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.