Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Countdown to election day

  The nation will elect our 45th president this Tuesday. The word elect is a misnomer. We do not elect our president. They are selected by the Electoral College. This is a travesty. It is amazing and appalling that in a country that espouses being the greatest democracy in the world that we do not have a direct election of the president in which the candidate who receives the most votes from all of the voters throughout the entire nation wins.

  If you are watching the election returns on television Tuesday night and you keep watching the tally of votes nationwide, you are wasting your time and the television network is wasting its time along with doing you an injustice.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Gene Policinski: ‘Mug shot’ sites pose First Amendment dilemma

  You can’t put a price on justice — but some are trying to charge a fee to fix what others call an injustice.

  There’s nothing good about getting arrested, even if the charges are dismissed or you’re found innocent at trial. The same goes for having a “mug shot” — a photo made at a jail or holding area — taken and filed with a county lockup or police department, complete with ID information.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Sheldon Richman: Americans should reject Obama-Romney foreign policy

  If we needed evidence of the impoverishment of American politics, the so-called debate between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney gave us all we could ask for.

  We normally expect a debate to highlight some disagreement, but in American politics disagreement is reserved for minor matters. The two parties — actually the two divisions of the uni-party that represents the permanent regime — agree on all fundamentals. If you need proof, observe how the establishment media treated Ron Paul, who challenged the permanent regime’s basic premises on foreign policy, civil liberties, and monetary control. He dug too deep.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Our Stand: Choose substance over pure politics in PSC race

  Voters have a clear choice November 6 in the race for the presidency of the Alabama Public Service Commission. One candidate carries a solid record of laudable service to state taxpayers and the other is merely a political opportunist.

  Lucy Baxley has compiled a well-respected and hard-earned record as a public servant. From her tenure as Alabama’s State Treasurer, Lieutenant Governor and in her first term as president of the PSC, she has proven to be a tireless advocate for the responsible use of state dollars and as a fighter for Alabama’s citizens.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Ken Paulson: When faith and football don’t mix

  You can throw a Hail Mary at a public school football game, but you can’t actually hail Mary. That distinction is at the heart of a flurry of incidents this fall in which public universities and high schools are being challenged for conducting prayers before football games. In recent months:

-The University of Tennessee-Chattanooga announced that it would no longer hold public prayers before football games, while the UT campus in Knoxville said it was retaining them at Neyland Stadium. The decisions came after accusations by the Freedom From Religion Foundation that the practice violates the separation of church and state.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Cameron Smith: Amendment 4: Choosing right over racism

  Over the last few weeks, the Alabama Education Association (AEA) and a number of Democrat lawmakers have led the charge to preserve racist language in Alabama’s Constitution by opposing Amendment 4 on the November 6 ballot.

  Amendment 4 deletes language in Section 256 of Alabama’s Constitution relating to “elective” segregated schools and repeals poll tax provisions. In short, Section 256 of the Constitution of 1901 which required the Legislature to “establish, organize, and maintain a liberal system of public schools” was clearly unconstitutional under the Supreme Court’s 1954 ruling in Brown v. Board of Education because it also contained a provision requiring segregated schools. As a result, Alabama voters removed the offending language in 1956 with Amendment 111 and simultaneously eliminated the right to a public education in Alabama.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Where the power truly rests

  Our congressional delegation will more than likely return intact in two weeks. All seven of our members of Congress must run every two years. However, very few are ever sent home. Members of Congress have the highest retention rate of any political group in the world, with the exception of the Soviet Communist Politburo.

  Once a person is elected to Congress they have a 90% chance of reelection. The percentage increases after they have been in office for several terms. Most people in the private sector wish they had that kind of job security.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Crosby Burns: Latino support for equality goes far beyond marriage

  The Pew Hispanic Center recently released yet another poll confirming that a majority of Latinos support marriage equality for same-sex couples.

  According to the poll, 52 percent of Latinos favor affording same-sex couples the rights and responsibilities of marriage, with 34 percent opposed. Six years ago Latino attitudes on the issue were virtually flipped. In 2006 only 31 percent of Latinos supported marriage equality, with 56 percent opposed it.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Michael Josephson: The Road to significance

  The most traditional way to measure the quality of one’s life is to evaluate success by listing accolades, achievements, and acquisitions. After all, in its simplest terms, success is getting what we want and most people want wealth and status.

  Yet, as much pleasure as these attributes can bring, the rich, powerful, and famous usually discover that true happiness will elude them if they do not have peace of mind, self-respect, and enduring loving relationships.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Ken Paulson: Court finds Mo. students’ off-campus posts not protected

  The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has found that students who built a website with provocative content are not protected by the First Amendment and can be punished for their postings.

  A three-judge panel found that the students’ site contained sexist and racist comments that led to disruptive behavior at their high school in Lee’s Summit, Mo.

  Steven and Sean Wilson created a website called NorthPress in 2011, offering commentary about Lee’s Summit North High School. Though they claimed the site was intended to be viewed by just a handful of friends, word spread, and the boys were suspended.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Gary Palmer and Cameron Smith: Amendment 8: Clearing the air on Alabama’s legislative pay

  On the November ballot, Alabamians will vote on a state constitutional amendment to change the manner in which their legislators are compensated. Those who remember the Alabama Legislature’s 61 percent self-awarded pay raise in 2007 might be understandably skeptical about a ballot proposal created by legislators regarding their own pay. But a careful review of the legislative pay amendment should allay that skepticism.

  The current legislative pay structure has left many Alabamians confused about what legislators are paid. Currently, legislative compensation includes $10 per day while the legislature is in session and a monthly expense allowance of $4,174 with an automatic cost-of-living increase each April 1st. Between the official salary and the expense allowance, legislators are making an average of slightly less than $52,000. Other per diem and travel reimbursements only increase that amount for some legislators.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Sam Fulwood III: Right-wing executives threaten employees over election results

  In an act that smacks of medieval feudalism, ASG Software Solutions Chief Executive Officer Arthur Allen sent an email to the Naples, Florida-based firm’s 1,000 employees in 70 offices worldwide that threatened employees’ jobs if GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney isn’t elected president.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The Future of Alabama pensions

  One of the most far reaching and significant accomplishments enacted by the legislature earlier this year is the revamping of the state’s retirement benefit system for state workers. The legislature’s changes to pension benefits for future teachers and public employees should save taxpayers billions and ensure the viability of the state retirement system for decades.

  The changes will only affect new employees. All current public employees are unaffected. The new measures will apply to future employees beginning January 1, 2013.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Crosby Burns: ‘Religious liberty’ does not give people a license to discriminate

  Last week lawmakers in nine state legislatures launched “religious freedom” caucuses aimed at helping “legislators set state-specific agendas for strengthening religious liberties.”

  Religious liberty should be protected. It should be safeguarded. And it should be valued. But if this past year is any indication of what these caucuses’ real policy goals are, their efforts will not be about protecting, safeguarding, and valuing religious liberty. Instead, they will be about promoting an agenda that rolls back women’s health and rights and curtails equality for gay Americans, all behind the guise of “religious liberty.”

Saturday, October 13, 2012

David L. Hudson, Jr.: Mass. official urges town to rethink profanity ban

  The town of Middleborough, Mass., should repeal a provision passed last June that empowered police officers to issue civil tickets for cursing in public, the state’s attorney general has determined.

  In 1968, Middleborough passed a disorderly conduct byline regulating public profanity. It provides: “Whoever having arrived at the age of discretion accosts or addresses another person with profane or obscene language in a street or other public place, may be punished by a fine of not more than $20.00 dollars.”

Friday, October 12, 2012

Elizabeth Robinson: Diverse pro-life groups present loving choices for mothers and unborn babies

  One of the oft-chanted maxims of the pro-choice movement is, “Keep your hands off my body.” And it is a mantra that has never settled with me. While I can certainly understand wanting to keep a stranger’s hands away, I have always wondered why those advocating for abortion never allowed the unborn child to voice the same refrain.

  The most basic argument surrounding the pro-life versus pro-choice issue is one of rights. The rights of the unborn child weighed against the rights of the woman carrying it, but the current judicial climate places the burden on scientific advancement to prove when life begins. The current standard of “viability” has already replaced the outmoded trimester standard implemented under Roe v. Wade, and some states like Alabama have passed “fetal pain” laws, which pushed the mark further to the twentieth week, when the child has a nervous system developed enough to feel pain.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: No contest in Alabama

  The November 6th Presidential Election is less than four weeks away. It will not be very close or interesting here in the Heart of Dixie. The only question to be decided is the margin by which Mitt Romney will slaughter Barack Obama in the state.

  It was ugly four years ago. McCain beat Obama 64 to 36 in 2008. My guess is that it will be by about the same numbers this year. That, my friends, is what you call a landslide. In some corners it can be referred to as a shellacking.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sam Fulwood III: Remembering James Meredith

  Fifty years ago on October 1, James Meredith became the first African American to enroll at the University of Mississippi—a historical fact that could easily have gone unremarked upon in this column. As a general rule, I don’t enjoy looking into history’s rearview mirror.

  But I’m pausing for a moment of reflection, thanks largely to my friend and CAP colleague Sally Steenland, who bounded into my office yesterday to announce what a big deal it was on October 1, 1962, when Meredith enrolled at Ole Miss.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Sheldon Richman: The hubris of Romney and Obama

  Mitt Romney, whose bid to unseat Barack Obama looks more desperate every day, senses he’s found a weakness in his rival. In a foreign-policy speech, he blasted Obama over the upheaval in the Arab world, saying, “This is a time for a president who will shape events in the Middle East.”

  Romney is making two claims: that Obama has failed to shape events in the Middle East and that he, Romney, will succeed.

  Could the hubris of a man seeking power be plainer? Does anyone with even a minimum ability to think clearly believe that Romney could “shape events” there?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Michael Josephson: The Yuppie lifestyle and satisfaction

  T.S. Eliot said, “Half of the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They do not mean to do harm…they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.”
  How do we feel important? Often, it’s by trying to obtain an image of success created by a culture that prizes getting ahead in terms of money and career. Think how much more integrity there would be if we understood how futile it is to pursue the empty vessel of prosperity.

Sally Steenland: Five issues that expand the notion of what it means to ‘vote your values’

  Soon after the 2004 presidential election, the Pew Research Center conducted a national exit poll to determine which issues were the most important to voters. Pollsters read from a list that included abortion, same-sex marriage, the environment, health care, and the Iraq war, among others. Based on the responses they got, the Pew survey concluded that religious conservatives—or so-called “values voters”—had helped determine the outcome of that election due to their intense opposition to abortion and marriage equality. The term “values voter” caught on and soon became shorthand for conservative voters who cast their ballots based on their opinions on these two social issues.
  But there was a problem with the results of the poll. Pew’s list of values issues was limited to abortion and marriage equality, while issues such as poverty and the environment were on a separate list of issues that fell outside the “values” framework. The implication was clear: Voters who were motivated by opposition to the war or tax cuts for the wealthy, who were pro-environment or supported universal health care, must be motivated by something other than their values.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Edwin J. Feulner, Ph.D.: Marriage at risk in America

  “Marriage is a wonderful institution,” H.L. Mencken once quipped, “but who would want to live in an institution?” Great line. But in the real world, the more we learn about marriage, the more we realize how vital it is.

  For example: Social science finds that more than 30 percent of single-parent families with children are poor. The figure for married families: 7 percent. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the overwhelming majority of non-married fathers have jobs and typically earn more than the mother. If the couple was married and the father stayed in the home, the probability of child poverty would drop by nearly two-thirds. Wedding ceremonies could dramatically reduce child poverty, and it wouldn’t cost the government a penny.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Cameron Smith: Alabama's unlikely allies in education reform

  The winds of change are blowing through America’s education system for the first time in a generation, and Alabama would be wise to catch the breeze coming from some unexpected directions.

  For the last several decades, teachers unions have been staunch allies of the Democrats, serving as both a source of funding and as boots on the ground during elections. According to the National Institute on Money in State Politics, in 2010 teachers unions nationwide gave more than $33 million to Democrats and slightly less than $3 million to Republicans.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Alabama’s budgetary apocalypse

  It is basic public policy that you either have to raise taxes or reduce government services. It has become a cardinal sin in Republican politics to even say the word tax much less enact any increase in revenue. Our legislature is now overwhelmingly Republican and they are real Republicans. They take their no new tax pledge seriously as does our Republican governor. Therefore, when the dicing and crafting of the 2013 budget was being processed, new revenue enhancement measures were not on the table. It is doubtful that you will see any tax increase proposals any time soon in the Heart of Dixie.

  The state’s new budget year begins this week. It will be horrendous. There are draconian cuts to basic state services. Alabama has a constitutional amendment that mandates a balanced budget. We are in dire straits but at least we are not engaged in deficit spending like other states. California is teetering on bankruptcy.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Andy Worthington: Obama releases names of cleared Guantánamo prisoners; now it’s time to set them free

  On September 21, as part of a court case, the Justice Department released the names of 55 of the 86 prisoners cleared for release from Guantánamo in 2009 by Barack Obama’s Guantánamo Review Task Force, which consisted of officials from key government departments and the intelligence agencies. The Task Force’s final report was issued in January 2010.

  Until now, the government has refused to release the names, hindering efforts by the prisoners’ lawyers — and other interested parties — to publicize their plight.