Monday, January 31, 2011

Eric Alterman : Call it 'Craven News Network'

  It’s no simple matter to sum up all that’s wrong with the “thinking” that characterizes contemporary news coverage. But if I had to pick a potent symbol of just how rudderless are the allegedly “responsible” media executives making the decisions about who and what constitute “news” these days, I’d have to go with CNN’s decision to carry Rep. Michele Bachmann’s (R-MN) response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address.

  Remember, Rep. Bachmann is just a mere member of the House of Representatives. She was actually rebuked by her own party when she ran for a leadership position in the current congressional class. She has no standing whatsoever to represent anything other than a majority of her Minnesota district to the rest of the nation. And yet CNN decides to treat her rant as an alternative State of the Union because the Tea Party—representing fewer than a fifth of the nation’s views according to most polls—anointed her as its spokesperson. To get a liberal equivalent of Rep. Bachmann, CNN would have had to turn over their cameras right afterward to Ward Churchill.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Gary Palmer: Reagan was the right man at the right time

  February 6th, 2011 will mark the 100th birthday of Ronald Reagan, the man who restored our faith in America and in ourselves. Reagan had great confidence in the American people - our common sense, our common decency, our resiliency and our ability to always rise above difficult circumstances.

  In his acceptance speech at the 1980 Republican National Convention, Reagan called on the people of America to help him renew the American compact and return to the core values so important to the founding of this nation. Reagan said, "I ask you not simply to "trust me," but to trust your values - our values - and to hold me responsible for living up to them." He called for a renewal of the American spirit that he said knew no bounds, the spirit that he had seen all over America that was "... ready to blaze into life if you and I are willing to do what has to be done."

Friday, January 28, 2011

Gene Policinski: New governors stumble over First Amendment

  What’s in the gubernatorial water supply out there, when it comes to matters of the First Amendment?

  Just 45 words setting out five essential freedoms as part of the Bill of Rights, the amendment has been around for — as of next Dec. 15 — 220 years. But several newly inaugurated state leaders have stumbled in word or fact over how to live up to that guarantee of our basic rights.

  Alabama’s new Gov. Robert Bentley, minutes after being sworn in, told a church crowd on Jan. 17 that non-Christians were not his brothers and sisters — creating concerns that non-Christians wouldn’t receive equal treatment from state government. Two days later, he met with leaders of other faiths and then told reporters that “if anyone from other religions felt disenfranchised by the language, I want to say I am sorry. I am sorry if I offended anyone in any way.”

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: Alabama's two most powerful politicians

  When I am an old man and reminisce and recant stories of years gone by with any young folks who will listen to stories that old men generally tell over and over again, I will love to tell them that I lived during an era when the two greatest Alabamians of their professions lived.

  A hundred years from now and probably for eternity, no person will ever rival the supremacy of Paul “Bear” Bryant in college football nor George Wallace in Alabama politics. Their feats, accomplishments and records speak for themselves. They will never be matched. God simply sat down one day and said, I’m going to make the greatest college football coach in history and the greatest Alabama politician in history and I’m going to send them down to Alabama to live in the same era. I was fortunate enough to know both of them and actually got to know Wallace very well over the last 30 years of his life.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ian MacIsaac: Bolivia mounts a new campaign to legitimize coca amid wave of anti-U.S. sentiment in South America

Article 384 of the Constitution of Bolivia:

  The State shall protect native and ancestral coca as cultural patrimony, a renewable natural resource of Bolivia's biodiversity, and as a factor of social cohesion; in its natural state it is not a narcotic. Its revaluing, production, commercialization, and industrialization shall be regulated by law.

NOTE: Bear with me here; I’m a history major. A subject as both literally and intellectually foreign as Bolivia (at least for us stuck here under the Great American Information Bubble) needs some context. Let’s go back a few thousand years for just one minute.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Eric Alterman: The Gift who keeps on giving

  Sarah Palin is the gift who keeps on giving. Think about it. Palin holds no public office. Her political experience includes, exclusively, a term as a small-town mayor and an unfinished, albeit scandal-ridden term as governor of America’s least populous state. Her educational background includes attendance at six different schools merely to earn a bachelor's degree. Despite having run for vice president—in what John McCain’s top advisers later admitted was a desperation move—she has never participated in a full-fledged press conference with members of the national media. She communicates almost exclusively via 140-character pronouncements on Twitter, updates on her Facebook page, and brown-nosing interviews with the likes of Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck on Fox, from a studio the network built for her in her home. And yet she is by far the most written about, talked about, and most definitely muttered about woman in America.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Senator Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches # 1232

  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The very sound of the name raises powerful images in our minds. The images vary from person to person and group to group. But each is powerful in its own way. I also have my images.

  One of the enduring images for me came at the end of the Selma to Montgomery March on March 25, 1965. Some of us students from Talladega College stuffed ourselves into a Volkswagen Beetle and journeyed to St. Jude just outside the City of Montgomery to join the last leg of the March. We marched from St. Jude to Dexter Avenue, but we were so far down the street we could not see Dr. King’s facial features as he spoke. But I still have a powerful image of the moment.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Gary Palmer: Republicans can use Senate rules to force vote

  Now that H.R. 2, the bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), passed the House of Representatives, the nation's attention will turn to the Senate. If there is to be a repeal vote before the 2012 election, Republicans must be willing to use the rules of the Senate to force the issue.

  When bills are passed by the House, they are sent to the Senate for consideration. When the bill is received, it is referred to a committee. Brian Darling, the director of government relations at The Heritage Foundation, recently explained in his blog that in order to force a Senate vote on the House bill, two procedural steps must be taken.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Reece Rushing: President Obama outlines vision for regulation

  President Obama yesterday issued a new executive order and several other directives to help ensure that regulation is cost-effective, evidence-based, and transparent to the public. He announced his plan in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.

  This effort mirrors recommendations provided by the Center for American Progress. It also draws a useful contrast to congressional conservatives who are taking aim at new safeguards to protect public health, safety, the environment, and the country’s economic well-being.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: Bentley and beyond

  Those of us who are over 50 years old have witnessed and been a part of one of the most profound and dramatic changes in American political history. The total transformation of the South from an all Democratic region to an all Republican enclave is remarkable to say the least. Fifty years ago we were referred to as the Solid South because we were solidly Democratic. We are still labeled as the Solid South, but today it is because we are the most reliably Republican part of the country.

  This time 50 years ago there was not one Republican U.S. Senator from the South. Today, the 10 Deep South states have 20 U.S. Senators and 19 out of those 20 are Republican. The only Democrat left is Mary Landrieu of Louisiana.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Gary Palmer: Mental illness to blame for Arizona shooting

  In the past few years, there have been some bizarre allegations against Republicans and conservatives. Liberals certainly don't have a monopoly on stupid statements - there have been some dumb things said or written by conservatives, too - but nothing compares to how some liberals blame the shooting of Rep. Giffords and the murder of six other people on conservatives.

  First of all, based on what has been discovered thus far, Jared Loughner, the alleged killer, is most likely mentally ill. About all we know about his political views came from a former classmate who described him as "a pothead and liberal." Pulling together what those around him observed - his confused writings, his rants about government brainwashing and thought control and his obsession with "conscious dreaming" - it becomes apparent that Loughner's actions were those of a mentally ill individual.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Arthur L. Browning: What is the real legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.?

  I have been hearing news coverage of the recent discussion in social and political circles about the real legacy of Martin Luther King. This began even before the MLK holiday.

  Whatever the reason for these many allusions to Martin Luther King's importance to America or effects on American Civil Rights, I heard the discussions sadly lacking the elemental importance of MLK's work.

  Martin Luther King was absolutely feared by many whites as a trouble maker. I am white and I can tell you at the time many Americans did not know about or understand the Civil Rights movement. Most Americans did not understand Viet Nam or racial inequality either. Most Americans just heard bits and pieces in the news and then rumors passed from acquaintance to acquaintance.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Sheldon Richman: Government spies on Americans

  Most Americans seem detached from the U.S. government’s military actions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and elsewhere. U.S. forces not only engage in wanton killing and harsh treatment of prisoners, but also surveillance and other intelligence activities that might appall the American people if they were used at home.

  Well, guess what: “Technologies and techniques honed for use on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan have migrated into the hands of law enforcement agencies in America,” writes the Washington Post in its continuing series, “Top Secret America.”

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Eric Alterman: The Hate we tolerate

  In the wake of so much speculation regarding the motives of a murderous madman—something none of us can ultimately know—it is worth taking a look at just what have been the extremes of discourse that help legitimate hatred in our society, and could, conceivably, lead some to believe in the legitimization of violence. The role, in recent times, of Glenn Beck is a particularly useful vehicle for examining this question.

  When, for instance, Mr. Beck posits the outrageous notion that President Barack Obama “has a deep-seated hatred for white people, or white culture,” including, say, his mother and the grandparents who raised him, Beck sounds like a madman to most of us. But not only do his views represent a consensus among many of his Fox colleagues and viewers, they also were actually endorsed by the network owner, Rupert Murdoch.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: Premiere of the new Alabama Legislature

  Last week we discussed the organization of the Alabama Senate. As a result of the Republican tidal wave that engulfed Alabama in November, the Alabama House of Representatives, like the Senate, will also have a Republican majority for the first time since Reconstruction ended 136 years ago.

  The Alabama Legislature was the last bastion of Democratic control left on the Alabama political scene. The November GOP tsunami wiped that away and more than likely changed the political landscape in Alabama for a long time to come.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Joseph O. Patton: Don’t choke on that silver spoon in your mouth

  As it stands, for every job currently available in this country, there are six workers vying for it. The unemployment rate hovers at nearly 10 percent. And that figure is misleading and a woeful understatement considering it is based on the number of unemployed individuals receiving unemployment compensation. Once those individuals exhaust their benefits, they’re no longer included in the figure though they are still lacking work. That figure also fails to include someone who may work 40 hours a week but has no benefits and may earn as little as minimum wage, otherwise know as “underemployed."

  So why, oh why, do we hear the fatally flawed argument churning through talk radio and other outlets for the chronically ignorant and mean-sprited, all driven by the same, hateful, small-minded lie: “Well… those people just don’t want to work the jobs available!”

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sheldon Richman: Why WikiLeaks leaks matter

  Why should anyone care about the secret diplomatic cables WikiLeaks has disclosed? So what if State Department bureaucrats say unflattering things about other world “leaders?” Some people may be asking those questions in response to WikiLeaks’s latest disclosures. Okay, they say, leaks about atrocities on the battlefield (such as the first WikiLeaks disclosure, the “Collateral Murder” video) tell us something we should know about — the gross misconduct by U.S. military forces, condoned by the command all the way up to the president of the United States.

  But diplomatic cables? Who cares?

  We all should care. The documents serve as a timely reminder that the people who collectively call themselves “the government” are professional liars. Lying is what they are paid to do. They lie to their foreign counterparts, but mainly they lie to us. The biggest lie of all is that they do it in the American people’s interest.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Sam Fulwood III: Gearing up for the health care showdown

  This new year brings a return to old-school political fights.

  If leaders of the 112th Congress are to be believed, among the first orders of business will be a ceremonial vote to repeal the health care overhaul. That sweeping piece of legislation was President Barack Obama’s major achievement in the previous Democratic-led Congress. With Wednesday’s swearing in of the House of Representatives and a smaller Democratic majority in the Senate, more than a changed set of controlling leaders will quickly emerge—a doubling-down on partisan gamesmanship is just as likely to begin anew.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Gary Palmer: U.S. Constitution is back in vogue

  One thing that we can count on in 2011, the United States Constitution will be front and center in policy making and politics. To start the year off, on January 6th the new Republican majority in the United States House of Representatives mandated that the Constitution be read from the floor of the House.

  Frankly, simply reading the Constitution may not be enough. The Republicans may need someone on hand to explain it, especially to the remaining liberal members from the previous Congress who repeatedly voted for legislation that created the biggest expansion of the federal government since the New Deal.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Edwin Feulner, Ph.D.: Conservative solutions for all

  Here's what you'll hear in many end-of-the-year retrospectives: 2010 emerged as the year of the conservative voter.

  It's true. Fed up with health care "reform," runaway spending and lingering unemployment, Americans across the country ushered out many of the liberals who supported President Obama's big-government agenda.

  But here's what you won't hear: This conservative wave included some Hispanic-American voters. That fact inconveniently flouts the conventional wisdom that liberal candidates can consider Hispanic votes to be in the bag. It interrupts the usual narrative, so it must be ignored or explained away.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: Organizing the Alabama Legislature

  When the Alabama Senate meets in organizational session next week it will be the first time since Reconstruction Rule ended 136 years ago that the Republicans will be in the majority.

  The November general election was a landmark watershed revival transformation. It was like an old timey foot washing conversion experience. It was a tidal wave that came from Washington and wiped away most of the Democrats in the state Senate. It carried with it iconic Democratic Senators that most Goat Hill observers were astonished were washed away. Names swept away and probably gone forever include Lowell Barron, Tom Butler, Wendell Mitchell and Ted Little. All these men were replaced with fresh faced Republicans.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Eric Alterman: The Missing “Least-We-Can-Do-No-Brainer Act of 2010”

  As I was reading Wednesday’s “Playbook” by Politico’s Mike Allen, the unofficial scorecard of Beltway obsessives (and those who wanna be), the story that caught my eye was, naturally, the one Allen labeled “The Big Idea/Pundit Prep/If You Read Only One Story.” In it, Bloomberg’s Lisa Lerer and Laura Litvan reported that “The 111th Congress made more laws affecting more Americans since the ‘Great Society’ legislation of the 1960s.” It quotes the great liberal historian Alan Brinkley calling this Congress “probably the most productive session of Congress since at least the ’60s.’”

  The authors note that it was also a historic year for the financial sector:

  Wall Street firms such as Goldman Sachs Group Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc. are positioned to complete their best two years in revenue, General Motors Co. has emerged from bankruptcy with more than $23 billion repaid to the U.S. Treasury, and American International Group Inc. was able to sell $2 billion of bonds in its first offering since the company’s 2008 bailout. The S&P 500 Index has gained 38.9 percent since Congress convened in January 2009.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Gene Policinski: New Year will see some old First Amendment issues

  Welcome, 2011, and all that you offer as a New Year: a chance for a fresh start and the promise of new opportunities.

  But it’s fair to say that in terms of the First Amendment, you’re going to look a lot like your just-departed calendar relative. Many of the major court battles, legislative debates and public controversies of 2010 will waft right into the next 12 months with nary a pause for a chorus of “Auld Lang Syne.”

  Several decisions on First Amendment cases argued this year are expected from the U.S. Supreme Court before its June recess. One involves whether relatives can sue over those hotly debated funeral protests. Another asks whether it's constitutional for a California law to prevent minors from renting or buying violent video games. Others concern access to government records.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Egberto Willies: Privatization of government services nothing but corporate welfare in disguise

  The article at The Huffington Post titled "At Kaplan University, 'Guerilla Registration' Leaves Students Deep In Debt" hit a nerve. The premise of the article is that many at the mentioned private University used less than honest tactics to either enroll students or keep students enrolled. Worst, student's diplomas and/or transcripts were held hostage for phantom owed fees.

  This should not be surprising. Since Ronald Reagan professed that "Government is the problem," the government began the march to privatization. This was done under the premise that privatization would increase efficiencies and would somehow be less expensive. As an engineer well-schooled in math I always considered that statement one of the most deceiving lies of the politicians.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Michael Josephson: Character Counts: What I’ve learned

  It’s traditional to start the New Year with resolutions designed to help us live healthier, happier, and more fulfilling lives. But it’s also useful to reflect on some of the things we’ve learned over the years, the things that make us not only smarter, but wiser.

  For instance, I’ve learned that trying to be a good person is a lifelong commitment and that it often requires me to do the right thing even when it costs more than I want to pay.