Saturday, September 29, 2012

Gordon T. Belt: Banned Books Week: Defending our freedom to read

  “I cannot live without books.” — Thomas Jefferson.

  Of all Jefferson’s inspiring and thought-provoking quotes, this one is among my favorites. As the First Amendment Center’s librarian, I have a special affinity for books, and as someone academically trained as a historian, I have an appreciation for the Founding Fathers and for the important words they left behind.

  Banned Books Week — Sept. 24 through Oct. 1 — is an annual recognition by librarians and book-minded people that the First Amendment should never be taken for granted. I believe the freedoms embraced by the Founding Fathers in the 45 words of the First Amendment also speak to an implied freedom to read, yet history shows us that the struggle to maintain that freedom has never been easy.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Eric Alterman: The Media and climate science: ADHD or deliberate deception?

  Dr. François Gonon, a neurobiologist at the University of Bordeaux, together with his colleagues recently published an article in The Public Library of Science, taking a foray into media criticism. Using attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, for his experiment metaphor, Gonon and company searched the databases PubMed and Factiva for articles on ADHD. They found that 47 papers on ADHD received coverage in 347 articles in English-language newspapers during the 1990s. From these, The Economist reports, Gonon’s team picked 10 papers that had enjoyed fully 223 of the news articles.

  What happened next, if you’ll forgive me, turned out to be a case of journalistic ADHD. While 67 later studies examined those selected 10, the second batch received attention in only 57 newspaper articles total, with most of them focusing on only two such studies. Gonon’s conclusion: An “almost complete amnesia in the newspaper coverage of biomedical findings.”

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Gary Palmer: Elections reflect our values

  In just over a month people will be going to the polls to vote for president and for other candidates. The presidential election will primarily center on these issues: economic growth; jobs and unemployment; government debt and spending; and health care and taxes.

  All of these issues are to a certain extent measurable in that we have a sense of how these issues will impact us individually and how they define the overall well-being of the country. But are these the real measures of the health and well-being of America? Does annual economic growth or our unemployment rate, our national debt or the level of government spending or even our tax rates and health care options determine the health and well-being of America?

  The answer is no.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Mike Walker: Voter suppression – The Real devil in the details!

  Recently I was involved in a conversation on Facebook about voting rights. I had shared a link about Hank Sanders, a Democratic State Senator from Alabama, being denied the right to vote and I commented that this situation was the result of Republican efforts to limit voting by certain minority groups. Senator Sanders represents the city of Selma in the Alabama State Senate and has been a leader in civil and voting rights in this southern state for decades. As it turns out, in the cited case, Senator Sanders was not denied access to a ballot for identity or racial purposes, but was allowed to file a provisional ballot pending the resolution of a dispute regarding his place of residence. A good friend rightly pointed out my error and I apologized. I had failed to do my homework.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Another amendment is on the way

  There will be an amendment on the November ballot that will probably be approved by Alabama voters. The amendment will reduce legislative compensation. This proposition may garner more votes than Romney does against Obama.

  Most voters disapprove of the very controversial 61% pay raise the legislature gave itself in 2007. That legislative vote, which occurred during the opening session of 2007 and increased legislative compensation from $36,660 annually to $53,338, has been a festering issue for over five years. The sustained outrage is extremely unusual. In past years, an egregious legislative act has been passed early in the quadrennium and late into the night usually on a voice vote.

Monday, September 24, 2012

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.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Sheldon Richman: Romney, taxes, and dependence on government

  Mitt Romney isn’t just out of touch; he’s also out of sync with the movement to shrink government. In an interview clarifying his now-infamous speech to donors, captured on clandestine video, Romney said, “I think people would like to be paying taxes.”

  Come again? He also said, “The good news is if you are doing well enough financially that you can pay a tax.”

  That’s good news?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Ken Paulson: When police kill, public has right to information

  There’s often tension between government and the press about access to public information. Typically, the news media strive to use public-records laws to obtain information about government expenditures and decision-making.

  What’s on the mayor’s city-issued credit card? Does that ambitious new developer have business ties to members of the city council? Will plans for this development have a potential impact on the environment?

  Getting answers to questions like those are almost always in the public interest, but scrutinizing the actions of government is never more important than when a member of the public is killed.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Gary Palmer: The Other message of the September 18 amendment vote

  The voters of Alabama have spoken and decided to give Alabama’s elected officials more time to sort out the reforms needed to put Alabama’s fiscal house in order. The message from the proponents of the September 18 constitutional amendment was this: taking $437.4 million ($145.8 million per year for three years) out of the ATF and cutting by more than half the oil and gas royalties that flow into the ATF was the only way to avoid certain calamity in the state of Alabama. By outspending opponents of the amendment by a factor of ten, that message was heard loud and clear.

  But that was not the only message from this vote. The way some key Republican leaders in the Alabama Legislature are interpreting the vote, the people of Alabama didn’t just vote to give the legislature more money to avert a budget crisis, they voted to give the legislature an opportunity to make sensible budget reforms instead of forcing across-the-board cuts had the amendment failed.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Mike Walker: The Real story behind Romney’s 47%

Let Them Eat Cake

  “There are 47% of the people who will vote for the President, no matter what. Alright, there are 47% who are with him, who depend on government, who believe that they are victims, who believe government has the responsibility to care for them, who believe they are entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing.”

  - Mitt Romney caught on an open mike in September 2012

  You have got to be kidding me! Goddamn this pompous, arrogant asshole and the silver spoon he rode in on. He’s the guy who was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple. Do you want to know the REAL issue in this country with the 47% worthless, miserable, human beings who Romney wants to scrape off the soles of his $1500 shoes? Here it is in a nutshell.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Girl power!

  Since my column appears in most of Alabama’s small to midsize local newspapers, as might be expected, a good many of you liked my column of two weeks ago entitled, “Small Town Boys Succeed.”

  Amazingly, almost all of America’s presidents and practically all of Alabama’s governors of the past century have hailed from small town America or small town Alabama. My assumption and prediction is that when I am dead and gone and someone analyzes the same subject a hundred years from now it will read, “Girls who grew up in small cities succeed.”

Monday, September 17, 2012

Mike Walker: Why do they hate America? Another of George W. Bush’s big lies.

The Dark Ages in America

  “Americans are asking, ‘Why do they hate us?’ They hate what they see right here in this chamber: a democratically elected government. Their leaders are self-appointed. They hate our freedoms: our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.”
  George W. Bush – Joint address to Congress

  September 20, 2001

  They DO seem to hate us, don’t they?  Those Muslims, those “A-rabs”, those guys in turbans?  Muslims attacked us on 9/11, in November of 2009, a Muslim attacked us at Fort Hood, TX, and now Muslim mobs are attacking our embassies in the Arab world, recently killing the Ambassador to Libya and several other US State Department employees. Those are the main ones, but yes, there have been other significant attacks against us led by Islamic terrorists. George W. Bush stated clearly and unequivocally in 2001 that they hate us for our freedoms! Really?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Ian M. MacIsaac: A National tragedy made partisan

  A national tragedy at the United States Consulate in Benghazi, Libya became a partisan spectacle Wednesday. Lacking a clear foreign policy difference with President Obama, Mitt Romney decided that exploiting the deaths of State Department officials was a safer bet than being seen standing with the president on anything.

  Before all the dead in Benghazi had even been accounted for, as the consulate there literally continued to burn and protestors continued to climb the gates of the embassy in Cairo, Egypt, the Romney campaign was already sending out press releases calling President Obama "disgraceful" and criticizing the president for apologizing for America and leading from behind.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Gene Policinski: Honoring the documents that keep us free

  Constitution Day has become an annual fixture each Sept. 17 in the nation’s schools since it was mandated by Congress in 2004 — and 2012 may well be the best year yet for understanding its history and appreciating its meaning.

  A few days ago, the nation took notice of the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., and the thwarted attack that ended in a Pennsylvania field. Make no mistake, the terrorists’ ultimate target was more than our national buildings and monuments, more than the thousands of innocents who died — it was our nation’s way of life, its economic system as well as its laws and freedoms.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Our Stand: The only option

  Alabama voters are being presented with a choice to be voted upon September 18, but an honest assessment of the amendment which would transfer nearly half a billion dollars from a state trust fund to shore up the state’s operating budget reveals there is only one viable option. It’s a do-or-die scenario.

  Lawmakers want to borrow $437 million from the Alabama Trust Fund – a savings account resting on royalties from the state’s oil and gas reserves – to temporarily bandage a gaping wound in the General Fund, the state’s main operating budget. The Alabama Legislature failed to solve the issue – one that stems all the way back to Bob Riley’s tenure as governor – so voters will be forced to approve the measure or trust that the legislature can go back into session and pass a viable alternative before the clock runs out October 1, the beginning of the new fiscal year.

  Though many voters are justifiably concerned about shifting these dollars around, they should be more worried about how the legislature would respond if we fail to approve the measure. The problem has lingered for years, and during the last regular session, our lawmakers failed to act again. Why trust them now, especially when they’ll only have 12 days to remedy the problem should the referendum fail?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: How we got here

  A good many of you have asked me to weigh in on the oil and gas money diversion referendum next Tuesday. As most of you know, I do not endorse or disavow issues or candidates. My purpose is to inform and entertain you as to the goings on in the world of Alabama politics. Therefore, allow me to explain this situation and the impending referendum offered by the legislature.

  There was a television series that enthralled me several decades ago called “Rich Man, Poor Man.” It was a series about two brothers. One did well, the other faired poorly. Our state budgets are similar. We have one budget, the Education Budget, which receives 70% of all tax revenues. It is the rich man. The General Fund garners 30% of the revenues. It is the poor man.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Ken Sofer: Remembering 9/11

  America pauses today to remember the innocent men and women who lost their lives in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in central Pennsylvania 11 years ago. Our citizens honor the police officers, firefighters, and EMTs who entered burning buildings and dangerous conditions that day, many losing their lives in the process of saving others. We remember them even as their families mourn their loss.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Tim Kelly: The GOP’s gold plank

  The 2012 Republican Party platform contains a plank concerning a possible return to the gold or other metallic standard. The US dollar has been a fiat currency since President Richard Nixon suspended its convertibility to gold on August 15, 1971.

  The plank reads,

       Determined to crush the double-digit inflation that was part of the Carter Administration’s economic legacy, President Reagan, shortly after his inauguration, established a commission to consider the feasibility of a metallic basis for U.S. currency. The commission advised against such a move. Now, three decades later, as we face the task of cleaning up the wreckage of the current Administration’s policies, we propose a similar commission to investigate possible ways to set a fixed value for the dollar.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Ken Paulson: Online anonymity no sure thing in libel cases

  Those who anonymously damage the reputations of others on the Internet may have a rude awakening. They’re not as anonymous as they believe. We’ve seen a number of cases in recent months in which judges have upheld subpoenas that give libel-suit plaintiffs the identities of those who have been posting ugly things about them:

-In July, a federal district judge in Idaho ruled that the Spokesman Review in Spokane, Wash., would have to turn over the name of an anonymous commenter who speculated that $10,000 apparently missing from a political committee might be stuffed inside the chairwoman’s blouse.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Dr. John Hill: Is relatively small federal funding controlling Alabama education?

  When Alabama’s State Board of Education voted 7-2 to adopt Common Core State Standards two years ago, it joined 45 states and three U.S. territories. The Common Core, created by the National Governors Association’s Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers, standardized education curricula among the states with the aim of better preparing students for college and the modern workforce.

  One year later, the Board reconvened to consider rescinding its earlier decision. Even though Gov. Robert Bentley joined the opposition on the grounds that he believed the standards were tantamount to a federal takeover of public education, the Board voted 6-3 to follow the Common Core.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Sam Fulwood III: Obama at the DNC: How different is America from what he hoped for in 2004?

  Almost immediately after then-Illinois State Sen. Barack Obama stepped away from the podium at Boston’s Fleet Center during the 2004 Democratic National Convention, the pundits predicted his brilliant keynote speech would catapult him into a successful run for president of the United States.

  As it turned out, they were prescient. Now, eight years later, President Obama returns to the podium tonight to deliver yet another speech at the Democratic National Convention. In the intervening eight years, the nation is so much different and, in many ways, not so changed at all.

  This is a story about then and now. It begins with boundless optimism, born of the rosy afterglow following Obama’s 2004 speech that some wanted to believe heralded a post-racial period in American history. Of course, that’s not how the story has unfolded. Indeed, since that speech, nothing about Obama’s time on the national stage has suggested a narrowing of racial concerns in the nation.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Wendy McElroy: Texas inventories children

  Officials at Northside Independent School District in San Antonio, Texas, apparently view George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four as an instruction manual rather than a cautionary tale.

  Over 6,000 students will be required to carry microchipped ID so that the district can track their movements in school and on school buses. Radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips will be embedded in student IDs. Doors within the two affected schools are presumably now fitted with sensors that track students as they move from class to class, from the cafeteria to the bathroom. The district’s administration is determined to increase student attendance.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The Rural advantage

  Writers and historians have done extensive research over the years seeking to ascertain how our nation’s leaders reached their pinnacle of power. These exhaustive studies have delved into the personas from every angle imaginable. Most of these analyses begin with someone’s childhood.

  Being a student of Alabama politics, allow me to share with you my study of the backgrounds of our governors. My assessment is that in the past six decades small town boys succeed. It may be because Alabama was made up of small towns in the past generations that almost all of our governors have hailed from small towns. My assumption is that growing up in a small town allows someone to develop confidence and leadership abilities that give them an advantage.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Michael Josephson: It’s your job to enjoy your job

  Labor Day is, first and foremost, a day off from work to do something you enjoy, or to catch up on domestic tasks awaiting your attention.

  It’s also an ideal time to think about the role that work plays in your life.

  For some, work is a necessary evil. It’s doing what they have to do to make a decent living. For others, work is doing what they want to do to make good life.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Nicolas Loris: Crushing coal under the regulatory steamroller

  The Environmental Protection Agency received another well-warranted slap on the hand last week. In a 2-1 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the EPA had overstepped its authority in its latest attempt to regulate emissions that cross state lines. As one of the judges succinctly put it, “[W]e conclude that the EPA has transgressed statutory boundaries.”

  This is by no means the first time the courts have told the EPA that its penchant for heavy-handed regulation is out of order. Earlier this year, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia rejected the EPA’s attempt to retroactively veto a Clean Water Act permit issued by the Army Corps of Engineers — in 2007. The court labeled the EPA’s interpretation of the rule as “unreasonable.”