Friday, April 30, 2010

Eric Alterman: Scammed by the Right

  "We know that bureaucrats and, even more, Fedzilla, are not the solution; they are the problem. I'd be proud to share a moose-barbecue campfire with the Palin family anytime, so long as I can shoot the moose." That's Ted Nugent on Sarah Palin from the current "100 Most Influential People in the World" cover package of Time.

  I ask you, dear reader, has any other allegedly reputable magazine ever published a stupider article about a putatively serious subject? Nugent also provides a stirring character reference for the quitter of the Alaska governorship: "The tsunami of support proves that Sarah, 46, represents what many Americans know to be common and sensible. Her rugged individualism, self-reliance and a Herculean work ethic resonate now more than ever in a country spinning away from these basics that made the U.S.A. the last best place. We who are driven to be assets to our families, communities and our beloved country connect with the principles that Sarah Palin embodies."

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Chuck Collins: How to talk to a Tea Party activist

Progressives and tea party activists: Where we agree, disagree, and how we can find common good.

  We heard a lot about the tea party movement on Tax Day. They were angry, and some of that anger at the tax system is justified.

  Like all social movements, the tea party wave is not monolithic. There are hard-core libertarians, white supremacists, and partisan Republicans that are not interested in dialogue. But in my conversations with rank-and-file tea party activists, there are important points of common ground.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Charles C. Haynes: At the high court, balancing religious freedom and nondiscrimination

  On April 19, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez — setting the stage for what could be a landmark decision further defining the extent to which religious groups have a right to be exempt from government nondiscrimination policies.

  The case arose in 2004 when a chapter of the Christian Legal Society tried to become a registered student organization at the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law. Although CLS was allowed to meet on campus, officially recognized groups receive a variety of benefits, including use of the school name, access to school media and eligibility for student activity-fee funding.

  Hastings denied CLS recognition on the grounds that the group violates the school’s policy prohibiting discrimination on the basis of religion and sexual orientation by barring non-Christians and non-celibate gays and lesbians from becoming voting members or leaders. CLS opens its meetings and activities to all students, but only those who agree to its statement of faith can vote and serve as officers.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Fast facts on Arizona’s immigration crack down

  Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed what is now the most punitive and sweeping anti-immigrant state law in the nation Saturday. This law’s full effects will not be measurable for months to come, but it is already clear that it will be challenged in court because it denies rights guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution. And until the legal issues are settled, the new law will have a detrimental effect on Arizona’s economy, as well as city and state budgets.

The law essentially legalizes racial profiling

-The law puts communities of color in the crosshairs by requiring state and local government workers to determine if a person is illegally in the United States based on a “reasonable suspicion.”

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Gary Palmer: Americans more concerned about cool economy than warm planet

  Last fall’s blockbuster revelation that some of the leading global warming proponents had manipulated data, destroyed data files and suppressed research that refuted their findings added to the public’s declining belief that global warming is a major issue. In fact, poll data indicates that the 40th anniversary of Earth Day in the United States will not be as well received as in the past.

  A Gallup Poll released in March found that Americans’ concern about environmental issues has hit a 20-year low. It seems Americans are more concerned about a cold economy than a warming planet. A record 53 percent of those surveyed now say that economic growth takes precedence, even if it hurts the environment. In fact, of the eight environmental issues listed in the survey, global warming was ranked last.

Friday, April 23, 2010

James Bovard: The Slippery definition of extremist

  Americans are once again hearing of the perils of extremism. But the definition of this offense is more slippery than a politician’s campaign promise. The definition of extremism has continually been amended to permit government policies that few sober people previously advocated.

  Prior to 2000, anyone who asserted that the Census Bureau was deeply involved with the roundup of Japanese-Americans for internment camps in 1942 was considered an extremist. The Census Bureau spent 60 years denying its role but finally admitted its culpability ten years ago after academics uncovered undeniable proof. Regardless of the Census Bureau’s past abuses or perennial deceit, only extremists believe that their answers to this year’s census could ever be used against them.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Joe Bageant: Anderson Cooper and class solidarity

You cannot man the barricades with a mouth full of Cheetos...

  Class solidarity was such a good idea. It really was. Obviously, most of the people who need solidarity are in the world's laboring classes. After all, the rich have more than enough solidarity already, as was recently demonstrated by their successful execution of the greatest global financial heist in history. Oh sure, we'll see some state-sponsored mock show trials of a few of them -- they always throw a few of their own out of the sleigh to the wolves during their escapes. The big heist was big news. Working Americans will be applying Preparation H to their keisters for a long time to come.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Sen. Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches # 1194

  My Mamma used to say, “Son, some things are just beyond understanding. They simply do not make sense. So don’t try to make them make sense.” I experienced such a “something” this week.

  The Alabama New South Coalition (New South) Membership and Endorsement Convention was set for the following weekend. Some of its leaders decided to hold a press conference to inform the public. That was understandable.

  Robert Avery as president and I as president emeritus spoke at the press conference. We said that New South would be endorsing candidates in all statewide and some district races at the convention. We highlighted the governor’s race because it had a number of interesting issues: potential making of history; racial challenges; national implications; broad state impact; high media profile, etc. The press conference, however, brought a response that was beyond understanding.

Earl Wagner: Good kids and school officials, “You’ve got to be kiddin‘”

  Well, it’s been a long time since you have read any of my musings, but I am glad that the editors have given me the opportunity to again contribute some of my work to the Capital City Free Press. What a fast-paced year - it seems like only yesterday we celebrated the beginning of 2010. As for myself, I have had to overcome a few medical issues but thanks to God’s grace I’m still here.

  I’m not one known to be at a loss for words but there have been so many events occurring worthy of commentary that I have had a difficult time making decision on the matters. But as I recollect my thoughts and look at some of the issues in the news I am beginning to see a common thread being evidenced in some of the irrational, unkind and inhumane behavior that some adult members of our society have committed or facilitated against their neighbor(s), and worse, such behavior is looked upon as being acceptable by the community. Time and again, not a word of condemnation comes from the community, but when bad consequences become the result of such negative behavior both the community and those involved suddenly emulate those three famous anthropoids: “see no evil," “speak no evil,” and “hear no evil.”

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Gene Policinski: Amid wrenching change, some hopeful signs for journalism 

  Headlines — ironically, given this subject — have proclaimed for some time that newspapers in the United States are dying, have documented bankruptcy filings by companies that own large news groups, and have noted thousands of lost newsroom jobs.

  All of this is good reason for all of us to be concerned, not so much about the survival of any one newspaper or even a news group, but rather about the collective damage to the notion of a “free press” — a private industry, largely producing news printed on paper, that is charged with the unique civic roles of holding government accountable and providing the information needed in a representative democracy.

  And yet, there’s also this undeniable fact: We now have access to more news, in more ways, more quickly and in more detail, than ever before.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Eric Alterman: CNN sells itself again (and again)

  "Journalism is our core value; it's who we are," Greg D'Alba, CNN executive vice president and chief operating officer for advertising sales and marketing, told an audience of potential advertising buyers on Tuesday morning in New York's Time Warner Center.

  "We're the only credible, nonpartisan voice left. And that matters," added Jim Walton, president for CNN Worldwide. "Our mission, our mandate, is to deliver the best journalism in the world," chimed in Jonathan Klein, president for CNN U.S. "No bias, no agenda. We will never abandon our core faith in being the sole nonpartisan cable network in this country."

  Well, as Ernest Hemingway's Jake Barnes once said in a decidedly different context, "Isn't it pretty to think so?" In fact, to pretend that CNN has upheld the standards described above would be to embrace a fiction plotline so contradictory to our experience in reality that few novelists would dare try it. Remember, it wasn't long ago that Lou Dobbs broadcast nightly on the network, ratcheting up the racism of the anti-immigrant hordes and bestowing an undeserved stamp of legitimacy of the nutty "birther" movement.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Joseph O. Patton: The Tea Party movement: All over but the shoutin’

  It’s all over but the shoutin.’

  The Tea Party, replete with its arguable parallels to the days of this nation’s Founding Fathers and their brave actions, soaked in red, white and blue, and driven by a virulent strain of misguided anger, is about to take its last breath. We can quibble over motives, party affiliations and the nuances of public policy, but ultimately there is only emptiness and no direction hiding behind the angry yelling, firearm waving and the incendiary condemnation of public officials.

  The hallmark of any effective grassroots movement - whether it be for the advocacy of civil rights, to correct economic inequalities, or to even weigh in on matters of war and defense - is that it has a clearly defined, practical goal, something to achieve, and most importantly the means and feasible plans to achieve its goal. The Tea Party movement is woefully lacking all of these things.

Gary Palmer: Tax Day - Time to tea party!

  On April 15th across the nation, Americans will gather to voice their grievances against the abuses of our government and to protest everything from the nationalization of our health care system to out-of-control spending to rising taxes. But if those are the only reasons people are gathering at the Tea Parties, they are there for the wrong reasons.

  The modern Tea Party movement has been fueled by public opposition to the reckless spending of both Democrats and Republicans in Congress and more recently by opposition to the liberal agenda being imposed by the current Democrat majority. The modern movement harkens back to the colonial protests against the abuses of the British government that eventually led to American independence. But while the emphasis of today's Tea Party protesters bears some resemblance to the colonial issues, there is a fundamental emphasis that may be missing.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Gene Policinski: Speech with a brick behind it: not protected 

  The difference between freedom of speech and speech that has no legal protection is no joking matter.

  During and after recent voting on the Obama health-insurance legislation, at least 10 Democrats reported death threats, harassment or vandalism, including bricks thrown through windows recently at district offices.

  A Republican was also targeted. On March 30, authorities charged a Philadelphia man, Norman Leboon, after he posted a video online in which they say he threatened to shoot Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., and Cantor’s family. The Washington Post reported that in the profanity-laced video, Leboon calls Cantor "pure evil" and says “Remember, Eric ... our judgment time, the final Yom Kippur has been given. ... You are a liar, you're a pig ... you're an abomination. You receive my bullets in your office, remember they will be placed in your heads. You and your children are Lucifer's abominations."

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sam Fulwood III: Don’t take the bait: Engaging in arguments about the Confederacy distracts from the issues

  It was awful enough that Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell commemorated April as Confederate History Month—without mentioning slavery.

Sure, that move was historically inaccurate as well as an inflammatory insult. And sure enough, he apologized after the resulting outcry made life miserable for him in the commonwealth and across the nation.

  But what are we to make of Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour? He appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday and volunteered an opinion well after Gov. McDonnell apologized: “To me, it’s a sort of feeling that it’s a nit, that it is not significant, that it’s not a—it’s trying to make a big deal out of something (that) doesn’t amount to diddly.”

  Why, in the name of Jefferson Davis, did a second Republican governor step into the same racially sensitive mess?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Joe Bageant: Moon over Gringo Gulch

In God we can only trust, but in hashish rests assurance....

  Poolside in Ajijic, Mexico. The heavy red faced guy in the khaki Bermudas and powder blue polo shirt is telling the seventyish woman, the one with her breasts hauled up and strapped down into a boob loaf, that he ditched his oxygen tank for this party… which was damned thoughtful of him, since the sight of such things only reminds us geezers and geezerettes what a geriatric camp Ajijic's "Gringo Gulch" really is. (Still, my COPD was killing me and I wished I had not thrown away my own oxy tank in a fit of stubborn refusal.)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Charles C. Haynes: Alito is right: Schools are not religion-free zones 

  Just when I think religious liberty is alive and well in public schools, a school district does something bizarre to give the First Amendment a bad name.

  The latest poster-case for misbegotten efforts to turn public schools into religion-free zones comes out of Everett, Wash., where school officials barred students from playing an instrumental version of “Ave Maria” at graduation in 2006.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Chuck Collins: Reverse the tax shift

  When rich individuals and corporations don't pay their fair share, the bills get passed to the middle class.

  In my community we’re facing severe cuts in schools and elder services, and our local public library and community recreation center will soon close. Yet our local property taxes and fees are rising. Why are we paying more and getting less for it?

  Each year as Tax Day approaches, there’s a national mud fight about taxes and the proper role of government. Some argue that the middle class is overtaxed and that we don’t get what we used to for our tax dollars. Others point to the practical necessity of raising revenue to reduce our national debt and make long-overdue investments to upgrade our aging infrastructure. Both sides of this debate are correct.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Jonathan Cykman: Obama governing from the center

  The surest sign that a Democrat serving as president of the United States is heading for the center of the American political spectrum is when he plays the foreign policy card.

  And President Obama has clearly signaled his intention to govern from the foreign policy center since taking office. The troop surge in Afghanistan, and the renewed relationships with India and Pakistan that enable much more aggressive anti-terrorist activity in that part of the world, both signal that this commander-in-chief is very much taking the fight to those who would do harm to our homeland. Even the recent nuclear arms agreement with the Russians signals that this president intends to exploit the presidential advantage in foreign policy.

Eric Alterman: What is Conservatism?

  If you ask me, conservatism is fundamentally about accepting responsibility for one's actions. If you take some action and something unfortunate results, you step up to the plate and take your medicine. A society built on personal responsibility toward one another is one where government intervention and regulation may be kept at a minimum.

  Indeed, the more "conservative" a society is, in this laudable regard, the more arguments like that by Tom Paine regarding the government that governs best governs least make the most sense.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Gary Palmer: Democrats own casino gambling bill

  The Health Care Reform Bill the Democrat majority in Congress rammed down the nation's throat a couple of weeks ago and the casino gambling bill the Democrat majority in the Alabama State Senate rammed down Alabamians' throats five days before Easter share many similarities.

  For one thing, just like the Health Care Reform Bill in the U.S. House of Representatives, if all the Democrat senators voted for the bill the Democrats had enough votes in the State Senate to pass the casino gambling bill without any Republican support. They did get two Republican senators to vote for their bill - Sen. Jimmy Holly, R-Enterprise, a party switcher and long-time gambling supporter and Sen. Harri Anne Smith, R-Slocomb, who endorsed the Democrat candidate in the 1st Congressional District in the 2008 election.

  Two Democrats - Sen. Tom Butler (Madison) and Sen. Phil Poole (Moundville) voted against it.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Sheldon Richman: Brace yourself for ObamaCare taxes

  Now that President Obama’s health-insurance overhaul has become law, we can brace ourselves for the new taxes. What new taxes? Aren’t they only on the “rich” and on large companies?

  It’s true that the Obama plan includes new taxes on upper-income people. For example, the Medicare tax will now be applied to investment income. People making more than $200,000, will now have to pay a 2.9 percent tax on investment income over that limit.

  For people earning salaries of more than $200,000, their payroll tax will rise from 1.45 to 2.35 percent on the amount over that limit. (The so-called employer’s share will remain the same.)

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Michael Josephson: Character Counts: Is Lying necessary to success?

  What do you think? In today’s society, does a person have to lie or cheat at least occasionally to succeed?

  The question isn’t whether occasional liars and cheats sometimes get away with dishonesty; we all have to agree with this. The question is whether you believe people can succeed if they're not willing to lie or cheat.

  Those who believe lying and cheating have become necessities are cynics. A recent study of more than 10,000 people by the Josephson Institute of Ethics shows that the younger you are, the more likely you are to be cynical. This is important because cynics, regardless of their age, are far more likely to lie and cheat in both their personal and work lives.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Charles C. Haynes: Patriotic or religious, ‘under God’ is here to stay 

  The long, bitter and emotional legal battle over “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance may have come to a quiet end on March 11.

  That’s the day a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided by a 2-1 vote that “the Pledge is constitutional.” The ruling in Newdow v. Rio Linda Union School Dist. was greeted with a big yawn by the news media — and virtual silence on Capitol Hill.

  Eight years ago, this same court sparked a very different reaction when it ruled the other way, striking down the use of the Pledge in public schools because it includes the phrase “under God.” Cable news channels declared a national emergency and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in Washington, D.C., lined up to defend God.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Joe Bageant: Cantina Tolteca: Pissing away them Kokopelli blues

Jalisco, Mexico

  Cantina Tolteca is one of those manly Mexican watering holes, where you piss up against a tile barroom wall while ordering the next round from a passing barmaid. With a beer and three shots of mescal in your sails, and the jukebox playing La Paloma, a man feels about as free and unselfconscious here as he ever likely to in this world, which is what men's bars are for to begin with.

  Aside from a couple of putas (and one puto) who roll in after 9 pm, few women and almost no gringos come into the Tolteca. They pass by the Tolteca's plate glass window, the gringo men in their new L.L. Bean Indiana Jones canvas hats, the Mexican mamas with trays of pastries for sale, the gringas in their long tourist shop skirts. Sometimes they glance briefly into the glass, which for them is a mirror, and then keep on walking. Watching them from inside the dim bar is rather like watching a brightly lit aquarium with countless odd fish floating by.