Monday, October 31, 2011

Charles C. Haynes: Religious name-calling has no place in political arena

  For anyone familiar with U.S. history, it’s hard to miss the irony of a Baptist leader calling the Mormon Church a “cult” — which is what Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress told the press earlier this month, moments after introducing Rick Perry at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C.

  After all, Baptists were themselves widely viewed as members of a dangerous, heretical “sect” (another not-so-nice label) in 18th century America. So much so that Baptist preachers were persecuted and jailed in Virginia for various illegal acts such as “unlawful preaching.”

  Jeffress professed surprise that anyone was surprised by his statements that Mitt Romney belongs to a cult and “is not a Christian.” As Jeffress explained to The New York Times, “this idea that Mormonism is a theological cult is not news either. That has been the historical position of Christianity for a long time.”

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Marshall Fitz , Angela Maria Kelley: The Nasty ripple effects of Alabama’s Immigration Law

  The “Birmingham campaign” to end segregation and other forms of discrimination garnered international attention in 1963 when the city’s infamous Commissioner of Public Safety “Bull” Connor unleashed police dogs and fire hoses on black children engaging in peaceful protest. Those images, captured on television, created a horrifying portrait of the American South and triggered national outrage over the plight of African Americans under Jim Crow segregation.

  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s peaceful protests eventually broke the back of segregation in Alabama. But now a new breed of state-sanctioned discrimination has surfaced with the implementation of Alabama’s harsh anti-immigration law, H.B. 56, the Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Ian M. MacIsaac: The Situation in Syria: A persistent populous faces President Assad's house of horrors

  The death of Libya's Col. Muammar Qaddafi has made ripples throughout the Arab world, nowhere more so than in Syria. Syria is located on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, between Israel and Iraq; its people have virtually no rights, and one family, the Assads, have ruled the country for 40 years.

  In no other Arab Spring nation have protesters and activists worked so hard for such a profound, uninterrupted length of time, under the most violent and dangerous circumstances seen in any of the nations involved--besides perhaps Libya itself, where in the end the government declared war on the people.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Charles C. Haynes: Anti-gay bullying: Does silence = death?

  Culture wars are returning to school this fall as conflicts over what to say — or not to say — about homosexuality escalate across the country.

  After a spate of high-profile news stories about gay teen suicides (nationwide, six in September alone), school officials are caught in the crossfire in the fight over how to address the anti-gay bullying that has been implicated in some of the deaths.

  Gay-rights advocates insist that anti-bullying policies must include positive treatment of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people. Christian conservatives support anti-bullying efforts in general, but demand that public schools keep silent about sexual orientation.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Inside the Statehouse: Revisiting Jim Crow?

  There was never a more ruthless, cutthroat, no holds barred man to sit in the Oval Office than Lyndon Johnson. His biographer, Robert Caro, describes Johnson as the quintessential backroom brawler.

  Johnson came up in the tough frontier world of rural Texas politics. He carried those Texas spurs to the halls of congress and later to the White House. He was the most effective majority leader that Washington has ever seen because he was the meanest gunslinger on the Hill. He meant to get things accomplished even if it meant using intimidation. He was successful because he was shrewd and feared. He carried this win-at-all-costs attitude with him to the White House.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Gary Palmer: Occupy Movement too radical even for liberal Democrats

  Liberals thought they had their own version of the Tea Party Movement with the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Then, they realized that the "Occupiers" were too radical even for them.

  In case you have missed the protests that have been going on across America, the Occupy Wall Street Movement has launched efforts to occupy Wall Street and business districts of other U.S. cities in a demonstration of anger against financial institutions they blame for high unemployment and the economic crisis. The idea for the movement appears to have originated from Adbusters Media Foundation, a liberal group based in Canada.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Ian M. MacIsaac: What Qaddafi’s end means for Libya, and for the United States

  A lot of us in the United States woke up to the news. I didn't believe it at first, maybe just because the situation seems so unbelievable in the first place, like an event from a history book. It’s a profound change to see playing out before our eyes. But it all seems pretty clear now: Moammar Qaddafi was wounded and hiding when he was discovered and shot, execution-style by rebel forces.

  He had been attempting to flee his hometown of Sirte in an unarmed convoy of SUVs when a joint action by a US predator drone and a French warplane attacked his convoy. The vehicles scattered into the city streets, and Qaddafi’s car quickly drove to a ditch area where he attempted to hide in a small ground-level pipe. His guards stood around his hiding place with AK-47s and attempted to defend him but were overtaken.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Joseph O. Patton: An Open Letter to Herman Cain

Mr. Cain:

  I’ve been following your campaign to become the Republican Party’s nominee for president. With all due respect, I’d like to point out a few things that I believe are valid concerns:

  Muslims are people too, and your patriotism, trustworthiness and loyalty to this country are no greater than theirs. Stories about a boogey man hiding in the closet are for children. (Ignorant children who apparently need someone to hate.) There was a shameful time in our country’s history when your patriotism would have likely been questioned simply due to the color of your skin. It’s not acceptable now either.

Eric Alterman: The Continuing curse of ‘on the one-handism’

  In Time magazine’s recent profile of Herman Cain, author Michael Crowley writes of Cain’s now famous “9-9-9” plan, “Conservative economists applaud the idea, but many others say it dramatically favors the rich and would actually raise taxes on the poor and require huge spending cuts.”

  Sentences like these in magazines like this one tell us a great deal about what’s wrong with political coverage in the United States. In the first place, the sentence treats America as if it is made up of only two groups of people: “the rich” and “the poor.” It does not even allow for the existence of the vast majority of Americans who exist somewhere in-between (generally referred to—and exalted as—“the middle class”). Most egregious of all, however, is the implied equivalence between the alleged approval by “conservative economists” on the one hand and what “others” say on the other.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Wendy McElroy: The American nightmare that is civil asset forfeiture

  Being innocent does not matter. Not being arrested or convicted of a crime is no protection. With amazing ease, the government can take everything you own. And to recover it, you must prove your innocence through an expensive and difficult court proceeding in which a severely lowered standard of evidence favors the government. This is civil asset forfeiture.

  Russell and Patricia Caswell of Tewksbury, Massachusetts, know the process well. For the last two years they have battled to keep the motel that Russell’s father built in 1955 and at which Russell has worked since childhood. The couple assumed ownership of Motel Caswell in the 1980s, and viewed the asset, worth approximately $1 million, as their retirement plan.

  In the past 20 years, the Caswells have rented out approximately 125,000 rooms. Of the renters, about .05 percent have been arrested for crimes. As “good” citizens, the Caswells have meticulously reported any suspicious activity on the part of renters to the police, including possible drug use.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: Legacy of the new Republican majority

  The prodigious 2011 Regular Legislative Session not only saw sweeping conservative fiscal changes to state government, the new Republican led legislative bodies also set out on an unmistakably conservative social mission.

  This legislature approved an illegal immigration law that mirrors the Arizona measure. In addition, this very conservative pro-life legislature enacted a new strict anti abortion bill. The new law is patterned after a law Nebraska enacted in 2010. In fact, legislatures in more than 30 states are passing or moving forward with bills to restrict abortion rights that could prompt the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit the issue.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Gene Policinski: ‘Occupy’ protests, tea party rallies: assembly, petition in action

  The “Occupy Wall Street” movement and its rapidly spreading urban echoes are — like the tea party movement — grand examples of Americans using at least two of our lesser-known First Amendment freedoms: assembly and petition.

  Regardless of how you feel about either or both movements, they are the latest examples of the role of protest in American politics and society. In the history of protest, there are both lessons to be learned and mistakes to be avoided.

  As a nation, we too often forget that along with apple pie, protest is a uniquely American tradition. We also need to recall that too often we have trampled on that tradition in the name of order or safety or security.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Michael Josephson: Character Counts: Leading by inspiration

  Why are negative management practices so prevalent?

  They include yelling, cursing, insults (sometimes masked in sarcasm or masquerading as jokes), criticizing subordinates in front of others, threatening demotion or termination, and talking to adults as if they were children.

  Why are so many managers insensitive to the demotivating impact of focusing almost exclusively on weaknesses and shortcomings without properly acknowledging successes and accomplishments?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Gadi Dechter: The Legitimate gripes of the other 99 percent

  The Occupy Wall Street protests spreading Arab Spring-style across the land are an inspiring display of civic engagement, finally giving popular voice to the entirely valid complaints of ordinary Americans frustrated as their quality of life stagnates or declines while the prosperity of the superwealthy metastasizes beyond all proportion. Like any major rally, these have also attracted elements reminiscent of the extreme Tea Party variety (the guy wielding an “Osama bin Bernanke” poster). But there’s no question that the bottom 99 percent have something to complain about and that this movement is giving voice to their valid grievances.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: Consolidating power in the Alabama Legislature

  The 2011 Legislative Session has been in the books over four months and the 2012 Session begins in just under four months. The dust has now settled on this year’s session and the results have been allowed to permeate. The conclusion has to be that it might have been one of the most remarkably productive legislative sessions in state history.

  The new Republican majority legislature has definitely put their mark on Alabama state government. When they ran last year they promised a political platform entitled a “Handshake with Alabama.” It was a conservative agenda. They were not just whistling Dixie. They delivered on all their promises.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Eleni Towns: Christian leaders today support gay and transgender equal rights

  Today gay and transgender advocates and allies celebrate National Coming Out Day. Despite conventional wisdom that tends to see religion as opposing equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans, in fact many religious leaders and lay people consider moral equality for gay and transgender people as key tenants of their faith.

  In the past few years, Protestant denominations have been among those making significant progress in this area. Today, four of the seven-largest denominations allow the ordination of gay clergy and more people of faith than ever support marriage for gay and lesbian couples. Here are five ways in which religious communities and their leaders have come out in support of equality this year.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sheldon Richman: Is this any way to run a republic?

  The assassination by drone of American-born Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen raises questions that should disturb anyone who holds the rule of law as essential to protecting individual rights and limiting the arbitrary power of government. The Obama administration alleges that al-Awlaki committed a variety of bad acts, but the key word is “alleges.” We are taught that no one may be jailed, much less executed, on the basis of mere allegations. This goes back at least as far as the Magna Carta in 1215 and is echoed in the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: “No person shall be … deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

  Yet al-Awlaki was targeted for assassination by the executive branch of the U.S. government without indictment, trial, or showing of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. President Obama acted as cop, judge, jury, and executioner all in one.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Cameron Smith: The Politics of the immigration shame game

  This week, The New York Times ran an editorial entitled "Alabama's Shame" which provided a unique perspective on Alabama's immigration law. The piece suggested that the law is Alabama's attempt to make illegal immigrants "isolated, unemployable, poor, defenseless and uneducated."

  The Times' piece on Alabama's immigration law calls for President Obama "to show stronger leadership in defending core American values in the face of the hostility that has overtaken Alabama and so many other states." Other commentaries have likened Alabama's immigration enforcement to the Jim Crow era where the evils of racism were given the force of law.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Ian M. MacIsaac: What holds Algeria back?

  Over the past nine months, the Arab Spring has made waves across the entire Muslim world, from Morocco to Pakistan. One country that has remained conspicuously off the revolutionary radar sweeping across North Africa and the Middle East, however, is the nation of Algeria.

  Apart from a brief period of political turmoil which concluded in early April with the lifting of Algeria’s nineteen-year state of emergency and token reductions in the power of the country’s president and quasi-dictator Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Algeria has remained remarkably quiet—until the past few weeks.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: GOP's attack on public servants

  As the last minutes ticked away on the 2011 Legislative Session last June the last major bills were getting final approval. In the waning hours the legislature finalized the state’s education and general fund budgets. Along with these budgets were accompanying acts that increased state government employees’ retirement contributions across the board.

  These bills will save the state $100 million and save 1500 jobs. However, state employees will see their contributions climb from 5 to 7.5 percent of their paychecks. In most cases this will cost the average teacher and state employee about $1,500 per year in take home pay. In other words, all state government workers are taking a significant pay cut. This cut in pay went into effect October 1.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Seth Hanlon, Michael Linden: Ronald Reagan, Father of the ‘Buffett Rule’

See also: Video: Reagan Called For An End To ‘Crazy’ Tax Loopholes That Let Millionaires Pay Less Than Bus Drivers (Think Progress)

          We're going to close the unproductive tax loopholes that have allowed some of the truly wealthy to avoid paying their fair share. In theory, some of those loopholes were understandable, but in practice they sometimes made it possible for millionaires to pay nothing, while a bus driver was paying 10 percent of his salary, and that's crazy. It's time we stopped it.

  That was the president, making the case for why our tax code—riddled with unfair breaks, loopholes, and subsidies that disproportionately benefit the wealthy—requires fundamental reform that ensures the wealthy pay their fair share.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Gary Palmer: Liberals call for less democracy

  Is it time to ditch the Constitution? Does representative government or “democracy” really impede progress?

  Peter Orszag, President Obama’s former director of the Office of Management and Budget, believes it does. His recent article entitled “Too Much of a Good Thing” makes his case for a more powerful administrative state that will function outside of election politics. What Orszag suggests is that when it comes to the most important decisions regarding the power and influence of the federal government, we need to make elections irrelevant.

  Orszag wrote, “During my recent stint in the Obama administration as director of the Office of Management and Budget, it was clear to me that the country's political polarization was growing worse—harming Washington's ability to do the basic, necessary work of governing. To solve the serious problems facing our country,” Orszag continued, “we need to minimize the harm from legislative inertia by relying more on automatic policies and depoliticized commissions for certain policy decisions. In other words, radical as it sounds, we need to counter the gridlock of our political institutions by making them a bit less democratic.”