Thursday, May 31, 2012

Ken Paulson: Once stocked, library books should not be pulled

  Being a librarian is a tough job. You have to tend to your community’s diverse information needs, often while working with limited resources.

  The job gets that much tougher when you find yourself in the crossfire of public opinion generated by a controversial book.

  No, this time it’s not about Huckleberry Finn or Slaughterhouse Five. This time it’s a controversial trilogy of books called Fifty Shades of Grey, erotic novels that have moved to the top of the best-selling lists all across America.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: Grading the Alabama Legislature

  At the conclusion of each annual session of the Alabama Legislature I am invariably asked to grade the legislators’ performance and assess the accomplishments of the session.

  Most journalist fall prey to the popular and convenient position of giving the legislature a perfunctory “F.” Legislative bodies are generally held in contempt and disdain. They are perennially grouped together and branded as totally incompetent.

  Allow me to share with you a personal analogy that inspired my assessment of the recently concluded session. In high school I had an excellent football coach. He knew how to get the best out of his players. He had an innate ability to treat each of us as an individual. At 16 I had grown gangly to say the least. I was 6'5" and weighed 174 pounds soaking wet. My coach was probably worried that I would be killed. He jokingly said I had to run around in the shower to get wet. He made it fun because he prodded me without really expecting too much from me. Eventually he molded me into a starting tight end and contributor to the team. In short, he did not have much to work with but he made the best of what he had.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Michael Josephson: Day of gratitude

  Our nation was conceived by idealistic and courageous political leaders, but it was preserved by the immense and immeasurable sacrifice of millions of soldiers who fought and died to transform the democratic principles embodied in the Declaration of Independence into a country we proudly call the United States of America.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Honoring our heroes

  This Memorial Day the Center for American Progress honors our nation’s service members who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. On Monday we will pause to reflect on the service of the brave men and women who left their homes and their families since the founding of this great nation—some never to return—in order to protect their country and advance the pursuit of security and prosperity the world over.

  Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, more than 1,800 servicemen and women have been killed in Afghanistan. As we observe this grim milestone, we are also humbled by the remembrance of the 4,400 service members who fell in operations in Iraq, which drew to a close at the end of 2011. These figures do not include the more than 11,000 service members wounded in Afghanistan, the more than 30,000 wounded in Iraq, and the more than 100,000 who have suffered mental wounds in these two conflicts.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Gary Palmer: What is the end-game for support of same-sex marriage?

  When announcing his support for same-sex marriage, President Obama defended his position by saying that his thinking has evolved on the issue. Given that there is little chance that Congress will approve same-sex marriage in the immediate future, the question that should be raised is, what is the real end-game for Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage?

  Perhaps Obama and the Democrat Party think his endorsement is a winning issue for Democrats. Many liberals believe that national approval of same-sex marriage is inevitable. And, a number of polls do show growing support for same-sex marriage, especially among people under age 30. But if they believe the polls suggesting that same-sex marriage is on the verge of nationwide acceptance, how do they explain the fact that 29 states, including California, have passed referendums declaring that marriage is only between one man and one woman? In addition, nine more states have passed statutes.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Ian M. MacIsaac: Why Occupy failed

  The Occupy movement rose over the desperate and disjointed American political landscape like a colossus in the late summer and early fall of 2011.

  From Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan--the home base of Occupy Wall Street--the movement spread to thousands of cities in America, as well as to foreign countries such as Greece, Germany, and Brazil.

  By September 2011, the movement seemed to be well on its way to making a permanent change in the American political narrative, with previously-unheard phrases like 'the 99 percent' becoming household terms and renewed scrutiny being placed on the extraordinary wealth of the top one percent. News coverage alone was sufficient to keep the movement at the forefront of Americans' political brains.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: Siegelman's case revisited

  The two prominent political trials in Alabama in the past few years have boiled down to one paramount issue, “Is it bribery or is it politics?” In the most recent bingo gambling trial the pivotal issue revolved around whether a campaign contribution is a bribe. The jury answered with a resounding no.

  In the first trial there were nine defendants. None of the nine were convicted. The jury found that there was no validity to 99 of the 138 original charges. In the second trial there were six remaining defendants, VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor, lobbyist Tom Coker, State Senator Harri Anne Smith, former casino spokesman Jay Walker, former State Senator Larry Means and former State Senator Jim Preuitt.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Michael Josephson: We expect more of adults

  Although 11-year-old Mark wasn’t much of an athlete, his dad urged him to play youth baseball. Mark liked to play, but he was hurt by the remarks of teammates and spectators whenever he struck out or dropped a ball. Just before the fourth game of the season, Mark told his dad he didn’t want to go. “I’m no good,” he said, “and everyone knows it.”

  His father urged him to stick with it. “Just do your best,” he said. “That’s all anyone can ask. Your best is good enough.”

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Top 10 ways the House version of the Violence Against Women Act neglects victims

  The Violence Against Women Act is a critical piece of bipartisan legislation that, since 1994, has combated violent crime and protected victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

  Even though reauthorizing the law has never been a partisan issue, it has become wrapped up in a polarized debate this year over the extent of its protections. In a bipartisan vote the Senate voted to reauthorize the act and to strengthen protections for victims of domestic violence in the gay and transgender, immigrant, and Native American communities.But instead of taking up these changes, House Republicans are playing political games with the safety of women. Just yesterday they passed their version of the bill, H.R. 4970, which removes important protections for vulnerable communities and cuts funding used to combat domestic violence. In doing so, it rolls back progress and threatens the health and safety of many Americans living in violent or abusive relationships.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Sheldon Richman: When will Obama evolve on the Drug War?

  Much is made of how President Obama’s position on same-sex marriage has “evolved” to an endorsement of legalization. One hopes his position on the atrocity called the “war on drugs” is evolving.

  It’s not really a war on drugs. It’s a war on people, most of whom have committed no violence or other aggression against person or property. Those who do commit violence are encouraged to do so by the very “war on drugs” that Obama and other enlightened leaders so enthusiastically support. Black markets often feature violence — precisely because they are illegal. Decriminalize the activity, and the violence goes away.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Cameron Smith: Government-supervised financial sector may lose value

  JPMorgan Chase recently disclosed a $2 billion trading loss associated with its principal risk management unit. For a bank with a capital base of almost $200 billion, a loss of $2 billion is more of a grand annoyance than a “systemic risk,” but the political rhetoric has been explosive.   Despite the reality that taxpayer-backed deposits were not actually at risk, droves of politicians from the left are clamoring that JPMorgan’s loss is ample evidence that more government regulation is necessary while the political right is wavering on its commitment to repeal Dodd-Frank.

  But is federal control truly a better alternative? Greed, incompetence, and all sorts of other negative monikers could be applied to the American financial services industry at times. The same President, politicians, and bureaucrats who have shepherded almost $16 trillion in federal debt are gearing up the immense regulatory authority under Dodd-Frank to put the screws to banks concerning fiscally responsible behavior.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

America’s future under ‘Drill, Baby, Drill’

  When it comes to Big Oil, the latest news clips say it all—soaring gas prices topping $4 a gallon; a record-high $33.5 billion, or $368 million per day, in 2012 first-quarter profits for BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Royal Dutch Shell; the industry sitting on more than $58 billion in cash reserves as of the end of 2011 but still receiving $2 billion in government subsidies; and a continued practice of bankrolling the campaigns of conservative lawmakers who then demand more drilling and less federal regulation and oversight.

  These almost-daily news stories, however, are the tip of a much larger iceberg. Today the American Petroleum Institute (API) launches their long-term vision for the future, which to no surprise centers on “unleashing the full benefit of developing U.S. oil and natural gas resources.”

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: Is Rubio Romney's answer?

  All of the horses are in the barn for the fall derby. They are resting awaiting the opening gun. The official start of the fall campaign begins on Labor Day, which is September 3rd this year and culminates with Election Day on November 6, 2012.

  With Obama heading the ticket for the Democratic Party most Alabamians will probably simply pull the lever of either the Democratic or Republican Party. My guess is that more folks will pull the Republican lever than the Democratic one in November. My prediction is that the Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, will carry the Heart of Dixie by a 63 to 37 margin. That, my friends, is what is called in political vernacular a landslide.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Larry M. Elkin: Evolving under pressure, Obama endorses gay marriage

  There are two ways, sharply contrasting yet not mutually exclusive, that we can look at President Obama's declaration that he now supports marriage rights for same-sex couples.

  The cynical view is that, when left with no alternative, even the most self-interested politician will do the right thing.

  The idealistic view is that democracy really does work, that the American people have a deep though imperfect respect for civil liberties, and that ultimately our politicians must at least try to be as good as we want our country to be, even when doing so is politically inconvenient.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Michael Josephson: For Mother’s Day: The Best quotes ever about mothers

  All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel Mother.  ~Abraham Lincoln

  The formative period for building character for eternity is in the nursery. The mother is queen of that realm and sways a scepter more potent than that of kings or priests. ~Author Unknown

  An ounce of mother is worth a pound of clergy.  ~Spanish Proverb

  The mother’s heart is the child’s school-room.  ~Henry Ward Beecher

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Katie Wright: 5 Things to know about single mothers in poverty

  As we approach another Mother’s Day, we as Americans reflect on the challenges facing some of the mothers struggling the most out there—single mothers living in poverty—and what we can do to create greater economic opportunity for all kinds of families.

  Too often the space in the national discourse for this discussion is clouded by myths, personal attacks, and stereotypes about this group of women. This Mother’s Day let’s move beyond the stereotypes and take a fresh look at not only the challenges facing single mothers living in poverty but also some of the policy solutions that can lift them out of poverty.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Carl Chancellor: Critical education standards opposed by conservative group

  Members of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC—the conservative states’ rights, free markets, and limited government advocacy group—are meeting today in North Carolina, where they are expected to adopt a resolution that will be used as model legislation aimed at derailing the Common Core Standards for state primary and secondary schools.

  Perplexingly, there has been a steady drumbeat of opposition to what most clear-thinking folks see as a key to America’s future success in a highly competitive global economy—these same Common Core Standards. Developed by a consortium of educators and state lawmakers in 2009 in response to fears that American education performance is slipping relative to many advanced countries, these voluntary standards aim to ensure children are equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to be successful in college and in their careers. By setting high-quality standards in reading and math, the goal is to provide a common understanding of what students are expected to know during their kindergarten-through-12th-grade educational experiences.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Laurence M. Vance: Does the First Amendment protect the feedom of asociation?

  The Augusta National Golf Club — where the Masters golf tournament has been played since 1933 — is in the news again, and not because Tiger Woods failed to earn a fifth green jacket.

  The exclusive club has come under fire again because of its male-only membership policy. And although the club has traditionally extended membership to the CEOs of its corporate sponsors, one of its major sponsors — International Business Machines (IBM) — has a new female CEO, Virginia Rometty, who has not been asked to join. The past four CEOs of IBM have all been Augusta members.

  "It’s just an embarrassment that it’s still all-male," said Debora Spar, president of Barnard College in New York — an all-women’s college. Seeming oblivious to the irony, she added, "Any argument that can be made anymore for male-only recreational sites is just kind of past its day."

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: And the monument you rode in on....

  On the morning of the March 13 Alabama GOP Primary, former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore rode his horse to the polls to vote. As the day wore on it became apparent that he was riding a wave of evangelical support to be returned to his old job.

  When Moore hopped off his horse at his voting place in Etowah County, he was hoping to regain the Chief Justice position he lost in 2003. That year a state panel expelled him from office for failing to comply with a federal court order to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments that he placed in the Alabama Judiciary Building in Montgomery. Moore accomplished his mission. He remarkably defeated two opponents without a runoff who outspent him over six to one. Moore garnered an amazing 51% of the primary vote. Mobile Circuit Judge and former Attorney General Charlie Graddick got 25% and incumbent Chuck Malone received 24% of the vote.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Sam Fulwood III: The Intersection of pop culture and race

  My friend Ernie told me recently about a phone conversation that left him amazed at how powerfully and pervasively pop culture meanders willy-nilly across what he once imagined as impermeable racial boundaries.

  Ernie, an African American, lives happily and leisurely in retirement at his suburban Atlanta home, where he loves gardening and watching baseball on television. On all-too-rare occasions, he escapes his house for another lifelong passion: listening to classical music at the Atlanta Symphony. But he hasn’t done this in more than five years.

  A week or so ago, however, he received a call from a man trying sell him a subscription to the Atlanta Symphony.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Michael Josephson: Grocery store ethics

  You can tell a lot about people’s character by how they act at the grocery store. I remember being in a crowded store when there was a shortage of shopping carts. A prosperous-looking fellow was pushing a cart when another man stopped him.

  “Excuse me,” the second man said, “but this is my cart.”

  The first guy looked really annoyed. Instead of apologizing, he protested, “But someone took my cart.”

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Richard Schwartzman: HR 1983: Good idea, wrong reason

  The world is changing its view on drug laws and drug use — at least, most people and many countries are doing just that. Here in the States, recent polls indicate 50 percent of people favor full legalization of marijuana, while 80 percent advocate medical marijuana use. The federal government is lagging behind, however.

  Portugal decriminalized the use of all drugs 11 years ago, and the result has been no increase in usage. Indeed, removing the forbidden-fruit aspect of drug use resulted in less use by younger people. That country also saw a drop in HIV cases related to drug use.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Jennifer Marshall: Homemakers in an age of feminist mystique

  Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen hit close to many American homes with her comment that Ann Romney, stay-at-home mother of five boys, "had never worked a day in her life."

  The broadside didn't just hit a presidential candidate's wife but also a wide swath of Middle America moms.

  It turns out the typical stay-at-home mom doesn't live next door to the "Desperate Housewives" in a four-bedroom house on Wisteria Lane. Instead, as The New York Times reported after the Rosen-Romney dust-up, 65% of stay-at-home, married mothers of children under 18 live in a household with an annual income below $75,000.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Eric Alterman: Murdoch ‘unfit?’ Ya think?

  The headline says it all: “Murdoch Unfit to Lead Media Empire, Says British Report.” It was dated May 1, 2012 on The New York Times homepage (and appeared the following morning on page one). Thing is, if you leave out the part about the British report, the same headline could have appeared any time in the past 20 or more years. But by common agreement, owing to News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch’s power, influence, profit-making properties, and his ability to hire and fire people in any one of more than 50,000 jobs—to say nothing of his willingness to use all that power and influence to attack the character of anyone who had the temerity to question his actions—most folks decided to look the other way.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: The RSA effect

  Alabama may be on the lower end of the financial spectrum when it comes to the per capita income of our population. However, our public employees have one of the most sound retirement programs in the nation. One group of state employees, our judges, have what is probably one of the most lucrative retirement programs in the entire country.

  The benefits accrued by members of our judiciary are nothing less than amazing. The judges can thank the late Supreme Court Chief Justice and U.S. Senator Howell Heflin for spearheading an effort to streamline and update our judicial system in the 1970s. This Judicial Article not only upgraded the court system and judicial compensation, it created unparalleled retirement benefits.