Monday, April 30, 2012

Ken Paulson: School handled ‘Jesus costume’ incident well

  A couple of unexpected things happened at Summit High School in Spring Hill, Tenn., earlier this year.

  The first was that sophomore Jeff Shott showed up at the public high school to participate in “fictional character day” dressed as Jesus.

  The second was that he was not expelled.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Larry M. Elkin: An Immigrant-friendly Republican dares to dream

  Successful politicians, by definition, look for opportunities to advance themselves and their parties. Occasionally, the right thing to do and the politically expedient thing to do are one and the same.

  Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., last week proposed a compromise on the Dream Act that promises to serve both as a means of partially repairing the relationship between the Republican Party and Hispanic voters and as a way for young people who are American by experience, if not by birth, to legally stay in the country they know as home.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Sheldon Richman: An Echo, not a choice

  With Mitt Romney’s sweep of Tuesday’s primaries, he will almost certainly be President Barack Obama’s Republican opponent in November. Romney has vowed to make the economy the chief issue against Obama, and he is sure to portray the president as an enemy of free enterprise in order to draw a contrast with himself. How fit is Romney’s claim to be a champion of economic freedom?

  The former Massachusetts governor and private-equity capitalist speaks often about free enterprise and the need for government to let entrepreneurship pull the economy out of its current doldrums. This sort of rhetoric is common for Republicans, who then proceed to violate economic freedom.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Gary Palmer and Cameron Smith: Coal-fired Alabama on EPA's "most wanted" list

  As if an economy struggling to recover were not enough, Alabamians are truly starting to feel the financial pinch of trips to the gas pump and higher monthly electric bills. The cost increases impact more than just travel and utility bills; they are built into virtually every item made or transported in the United States. From groceries to clothes, kitchen table discussions about budgets are becoming more difficult for families across Alabama.

  To make matters worse, the federal government is adding to the mounting fiscal burden. Taxpayers face an army of federal bureaucrats tasked with regulatory development and oversight – more than 270,000 of them at the end of 2010.  Each regulatory employee enforces specific regulations published in the Federal Register. The register has grown by more than 3,000% since 1936, from 2,620 pages of regulations to more than 80,000 at the end of 2011.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: Tornadoes and tough economic times

  This week marks the one year anniversary of the devastating tornados that struck the state on April 27th of last year.

  The tornados that ravaged the state that day are considered the worst natural disaster in Alabama history. There were a total of 62 tornadoes that pummeled Alabama. The storms left 250 people dead, over 2,800 injured and 23,500 homes damaged or destroyed. These figures could have actually been worse. Some of the funnel clouds were over a mile wide with record breaking high winds. Some of the worst damage was done in Tuscaloosa.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Gene Policinski: In the military, speech can be punishable conduct

  When it comes to freedom of speech and members of the U.S. armed forces, there’s always been an obvious irony: The very people who risk their lives in defense of the First Amendment live under regulations banning their full use of it.

  The global reach of the web, combined with the explosion of social-media tools such as Facebook and Twitter, challenges how military rules rooted in the Civil War apply in the Internet age.

  Such is the background for the continuing saga of U.S. Marine Sgt. Gary Stein, an active-duty Iraqi War veteran whose online diatribe some weeks ago about President Barack Obama may well lead to an other-than-honorable discharge and loss of veterans’ benefits.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Michael Josephson: The Application of religion to work, home and your daily life

  Most Americans say they’re religious and their beliefs are important to their lives, yet I’m astonished at how many blatantly ignore the moral expectations intrinsic to their religion.

  Religion isn’t about only worship and ritual; it teaches believers how to live. Thus, the holy books of every major religion are filled with precepts and principles about honesty, justice, fidelity, compassion, and charity that leave no doubt about the role ethics and personal virtue should play in our daily lives at home and at work.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Chet E. Green: Knighthoods from cardboard swords - Why the nation exaggerates its praise for the military

  The evidence is in just two words, "hero" and "warrior." Overused, and inaccurately overused, they've been redefined. Once people had to voluntarily risk their physical safety to be heroes.

  Last March at a lecture he gave in Petoskey, Michigan, recent Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer referred several times to four names on his wrist. The men were slain fellow Marines and a Corpsman. "They're the heroes," he said. But today simply enlisting is called a brave act. As for the term "warrior," modern arms include night-vision gear, direct-fire rockets and computerized smart guns that hit people hiding behind rocks, but "warrior" conjures images like samurai and Prince Valiant. Chain mail can almost be heard clicking and chinging.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Charles C. Haynes: Tennessee’s science law: Academic freedom or monkey business?

  Depending on whose press release you believe, Tennessee’s new science law either promotes “academic freedom” or “allows creationism to be taught in public schools.”

  Enacted on April 10, the legislation instructs school officials not to prohibit teachers from informing students about the “scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses” of “scientific controversies” such as biological evolution.

  Science education groups are outraged, arguing that the law has nothing to do with academic freedom — and everything to do with finding new ways to undermine the teaching of evolution with trumped-up “controversies” and unscientific “weaknesses” disguised as science.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Kiley Kroh, Michael Conathan: The Lasting impact of Deepwater Horizon

  Two years ago an explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico took the lives of 11 men and spewed nearly 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf. It took 9,700 vessels, 127 aircraft, 47,829 people, nearly 2 million gallons of toxic dispersants, and 89 days to stop the gush of oil. But the work to restore the ecosystem and Gulf economy has only just begun.

  The regional oil and gas industry hasn’t skipped a beat despite claims from Big Oil and drilling advocates in Congress that the moratorium on deepwater drilling imposed in the wake of the spill devastated the Gulf economy. The New Orleans Times-Picayune found that oil-fueled economies in the Houma area are humming along just fine. And according to a recent Reuters analysis, Gulf drillers will be busier this year than at any point since the spill, adding eight new deepwater rigs and bringing the total count to 29, just shy of pre-spill levels.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: A losing bet

  Last month’s bingo gambling trial ended as expected. All six of the defendants were found not guilty by a Montgomery federal jury. The first trial lasted almost the entire summer of 2011. Federal prosecutors put on elaborate testimony and tapes and brought 138 charges. The jury in that case found no validity in 99 of those counts against nine original defendants. Even in the face of this humiliating defeat, where they spent over $30 million and got no convictions, they astonishingly sought a second trial. The second jury, which mirrored the first one demographically found the remaining six defendants not guilty on the 27 remaining counts.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Julien Guerard : Embracing true American equality

  One of the fundamental pillars of American society has come to be the unwavering desire to promote and achieve equality. Unfortunately, we as Americans have strayed from this founding principle and have tried to make equality a man made endeavor. Through unorthodox practices such as affirmative action in education and the workplace and the progressive tax system, America has abandoned equality as an entire entity. In order to get back on the right track we as Americans must insist that our elected representatives promote the undying and righteous principle of equality of opportunity.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Ken Paulson: Legislators: Think of liberties first, then draft bills

  When I was a young reporter covering the Florida Legislature in 1980, I was amazed at the number of proposed bills that would be unlikely to pass constitutional muster. They were so obviously flawed that, if passed, they would quickly be struck down.

  I wrote a story about the process, quoting legislators who supported bills built on shaky ground. I can still recall their collective response: They didn’t care.

  As I learned then, legislators at all levels work to serve the public and to get re-elected, in varying proportions. Lawmakers who introduce bills that please their constituents may not be overly concerned whether a judge will be as pleased somewhere down the road.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Daniel J. Weiss, Jackie Weidman: Is Big Oil rigging gasoline prices?

  Cable news may be distracted by the latest presidential candidate gaffe or celebrity gossip, but gasoline prices are at the top of many Americans’ minds. To better understand their concerns, the Center for American Progress Action Fund commissioned a poll by Hart Research Associates in March 2012. It found that 59 percent of Americans experience financial hardship because of high gas prices, with large majorities of the public assigning a significant share of the blame to the major oil companies and Wall Street speculators.

  Gasoline prices have increased by 63 cents per gallon—or 19 percent—since the beginning of the year, hitting the highest price ever recorded in any March. The factors driving prices, however, are much less clear. The fact is that domestic production is at an eight-year high, domestic demand for oil and oil products is down, and yet gas prices continue to rise.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Ian M. MacIsaac: An Obituary for Santorum and his doomed hell train of a campaign

  On Tuesday, Mitt Romney finally earned a title he has craved since he became the governor of Massachusetts nine years ago: that of the Republican Party's presumptive nominee for president.

  Rick Santorum's effective withdrawal from the primary brings to an end one of the most confusing, frustrating, and truly embarrassing moments in our nation's political history.

  Santorum, for his part, barely even admitted he had lost anything in the concession speech he gave from Gettysburg, Penn.

  "Over and over again we were told, 'Forget it, you can't win,'" the former senator said Tuesday as he quit the race from his home state. "We were winning, but in a different way."

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: GOP presidential primary amounts to little in Alabama

  Last month’s Republican Primary was exciting because for the first time in decades we were relevant in the presidential contest. When our March 13 primary date was set it was thought that the GOP nominee would be in the bag by that time, especially given the fact that a Super Tuesday Primary extravaganza was taking place one week earlier on March 6th.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Richard Schwartzman: A War on us

  Libertarians come to the libertarian movement for a variety of reasons. Some people get involved because of a single issue such as the drug war, or assaults on the Second Amendment, or the confiscatory tax code and intrusion of the IRS (likely the most feared agency in the country’s arsenal of control over its citizens).

  Some of us have a broader or more general base of interest, such as the Bill of Rights taken as a whole.

  I fall into the Bill of Rights category, and I have said for years that the only difference between the United States and every other country has been adherence to those first ten amendments to the Constitution. They are the guarantee, the promise that the government will honor the rights of man, which exist even without government.

Monday, April 9, 2012

How Conservatives are conspiring to disenfranchise millions of Americans

  The right to vote is under attack all across our country. Conservative legislators are introducing and passing legislation that creates new barriers for those registering to vote, shortens the early voting period, imposes new requirements for already-registered voters, and rigs the Electoral College in select states. Conservatives fabricate reasons to enact these laws—voter fraud is exceedingly rare—in their efforts to disenfranchise as many potential voters among certain groups, such as college students, low-income voters, and minorities, as possible. Rather than modernizing our democracy to ensure that all citizens have access to the ballot box, these laws hinder voting rights in a manner not seen since the era of Jim Crow laws enacted in the South to disenfranchise blacks after Reconstruction in the late 1800s.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Michael Josephson: Improve the world — Be nice!

  Marta was a hard-working single mother.  Last week, at church, her minister urged the congregation to improve the world by doing more to help others. He’s got to be kidding, she thought, I can barely make ends meet and provide my children with basic necessities. Still, she felt guilty – “maybe I should be doing more.” So, on the bus to work she started thinking of things she could do to help others but she felt sad and defeated by the idea of adding more obligations to her life.

  Sylvia, an elderly woman, saw the distress on Marta’s face and asked what was wrong. Marta explained her problem.  Sylvia consoled her. “I think it’s enough that you’re a good mother and a good person, but I bet you can find ways to help others more while doing what you already do.”  Marta said. “I sell hamburgers. How can I help others?”

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Charles C. Haynes: State lawmakers reignite school wars over religion

  Contrary to culture-war mythology, God is alive and well in many, if not most, public schools.

  Visit almost any school in America and you’ll find students sharing their faith, reading their scriptures, saying grace before lunch and, in high schools, meeting in religious clubs.

  But in a growing number of state legislatures around the country, lawmakers want more.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Gary Palmer: The Facts about charter schools

  By now practically everyone in Alabama has seen, heard or read something about public charter schools. Incredibly, most of what is out there is actually deliberate “misinformation” targeting what can be best described as simply increasing educational options for students. Naturally, the Alabama Education Association is the driving force behind the campaign to discredit educational choice in Alabama.

  The education of Alabama’s next generation is a topic that causes even the most apathetic citizen to pay attention. Public charter schools may well be the only chance we have to change lives for a segment of students who will, without intervention of some kind, drop out of school.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: And there’s Moore…

  In the days leading up to our March 13th Republican Primary it began to appear more and more like we were going to have a spectacular horse race in our presidential preference vote. Tracking polls coming out of the weekend had all three candidates, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, knotted at 31%. The prolonged GOP primary parade had made it to the Heart of Dixie and we were finally finding some relevance in the presidential selection process.

  Alabama became the focus of intense national media attention. Media sources implemented elaborate exit polling during the day Tuesday. By 5 pm with two hours left for voting, CNN was reporting that in Alabama, even more so than in Mississippi who was voting the same day, exit polling was showing an extremely high turnout among voters who identified themselves as evangelical fundamental Christians. They were saying that it was phenomenally high even to a much larger degree than had appeared in neighboring Georgia and Tennessee the week before. This polling data would portend the results that would be revealed later in the night as the votes were counted.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Sally Steenland, Jessica Arons: Contraception is an economic issue

  In the past several weeks, controversy over contraception pushed conventional economic issues from the headlines. For a surprising number of news cycles, birth control pills—and the millions of women who take them—dominated the news, instead of jobs and the economy.

  Many pundits, advocates, and politicians were unhappy with this shift, claiming that contraception was a distraction from the “real issues” people cared about. Even Ann Romney, wife of Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, weighed in, saying, “Women care about jobs. Women care about the economy. They care about their children, and they care about debt.”

Monday, April 2, 2012

Wendy McElroy: When did Facebook become Congress?

  A March 23rd headline in the tech zine ZDNet caused a buzz on the blogosphere. It reads, “Facebook: Legal Action against Employers Asking for Your Password.” The article explained, “The social networking giant is considering using the law to protect its 845 million users.” The two legal routes being considered are: (a) getting politicians to pass a law barring employers from this practice and/or (b) suing employers who are asking you for your Facebook credentials.

  At issue are those employers who demand an applicant’s Facebook password as a condition of employment. The password offers the employers at least two advantages. They can check for “dissolute” behavior, such as drunkenness, which is often documented in posted photos; and they can prevent employees from posting negative comments about the workplace or punish those who do.