Saturday, December 31, 2011

Charles C. Haynes: Religion story of the year: anti-Muslim bigotry in America

  The recent decision by Lowe’s Home Improvement to pull ads from the reality TV show “All-American Muslim” caps a very successful year for the growing anti-Muslim movement in the United States.

  So successful, in fact, that anti-mosque protests, anti-Shariah laws, and anti-Muslim hate crimes could easily fill any list of “top five” religion stories in 2011.

  Lowe’s withdrawal from sponsoring a show about the daily life of five American Muslim families was apparently in response to objections to the program from a conservative Christian group called the Florida Family Association.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Sally Steenland: 12 New Year’s resolutions for the 112th Congress in 2012

  Many of us start off the new year with resolutions to break bad habits and pick up good ones. Although these lists are usually personal, there’s no reason an institution can’t come up with ways to do better in the coming year. In fact, there’s good reason to do so if, like the 112th Congress, your likeability ratings are hovering in single digits and you’re paralyzed by inaction.

  So here are 12 proposed New Year’s resolutions for Congress in 2012.

1. Cut out junk food: Get rid of tax cuts for millionaires. The revenue from just one week of tax cuts for millionaires ($866 million) will more than pay for one year of nutrition assistance for women, infants, and children ($833 million).

2. Make new friends: Pass comprehensive immigration reform. Without a fair commonsense federal immigration law, states including Alabama and Arizona have passed harsh, inhumane laws that cast suspicion on neighbors, weaken the state’s economy, and spur homegrown talent to move away.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Wendy McElroy: Wisconsin invoices the exercise of rights

  Despite a proclaimed opposition to new taxes, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has advanced a policy that amounts to a new and draconian tax. People will have to pay the state for the “privilege” of free speech and assembly. To exercise those rights in or outside state facilities will entail permits at least seventy-two hours in advance and potentially prohibitive fees. The policy took effect on December 8 and is expected to be completely phased in by December 16.

  State permission for various types of protest has long been required in the form of permits; in recent years, some locales have further limited freedom of speech by restricting it to “designated areas.” But Walker's measure goes a leap or so beyond the standard government policies on protests.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: The 2011 Rewind

  As the world turns in Alabama politics another year is fast coming to a close. Dr. Robert Bentley is completing his first year as governor. He inherited a ship of state that was analogous to walking onto the deck of the Titanic. His predecessor, Bob Riley, did not do him any favors. Riley depleted every rainy day account available. In addition, the manna from heaven that came from Washington in the form of stimulus money has now run its course. The state coffers are in dire straits. The cupboard is bare and the state is facing financial problems unseen in state history.

  If the state’s financial crisis was not devastating enough, Bentley was awakened on April 27 with the worst natural disaster in Alabama history. A record number of killer tornadoes ravaged the state. Some of the worst damage occurred in Bentley’s hometown of Tuscaloosa.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Peter Juul: U.S. military strategy shifts focus

  The final withdrawal of American troops from Iraq marks the end of a year that has seen a remarkable shift in U.S. military strategy abroad. From the war in Libya and the raid that killed Osama bin Laden to the end of the war in Iraq and the beginning of a military transition in Afghanistan, the era of large-footprint counterinsurgency and nation-building operations is coming to a close. In its place, the Obama administration is instituting an approach focused on using targeted operations conducted by airpower, special operations forces, and the intelligence community, alongside cooperation with partners to achieve its objectives.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Gary Palmer: The Christmas that saved America

  Given the current condition of the American economy, there might be a temptation to view what Americans are spending this Christmas as the Christmas that saves the American economy… or at least keeps it from going deeper into recession. But regardless of what Americans spend this Christmas, you would have to look farther back to find the Christmas that saved America.

  By the end of November 1776, American independence was on life support. Gen. George Washington had just suffered a devastating defeat and lost the city of New York to the British.  Not only was New York City entirely in British hands, Washington made a strategic blunder by not evacuating his forces from Fort Washington and Fort Lee, on the Hudson River.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: The Probate Judge

  We are in the midst of the holiday season with Christmas just around the corner. However, we are also in political season. Traditionally we have held our primaries in June but earlier this year in a cost saving measure the legislature changed the date of our primary. In order to have one primary instead of two they combined the presidential and general election primary into one date. That day is March 13. Thus, qualifying is fast approaching. The last day to qualify for the March 13 primary and November 6, 2012 general election is January 13. Therefore, you might be seeing campaign ads rather than holiday greetings on television and you might be getting a campaign solicitation letter with your Christmas cards.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Michael Josephson: What is a good Christmas?

  Will this be a good Christmas?

  How will you measure it?

  For lots of kids, the answer may be embedded in the response to the question, “What did ya get?”

  On the other hand, retailers and Wall Street investors will look to sales and profits.

  What a pity that the spiritual and social potential of this a holiday can be so easily lost. To observant Christians, Christmas is a profoundly important day of worship, and so a “good” Christmas must include a meaningful religious connection with the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Joy Moses: The Facts about Americans who receive public benefits


  Gross misperceptions about who receives public benefits and for what purposes are leading the nation toward debates that distract from the real problems facing middle-class and low-income Americans. Most public benefits spending is for participants, largely senior citizens, who have paid for the services via a lifetime of work. This is far different from the picture painted by many conservatives of public benefits being for lazy poor people who do not want to work. These misperceptions put all public benefits programs at risk, including those that reach the middle class. They also derail benefits programs that specifically target people living in poverty and help them to join the middle class.

  The facts about public benefits detailed in this issue brief help shape the real debate Americans should be engaged in—how to fund and shape public benefits programs that largely serve the middle class and those living in poverty for the long haul.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Charles C. Haynes: A plea to politicians: Tell the truth about ‘school prayer’

WASHINGTON — The latest attack on the “godless public schools” — a staple of Republican primaries past — is a new ad in Iowa by Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s campaign proclaiming there’s “something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military, but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school.”

  Advocating for “school prayer” is, of course, a poll-tested winner for politicians seeking to stir voter outrage — and establish Christian conservative bona fides.

  Michele Bachmann also took up the cry at a recent town hall in Iowa, declaring that government censors religion in public schools. She added a new twist to the charge by saying that Muslims get to practice their faith in schools, but “Christian kids aren’t allowed to pray.”

Friday, December 16, 2011

Richard Schwartzman: A Bill of guarantees

  The best document ever written to preserve the liberty of a free people isn’t a complete document at all, but just a part of one. It’s the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

  Those ten paragraphs capture the essence of what it means to govern a government. Are they perfect? No, but how much in life is?

  While the body of the Constitution is simply a framework or schematic diagram of the body of government, the Bill of Rights was an attempt to put chains on that government instead of letting the government put chains on the people (as is usually the case).

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Sarah Jane Glynn: Out-of-work Americans are struggling and need benefits

  There’s never a good time to be involuntarily unemployed. But today’s conditions are among the worst in decades. For every new job created there are four people looking for work. With supply and demand this out of whack, it is not surprising that the average length of unemployment for a worker who loses his or her job is a little more than 10 months. But in the midst of this troubling scenario, House conservatives are proposing that the government should reduce the length of time people can collect unemployment insurance by 40 weeks.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: The Drama of redistricting

  The 2012 Legislative Session is looming. It begins in two months with the paramount issue being the reapportionment of their own legislative districts. All 105 House seats and all 35 Senate seats will be on the drawing board. They may have all been singing out of the same songbook last year but this issue will cross party lines. Redistricting gets personal. They will lay down their partisan badges when it comes to self preservation. As former Speaker of the House Jimmy Clark once told me, “Steve, old boy, the cardinal rule in political redistricting is you take care of yourself and the hell with everybody else.”

  The U.S. Constitution, and concurrently the Alabama Constitution, clearly call for all congressional and legislative lines to be redrawn every 10 years so that each district has the same number of people. Thus, every man, woman and child has the same equal representation in congress and the legislature. That is why the census is taken every 10 years.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sarah Jane: Poor economic conditions in Alabama will get worse with new immigration law

  Alabama’s state motto, “We dare defend our rights,” seems particularly ironic given the recent passage of their new immigration bill, H.B. 56. The draconian new law includes provisions that require police to verify the immigration status of individuals they stop if the officers have ”reasonable suspicion” that the drivers are here without documentation. It also makes it a felony for undocumented immigrants to conduct business transactions with the state, which includes services such as providing running water to a home.

  The law has the potential to be so damaging to the state that even Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange advocates repealing parts of it.
  Given the current fiscal and economic woes of the state, including the recent municipal bankruptcy of Jefferson County, and the negative economic impact of the law—which will come out of the pockets of Alabama residents—Alabamians should be asking whose rights are being defended—and at what cost.

  We examine those woes here, along with how the new law will make them worse. Clearly the state cannot afford it.

Law’s economic benefits are an illusion

  Proponents of the law argue there are positive effects for Alabamians as the result of the bill. Most notably, they claim that the recent drop in Alabama’s unemployment rate—from 9.8 percent in September to 9.3 percent in October 2011—is a result of the law. Unfortunately for them, a closer look at the numbers proves them wrong.

  Alabama did see an increase in the number of employed people in their state. In October there were 3,578 more people with jobs than in September. But the drop in the unemployment rate was due more to the fact that 6,258 people left the labor force during the same time period. In order to be counted among the unemployed, an individual has to be actively looking for work. People who have been out of work for a long period of time and have given up on looking for a new job thus no longer “count” as unemployed.

  Take, for instance, Baldwin County. Its unemployment rate dropped from 8.7 percent to 8 percent from September to October 2011, in spite of the fact that there were 106 fewer jobs in the county in October. But during the same time frame 720 people left the labor force, so even though 106 jobs were eliminated, the unemployment rate still fell. Conecuh County experienced a similar event: The unemployment rate dropped from 15.2 percent to 14.5 percent, even though the number of employed individuals did not change at all. The drop was simply due to a reduction in the size of the labor force.

  Overall, Alabama’s unemployment rate has been higher than the rest of the nation since January 2011.

Things were bad before the law

  What’s more, Alabama has been suffering economically for years for reasons that have nothing to do with immigration.

  The state has historically scored worse on economic indicators than the rest of the United States. In 2010, for example, 15.1 percent of Americans were living in poverty compared to 19 percent of the population of Alabama, placing it 47th in the nation. And that was at a time when Alabama’s unemployment rate was lower than the national average. The median household income for Alabamians in 2009 was $40,547, nearly $10,000 less than the national average.

  The effects are particularly devastating given the economic instability of its residents, and the fact that only slightly more than half of those who are out of work receive unemployment benefits.

Jefferson County’s bankruptcy ups the economic pressure

  The passage of Alabama’s new immigration law could not come at a worse time for Alabama residents. Not only do they have to contend with the bleak economic picture just described, but the impact of Jefferson County’s recent bankruptcy will be felt across the state, and the negative economic impacts of the new bill—including high legal fees, increases in the costs of services, and extensive new costs to law enforcement—will pile on top of the negative impacts from the bankruptcy.

  On November 9, 2011, Jefferson County—the most populous county in the state—filed for the largest municipal bankruptcy in the history of the United States with a debt of $4.1 billion. There are several factors that contributed to the county’s financial problems, the most notable of which is $3.2 billion of debt resulting from upgrades to the county sewer system.

  Jefferson County was ordered to upgrade its sanitary system in 1996 because it was polluting rivers and streams with runoff. The entire process was plagued with corruption, and it resulted in criminal convictions for five former county commissioners. Most of the debt from upgrading the system was refinanced in the early 2000s, which resulted in higher interest rates after the nation’s financial collapse in 2008. Negotiations to reduce the debt were unsuccessful, and the current Jefferson County Commission “concluded that filing [for bankruptcy] was the best way to protect the County’s limited cash and restructure the County’s debt obligations."

  The full effects of the bankruptcy will not be known for some time, but there is little doubt that it will be bad for both Jefferson County and the state as a whole. The credit rating of Jefferson County will certainly be downgraded, leading to higher interest rates on money it may need to borrow in the future, and the economy of the county will likely be further depressed. An outside firm has been hired to provide legal services to the county, and estimates of the legal costs associated with the bankruptcy filing are as high as $1 million dollars per month.

  So what does the bankruptcy filing in Jefferson County have to do with immigration and H.B. 56? In some ways, they aren’t related at all. The financial problems facing Jefferson County are the result of corrupt public officials and the Great Recession, neither of which have any connection to the 2.5 percent of Alabama’s population that is undocumented.

  And yet in an unfortunate twist, the negative impacts of the bankruptcy exacerbate the negative economic impacts of the immigration law.

  At the same time that Jefferson County is paying lawyers $1 million a month to move forward with the bankruptcy, the state will also need to defend H.B. 56 in court. In the first year after the passage of Arizona’s similar—though less extreme—law, the state spent $1.9 million defending its legality in the courts. The Alabama law has already been challenged, and it will likely end up costing at least as much, if not far more, to defend.

  Both Jefferson County and the state of Alabama will need to bring in more revenue to cover their legal costs. But by driving immigrants, both documented and undocumented, out of the state, tax revenues will drop. Undocumented immigrants in Alabama paid an estimated $130 million dollars in state income, property, and sales taxes in 2010.

  Alabama’s tax code is seemingly contradictory: The state taxes its residents on a lot less than any other state in the nation. Yet at the same time, Alabama has the highest tax rates for families at the poverty line. So now, when rates are likely to increase even further and increase the burden on the state’s most vulnerable residents, Alabama is doing its best to remove residents who pay into the system but almost never receive any services back.

  In addition to higher state taxes, Alabamians are also likely to see higher costs for services. Residents of Jefferson County already pay sewer rates that are more than three times what they were in 1996, and these rates will only continue to rise as a result of the bankruptcy.

  Alabama’s new immigration law will also contribute to increases in the cost of public utilities. Customer bases will shrink as immigrants leave the state, and public utilities companies, which operate on an economy of scale, will have to raise their prices. The provision in the law that requires public companies to verify the immigration status of their customers will require substantial additional labor that will need to be funded, most likely by passing that cost along to consumers.

  At present, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s office is making do with refurbished cars and used vehicles because there is no money to replace them. The office roof leaks, and there are not enough funds to repair the poorly running HVAC system.

  If the county is unable to find at least $40 million of new revenue, budget cuts will result in layoffs of sheriff’s deputies—and 101 deputies are currently scheduled to be laid off in 2012. Officers are already operating under tight budgets, and because the new immigration law forces them to become de-facto immigration agents, this will necessarily result in new costs and complications.

  The chief deputy in Jefferson County has said that his deputies cannot start arresting those who are suspected of being in the United States without documentation because they simply do not have the funding. The state is requiring every sworn officer to undergo special training on how to enforce the law, but there is not yet any word on how much this 16,000-person training will cost, nor how it will be paid for. When a similar law was passed in Prince William County, Virginia, it was estimated that it would cost more than $3.2 million to implement.

Time for a motto change?

  While Alabama’s elected officials may claim they are defending the rights of their constituents by passing a strict new immigration law, in reality they are damaging their communities and forcing residents to foot the bill.

  This law will increase the cost of living at a time when the state is experiencing higher unemployment than the national average, and it will make communities less safe by diverting funds and police protection.

  The residents of Alabama did not cause the Jefferson County bankruptcy, and they did not vote to pass H.B. 56, yet they are the ones who will ultimately suffer as a result. Perhaps it is time for Alabama to either rethink its state motto or actually start putting the rights of Alabamians before political posturing.

  About the author: Sarah Jane Glynn is a Policy Analyst at the Center for American Progress.

  This article was published by the Center for American Progress.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Michael Josephson: Unkind words are weapons

  With four teenage daughters, I frequently find myself correcting, disciplining, or simply protesting unnecessary and unkind comments certain to anger or wound a sister and evoke counterattacks that fill the air with nastiness.

  Hoping to get them to think before they speak in the future, I often ask, “What did you expect to accomplish by that remark?” and “Did it make things better or worse?” It rarely makes a difference.

  It’s as if their instinct to express anger or utter sarcasm, accusations, and complaints is too strong to allow for wise strategies like “Think before you speak” to operate.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Michael Ettlinger: Drug Testing America: House Republicans have the answer!

  The Republican leadership in the House of Representatives yesterday proposed allowing states to require drug tests for anyone receiving unemployment benefits. I’m not sure why they think that those who have had the misfortune of losing their jobs in these difficult economic times particularly need to be tested for the use of illegal substances. But if they’re gung ho for drug testing, it seems like we ought to be sharing the blood-drawing joy. I can think of plenty of places where it would be much more useful.

  It seems far more important to the nation that members of the House of Representatives be free of the influence of reality-altering substances than unemployed people. After all, when members of Congress make decisions under the influence of hallucinogens, it affects the entire country. Your average unemployed person? Not so much. And truthfully, which group of Americans demonstrates more evidence of drug-induced behavior? If you have any doubts, take a look at the House Republicans’ budget proposals.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Gary Palmer: Stop digging and start drilling!

  There is no doubt the U.S. economy is in a deep hole. And the familiar advice that the first step to getting oneself out of a hole is to stop digging may not totally apply to the U.S. economy … but it does in some respects.

  On one hand, our economic hole was created by reckless government spending. The obvious solution is to stop going deeper in the hole by cutting spending. However, that is not the whole reason we are in a hole.

  Our economy is also in a hole because of U.S. energy policies that make energy costs unnecessarily higher. On September 13th, The Los Angeles Times reported that motorists in the U.S. are on pace to spend a record $491 billion for gasoline. In fact, households with a yearly income of $30,000 to $50,000 use 20 percent of their disposable income to pay for electricity, natural gas and gasoline; households earning less than $30,000 per year use 23 percent.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Bart Frazier: Forget reform

  Reforming federal programs that have bestowed upon Americans a multitude of problems would seem to be a good idea, but it’s not. The problem is not only that the programs will never work no matter how much they are reformed, but also that what the programs do falls outside the legitimate functions of government. The programs need to be abolished, not reformed.

  “Reform” has been the clarion call of politicians who have claimed some affinity for “small government” for decades. The reason is simple — such rhetoric gets votes. I suppose there are some in Washington who sincerely believe that the proper role of government is limited to protecting the country from invasion, punishing those who commit violent crimes, and providing a judicial forum in which people can resolve disputes, but it seems they are few. Politicians today call for smaller government and reforming government programs simply because it will help get them elected. But when it comes time to actually take action to shrink government, there are few ‘yeas’ for cutting budgets, and actually eliminating programs never even gets to a vote.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Michael Josephson: Are cynics right? Is lying really necessary?

  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 are 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.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Charles C. Haynes: Putting workers to a cruel choice: your God or your job

  In hard economic times, American workers may be willing to forego pay raises and pensions to keep their jobs. Just don’t ask them to abandon their faith.

  Consider the case of Abdulkadir Omar, a former security guard in Kent, Wash., who was told to shave his religiously required beard after six months on the job. Omar refused, was fired — and now is in federal court seeking damages.

  Like many other religious Americans, Omar was forced to make what the Supreme Court has called a “cruel choice” between keeping his job and following his God.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Eric Alterman: Why do the mainstream media like the Tea Party more than Occupy Wall Street?

  Support for the Tea Party is in a free fall. According to a Pew Research Center study conducted between November 9–14 and released earlier this week, 27 percent of the general public now disagrees with the Tea Party, nearly double the 14 percent who said so in March 2010. The number of people who agree fell from 24 percent to 20 percent. And within districts represented by Tea Party-loyal members of Congress, the trend is perhaps strongest: The number of people who disagree with the Tea Party has more than doubled from just 10 percent in March 2010 to 23 percent today. The number of people who agree has also fallen from 31 percent to 25 percent in the same period. Regarding the Tea Party, in any case, it would appear that familiarity breeds contempt.

  These numbers should not be so surprising. (Nor should the fact that if you look closely at the Pew numbers, a good half of America is not really paying attention to the Tea Party one way or another.) In fact, it’s consistent with what we know about who actually makes up the Tea Party movement rather than the overhyped movement that so many in the mainstream media led us to believe was poised to take over America.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Laurence M. Vance: Price discrimination is fair and just

  While on a recent cross-country flight, I looked around at the 200 or so other passengers on the plane and thought, not about the snacks we would be served (pretzels), the movie we would be shown (Rise of the Planet of the Apes), or whether the babies on the flight would cry the whole way (they did), but about economics and economic justice.

  I wondered about the truth of the oft-repeated claim that no one on an airline flight pays the same amount for his ticket as anyone else and the question that is sometimes raised whether that practice is fair.

  Airlines engage in a form of what is known as price discrimination. It is typically defined as selling the same product to different people for different prices on the basis of their willingness to pay and not for reasons associated with product costs.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Ken Paulson: Not many exceptions to free-speech guarantee

  “You can’t yell fire in a crowded theater.”

  That paraphrase of a paragraph in a 1919 U.S. Supreme Court written by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. is often cited as justification for limiting free speech. Critics of the Occupy movement often point to it as justification for government shutting down protests in public parks.

  Here’s what Holmes actually wrote:

  “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic … . The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger.”

  The decision says the First Amendment doesn’t protect false speech that is likely to cause immediate harm to others. It doesn’t say, “The government has plenty of ways to shut you up.”

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sam Fulwood III: Dumbing it down on Fox News

  Can watching Fox News actually make you dumber than if you didn’t watch any news at all? Sure, some of us believe this, but until now there’s been nothing other than anecdotal evidence and Sarah Palin to support our arguments. Now we’ve got facts that make the case with an empirical flourish.

  Researchers with Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind Poll asked 612 New Jersey residents a variety of questions to test their awareness and knowledge of current events that dominated the news between October 17 and October 23. The poll’s shocking conclusion was that people who described themselves as heavy Fox News viewers tended to be “even less informed than those who say they don’t watch any news at all.”

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Wendy McElroy: Criminalizing your internet profile?

  The New American (15/11) states,

          The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is backing a controversial component of an existing computer fraud law that makes it a crime to use a fake name on Facebook or embellish your weight on an online dating profile such as eHarmony. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), a 25-year-old law that mainly addresses hacking, password trafficking, and computer viruses, should enforce criminal penalties for users who violate websites’ terms of service agreements, alleges the Justice Department.

  There are two ways to interpret the DOJ's push to criminalize a breach of online “terms of service.”

The Civil-Libertarian Interpretation

  The civil-libertarian interpretation is that the DOJ finds the use of fake names and information on the Internet to be a barrier to collecting the personal data it desires for monitoring peaceful behavior. But passing legislation to outlaw “bad” data would be a lengthy, problematic process, during which civil-liberties and privacy advocates would howl. Thus, the DOJ is attempting to sidestep the process by interpreting existing laws in a new way.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Gene Policinski: ‘Occupy’ crackdowns limited by First Amendment

  The comparisons have already started — police in Egypt attacking demonstrators with clubs and tear gas, and police in a number of U.S. cities breaking up “Occupy” camps with clubs and tear gas.

  If you’re a demonstrator in Cairo or Oakland, any difference between foreign and domestic nightsticks and pepper spray probably doesn’t matter a whit. And the outrage by some over police tactics in New York City and on the campus of UC Davis in California is just as real as the international condemnation of crackdowns in several Middle Eastern nations as the hopes of the Arab Spring hit the harsh realities of realpolitik Winter.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

William Flanagan: Be Thankful for immigrants

  Our nation celebrates Thanksgiving this week, as we’ve done every year officially since 1863 and unofficially since the first immigrants stepped ashore in Florida, Virginia, and Massachusetts in the late 1500s and early 1600s. On this holiday, Americans of all ethnic and racial backgrounds commemorate the spirit of friendship and welcoming exhibited in particular by the Wampanoag tribe in 1621 toward the newly arrived Plymouth colonists.

  The early colonists came to this country for new opportunity—to seek their fortune, escape persecution, and provide a better life for themselves and their children. Others came in chains but after the end of slavery slowly found those same opportunities, too. Immigrants come to this country today for similar reasons, and we, like the Wampanoag tribe before us, should welcome them.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: The paths they take

  A few months ago I compared the route taken to Washington by our congressmen of 50 years ago to the paths of our delegation on the Potomac today. When their steps were studied it was amazing how similar the Alabama delegation of the 1960’s ascension to the Halls of Congress was in comparison. They all essentially had the same journey. They were born and raised in Alabama, went to the University of Alabama, were members of the Machine fraternity at the Capstone, went to law school at Alabama, then returned to their hometowns to practice law before being elected to Congress, usually at a fairly young age. Many, if not most, had taken a short detour to serve in the military either in World War I or World War II. They also became active in the American Legion, which appeared to be an essential emblem to enter politics in that era.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Joseph O. Patton: End unemployment compensation! (So that more people can be on welfare.)

  We hear the refrain almost hourly: “People shouldn’t get unemployment payments! It’s a handout! They don’t deserve it! They should find a job! Grumble, grumble, grumble.”

  Invariably those who spew such sentiment are in jobs they feel are secure with ample pay and reasonable benefits… but they’re only a layoff, a catastrophic accident or medical problem away from having to pick up the phone and file for unemployment compensation themselves.

  Nor does it take into account the false premise that one can simply skip along doling out resumes and expect a job to magically appear. The current rate of hopelessness appears as such: There is only one job opening on average for every five applicants. Math sucks, eh?

  But what is most telling… if not deliciously humorous… is that the cold-hearted and short-sighted among us who ignore the facts and readily comprehensible labor statistics are actually clamoring to harm their own wallets by reducing or eliminating unemployment benefits.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Top 10 reasons Alabama’s new immigration law is a disaster for the state’s economy

     The immigration law is much worse than Jefferson County's bankruptcy as far as industrial recruiting. At some point, Jefferson County [the most populous county in the state] will come out from bankruptcy. But we may be stuck with this destructive immigration law from here on.

- David Bronner, chief of Alabama Retirement Systems.

  Alabama’s new immigration law, H.B. 56, will destroy the state’s economy. Its “show your papers” provisions are causing both lawful and undocumented workers to flee the state, crippling businesses. An economist at the University of Alabama estimates that the state economy would lose $40 million if only 10,000 undocumented immigrants stopped working in the state.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Michael Josephson: Kids like to win; Adults need to win

  Whether you’re a sports fan or not, you have to acknowledge the powerful cultural influence that sports have on our culture. The values of millions of participants and spectators are shaped by the values conveyed in sports, including our views of what is permissible and proper in the competitive pursuit of personal goals.

  Professional sports and even highly competitive intercollegiate sports seem irreversibly addicted to the idea that sports is basically a business and that the only thing that makes sports profitable is winning. And if that means we have to tolerate egocentric self-indulgent showboating or whining, violence or even cheating, so be it. Clearly these attitudes have invaded youth sports as well. Everywhere we see that a lot of adults — both coaches and parents — need to grow up and realize the game is not about either their egos or ambitions.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Gene Policinski: The Chilling power of GPS surveillance

  The First Amendment was not in plain sight Nov. 8 when the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments over a drug conviction involving police use of a hidden GPS tracking device without a search warrant.

  But the Court’s decision — expected next spring — will have implications for our First Amendment rights of association and free speech, owing to a legal concept called “practical obscurity.” That’s the notion that although much of our life takes place in plain view and in public spaces, in reality nobody but us has a complete view of our daily comings and goings.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: The Cain factor

  The Electoral College process of selecting a president rather than electing our nation’s chief executive diminishes Alabama’s importance in next November’s general election. Alabamians will vote for the Republican nominee whoever they are in the fall of 2012.

  Even though our proclivity for voting Republican for president renders us irrelevant in the general election, we will be able to put our two cents worth into who that person will be on March 13 in our Republican presidential primary.

  The early jockeying for position in the GOP presidential contest has been topsy turvy and unpredictable to say the least. The current frontrunner is the most unlikely candidate to be leading the field. At the present time the GOP faithful are flocking to Herman Cain. The surprising aspect of this infatuation is that the typical Republican is a white conservative.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Josh Carples: Why I have been silent so far on the “Occupy” movements

  As the managing editor of the Capital City Free Press, I have written news stories, editorials and political pieces and appeared as a political analyst on radio talk shows, yet I have been silent so far on the “Occupy Wall Street” movements.

  Yes, I use the plural “movements” purposefully, as there are many protests occurring in various cities across the country. On top of that, they all don’t have the same message. That is the cause of my silence.

  There are many messages I see and hear from news reports – people being interviewed and signage – that I can hold in agreement, but there are also things I may not, or at minimum, that I think could be worded more clearly.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The 10 numbers you need to know about Alabama’s anti-immigrant law

  Alabama’s H.B. 56, signed into law on June 9, 2011, is the nation’s harshest anti-immigrant law. The bill makes it a crime to be without status, requires law enforcement to check the papers of anyone they suspect of being undocumented, mandates that public schools check the legal status of their students, abrogates any contract made with an undocumented immigrant, and makes it a felony for undocumented immigrants to contract with a government entity (including for such basic human rights as having water connected to your house).

  Here are the top 10 numbers you need to know about Alabama’s anti-immigrant law:

1. 2.5 percent—The percentage of Alabama’s population that is undocumented. That makes Alabama 20th in the nation in terms of the number of undocumented immigrants (120,000) residing there, well below states such as California (more than 2 million) or even Colorado (180,000).

Saturday, November 12, 2011

David L. Hudson, Jr.: Calif. school can bar students’ American flag T-shirts

  Public school officials in Morgan Hill, Calif., did not violate the First Amendment rights of students by prohibiting them from wearing American flag T-shirts on the Mexican holiday of Cinco de Mayo (May 5), a federal judge has ruled.

  In May 2010, an assistant principal at Live Oak High School ordered several students to remove their T-shirts emblazoned with the American flag, calling them “incendiary.” In June 2010, three students — known in court papers as M.D., D.M. and D.G. — sued in federal court, alleging a violation of their constitutional rights — including the right of free speech under the First Amendment.

  On Nov. 8, U.S. District Judge James Ware granted summary judgment to the school defendants, ruling against the students in Dariano v. Morgan Hill Unified School District. The students’ attorneys vowed to appeal.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Cameron Smith and Gary Palmer: A Small price to pay for public pensions

  This year, public employees in Alabama saw the first part of what will ultimately be a 2.5% increase in retirement contributions in an effort to shore up the state’s retirement systems. The Alabama Education Association (AEA) and Democrat legislators have cast the new contribution requirements as a “pay cut” and launched the common refrain that Alabama’s Republican leadership balances budgets on the backs of teachers and state employees.

  The truth is that Alabama’s taxpayers have increasingly shouldered the burden of public employee pensions for over a decade. Alabamians’ tax contributions to buttress public employee pensions have increased from slightly more than $300 million in 2000 to almost a billion dollars in 2010. These taxpayer dollars go directly into the current and future retirement benefits of state and education employees, benefits far superior to those most Alabama taxpayers have for their own retirement.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Jessica Arons: Mississippians rightfully reject Personhood Amendment

  Mississippi voters yesterday soundly defeated Initiative 26, the so-called Personhood Amendment, by a margin of 58 percent to 42 percent. The vague proposition, which would have defined a fertilized egg as a person, threatened a multitude of untold consequences. The Mississippi constitution alone has 9,000 references to the word “person,” aside from the number of times it appears in state statutes.

But the known consequences were numerous and chilling:

    A total ban on abortion in all circumstances
    A ban on most forms of birth control, including the pill and emergency contraception
    A ban on many aspects of common fertility treatments
    A ban on stem cell research

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: Hampered by the Electoral College

  The 2012 presidential contest has begun and is in full swing. President Barack Obama is running hard and raising tons of money. The GOP field is formulating and these aspirants are also out shaking the money tree.

  It cost a lot to run for president. These funds will be raised in all 50 states. Sadly, however, the campaign dollars will only be spent in about a dozen states. We in Alabama will not be part of the presidential election process. However, neither will the two largest states, California and New York.

  The antiquated system of electing our president through an electoral college has made most Americans’ votes for president irrelevant. This is sad and egregiously wrong. It is unconscionable that a country that calls itself the greatest democracy in the world does not elect its national president by a direct vote of the people in which the person who gets the most votes is elected president.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Charles C. Haynes: Sixth-grader wins round for student religious expression

  If you wonder why many Christian parents view public schools as hostile to their faith, talk to Michael Ayers — father of a sixth-grader in the Pocono Mountain School District in northeastern Pennsylvania.

  Last December, his little girl wanted to hand out invitations to schoolmates inviting them to a church Christmas party. Because kids were routinely allowed to distribute fliers inviting students to birthday parties, dances and other activities, K.A. (as she is described in court filings) assumed she could pass hers out, too.

  But after reviewing the flier, school officials said no. Angered by what the family viewed as school censorship of religion, Ayers filed a lawsuit on behalf of his then fifth-grade daughter.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Gary Palmer: The Green Economy: Costly and economically damaging

  The federal government’s considerable efforts to create a “green” economy are losing big money. To make it worse, data from other nations that have tried to create a green economy indicates that more job losses are coming. The news of bankruptcy filings by U.S. green energy companies that received hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded loans just adds to the frustration with the Obama Administration over the poor economy and high unemployment.

  Solyndra, one of President Obama’s model green companies and the largest recipient of taxpayer-provided largesse at $535 million, was supposed to manufacture solar panels.  However, the collapse of solar energy markets in Germany and Spain, along with the fact that China produces solar panels at much lower costs, doomed the company. That’s right … over half a billion of taxpayer dollars went right into the green money pit.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Jennifer Marshall: ‘Single Ladies’ not giving up on marriage

  Alongside The Atlantic magazine’s November cover story, “All the Single Ladies,” runs a photograph of its 39-year-old author. In a fawn-colored silk dress and up-do, Kate Bolick contemplatively sips champagne as a bridal bouquet flies over her head.

  Like many of her never-married peers, she’s scrupulously ignoring the traditional toss. Indeed, as the age of first marriage climbs higher, more single wedding-goers are evading the bouquet, having years ago disproved the catch confirms the next bride-to-be.

  The ritual is yet another reminder of an unrealized longing for marriage.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Scott Lilly: Creating Unemployment: How Congressional budget decisions are putting Americans out of work

  Most of the nearly 14 million people across our country who are currently unemployed can blame their situation on the inability of Congress and the White House to sufficiently cushion the economy from the financial crisis that began in 2007. But a growing number of unemployed Americans today are the victims of actions taken by the current Congress aimed deliberately at eliminating jobs.

  Even worse, many of these jobs are ones that will have to be performed at some point in the next several years and taxpayers will eventually pay the bill. Delaying the work not only sucks jobs out of the weak economy but also in many instances costs the government more money and over time, and serves to increase rather than decrease the public debt. This report examines some of the job-elimination efforts by the current Congress and the growing impact this is having on individuals, families, and communities around the country.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: Previewing Alabama judicial races

  The 2012 elections are one year away. The presidential contest will be the marquee event. We will not have many state offices up for grabs. Most of our high profile posts are on the ballot in gubernatorial years. Most of the action next year will be for state judicial seats.

  Because we are now a one party state when it comes to statewide positions all of the action will be in the GOP primary. Our courts have actually been controlled by the Republican Party for close to two decades. Our state appellate judiciary is 100% Republican. Our Supreme Court is nine out of nine. Although five of the nine Supreme Court seats are up for election, it is a safe bet that all nine seats will be held by Republicans when the votes are counted and the dust has settled next November. The Democrats may not even field candidates.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Tim Kelly: Ron Paul’s radical deal

  Several Republican presidential candidates have rolled out economic plans they claim will jumpstart the moribund U.S. economy and narrow the nation’s yawning fiscal gap.

  Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s plan creates an optional 20 percent flat income tax, restricts federal spending to 18 percent of GDP, and seeks a balanced budget by 2020. His plan also calls for lowering the corporate tax to 20 percent and ending other taxes, including the estate tax and taxes on many capital gains and Social Security benefits.

  Georgia businessman Herman Cain has enjoyed a recent surge in the polls after he proposed scrapping the entire federal tax code and replacing it with 9 percent taxes on corporate and personal incomes, and a 9 percent federal sales tax. The plan has come to be known as the “9-9-9 Plan.”

Monday, October 31, 2011

Charles C. Haynes: Religious name-calling has no place in political arena

  For anyone familiar with U.S. history, it’s hard to miss the irony of a Baptist leader calling the Mormon Church a “cult” — which is what Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress told the press earlier this month, moments after introducing Rick Perry at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C.

  After all, Baptists were themselves widely viewed as members of a dangerous, heretical “sect” (another not-so-nice label) in 18th century America. So much so that Baptist preachers were persecuted and jailed in Virginia for various illegal acts such as “unlawful preaching.”

  Jeffress professed surprise that anyone was surprised by his statements that Mitt Romney belongs to a cult and “is not a Christian.” As Jeffress explained to The New York Times, “this idea that Mormonism is a theological cult is not news either. That has been the historical position of Christianity for a long time.”

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Marshall Fitz , Angela Maria Kelley: The Nasty ripple effects of Alabama’s Immigration Law

  The “Birmingham campaign” to end segregation and other forms of discrimination garnered international attention in 1963 when the city’s infamous Commissioner of Public Safety “Bull” Connor unleashed police dogs and fire hoses on black children engaging in peaceful protest. Those images, captured on television, created a horrifying portrait of the American South and triggered national outrage over the plight of African Americans under Jim Crow segregation.

  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s peaceful protests eventually broke the back of segregation in Alabama. But now a new breed of state-sanctioned discrimination has surfaced with the implementation of Alabama’s harsh anti-immigration law, H.B. 56, the Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Ian M. MacIsaac: The Situation in Syria: A persistent populous faces President Assad's house of horrors

  The death of Libya's Col. Muammar Qaddafi has made ripples throughout the Arab world, nowhere more so than in Syria. Syria is located on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, between Israel and Iraq; its people have virtually no rights, and one family, the Assads, have ruled the country for 40 years.

  In no other Arab Spring nation have protesters and activists worked so hard for such a profound, uninterrupted length of time, under the most violent and dangerous circumstances seen in any of the nations involved--besides perhaps Libya itself, where in the end the government declared war on the people.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Charles C. Haynes: Anti-gay bullying: Does silence = death?

  Culture wars are returning to school this fall as conflicts over what to say — or not to say — about homosexuality escalate across the country.

  After a spate of high-profile news stories about gay teen suicides (nationwide, six in September alone), school officials are caught in the crossfire in the fight over how to address the anti-gay bullying that has been implicated in some of the deaths.

  Gay-rights advocates insist that anti-bullying policies must include positive treatment of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people. Christian conservatives support anti-bullying efforts in general, but demand that public schools keep silent about sexual orientation.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Inside the Statehouse: Revisiting Jim Crow?

  There was never a more ruthless, cutthroat, no holds barred man to sit in the Oval Office than Lyndon Johnson. His biographer, Robert Caro, describes Johnson as the quintessential backroom brawler.

  Johnson came up in the tough frontier world of rural Texas politics. He carried those Texas spurs to the halls of congress and later to the White House. He was the most effective majority leader that Washington has ever seen because he was the meanest gunslinger on the Hill. He meant to get things accomplished even if it meant using intimidation. He was successful because he was shrewd and feared. He carried this win-at-all-costs attitude with him to the White House.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Gary Palmer: Occupy Movement too radical even for liberal Democrats

  Liberals thought they had their own version of the Tea Party Movement with the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Then, they realized that the "Occupiers" were too radical even for them.

  In case you have missed the protests that have been going on across America, the Occupy Wall Street Movement has launched efforts to occupy Wall Street and business districts of other U.S. cities in a demonstration of anger against financial institutions they blame for high unemployment and the economic crisis. The idea for the movement appears to have originated from Adbusters Media Foundation, a liberal group based in Canada.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Ian M. MacIsaac: What Qaddafi’s end means for Libya, and for the United States

  A lot of us in the United States woke up to the news. I didn't believe it at first, maybe just because the situation seems so unbelievable in the first place, like an event from a history book. It’s a profound change to see playing out before our eyes. But it all seems pretty clear now: Moammar Qaddafi was wounded and hiding when he was discovered and shot, execution-style by rebel forces.

  He had been attempting to flee his hometown of Sirte in an unarmed convoy of SUVs when a joint action by a US predator drone and a French warplane attacked his convoy. The vehicles scattered into the city streets, and Qaddafi’s car quickly drove to a ditch area where he attempted to hide in a small ground-level pipe. His guards stood around his hiding place with AK-47s and attempted to defend him but were overtaken.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Joseph O. Patton: An Open Letter to Herman Cain

Mr. Cain:

  I’ve been following your campaign to become the Republican Party’s nominee for president. With all due respect, I’d like to point out a few things that I believe are valid concerns:

  Muslims are people too, and your patriotism, trustworthiness and loyalty to this country are no greater than theirs. Stories about a boogey man hiding in the closet are for children. (Ignorant children who apparently need someone to hate.) There was a shameful time in our country’s history when your patriotism would have likely been questioned simply due to the color of your skin. It’s not acceptable now either.

Eric Alterman: The Continuing curse of ‘on the one-handism’

  In Time magazine’s recent profile of Herman Cain, author Michael Crowley writes of Cain’s now famous “9-9-9” plan, “Conservative economists applaud the idea, but many others say it dramatically favors the rich and would actually raise taxes on the poor and require huge spending cuts.”

  Sentences like these in magazines like this one tell us a great deal about what’s wrong with political coverage in the United States. In the first place, the sentence treats America as if it is made up of only two groups of people: “the rich” and “the poor.” It does not even allow for the existence of the vast majority of Americans who exist somewhere in-between (generally referred to—and exalted as—“the middle class”). Most egregious of all, however, is the implied equivalence between the alleged approval by “conservative economists” on the one hand and what “others” say on the other.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Wendy McElroy: The American nightmare that is civil asset forfeiture

  Being innocent does not matter. Not being arrested or convicted of a crime is no protection. With amazing ease, the government can take everything you own. And to recover it, you must prove your innocence through an expensive and difficult court proceeding in which a severely lowered standard of evidence favors the government. This is civil asset forfeiture.

  Russell and Patricia Caswell of Tewksbury, Massachusetts, know the process well. For the last two years they have battled to keep the motel that Russell’s father built in 1955 and at which Russell has worked since childhood. The couple assumed ownership of Motel Caswell in the 1980s, and viewed the asset, worth approximately $1 million, as their retirement plan.

  In the past 20 years, the Caswells have rented out approximately 125,000 rooms. Of the renters, about .05 percent have been arrested for crimes. As “good” citizens, the Caswells have meticulously reported any suspicious activity on the part of renters to the police, including possible drug use.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: Legacy of the new Republican majority

  The prodigious 2011 Regular Legislative Session not only saw sweeping conservative fiscal changes to state government, the new Republican led legislative bodies also set out on an unmistakably conservative social mission.

  This legislature approved an illegal immigration law that mirrors the Arizona measure. In addition, this very conservative pro-life legislature enacted a new strict anti abortion bill. The new law is patterned after a law Nebraska enacted in 2010. In fact, legislatures in more than 30 states are passing or moving forward with bills to restrict abortion rights that could prompt the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit the issue.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Gene Policinski: ‘Occupy’ protests, tea party rallies: assembly, petition in action

  The “Occupy Wall Street” movement and its rapidly spreading urban echoes are — like the tea party movement — grand examples of Americans using at least two of our lesser-known First Amendment freedoms: assembly and petition.

  Regardless of how you feel about either or both movements, they are the latest examples of the role of protest in American politics and society. In the history of protest, there are both lessons to be learned and mistakes to be avoided.

  As a nation, we too often forget that along with apple pie, protest is a uniquely American tradition. We also need to recall that too often we have trampled on that tradition in the name of order or safety or security.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Michael Josephson: Character Counts: Leading by inspiration

  Why are negative management practices so prevalent?

  They include yelling, cursing, insults (sometimes masked in sarcasm or masquerading as jokes), criticizing subordinates in front of others, threatening demotion or termination, and talking to adults as if they were children.

  Why are so many managers insensitive to the demotivating impact of focusing almost exclusively on weaknesses and shortcomings without properly acknowledging successes and accomplishments?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Gadi Dechter: The Legitimate gripes of the other 99 percent

  The Occupy Wall Street protests spreading Arab Spring-style across the land are an inspiring display of civic engagement, finally giving popular voice to the entirely valid complaints of ordinary Americans frustrated as their quality of life stagnates or declines while the prosperity of the superwealthy metastasizes beyond all proportion. Like any major rally, these have also attracted elements reminiscent of the extreme Tea Party variety (the guy wielding an “Osama bin Bernanke” poster). But there’s no question that the bottom 99 percent have something to complain about and that this movement is giving voice to their valid grievances.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: Consolidating power in the Alabama Legislature

  The 2011 Legislative Session has been in the books over four months and the 2012 Session begins in just under four months. The dust has now settled on this year’s session and the results have been allowed to permeate. The conclusion has to be that it might have been one of the most remarkably productive legislative sessions in state history.

  The new Republican majority legislature has definitely put their mark on Alabama state government. When they ran last year they promised a political platform entitled a “Handshake with Alabama.” It was a conservative agenda. They were not just whistling Dixie. They delivered on all their promises.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Eleni Towns: Christian leaders today support gay and transgender equal rights

  Today gay and transgender advocates and allies celebrate National Coming Out Day. Despite conventional wisdom that tends to see religion as opposing equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans, in fact many religious leaders and lay people consider moral equality for gay and transgender people as key tenants of their faith.

  In the past few years, Protestant denominations have been among those making significant progress in this area. Today, four of the seven-largest denominations allow the ordination of gay clergy and more people of faith than ever support marriage for gay and lesbian couples. Here are five ways in which religious communities and their leaders have come out in support of equality this year.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sheldon Richman: Is this any way to run a republic?

  The assassination by drone of American-born Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen raises questions that should disturb anyone who holds the rule of law as essential to protecting individual rights and limiting the arbitrary power of government. The Obama administration alleges that al-Awlaki committed a variety of bad acts, but the key word is “alleges.” We are taught that no one may be jailed, much less executed, on the basis of mere allegations. This goes back at least as far as the Magna Carta in 1215 and is echoed in the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: “No person shall be … deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

  Yet al-Awlaki was targeted for assassination by the executive branch of the U.S. government without indictment, trial, or showing of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. President Obama acted as cop, judge, jury, and executioner all in one.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Cameron Smith: The Politics of the immigration shame game

  This week, The New York Times ran an editorial entitled "Alabama's Shame" which provided a unique perspective on Alabama's immigration law. The piece suggested that the law is Alabama's attempt to make illegal immigrants "isolated, unemployable, poor, defenseless and uneducated."

  The Times' piece on Alabama's immigration law calls for President Obama "to show stronger leadership in defending core American values in the face of the hostility that has overtaken Alabama and so many other states." Other commentaries have likened Alabama's immigration enforcement to the Jim Crow era where the evils of racism were given the force of law.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Ian M. MacIsaac: What holds Algeria back?

  Over the past nine months, the Arab Spring has made waves across the entire Muslim world, from Morocco to Pakistan. One country that has remained conspicuously off the revolutionary radar sweeping across North Africa and the Middle East, however, is the nation of Algeria.

  Apart from a brief period of political turmoil which concluded in early April with the lifting of Algeria’s nineteen-year state of emergency and token reductions in the power of the country’s president and quasi-dictator Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Algeria has remained remarkably quiet—until the past few weeks.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: GOP's attack on public servants

  As the last minutes ticked away on the 2011 Legislative Session last June the last major bills were getting final approval. In the waning hours the legislature finalized the state’s education and general fund budgets. Along with these budgets were accompanying acts that increased state government employees’ retirement contributions across the board.

  These bills will save the state $100 million and save 1500 jobs. However, state employees will see their contributions climb from 5 to 7.5 percent of their paychecks. In most cases this will cost the average teacher and state employee about $1,500 per year in take home pay. In other words, all state government workers are taking a significant pay cut. This cut in pay went into effect October 1.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Seth Hanlon, Michael Linden: Ronald Reagan, Father of the ‘Buffett Rule’

See also: Video: Reagan Called For An End To ‘Crazy’ Tax Loopholes That Let Millionaires Pay Less Than Bus Drivers (Think Progress)

          We're going to close the unproductive tax loopholes that have allowed some of the truly wealthy to avoid paying their fair share. In theory, some of those loopholes were understandable, but in practice they sometimes made it possible for millionaires to pay nothing, while a bus driver was paying 10 percent of his salary, and that's crazy. It's time we stopped it.

  That was the president, making the case for why our tax code—riddled with unfair breaks, loopholes, and subsidies that disproportionately benefit the wealthy—requires fundamental reform that ensures the wealthy pay their fair share.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Gary Palmer: Liberals call for less democracy

  Is it time to ditch the Constitution? Does representative government or “democracy” really impede progress?

  Peter Orszag, President Obama’s former director of the Office of Management and Budget, believes it does. His recent article entitled “Too Much of a Good Thing” makes his case for a more powerful administrative state that will function outside of election politics. What Orszag suggests is that when it comes to the most important decisions regarding the power and influence of the federal government, we need to make elections irrelevant.

  Orszag wrote, “During my recent stint in the Obama administration as director of the Office of Management and Budget, it was clear to me that the country's political polarization was growing worse—harming Washington's ability to do the basic, necessary work of governing. To solve the serious problems facing our country,” Orszag continued, “we need to minimize the harm from legislative inertia by relying more on automatic policies and depoliticized commissions for certain policy decisions. In other words, radical as it sounds, we need to counter the gridlock of our political institutions by making them a bit less democratic.”

Friday, September 30, 2011

Richard Schwartzman: Parallels between liberty and health

  There are interesting parallels between those in the libertarian movement and some people involved in the health industry. I’m referring to those who no longer pledge allegiance to formal Western medical traditions run by the AMA and Big Pharma through the federal government.

  The parallels arise naturally. Both of us are involved in challenging an incomplete, and inconsistent mainstream orthodoxy. To be fair, mainstream medicine does do some good — much more than the government — but, like government, it doesn’t want any competition.

  Mainstream medicine on the drug-company side has had it in for nutritional supplements for a long time and is using the Food and Drug Administration to interfere with a person’s right to use natural substances to improve his health.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sam Fulwood III: The Value of national service

  Almost from the moment our plane landed in Tel Aviv, Israel, I was aware of the soldiers in olive drab uniforms. They seemed ubiquitous, reminiscent of the kudzu I knew to grow and root all over the landscape of my native North Carolina. Set against the tan, desert landscape, the greenery was human—and always with an automatic rifle slung over a shoulder.

  But it was during a midnight walk in a Jerusalem park late into my first, jet-lagged night that I was first awed by them. There, a group of the soldiers came up behind us as we looked down into the Old City below. Chatting and laughing among themselves, at first they didn’t see the group of American tourists. But as they drew closer to us, one shushed the other to stop their noisy merriment. I assumed it was a sign of respect to us.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: Wrangling revenue

  Alabama’s new fiscal year begins October 1. Unlike most states we have two operating budgets. We, of course, have a general fund budget, but we also have a special education trust fund budget. Many of you may be surprised to know that currently over two thirds of all state tax dollars go into this education budget. As late as 30 years ago the two budgets were approximately 50/50 in their receipts.

  The dollars that education receives have crept up over the last three decades because the fund’s primary sources of income are from the state’s sales and income tax collections. These two rich veins of revenue have increased incrementally over the years as people’s incomes have risen. It has a doubling effect when they spend this increased income and sales tax is collected on their purchases.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Gene Policinski: When what sounds like a threat is really free speech

  When are words that seem threatening not legally a threat?

  A jury in Hartford, Conn., refused on Sept. 16 to convict blogger Hal Turner of charges stemming from online comments he made in 2009 urging others, in response to a new state law, to “take up arms and put down this tyranny by force” and that public officials should “obey the Constitution or die.”

  Jurors decided there was insufficient evidence for a conviction on state charges of “inciting injury to people” or for the lesser crime of “threatening.” These charges trigger two commonly recognized exceptions in First Amendment law: incitement to imminent lawless action and true threats.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Gary Palmer: Common Core Standards

  In less than three years, the Obama Administration has taken over financial institutions, two car companies, the energy sector and health care. Now, with the help of some Republican governors and school board members, the Obama Administration is on the verge of taking over education.

  Common Core is the latest attempt to expand the reach of federal government even more broadly into our daily lives. Common Core, which was reportedly conceived by the National Association of Governors, was originally presented to the states as an effort to develop consistency in state curriculum for college and workforce readiness. Theoretically, the Common Core standards will improve education outcomes and increase transparency and accountability.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Charles C. Haynes: Teachers, take note: Neutrality toward religion cuts both ways

  By now, it should be axiomatic that public school teachers can’t take sides in religion.

  After all, the Supreme Court has been hammering this point home for more than 60 years: Under the First Amendment’s establishment clause, public schools must be neutral toward religion — meaning neutral among religions and neutral between religion and non-religion.

  But two new court decisions — both from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals — suggest that “neutrality” is viewed by some schools and judges as a one-way street. Teacher promotion of religion was struck down as unconstitutional, but teacher denigration of religion got a pass.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Michael Ettlinger, Michael Linden: President Obama’s plan for dealing with the deficit

  There is little disagreement among Americans over the need for long-term federal deficit reduction. We cannot maintain all of our current spending and tax policies without accumulating a dangerous level of debt. On this, nearly everyone—left, right, and center—agrees. The differences are over the best ways to reduce the deficit, who should bear the burden, and how quickly we should be moving to reduce the deficit given the current jobs crisis. The plan released this week by President Barack Obama offers a balanced plan that stands in stark contrast to the extreme vision embodied in the budget resolution passed this spring by Republicans in the House of Representatives.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: Immigration and litigation

  The 2011 Legislative Session yielded an avalanche of socially conservative legislation. Paramount on the list was a sweeping new law cracking down on illegal immigration.

  Alabama’s new super majority Republican legislature steamrolled this act through the legislative labyrinth like Sherman storming through Georgia. This particular illegal immigration legislation received significant howls of outrage from the dissident Democrats as they were being run over. They argued that the bill trampled basic rights such as free speech and free travel. They told their GOP colleagues that this act could not possibly withstand constitutional muster and that it would be very costly in legal fees to the state’s beleaguered general fund to futilely defend. It looks like they may be right on both counts.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sheldon Richman: Stimulus II won’t work either

  President Obama won’t use the “stimulus” label to describe his nearly half-trillion-dollar jobs bill, but that refusal can’t hide the fact that he has no idea how economies recover from recessions. “Stimulus” is a tainted label because his $800 billion bill in 2009 was a failure. His economic team promised that passing that bill would keep unemployment from exceeding 8 percent. The bill passed, and unemployment climbed to more than 9 percent and has stayed there ever since.

  With election day only 14 months off, one can readily see Obama’s desperation for a job program.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Charles C. Haynes: Islamophobia plays into al-Qaida’s hands

  In the heart-wrenching days after the terrorist attacks on 9/11, President George W. Bush acted boldly to prevent a backlash against Muslims and Islam in America and abroad.

  Speaking to a shaken nation before a joint session of Congress on Sept. 20, 2001, the president described the terrorists as “traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself.” The enemy, he declared, is not Islam, but “a radical network of terrorists, and every government that supports them.”

  At first, Bush’s efforts appeared to be working. Despite some disturbing incidents of discrimination and violence, most Muslim Americans continued to enjoy the support of their neighbors. The majority of Americans understood that the “war on terrorism” is a fight against extremists who kill innocent people in the name of Islam — not a war on Muslims or Islam.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Ian Millhiser: What if the Tea Party wins?

  In the Tea Party’s America, families must mortgage their home to pay for their mother’s end-of-life care. Higher education is a luxury reserved almost exclusively to the very rich. Rotten meat ships to supermarkets nationwide without a national agency to inspect it. Fathers compete with their adolescent children for sub-minimum wage jobs. And our national leaders are utterly powerless to do a thing.

  At least, that’s what would happen if the Tea Party succeeds in its effort to reimagine the Constitution as an anti-government manifesto. While the House of Representatives pushes Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) plan to phase out Medicare, numerous members of Congress, a least one Supreme Court justice, and the governor of America’s second-largest state now proudly declare that most of the progress of the last century violates the Constitution.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Cameron Smith: Why wait on the ones we've been waiting for?

  On February 5, 2008, presidential candidate Barack Obama famously stated that "[w]e are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek." Unfortunately, this sentiment begs a larger question: When did America become a nation waiting on change?

  America has rarely been a nation to reward those who simply wait and hope for life to improve. From its inception, the American dream required both action and sacrifice. In Common Sense, Thomas Paine recognized that had the colonists not seized the moment for independence, they would be no different than other nations that "have let slip the opportunity, and by that means have been compelled to receive laws from their conquerors, instead of making laws for themselves."

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Ian M. MacIsaac: Tax the one-percenters now

  The New York Times last Friday had a great editorial you may not have seen—it can still be read online—entitled “The Enlightened Rich Want to Be Taxed.” A group of billionaires, led by megarich investor Warren Buffett—consistently one of the world’s two richest people since the 1990s, with Microsoft founder Bill Gates—have made a series of public statements and written a series of open letters in periodicals like the Wall Street Journal and Forbes magazine calling for Congress to raise their taxes, and the taxes of the rest of those in top one percent income bracket—the richest 3 million of us out of 300 million American citizens.

  But despite the good intentions of men like Warren Buffett and the few other one-percenters who have joined him, the vast majority of the super-rich would much rather keep their money as tax-free as possible, thank you very much.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: Second verse, same as the first

  The much publicized sensational gambling trial which ended in August will be played out again in January. The first trial ended with the jury finding two defendants innocent and a mistrial being declared for the other seven when the jury could not reach a unanimous verdict.

  The jury acquitted two of the original defendants, State Senator Quinton Ross and lobbyist Bob Geddie. The other defendants are former state senators, Larry Means of Attala and Jim Preuitt of Talladega, lobbyist Tom Coker, former Country Crossings spokesman Jay Walker from Georgia, VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor, State Senator Harri Ann Smith from Slocomb and legislative analyst Ray Crosby.

Monday, September 12, 2011

CD Review: Hail The Titans: "Hymns of Mare Nostrum"

  Very few contemporary bands or artists of any musical genre make albums meant to be listened to all the way through. The vast majority of recent American music is single-centric. It usually features a simple, predictable melody, rhythm and instrumentation. A full album by the average band consists of a few catchy songs and a whole lot of filler.

  The cohesiveness of "Hymns of Mare Nostrum" as a complete record with themes and an instrumental story to tell is just one of many highlight-aspects of the debut album by Montgomery-area band Hail the Titans. There is no filler on this record. Every single song on Hymns fits, thematically and instrumentally. Then again, there are only eight tracks—it is not any longer than it needs to be—but at just under 44 minutes it is long enough for the listener to get suitably “into” the groove of the record before it ends. As far as thematic, conceptual albums of any stripe or caliber traditionally go, it’s on the shorter side—but concept albums as a genre are famous for being bloated, so this is not a bad thing.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Gene Policinski: Putting 9/11 fear aside in favor of freedom

  “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” Franklin Delano Roosevelt said in March 1933 — speaking in his first inaugural address to a desperate and fearful nation wracked by the Great Depression.

  Those same words, which perhaps would be sent today as a tweet from, translate well to today’s war on terror as we mark the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001.

  Fear has been called the terrorists’ greatest weapon, with the power to turn neighbor against long-time neighbor; to prompt cowardly, middle-of-the-night bomb threats to a Murfreesboro mosque; and to spark unprecedented intrusions on some of our civil rights in the name of safety and security.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ken Paulson: Why Lexington’s flag ordinance passes muster

  The last time the city of Lexington, Va., displayed Confederate flags, it received hundreds of complaints. The city then set out to make sure it wouldn’t happen again.

  By passing a new ordinance, the city council has ensured that only the United States, Virginia and Lexington city flags will be flown from city-owned flag poles. It means no more Confederate flags, but it also means no other flags of any sort.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Heather Boushey, Michael Ettlinger: Government spending can create jobs—and it has

  President Barack Obama swept into office on a mantra of “Yes, we can.” Even though our economy was nearly two years into the Great Recession and jobs were being lost at a record pace, he projected a sense of optimism that, together, we could fix it. And history tells us that even when economic times are bleak, there are doable steps that a government can take that make a difference to get the economy back on a path of growth and job creation.

  Indeed, there’s a long history that when unemployment rises, the government steps in to pave the way for job creation. And these policies have been effective. It’s time to do so again because, well, yes, we can.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: The Rick Perry effect

  I hope you enjoyed your Labor Day. Historically this uniquely American holiday, which heralds the end of summer and beginning of fall, also marks the start of political campaign season. Generally speaking most candidates make their final decisions to run and officially crank up their operations for the following year’s campaigns on Labor Day. This is the case with next year’s presidential campaign. All the players are on board. The horses are at the gate. The bell has rung. They are off to the races.

  At this point there are some also rans in the race but they will quickly be culled and you will only have the thoroughbreds left for the final lap. Barack Obama will be the Democratic nominee. The big question is who will carry the GOP banner into the battle next fall.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

CD Review: Shanna Sharp: Long Distance Calls from A One Night Stand

  Give a girl a guitar, let her galavant across Europe, and... well, you end up with one hell of an album.

  Distinctively unique and driven by a truly warm, emotional voice and superb songwriting, Shanna Sharp's "Long Distance Calls from a One Night Stand" - inspired by a tour of Europe -expands upon what has always been a winning formula for the artist.

  Granted it was over a decade ago... and she was alone, perched on a bar stool in a smokey drag club. Just a girl and a guitar. But she played and sang... and played and sang, casting her spell on the crowd with a rich voice and a strain of creativity uncommon to those her age. Something was different, however. An unbridled ability to connect with her audience. A voice you couldn't forget. A storytelling prowess worthy of a much older hall-of-famer.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Cameron Smith: Economic Freedom: Building up, not trickling down

  The ability of Americans to conduct commerce and participate in the economy is an essential component of individual liberty. Free markets provide the most efficient mechanism to allocate the goods, services, and resources in the economy.

  So what?

  Many Americans are more concerned about how economic policies impact them and their neighbors than they are with "efficient mechanisms" or "rational service allocation." As a result, the free market is in increasing danger in the United States because its proponents have spent far more time advocating efficiency, reliability, and the right of wage earners to keep their money than they have appealing to the sensibilities of the common man.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Andrew Johnson: The Impotent rage of a voiceless generation

  We’re getting our asses handed to us, boys and girls. There is no other way to say it. And by our grandparents no less. When Nixon escalated the Vietnam war and started sending thousands of young men to die simply to further political goals, our peepops took to the streets with draft cards ablaze and middle fingers extended defiantly towards Washington. When a black woman wasn’t considered good enough literally to defecate where a white woman could, our nanas marched through fire hoses and vicious dogs to stand at the steps of power and say, “I’m an American and a human being and I refuse to be treated as anything less.”

  And when corporate puppets hold the nation’s economy ransom to keep 2% of Americans from making the same sacrifices as everyone else, by god we type an angry Facebook status and sit on our pudgy asses to await the ten minutes Jon Stewart will spend talking about it before moving on to some interview where John Oliver acts like a douchebag.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Dusti Worley: When schools are bullies

  According to Helena Intermediate School's Fourth Grade Bully Fact Sheet, there are three types of bullying: verbal (teasing, name-calling, mocking, taunting, putdowns, gestures, and dirty looks), emotional (isolation, rejection, ignoring, spreading rumors, and public embarrassment), and physical (hitting, kicking, pushing, slapping, spitting, tripping, choking, stealing, defacing property, and any physical act that demeans and humiliates).

  Today was Zoe's "Book Fair" day. Did you ever go to a school book fair? I loved book fair week! My parents tried to make sure I had a little money to spend then because I loved to read. All three of my kids are voracious readers with very specific interests. I'm glad they inherited this love of reading.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Joseph O. Patton: Tolerance will not be tolerated

  Tolerance will not be tolerated at Hoover High School.

  A 15-year-old student has been barred from sporting an outrageously obscene message on her t-shirt: "Gay? Fine by me."

  Lest the vapid, misleading headlines dupe you, it is certainly not some inflammatory, eye-popping "pro gay" message, merely one that diplomatically advocates tolerance. And by God, that won't be tolerated. Special shout-out to our friend Irony here.... It isn't a graphic cartoon depicting a same-sex couple locking lips or anything of the sort. Just a nod to the dying yet noble practice of exercising tolerance.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Charles C. Haynes: Schools can’t teach religion as science, even in Texas

WASHINGTON — Texas Gov. Rick Perry needs to get home more often.

  On Aug. 11, just days before Perry told a boy in New Hampshire that “in Texas we teach both creationism and evolution,” the Texas Education Agency sent a memorandum to the State Board of Education finalizing approval of scientifically accurate teaching material for use in Texas public schools.

  Perry’s pronouncement notwithstanding, Texas schools teach evolution without any mention of creationism — despite years of political pressure from religious conservatives to include creationist ideas in the curriculum. Evolution, dismissed by Perry as “a theory that’s out there” with “some gaps,” is presented as sound science in Texas textbooks and supplementary materials.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Adam Hersh: Conservative jobs plan is a wolf in sheep’s clothing

  Last week House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) released a Republican “jobs agenda” platform. In reality, the agenda is a laundry list of resounding jobs killers.

  The primary problem is that the House Republican agenda pulls the rug out from under aggregate demand. Doing so is the number one impediment to job creation, business investment, and reducing the deficit. There is widespread agreement on this from across the spectrum, including conservative economists such as Martin Feldstein and Bruce Bartlett.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Gary Palmer: Endowed, not evolved: Why man’s origin matters to our rights

  The recent attack against Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s belief that mankind was created by God raises deeper questions than the usual “evolution” questions.

  It appears that there is more to these protests than concerns for science or the typical hypersensitivity that many liberals have any time a high-profile leader says anything that disputes their orthodoxy concerning the origin of man. Skepticism about the belief that man is the product of random chance or evolved in the same way as other species strikes at the core of what some people believe about man and government.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Rev. Dr. Dennis W. Wiley: Gays Are Us: Why LGBT equality is not a “white” issue

  At last month’s 102nd annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, a historic workshop focused on overcoming homophobia within the black community. As an African American, heterosexual, male pastor of a traditionally black Baptist church in the inner city of Washington, D.C., I was glad to see this legendary organization take this small but important step in its increasingly inclusive perspective on civil rights.

  There are some, however, including the Rev. Keith Ratliff Sr., an NAACP national board member, who see no parallel between gay rights and civil rights. Expressing this conviction at a rally last May, he demanded that the gay community “stop hijacking the civil rights movement.”

  This statement, subtly suggesting that “civil rights” is a black issue and “gay rights” is a white issue, implies that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT, equality is not a priority for black people. This sentiment, particularly prevalent regarding the issue of marriage equality, is often expressed in a variety of ways, including, “This is not our issue,” “This is not a priority for the black community,” and, “We have more critical matters to consider.”

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Guillermo Jimenez: Political Irrationality: The World's most important problem (and how to solve it)

  Political irrationality is the world's most important problem. Millions of people around the world have lost their jobs. We have seen rioting in Cairo, Damascus, Athens and London. Bombs dismember innocent citizens on a daily basis; countrymen kill each other in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and the Congo. Countries take years to recover from natural catastrophes. Global warming emissions have been utterly unaffected by governmental regulations or discourse. None of these problems can be effectively addressed with a crippled political system.

  But research from fields as diverse as cognitive psychology, neuroscience and behavioral economics suggests that when it comes to politics, most people are irrational, most of the time. We are biased and overconfident in our political opinions but generally unable to perceive this irrationality in ourselves or in our fellow partisans, though we can easily spot it in our opponents.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sheldon Richman: Conservatives don’t hate government

  Sometimes I wonder whether the mainstream pundits listen to themselves. It’s hard to believe they would say the silly things they say if they did.

  For example, the talking heads on MSNBC, which works 24/7 for President Obama’s reelection, like to say that conservative Republicans “hate government.” “If you hate government,” Chris Matthews, host of Hardball, asks, “why would you want to be the government?”

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Eric Alterman: Remember Bush’s vacation

  President Obama is under fire for any number of things, but the one that appears to excite reporters the most is his decision to take a few days’ vacation. According to Politico,

  “Images of Obama fundraising, golfing and on vacation — especially in such a well-heeled location — undercut his message that the economy is his ‘singular focus,’” said Doug Heye, a Republican strategist.

  Last week, a few hours after the White House announced the president would head to Martha’s Vineyard Thursday for a 10-day vacation, the Republican National Committee sent out a press release querying, “And this is the same White House that says they are focused on the economy?”

Friday, August 19, 2011

Gary Palmer: Founders left footprints for Tea Party to follow

  Frustrated by Republican members of Congress who would not allow any tax increases in the legislation to raise the U.S. debt limit, some Democrat leaders and liberal media pundits blamed the Tea Party. Accusing the Tea Party of holding the nation hostage, they further diminished themselves and their agenda by calling members of the Tea Party “terrorists.”

  That was pathetic.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Christine Smith: Lethal injustice

  No political philosophy respects human rights, individual liberty, human dignity, and life itself more than libertarianism. Yet, one of the major civil-liberty controversies present in our society is largely ignored by libertarians: capital punishment.

  In 14 years of involvement in the anti-death-penalty movement, I have rarely met libertarians involved in the issue. Most concerned with it have been from the left “progressive” political spectrum, with the occasional, but rare, conservative who viewed it as a “pro-life” issue.

  It would seem logical that libertarians, more than others, would care about an issue as grave as the state-sponsored or state-ordered death of its own citizens. So why is it practically ignored?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sam Fulwood III: The Race for the White House

  Given the confusing and crazy history that we Americans seem incapable of rising above, I suppose it was preordained that nearly every conversation about the first black president would devolve to an examination of its racial elements. From the moment then-candidate Barack Obama declared himself a contender for the White House, the ghost of U.S. race history has hovered over him, trying its best drag him into some otherworldly realm.

  For better or worst, President Obama is what every president before him was—a very good politician. Nobody gets elected president without being so. As such, President Obama must play the political game as deftly as each of his predecessors did, despite having the racial narrative as a backdrop to his remarkable story. That race-is-everything storyline is a distraction to everyone, save the president who seems to ignore it at all costs. For good reason, too; he can’t afford to be distracted by it, if he expects to win—again.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Charles C. Haynes: The Mormon elephant in the presidential arena

  For better or for worse, Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain likes to say out loud what others only whisper.

  A few weeks ago, for example, Cain mentioned what his rivals for the nomination dare not mention: Mitt Romney has a religion problem. “Romney would be a good choice,” Cain told the editors of The Washington Times, “but I don’t believe he can win.”

  Why?  Because to win the nomination (and the presidency), a Republican needs to do well in the South — and Cain sees Romney’s Mormon faith as a major barrier in Southern states.

  “It doesn’t bother me,” said Cain, “but I know it is an issue with a lot of Southerners.”

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sheldon Richman: Politicians in a panic

  You can almost see the panic on their faces. The politicians, central bankers, and court economists seem to be thrashing around like bad swimmers caught in a riptide. Despite all attempts — stimulus spending, increased borrowing, the Fed Reserve’s low-interest-rate policy, presidential jaw-boning — the economy refuses to recover. Unemployment remains over 9 percent, investment is stagnant, and even the previous paltry growth is fading. People increasingly see the government as impotent.

  If it weren’t for the innocent victims, this would be satisfyingly entertaining. After all, these are the reputed best and brightest, who assured us they know how to fix and run an economy. Now they are at wits’ end, and they’re running out of time. The election is next year.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Gary Palmer and Cameron Smith: Advocacy grants: You can't have fries with that!

  The news that federal tax dollars are being used to raise taxes and impose regulations on individuals and business at the state and local level does not come as much of a surprise to most Americans. Sadly, the federal government regularly imposes its will on individual states by using the power of the federal checkbook.

  States routinely surrender their autonomy in areas such as education and health care in exchange for federal funds. Often, these are costly arrangements for the states, but state legislators and bureaucrats enter into them with eyes and state coffers wide open.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Sam Fulwood III: The Catch 22 of racial disparities

  In a study that affirms conventional wisdom and common sense, a team of Georgetown University researchers reported recently that an advanced college degree is the necessary ticket to employment and economic security. But in a breakthrough of sorts, the co-authors of the report spoke on National Public Radio and then with me about the unspoken evidence in the report that underscores continuing racism in our society.

  Economists at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce write in “The College Payoff: Education, Occupations, Lifetime Earnings” that college graduates will earn substantially more over their lifetimes than those who don’t have a sheepskin. Who doesn’t know this?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: Race and reapportionment

  Legislators must redraw congressional lines every 10 years after the census to equalize populations in each district. Every state in the union is required to have their new district lines drawn prior to next year’s congressional elections. While most states are in the throes of addressing congressional redistricting, Alabama is not one of them. Ours is done and ready for the 2012 elections. Alabama’s new Republican majority legislature saved the state about $500,000 by addressing congressional reapportionment in the regular session instead of in a special session, which most states require.

  During the past decade, Alabama’s population basically kept pace with the national population growth. Therefore, we will keep our same seven seats. Each congressperson will represent approximately 683,000 people, up from 635,000 last decade.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Charles C. Haynes: Norway’s ‘crusader for Christendom’ is no Christian

  Within hours of last week’s mass murder in Norway, headlines around the world proclaimed the accused killer, Anders Behring Breivik, a “Christian terrorist.”

  The “Christian” label apparently came from initial statements by a Norwegian police official describing Breivik as a right-wing, Christian fundamentalist — a characterization based on the official’s quick read of Breivik’s Internet postings.

  A closer look, however, reveals that Breivik sees himself as a cultural, not a religious, Christian. “Myself and many more like me do not necessarily have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God,” he writes in his manifesto. “We do however believe in Christianity as a cultural, social, identity and moral platform. This makes us Christian.”

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Sally Steenland: Muslim Americans: Fact vs. Fiction

  News flash: Muslims are the most optimistic religious group in America right now. They are more likely than other religious groups to be satisfied with their lives and to see their standard of living improving. In terms of attitudes toward violent extremism, Muslim Americans are the least likely of all major religious groups to say that attacks on civilians are justifiable. And more than 9 out of 10 Muslim Americans say they are loyal to this country.

  If you have colleagues and friends who are Muslim American, these findings from a new Gallup poll are probably not surprising. But if you know Muslim Americans only through the skewed lens of the media, you might be shocked. That’s because there is a huge gap between the way Muslim Americans—and their religion, Islam—are seen in the media and who they really are.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Ken Paulson: The right to photograph: Why police can’t call the shots

  At crime scenes, the police are in charge. They can and do tell journalists and the public where to stand so as not to interfere with an ongoing investigation.

  Problems arise, though, when the police literally try to call the shots, telling photographers what they can and cannot shoot.

  As a former police reporter, I know that this is not a new issue. Oddly enough, most clashes occurred over matters of taste. Police would decide that a car crash or murder scene was too gory to be published and would either block the view or order a photographer not to shoot a picture. Then an editor would call the police chief to remind him that it was the editor’s job to decide what gets published.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Robert Rector: Plugged-in poverty: Half of America’s poor have computers

  The Census Bureau reported last fall that 43 million Americans, one in seven of us, were poor. But what is poverty in America?

  The most recent government data show more than half of the families defined as poor by the Census Bureau now have a computer in the home. More than three of every four poor families have air conditioning, almost two-thirds have cable or satellite television, and 92 percent have microwaves.

  How poor are America’s poor? The typical poor family has at least two color TVs, a VCR and a DVD player. A third have a widescreen, plasma or LCD TV. And the typical poor family with children has a video game system such as Xbox or PlayStation.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: Wouldn't bet on the gambling corruption trial prosecution

  Last week I shared with you some observations from the gambling trial playing out in Montgomery. This week I would like to further elaborate on the amazing lack of evidence the prosecution has offered against most of the defendants. Ironically, the taped conversations offered by the young inexperienced prosecution team flown in from Washington often exonerate the defendants rather than incriminating them.

  The perfect example of this backfiring occurred in the prosecution’s attempt to implicate former State Senator Jim Preuitt. It is a well known fact among Goat Hill observers that Jim Preuitt is a wealthy self-made man with a quiet, reserved and thoughtful demeanor. When the indictments were handed down the media seized on the sensational accusation that Preuitt had been offered and accepted a million dollar bribe. My first impression was that this seemed ludicrous. Knowing Jim Preuitt very well, I knew that he would not accept a bribe and, furthermore, he did not need a million dollars.

Michael Ettlinger, Michael Linden: Analyzing the debt deal

  The debt deal struck this weekend does nothing to help with the biggest problem facing our nation: anemic job growth and a faltering economy. In fact, by putting a noose on public investments and tightening the squeeze on the middle class, the deal goes straight in the wrong direction. Unfortunately, conservatives put the country on the precipice of an economic calamity that would have ensued had Congress not raised the debt limit. Precisely because of conservative willingness to carry through on that irresponsible threat, this agreement skews toward conservative priorities.

  There is the potential for one saving grace, however. The special congressional committee created by the deal, which is tasked with presenting to Congress a proposal for further deficit reduction, has the authority to recommend policies aimed at getting the economy moving again. As leadership in both houses and both parties choose their appointees, they should select those for whom job creation and economic growth are the top priorities. If the committee fails to produce a plan that furthers those goals, its proposals should be rejected.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Gene Policinski: Journalists tweeting rumors: not OK

  OK, let’s agree that there’s no “right now” add-on to the long-standing journalist’s credo of reporting “who, what when, where, why and how.”

  Defending a free press in an era of extraordinary cynicism about the news media is tough enough without some in the trade handing critics the club with which to beat the profession about the head and shoulders.

  But now there’s actually a defense being raised that it’s OK — or at least no sin afterwards — to relay unverified or just plain wrong information, instantly and globally, on Twitter because false rumors and reports later get dispelled.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Bryan Boone: Hippies

  What happened? A couple of nights ago I was watching an infomercial for Time Life’s Summer of Love CD collection. I watched as Tommy James of Tommy James and the Shondells was describing the summer of 1967 when the beginnings of a counterculture known as the Hippie movement started in a district of San Francisco known as Haight Ashbury. This movement rapidly became a nationwide phenomenon that spread to Canada and Europe before it died down somewhere around the mid 70’s.

  Hippies opposed war, they believed in love, peace, hope and championed music icons like John Lennon, Janice Joplin, Bob Dylan and Jerry Garcia; most Hippies were musicians themselves and carried a “make love not war” banner everywhere they went. In August of 1969 an event that has been dubbed by Rolling Stone as “the most famous event in rock history” took place, Woodstock. On a large farm in Bethel, NY an event that had hoped to get at least 50,000 in attendance, culminated in crowds in excess of 500,000 and an event where tickets became irrelevant. The fences to the event were never completed and soon became overrun by people attending; the announcement was made “it’s a free concert now,” as Hippies began to pour in. There was so many of them then, united in their message as well as their loyalty to the planet and the human race.