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.