upward since 2004.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Seth Hanlon: Conservatives now need to do the math

  “You campaign in poetry and govern in prose,” is a classic phrase attributed to former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo. But the reality nowadays is that governing is done in numbers—hard numbers representing budgets, taxes, and debt. During the midterm campaign season that ended last week, Republicans pledged to bring down the deficit and build long-term fiscal stability. The presumptive next Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner (R-OH) said Republicans are “ready to work with President Obama” toward these goals.

  Both Democrats and Republicans say fiscal responsibility is a key priority, presenting an opportunity for bipartisan cooperation. But if the new Republican majority in the House is genuinely committed to reducing our nation’s debt, its members are going to have to put aside some of their campaign talking points and take a closer look at the numbers.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Joe Bageant: Algorithms and Red Wine - Is the 'digital hive' a soft totalitarian state?

Ferrara, Italy

  Sitting in a trendy wine bar, one of those that brings out food to match your particular choice of wine, mystified by the table setting. What was that tiny baby spoon for? Cappuccino surely, at some point, but why no big spoon to go with the knife and fork? The things a redneck American does not know grow exponentially in Bella Italia, starting with the restaurants -- not to mention several civilizations beneath one’s feet. Being in a house that has been continuously occupied for over 1000 years -- resisting the temptation to piss in the hotel room bidet, that sort of thing.

  One thing the Italians can never be accused of is being a culture given to vinyl sided sameness, fast food franchises. Another thing is lack of a good educational system, given that Italy’s is among the very best in the world. So here I am sitting with some college kids trying to hang onto my end of a discussion of evolutionary consciousness, and whether Italy can withstand the cultural leveling of globalism.

  “And Mr Bageent, what do you think of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s concept of the hive mind and the noosphere? Can monolithism and totalitarianism possibly be resisted in the cybernetic age?”


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Gary Palmer: The Republican majority should stand and deliver

  The Republican majority just elected to the Alabama State Legislature have an opportunity to enact historic reforms that fundamentally change state government for the better. In a stunning repudiation of the culture of corruption and special interests domination that has been pervasive in our state government for generations, Alabama voters gave Republicans a majority in both the Alabama Senate and House of Representatives for the first time in 136 years.

  After the 2006 election, the Democrats maintained their chokehold on the state legislature with a 63-42 majority in the state house and a 23-12 majority in the state senate. On November 2nd, Alabama voters reversed those numbers and gave the Republicans super-majorities in both chambers - 62 to 43 in the house and 22 to 12, with one independent in the senate.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Digital Roundtable: CCFP editors examine the Alabama general election results

Editor's note: This discussion between Capital City Free Press Editors Joseph Patton and Josh Carples examines the results of Alabama's most hotly contested races from the November 2 election.


Patton: No true surprise in the race for governor. Robert Bentley polled well ahead of Ron Sparks throughout this race. What intrigues me about the situation is we really don’t know Bentley. He was not a high-profile member of the Alabama Legislature and he was a counted-out dark horse candidate in the Republican primary. He arguably jetted into the nomination by default as a result of Republican voters’ distaste for Bradley Byrne’s and Tim James’ negative campaigning. Anyone among us know what we’re getting into with Bentley? He seems to be respected across party lines, which is always a plus, but it’s not necessarily indicative of how he may govern.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Our Stand: A Simple choice between an experienced attorney and a lobbyist

  Despite the anti-incumbency motif running through the races in Alabama and across the country during this election, it seems far too likely than it should that Alabama voters will re-elect conservative judicial activism embodied in the Republican candidate for attorney general Luther Strange. Running on Troy King's six-year record of incompetence, corruption, and scandal, Strange is calling for much of the same; and as the people rejected King himself in favor of Strange in the Republican primary, the people of Alabama must reject Strange in favor of James Anderson, the Democratic candidate.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

James Turner: How I survived bullying

  Due to the recent suicides all over the country related to gay bullying, I have decided to share my story. I have never told it before. But my bullied past is what prompted me to form Color It Pride. These recent events have struck a fire under most of us to make a change. For me these have all struck home.

  I was mentally and physically bullied every day of my school career. At first I was bullied for being a geeky kid, I liked school and loved to learn. The kids who bullied me made it very hard for me to do that. They made me feel worthless, which led to me eating all the time and locking myself away in my room. This led to a major weight gain. I went from 100 lbs. in 4th grade to 200 lbs. in 5th grade and that weight gain just continued to escalate until I reached over 300 lbs. by junior high school.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Gary Palmer: Elections or indictments... Putting an end to corruption

  In testimony before the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, former Senator Paul Simon (D-IL) stated that gambling “… has more of a history of corruption than any other industry.”

  The October 4th indictments of eleven individuals, including four Alabama state senators, on charges of public corruption related to gambling legislation is an example of what the late Senator Simon meant. When you look back at the relationships between politicians and gambling interests, what you find is a long and sordid history of public corruption.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: Stacking the courts

  Alabama’s high courts are about as Republican as any elected tribunals in the country. We have six criminal appeals court judges and all six are Republican. We have six civil appeals court judges and all six are Republican. We have nine Supreme Court judges and eight of the nine are Republican. That makes our appellate courts 20 out of 21 Republican.

  This year three seats on the Alabama Supreme Court are up for election. A Republican will win all three. The two incumbents are predicted to win and Republican Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Kelli Wise is expected to move into the open Supreme Court seat vacated by Patti Smith.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Our Stand: Cook the better choice for Place 1 on Public Service Commission

  An election year that has become known for the phrase “anti-incumbent” may not bode well for Jan Cook, who serves on Place 1 of the Public Service Commission, but comparing résumés of the two candidates, voters would be better served by reelecting Cook.

  Cook has served the public for decades, first on the Dozier City Council, then as State Auditor, and for the last 20 years, on the Public Service Commission.

  Her opponent, Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh, has served the Republican Party.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Our Stand: House District 73 deserves a new vision

  Sometimes it’s true: Eight is enough.

  For the past eight years, Alabama House District 73 had been represented by David Grimes. After occupying the seat for nearly a decade, however, Representative Grimes’  tenure has been marked by little in the way of achievement.

  And change for the sake of change is pointless unless a challenger offers a forward-looking, ambitious, practical plan for moving a district, and the state as a whole, forward.

  Joe Hubbard - touting a three-part, feasible plan which address three of Alabama‘s most pressing issues - is offering more to District 73 than the incumbent.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Gary Palmer: Closing argument to an Alabama jury

  I invite you to imagine yourself as a member of a jury seated for a major corruption case. This week's column will be presented as the criminal prosecutor's closing argument:

  "Normally, defendants are individuals whose decisions and subsequent actions are prosecutable offenses under the law. However, the defendant in this case is not a person; it is a system that allowed a form of corruption that that has been used to buy influence with elected officials at every level of government in Alabama.

  "The system I am referring to is the system created to carry out multiple transfers of campaign contributions through a labyrinth of Political Action Committees, or PACs. Over the years, this system has become a sophisticated campaign money laundering operation employed to influence legislation and elections. It is the abuse of this system that is now at the center of the recently announced FBI indictments of four state senators, three high profile lobbyists and two very high profile gambling facility operators.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: How the legislative majority may change

  Without a doubt the governor’s race is always the marquee political show every four years. This year is no exception. However, there is another interesting plot developing. Many Goat Hill insiders are more intrigued with this year’s legislative elections. The battle for control of the Alabama House and Senate will not only play out this year but will carryover into the January organizational session.

  The Republicans believe that they can capture a majority in the senate and maybe also in the house. Whether they win this year remains to be seen. However most astute observers believe the GOP takeover is inevitable in 2014. The trends are there and once the new census figures are digested it will be hard to avoid the fact that most of the population growth in the state is in the fast growing Republican suburbs.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Charles C. Haynes: Why religious literacy matters

  Twenty-first century America is the most religiously diverse society on earth and — among developed countries — one of the most religious.

  But how much do inhabitants of our faith-saturated land actually know about religion? Not very much, according to a new survey released by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

  Fewer than half of Americans know that Martin Luther inspired the Reformation, the Dalai Lama is Buddhist, the Jewish Sabbath begins on Friday and other basic facts about the world’s major faiths.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Senator Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches # 1217

  “Why is this election so important?” It’s a fair question, so I want to provide a fair answer. Of course, this is my personal perspective, so take it for what it is worth.

  Alabama is the only Deep South State to maintain Democratic majorities in both houses of the legislature. This feat has been accomplished in spite of the fact that only one Democratic governor has been elected since 1982 and the Alabama Supreme Court has been majority Republican since 1996. Moreover, eight of nine Justices are Republican. It was nine of nine before 2006. The chain of Republican attorneys general has been unbroken since 1994.

  In addition, five of the seven current statewide Constitutional offices are Republican (governor, attorney general, secretary of state, state treasurer, and state auditor) with only two being Democrat (lieutenant governor and commissioner of agriculture). In short, the Republican Party has been dominant in Alabama for the last two decades. However, the Alabama Legislature has remained Democratic in spite of this dominance.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Eric Alterman: Just what exactly is Fox News?

  Fox News Channel is often described as a cable news station. On occasion, the words “conservative” or “biased” are attached to that description. But few dispute the journalistic orientation of the overall enterprise.

  This is a mistake. Fox is something new—something for which we do not yet have a word. It provides almost no actual journalism. Instead it gives ideological guidance to the Republican Party and millions of its supporters, attacking its opponents and keeping its supporters in line. And it does so at a hefty profit, thereby turning itself into the political equivalent of a perpetual motion machine.

  Recall that last spring, David Frum lost his appointment at the conservative American Enterprise Institute before observing, “Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us, and now we are discovering we work for Fox.” This is literally true in the case of at least four likely Republican candidates for president in 2012: Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum. In fact, as two Politico writers observe, “With the exception of Mitt Romney, Fox now has deals with every major potential Republican presidential candidate not currently in elected office.”

Friday, October 8, 2010

Gary Palmer: Obamacare: A Six month checkup

  It has now been just over six months since Congress passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. This is the bill that most members of Congress admitted they did not read. This was also the bill that led Democrat Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to famously declare “… we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”

  So, where are we now that we’ve had six months to find out what is in it? We now know that the Democrat majority in Congress sold us a budget-busting, deficit-expanding bottle of snake oil labeled ‘health care reform.’

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Joseph O. Patton: Theatre Review: ASF‘s “Nacirema Society” should be Broadway-bound

  “Remember that rumor? It just came knocking on my front door.” -Grace Dubose Dunbar

  For nearly 20 years a proud tradition of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival has been its bold mission to foster and showcase the work of southern storytellers through its Southern Writers Project. The latest offering born of the Project is yet another gem, further heightening the program’s profile and deservedly earning national acclaim.

  Pearl Cleage’s “The Nacirema Society Requests the Honor of Your Presence at a Celebration of Their First One Hundred Years” is a witty, intriguing comedy decisively worthy of an international tour.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: Ticking down to a Republican majority

  In 1876 when the southern states wrestled free of the shackles of Reconstruction, one thing was certain. The South would not vote for any Republican. The harsh retribution bestowed on the southerners by the radical Republican Reconstruction dominance and occupation of the former confederate states was so severe that a fierce hatred was ingrained into the southern psyche that would eventually take generations to dissipate.

  Alabama and her sister Deep South states became one-party Democratic states as a result of Reconstruction. This total Democratic dominance lasted for close to a century. It was 88 years, from 1876 to 1964, before a Republican carried Alabama in a presidential contest. It was 100 years before we had a Republican U.S. senator and 106 years before we elected our first Republican governor in 1986. The last barrier to be broken is the Alabama Legislature. It has now been 136 years since Reconstruction and we have had a Democratic legislature the entire time. Both chambers, the House and Senate, have Democratic majorities as we enter the 2010 fall election.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Michael Ciamarra: Planning, strategy and vision help you make all the right moves

  Recently, a cable news pundit mentioned in context of the economy that bad policies lead to bad outcomes. "But," he continued, "the reverse is true as well. If we have the right policies in place, ones that expand our free market system, we can create better outcomes than we can imagine. It's like chess, you make good moves and good things happen. If you make bad moves, then ..." and the talking heads were at it again. 

  This got my attention for reasons which will become apparent.

  I coach young chess talent to nurture them to their full potential. In the mid-eighties, Alabama looked a lot like the young chess talent of the business world - filled with undeveloped and undefined potential. Due to the same persistent coaching and strategic vision, Alabama's current economic strength and status is undeniable. In the last decade, Alabama has clearly and convincingly attained the profile of a grandmaster.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Can Robert Bentley break the curse?

  If Robert Bentley wins the governor’s race in five weeks he will be the first legislator in the course of state history to ascend directly from the legislature to governor. Only a handful of governors have ever served in the Alabama House or Senate. It is basically a graveyard or dead-end street in Alabama politics.

  Let me take you back 100 years and give you the prior experience of our governors to prove that legislative experience is not a stepping stone. Starting in 1906 Braxton Bragg Comer was an industrialist and very successful businessman. His only political experience had been as president of the current day Public Service Commission. Emmet O’Neal was a lawyer and President of the Alabama Bar Association, with no elected office experience.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Ian MacIsaac: Americans don't learn lessons: The Moral failures of conservative leaders and the intellectual failures of average Americans

  “Here is a guy who understands the world through black liberation theology, which is oppressor and victim… it’s Marxism disguised as religion.” – Glenn Beck

  “What if Obama is so outside our comprehension that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior can you begin to piece together his actions? [Obama] happened to have played a wonderful con, as a result of which he is now president.” – Newt Gingrich

  “Here is a man who spent his formative years—the first 17 years of his life—off the American mainland, in Hawaii, Indonesia, in Pakistan, and in multiple subsequent trips to Africa.” – Dinesh D’Souza

  Barack Obama is not like you. He’s not normal. We’re not exactly sure what it is about him, but something just isn’t right.

  God, you’ve been hearing that a lot, haven’t you? The above quotes are just a sample of the nonsense spread over the past month or two about the president. Maybe it was all inspired by this Ground Zero mosque hubbub, but there seems to be a pretty consistent and united effort on the part of conservative talking heads nowadays to paint Obama as both (a) foreign and (b) untrustworthy. There was a lot of this before the election, but at least within my sphere of news it had steadily declined after he’d actually taken office, and people began to get interested in real issues again….

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Gary Palmer: Tea Party outrage must carry over to state elections

  The latest version of the revolt taking place in America is showing up at the ballot box.

  When Christine O’Donnell won the Delaware Republican Senate primary over liberal Republican Congressman Mike Castle, it caused more shock than when Scott Brown won the Senate seat held by the late Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts.

  Brown’s win was widely touted by Republican leaders as evidence of voters swinging to the Republican Party. They were wrong.

  Brown admitted during his victory speech that his win was not a Republican victory; it was a victory for independents fed up with the out-of-control spending by both parties. In the Massachusetts election, the voter turnout was the highest in 20 years for a non-presidential election and independents voted for Brown by a 3-1 margin.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Tom Powell, Jr.: What the Republicans fear is the loss of fear

  Fear is a tool that is used far too often in politics. Both major parties use fear from time to time, but it seems that Republicans use fear way too often as a tool to manipulate us, and more importantly, they lie about what to fear.

  They want you to fear the foreign government that is going to come here and kill us. Now this is something that we should always be mindful of as a nation, but we shouldn't be making widespread lies to strike fear into the hearts of Americans so that we can invade and occupy a nation for a decade that hasn't done anything to us. They go on TV and tell you that this guy has biological weapons and this guy has nukes and if you don't elect us, these evil entities will come to your home town and erase it from the map. They used this fear tool so effectively in 2004 that we as a nation re-elected the dumbest president we have ever had to a second term. That is how fearful they had us.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Eric Alterman: Inequality and America’s antiquated politics

  It’s ironic—though perhaps that’s too kind a term—to note that at the moment the U.S. poverty rate is reaching a 15-year high the nation is engaged in whether to offer additional tax cuts for those making more than $250,000 per year. (For a single adult in 2009, the poverty line was $10,830 in pretax cash income. For a family of four it was $22,050.)

  This despite the fact that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office analyzed the short-term effects of 11 potential options for dealing with the present unemployment crisis and found that retaining the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy offered the least powerful “bang for the buck,” owing to wealthy people’s proclivity to save rather than spend additional income. And yes, it just so happens that the Forbes 400 came out during the same week, and lo and behold, “The super-rich got even wealthier this year.”

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: What makes you qualified?

  One would have to wonder what our current governor and legendary governor, Big Jim Folsom, have in common. Riley is quiet and calculating whereas Big Jim was loud, gregarious and somewhat uninhibited. However, both were given humiliating rebukes in their efforts to work with the legislature.

  In the 1950’s Big Jim called for a special session to rewrite the Constitution and reapportion the legislature. The legislature met only one day and adjourned. A few years ago Riley called for a special session within the regular session. The current members of the legislature simply ignored him. Another similarity between the two is that neither had ever served in the legislature nor did they know many members personally.

  Alabamians have a history of electing governors who basically have no governmental experience much less legislative experience. Please excuse the fact that I might be somewhat prejudiced in my next statement having served 16 years in the Alabama House, but it might serve a governor in good stead if he or she had legislative experience.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Ken Paulson: The Truth about lies and the First Amendment

  Xavier Alvarez never played hockey for the Detroit Red Wings.

  He wasn't secretly married to a Mexican starlet.

  And he certainly wasn't an ex-Marine who had been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

  But Alvarez claimed to be all three. And it was the lie about his military honors that led to his being charged with a felony under the Stolen Valor Act of 2005.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Michael Ciamarra: The Checklist - Where are your papers?

  A document from the National Conference of State Legislatures recently came across my desk innocently entitled, "State Legislators' Check List for Health Reform Implementation." I was astonished, to say the least, at the check list of sweeping mandates, requirements to change state law to 'conform,' questions on who will run state high-risk pools, Medicaid funding ratios and dozens of different complex challenges for 2011 state legislatures in order to comply with the newly enacted Obama health care law.

  The Obama Administration will move forward with this implementation, along with the creation and expansion of 159 new federal offices charged with administering, which also means Alabama's new governor will be faced with multitudes of complications to be implemented as required by federal law.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Sam Fulwood III: Race and Beyond: Whistling Dixie

  Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour just can’t let his old South memories wither and die without a fight for redemption.

  Barbour, who is considered a leading contender for the Republican Party’s 2012 presidential nomination, said in a recent interview with the conservative magazine and website Human Events that it wasn’t people like him who fostered opposition to school desegregation. No, it was all those “old Democrats” in the South who stood in the door to prevent blacks from attending public schools across Dixie.

  “By my time, people realized that was the past, it was indefensible, it wasn’t going to be that way anymore,” said Barbour, who at 62 is old and politically astute enough to know better than to say something so clearly inaccurate. “And so the people who really changed the South from Democrat to Republican was a different generation from those who fought integration.”

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: Political dynasties

  Unlike Britain we do not have royalty who have historically inherited political positions of power. However, you would not think there was much difference in our country and England when you look at the history of our political office holders. It is very much a family business in America. You need only look at the list of our presidents to realize that political offspring benefit immensely from being the sons or daughters of a famous father.

  This American tradition began with John Quincy Adams following his father John Adams to the White House. The tradition continued with George W. Bush following his father George H.W. Bush as president. Many expect that Jeb Bush is waiting in the wings to pursue the GOP nomination for president in 2012.

  Author Stephen Hess has written a recent book that chronicles an amazing 700 American families with two or more members who served in Congress. We have had our share here in Alabama. A walk down the halls of the Statehouse today reveals numerous young lawmakers that have fathers who preceded them in politics in Alabama. Folsom, Wallace, deGraffenried, Tyson, Hilliard and Poole are just a few of the names that have been recycled here in Alabama.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Senator Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches # 1214

  What do we do when we are divided against ourselves? I came face to face with this dilemma over a proposed bill during the 2010 Legislative Session.

  The mayor of Selma said, “We need your help with a local bill. It’s to put cameras on traffic lights. It will stop so many persons from running red lights.” Mayor Evans said it with a matter of fact tone but it hit me in the guts.

  This idea of cameras on traffic signals has come before the Alabama Senate on several occasions as a statewide bill. I was always against it. It never passed the senate. Then cities began passing local bills that authorized cameras on traffic signals. I had voted for some of these bills out of “local courtesy.” Local courtesy is supporting something in another legislator’s district whether we agree with the idea or not. In my heart, I was still opposed to cameras on traffic signals.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sheldon Richman: Obama: Neoconservative

  President Barack Obama was far from candid when he announced the end of combat operations in Iraq last month, but he did nothing to hide the fact that he is a neoconservative when it comes to the American empire.

  That was not lost on leading neoconservatives, who tend to prefer Republicans. William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, told a colleague that while he would have phrased the speech differently, “his basic response was ‘All hail Obama!’”

  John Podhoretz, editor of Commentary magazine, wrote in his New York Post column, “President Obama did something amazing. He delivered — dare I say it? — a rather neoconservative speech, in the sense that neoconservatism has argued for aggressive American involvement in the world both for the world’s sake and for the sake of extending American freedoms in order to enhance and preserve American security.”

Monday, September 13, 2010

Charles C. Haynes: Wielding the 'God weapon' poisons the body politic

Editor’s note: This commentary originally appeared Aug. 31 on The Washington Post’s Web site. Reprinted by permission.

  In the wake of his weekend rally, Glenn Beck kept up the drumbeat of criticism about President Obama's religion, calling it a "perversion" and saying that America "isn't recognizing his version of Christianity," which Beck characterized as "liberation theology."

  Despite the critique of Obama's Christianity, a recent poll showed that nearly 20 percent of Americans believe falsely that the president is Muslim.

  Why is there so much attention on Obama's religion? Does it matter what religion the president is?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Gary Palmer: What will students learn on Constitution Day?

  Thanks to a little-known provision passed by Congress late in 2004, every grade school or college that receives federal funds must have a period of time on Constitution Day (September 17th) dedicated to teaching about the U.S. Constitution. If that day falls during a weekend, schools are required to have their session on the Constitution either the Friday immediately before or the Monday immediately following Constitution Day.

  This provision was the idea of the late Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) who was concerned about the ignorance of the American public about the nation’s history and governance. And he had cause to be concerned. From school children to college students to the general adult population, numerous surveys have found an appalling lack of basic knowledge about the Constitution.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Eric Alterman: Forget the question. The answer is “tax cuts”

  Readers of this column may recall a lecture I discussed this summer by the economist fondly known as “Dr. Doom,” New York University’s Nouriel Roubini. I criticized Roubini for his failure to take politics into account when giving his “higher taxes, fewer services” spiel, because while fiscal solvency is undoubtedly important, the exact mix by which they are to be achieved is a question of political preference, and ought to be decided that way.

  Even so, during the post-lecture question-and-answer-period a well-dressed gentleman stood up and asked, “Wouldn’t it be a great idea if the president did everything Roubini suggested but also extended the Bush tax cuts for the rich? I mean, why not?” Never mind that it contradicted everything Roubini had just said. The lecture was in the Hamptons, after all, where tax cuts for the wealthy go a long way.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Gary Palmer: Beck didn’t organize the parade he is leading

  According to a poll conducted by Politico, an Internet-based political news media outlet, the elites inhabiting our nation’s capitol have strikingly different views than the rest of us about issues and what is of national importance.

  Politico defined the criteria for being considered a Washington elite as someone who lives within the Washington, D.C. metro area, earns more than $75,000 a year, has at least one college degree, is involved in the political process or works on key political issues or policy decisions.

  According to Politico’s polling of the elites living in Washington D.C., more believe the country is on the right track (49 percent) than believe it is on the wrong track (45 percent). That is substantially different from what the rest of the country believes with 61 percent saying we are going in the wrong direction. When it comes to the economy, 44 percent of D.C. elites think we are on right track versus 65 percent of the rest of us who say we are not.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Running the wrong race

  Much like business opportunities, the old adage of being at the right place at the right time rings very true in politics. Timing and picking the right race is everything. While picking up the pieces from this year’s races it occurred to me there were several candidates who fit the category of picking the wrong race.

  I have often times thought that Judge Roy Moore could have been reelected to the Supreme Court after his ouster as a result of his unbending stance over his Ten Commandments monument. Voters sympathize with Moore and believe he paid too high a tribute for his adamant position. He had some time accumulated in the lucrative state judicial system and another six year term on the Court could have secured a more comfortable retirement for him and his family. Folks just did not see him as a governor, but I believe that he could have been elected this year to the open seat on the high tribunal.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Sam Fulwood III: God made me do it

  So now we know what the Tea Party stands for and who stands behind it.

  Until this past weekend, the various factions of what’s collectively known as the Tea Party struggled to define who they are and what they represent. The amorphous movement backed by some of the wealthiest conservatives in the country couldn’t decide if it was a political organization, an ideological alternative to the Democratic or Republican parties, or an Internet-inspired and media-driven coalition of grassroots activists whose organizational base exists ephemerally in the nexus of the World Wide Web and right-wing blab shows.

  The Tea Party’s split personality led its folk to wrestle with what a Tea Party platform should contain. Should it be exclusively about eliminating all taxes and rolling back progressive social programs? Or should it demonize President Barack Obama and glorify former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to boost web traffic and daily viewership? Or maybe it should focus on the relationship between the Tea Party and local, state, and federal governments? Could it be all of this? Or none?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

James Carafano: The Administration's secure-the-border trap

  When the public clamors for action to curb illegal immigration, politicians push the "easy button." They mobilize the National Guard and send them to the border.

  It's a time-honored tradition, though not always efficacious.

  For example, in 1916, Poncho Villa launched a series of cross-border raids into the U.S. In response, we sent a few thousand troops under the command of Blackjack Pershing to hunt down the bandits.

  It cost U.S. taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars a day. Pershing never captured Villa. And, on several occasions, the Army got its butt kicked. On June 21, 1916, the Mexican Army almost completely wiped out a detachment of the 10th U.S. Cavalry at Carrizal.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Kathryn Nix: Less choice at greater cost

  With or without Obamacare, health insurance costs are on the rise, and the new law doesn’t do much to stop them from climbing. If anything, several provisions of the legislation passed in March could drive costs higher than they would have been under prior law—unless, of course, insurers can find other ways to bring these costs down.

  What Cost for Keeping Your Doctor?

  Businesses are already searching for more affordable options for their employees. One increasingly popular step: health plans that cover only services provided by a relatively small number of participating doctors and hospitals.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Douglas Lee: Trying to exclude WikiLeaks from shield law stinks

  One of the odors emanating from Washington, D.C., these days is from journalists marking their territory.

  Whatever awkwardness previously existed as journalists desiring a federal shield law wooed the legislators they’re supposed to be watching, it’s now worse. In recent weeks, the two groups have publicly joined forces to exclude WikiLeaks from possible protection under the bill. In doing so, journalists have managed to look territorial and to endanger the independence they’re striving to create.

  On Aug. 4, Sen. Charles Schumer, the New York Democrat and Senate sponsor of the Free Flow of Information Act, announced that he intended to include in the proposed law new language specifying that WikiLeaks and organizations like it would not be able to use the act to protect the identities of confidential sources.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Sheldon Richman: Persecuting a conciliator

  If a YMCA or a YMHA were planned for 51 Park Place in Lower Manhattan, two blocks from the Twin Towers’ former site, who would have noticed?

  Instead, the equivalent of a Muslim Y (without the implied male exclusivity) is to be built there. What’s the big deal?

  There can be only one answer: Consciously or not, a majority of Americans believe all American Muslims are associated with the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Although the U.S. government position is that the attacks were perpetrated not by Islam but rather by fanatics who warped the religion, the opposition to Cordoba House, now known as Park51, shows that most Americans don’t believe it. They hold all Muslims responsible. That’s disgraceful collective guilt based on religion.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: The Sparks and Bentley cash race

  As we approach the Labor Day weekend it reminds me of bygone days in Alabama politics. Labor Day was the biggest campaign day of a gubernatorial election year. There were campaign rallies from one end of the state to the other. Although politics today is not as colorful, Labor Day still officially marks the start of the fall election campaign. We will have an eight week sprint to the finish line on November 2.

  The gubernatorial nominees are surprise horses in this year’s quest for the open governor’s chair. Robert Bentley and Ron Sparks were not expected to make it to the dance but here they are ready to go. The glaring uniqueness surrounding this year’s contest is the lack of money. Both candidates are having a difficult time raising campaign dough. It is a stark contrast from eight years ago when both Bob Riley and Don Siegelman each raised and spent over $6 million. It is suggested by some that Bentley and Sparks will be lucky to raise and spend $2 million in the upcoming fall contest.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Joseph O. Patton: The Real Robert Bentley steps forward

  Sorry, but arrogance won’t endear you to Alabama voters, Dr. Bentley….

  As the campaigning days roll by, ticking down to Game Day in November, we’re increasingly seeing Robert Bentley - the GOP’s nominee for governor - for who he truly is.

  At a candidate forum in Arab, Alabama, the popular subject of an education lottery slipped into the dialogue. When questioned about opponent Ron Sparks’ proposal, Bentley dismissively swiped it down and offered no solution of his own, no alternative. But he didn’t stop there… Like a scolding schoolmarm, Bentley pointed at the audience of voters and lectured them, arguing that it’s their responsibility to provide for their children’s post-secondary education.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Gary Palmer: Liberals fear renewed interest in founding principles

  One of the positives outcomes from America’s current crisis is a resurgent interest in our Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

  Liberals decry this new interest in founding principles as misguided and perhaps even dangerous. But then that is to be expected. Liberals know that once people figure out how much the progressive agenda has corrupted our Constitution and undermined our freedoms, there will be a political backlash that will bring change that liberals don’t believe in or want.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Our Stand: District 2, House of Representatives - Your vote will mean nothing

  We have long believed that media outlets issuing endorsements in political races should refrain from back-handed, half-hearted endorsements. It leads readers to wonder, “What was the point of that?”

  Voters in Alabama’s U.S. House of Representatives 2nd District have no actual decision to make in this race though. Based on Bobby Bright’s voting record while in office and Martha Roby’s rhetoric, both would vote the same way on major issues, regardless of their professed party affiliation. Roby has admitted as much by virtue of directing her campaign attacks at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rather than her actual opponent.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Robert Bluey: How-to guide for cleaning up Obama’s mess

  President Obama hit the campaign trail last week and returned to a familiar theme of attacking his critics for lacking ideas on key policy issues.

  “They're offering fear, and they're offering amnesia,” Obama said at a Democrat fundraiser in Los Angeles. “My campaign, you’ll recall, our slogan was, ‘Yes, we can.’ Their slogan is, ‘No, we can’t.’ On every item.”

  Chiding conservatives for a lack of policy solutions is a regular talking point for the White House. It’s a tactic Obama has used to elevate his own ideas for America’s problems—albeit ideas that resemble Socialist schemes to rapidly grow the size of government.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: The Future of the Alabama Legislature

  The new governor, whoever is elected this year, when they enter the governor’s office in January of 2011 will be walking onto the deck of the Titanic. Never in my lifetime, nor most of yours, have we witnessed the likes of the horrific dilemma the new governor will face when he takes over the reigns of state government. However, this spring as I sat observing the Alabama Legislature it became obvious that the governor will not be alone. The legislature will be an equal partner in the impending disaster. They also will be facing the tsunami with the new administration.

  The chaos and discord in the senate has rendered them more like a sideshow in a circus than a legislative body. They have been rudderless for the entire quadrennium and will probably remain so for the next four years. The lieutenant governor, who was the leader of the senate for a century, has been removed from power and the senators are left to run the asylum. The lieutenant governor presides but the power of the gavel has been diminished and the job is meaningless.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sam Fulwood III: The Cost of lying about the president’s religion

  Like so many other commentators who’ve written on the subject during the past week, my colleague Sally Steenland struck a generous a tone in her tongue-in-cheek assessment of the people who said in a new poll that they believe President Obama is a Muslim. I am not as kind in my assessment of the nearly one in five respondents who admit to believing this nonsense fed to them by right-wing zealots.

  Oh, I don’t question for a minute that 18 percent of the respondents told researchers from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life that they doubt the president is a Christian. Those people probably did say that—despite President Obama’s public and repeated declarations otherwise. But I’ll tell you what Steenland and others who have bemoaned the poll’s findings have been too polite to say: Anyone who claims the president is a Muslim is lying. Or crazy. Or very possibly, both.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Joseph O. Patton: The Push Poll: An exercise in deceit and cowardice

  Here we go again….

  You’d think it would be simple to wage a campaign for elected office - you determine what issues are important to you, what you plan to do if elected, then you hit the trail and attempt to convince voters that you’re the best candidate for the job. And yet increasingly - and sadly - campaigns are devolving into a game of who can make the other guy look bad.

  Enter Alabama State Representative David Grimes - Republican, District 73 - and the most virulent form of campaign cancer in our system of elections - push polls. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, a campaign or affiliated group strings together a disingenuous, false allegations-driven series of questions that frankly, aren’t questions at all. They’re loaded and are intended to plant a negative opinion of, or at least cast serious doubts in a prospective voter’s mind about the opposing candidate. In a simpler sense, it’s tantamount to asking someone: “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?”

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Senator Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches # 1211

  “My one vote does not count,” is a refrain that I have heard many times. I took exception each time. I take exception now – strongly.

  Did you know that Hitler became head of the Nazi Party in 1923 by one vote? What would have happened if Adolph Hitler had failed by one vote? Would we have had the Second World War? Would millions of soldiers have died in war and millions of citizens in concentration camps? That’s the power of one vote.

  Our one vote always counts. It counts if we don’t vote. It counts twice if we do vote.  When we don’t vote, our one vote counts against that for which we stand. When we vote, our one vote counts once against that for which we stand and once for that which we stand. Our one vote always counts.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Gene Policinski: Defending First Amendment rights is different from endorsing the message

  Whether or not a Muslim community center and mosque in New York City is built near the former World Trade Center site remains to be seen.

  And whether or not a Kansas-based church can continue its anti-homosexual protests near military funerals remains to be determined — quite likely in the U.S. Supreme Court.

  In both instances there are heartfelt objections from those who have suffered, either from the Sept. 11 attacks or the loss of a loved one in combat. But beyond the passion, politics and propriety of those two hot-button debates, there is an important First Amendment point.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Gary Palmer: Judge's ruling undermines the Constitution

  On August 4, 2010, a federal judge in California broke new ground for abusive judicial activism when he ruled that California’s amendment defining marriage as only between a man and a woman was unconstitutional.

  Federal District Judge Vaughn Walker not only struck down California’s Proposition 8 that prohibits homosexuals from marrying. His ruling also undermined the rule of law, mocked the right of the people to govern themselves, redefined the laws of nature, espoused his own version of human history and questioned the legitimacy of the Bible. He even singled out the teachings of the Southern Baptists and other evangelical churches along with Orthodox and Catholic churches as examples of bigoted views on homosexuality.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Josh Carples: American values at risk near Ground Zero

  Some may still not know that there is no mosque at Ground Zero. The controversy surrounding the Park 51 Islamic community center has been elevated from a local zoning issue to a national, and in some ways international, discussion. Maybe “argument” is a better word.

  If we take away emotion and begin to search for facts, the first glaring fact we will notice is that the phrase “Ground Zero Mosque” which has been in many news headlines is wrong. Many news outlets, to be more precise, at least added the word “near” as in calling it a mosque “near Ground Zero.” More specifically, it is two blocks away.

  To some, two blocks is not far enough.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: The State of gambling in Alabama

  Political polling may not be an exact science. However, a poll today conducted by a professional top notch firm can most times be taken to the bank. The polling on this year’s political races has been right on the money. The pollsters nailed a good many of the primary races right on the head. Primaries are more difficult to predict than general elections because of the uncertainty as to who is going to show up to vote. You can pretty much bet that their readings will render the outcome in November fairly accurately.

  Speaking of polling and betting the polling numbers on the gambling issue in Alabama are revealing. It is obvious that over the last twelve years there has been a glaring incremental increase in tolerance toward gambling and a lottery among Alabama’s electorate. An up and down clean vote on a lottery today would pass substantially. People overwhelmingly want to vote on whether the state should tax and regulate electronic bingo. The majority would favor allowing bingo.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Joe Bageant: Understanding America's class system: Honk if you love caviar!

  How about them political elites, huh? Five million bucks for Chelsea Clinton's wedding, 15K just to rent the air-conditioned shitters -- huge chrome and glass babies with hot water and everything. No gas masks and waxy little squares of toilet paper for those guys.

  Yes, it looks big time from the cheap seats. But the truth is that when we are looking at the political elite, we are looking at the dancing monkey, not the organ grinder who calls the tune. Washington's political class is about as upwardly removed from ordinary citizens as the ruling class is from the political class. For instance, they do not work for a living in the normal sense of a job, but rather obtain their income from abstractions such as investment and law, neither of which ever gave anybody a hernia or carpal tunnel. By comparison, the ruling class does not work at all.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Nicholas Bormann: The Case for a private military - Let the market take a shot

  Previously, I've speculated on the possibility of an all-private military. The idea: instead of having the Department of Defense do the work at recruiting, training and then deploying our military personnel, the federal government could just handle the top-level strategy then hire out for troops to implement it. Unconventional? Yes. Effective? Possibly.

  Currently, the U.S. army is staffed on an all-volunteer basis. People have to willingly choose to put their life on the line. That system just isn't working -- the military is facing a serious recruitment shortage. When you look at the numbers, it's obvious why:

  An enlisted private with less than two years experience will receive $17,366 for a year's service (not including benefits, etc.) After becoming a captain and serving for more than six years, pay would be $61,405 -- if you survive that long. Compare that to the median pay for a security guard at $29,854 with a built-in job benefit of not being shot at regularly, and the recruitment shortage starts making a lot more sense.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Lawrence J. Korb: Alarmist defense cuts won’t help the deficit

  The Pentagon will spend more than $700 billion in the upcoming fiscal year on defense—more than the rest of the world combined and more than at any time in our history except for World War II. The defense budget, exclusive of war costs, has grown in real terms for 13 straight years—the longest period of sustained grown in our nation’s history—and it is now higher than at the height of the Reagan-era buildup. Pentagon spending is the third-largest item in the overall federal budget after Medicare and Social Security and has grown by more than 6 percent since President Obama came into office.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Gary Palmer: Who do Americans trust?

  Do Americans trust Congress as a collective institution? Not according to a recent Gallup public opinion poll which showed that Americans rank Congress below Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs), big business and organized labor. In fact, Congress is ranked dead last in the “confidence” category. The polling data shows only 11 percent have a “great deal” or “a lot of” confidence in Congress while half of Americans now say they have “very little” or “no” confidence in Congress.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sheldon Richman: What they do in our name

  Thanks to Wikileaks and heroic leakers inside the military, we now know the U.S. government has killed many more innocent Afghan civilians than we were aware of heretofore. We also know that American military and intelligence personnel roam Afghanistan assassinating suspected bad guys. Sometimes they kill people they later acknowledge weren’t bad guys at all. “Bad guys,” like “Taliban,” is implicitly defined as anyone who resists the U.S. occupation force and the corrupt puppet government it keeps in power.

  What other atrocities are our misleaders and misrepresentatives committing in our name?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Senator Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches # 1210

  My wise mother gave me some advice in graphic language: “Son, when you marry, I hope you don’t have a girlfriend on the side. But I know men, and it’s likely to happen. But if you do, I want you to promise me to never treat a girlfriend better than you treat your wife.” It is a lesson with applications in other areas of life.

  Governor Bob Riley was in Selma last Friday to help treat an industrial wife like we treat industrial girlfriends. I considered but did not share my mother’s admonition about how to treat a wife and a girlfriend because I was introducing the governor.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Will McCorkle: Is Race-baiting setting back racial and national progress?

  If you look at U.S. political history, there is a common theme. The rich and powerful have to find a way for the poor and middle class to support their cause and economic ideas. To do this, they often use race. One example would be the way poor Southern whites supported the Confederacy during the Civil War, even though the economic system of plantations and slavery was actually limiting their own possibilities. The poor southerners would at least be more powerful and not have to worry about the African-Americans around them if the system continued the way it was. Another famous example was Nixon's Southern Campaign, where he used the Republican's own opposition to the Civil Rights Movement to convince white southerners to switch to the Republican Party... and it worked.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Dedrick Muhammad: Dishonoring MLK’s legacy

  What do Beck, Palin, and the NRA have to do with the 1963 March on Washington?

  This year's anniversary of the historic 1963 March on Washington promises to be memorable. Though big commemorations aren't typical for 47thanniversaries, thousands will be in the streets on August 28 commemorating the march, including many people advancing a social agenda that would make Martin Luther King Jr. roll over in his grave.

  Flamboyant talk-show host Glenn Beck has called for a national rally on the anniversary at the exact same location as the historic protest, the Lincoln Memorial. Beck's rally theme is "Restoring Honor." According to his website, this "celebration of America" won't be political. Well then, why have Sarah Palin scheduled to deliver the keynote speech, and why is the National Rifle Association endorsing this right-wing spectacle?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Michael Josephson: Character Counts: Fixing toxic relationships

  Are there people in your life who regularly cause you to feel bad about yourself?

  Most of us care what others think of us, so knowing that someone doesn’t like or approve of the judgments we’ve made or how we look can be hurtful. And when we’re judged by someone whose approval we crave, such as a parent, spouse, teacher, or boss, the criticism can cause intense distress and damage self-esteem.

  Harsh or relentless disparagement from people who love us, often clothed as caring advice or helpful prodding, can be particularly toxic.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Gary Palmer: Missouri rejects Obamacare

  During the dog days of August, people typically are not interested in another state’s primary election or referendum vote. But when Missouri voters approved a ballot initiative opposing the individual mandate in the Obama health care bill, they got the entire nation’s attention.

  On August 3rd, Missouri voters passed a referendum by a margin of 79 – 21 percent to opt their state out of the individual mandate portion of the federal health care law passed by the Democrats in March. Earlier this year, a similar resolution was introduced in the Alabama Legislature but was killed by the Democrats who control the legislature.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Ian Millhiser, Jeff Krehely: Living out the true meaning of our creed

  U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn Walker declared Wednesday the basic truth that gay couples love just as intensely, care for their children just as deeply, and are entitled to the very same dignity as straight spouses. And that is just one small part of his opinion. Indeed, if Judge Walker’s reasoning is upheld on appeal, Perry v. Schwarzenegger—which struck down California’s ban on same-sex marriage, Proposition 8—will be the judiciary’s single most important blow against inequality since the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education.

  Walker offers at least four different reasons why Proposition 8 offends the Constitution. But the most striking is his holding that sexual orientation qualifies as a “suspect class,” a determination which means that discrimination against gay men and lesbians is subjected to the highest level of constitutional scrutiny.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Senator Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches # 1209

  I am awed by the power inherent in the benefit of the doubt. We use the phrase broadly, but we rarely recognize its vast powers. The benefit of the doubt affects every aspect of our lives.

  When others give us the benefit of the doubt, we can do little wrong. When we are denied the benefit of the doubt, we can do little right. If we are given the benefit of the doubt, we can do a lot with a little. If we are denied the benefit of the doubt, it takes a lot to do a little. The benefit of the doubt is just that powerful.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: How Robert Bentley did it

  One of the amazing stories that emerged from our gubernatorial primaries was the dissolution of the political adage that money talks in politics. Most pundits pegged Bradley Byrne to be the odds on favorite to win the GOP nomination because he had the big business special interest money solidly behind him. During the course of the primary and runoff his campaign raised and spent $6.9 million. In comparison, Dr. Robert Bentley spent $1.8 million. This is an amazing almost 4 to 1 disparity. That, my friends, is unheard of in Alabama or anywhere else.

  The second anomaly in the GOP contest was the fact that Bentley won without using negative ads. This is highly unusual in today’s political world. Voters continually lament the caustic and mean spirited virulence displayed in political attack ads. However, the sad truth is that they are used because they work. In this case, they did not.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Gary Palmer: JournoList scandal further undermines media credibility

  In 2005, an editorial in the Columbia Journalism Review warned that “… if journalism is seen as just another hungry special interest, the public will toss the good out with the bad. That may already be happening.” The recent exposure of the “JournoList” scandal has proven that warning to be prophetic.

  The now-defunct JournoList was an online community created by a journalist for other journalists. Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein created an invitation-only site where 400 print, radio, TV and Internet journalists could share views and ideas. But during the 2008 presidential campaign, it became a venue through which some of the JournoList members conspired to limit negative reporting on Obama while also attacking the McCain campaign.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Charles C. Haynes: Is the tea-party movement Islamophobic?

  The current wave of anti-mosque protests around the country represents a new threat to the religious freedom of Muslims in America — a threat directed not just at terrorists who act in the name of Islam, but at all Muslims and Islam itself.

  Incidents of discrimination and bias aimed at Muslim Americans have been rising since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. But anti-Muslim rhetoric has taken an ominous turn in recent months as a growing number of political and community leaders — some with tea-party affiliations — have begun warning of a “Muslim takeover” of America.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite: Calling out the hatemongers

  Progressive faith activists are on the march this summer, challenging the misperceived monopoly of conservatives who for far too long have tried to establish themselves as the sole guardians of faith, morality, and values. Interfaith groups, Christian groups, and even seminary students and faculty are all involved in this new faith activism, working proactively, not reactively, to present progressive faith values in strong and yet less-divisive ways than the angry hate-filled rhetoric of the extreme far right. From radio ads to blogs and YouTube videos, diverse people of faith are countering the distortions of the extreme right wing while demonstrating the inclusiveness of faith communities united in pursuit of social justice.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Friends and neighbors politics

  In 1949 Dr. V.O. Key, Jr. wrote a book entitled, “Southern Politics in State and Nation.” His book is considered the bible of southern political history. It is still the cornerstone textbook of choice for most courses on southern politics taught at universities throughout the country.

  When Key writes about Alabama he has a chapter devoted to a unique but clear premise regarding our state’s politics at that time. His theory is called the “friends and neighbors” politics of Alabama. According to Key, “A powerful localism provides an important ingredient of Alabama factionalism. Candidates for governor tend to poll overwhelming majorities in their home counties and to draw heavy support in adjacent counties.”

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Letter to the editor: "Menopause The Musical"

 Editor's note: The following is in response to Joseph O. Patton's article titled "The Night They Drove the Alabama Shakespeare Festival Down," published July 20.

Hi Joseph,

  I enjoyed your post and wanted to take a moment to comment on your thoughts.

  Our Artistic Director recently spoke to a group of hospitality professionals at a lunch meeting. He discussed this year's season, which also includes a world premiere by author and playwright Pearl Cleage which ASF commissioned, an encore production of the Broadway musical Peter Pan, two world premieres co-commissioned by the Department of Tourism based on little-known, real Montgomerians living here at the beginning of the Civil War, Julius Caesar, Much Ado About Nothing and an American comedy about the making of Gone with the Wind called Moonlight and Magnolias. He also spoke about his reason for bringing back Menopause the Musical, despite its obvious, un-apologetically populist nature.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Sheldon Richman: Government has run amok since 9/11

  Those who understand the exploitative nature of big government suspected that the U.S. response to the 9/11 attacks had little to do with the security of the American people and much to do with power and money. Still, the magnitude of the scam, as revealed by the Washington Post last week, is astonishing.

  Naturally, the politicians justify the growth in intelligence operations on national security grounds. To make sure such attacks never happen again, they said, new powers, agencies, personnel, and facilities were imperative.

  Now the truth is out: the post–9/11 activity has been an obscene feeding frenzy at the public trough. Any resemblance to efforts at keeping Americans safe is strictly coincidental.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What will happen to small businesses if health care reforms are repealed

  Conservatives’ efforts to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act would have dire consequences for small business owners and their employees. That’s because small businesses are big beneficiaries of health care reforms that will help make health coverage more affordable, thus preserving wages, eliminating job lock, saving jobs, and increasing profits and competitiveness.

What small business employers and employees lose if the new law is repealed

  Repeal would mean that small business owners will continue to drop health coverage for their employees in the face of escalating costs. The percentage of small businesses offering coverage has been steadily dropping, down from 68 percent in 2000 to 59 percent in 2007. If the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is repealed, that downward trend would continue.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Gene Policinski: Court ruling questions rationale for FCC’s control of TV

  What do you do when you hear foul language on television?

  As for me, sometimes I cringe, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I’m surprised, sometimes disappointed, and sometimes the words just come and go without much effect.

  If I’m offended, I change the channel. But sometimes I intentionally tune to a channel knowing that I’m going to hear language that I wouldn’t want even my two adult sons to use.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Gary Palmer: Ground Zero is no place for symbol of Muslim conquest

  A classic image of American resilience and character is the picture of the New York firefighters raising an American flag over the smoldering ruins of the World Trade Center in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on 9/11.

  To radical Islamists gloating and celebrating the murder of almost 3,000 people, the image of that act had to dampen their enthusiasm. Raising our flag made it apparent that America would not surrender or bow to the terrorists’ insanity nor make an apology for America’s so-called sins against the world.

  The flag symbolizes our values and our freedom which is something radical Islamists fear much more than they fear our will to fight back. Our flag standing amid the ruins of the World Trade Towers was extremely important because it symbolized that Americans were not a conquered people.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Sam Fulwood III: Racist charges recall a bygone era

  In the latest twist of an ongoing mud wrestling match, a conservative Tea Party sympathizer dredged up a film clip to prove that racists live and breathe within the NAACP. In the grainy, low-quality video, a black woman is telling a black audience about how she slow-walked her efforts to help a white family save its family farm.

  Shirley Sherrod, the former director for rural development in Georgia for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, made the remarks at an NAACP meeting in March. After the video clip migrated from an obscure website into the nation’s media bloodstream, the wheels fell off Sherrod’s life. NAACP President Ben Jealous denounced Sherrod, even though she had been speaking at an NAACP event. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack demanded she resign, apparently because he (and some in the White House and the NAACP) feared the political blowback if Sherrod were on the job and the vast, right-wing conspiracy ran with this story.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Ken Paulson: Sophomoric speech is free speech, too

  Some school memories are more golden than others.

  While we've all benefited from the good teachers and school administrators in our lives, it's hard to shake the memories of those who either didn't teach us very well or treated us badly.

  Students in the pre-digital era pretty much just had to grin and bear it. We would grumble to our friends or complain to our parents, but we weren't going to get an audience with the school board.

  Times have changed. The current generation is armed with social media, and it's payback time.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Announcement: The managing editor of the Capital City Free Press will be on the air Thursday, July 22

  Josh Carples, managing editor of the Capital City Free Press, is scheduled to appear on the second hour of “First Call with Kevin Elkins” tomorrow morning. The show airs from 7 to 9 on 1440 AM.

  Carples, along with founder and publisher Joseph O. Patton, have appeared as election/political analysts on talk radio programs previously, including “First Call” last week, but this appearance will mark a first since Thursdays are generally reserved for religious discussions.

  The program can be streamed live, free of charge, online:

  The Capital City Free Press was launched in 2001 as a full-service online magazine, specializing in independent commentary and arts and entertainment coverage from the River Region. After a nine-month hiatus it was re-launched in blog form in October of 2009.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Joseph O. Patton: The Night they drove the Alabama Shakespeare Festival down

  Throughout a quarter of a century, I’ve experienced innumerable fond moments attending productions at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. And the glimmer never fades. When the lights start to dim on the Festival Stage or the Octagon, I’m always filled with an unbridled sense of excitement typically only felt on Christmas morning… or during the Iron Bowl. From the higher-brow flourishes of a Shakespearian work to a more down to earth offering such as, “Always… Patsy Cline,” I’ve never walked out of those Zeus-sized doors with any hint of disappointment in tow. Until “Menopause The Musical” came along….

  When ASF “staged” the production I was mortified to witness it, even more so because I was foolish enough to pay for it. Not because I’m some insufferable theatre snob but because the so-called play is simply awful. Want a synopsis? Hold on to your box seats! A group of women sing pilfered pop songs in which the lyrics have been bastardized and supplanted with sophomoric references to menopause symptoms. It’s like Beavis and Butthead for women experiencing hot flashes. And after the 37th reference to night sweats and cranky hormones, the awkward attempts at humor fade just a wee bit. Onto my description of the plot itself: There isn’t one. Each song is shallowly strung together by bits of vapid dialogue. Curtain.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Joe Bageant: Waltzing at the Doomsday Ball: Capitalism is dead, but we still dance with the corpse

Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico

  As an Anglo European white guy from a very long line of white guys, I want to thank all the brown, black, yellow and red people for a marvelous three-century joy ride. During the past 300 years of the industrial age, as Europeans, and later as Americans, we have managed to consume infinitely more than we ever produced, thanks to colonialism, crooked deals with despotic potentates and good old gunboats and grapeshot. Yes, we have lived, and still live, extravagant lifestyles far above the rest of you. And so, my sincere thanks to all of you folks around the world working in sweatshops, or living on two bucks a day, even though you sit on vast oil deposits. And to those outside my window here in Mexico this morning, the two guys pruning the retired gringo's hedges with what look like pocket knives, I say, keep up the good work. It's the world's cheap labor guys like you -- the black, brown and yellow folks who take it up the shorts -- who make capitalism look like it actually works. So keep on humping. Remember: We've got predator drones.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Digital Roundtable Election 2010: On to November... A Preview of major races in the Alabama general election

  Capital City Free Press founder and publisher Joseph O. Patton and managing editor Josh Carples have appeared as election/political analysts for several River Region talk radio programs. Wednesday, as guests on “First Call” hosted by Kevin Elkins on WLWI 1440 AM, they discussed the results of the Tuesday run-off election and previewed some of the races for November. The following is an expanded discussion of the races on the ballot. Wednesday’s CCFP analysis of the gubernatorial race can be read here:

Patton: The Tea Party may be a hot topic, but mere buzz doesn’t win elections and the 2nd Congressional District run-off proved that. For all the controversy and national media he garnered and the resulting controversy, Rick Barber could not translate that into a majority of votes. I truly believe voters are genuinely upset with Congress and the president right now, but they’re not willing to cast a ballot for someone like Barber who appears to be on the fringe by seemingly advocating violence and inciting treason in his campaign ads. Barber was short on solutions and overflowing with misdirected anger. Simply running down elected leaders doesn’t equate to having a viable campaign platform.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Digital Roundtable Election 2010: Sparks vs. Bentley: It’s on!

  Capital City Free Press founder and publisher Joseph O. Patton and managing editor Josh Carples have appeared as election/political analysts for several River Region talk radio programs. Today they were guests on “First Call” hosted by Kevin Elkins, WLWI 1440 AM, and discussed the results of the Tuesday run-off election and previewed some of the races for November. The following is an expanded discussion of the governor’s race.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Counting down to November

  This week will determine who the Republican nominee for governor will be as well as for two other secondary statewide offices. However, a good many of this fall’s contenders were selected without runoffs on June 1st.

  Our senior U.S. Senator, Richard Shelby, was nominated over nominal opposition. He received 84 percent of the primary vote and will face similar token opposition in November. He is coasting to a fifth six-year term. He is generally conceded to be Alabama’s most prominent political figure. He is also one of the most powerful senators in Washington.

Announcement: The Capital City Free Press returns to radio Wednesday, July 14

  Montgomery, Alabama’s premier online source for the most diverse, insightful and provocative commentary returns to the radio airwaves Wednesday, July 14.

  Capital City Free Press founder and publisher Joseph O. Patton and managing editor Josh Carples will be appearing on “First Call with Kevin Elkins,” airing 7 - 9 am on WLWI 1440 AM in Montgomery to offer analysis on the previous day’s run-off election and to preview the coming general election in Alabama. The program can be streamed live, free of charge, online:

  A “digital roundtable” discussion with analysis of the election results will be published online following the appearance.

  Patton and Carples have appeared as election/political analysts for several talk radio programs in Montgomery and Auburn and wrote and produced the weekly satirical radio segment, “Goat Hill Gossip,” which aired on WAUD 1230 AM.

  The Capital City Free Press was launched in 2001 as a full-service online magazine, specializing in independent commentary and arts and entertainment coverage from the River Region. After a nine-month hiatus it was re-launched in blog form in October of 2009.