Saturday, April 30, 2011

Ian M. MacIsaac: Fear and loathing in a Buckingham Palace bathroom

  Despite the Deep South rapidly becoming a war-zone, the events in Japan and Libya, and the release of Obama's birth certificate, it seems very likely that a larger percentage of Americans than Britons watched Friday's royal wedding between William and Catherine. Americans have long had a weird fascination with the monarchy and especially the royal family, but it seems particularly noticeable with so many actually consequential events occurring as we speak.

  I have to say I was surprised I didn't hear more complaints about the nature of this wedding from Americans. In an age where everyone in the states seems to be worried where their tax dollars are going and what their government's wasting money on now, I couldn't believe my eyes as I saw these same Americans--both those I know personally and those on CNN and NBC who fawned over the event all day--cheer the use of mind-boggling amounts of British taxpayer money for a wedding between two figures who literally do nothing.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Dr. John Hill: Legislature making progress now that gambling's a non-issue

  Few research reports more clearly illustrate the dangers of expanding gambling in a state-and the benefits of getting rid of it altogether-than two papers released last month.

  The first study, which was conducted by the University of Buffalo's Research Institute on Addictions, flips the long-common wisdom that alcoholism is more prevalent than gambling problems. Rather, according to the Institute, the opposite is true.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Laurence M. Vance: Is there a right to live where you choose?

  In addition to certain days being designated as holidays, the federal government and various organizations have also singled out certain days, weeks, and months as times to emphasize a particular issue or commemorate a group or event.

  Some of these are well known, like Earth Day (April 22) and Black History Month (February); others are fairly obscure, like National Cancer Survivors Day (June 1) and National Missing Children’s Day (May 1).

  In addition to being Poetry Month, Dental Health Month, National Cancer Control Month, Parkinson Awareness Month, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome Awareness Month, the month of April is also National Fair Housing Month.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: Watching the new regime

  As I approach my 60th birthday it occurs to me occasionally that I have witnessed and been part of a good many legislative sessions. I started my observations in 1963 as a 12 year old page when George Wallace was in his first year as governor.

  If you count Lurleen’s two years, Wallace was Governor of Alabama 18 years. You generally get good at something the longer you work at it. This was the case with Wallace and his ability to work the legislature. He became a master at getting his agenda through the legislative labyrinth.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Gary Palmer: State legislators must not cave to AEA pressure

  Andrew Biggs' testimony regarding state and municipal debt should be required reading for every Alabama state legislator.  And every Alabama citizen should know what Biggs projects regarding the debt obligations that we taxpayers now face.

  Biggs, a former principal Deputy Commissioner of the Social Security Administration and former Associate Director of the National Economic Council, reported to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform that states are facing a debt crisis of enormous proportions, most of which is in obligations for pensions and health benefits for state employees.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Julie Margetta Morgan: Government should make college-payment resources more accessible

  The New York Times reported last week that student loan debt will outpace credit card debt for the second year in a row and will likely top $1 trillion this year. The average debt for bachelor’s degree recipients who borrow to pay for education is now $24,000—over a 10-year period that's more than $250 per month in loan payments.

  When used wisely, student loans can be “good debt,” providing students access to a lifetime of greater earnings. But for many students, poor use of their loans can tip the balance toward bad debt. That's why the federal government should provide students with the resources they need to use loans to help them achieve their educational goals without racking up so much debt that it keeps them from reaping the benefits of their degrees.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Sam Fulwood III: Little-known history makes a big difference

  I’m often taken aback when I hear someone complain that racial conditions in the United States haven’t changed much—or are worse—than at some point in the nation’s past. Anyone who says something so observably false either doesn’t know or fails to respect the progressive march of history.

  A recent Newsweek article discovered that we Americans are far too ignorant of our shared history. The editors asked 1,000 U.S. citizens to take the nation’s official citizenship test, a set of 100 questions across five categories: U.S. government, systems of government, rights and responsibilities, history, and civics. According to Newsweek 73 percent couldn’t say why the nation fought the Cold War and 44 percent were unable to define the Bill of Rights

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Gene Policinski: Free speech shouldn't be confined to a 'zone'

  Note to city officials in Howell, Mich., who are considering a so-called “free speech zone”:

  Please set aside whatever paperwork you may have in your hands at this very moment. Hang up the phone. Take a break from that discussion. Walk to the nearest window that gives you a good view of your city.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: Population shifts and political power

  The 2010 census data paints an interesting landscape of Alabama’s demographics. There are dramatic shifts but the results are not surprising. We have been told and have seen these obvious trends develop over the past decade. However, it is only when the actual final figures are told and you see the present picture of our population that the conclusive scenario hits home.

  For the first time we are an urban rather than a rural state. Approximately one half of our population lives in one of our four metropolitan areas. The largest of the metro areas is the Birmingham-Hoover area, which includes the seven counties of Jefferson, Bibb, Blount, Chilton, Walker, St. Clair and Shelby. The Huntsville and Madison-Limestone area is now the second largest metro area followed by Mobile and then the four county Montgomery metropolitan area. Approximately 51% of our people live in these four major metro areas all along the I-65 corridor.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Wendy McElroy: Give me your money and your conscience

  Planned Parenthood almost closed down the U.S. government last week. A stalemate over the tax-funding of the abortion-provider almost prevented a budget deal needed to keep federal doors open. Ultimately, the Republicans tabled their demand to defund Planned Parenthood; only then did the stopgap budget move forward. That is how powerful the issue of abortion and taxes has become.

  The weighty stalemate will almost certainly occur again. The federal government is expected to reach its debt limit in mid-May and, then, once more the begging bowl will be passed around Congress. Before approving a debt limit, however, House Speaker John Boehner has made it clear that Republicans want substantial concessions, probably including the defunding of Planned Parenthood. Moreover, there are least three bills currently before Congress to cut abortion funding: Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act (HR 217); No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (HR 3); and, "Protect Life Act" (HR 358). The issue of tax-funded abortions is not going away.

Monday, April 18, 2011

James Hairston: Americans believe in tax equity

  Taxes are the alleged “third rail” of American politics. Propose to raise them and prepare for an electoral shock. Or so the cliché goes.

  In fact, polls show Americans overwhelmingly recognize the need for additional revenue to solve our budget challenges. And they favor tax increases on the wealthiest earners as a way to lower the deficit. That’s because the American people support a fair tax system and think the wealthy should pay their fair share.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Gary Palmer: The Battle of the budget rages on

  Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner may have negotiated an agreement with the Obama Administration and the Democrat Congressional leadership to cut spending by $38.5 billion, but it sure seems like the Republicans came away with a loss.

  It seems that way in part because, though it is being touted as the largest spending cut in American history, it falls far short of the $100 billion they promised to cut during the 2010 election campaign.  Even more problematic, it is just a drop in the proverbial bucket of the $14 trillion federal debt. As Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) put it, "Relative to the size of the problem it's not even a rounding error. In that case, we probably all deserve to be tarred and feathered."

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Joseph O. Patton: One pink toenail over the line

  Oh, and you thought we were having a nasty time with instability in the Middle East, a Chernobyl brewing in Japan, widespread unemployment in America and a Congress that can’t even agree on the weather outside. But this planet has officially stopped spinning on its axis over some pink toenails.

  So-called Christian conservatives are at it again, up in arms and hurling Bible verses over a mere photo spread in a J. Crew catalog. (Seriously, I’m not joking.) The spread features the president and creative director of the company spending quality time with her young son. Insidious, subversive, immoral, eh? In one photo, however, the mother has painted her son’s toenails pink because he likes the color. Children like colors, don’t they? I was quite the fan of tearing through a box of Crayola Crayons using every shade in sight, so I can sympathize.

James Bovard: The Absurdity of trusting foreign-policy makers

  The United States is attacking Libya on the basis of vague hopes that peace will triumph after the Allied bombing ceases. There are plenty of reasons to doubt whether a few hundred cruise missiles will beget harmony in the Libyan desert. But one of the biggest mistakes would be to assume that U.S. government policymakers understand what they are doing.

  The American media have already uncorked “surprises,” such as the facts that the Libyan opposition is more of a ragtag mob than an army and that Qaddafi’s opponents include some organizations officially labeled as terrorists by the U.S. government. One gets the impression that the Obama administration’s masterminds did not notice those details prior to charging into this civil war.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: Beyond Paul Hubbert

  As the legislative session approaches the midway point all eyes are centered on the state budgets. The state is facing the most devastating financial abyss since the Great Depression. The Education and General Funds are both in dire straits. The state coffers are lower by $250 million than expected and no federal stimulus money is available this year. The Democratic majority in the legislature was more optimistic than pragmatic with their revenue projections when they were drafting the budgets last year. Their lack of prudence has left the state in deep proration and left the new Republican led legislature with a Herculean task.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Lawrence J. Korb: Rep. Ryan’s Plan Fails to Address Defense Spending

  Any serious proposal to reduce the federal deficit has to put defense spending on the table. Why? Let me count the ways:

    * The baseline defense budget comprises 20 percent of the overall federal budget and 50 percent of the discretionary portion.

    * The U.S. share of worldwide defense spending grew from one-third to one-half in the last decade. This means 5 percent of the world’s population accounts for 50 percent of the world’s military spending.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Cameron Smith: Nothing "certain" about taxes

  This time of year, flowers are blooming, birds are singing and most Americans are indoors putting together their tax returns. In 1789, Benjamin Franklin famously stated that "in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes."

  Unfortunately for many Americans, taxes are anything but certain. Yes, they must be paid, but how they are paid is a source of considerable heartburn for households across the nation.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Charles C. Haynes: School wars over religion heating up (again)

  Just when First Amendment principles seem to be working in public education, new fights over student religious speech threaten to reignite culture-war battles in schools across the country.

  It’s little known that many public schools made significant progress toward getting religion right over the past decade. Thanks to consensus guidelines supported by advocacy groups from left to right, I have found that constitutionally protected student religious expression is way up in schools — and unconstitutional school promotion of religion is way down.

  If schools now backslide into litigation and shouting matches, administrators who ignore (or misinterpret) the law have only themselves to blame.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Eric Alterman: 'Brave, Radical, and Smart'

A liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel.

  - Robert Frost

  It’s a truism that conservatives are tougher than liberals. It’s also true. But the odd thing about this phenomenon is that while right-wingers are, indeed, tougher, nastier, and more dedicated to achieving their appointed tasks than their liberal counterparts, they get a great deal of help from members of the so-called liberal media who are always praising their courage—which is usually mustered to find a new way to screw the poor and middle class on behalf of the wealthy.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Sheldon Richman: Emperor Obama

  We were warned. “Who can deny but the president general will be a king to all intents and purposes, and one of the most dangerous kind too; a king elected to command a standing army.... The President- general, who is to be our king after this government is established, is vested with powers exceeding those of the most despotic monarch we know of in modern times.... I challenge the politicians of the whole continent to find in any period of history a monarch more absolute....”

  That was written by Benjamin Workman under the penname “Philadelphiensis,” one of the Anti-Federalists who warned in 1787-88 that the proposed Constitution would centralize power to an appalling degree, particularly in the executive branch.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Marshall Fitz , Raúl Arce-Contreras: “Border Security First” advocates block real immigration reform

  The “border security first” mantra is a popular refrain in Congress these days. The Republican-led House of Representatives has held numerous border-focused hearings and many more are expected. House Republicans are expected to introduce legislation soon that would require the Department of Homeland Security to provide a five-year plan to establish operational border control within 180 days. For their part, a number of Republican senators have flatly declared immigration reform dead until the border is secured.

  This singular focus on border security is shortsighted. Border security is a concern shared on both sides of the aisle and by all Americans. But the current statutory definition of operational control—prevention of “all unlawful entries into the United States”—is unattainable. And this myopic focus also obscures the tremendous strides toward enhanced control made by the DHS under both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama.

Monday, April 4, 2011

James Gattuso: Making Congress vote on rules would end shell game

  Should Congress be held accountable for the regulatory policies of the federal government?

  U.S. Representative Geoff Davis and Senator Rand Paul, both Kentucky Republicans, think it should. They have proposed legislation to force all members of Congress to vote yes or no on major rules that affect business and the economy.

  Called the REINS Act, a tortured acronym for “Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny,” the Davis-Paul proposal is no arcane procedural change. It would change the way regulations are made.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Eric Alterman: Conservative class warfare against free speech

  William Cronon, the Frederick Jackson Turner Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is unarguably a brilliant historian. His books on environmental history, including Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England (1983) and Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West (1991), are recognized by his colleagues as state of the art. He’s president-elect of the American Historical Association and he’s got a MacArthur “genius grant.” But he can be a little naïve when it comes to contemporary American politics.

  Last week, using the admirably sweeping Wisconsin Open Records Law, the Republican Party of Wisconsin filed an open records request demanding access to any emails Cronon sent or received since January 1 containing the terms “Republican,” “collective bargaining,” “rally,” “union,” or the names of eight Wisconsin Republican legislators.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Gary Palmer: One year later, ObamaCare is still unpopular

  It has now been one year since Congress passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and President Obama signed the new law. The American public still does not know what is in the new law, but what they do know is enough to make it just as unpopular now as when it passed.

  In the past 12 months, public opinion of "ObamaCare" has only changed slightly.  According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey, only 37 percent of the American public support the takeover of the American health care system. This is down from 39 percent in March 2010. Survey results from Rasmussen found that 58 percent support repeal of the national health care law. As the American public becomes more informed about the costs and the limitations for patients, the call for repeal could be overwhelming.