Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Eric Alterman: As Ronald Reagan said... Oh never mind

  Conservative media outlets are falling all over themselves looking for the “true” heir to Ronald Reagan. (For a telling example see here.) But one area in which pretty much all conservatives today are completely off base when it comes to Reaganism is capital-gains taxation.

  Take David Frum, who has developed a reputation of late as being among the most thoughtful of prominent conservative commentators. He has twice recently made the conservative case for minimal capital-gains taxation here and here. In doing so, he defends a position held by virtually every conservative (and would-be Reaganite) in America.

  Thing is, Ronald Reagan actually raised capital-gains taxes.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Charles C. Haynes: In R.I., a student’s lesson in religious freedom

  At the tender age of 16, Jessica Ahlquist has already endured more verbal abuse than most people experience in a lifetime.

  A high school student in Cranston, R.I., Jessica has been taunted and threatened at school, targeted by an online hate campaign, and called “an evil little thing” by a state representative on the radio.

  Her crime? She asked school officials to remove a “school prayer” banner from the auditorium of Cranston West High School. Addressed to “Our Heavenly Father,” the prayer banner was presented to the school by the class of 1963 and has been affixed to the wall as a mural ever since.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Gary Palmer: Keystone XL Decision: Another energy policy that hurts the poor

  In his State of the Union Address, President Obama reaffirmed his commitment to spread the wealth around by using “government power to balance the scale between America’s rich and the rest of the public ….”

  But the truth is the policies of this Administration are increasing the financial burdens of the poor.

  How so?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Laurence M. Vance: Food stamp politicians

  Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is in hot water for referring to Barack Obama as “the food-stamp president.”

  The NAACP and the National Urban League have sharply criticized Gingrich for saying that “the African-American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps.”

  In the FOX News Republican presidential debate held in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, on January 16, Gingrich was asked about these things by panelist Juan Williams. Gingrich denied that he was insulting black Americans and seeking to belittle people and stated, “The fact is that more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any president in American history.”

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: Gambling on another trial

  The second round of the gambling corruption trial begins this Monday in Federal Court in Montgomery. Last year’s first trial ended in a victory for all defendants. A jury of 11 women and one man quickly returned not guilty verdicts on 91 charges and could not reach a unanimous decision on 33 charges. Two defendants, Montgomery State Senator Quinton Ross and lobbyist Bob Geddie, were cleared of all charges. The remaining seven defendants go on trial Monday. The odds favor their acquittal.

  In the first trial the defendants’ lawyers were so confident that the prosecution had failed to make a case that they never even offered any rebuttal testimony. The 91 to 0 score proves that they were correct in their course of action. The federal government spent millions of taxpayer dollars, used every trick in the book, and spent weeks offering testimony and witnesses and still got embarrassed by the decision.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Michael Josephson: The Peculiar concept of “ethics laws”

  Cynicism about the ethics of elected officials may be at an all-time high, continually fueled by new stories of outright corruption or bad judgment. At every level of government there are politicians who can’t seem to recognize or resist conflicts of interest, inappropriate gifts, improper use of the power or property entrusted to them, or the discrediting impact of shameful private conduct.

  Thus, it’s no surprise that news media are continually shining light on real and perceived improprieties and putting the heat on federal, state, and city legislatures to pass new and tougher ethics laws to restore public trust.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Edwin Feulner, Ph.D.: Top ten, but falling

  If you were to rank the countries of the world in terms of economic freedom, where would the United States fall? First, or at least in the top three? The top five, surely.

  Because there is, in fact, a resource that ranks every country by this measure -- the 2012 Index of Economic Freedom, and the United States comes in at No. 10. That’s right: the nation that is supposed to lead the world in liberty finishes behind nine others, including Ireland, Chile, Switzerland and Canada. Even the small African nation of Mauritius beats us.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Gene Policinski: Loving free speech is easy, until we hate what somebody said

  Does anybody have a sense of humor anymore?

  The First Amendment’s role in protecting free speech is to shelter remarks that most people don’t like. Words that everybody finds acceptable need no defense.

  In between those two polar points is the daily give-and-take of discourse. The verbal tumult of braggadocio, insults, satire and plain speaking can pass the time of day or give rise to what lawyers and Supreme Court justices politely call “robust discussion.”

  There’s no First Amendment requirement for civility, politeness or any constitutional test for relevance, deep meaning or common sense. Still, most of us use the freedom to speak to say something worth hearing.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Sheldon Richman: A Fitting symbol of the American Empire

  The image of four U.S. marines urinating on the corpses of Afghan fighters is a fitting symbol of American intervention in Central Asia and the Middle East. That picture will live forever in the memories of people in the region, along with the pictures from Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison.

  Most Americans aren’t much interested in making fine distinctions in foreign affairs. As Republican presidential contender Ron Paul points out, the Taliban (U.S. allies against the Soviets) never wished the American people harm. What they oppose is a foreign presence in their country, Russian or American, and they have no desire to attack anyone who stays home and minds his own business.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Eric Alterman: The Tea Party: Struggling for political relevance

  In the New York Times this past Sunday, Sam Tanenhaus, senior editor of the New York Times Book Review and a student of conservatism, pronounced the impending death of the Tea Party. He noted that “even in South Carolina, a seat of conservative activism, the opposition to Mr. Romney appears to be fragmented and diffuse, as Matt Bai reports this weekend in The Times Magazine. Others have put the case more bluntly. ‘Where’s the Tea Party?’ a headline in Politico asked last week.”

  My, what a difference a presidential election year makes. In the same article Tanenhaus quotes William Kristol, publisher and editor of The Weekly Standard, who “exulted that the Tea Party protest was ‘the best thing that has happened to the Republican Party in recent times.’” However misguided, Kristol, a true believer in conservative power divorced as an end in and of itself, can be forgiven for believing the hype he published in his own magazine and consumed elsewhere in the media. As for the rest of us, well, it seems we never really fell for the conservative hype or the misguided rush to embrace this idea by the mainstream media.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: 1970s court ruling still impacts the Alabama Legislature today

  Last week I discussed the inordinate power that Black Belt senators wielded in the legislature during most of the past century. This power was garnered through the practice of Black Belt counties’ wisdom in keeping their legislative delegation in place for a long time. They seldom would be opposed and would usually die in office. This created a wealth of knowledge, experience and seniority for the region. However, the primary reason was that the state legislature was egregiously malapportioned.

  The legislature was malapportioned from the beginning of the 1901 Constitution and because the legislature refused to reapportion for over 60 years it became unbelievably out of balance. Even though North Alabama had more people, they had less representation. This terrible injustice was finally rectified in the 1970’s. It was done by the federal courts. The courts drew the lines to give representation to black Alabamians. In the process they also gave fair and equal representation to North Alabama.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Richard Schwartzman: Be careful what you wish for

  Mitt Romney’s recent comment about how he would repeal Obamacare if elected president was almost laughable. After all, Romney was the man who brought the same type of mandatory health coverage to Massachusetts when he was that state’s governor.

  Government healthcare has been a political issue for generations, and interest accelerated during the Clinton years, when it was called “Hillarycare.” But Mitt delivered Romneycare.

  No matter whose name is on the alleged care, it’s government controlled, and that’s a problem for at least two reasons: the practical and the constitutional.

Monday, January 16, 2012

David L. Hudson Jr.: Honoring Martin Luther King’s legacy of freedom

  Today, a federal holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., people should take time to remember and reflect on how the First Amendment can better society.

  Without the First Amendment, protesters could not have assembled and voiced their clarion call for an end to segregation laws. Without the First Amendment, the press would not have been able to report as freely on civil rights abuses.

  King himself exercised his First Amendment freedoms at great peril. He faced arrest numerous times for his willingness to challenge local officials and galvanize people for social change.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Gary Palmer: Voter ID protects right to honest elections

  Alabama is once again at odds with the U.S. Department of Justice … this time over the voter ID law that the Alabama State Legislature passed during the 2011 legislative session.

  Alabama joined six other states, including South Carolina, in passing a law that requires voters to present some form of picture ID such as a driver’s license before they will be allowed to vote. Similar laws passed by Georgia and Indiana have already been upheld in federal court. Even though Alabama’s new law makes exceptions for the very few people who do not have a photo ID,  that may not be enough to prevent the U.S. Justice Department from filing suit.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Charles C. Haynes: Pagans, atheists, Christians and the battle for equal treatment

  Religious freedom is hugely popular in America — until, of course, it’s applied to unpopular groups.

  Consider North Windy Ridge Intermediate School in Buncombe County, N.C. In December, school officials arranged for students to come by the office during break to pick up Bibles donated by the Gideons.

  In the view of many people in the community (especially those of the majority faith), outside groups like the Gideons should have a religious-liberty right to distribute Bibles in public schools.

  But then Ginger Strivelli, a parent with a child in the school, brought pagan spell books for the school to make available in the same way — and, poof, the distribution policy disappeared.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Laurence M. Vance: Three views on the Drug War

  One of the most important things the Republican congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul said as a guest on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno recently was what he said during his backstage interview after the show was over.

  The first thing Representative Paul was asked was a question submitted by a Jay Leno Facebook fan: “Are you gonna legalize marijuana?” His answer was that he was “not going to enforce any federal laws against marijuana.” He went on to say that there was “no authority in the Constitution to regulate anything a person puts in their body.”

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: Alabama’s legislative civil war

  Ever since Alabama’s creation as a state in 1819 there has existed a political rivalry between North and South Alabama. This tug of war has mostly been played out in the legislative arena. The North Alabamians have perceived, and rightfully so, that they have generally gotten the short end of the stick.

  Historically, this advantage has gone to the area of the state known as the Black Belt. This area runs across the southern and middle portion of the state and has rich black soil. This fertile soil was conducive to growing cotton, which was the South’s staple cash crop for over 100 years. Therefore, the planters who owned this rich soil became rich from the cash it produced. They also owned all of the slaves in the state.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Becky Norton Dunlop: How liberty can fuel energy production

  Freedom, opportunity, prosperity and a civil society have made America exceptional. But without energy — secure and affordable energy — many of our great accomplishments would not have been possible.

  Unfortunately, our already tenuous energy security is being threatened and diminished by policies emanating from Washington. That need not be the case, and conservatives can meet the challenges we face by applying important principles of a free society to natural resource and energy policies.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Alex Rothman, Lawrence J. Korb: Defense in an Age of Austerity

  In the decade since 9/11, defense spending has grown by more than 60 percent in real terms, reaching levels not seen since World War II. This year the total defense budget will top $675 billion when one takes into account the Defense Department’s baseline budget and supplemental funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s about $200 billion more than we spent on average during the Cold War. This level of spending is dramatically out of proportion with the threats facing our country.

  Unnecessary defense spending does not make our nation safer. In these times of fiscal austerity, each dollar spent on defense diverts resources away from other critical investments in the American economy—the real foundation of the United States’ global power.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Gary Palmer: Unconstitutional appointments violate oath of office

  The primary focus of the 2012 election has been the economy, but there is another major issue that should be on voters’ minds in November … the blatant disrespect and disregard of the Constitution.

  With President Barack Obama’s appointment of Richard Cordray as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the President brushed aside the Constitution’s requirement for all presidential appointees to be approved by the United States Senate. In addition to appointing Cordray, Obama also bypassed the Senate by appointing three new members to the National Labor Relations Board.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Eric Alterman: Conservatives prefer Reagan fantasies to reality (And so did Reagan)

  A bizarre incident took place during the “60 Minutes” interview with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) on New Year’s Day: When Leslie Stahl asked Rep. Cantor whether he would be willing to compromise with President Barack Obama to improve the legislative performance of the current Congress, Rep. Cantor responded: “Compromising principles, you don't want to ask anybody to do that. That's who they are as their core being.”

  When Stahl replied that President Ronald Reagan, Rep. Cantor’s “idol,” had compromised, Rep. Cantor stuck to his guns, replying, “He never compromised his principles.”

  Stahl, at the ready, answered, “Well, he raised taxes and it was one of his principles not to raise taxes.”

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: To those who have the cash…

  The older you get you realize that old adages you heard as a child are actually accurate such as sayings like “if you have your health you have everything.” Golfers will attest that the sporting phrase, “you drive for show and putt for dough” or “it ain’t how you drive, it’s how you arrive” are par for the course.

  The most on point political analogy is that “money is the mother’s milk of politics.” It is generally the truest test of the viability of a campaign. Generally speaking, the best political candidates are the best fundraisers. Many times an incumbent candidate’s large political war chest wards off opposition. A good example would be our senior U.S. Senator Richard Shelby. It would be ludicrous for a challenger to take on Shelby, who has a campaign account bulging with $18 million. Shelby should start a fundraising school for aspiring politicians.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

J. L. Johnson: The Job Creator Myth

  Let us assume that the Republicans who tell us that they do not want to raise taxes because doing so would hurt the "job creator" just do not know what they are telling us. We would otherwise have to say they are liars. To begin to understand the reality of the "job creator" myth, begin with an understanding that only the top 5% of income earners realize tax savings that make it possible to create a job above a poverty level income with their tax savings, and the small businesses that are the job creating engines of our economy are not among them.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Fergus Hodgson: Frustrated with immigrants? Just wait until they leave

  The enforcement of laws against illegal immigrants remains a bone of contention between states and the federal government (and on the GOP presidential campaign trail), and the U.S. Supreme Court has now agreed to weigh in on the issue. There is, however, an irony to this battle that appears to be lost on deportation proponents: many people are already leaving voluntarily or choosing not to come.

  That’s right, for the first time in sixty years, net illegal migration from Mexico has gone to zero; it may even have tipped into the negatives. Approximately six out of ten illegal immigrants in the United States originate from Mexico, but in just the past three years apprehensions along the southern border have fallen by 53 percent. In fact, the Pew Hispanic Center puts the current number of illegal immigrants at 11.2 million, down from a peak of 12 million in 2007.

Monday, January 2, 2012

David Weinberger: From time to trains, government is no innovator

  On virtually every policy issue and in most sectors of the economy, the left’s solutions call for bigger government. The clear implication of that worldview: We should trust government bureaucrats more than private individuals to innovate, create and provide prosperity and general well-being.

  President Obama argued in a recent speech on the economy, for instance, that we need to “make the investments … in things like education and research and high-tech manufacturing.”