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.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Michael Linden, Sarah Ayres: Top ten facts you need to know about why we need to raise the federal debt ceiling

  The U.S. Congress this weekend and early next week will hopefully reach a deal to raise the federal debt ceiling before time runs out on August 2. Here are 10 facts that you need to know to understand why we need to raise the federal debt ceiling by then, and why we’re in this mess in the first place.

  1. Failing to raise the debt ceiling will cause a downgrade in the United States’s AAA credit rating, resulting in higher interest rates for American families and businesses. Rating agencies S&P and Moody’s say they will downgrade the United States’s credit rating if the government fails to raise the debt limit by August 2. U.S. creditworthiness keeps interest rates low, easing the burden on consumers and homeowners while allowing businesses to invest. If the debt limit is not raised, American families and small businesses will pay the price in the form of higher interest rates.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: Courtroom drama

  The sensational political gambling trial continues to play out in Montgomery. The scene is analogous to a theater production. The show is a blend of Broadway and Hollywood that resembles a movie based on a John Grisham novel.

  As the trial drones on in the Frank M. Johnson, Jr. Federal Courthouse, it is apparent that as predicted it will last at least three months. It began on June 6 and has now been playing for eight weeks. We are only at about intermission. It will probably not close until after Labor Day.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Michael Josephson: I'm not fixing the dent

  Relentless rehashing of Casey Anthony’s trial and her present whereabouts, the ever-widening scandal involving media mogul Rupert Murdoch and Britain’s top cops, and shameless posturing by feuding politicians unwilling to agree on a budget, all make it so hard to pay attention to more important things, like the human dimension of unemployment, the suffering of soldiers maimed and killed in faraway wars, and the ongoing tribulations of victims of forgotten disasters in Haiti and Japan.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Ken Gude: Conservatives once again play politics with U.S. counterterrorism policy

  Once again this week The Washington Post lends its op-ed space to the neverending conservative campaign to weaken U.S. counterterrorism policy.

  This time Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) complain that the Obama administration sent a suspected member of the Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab to a New York federal court for trial instead of military detention in Guantanamo Bay. The U.S. criminal justice system boasts a long and successful record of prosecuting terrorism cases and obtaining valuable intelligence information. Guantanamo, however, remains a terrorist-recruiting bonanza. Sending an al-Shabaab member there is a terrible idea that would elevate the stature of the terrorist group and draw it more into direct conflict with the United States.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Laurence M. Vance: The Cause of current U.S. deficits and debt

  Except for a brief period of time in 1835 under President Andrew Jackson, the United States has been in debt since the founding of the Republic. The first reported national debt in 1791 was over $75 million. Congress now spends more than that every ten minutes.

  Since the last year of the Bush administration, annual federal deficits have exceeded $1 trillion. The federal budget is fast approaching $4 trillion a year. The national debt will soon exceed $15 trillion — more than our annual GDP.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Gary Palmer: The U.S. isn't broke

  Despite what you have heard from the politicians in Washington and from the hand-wringing media about whether or not to raise the debt limit, the United States is not broke. Our nation has abundant assets; we simply refuse to use them.

  As sensible as the Cut, Cap and Balance Act that just passed the U.S. House of Representatives may be, it should be obvious that with Republicans only in control of the House, there is practically no chance of getting it passed by the Democrat-controlled Senate and signed by the President as part of a deal to raise the debt limit. In fact, the Democrats, along with President Obama, are insisting any legislation that includes spending cuts must also include substantial tax increases to raise federal revenue.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: The Tea Party in 2012

  Next year is a big year in national politics. It is a presidential election year. The candidates are beginning to lineup. They will be testing the waters in early primary and battleground states.

  President Obama will be the Democratic nominee. He can be defeated if the Republicans select a moderate as their nominee. Obama won because of the economy in 2008. The economy is still in the doldrums. Therefore, he could lose. If you live by the economy you will die by the economy.

  Alabama and our sister deep south states have never gotten too excited about presidential politics. It is probably because we have never been a factor. For 84 years, from 1880 to 1964, we voted automatically Democratic. Since 1964 we have voted reliably Republican. Therefore, it is a foregone conclusion that we will vote for the Republican nominee for president.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Ken Paulson: Free speech on the job: Where government isn’t the boss

  There’s not a lot of free speech in most workplaces.

  The First Amendment provides that government cannot limit our speech, but we don’t enjoy the same liberty where we work.

  If you doubt that, you may want to try to petition your boss for a redress of grievances and then organize a march to his office to make your point. Chances are your free speech will end up giving you more free time than you ever intended.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Eric Alterman: The Murdoch empire’s heart of darkness

  Back in April I wrote in The Nation that, journalistically speaking, Rupert Murdoch was “an enabler and purveyor of lies, hatred and criminal activity in the service of his ideological, financial and personal interests. A man like this deserves to be shunned, à la Bernie Madoff or Mel Gibson. That he is celebrated as some sort of hero by people who need not worry about their reputations tells you almost all you need to know about the insanity that grips our benighted political culture.”

  I tried to make the same point upon receiving this year’s Mirror Award for Best Digital Commentary at the Plaza Hotel last month where I argued that to treat Fox News (and other Murdoch properties) as simple, legitimate news organizations was to invite the pollution they introduced into the media ecosystem.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Charles C. Haynes: Surprising support for separating church from state

  It’s been a good month for the much-maligned, often misunderstood principle of church-state separation.

  A whopping 67% of the American people agree that the First Amendment “requires a clear separation of church and state,” according to the 2011 State of the First Amendment survey released July 12 by the First Amendment Center.

  This is somewhat surprising given the decades-old culture-war fight over the meaning and scope of separation.

  For decades now, Christian-nation advocates have tried to convince Americans that “separation of church and state isn’t in the First Amendment.” They have peddled a revisionist account of a “Christian America” that should (at best) tolerate other faiths to reside here.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Richard Schwartzman: Thinking vertically

  The reaction to the Casey Anthony trial in Florida is just more proof of how ignorant so many Americans are about rights, laws, and liberty.

  Everyone from TV hosts — who should know better — to radio sports talk-show hosts (yes, really) to the normal gang at the coffee shop, all are appalled at a jury who failed to convict the accused of killing her daughter. People who weren’t anywhere near the courtroom “know” that she did it and should pay with her own life.

  So much for what people know or think they know. The reaction reflects a total disregard for due process. One of the coffeehouse regulars said she wishes our court system followed a model where a person is presumed guilty until he or she proves their innocence. What’s really scary is that this woman used to work for a law firm.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

David Weinberger: What would the Founders do about welfare?

  Forty-four million Americans are on food stamps — up from 26 million in 2007. Spending on the program has more than doubled as well, to $77 million. Meanwhile, reports of abuse have skyrocketed.

  It’s not the only anti-poverty program that seems to be growing like Topsy while accomplishing little. The federal government currently runs over 70 different means-tested programs providing cash, food, housing, medical care and social services to poor and low-income persons. They cost nearly $1 trillion per year — more than the 2009 stimulus package and no more successful.

  Adjusted for inflation, welfare spending is 13 times higher today than it was in 1965, when Washington launched the War on Poverty. Yet the proportion of people living in poverty remains essentially unchanged.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: Finalizing the Republican takeover of Alabama’s courts

  As late as 20 years ago Alabama was known as the worst state in America to do business in when it came to lawsuits. We were considered a wild west everything goes frontier to garnish outlandish judgments from any corporation doing business within our borders. It was truly a jackpot justice system that was almost comical if it were not so devastating. We were the subject of national business magazines, which chronicled the examples of ludicrous judgments that read like a comic book. The National Enquirer could not even compete fictionally with our factual examples of bizarre justice. Time Magazine referred to us on their cover as America’s “Tort Hell.”

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Sally Steenland: Abortion is slowly becoming legal in name only

  When does a legal right become theoretical instead of real? If you want to know the answer, take a look at what’s happening to reproductive rights. States across the country are denying women what they need to protect their health and plan their families. And they’re often doing so in the name of religion and God. The laws, which we review below, should concern any American who cares about women’s reproductive health.

Anti-choice laws on the rise

  More than 900 antiabortion laws have been introduced since the midterm elections last November, and more than 60 have been passed. For instance, in Kansas a new licensing law for abortion clinics mandates what size and temperature clinic rooms must be, requires that staff dressing rooms have toilets, that clinics stock particular medical equipment and supplies, and that they be connected to nearby hospitals. Anti-choice legislators came up with 36 pages of regulations, which one doctor called “bizarre” and “out of date with modern medicine.”

Monday, July 11, 2011

Joseph O. Patton: An Open letter to conservatives concerning unemployment

  I went rounds until vertigo nearly set in, bickering with conservatives over individuals in this country who are experiencing a spell of unemployment a while back. If you've heard anything at all about the American economy over the past few years, you should be familiar with the jobs climate. Of course those same conservatives blame it all on Obama... along with the color frosting on their cupcakes, the price of adult diapers in Palm Beach and the weather. But that's beyond the point.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ian M. MacIsaac: Iceland moves to classify nicotine as a narcotic, its users as gov't-registered drug addicts

  Cigarettes, and nicotine products in general, are--besides caffeine--the most accessible recreational drugs on earth. (Yes, both nicotine and caffeine are recreational drugs. So is alcohol.)

  And yet the eccentric European island nation of Iceland, located hundreds of miles north of the United Kingdom in the northernmost reaches of the Atlantic Ocean, is seeking to regulate all nicotine products in the way many other European nations have begun to do with heroin and its unfortunate addicts, who suffer from the disease of drug dependency.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Gary Palmer: The Price of being the enemy

  The evidence is undeniable – global warming is now a major problem for practically every person in America, including the people of Alabama. If you don’t believe it, check your monthly utility bill or the price of gasoline to see that global warming is a big problem in terms of what it costs you.

  Technically, the problem is not global warming. It began with cooked up statistics that leftist politicians and environmentalists used to push an agenda that will devastate our economy and do nearly nothing to impact the global temperature. A formidable array of politicians and scientists have bought into the proposition that human activity is bad for the planet.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Laurence M. Vance: Whither U. S. energy policy?

  President Obama has authorized the release of 30 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). The oil reserve is currently at a historically high level of 727 million barrels. “We are taking this action in response to the ongoing loss of crude oil due to supply disruptions in Libya and other countries and their impact on the global economic recovery,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

  The president has also called for a one-third cut in oil imports by 2025, wider use of natural gas, incentives to use natural gas to fuel fleets of vehicles such as city buses, greater production of biofuels, the establishment of four commercial scale refineries producing cellulosic ethanol or advanced biofuels within the next two years, higher fuel efficiency standards for heavy trucks, and for oil companies to make greater use of federal leases to increase domestic oil output. Obama’s 2009 “stimulus package” set aside $70 billion in grants and loan guarantees to promote renewable energy, energy efficiency, and advanced batteries for electric cars.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Philip E. Wolgin, Angela Maria Kelley: Your state can’t afford it: The Fiscal impact of states’ anti-Immigrant legislation

  It has been just over a year since the passage of Arizona’s ill-fated anti-immigrant law, S.B. 1070. In its wake, many states put copycat bills on their agendas for the 2011 legislative session. But as most states wrap up their legislative session for the year, only a handful (Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, and South Carolina) actually passed anti-immigrant bills, while 26 others rejected them. Even Arizona, which last year saw its anti-immigrant bill largely blocked by a federal judge, joined this movement and rejected a series of even harsher bills this year.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Ian MacIsaac: Still living in Reaganland: The Decline of the middle class through tax rates

  The government long ago declared the end of the recession, but most Americans aren't doing much better than they were two years ago.

  A new piece in this week's issue of reliably muckraking newsmagazine The Atlantic helps explain just what's going on, in an article entitled “Squeezed Dry: Why Americans Work So Hard but Feel So Poor.”

  "Since the recovery began,” author Derek Thompson explains, “corporate profits have captured nearly 90 percent of the growth in real income. Wages and salaries have accounted for 1 percent."

Sunday, July 3, 2011

David Azerrad: Constitutionalism: Here are a few things Richard Stengel doesn’t know about

  “Here are a few things the framers did not know about: World War II. DNA. Sexting. Airplanes. The atom. Television. Medicare. Collateralized debt obligations. The germ theory of disease. Miniskirts. The internal combustion engine. Computers. Antibiotics. Lady Gaga.”

  Time managing editor Richard Stengel opens his deeply flawed 5,000-word article on the Constitution with this self-evident chronological platitude. Reading through his piece, it soon appears there are a few things he doesn’t know.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Charles C. Haynes: In N.Y., marrying gay rights and religious freedom

  Winners and losers in the battle over gay marriage in New York can agree on at least one thing: Without robust protections for religious groups, the law legalizing same-sex marriages would not have passed.

  Eleventh-hour negotiations between Republican senators and supporters of the bill led to the insertion of strong language ensuring that churches and other religious organizations could not be sued or penalized for refusing to accommodate gay marriages.

  As a result, the Republican-controlled state Senate agreed to bring the marriage bill to the floor for a vote — and then four GOP senators provided the margin of victory.