Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Rich Schwartzman: An intoxicating hypocrisy

  Today’s socially conservative Republicans are reminiscent of the proverbial Puritan who had trouble sleeping because he knew that, somewhere, people were enjoying themselves.

  These are the same Republicans who say they’re for small government, unless, of course, they think you’re doing something of which they don’t approve. Then they need to create laws against those things.

  Not all the members of the “I know better” crowd are well-known members on the national level of politics.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Ask Dr. Bumdinkle: Are open relationships healthy?

  Author's note: Yes, I'm back. It's a condition of my parole to give people advice on trivial matters which they should have the sense to sort out on their own.

Dear Dr. Bumdinkle:

  I love my girlfriend deeply. We may even get married one day. Since we met, we have considered ourselves to be in an "open relationship," which by our standards at least means we're free to romance other people, including having sex, but our emotional bond and the core relationship stays strictly between us. We do not get attached to other people. In other words, despite our flings with others, we always come home to each other. And yet we often get criticized by our friends for sleeping with other people.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Gene Policinski: Websites that rate services raise free-speech questions

  Freedom of speech might logically seem to apply the same way whether the speech takes place on the street corner or on the Internet.

  But that basic First Amendment premise is as yet unsettled in our new Web world.

  An intricate set of laws and judicial opinions on free speech and defamation has evolved over several centuries, from a system that existed mainly to protect the elite from criticism to one that enables anyone to seek compensation for what they see as unfair damage to their reputation.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Gary Palmer and Cameron Smith: Debt > Dollars = Disaster

  Every American who has a credit card has a credit limit. Usually that limit is based roughly on what the credit card company determines the cardholder can reasonably pay off given their income and assets. Recently, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner announced that, in effect, the economic sky is falling in the United States because the federal government has maxed out its own credit card. As of May 16th, Secretary Geithner reported to Congress that the federal government had reached the statutory federal debt limit of $14.294 trillion. He further noted that, to avoid breaching the debt limit, the Treasury could delay payments to federal employee pension funds until August 2, 2011. Rather than suggesting the federal government live within its means by immediately looking for ways to cut back, Geithner suggested that Congress increase the federal government's credit limit.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ian M. MacIsaac: Pawlenty and Huntsman compete to unseat ‘Romney by default’

Editor’s note: This is the second piece in a series of three on potential and announced Republican presidential primary candidates. The first piece concerned Newt Gingrich; the third will concern Michele Bachmann. Read the first article in the series here.

  Tim Pawlenty announced officially on Monday his candidacy for President of the United States, and showed himself to be no less bland on that occasion than he did on any previous occasion. Just kidding, kind of. But he’s going to have to learn how to avoid that word “bland” if he’s ever going to make it to the convention next year.

  From Des Moines, Iowa, former Minnesota Governor Pawlenty made a very standard speech about being the kind of candidate who will “look you in the eye and tell you the truth” and tell voters facts that they don’t want to hear. The speech was even entitled “A Time for Truth.”

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Advice Columnist Dr. Bumdinkle Returns to Capital City Free Press

Capital City Free Press

Contact: Joseph O. Patton, Editor and Publisher

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Advice Columnist Dr. Bumdinkle Returns to Capital City Free Press

MONTGOMERY - A long-running contributor to the Capital City Free Press, Dr. Thaddeus P. Bumdinkle, is making a return to the publication, bringing back his popular “Ask Dr. Bumdinkle” advice column that ran monthly for more than five years.

Bumdinkle fielded letters from readers requesting advice on matters ranging from relationship problems to workplace dilemmas. Known for his vicious wit and humorous take on everyday situations, Bumdinkle will resume his column beginning May 30.

Regarding his hiatus and subsequent return to the Capital City Free Press, founder, editor and publisher Joseph O. Patton explains, "Basically he's on parole and needs something productive to do with his time." He adds, "I mean, one time he bit Josh [Carples, CCFP managing editor], but that was funny too."

Imminently qualified to dispense advice to the general public, Dr. Bumdinkle holds a degree in Brain-Pickin' from Rooster Poot Community College (Southwest Possum Trot Annex); a theological something or other from Six Flags Over Jesus University in Tuberculosis Springs, Montana; and a crumpled certificate from a defunct cruise line that states he's one hell of a limbo competitor.

Dr. Bumdinkle's hobbies and interests include heckling female impersonators (drag queens), extensively studying various forms of whiskey and naked Crisco alligator wrestling. If you need advice on an issue, or just have a comment or suggestion, send an email to: drbumdinkle[at]yahoo.com.

Note: "Ask Dr. Bumdinkle" is not intended for a mature audience, just older folks who are not easily offended.

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: Legislative update

  The last two Aprils have not been good to Alabama. On April 20, 2010, the infamous BP Deepwater oil spill disaster occurred. The massive eruption off the Louisiana coast sent crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico continuously for 85 days. We are still trying to calculate the damage. In just one example, Alabama’s beach rental revenue fell from $133 million in 2009 to $70 million last year. The ecological damage probably cannot be properly assessed for decades.

  On April 27, 2011, Alabama was struck by the worst natural disaster in our history. Over 30 tornadoes swept through the state destroying entire neighborhoods and towns killing over 250 Alabamians. The devastation is unbelievable. The loss of lives is unparalleled and the cost incalculable. It will be years before the recovery is complete.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Laurence M. Vance: Not ending Medicare as we know it

  Capitol Police recently arrested 89 protesters from the disability rights group ADAPT for occupying the rotunda of the Cannon House Office Building. They were demonstrating against the proposed changes in Medicaid in the recently passed House budget resolution that would reduce the program’s funding and turn it into block grants to the states. “Block grants kill,” read some of the protest signs.

  This follows outrage by Democrats and senior-citizen groups over the proposed changes to Medicare in the same budget resolution. They are upset about the House Budget Committee’s plan to convert Medicare into a voucherized private insurance program. Said Obama press secretary Jay Carney: “The House Republican plan places the burden of debt reduction on those who can least afford it, ends Medicare as we know it and doubles health care costs for seniors in order to pay for more than a trillion dollars in tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.”

Monday, May 23, 2011

Heather Boushey, Jordan Eizenga: The JOBS Act is not about jobs

  House Republicans introduced the Jobs, Opportunity, Benefits, and Services Act of 2011 or, as they prefer to call it, the JOBS Act of 2011, on May 11, 2011. To be clear, the JOBS Act, which provides an incentive for states to cut unemployment benefits, is less about creating jobs and more about hurting those who have lost one. The JOBS Act would greatly weaken an already fragile unemployment insurance system, jeopardize our still-fragile economic recovery, and provide undue hardship to millions of households. Congress should reject this legislation and instead focus on policies that create jobs and strengthen our economy.

  The JOBS Act makes eligibility for unemployment insurance, or UI, benefits conditional upon possessing or currently pursuing a high school education. It also allows states to use federal unemployment funds for purposes other than providing UI benefits. These changes would have a profoundly negative impact on both the UI system itself and the economy. For instance, the Economic Policy Institute estimates that the JOBS Act could result in between 65,000 and 136,000 fewer jobs than under current law.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Gary Palmer and Cameron Smith: Time for tenure reform

  The next battle between public employee unions and a reform-minded legislature is taking place in Montgomery, Alabama. And even though Alabama is a right-to-work state, where employees' right not to join or support a union is protected, most of Alabama's education employees are members of powerful trade associations that are effectively public employee unions. The battle taking place concerns tenure reform and the ability to efficiently remove incompetent teachers. 

  The Students First Act coming up for consideration in the Alabama House of Representatives does not eliminate tenure. In fact, it would preserve tenure for probationary teachers who teach for three consecutive school years within the same school systems. Once teachers attain tenure, they can only be terminated for specific reasons. The greatest change comes in the form of a streamlined appeals process that would, among other provisions, allow school boards to stop making salary and benefit payments 75 days after the employee is terminated or when the appeal concludes, whichever is earlier. The legislation also explicitly states that teachers cannot be terminated for political or personal reasons.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Ian M. MacIsaac: Oh, how the mighty have fallen: The Decline and fall of Newt Gingrich, former conservative

Editor’s note: This is the first article in a three-part series surveying current and potential Republican presidential candidates. The next piece will concern Tim Pawlenty.

  Donald Trump, Mike Huckabee, Haley Barbour, and (most likely) Sarah Palin are all out of the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. For a field that has looked weak all along, having so many absolutely huge Republican Party names AWOL from the stage even before June is seriously bad news. It has left the party with three major possible candidates: Mitt Romney, who most Americans rejected last time; Tim Pawlenty, who most Americans have never even heard of; and Newt Gingrich, who most Americans are simply tired of hearing of.

  Newt has long flirted with a presidential candidacy but this time he's finally thrown his hat into the ring. Gingrich, a former Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1995 to 1999, has long prided himself on being both a steadfast conservative as well as an "ideas man."

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Elizabeth Garvey and Todd Gaziano: Expansion of national power at expense of individual liberty

  Although the authority granted to Congress in the commerce clause should be the same as when the Constitution was first ratified, the common understanding about its scope today is much broader. Moreover, this new understanding about its breadth is the primary means by which the central government’s power has grown. This expansion of national power raises serious constitutional problems and necessarily comes at the expense of protections for individual liberty.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: Sizing up Alabama's Congressional representation

  Exactly 60 years ago in 1961 Alabama had nine congressmen and two U.S. senators. All eleven members of our congressional delegation were Democrats. They were also all white and all male. Incidentally, there were all old white men. However, in Washington, old is good. It generally translates into seniority, which translates into power.

  Southerners have always tended to reelect their incumbent powerful congressmen. Therefore, seven of our nine congressmen had over 20 years of service. Several of these elderly gentlemen chaired powerful and prestigious committees. Most of these good old boys had come to Washington during the New Deal and were loyal FDR Democrats. It may surprise you to know that they were very progressive and liberal even by national standards. FDR and the New Deal had been good for these men and to Alabama. They were progressives who believed that a big federal government was not bad.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Ian M. MacIsaac: What is the United States to do about its relationship with Pakistan?

  The pull within Pakistan’s government between the officials who consider themselves in line with the U.S. and others who spiritually and politically ally with the Taliban and extremist forces has come to a head in the wake of Osama bin Laden's demise. Pakistan has gone from being the United States' number one ally in our declared war against terrorism to being perhaps the most disloyal and unstable nation the U.S. ever gave 4.5 billion dollars a year to.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Gary Palmer: The Tornado that destroyed my hometown

  I was in Dallas when the call from my sister came around 6:30 p.m. She said, "A tornado hit Hackleburg. Momma and Daddy are alright, but Hackleburg is gone. It's all gone."

  When my sister, her husband and my brother rushed to check on our parents, they were stunned by what they saw - complete and utter destruction. As she so accurately said to me, "You will have to see it to believe how bad it is."

  There are scores of pictures on the Internet and in the newspapers along with several sites with video footage of what once was Hackleburg, Alabama. But anyone who has been there will tell you that not one of those images comes close to what you see in person.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Marta Cook , Katie Wright: Conservatives should practice what they preach

  Any day now Governor of Texas Rick Perry is expected to sign into law a bill that would require pregnant women to have a sonogram and to hear a physician describe the fetus before they are allowed to have an abortion. A similar bill is waiting to be signed in Florida.

  Many states across the country are doing their best to find ways to limit access to abortions for women. In Oklahoma, for example, legislators have even gone so far as to amend nutrition legislation to prohibit Planned Parenthood from administering nutrition assistance to low-income expectant mothers. The state law would make nutrition vouchers inaccessible to thousands of mothers as part of the federal Women, Infants, and Children, or WIC, program, in the state.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Gene Policinski: Opposing flag-burning with violence trashes freedom

  What part of patriotism makes it okay to trash one of our nation’s most-treasured rights, free speech?

  A graduate student and part-time instructor at Louisiana State University, Benjamin Haas, tried yesterday to stage a protest that he initially said would involve burning an American flag.  Haas said he was protesting the arrest last week of another student for stealing and burning a U.S. flag from the LSU War Memorial.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Laurence M. Vance: Not even the sky is the limit

  The scheduled launch of the Space Shuttle Endeavour last month was supposed to be notable, not just because it was to be the last launch of this particular shuttle, but because of two special guests who traveled to the Space Center to witness the now-delayed launch.

  President Obama traveled to Florida for the launch, as did Gabrielle Giffords, the member of Congress who was shot on January 8 in Tucson, Arizona. Giffords is the ranking Democrat on the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. She is also the wife of Mark Kelly, the pilot of the Space Shuttle.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: From the Hunts to the Bentleys

  Many of you have suggested that Dr. Robert Bentley and his wife Diane remind you of Guy and Helen Hunt. Although the Bentleys are more educated than the Hunts, they do have similarities. Both are devoutly religious, humble and sincere and seem uncomfortable with the trappings and deference surrounding the auspices of being governor and first lady.

  Guy and Helen Hunt were childhood sweethearts in rural Cullman County. They lived a very simple life. Helen assumed that she and Guy would have a happy rural religious life on their small North Alabama farm. Her expectations were met as she raised their children and kept their family home.  Guy, who was a primitive Baptist preacher in their community, led a more diverse and conspicuous existence than Helen.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Lisa Curtis: The bin Laden Aftermath: The U.S. and Pakistan are still stuck with each other

  Many things could have gone wrong. The Osama bin Laden mission could have turned out like Operation Desert One, the failed 1980 attempt to rescue American hostages in Iran that left eight U.S. servicemen dead. Instead, all of the heroic U.S. Navy SEALs escaped safely from Pakistan after taking out the world's most wanted terrorist leader.  That the U.S. soldiers apparently went undetected by Pakistani forces, and thus avoided a potentially disastrous military confrontation with our so-called "ally" in the fight against terrorism, is noteworthy.

  But avoiding these pitfalls was only half the battle. Now the U.S. must deal with the fallout from the momentous event that has once again exposed deep fissures in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship. In spite of these fault lines, neither the U.S. nor Pakistan can afford to allow the partnership to rupture.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Jordan Eizenga: What you need to know about the federal debt limit

  Over the past decade, the U.S. Department of the Treasury has borrowed trillions of dollars to finance military interventions in two countries, unfunded tax cuts, and, most recently, efforts to rescue our financial system from collapse and help our economy recover from the Great Recession. But there is a limit to this borrowing, which the Treasury expects to reach by no later than early July.

  As this debt-limit deadline approaches, the American people are wondering what the effects will be should Congress not raise the debt limit. This Debt Limit 101 briefly outlines everything you need to know about our debt limit, as well as the potential consequences of failing to raise it.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Charles C. Haynes: Memo to Sumner County: Local schools aren’t local churches

  If only a fraction of the allegations are true, public school officials in Sumner County, Tenn., are treating their school district like a missionary field for the Christian faith.

  Nine students — who understandably wish to remain anonymous — have filed suit with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union seeking to end school promotion of religion. The laundry list of allegations reads like a description of public schools in the Deep South of the 1950s with everything from prayers over the PA system to teacher-led Bible study.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Gary Palmer: The Picture Obama should release

  In the aftermath of 9/11, Osama bin Laden became public enemy number one. With his public confession to the 9/11 murders and his subsequent threats and taunts about the destruction of the United States, he issued his own death warrant. On May 2nd, 2011 that warrant was expertly served by U.S. Navy Seal Team #6.

  So what does the death of Osama bin Laden really mean?

  It brings at least some measure of closure to the 9/11 mass murders but it certainly doesn't mean our war against terrorism is over.  In fact, it indicates that the war against terrorism has added another dimension.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

John Podesta, Carl Pope, Gene Karpinski: Cleaner cars, less foreign oil

  America is suffering from another oil price shock less than three years after prices hit a record of $147 per barrel in July 2008. Over the past month oil prices rose by over $20 per barrel, or more than 25 percent. This price hike reflects political instability in many oil-producing Persian Gulf nations. And Wall Street speculators have preyed upon oil users’ fears about supply interruptions to bid up the price to over $100 per barrel.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: Stuck in this old Constitution

  Our Alabama Constitution is very antiquated. One of the flaws inherent in the document is that it does not allow local county governments very much authority or power. Therefore, county governments have to channel most changes or actions into local acts that have to be advertised in their local paper for four weeks and then taken to the state legislature to be enacted. As a result, the entire state legislature must act on a local bill for Fayette County that might only involve something as mundane as paving a road or buying a tractor.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Jennifer Marshall: Marriage an ideal, not a fairy tale

  In America, little girls were glued to the television from before dawn, enthralled by Diana’s dress with its billows of silk taffeta, 10,000 pearls and 25-foot train. To a young girl’s eye, the only blemish of this perfect day was that the bride’s signature feathered hair succumbed to the summer humidity.

  But not even flat bangs could detract from the fairy tale dream of marriage played out with such pomp.

  Nor was the nobility of the moment lost on adults. As ABC’s Ted Koppel commented that evening:

  Today’s marriage between Charles and Diana was … a hugely magnified version of what most of us hope for, the idealized beginning of what is meant to ripen into the perfect partnership of a man and a woman.”

Monday, May 2, 2011

Gene Policinski: Take time out to celebrate World Press Freedom Day

  Thanks to the First Amendment, I’m free to write these words — and you’re free to read them.

  But for about 84% of the approximately 6.9 billion people with whom we share this planet, that’s not the case. They live in nations where the press is only “partly” free from government control or criminal intimidation, or not free at all.

  Those global press freedom figures are from a 2010 report by Freedom House, an independent human rights organization, which has compiled such data annually since 1980. The group’s 2011 report will be issued May 2.