Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sam Fulwood III: Dumbing it down on Fox News

  Can watching Fox News actually make you dumber than if you didn’t watch any news at all? Sure, some of us believe this, but until now there’s been nothing other than anecdotal evidence and Sarah Palin to support our arguments. Now we’ve got facts that make the case with an empirical flourish.

  Researchers with Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind Poll asked 612 New Jersey residents a variety of questions to test their awareness and knowledge of current events that dominated the news between October 17 and October 23. The poll’s shocking conclusion was that people who described themselves as heavy Fox News viewers tended to be “even less informed than those who say they don’t watch any news at all.”

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Wendy McElroy: Criminalizing your internet profile?

  The New American (15/11) states,

          The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is backing a controversial component of an existing computer fraud law that makes it a crime to use a fake name on Facebook or embellish your weight on an online dating profile such as eHarmony. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), a 25-year-old law that mainly addresses hacking, password trafficking, and computer viruses, should enforce criminal penalties for users who violate websites’ terms of service agreements, alleges the Justice Department.

  There are two ways to interpret the DOJ's push to criminalize a breach of online “terms of service.”

The Civil-Libertarian Interpretation

  The civil-libertarian interpretation is that the DOJ finds the use of fake names and information on the Internet to be a barrier to collecting the personal data it desires for monitoring peaceful behavior. But passing legislation to outlaw “bad” data would be a lengthy, problematic process, during which civil-liberties and privacy advocates would howl. Thus, the DOJ is attempting to sidestep the process by interpreting existing laws in a new way.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Gene Policinski: ‘Occupy’ crackdowns limited by First Amendment

  The comparisons have already started — police in Egypt attacking demonstrators with clubs and tear gas, and police in a number of U.S. cities breaking up “Occupy” camps with clubs and tear gas.

  If you’re a demonstrator in Cairo or Oakland, any difference between foreign and domestic nightsticks and pepper spray probably doesn’t matter a whit. And the outrage by some over police tactics in New York City and on the campus of UC Davis in California is just as real as the international condemnation of crackdowns in several Middle Eastern nations as the hopes of the Arab Spring hit the harsh realities of realpolitik Winter.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

William Flanagan: Be Thankful for immigrants

  Our nation celebrates Thanksgiving this week, as we’ve done every year officially since 1863 and unofficially since the first immigrants stepped ashore in Florida, Virginia, and Massachusetts in the late 1500s and early 1600s. On this holiday, Americans of all ethnic and racial backgrounds commemorate the spirit of friendship and welcoming exhibited in particular by the Wampanoag tribe in 1621 toward the newly arrived Plymouth colonists.

  The early colonists came to this country for new opportunity—to seek their fortune, escape persecution, and provide a better life for themselves and their children. Others came in chains but after the end of slavery slowly found those same opportunities, too. Immigrants come to this country today for similar reasons, and we, like the Wampanoag tribe before us, should welcome them.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: The paths they take

  A few months ago I compared the route taken to Washington by our congressmen of 50 years ago to the paths of our delegation on the Potomac today. When their steps were studied it was amazing how similar the Alabama delegation of the 1960’s ascension to the Halls of Congress was in comparison. They all essentially had the same journey. They were born and raised in Alabama, went to the University of Alabama, were members of the Machine fraternity at the Capstone, went to law school at Alabama, then returned to their hometowns to practice law before being elected to Congress, usually at a fairly young age. Many, if not most, had taken a short detour to serve in the military either in World War I or World War II. They also became active in the American Legion, which appeared to be an essential emblem to enter politics in that era.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Joseph O. Patton: End unemployment compensation! (So that more people can be on welfare.)

  We hear the refrain almost hourly: “People shouldn’t get unemployment payments! It’s a handout! They don’t deserve it! They should find a job! Grumble, grumble, grumble.”

  Invariably those who spew such sentiment are in jobs they feel are secure with ample pay and reasonable benefits… but they’re only a layoff, a catastrophic accident or medical problem away from having to pick up the phone and file for unemployment compensation themselves.

  Nor does it take into account the false premise that one can simply skip along doling out resumes and expect a job to magically appear. The current rate of hopelessness appears as such: There is only one job opening on average for every five applicants. Math sucks, eh?

  But what is most telling… if not deliciously humorous… is that the cold-hearted and short-sighted among us who ignore the facts and readily comprehensible labor statistics are actually clamoring to harm their own wallets by reducing or eliminating unemployment benefits.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Top 10 reasons Alabama’s new immigration law is a disaster for the state’s economy

     The immigration law is much worse than Jefferson County's bankruptcy as far as industrial recruiting. At some point, Jefferson County [the most populous county in the state] will come out from bankruptcy. But we may be stuck with this destructive immigration law from here on.

- David Bronner, chief of Alabama Retirement Systems.

  Alabama’s new immigration law, H.B. 56, will destroy the state’s economy. Its “show your papers” provisions are causing both lawful and undocumented workers to flee the state, crippling businesses. An economist at the University of Alabama estimates that the state economy would lose $40 million if only 10,000 undocumented immigrants stopped working in the state.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Michael Josephson: Kids like to win; Adults need to win

  Whether you’re a sports fan or not, you have to acknowledge the powerful cultural influence that sports have on our culture. The values of millions of participants and spectators are shaped by the values conveyed in sports, including our views of what is permissible and proper in the competitive pursuit of personal goals.

  Professional sports and even highly competitive intercollegiate sports seem irreversibly addicted to the idea that sports is basically a business and that the only thing that makes sports profitable is winning. And if that means we have to tolerate egocentric self-indulgent showboating or whining, violence or even cheating, so be it. Clearly these attitudes have invaded youth sports as well. Everywhere we see that a lot of adults — both coaches and parents — need to grow up and realize the game is not about either their egos or ambitions.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Gene Policinski: The Chilling power of GPS surveillance

  The First Amendment was not in plain sight Nov. 8 when the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments over a drug conviction involving police use of a hidden GPS tracking device without a search warrant.

  But the Court’s decision — expected next spring — will have implications for our First Amendment rights of association and free speech, owing to a legal concept called “practical obscurity.” That’s the notion that although much of our life takes place in plain view and in public spaces, in reality nobody but us has a complete view of our daily comings and goings.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: The Cain factor

  The Electoral College process of selecting a president rather than electing our nation’s chief executive diminishes Alabama’s importance in next November’s general election. Alabamians will vote for the Republican nominee whoever they are in the fall of 2012.

  Even though our proclivity for voting Republican for president renders us irrelevant in the general election, we will be able to put our two cents worth into who that person will be on March 13 in our Republican presidential primary.

  The early jockeying for position in the GOP presidential contest has been topsy turvy and unpredictable to say the least. The current frontrunner is the most unlikely candidate to be leading the field. At the present time the GOP faithful are flocking to Herman Cain. The surprising aspect of this infatuation is that the typical Republican is a white conservative.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Josh Carples: Why I have been silent so far on the “Occupy” movements

  As the managing editor of the Capital City Free Press, I have written news stories, editorials and political pieces and appeared as a political analyst on radio talk shows, yet I have been silent so far on the “Occupy Wall Street” movements.

  Yes, I use the plural “movements” purposefully, as there are many protests occurring in various cities across the country. On top of that, they all don’t have the same message. That is the cause of my silence.

  There are many messages I see and hear from news reports – people being interviewed and signage – that I can hold in agreement, but there are also things I may not, or at minimum, that I think could be worded more clearly.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The 10 numbers you need to know about Alabama’s anti-immigrant law

  Alabama’s H.B. 56, signed into law on June 9, 2011, is the nation’s harshest anti-immigrant law. The bill makes it a crime to be without status, requires law enforcement to check the papers of anyone they suspect of being undocumented, mandates that public schools check the legal status of their students, abrogates any contract made with an undocumented immigrant, and makes it a felony for undocumented immigrants to contract with a government entity (including for such basic human rights as having water connected to your house).

  Here are the top 10 numbers you need to know about Alabama’s anti-immigrant law:

1. 2.5 percent—The percentage of Alabama’s population that is undocumented. That makes Alabama 20th in the nation in terms of the number of undocumented immigrants (120,000) residing there, well below states such as California (more than 2 million) or even Colorado (180,000).

Saturday, November 12, 2011

David L. Hudson, Jr.: Calif. school can bar students’ American flag T-shirts

  Public school officials in Morgan Hill, Calif., did not violate the First Amendment rights of students by prohibiting them from wearing American flag T-shirts on the Mexican holiday of Cinco de Mayo (May 5), a federal judge has ruled.

  In May 2010, an assistant principal at Live Oak High School ordered several students to remove their T-shirts emblazoned with the American flag, calling them “incendiary.” In June 2010, three students — known in court papers as M.D., D.M. and D.G. — sued in federal court, alleging a violation of their constitutional rights — including the right of free speech under the First Amendment.

  On Nov. 8, U.S. District Judge James Ware granted summary judgment to the school defendants, ruling against the students in Dariano v. Morgan Hill Unified School District. The students’ attorneys vowed to appeal.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Cameron Smith and Gary Palmer: A Small price to pay for public pensions

  This year, public employees in Alabama saw the first part of what will ultimately be a 2.5% increase in retirement contributions in an effort to shore up the state’s retirement systems. The Alabama Education Association (AEA) and Democrat legislators have cast the new contribution requirements as a “pay cut” and launched the common refrain that Alabama’s Republican leadership balances budgets on the backs of teachers and state employees.

  The truth is that Alabama’s taxpayers have increasingly shouldered the burden of public employee pensions for over a decade. Alabamians’ tax contributions to buttress public employee pensions have increased from slightly more than $300 million in 2000 to almost a billion dollars in 2010. These taxpayer dollars go directly into the current and future retirement benefits of state and education employees, benefits far superior to those most Alabama taxpayers have for their own retirement.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Jessica Arons: Mississippians rightfully reject Personhood Amendment

  Mississippi voters yesterday soundly defeated Initiative 26, the so-called Personhood Amendment, by a margin of 58 percent to 42 percent. The vague proposition, which would have defined a fertilized egg as a person, threatened a multitude of untold consequences. The Mississippi constitution alone has 9,000 references to the word “person,” aside from the number of times it appears in state statutes.

But the known consequences were numerous and chilling:

    A total ban on abortion in all circumstances
    A ban on most forms of birth control, including the pill and emergency contraception
    A ban on many aspects of common fertility treatments
    A ban on stem cell research

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: Hampered by the Electoral College

  The 2012 presidential contest has begun and is in full swing. President Barack Obama is running hard and raising tons of money. The GOP field is formulating and these aspirants are also out shaking the money tree.

  It cost a lot to run for president. These funds will be raised in all 50 states. Sadly, however, the campaign dollars will only be spent in about a dozen states. We in Alabama will not be part of the presidential election process. However, neither will the two largest states, California and New York.

  The antiquated system of electing our president through an electoral college has made most Americans’ votes for president irrelevant. This is sad and egregiously wrong. It is unconscionable that a country that calls itself the greatest democracy in the world does not elect its national president by a direct vote of the people in which the person who gets the most votes is elected president.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Charles C. Haynes: Sixth-grader wins round for student religious expression

  If you wonder why many Christian parents view public schools as hostile to their faith, talk to Michael Ayers — father of a sixth-grader in the Pocono Mountain School District in northeastern Pennsylvania.

  Last December, his little girl wanted to hand out invitations to schoolmates inviting them to a church Christmas party. Because kids were routinely allowed to distribute fliers inviting students to birthday parties, dances and other activities, K.A. (as she is described in court filings) assumed she could pass hers out, too.

  But after reviewing the flier, school officials said no. Angered by what the family viewed as school censorship of religion, Ayers filed a lawsuit on behalf of his then fifth-grade daughter.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Gary Palmer: The Green Economy: Costly and economically damaging

  The federal government’s considerable efforts to create a “green” economy are losing big money. To make it worse, data from other nations that have tried to create a green economy indicates that more job losses are coming. The news of bankruptcy filings by U.S. green energy companies that received hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded loans just adds to the frustration with the Obama Administration over the poor economy and high unemployment.

  Solyndra, one of President Obama’s model green companies and the largest recipient of taxpayer-provided largesse at $535 million, was supposed to manufacture solar panels.  However, the collapse of solar energy markets in Germany and Spain, along with the fact that China produces solar panels at much lower costs, doomed the company. That’s right … over half a billion of taxpayer dollars went right into the green money pit.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Jennifer Marshall: ‘Single Ladies’ not giving up on marriage

  Alongside The Atlantic magazine’s November cover story, “All the Single Ladies,” runs a photograph of its 39-year-old author. In a fawn-colored silk dress and up-do, Kate Bolick contemplatively sips champagne as a bridal bouquet flies over her head.

  Like many of her never-married peers, she’s scrupulously ignoring the traditional toss. Indeed, as the age of first marriage climbs higher, more single wedding-goers are evading the bouquet, having years ago disproved the catch confirms the next bride-to-be.

  The ritual is yet another reminder of an unrealized longing for marriage.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Scott Lilly: Creating Unemployment: How Congressional budget decisions are putting Americans out of work

  Most of the nearly 14 million people across our country who are currently unemployed can blame their situation on the inability of Congress and the White House to sufficiently cushion the economy from the financial crisis that began in 2007. But a growing number of unemployed Americans today are the victims of actions taken by the current Congress aimed deliberately at eliminating jobs.

  Even worse, many of these jobs are ones that will have to be performed at some point in the next several years and taxpayers will eventually pay the bill. Delaying the work not only sucks jobs out of the weak economy but also in many instances costs the government more money and over time, and serves to increase rather than decrease the public debt. This report examines some of the job-elimination efforts by the current Congress and the growing impact this is having on individuals, families, and communities around the country.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: Previewing Alabama judicial races

  The 2012 elections are one year away. The presidential contest will be the marquee event. We will not have many state offices up for grabs. Most of our high profile posts are on the ballot in gubernatorial years. Most of the action next year will be for state judicial seats.

  Because we are now a one party state when it comes to statewide positions all of the action will be in the GOP primary. Our courts have actually been controlled by the Republican Party for close to two decades. Our state appellate judiciary is 100% Republican. Our Supreme Court is nine out of nine. Although five of the nine Supreme Court seats are up for election, it is a safe bet that all nine seats will be held by Republicans when the votes are counted and the dust has settled next November. The Democrats may not even field candidates.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Tim Kelly: Ron Paul’s radical deal

  Several Republican presidential candidates have rolled out economic plans they claim will jumpstart the moribund U.S. economy and narrow the nation’s yawning fiscal gap.

  Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s plan creates an optional 20 percent flat income tax, restricts federal spending to 18 percent of GDP, and seeks a balanced budget by 2020. His plan also calls for lowering the corporate tax to 20 percent and ending other taxes, including the estate tax and taxes on many capital gains and Social Security benefits.

  Georgia businessman Herman Cain has enjoyed a recent surge in the polls after he proposed scrapping the entire federal tax code and replacing it with 9 percent taxes on corporate and personal incomes, and a 9 percent federal sales tax. The plan has come to be known as the “9-9-9 Plan.”