Friday, September 30, 2011

Richard Schwartzman: Parallels between liberty and health

  There are interesting parallels between those in the libertarian movement and some people involved in the health industry. I’m referring to those who no longer pledge allegiance to formal Western medical traditions run by the AMA and Big Pharma through the federal government.

  The parallels arise naturally. Both of us are involved in challenging an incomplete, and inconsistent mainstream orthodoxy. To be fair, mainstream medicine does do some good — much more than the government — but, like government, it doesn’t want any competition.

  Mainstream medicine on the drug-company side has had it in for nutritional supplements for a long time and is using the Food and Drug Administration to interfere with a person’s right to use natural substances to improve his health.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sam Fulwood III: The Value of national service

  Almost from the moment our plane landed in Tel Aviv, Israel, I was aware of the soldiers in olive drab uniforms. They seemed ubiquitous, reminiscent of the kudzu I knew to grow and root all over the landscape of my native North Carolina. Set against the tan, desert landscape, the greenery was human—and always with an automatic rifle slung over a shoulder.

  But it was during a midnight walk in a Jerusalem park late into my first, jet-lagged night that I was first awed by them. There, a group of the soldiers came up behind us as we looked down into the Old City below. Chatting and laughing among themselves, at first they didn’t see the group of American tourists. But as they drew closer to us, one shushed the other to stop their noisy merriment. I assumed it was a sign of respect to us.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: Wrangling revenue

  Alabama’s new fiscal year begins October 1. Unlike most states we have two operating budgets. We, of course, have a general fund budget, but we also have a special education trust fund budget. Many of you may be surprised to know that currently over two thirds of all state tax dollars go into this education budget. As late as 30 years ago the two budgets were approximately 50/50 in their receipts.

  The dollars that education receives have crept up over the last three decades because the fund’s primary sources of income are from the state’s sales and income tax collections. These two rich veins of revenue have increased incrementally over the years as people’s incomes have risen. It has a doubling effect when they spend this increased income and sales tax is collected on their purchases.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Gene Policinski: When what sounds like a threat is really free speech

  When are words that seem threatening not legally a threat?

  A jury in Hartford, Conn., refused on Sept. 16 to convict blogger Hal Turner of charges stemming from online comments he made in 2009 urging others, in response to a new state law, to “take up arms and put down this tyranny by force” and that public officials should “obey the Constitution or die.”

  Jurors decided there was insufficient evidence for a conviction on state charges of “inciting injury to people” or for the lesser crime of “threatening.” These charges trigger two commonly recognized exceptions in First Amendment law: incitement to imminent lawless action and true threats.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Gary Palmer: Common Core Standards

  In less than three years, the Obama Administration has taken over financial institutions, two car companies, the energy sector and health care. Now, with the help of some Republican governors and school board members, the Obama Administration is on the verge of taking over education.

  Common Core is the latest attempt to expand the reach of federal government even more broadly into our daily lives. Common Core, which was reportedly conceived by the National Association of Governors, was originally presented to the states as an effort to develop consistency in state curriculum for college and workforce readiness. Theoretically, the Common Core standards will improve education outcomes and increase transparency and accountability.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Charles C. Haynes: Teachers, take note: Neutrality toward religion cuts both ways

  By now, it should be axiomatic that public school teachers can’t take sides in religion.

  After all, the Supreme Court has been hammering this point home for more than 60 years: Under the First Amendment’s establishment clause, public schools must be neutral toward religion — meaning neutral among religions and neutral between religion and non-religion.

  But two new court decisions — both from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals — suggest that “neutrality” is viewed by some schools and judges as a one-way street. Teacher promotion of religion was struck down as unconstitutional, but teacher denigration of religion got a pass.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Michael Ettlinger, Michael Linden: President Obama’s plan for dealing with the deficit

  There is little disagreement among Americans over the need for long-term federal deficit reduction. We cannot maintain all of our current spending and tax policies without accumulating a dangerous level of debt. On this, nearly everyone—left, right, and center—agrees. The differences are over the best ways to reduce the deficit, who should bear the burden, and how quickly we should be moving to reduce the deficit given the current jobs crisis. The plan released this week by President Barack Obama offers a balanced plan that stands in stark contrast to the extreme vision embodied in the budget resolution passed this spring by Republicans in the House of Representatives.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: Immigration and litigation

  The 2011 Legislative Session yielded an avalanche of socially conservative legislation. Paramount on the list was a sweeping new law cracking down on illegal immigration.

  Alabama’s new super majority Republican legislature steamrolled this act through the legislative labyrinth like Sherman storming through Georgia. This particular illegal immigration legislation received significant howls of outrage from the dissident Democrats as they were being run over. They argued that the bill trampled basic rights such as free speech and free travel. They told their GOP colleagues that this act could not possibly withstand constitutional muster and that it would be very costly in legal fees to the state’s beleaguered general fund to futilely defend. It looks like they may be right on both counts.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sheldon Richman: Stimulus II won’t work either

  President Obama won’t use the “stimulus” label to describe his nearly half-trillion-dollar jobs bill, but that refusal can’t hide the fact that he has no idea how economies recover from recessions. “Stimulus” is a tainted label because his $800 billion bill in 2009 was a failure. His economic team promised that passing that bill would keep unemployment from exceeding 8 percent. The bill passed, and unemployment climbed to more than 9 percent and has stayed there ever since.

  With election day only 14 months off, one can readily see Obama’s desperation for a job program.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Charles C. Haynes: Islamophobia plays into al-Qaida’s hands

  In the heart-wrenching days after the terrorist attacks on 9/11, President George W. Bush acted boldly to prevent a backlash against Muslims and Islam in America and abroad.

  Speaking to a shaken nation before a joint session of Congress on Sept. 20, 2001, the president described the terrorists as “traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself.” The enemy, he declared, is not Islam, but “a radical network of terrorists, and every government that supports them.”

  At first, Bush’s efforts appeared to be working. Despite some disturbing incidents of discrimination and violence, most Muslim Americans continued to enjoy the support of their neighbors. The majority of Americans understood that the “war on terrorism” is a fight against extremists who kill innocent people in the name of Islam — not a war on Muslims or Islam.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Ian Millhiser: What if the Tea Party wins?

  In the Tea Party’s America, families must mortgage their home to pay for their mother’s end-of-life care. Higher education is a luxury reserved almost exclusively to the very rich. Rotten meat ships to supermarkets nationwide without a national agency to inspect it. Fathers compete with their adolescent children for sub-minimum wage jobs. And our national leaders are utterly powerless to do a thing.

  At least, that’s what would happen if the Tea Party succeeds in its effort to reimagine the Constitution as an anti-government manifesto. While the House of Representatives pushes Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) plan to phase out Medicare, numerous members of Congress, a least one Supreme Court justice, and the governor of America’s second-largest state now proudly declare that most of the progress of the last century violates the Constitution.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Cameron Smith: Why wait on the ones we've been waiting for?

  On February 5, 2008, presidential candidate Barack Obama famously stated that "[w]e are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek." Unfortunately, this sentiment begs a larger question: When did America become a nation waiting on change?

  America has rarely been a nation to reward those who simply wait and hope for life to improve. From its inception, the American dream required both action and sacrifice. In Common Sense, Thomas Paine recognized that had the colonists not seized the moment for independence, they would be no different than other nations that "have let slip the opportunity, and by that means have been compelled to receive laws from their conquerors, instead of making laws for themselves."

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Ian M. MacIsaac: Tax the one-percenters now

  The New York Times last Friday had a great editorial you may not have seen—it can still be read online—entitled “The Enlightened Rich Want to Be Taxed.” A group of billionaires, led by megarich investor Warren Buffett—consistently one of the world’s two richest people since the 1990s, with Microsoft founder Bill Gates—have made a series of public statements and written a series of open letters in periodicals like the Wall Street Journal and Forbes magazine calling for Congress to raise their taxes, and the taxes of the rest of those in top one percent income bracket—the richest 3 million of us out of 300 million American citizens.

  But despite the good intentions of men like Warren Buffett and the few other one-percenters who have joined him, the vast majority of the super-rich would much rather keep their money as tax-free as possible, thank you very much.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: Second verse, same as the first

  The much publicized sensational gambling trial which ended in August will be played out again in January. The first trial ended with the jury finding two defendants innocent and a mistrial being declared for the other seven when the jury could not reach a unanimous verdict.

  The jury acquitted two of the original defendants, State Senator Quinton Ross and lobbyist Bob Geddie. The other defendants are former state senators, Larry Means of Attala and Jim Preuitt of Talladega, lobbyist Tom Coker, former Country Crossings spokesman Jay Walker from Georgia, VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor, State Senator Harri Ann Smith from Slocomb and legislative analyst Ray Crosby.

Monday, September 12, 2011

CD Review: Hail The Titans: "Hymns of Mare Nostrum"

  Very few contemporary bands or artists of any musical genre make albums meant to be listened to all the way through. The vast majority of recent American music is single-centric. It usually features a simple, predictable melody, rhythm and instrumentation. A full album by the average band consists of a few catchy songs and a whole lot of filler.

  The cohesiveness of "Hymns of Mare Nostrum" as a complete record with themes and an instrumental story to tell is just one of many highlight-aspects of the debut album by Montgomery-area band Hail the Titans. There is no filler on this record. Every single song on Hymns fits, thematically and instrumentally. Then again, there are only eight tracks—it is not any longer than it needs to be—but at just under 44 minutes it is long enough for the listener to get suitably “into” the groove of the record before it ends. As far as thematic, conceptual albums of any stripe or caliber traditionally go, it’s on the shorter side—but concept albums as a genre are famous for being bloated, so this is not a bad thing.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Gene Policinski: Putting 9/11 fear aside in favor of freedom

  “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” Franklin Delano Roosevelt said in March 1933 — speaking in his first inaugural address to a desperate and fearful nation wracked by the Great Depression.

  Those same words, which perhaps would be sent today as a tweet from, translate well to today’s war on terror as we mark the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001.

  Fear has been called the terrorists’ greatest weapon, with the power to turn neighbor against long-time neighbor; to prompt cowardly, middle-of-the-night bomb threats to a Murfreesboro mosque; and to spark unprecedented intrusions on some of our civil rights in the name of safety and security.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ken Paulson: Why Lexington’s flag ordinance passes muster

  The last time the city of Lexington, Va., displayed Confederate flags, it received hundreds of complaints. The city then set out to make sure it wouldn’t happen again.

  By passing a new ordinance, the city council has ensured that only the United States, Virginia and Lexington city flags will be flown from city-owned flag poles. It means no more Confederate flags, but it also means no other flags of any sort.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Heather Boushey, Michael Ettlinger: Government spending can create jobs—and it has

  President Barack Obama swept into office on a mantra of “Yes, we can.” Even though our economy was nearly two years into the Great Recession and jobs were being lost at a record pace, he projected a sense of optimism that, together, we could fix it. And history tells us that even when economic times are bleak, there are doable steps that a government can take that make a difference to get the economy back on a path of growth and job creation.

  Indeed, there’s a long history that when unemployment rises, the government steps in to pave the way for job creation. And these policies have been effective. It’s time to do so again because, well, yes, we can.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: The Rick Perry effect

  I hope you enjoyed your Labor Day. Historically this uniquely American holiday, which heralds the end of summer and beginning of fall, also marks the start of political campaign season. Generally speaking most candidates make their final decisions to run and officially crank up their operations for the following year’s campaigns on Labor Day. This is the case with next year’s presidential campaign. All the players are on board. The horses are at the gate. The bell has rung. They are off to the races.

  At this point there are some also rans in the race but they will quickly be culled and you will only have the thoroughbreds left for the final lap. Barack Obama will be the Democratic nominee. The big question is who will carry the GOP banner into the battle next fall.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

CD Review: Shanna Sharp: Long Distance Calls from A One Night Stand

  Give a girl a guitar, let her galavant across Europe, and... well, you end up with one hell of an album.

  Distinctively unique and driven by a truly warm, emotional voice and superb songwriting, Shanna Sharp's "Long Distance Calls from a One Night Stand" - inspired by a tour of Europe -expands upon what has always been a winning formula for the artist.

  Granted it was over a decade ago... and she was alone, perched on a bar stool in a smokey drag club. Just a girl and a guitar. But she played and sang... and played and sang, casting her spell on the crowd with a rich voice and a strain of creativity uncommon to those her age. Something was different, however. An unbridled ability to connect with her audience. A voice you couldn't forget. A storytelling prowess worthy of a much older hall-of-famer.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Cameron Smith: Economic Freedom: Building up, not trickling down

  The ability of Americans to conduct commerce and participate in the economy is an essential component of individual liberty. Free markets provide the most efficient mechanism to allocate the goods, services, and resources in the economy.

  So what?

  Many Americans are more concerned about how economic policies impact them and their neighbors than they are with "efficient mechanisms" or "rational service allocation." As a result, the free market is in increasing danger in the United States because its proponents have spent far more time advocating efficiency, reliability, and the right of wage earners to keep their money than they have appealing to the sensibilities of the common man.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Andrew Johnson: The Impotent rage of a voiceless generation

  We’re getting our asses handed to us, boys and girls. There is no other way to say it. And by our grandparents no less. When Nixon escalated the Vietnam war and started sending thousands of young men to die simply to further political goals, our peepops took to the streets with draft cards ablaze and middle fingers extended defiantly towards Washington. When a black woman wasn’t considered good enough literally to defecate where a white woman could, our nanas marched through fire hoses and vicious dogs to stand at the steps of power and say, “I’m an American and a human being and I refuse to be treated as anything less.”

  And when corporate puppets hold the nation’s economy ransom to keep 2% of Americans from making the same sacrifices as everyone else, by god we type an angry Facebook status and sit on our pudgy asses to await the ten minutes Jon Stewart will spend talking about it before moving on to some interview where John Oliver acts like a douchebag.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Dusti Worley: When schools are bullies

  According to Helena Intermediate School's Fourth Grade Bully Fact Sheet, there are three types of bullying: verbal (teasing, name-calling, mocking, taunting, putdowns, gestures, and dirty looks), emotional (isolation, rejection, ignoring, spreading rumors, and public embarrassment), and physical (hitting, kicking, pushing, slapping, spitting, tripping, choking, stealing, defacing property, and any physical act that demeans and humiliates).

  Today was Zoe's "Book Fair" day. Did you ever go to a school book fair? I loved book fair week! My parents tried to make sure I had a little money to spend then because I loved to read. All three of my kids are voracious readers with very specific interests. I'm glad they inherited this love of reading.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Joseph O. Patton: Tolerance will not be tolerated

  Tolerance will not be tolerated at Hoover High School.

  A 15-year-old student has been barred from sporting an outrageously obscene message on her t-shirt: "Gay? Fine by me."

  Lest the vapid, misleading headlines dupe you, it is certainly not some inflammatory, eye-popping "pro gay" message, merely one that diplomatically advocates tolerance. And by God, that won't be tolerated. Special shout-out to our friend Irony here.... It isn't a graphic cartoon depicting a same-sex couple locking lips or anything of the sort. Just a nod to the dying yet noble practice of exercising tolerance.