Monday, December 31, 2012

Charles C. Haynes: In 2012, the rise of a new religious America

  The first Hindu elected to the House of Representatives, Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, will take the oath of office in a few weeks — and she has chosen to place her hand on the Bhagavad Gita, a sacred text of her tradition.

  Meanwhile, the woman she replaces in Congress, Mazie Hirono, will be sworn in as the first Buddhist elected to the U.S. Senate.

  Welcome to the new religious America.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The financial plague

  As the end of the year approaches the story of the year has to be the state of the economy. Therefore, the political story of the year has to be the sad financial state of the State.

  The legislature and governor spent 2012 wrestling with the state of the general fund of Alabama. It has been an uphill battle that will likely not dissipate or subside as we approach 2013.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Edwin J. Feulner: Unions take a swing at democracy

  “This is what democracy looks like!”

  That’s a popular protest chant among liberals. It could be heard at many “Occupy” gatherings. It’s a staple at union-backed protests.

  We all know that in a democracy, sometimes things go your way and sometimes they don’t. The big question is, how will you react?

  For example, many conservatives were disappointed by the results of last month’s elections. Despite high unemployment, sluggish economic growth and an unpopular health care program, a majority of voters returned a staunchly liberal president to office.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Colby Scullion: Grover Norquist: A clandestine agenda

  Who is Grover Norquist?

  Grover Norquist is the founder and president of the conservative tax advocacy group Americans for Tax Reform, a group that advocates for lower taxes and smaller government. The son of a former Polaroid Corporation vice-president, Norquist lived a very comfortable life during his upbringing and received an excellent education in one of Massachusetts best public schools and a college education from Harvard University. Once he graduated with his B.A. and M.B.A., he went on to become an executive director of the National Tax Payers Union. From there he started Americans for Tax Reform group in 1985. Since then he has become a major player in the modern conservative movement with his famous "Taxpayer Protection Pledge." In the pledge, signers promise to "oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses; and oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates."

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Gene Policinski: Hacking the Westboro church is not the way to counter its hate

  The First Amendment does not empower anyone to hack into websites associated with the controversial Westboro Baptist church and the family members of founder Fred Phelps — even with the best of intentions. But that’s the latest development in the sad saga of that Topeka, Kan.-based church.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Jacob G. Hornberger: No moral standing to criticize Putin

  The U.S. government’s ongoing dispute with Russian President Vladimir Putin reflects what a disaster the U.S. government’s “war on terrorism” has been, at least from the standpoint of moral standing.

  Ever since his election, Putin, harkening back to what he undoubtedly remembers as the fond days of the Soviet Union, has been taking harsh actions to suppress criticism of him, his actions, and his regime. To avoid being seen as an opponent of freedom of speech, however, he uses Russia’s system of a tightly regulated economy and a complex tax system to go after his critics by charging and prosecuting them with tax and regulatory violations.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Michael Josephson: Surviving critical relatives at family gatherings

  I realize that not everyone lives in a Norman Rockwell world where family gatherings are sources of warmth and good memories. For some, the prospect of holiday get-togethers generates dread and anxiety; they are something to endure, not enjoy.

  One reason is that family members can be tactless and downright cruel when expressing their opinions about perceived foibles, flaws and failures of their relatives, especially in-laws. Often comments are so laden with negative judgment that they could make the Grinch wince. Whether motivated by well-intentioned, but misdirected, love and concern, or by malice, insensitive or unkind words are like spears to the heart.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Ken Paulson: After Newtown: The real toll of ‘journalistic bedlam’

  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen so much flawed reporting as in the news coverage surrounding the horrific school shootings in Newtown, Conn.

  Errors abounded. News organizations identified the wrong man as the shooter, reported that the shooter’s mother was a teacher at the school and mischaracterized both the killers’ weapons and his access to the school. One flawed report said that the killer had a run-in with teachers at the school the day before the massacre.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Seth Hanlon: Congress should close the carried interest loophole

  In recent days Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) have both suggested that they might be willing to allow some tax cuts for high-income individuals to expire. But Sen. McConnell—and evidently Rep. Boehner, as well—are reportedly still insisting that the Bush tax cuts on investment income be extended.

  The Republican leaders’ willingness to discuss top tax rates is a welcome step forward. But until policymakers address the gap between tax rates on ordinary income (income from wages, salaries, and so on) and the tax rates on investment income (capital gains and dividends), they will not have fully addressed the fundamental unfairness in the tax code.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Cameron Smith: So this is Christmas?

  On December 14, 2012, Americans saw the darkness in Newtown, Connecticut. And for many of us it is hard to grasp, maybe impossible. How could a young man be so full of pain and rage that he would take so many young lives? Where are the answers? What can we do? What “serious” conversations can be had? What laws can be passed? But the cold darkness settles on our souls as a steady procession of tiny coffins are lowered into the ground.

  So this is Christmas?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Where the real power lies

  During the 2012 election year we enjoyed observing the presidential race nationwide as well as judicial races statewide. However, probably the most important races for many of you occurred during the dog days of summer. We had mayor’s races throughout the state this year. All municipalities with the exception of Montgomery, Birmingham and Mobile elected their mayor for the next four years.

  The mayor of a city is a very high profile post. Mayors have more influence and importance than most folks realize. It is the real bastion of decision making when it comes to public policy. They affect their constituents’ lives every day. The mayor of a city is where the rubber meets the road in Alabama politics.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Charles C. Haynes: Religious freedom: not just for the religious

  Atheists, humanists and other nonreligious people face discrimination and persecution in many parts of the world, according to “Freedom of Thought 2012,” a report released this week by the International Humanist and Ethical Union.

  The survey is the first to highlight how people with no religious affiliation — sometimes dubbed “religious nones” by pollsters — are often treated as second-class citizens, outsiders or, in some societies, enemies of the state.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Katie Murphy: The Value of unions and the consequences of ‘right-to-work’ laws

  The passage of so-called right-to-work legislation in Michigan fails to take into consideration the real impact unions have on both states’ and the nation’s economies and on middle-class Americans. “Right-to-work” laws weaken unions by making them provide services to union and nonunion members alike, without making all beneficiaries pay their fair share. By severely weakening unions, which are vital to strengthening the middle class and improving the economy, “right-to-work” laws have broad negative consequences.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Joseph O. Patton: Meanwhile, back in the middle…

  I’m deep in the bunker, y’all. It’s simply not safe to wander above ground these days, notably due to the bloodletting inherent to the “War on Christmas” and the Christian Taliban forcing everyone at gun point to celebrate Christmas their way. Between overzealous Christians seeking to use our government as a means of indoctrination to overzealous atheists ripping candy canes from our hands and sacrificing our inflatable snowmen on altars to the great atheist god, I’m hesitant to step into the light of day… though I do need to get the mail.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Jacob G. Hornberger: The Glory of libertarianism

  Benjamin Franklin once said, “Where liberty dwells, there is my country,” inspiring Thomas Paine to reply, “Where liberty is not, that is my home.”

  We libertarians happen to have been born in what Paine described as his preferred home — a country in which liberty is not. We strive to convert our country into one that Franklin preferred, one where liberty dwells. That’s one of the things that make our movement such a glorious one.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Sally Steenland: Forgive us our debts

  In many faith traditions, forgiveness refers to more than sin. It also refers to economic debt. The Hebrew Bible teaches the practice of Jubilee, where debts are forgiven every seven years. The Koran urges compassion for debtors in difficult straits, saying their debts should be postponed until they are “in ease.” In these faith traditions and others, economic and moral behavior is tightly entwined.

  That link—between money and morals—isn’t limited to the pages of ancient sacred texts, however. You can spot it in today’s news thanks to a creative new project called the Rolling Jubilee, part of the Strike Debt campaign, which are both offshoots of the Occupy Wall Street movement and are tackling a huge problem. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, about 30 million Americans are being hounded by debt collection agencies.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Alabama’s 2014 drama is already brewing

  Now that the dust has settled from the 2012 presidential contest we in Alabama are ready for the real horse race. Unlike most states where the race for the White House is the marquee event every four years, our focus has always been on the governor’s race and our local races.

  Our forefathers must have envisioned that this would be the case when our 1901 Constitution was drafted. All our major state races are on the ballot in gubernatorial years. In 2014, not only will we have a governor’s race, all seven constitutional offices are up for grabs, including lieutenant governor, attorney general, treasurer and agriculture commissioner. In addition, all 140 legislative seats are up for election along with all 67 sheriffs, three members of the Supreme Court, two PSC seats and all seven members of Congress. It will be quite a year.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Ian M. MacIsaac: Freeze, this is a stickup: hostage negotiations in the fiscal cliff crisis

  "We're nowhere."

  That was House Speaker John Boehner's summation of the fiscal cliff negotiations as of this time last week, in an interview on Fox News Sunday.

  Boehner said that plan proposed by President Obama and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner to avoid the fiscal cliff, which included an end to Congress's control of the debt ceiling limit along with $1.6 trillion in new revenue, was "a non-serious proposal;" particularly because, as Boehner portrayed it, the proposal contained federal spending that outweighed its proposed budget cuts.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Michael Josephson: Give good memories

  In a society preoccupied with the quest for material possessions, it’s easy to overlook the fact that our most valuable possessions are our best memories.

  Good memories are a form of wealth. They are not simply something we own, they become part of who we are. Through our memories we can literally re-live and re-experience past pleasures.

  So, if you want to give a gift that truly keeps on giving, use the opportunities of holiday gatherings to give good memories.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Cameron Smith: The Free-fall and the fiscal cliff

  As the automatic tax increases and spending cuts of the so-called “fiscal cliff” near the horizon, political pundits continue to argue whether the government should solve its budget woes by reducing spending, raising taxes, or some combination of the two. Even the President has engaged with the trendy narrative of taking a “little more” from “wealthy” Americans to repair the budget.

  Unfortunately, the reality of America’s fiscal situation has little connection to popular political opinion. Washington’s problem is excessive spending. Period.

Friday, December 7, 2012

David L. Hudson, Jr.: ‘Gay-conversion therapy’: Is it speech or conduct?

  Whether something is labeled speech or conduct can make all the difference in the outcome of First Amendment lawsuits.

  Two cases in point are recent decisions by two federal district judges reaching opposite conclusions about whether to halt a new California law that prohibits mental-health providers from conducting sexual-orientation change therapy — sometimes called “gay-conversion therapy” — with minors.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Jacob G. Hornberger: It’s time to end the war against Cuba

   When is enough… enough? The U.S. military and the CIA have waged war on Cuba for more than 50 years. After a half-century of invasions, assassination attempts, terrorist attacks, and a cruel and inhumane economic embargo, it’s time to bring the entire sordid policy toward Cuba to an end. Not only has it failed to accomplish its purported end — the ouster of the Castro regime and its replacement by a pro-U.S. dictatorship — it has also played a major role in the economic misery of the Cuban people. The U.S. government’s war on Cuba has also constituted a grave infringement on the fundamental rights and freedoms of the American people.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Sally Steenland: The Political and cultural embrace of marriage equality is growing

  Twelve years ago Vermont became the first state to legalize civil unions for gay and lesbian couples. Back then the term “civil union” was unfamiliar to most Americans, and the Vermont law seemed radical to many. Its passage triggered fear campaigns and antigay ballot initiatives that energized conservatives and helped them win elections across the country.

  On Election Day 2012 voters in three states—Maryland, Maine, and Washington—went far beyond civil unions and supported marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples. Voters in Minnesota rejected a constitutional amendment that defined marriage as being between one man and one woman. These victories mark a dramatic shift in public support for gay and lesbian equality—all in a little more than a decade since Vermont passed its civil unions bill.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The Moore factor

  The Roy Moore victory continues to reverberate throughout the state. Whenever the subject of politics comes up it is the first subject of conversation.

  Undoubtedly it is the political story of the year. Moore’s amazing resurrection triumph was astonishing. He was written off as an “also ran” candidate after dismally losing two races for governor in the past four years. Moore rode his horse to vote in Etowah County in both his primary and general election victories, and then watched the results flow in, especially from North Alabama. On both occasions it was evident that he was riding a wave of fundamentalist evangelical voting that carried him back to his old job as chief justice. He had been written off as dead, then lo and behold, to quote an old Baptist hymn, “Up from the grave He arose with a mighty triumph o’er his foes.”

Monday, December 3, 2012

Michael Josephson: Not everyone in need has a brick

  A successful man known for his philanthropy was driving his new car through a poor part of town. He’d driven the route hundreds of times before on his way home.

  A young boy tried to flag him down. The man was in a hurry and didn’t want to get involved, so he pretended he didn’t see him. The traffic signal turned red, though. As he slowed for it, he heard a loud thud. The boy had thrown a brick at his car!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Matthew Duss: U.N. status upgrade for Palestine presents new dynamic

  This week the U.N. General Assembly voted overwhelmingly—138 countries in favor, 9 opposed, and 41 abstaining—to upgrade the status of Palestine from “non-member observer entity” to “non-member observer state.” That the measure passed was not a surprise. What was a surprise, however, was the number of close U.S. partners—particularly members of the European Union—who either voted for the resolution or abstained.

  While the conventional wisdom holds that the status upgrade is largely symbolic, it is important to understand that the symbolism serves a political purpose. As Palestinian leaders explain it, the U.N. bid was undertaken in large part out of frustration with the failure of the U.S.-led peace process of the past several years to produce tangible progress toward the end of occupation and the creation of a Palestinian state.