Saturday, March 31, 2012

Heather Boushey: New Ryan plan is austerity on steroids

  The latest House Republican budget plan asks low-income and middle-class Americans to shoulder the entire burden of deficit reduction while simultaneously delivering massive tax breaks to the richest 1 percent and preserving huge giveaways to Big Oil. It’s a recipe for repeating the mistakes of the Bush administration, during which middle-class incomes stagnated and only the privileged few enjoyed enormous gains.

  Each component of the new House Republican budget threatens the middle class while doing nothing to add jobs or improve our economy. It ends the guarantee of decent insurance for senior citizens, breaking Medicare’s bedrock promise. It slashes investments in education, infrastructure, and basic research, all of which are key drivers of economic growth and mobility. And it cuts taxes for those at the top, asking the middle class to pick up the tab. It’s a budget designed to benefit the top 1 percent at everyone else’s expense.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: The Casualties of the budget crunch

  The 2012 Alabama Legislative Session is in its seventh week and they are no closer to finding a solution to the daunting financial dilemma facing the General Fund Budget than when the session began on February 7th. There is even some talk that decisions or solution to the nightmare may be delayed to a special session later this year - closer to the start of the fiscal year - which begins October 1st. However, that procrastinating would cost the beleaguered General Fund an additional $200,000 that it does not have at this time. Maybe the legislature is hoping that some manna from heaven will rain down on them and they can avoid the Armageddon that awaits. This miracle has occurred the past few years in the form of federal stimulus dollars but that rodeo is over. The chickens have finally come home to roost.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Gary Palmer: Penalties for illegal gambling: Cost of business or a crime?

  If you wonder how much difference there is in the Alabama Legislature between the old Democrat majority and the new Republican majority that was elected in 2010, take a look at the bills that are on the agenda.

  From the early 1990s through the 2010 legislative session, gambling was the one issue that dominated the agenda of the Democrat-controlled legislature. During that time, gambling bills to legalize everything from full-scale casinos to video gambling machines posing as electronic bingo dominated practically every legislative session. Gambling interests spent millions of dollars to beat down opponents in an effort to get their gambling operations legalized … but according to Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard and Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, the days of the legislative session being held hostage by gambling interests are over.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Michael Josephson: The Paradoxical Commandments

  In 1968, when Kent M. Keith was a 19-year-old sophomore at Harvard University, he wrote “The Paradoxical Commandments” as part of a booklet for student leaders. He describes the Commandments as guidelines for finding personal meaning in the face of adversity:

1. People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway.

2. If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway.

3. If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Sheldon Richman: Defusing the Middle East would lower gas prices

  Republicans see rising oil and gasoline prices as an opportunity to score political points on President Obama. To be sure, Obama is partly responsible for the rise in world prices and could do something about it. The irony is that Republicans would emphatically oppose the one measure that would be most effective in easing the pressure on prices right now: defusing tension in the Middle East by taking the war threat against Iran off the table.

  Tension in the Middle East tends to push prices up, because the threat of war puts this major oil region under a darkening cloud of uncertainty. With Iran the tension is even greater because it is located on the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow waterway between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, 21 nautical miles at its narrowest point. Roughly 20 percent of the world’s oil moves through the strait, which is key for getting oil from the gulf countries to the rest of the world.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Ian Millhiser: Not Even Close: 3 Reasons why the health care lawsuit is an aasy case

  In the words of Judge Laurence Silberman, a leading conservative who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush, the lawsuits challenging the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that most Americans have to either carry health insurance or pay slightly more income taxes have no basis “in either the text of the Constitution or Supreme Court precedent.” Nevertheless, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit broke with three other appeals courts to hold the law unconstitutional last August.

  The 11th Circuit decision was wrong, and the Supreme Court will reject it. Here are the three reasons why.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Eric Snitil: Head in the clouds

View photos from this interview on the Capital City Free Press Facebook page!

  In this case, it's actually true... his head is in the clouds.

  Nestled away in a cavernous studio beneath a bank of lighting worthy of a Stones concert and corralled by a horde of monitors he sits, much like Alfred from the Batman films, only without the wrinkles or a buddy who sports a cape. I'm first struck by the fact that WSFA meteorologists cannot view the weather from this perch. The nearest window is lost somewhere down a labyrinth of hallways. I guess he's just that good....

  "I feel so fortunate," Eric Snitil says. "I shouldn't be here."

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: The End of old fashioned retail politics in Alabama

  I have a cadre of political friends around the state with whom I love to visit and talk politics. We regale stories of old campaigns and reminisce about tidbits of tales of Big Jim Folsom, George Wallace, Howell Heflin and other legendary icons and even embellish them a bit.

  Recently, we have lamented how politics has changed. In the old days, Wallace and Folsom would go from town to town with a country band and make 15 speeches a day and shake as many as 1000 hands daily and look folks squarely in the eye and ask them for their vote.

  That, my friends, was referred to as old fashioned retail politics. Today, you simply get on the phone or internet and raise money and buy television ads. The day of one-on-one state campaigning is over.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Mike Walker: National Debt: The Straw man... and pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

  In December 2002, Vice-President Dick Cheney, in a heated discussion with Treasury Paul O’Neal over the rapidly expanding national debt, famously said, “Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter.” Oddly, that was about as close to the truth as Cheney would ever come during the Bush administration, and the result of Cheney/Reagan and their theories of government and economics are looming darkly on the horizon.

  Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman wrote a series of articles for the New York Times at the end of 2011 and early in 2012 that gave a true picture of the “debt boogie man” we are cowering from today. He first described our foreign debt as being manageable, because for every dollar we owe foreign interests, those foreign interests owe us $.89. In other words, China does NOT own the United States and there is no threat, either imminent or remote, that they ever will. By far, the largest chunk of our national debt is money we owe to ourselves.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Richard Schwartzman: An Unlikely ally

  It’s unlikely that anyone would confuse Pat Robertson with Walter Cronkite. While both are known as broadcasters, Robertson — an evangelical Christian and host of The 700 Club on the Christian Broadcasting Network — is a controversial commentator in the conservative religious right. Cronkite, during his stint as anchor for the CBS Evening News, had such a reputation for political impartiality that he was called “the most trusted man in America. ”

  The story goes that Cronkite was so well trusted by his audience, the largest network news audience at the time, that when he did a commentary against the Vietnam War, then-president Lyndon Johnson reportedly turned to an aide and said, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost the country.”

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Gary Palmer: Is college the cure for conservatism?

  A 2009 article by William Voegeli entitled “The Roots of Liberal Condescension” quoted “UD,” a blogger for Inside Higher Ed: “We need to encourage everyone to be in college for as many years as they possibly can, in the hope that somewhere along the line they might get some exposure to the world outside their town, and to moral ideas not exclusively derived from their parents’ religion. If they don’t get this in college, they’re not going to get it anywhere else.”

  “UD” seems to suggest the cure for a Bible-believing Christian and/or Constitution-quoting conservative is college. “UD” acknowledges the importance of college, not so much for preparing people to participate in our workforce and civic life but for the purpose of fundamental re-education, deprogramming and reprogramming. Thus, for liberals, college is not only about academics but also expanding their political base.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Ian M. MacIsaac: Obama to Republican candidates on gas prices and alternative energy: You lie!

  President Obama said during a Thursday morning campaign appearance in Largo, Md. that the Republican presidential candidates blaming him for rising gas prices and decrying his plans for alternative energy were stuck in the past and hopelessly reactionary.

  “If some of these folks were around when Columbus set sail,” the president joked, they “would have been founding members of the Flat Earth Society—they would not have believed the Earth was round.”

  The U.S. is economy adding a steady 200 to 250,000 jobs each month, unemployment inching down closer and closer to 8 percent, and the Republicans are facing radically declining presidential election prospects as their main ammunition against the president—the weak economy—melts away.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Joseph O. Patton: Please, God... no Moore!

  Let's roleplay, kids! Say you're an employer and you have to fire someone the first week that guy is on the job. Would you hire him back?

  And yet, many Alabamians appear ready to do so, giving ousted Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore enough votes to bypass a runoff with Charlie Graddick and Chuck Malone in the Republican primary. Moore has effectively become our new chief justice since he'll only face token opposition from "Democrat" Harry Lyon in November.

  Surely you haven't forgotten good ole Roy! He made a name for himself by caring less about Alabama's courts and instead championing a near-fascist obsession with forcing the Ten Commandments onto courtroom walls... and pretty much anywhere else he could stick them. He was so obsessed that like a cat burglar lurking in the shadows, he hauled a 5,000 lb.+ monument into the state's judicial building under cover of darkness... without permission. Then when ordered to move it in a legally-binding demand from a U.S. District Court judge, he refused, in the process breaking the law. He was unceremoniously thrown out of office for violating the court order to remove the monument, making him an official law-breaker.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Ian M. MacIsaac: Santorum's southern sweep a fatal blow to Gingrich; Romney rides high on the delegate count

  Rick Santorum demolished Newt Gingrich Tuesday night on Gingrich's own southern turf of Alabama and Mississippi, leaving the former Speaker of the House with little evident reason to stay in the race as a conservative alternative to erstwhile frontrunner Mitt Romney, who got third place in both states.

  Santorum beat Gingrich 35-29% in Alabama and in Mississippi by 33-31%, leaving the former Speaker as runner-up in both contests. Romney's third-place finishes were nonetheless within a percentage point of Gingrich's second place spots, in both states.

  Although many had predicted Tuesday night would be a major psychological victory or loss for the Romney campaign, it was really all about Santorum's final domination of Gingrich.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sophia Kerby: The Top 10 most startling facts about people of color and criminal justice in the United States

  This month the United States is celebrating the Selma-to-Montgomery marches of 1965 to commemorate our shared history of the civil rights movement and our nation’s continued progress towards racial equality. Yet decades later a broken criminal-justice system has proven that we still have a long way to go in achieving racial equality.

  Today people of color continue to be disproportionately incarcerated, policed, and sentenced to death at significantly higher rates than their white counterparts. Further, racial disparities in the criminal-justice system threaten communities of color—disenfranchising thousands by limiting voting rights and denying equal access to employment, housing, public benefits, and education to millions more. In light of these disparities, it is imperative that criminal-justice reform evolves as the civil rights issue of the 21st century.

Monday, March 12, 2012

CD Review: Swank Sinatra: "El Terrible"

(Nophi/Blood Drunk)

  "Sold my soul to the devil for a pack of cigarettes. Should have asked for a lighter 'cause now I've got some regrets."

  From the ominous strains of The Prologue, you know you're in for a helluva musical jolt. "El Terrible" is the third release from Swank Sinatra, the Atlanta-based trio of Bob Place (guitarist, main vocalist), Brandon T. Pittman (bass, vocals) and Randy Garcia (drums, vocals). "El Terrible" follows "Joseph Merrick Was A Handsome Man" (2007) and "Don't Believe The Hype" (2010).

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Laurence M. Vance: Tax-credit hypocrisy

  There are always rallies, marches, and demonstrations taking place in the nation’s capital, but a recent event organized by the American Mustache Institute was certainly one of the most unusual to ever take place.

  Members of the American Mustache Institute (AMI), a tongue-in-cheek advocacy group with the mission of “protecting the rights of, and fighting discrimination against, mustached Americans by promoting the growth, care, and culture of the mustache,” held a news conference in front of the U.S. Capitol building on President’s Day in support of a tax break for men with facial hair.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Ian M. MacIsaac: A Super Tuesday not so super for Romney, the man who would be presumptive nominee

  The term "Super Tuesday" has been in use since at least 1976 to refer to any day on which presidential primary elections were to be held in multiple states simultaneously. In its contemporary incarnation--such as "Super Tuesday" in 2004 and the corresponding day in 2008--it usually refers to a Tuesday in February or early March on which so many primaries have been scheduled that, if a clear popular favorite for a party’s nomination exists, he or she will almost certainly be identified. It worked for the Democrats in 2004, and the Republicans in 2000 and 2008.

  In 2012, however, Super Tuesday is not so super. The big day did not help the Republicans--the only party holding competitive primaries this election cycle--to end their grueling primary fight.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: Primary day in a one-party state

  We are less than one week away from the primary. That is singular for one primary. We are now a one party state when it comes to statewide politics. The only reason that anyone will ask for a Democratic ballot Tuesday is if they want to vote for a local candidate for judge or county commissioner.

  Only one Democrat qualified to run for any of the statewide judicial races this year. Harry Lyon is a perennial joke candidate who simply puts his name on the ballot every year. The last time he was on the ballot he received half a percentage point of the vote.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Josh Carples: Countdown to apathy: 2012

  I think I'm beginning to understand apathy...

  ...and I don't really like it.

  I vote, but I'm starting to understand why some people don't.

  The national election train wreck has been happening for quite a while now. I won't even say "recent" because Mitt Romney has been running for president for what - 8 years or something?

Mike Walker: Republican war on women – Growing like a weed, fertilized by religion

  The ongoing Republican War on Women is kind of like a game of whack-a-mole. Every time you bang one stupid idea in the head, two more even stupider ideas pop up somewhere else. Think about it. Access to contraception should be controlled and regulated by the states. A fertilized egg is a person with full constitutional rights. A woman considering an abortion for any reason should be required to jump through an exponentially growing number of arbitrary hoops. Women should not serve in combat.  Organizations like Planned Parenthood that serve as the primary source of a variety of health care services for low-income women should have their funding ended.

  Then you have the comments made by leaders in the Republican Party. Ugly and vicious attacks like Rush Limbaugh’s hate-filled rant about Sandra Fluke. Attacks on the Girl Scouts for “promoting lesbianism, feminism, and Planned Parenthood.” Rick Santorum’s suggestion that allowing access to contraception was “a license to do things in the sexual realm that is (sic) counter to how things are supposed to be.” (Apparently since pregnancy affects men much less than women, it’s OK for men to do a little “realm” exploration from time to time.) Foster Friess, a strong financial backer of Rick Santorum, made a sophomoric joke about women using an “aspirin held between the knees” to back up his notion that every woman should be able to afford contraception without health insurance coverage.

Monday, March 5, 2012

David Madland: Americans care about economic inequality

  Americans care deeply about our record-high levels of inequality and believe our economic system favors the wealthy. While some conservatives argue that Americans don’t care about economic inequality, a review of recent polling shows this claim to be utterly false. Moreover, Americans would prefer significantly less economic inequality than we currently have and think government should address the issue.

  Americans are more concerned with equality of opportunity—97 percent of Americans think everyone in America should have equal opportunities to get ahead—than with equality of results. But as we show below, they are quite concerned about the level of inequality we currently have, and critically, Americans believe that high levels of inequality reduce the opportunity for people to get ahead.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Michael Josephson: Being basically honest

  After a workshop, a fellow came up to me and complained that I had made him feel uncomfortable. “I’m not perfect,” he said, “But I’m basically honest.” His implication was that it’s unfair to expect people to be honest all the time.

  His comment reminded me of a cartoon where one fellow confided to another, “I admire Webster’s honesty, but his insistence on being scrupulously honest is really annoying.”

  Look, I’m not an honesty absolutist. I think it was okay to lie to Nazis to save innocent lives, and I approve of police lying during undercover operations to catch drug dealers or corrupt politicians. I also think it’s okay to tell your grandmother you really like the sweater she knitted or let young children believe in the Tooth Fairy.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Sheldon Richman: Out of Afghanistan now!

  Memo from the people of Afghanistan to the United States: Get out! Now!

  The mass demonstrations in Afghanistan, punctuated by anti-American violence, carry a clear message: After more than a decade, the U.S. empire should pack up and leave. It’s long past time.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Mike Walker: Rush Limbaugh and Sandra Fluke – Why hatred has become part of America

  Hate. Such a strong and loaded word. A word that has become more and more tightly woven into our political discourse over the past 20 years. A psychological characteristic that once was considered deeply negative, but has now become routine, mundane and acceptable. We hate rich people, we hate poor people, we hate gay people, we hate religious people, we hate blacks, we hate Muslims, we hate, and we hate, and we hate some more.