Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: 2014 and beyond

  With each passing day it becomes less likely that Gov. Robert Bentley will get any serious opposition in his reelection bid. We are only five months away from the June 3, 2014 GOP primary. It would be very difficult for someone to mount a significant challenge to the popular incumbent in that time span.

  It also appears that Sen. Jeff Sessions and Attorney General Luther Strange will have smooth sailing towards their reelections. Young Boozer and John McMillan also appear to be headed towards reelection to second terms as Treasurer and Agriculture Commissioner.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Sheldon Richman: Congress must not cede its war power to Israel

  The American people should know that pending right now in Congress is a bipartisan bill that would virtually commit the United States to go to war against Iran if Israel attacks the Islamic Republic. "The bill outsources any decision about resort to military action to the government of Israel," Columbia University Iran expert Gary Sick wrote to Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in protest, one of the bill’s principal sponsors.

  The mind boggles at the thought that Congress would let a foreign government decide when America goes to war, so here is the language (PDF):

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Michael Josephson: Make 2014 the best year ever

  I hope the past year will go down in your book of life as one filled with great pleasures and grand memories. But whether the year was good, bad, or indifferent, I hope you’ll enter the new year wiser and stronger for your experiences, and optimistic that the best is yet to come.

  A vital quality of a happy and successful personal and professional life is continual growth spurred by a commitment to learn through study and experience. This requires the humility to accept that however good you are you can get better and the ambition to be better.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Jacob G. Hornberger: Why federal spending continues to soar

  The Washington establishment, not surprisingly, is celebrating the budget deal that Republican Rep. Paul Ryan and Democrat Sen. Patty Murray reached. They’re calling it a great example of "bipartisanship."

  And why not? The deal calls for increases in federal spending, doesn’t it? What’s not to like about that, from the standpoint of the Washington establishment?

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: A final salute

  As the year 2013 comes to an end, as is our custom, we will reminisce and remember some of the great names of Alabama politics that have passed away this year.

  Former Supreme Court Justice, John Tyson, passed away at 86 at his Montgomery home. Tyson was a revered, Montgomerian and a real gentleman. His best friend was Bubba Trotman of Montgomery. If I had to define the term Southern gentleman, Judge Tyson and Bubba Trotman epitomize this demeanor.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Gene Policinski: Here are three ‘Duck Dynasty’ free-speech lessons

  Okay, America: Here’s a quick, basic course in the First Amendment:

  Lesson #1."Duck Dynasty"’s Phil Robertson has a First Amendment right to state his views on homosexuality, minorities and pretty much anything else on this unlikely reality-TV star’s mind, whenever he wants.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Michael Josephson: ‘Tis the season to be jolly — even while shopping

  People are not at their best in crowds. It’s as if every survival-of-the-fittest primordial instinct comes out to obliterate thousands of years of civilization. Pre-and post-holiday shopping, and the inevitable lines, test our character.

  My wife’s a professional shopper. She has strategies on where to park and how to find the fastest moving line (which I’ve discovered is not always the shortest). But what I admire most is her resolve not to let it get her down. In fact, this is her "good attitude Olympics."

Friday, December 20, 2013

Katherine Green Robertson: Food trucks hit speed bump at Birmingham City Council

  When you hear the phrase "burdensome regulations," what comes to mind? The U.S. EPA’s endless list of red-tape and hefty compliance costs or the thousands of pages of onerous regulations contained in the Affordable Care Act? Especially in business, regulatory burdens are synonymous with federal agencies; yet, for small businesses and independent citizens, some of the most oppressive regulations originate at the local level.

  This week, the Birmingham City Council passed an ordinance that establishes a general operating permit fee for food trucks, creates "food zones" where trucks can set up, requires that the trucks be parked at least 150 feet from existing restaurants, and limits the hours of truck operation from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. with some exceptions.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Gene Policinski: When and why we need to hear 911 calls

  The word "restraint" and the First Amendment usually exist in uneasy tension.

  The 45 words of the First Amendment don’t include it. The Pentagon Papers case in 1971 settled the issue of "prior restraint" by the government on what the press may publish: Nothing doing.

  Many critics of the news media slam news outlets for a lack of it, from graphic TV images beamed live from car chases to unrestrained paparazzi photographers stalking celebrities. And in the digital age, whole new ethical controversies have arisen over images being captured and distributed via the ubiquitous presence of cell phone cameras.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Sally Steenland: Love and work

  Here’s a puzzle: Many conservatives who praise marriage and its values of fidelity, protection, and commitment seem to forget those values when it comes to another institution that gives our life meaning—work.

  When it comes to marriage, for instance, many conservatives support state covenant laws that make it harder for couples to divorce by limiting the grounds on which they can do so. While opponents of covenant laws argue that they can be used to endanger domestic violence victims, many conservatives dismiss such claims as being more theoretical than real, arguing that laws that make it harder to dissolve the bonds of marriage are good for society.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The rise of ALFA

  When I went to the legislature in 1982 as a 30-year-old freshman, there were two powerful organizations. The Alabama Farmers Federation (ALFA) and the Alabama Education Association (AEA) were omnipotent. The Farmers Federation had prevailed as the King of Goat Hill for decades and probably going back to when Alabama became a state in 1901.

  You chose early which side you were on, either ALFA or AEA. It was almost like football in our state where you have to side either with Auburn or Alabama. My choice was easy. Being from a rural county and being a business person, I made my allegiance to ALFA.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Charles C. Haynes: Don’t worry, Santa, the ‘war on Christmas’ isn’t real

  When I read that 52% of American adults say they believe in Santa Claus (according to a survey from Public Policy Polling), I wasn’t surprised to learn in the same poll that 42% also believe there is a "war on Christmas."

  After all (spoiler alert), both are figments of the imagination.

  Belief in Santa, at least, perpetuates a spirit of joy and goodwill. But the "war on Christmas" narrative, by contrast, does little more than stir up anger and ill will.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Jacob G. Hornberger: Unilaterally and immediatetly lift the Cuban embargo

  Much ado is being made about President Obama’s decision to shake hands with Cuban President Raul Castro at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service. People are wondering whether the handshake could be the start of a thaw in the fifty-year state of hostility between Cuba and the United States.

  To no one’s surprise, Cold War anti-communist dead-enders are objecting to Obama’s handshake, no doubt thinking that Obama might have been infected by communism, which the dead-enders are still convinced is a contagious malady that could easily be spread throughout America and the rest of the world. They’re saying that there should be no change in U.S. policy toward Cuba.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Budget agreement is imperfect, but a good first step

  Budgets are about choices. The budget agreement announced by Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) makes plenty of choices—many of them good, others less so—but the sum total of their choices results in a package that moves the country in a positive direction. The Murray-Ryan deal would, for the time being, put the seemingly constant fiscal crises to rest and roll back some of the damaging austerity spending cuts that have been undermining the economic recovery.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

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.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Robert Wilkerson: Don’t blow it, Bentley

  The best deal in history is being offered to Alabama to expand our Medicaid program. It is best for the needy, helping some 300,000 of Alabama’s lowest income people who have no healthcare coverage. It will prevent some from suffering and even death. It will help the unemployed by creating 30,000 jobs. It will help some Alabama hospitals that may be forced to close their doors due to too much uncompensated care. It will help Alabama’s economy generating over a $28 billion dollar increase in business activity from 2014 to 2020.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The year of the quitter

  The year 2013 could be called the year of the quitter in Alabama politics. We have seen some high profile and significant political resignations during the year.

  The parade of departures began with 1st District Congressman Jo Bonner. He served 10 years as the coastal Mobile/Baldwin Counties’ representative in Washington. He left Congress and doubled his congressional pay to take a position with the University of Alabama system.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Michael Josephson: Nelson Mandela’s inspiring example

  “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

— Nelson Mandela, at Walter Sisulu’s 90th birthday celebration, Johannesburg, May 18, 2002

  I am impressed and deeply moved by the universal wall-to-wall coverage of the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela. He was a man of immense stature and influence. What’s important is that he was a very human man with strong passions who had used and was willing to use violence to advance his cause but he was so dedicated and disciplined that he made the choice to repress his resentment and anger in favor of forgiveness. It was a brilliant political strategy but also a mark of great character.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Cameron Smith: Rejecting the common refrain of big government

  Over the last several months, liberal politicians, members of the media, hospitals and even the head of Alabama’s retirement system have renewed their calls for Alabama to expand Medicaid under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

  The left and right have quibbled over economic projections, job creation, state costs, and political motivations. Every special interest, crony business or power hungry politician with a shot at either controlling or benefitting from a short-term federal cash infusion acts as if rejecting federal money is irresponsible and harmful to the most vulnerable in our state.

Friday, December 6, 2013

David L. Hudson, Jr.: A victory for student speech, but will it be Pyrrhic?

  Two middle-school female students at a Pennsylvania public school had a First Amendment right to wear "I Love Boobies" bracelets, because those bracelets were not plainly lewd, did not substantially disrupt school activities and did not invade the rights of others.

  Such was the ruling of the majority of the full 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in B.H. v. Easton Area School District (2013), a case closely watched in the student-speech community.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Sally Steenland: Repairing Christianity’s damaged brand

  One of the saddest and most damaging consequences of the Religious Right’s grip on partisan power over the past three decades has been the tarnishing of Christianity.

  Since the 1980s, the Religious Right—an organized political force consisting of extremely conservative Christians—has inserted its theological views into federal and state laws and attempted to impose its doctrines on a diverse, pluralistic nation. Leaders in the Religious Right have partnered with conservatives in the Republican Party to oppose LGBT equality, women’s reproductive health and rights, the teaching of evolution in schools, government safety net programs for the poor, and more.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Robert Wilkerson: Football religion

  Football has become the religion of the South. It has thousands of followers who eat, sleep and breathe it. They make pilgrimages to their shrines (Bryant-Denny, Jordan-Hare, Tiger Stadium). They love their high priests (Sabin, Malzahan, Miles). Once their services (the games) start, they yell, scream, shout, wave their hands, and some even dance. Their emotions range from sadness and depression to the highest expression of joy and delight. Recently, the gods have approved of their zeal by giving them miracles.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Political polarization

  Believe it or not we are approaching the fourth year of this legislative quadrennium. The legislature will meet early next year because it is an election year. All 140 seats in the House and Senate are up for election in 2014.

  These legislators were elected in 2010. Most of them are Republicans. The GOP owns a two to one super majority in both the House and Senate. These folks are not just Republicans in name only, sometimes referred to as "RINOs." They are real Republicans.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Jacob G. Hornberger: Killing unnamed children in Afghanistan

  When I read this Washington Post article about the two-year-old child that U.S. forces just killed in Afghanistan, I wondered what the child’s name was. Nowhere was it to be found in the article. Maybe the Post hadn’t acquired the name. Or maybe it just doesn’t matter. It’s just one more death among the countless Afghan deaths at the hands of U.S. forces during the past 12 years.

  The commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., issued an apology for killing the child. I wonder if he cited the child’s name in his apology. In any event, no doubt Dunford is hoping that the apology will help the U.S. government secure permission from Afghan President Hamid Karzai to keep U.S. forces in Afghanistan past 2014.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Katherine Green Robertson: Federal government backs down on obstruction of school choice

  In 2008, under the leadership of Governor Bobby Jindal, Louisiana launched an educational scholarship program in New Orleans. The Louisiana Scholarship Program, similar to Alabama’s new scholarship program created by the Accountability Act, is designed to provide low-income students zoned for underperforming schools with opportunities to attend qualified private schools within the state. In 2012, Governor Jindal prioritized expansion of the program which is now available to students anywhere in the State. Over 5,000 students took advantage of the program in its first year.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Ianta Summers: Working to stay poor

  I have a friend who works at Foot Locker—the successful international retail chain of more than 3,300 stores—who is struggling to make ends meet.

  He’s an assistant manager at a store in a suburb of Washington, D.C. He told me he earns $7.55 an hour for a 40-hour work week. In addition, he said he gets a twp percent commission on sales, discounts on in-store purchases, stock options, and health care. My friend does well, selling dozens of pairs of sneakers every pay period that cost as much as $250 each. But even if those benefits seem generous, when his check reaches his pocket, he doesn’t have enough money to support himself—or a family.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Robert Wilkerson: Thanksgiving controversy

  For the first time I can remember, there is a controversy going on over Thanksgiving. In the past, Thanksgiving has been set aside as a special day for God and family. In relation to God, it has been a time to thank Him for His goodness and mercy, and to count our blessings. In relation to family, it has been a time for family, near and far, to come together to express love for each other, and to enjoy a delicious meal.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: South Alabama political shuffle

  The political spotlight has been focused on Mobile for most of this year. They had a historical and sensational mayor’s race that ended in early fall. It resulted in a new mayor - Sandy Stimpson. Incumbent mayor Sam Jones lost to Stimpson after eight years in office.

  Although mayors do not run under partisan labels, it was a classic Republican versus Democrat race. Stimpson is a wealthy white businessman. Mayor Jones is the classic African American Democratic politician. Both men are in their 60s and have been successful in their careers. Stimpson will approach running the port city in an open and businesslike fashion. He defeated Jones with a plan that always works in politics. He outspent him and, more importantly, he outworked him.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Sally Steenland: Business and belief

  According to Gallup pollsters, more than 9 in 10 Americans believe in God. It follows, then, that religious people own many businesses in this country. They might be Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, Jewish, Mormon, Christian Scientist, Quaker, Muslim, Buddhist, or something else.

  Depending on his or her religion, the boss might believe that gambling is a sin; that prayer cures illness; that war is always wrong; or that gay people are condemned to hell. Their employees, however, are likely to hold different beliefs. In fact, given our nation’s diversity, a vast mix of faiths and philosophies can be found in America’s workplaces—increasingly including no religious belief at all.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Cameron Smith: Measuring the Affordable Care Act’s problem-solving progress

  Health care reform has dominated the political landscape since the early months of 2009 when President Obama and Democrats in the House and Senate began to draft what would ultimately become the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) in March of 2010.

  The President has conceded that the implementation of the PPACA has not gone as planned. Delays, significant technology issues, the Supreme Court’s modification of the law’s Medicaid provisions, and a host of other challenges have plagued the PPACA. Most recently, the President and supporters of the PPACA have come under intense scrutiny regarding whether or not the supporters of the law misled the American people about their ability to keep their preferred health insurance as the law takes effect.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Sarah Ayres: Why Congress must extend emergency unemployment benefits

  Since 2008, federal lawmakers have provided extra weeks of unemployment benefits for Americans who want a job but cannot find one—a group that totals 11.3 million people today. Recognizing that unemployment rates have remained high since the start of the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009, Congress has repeatedly enacted legislation to extend these benefits. Under the most recent extension, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, emergency unemployment benefits will expire at the end of 2013. But extending emergency unemployment benefits will prevent 3.1 million Americans from being cut off from benefits in the coming months and will lead to the creation of 310,000 additional jobs next year. Maintaining these benefits is the right thing to do for the U.S. economy and for the families who rely on unemployment insurance to pay their bills.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Robert Wilkerson: "Entitlement" is not a dirty word

  The word "entitlement" is not a dirty word. Although certain individuals and political parties have tried to convince us that it is. The word simply means "a right to benefits specified especially by law or contract."

  Programs designed to aid and assist needy Americans began with President Theodore Roosevelt, and they were added, or expanded, by several presidents following him as need dictated. They were created to help alleviate the suffering and distress among needy people who, due to no fault of their own (old age, disability, etc.), could not work. They were never for those who could work, but would not!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Sam Fulwood III: Is white supremacy making a comeback?

  In almost every discussion of race in this country—whether private conversations among friends and family or public debates between political antagonists—those engaged tend to talk past one another. Passions often displace reason; facts disappear like smoke in the wind, blown aside in the rhetoric of extreme beliefs.

  Who among us, having lived any appreciable time in the United States, lacks an awareness of our nation’s intractable racial frictions? And, after rubbing against the rough edges, who eschews the seemingly hard-wired opinions shared by peers of the racial others?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Michael Josephson: The peculiar concept of “ethics laws”

  Cynicism about the ethics of elected officials may be at an all-time high, continually fueled by new stories of outright corruption or bad judgment. At every level of government there are politicians who can’t seem to recognize or resist conflicts of interest, inappropriate gifts, improper use of the power or property entrusted to them, or the discrediting impact of shameful private conduct.

  Thus, it’s no surprise that news media are continually shining light on real and perceived improprieties and putting the heat on federal, state, and city legislatures to pass new and tougher ethics laws to restore public trust.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Effect of childhood vaccine exemptions on disease outbreaks

  Vaccination is one of the most cost-effective and successful public health interventions. Each year, vaccines save an estimated 6 million to 9 million lives worldwide, including the lives of 3 million children. In the United States, vaccinations have decreased most vaccine-preventable childhood diseases by more than 95 percent. Vaccines have minimized or eliminated outbreaks of certain diseases that were once lethal to large numbers of people, including measles and polio in the United States and smallpox worldwide. But because the bacteria and viruses that cause diseases still exist, the public health gains achieved through vaccines can only be maintained by ensuring that vaccination rates remain high enough to prevent outbreaks.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Adam Hersh: Most new jobs don’t pay a middle-class wage

  Last week the Bureau of Labor Statistics released new data about the October employment situation that show the surprising resilience of U.S. labor markets—even as extreme conservatives in Congress risked economic calamity by hijacking the political debate. The U.S. economy added 204,000 net new jobs in October, even with the loss of 12,000 federal workers from the public service. Although the government shutdown disrupted administration of these economic surveys, the data do not appear to be systematically affected, according to the BLS.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Jacob G. Hornberger: The cause of our violent and drug-ridden society

  We Americans live in a violent society, one in which there are lots of homicides, family abuse, mass murders of people, and other acts of violence.

  We also live in a drug-ridden society. The war on drugs has been an absolute failure when it comes to dissuading Americans from using drugs. The number of people taking illicit drugs has to be inordinately high. Otherwise there would be no reason to continue the drug war. Add to that the countless Americans suffering from alcoholism. And now the feds are cracking down on prescription drug abuse, given the large numbers of Americans moving in that direction.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Targeting underage drinking

  In recent years, there has been significant emphasis on warning people about the dangers of texting and driving and rightfully so. The number of accidents caused by texting is alarming. However, the primary culprit for accidents among young people is still due to underage drinking.

  Surveys reveal that 40 percent of Alabama students in grades 9-12 have had one or more drinks within the past month. By age 18 more than 17 percent of teens have taken a drink of alcohol. In Alabama 41 percent of young people ages 18-20, still illegal drinkers, say they have engaged in dangerous binge drinking. The measure for binge drinking is when they have at least five drinks on the same occasion. Among all college students, 61 percent are drinkers and 40 percent are binge drinkers. Again, most of these college students are under age 21 so they are illegal drinkers as well.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Robert Wilkerson: Veterans Day: Crossing out war

  Armistice Day, which was first celebrated on November 11, 1918, was changed to Veterans Day when our government passed a bill to that effect on June 2, 1954. Originally, it was a celebration of the ending of World War I, but today it commemorates the service of those who fought in all wars. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could cross out war?

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Laurence M. Vance: A flood of government intervention

  Some Americans are outraged at the federal government for reasons other than the recent government shutdown.

  No, they are not outraged because the National Science Foundation is funding the development of card games, videos and other educational programs "to engage adult learners and inform public understanding and response to climate change" through the $5.7 million Polar Learning and Responding (PoLAR) project. No, they are not outraged because the National Institutes of Health gave $1.5 million to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston to "study biological and social factors for why ‘three-quarters’ of lesbians are obese and why gay males are not." And no, they are not outraged because of any of the top 100 "wasteful and low priority government spending" documented in Senator Tom Coburn’s "Wastebook."

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Eric Alterman: The super-rich and their monster

  As Ian Reifowitz of the Daily Kos pointed out, an article in The New York Times’s business section shows that our tax system has been successfully gamed to the point where the wealthiest Americans pay a much smaller percentage of their income than salaried, middle-class taxpayers. Using 2009 IRS data—the most recent available—America’s top 400 earners, who take in an average adjusted gross income of more than $200 million, paid less than 20 percent of those princely sums to the tax man. Those who only made it into the top 1 percent of earners—a few of whom earn as little as $344,000—paid 24 percent.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Cameron Smith: The confounding southern conservative

  In the South, political perspectives are as likely to be shaped by conversation between friends at the corner store as they are by The Washington Post or CNN. Most of us who take the time to vote make the decision based on the information at our disposal, cast our vote at the polls, and move on with our lives. The choice belongs to us, and we know our interests better than anyone else.

  Or do we?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The Armed Forces' impact on Alabama

  Alabama is without a doubt one of the most heavily laden military employee states in the union. In fact, if you took the federal military employment and automobile manufacturing employment out of Alabama we would be decimated.

  When the federal furloughs occurred recently it had a profound effect on Alabama. When the furloughs hit more than 20,000 Alabama workers, mostly civilians, were affected.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Emily Oshima Lee: The costs of delaying the individual mandate

  Despite lower-than-expected premiums for plans in insurance exchanges, major technological issues with the HealthCare.gov website are frustrating consumers who are trying to compare and enroll in a health plan. As a result, some members of Congress have called for a one-year delay of the individual mandate to purchase health coverage under the Affordable Care Act, or ACA. Thousands of Americans, however, have already successfully enrolled in plans through state-based exchanges, making such a delay unnecessary and harmful. Although the administration must continue to urgently repair the federally facilitated exchange website, a one-year delay of the mandate would undermine the success of state-based exchanges and harm millions of Americans, resulting in significantly more uninsured individuals and more costly premiums for consumers in plans both in and out of exchanges.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Robert Wilkerson: Do the right thing, Governer Bentley

  Some of us in our comfortable homes, with our nice cars, and our balanced household budgets may not know it, but thousands of people in Alabama are poor and needy. Thousands don’t have health insurance; therefore, many will suffer, and some will die.

  Their suffering can be helped. The U.S. Government has recognized their needs and made large sums of money available for them through a real sweetheart of a deal. Alabama can get $1.5 billion each year for 2014, 2015, and 2016 without paying anything. Starting in 2016, the state would only pay 10 percent. The money is available to help over 300,000 needy women and children through the expansion of the Alabama Medicaid Program, which will be funded by the Affordable Care Act.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Sheldon Richman: Inflation is the last thing we need

  "Some economists say more inflation is just what the American economy needs to escape from a half-decade of sluggish growth and high unemployment," the New York Times reports.

  One is Harvard economist Kenneth S. Rogoff, quoted in the Times: "Weighed against the political, social and economic risks of continued slow growth after a once-in-a-century financial crisis, a sustained burst of moderate inflation is not something to worry about. It should be embraced." He favors an annual rate of 6 percent.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Eric Alterman: The Tea Party’s forebears are a movement of the rich

  It is an unfortunate irony of our age that describing academics’ work as "journalism" and journalists’ work as "history" risks insult to the respective authors. Each profession suffers tremendously from its prejudice against the other. Academics rarely write with sufficient clarity to communicate outside their specific disciplines and often neglect to draw useful conclusions, lest they be accused of overreaching their evidence; conversely, journalists rarely imbue their stories with sufficient context to reveal a situation’s underlying complexity. As a consequence, even relatively conscientious reporting can be misleading—often focusing to a fault on the "new" in "news."

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

David S. D'Amato: The war on Americans

  That the consumption of certain drugs ought to be proscribed by law is probably taken for granted by most people. The presumption in favor of banning some drugs has become so strong, so embedded in the mainstream of popular discourse as to be practically beyond debate — notwithstanding either philosophical or empirical issues that stand in contradiction to the accepted view. But at this stage in the American experiment in drug prohibition, the case for legalizing drugs, for leaving them within the realm of permissible choices, is worth another look. As defenders of individual rights and responsibility, libertarians have been making that case since the Drug War’s incipiency.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Ann Garcia: Who would the SAFE Act endanger?

  With the end of the shutdown debate, attention in Washington has returned to immigration reform. This summer, the Senate passed a comprehensive bill that would redesign our nation’s outdated immigration laws by a bipartisan supermajority of 68–32. Up to this point, the House has taken a piecemeal approach, moving bills that purport to address different parts of the immigration system through the committee process. One bill in particular should be on the radar of most Americans because of its extreme reach and outrageously harsh penalties. It’s the Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement Act, or SAFE Act, which passed out of the Republican-controlled House Judiciary Committee on a party-line vote in June.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Michael Josephson: Righteousness is revealed in conduct, not rhetoric

  It’s hard to look at the world and some of the people who seem to get ahead without occasionally asking ourselves why we should be ethical. However normal it is to think like this, the question should be off limits for people who profess strong religious beliefs. After all, what religion does not mandate morality?

  To authentically religious people, the motivation toward virtue is grounded in the acceptance of a nonnegotiable duty to be a good person in the eyes of God, not in anticipation of personal benefits. Dishonest, irresponsible, or unfair conduct is simply wrong.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Sally Steenland: Women Senators prove collaboration is better than conflict

  Women came to the rescue in Washington last week. A group of female senators crossed party lines and forged a plan to end the government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling. These women spoke the word "compromise" not as an epithet, but as a means of governing. They rolled up their sleeves and found common-ground solutions in order to put Americans back to work and save the global economy.

  In so doing, the 16 Democratic and 4 Republican women in the Senate blasted a hole in the stereotype of women as decorative accessories who chat and men as action heroes who get things done. As Time magazine put it: "Women Are the Only Adults Left in Washington."

Friday, October 25, 2013

Jacob G. Hornberger: Income taxation protects the rich and hurts the poor

  Statists love to tell us how the income tax helps the poor by taxing the rich and equalizing wealth. That’s just sheer nonsense. For one thing, most of the money they take from people with income taxes is used to fund the welfare-warfare state, very little of which actually ends up in the hands of the poor. Moreover, to the extent that the money does end up in the hands of the poor, it accomplishes nothing more than making them dependent on government largess rather than making them independent, self-sufficient individuals.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Katherine Green Robertson: Turning a blind eye to fraud in benefits administration

  Amid the news of the debt ceiling debate and the government shutdown, a disturbing report was released in the U.S. Senate on October 7 revealing rampant abuse in the approval process of Social Security Disability benefits. The report, issued by the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, offers a peek into just how loosely at least one government benefits program is administered and sheds light on the need for more oversight of the programs that swallow 10% of the nation’s GDP.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Robert Wilkerson: Avoiding war

  The U.S. did a wonderful thing a few weeks ago. We solved a problem without going to war. That has been rare in our recent history.

  The issue was Syria and its possession and use of chemical weapons on rebels fighting to overthrow their present government. The Hawks in Washington began to advocate several different military actions that we could take. Some even suggested that our President and our nation would be seen as weak, cowardly, and an undependable ally if we did not take some sort of military action.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Summer of SCOTUS

  During the summer the U.S. Supreme Court rendered two significant rulings. They were quite different philosophically.

  The high tribunal, in a far-reaching landmark decision, rendered same sex marriage legal in America. By granting all legal rights to same sex marriage they gave credence and official sanction to these unions. Their decisions are the law of the land. This is a significant verdict. The Supreme Court is omnipotent. Therefore, when it comes to federal benefits, such as Social Security, state laws like Alabama’s that prohibit same sex marriage are irrelevant. If a gay couple that was married in Connecticut moves to Alabama they are officially married.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Katie Miller: Four governors are denying military spouses the benefits they have earned

  The repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" in 2010 allowed gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members to serve openly for the first time in American history. And this past summer, the Supreme Court struck down key provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act, creating a pathway for the military to recognize same-sex couples for the purpose of spousal benefits. As a direct result of the ruling, the Department of Defense instructed military facilities to begin enrolling same-sex spouses of service members in military benefits programs starting September 3, 2013. But a handful of anti-gay, activist governors continue to discriminate against same-sex military spouses by refusing to enroll them in benefits programs at National Guard facilities.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Wendy McElroy: Challenging the 911 Landlord Law

  On September 19, a federal court in Philadelphia ruled on a challenge to the 911 Landlord Law in Norristown, Pennsylvania. The lawsuit had been brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and a local law firm on behalf of Lakisha Briggs. The ruling? A full trial on the challenge to the law can proceed.

  Such "911 Landlord Laws" are also known as "nuisance" or "crime-free housing" ordinances. The ordinances vary from city to city, but certain elements are common: to keep their rental licenses, landlords are encouraged or required to perform criminal background checks on rental applicants; they are encouraged or required to use a "crime-free lease," by which any crime on the premises breaks the contract — even if the tenant was a victim and did nothing more than call the police; furthermore, the police can demand eviction of a "nuisance" tenant, and landlords who do not comply can be repeatedly fined or worse. In some cities, landlords can also be forced to pay the cost of police visits.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Eric Alterman: Heads, the Tea Party wins; tails, the Tea Party wins

  Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum recently suggested that Americans would be less apt to hold Republicans responsible for the government shutdown than they did in 1995 because of the help Republicans could expect to receive from Fox News. She was wrong about this; indeed, she and Fox News host Brit Hume were typically wrong about almost everything. For instance, MacCallum said that:

        Fox News Channel was just beginning. People are very—it’s a different world in terms of what people understand about what’s going on. In those days, it was much easier to pin the problems in this on the Republicans … I’m not sure that they’re going to punish the Republicans to the extent that they did last time around.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Cameron Smith: The ride that shifted a shutdown perspective

  As the federal government begins to emerge from a partial shutdown, satisfaction with America’s political leadership is at a historic low. According to a recent Gallup Poll, 81 percent of Americans are dissatisfied with the way the nation is being governed. With anger, frustration and discord boiling over in Washington, many Americans are pessimistic about the future of our nation.

  Frankly, I was feeling a little cynical myself.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Charles C. Haynes: On college campuses, zoning out free speech

  Robert Van Tuinen’s run-in with campus police would be a funny story – if it weren’t such a disturbing example of how freedom of speech is under assault on many American college and university campuses.

  As reported in The Daily Caller and elsewhere, Van Tuinen, a student at Modesto Junior College in California, was stopped from handing out copies of the Constitution on Sept. 17 – the 226th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Squatlow and the Cuban Missile Crisis

  Fall is my favorite time of year and October is my favorite month. The pristine air, glorious foliage and football season are enthralling. Every October I think of a traumatic experience for our nation. It was 51 years ago this month that the Cuban Missile Crisis occurred. I remember it like it was yesterday. It appeared eminent that we were headed for a nuclear holocaust.

  It was October of 1962. The Russians had secretly planted a nuclear arsenal in Cuba and the warheads were aimed in our direction only 90 miles from our border. John Kennedy was a youthful president who had been in office less than 20 months. The young president showed what he was made of. He told the Russians to take their nuclear weapons out of the western hemisphere and gave them a short deadline to dismantle and go home.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Eleni Towns: Faith-based providers and the Affordable Care Act

  Conservatives often present a false opposition between government and charity. They believe that charitable and faith-based organizations are better suited to provide health and other social services than the government. But the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, reveals a far different reality, one that proves Americans are best served when there are strong community-government partnerships that ensure all Americans have access to smart, effective and community-specific programs and services.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Michael Madowitz: What should we expect if the United States defaults?

  The effects of a U.S. government debt default will largely depend on how soon the House of Representatives ends its fiscal brinksmanship. As the 2011 debt-ceiling standoff showed, the effects of a potential default will not wait until the Treasury deadline of October 17, and the 2008 financial crisis proved it is extremely difficult to predict what will break in the financial system until it has broken.

  With that in mind, this issue brief examines two basic scenarios of a U.S. default: one in which the debt ceiling results in a default for only a short time—say, less than one business day—and one in which the United States is unable to borrow for a longer period.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Michael Josephson: How are we going to get out of this mess?

  I am finding myself out of patience. I have listened to mostly sincere (to the point of self-righteous) politicians and partisan pundits excoriate the people they disagree with. They evade uncomfortable questions and explain why they are taking positions that may be based on principle but have become little more than tactical maneuvering. The focus is on who should get the blame rather than on how to fix the problem.

  I watch and listen with hard-to-suppress disgust and hard-to-avoid frustration and fear that I am witnessing the devolution of democracy. I truly worry that the men and women who govern our country are creating new norms that will permanently damage what was once the indisputably greatest democracy in the world.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Sam Fulwood III: Hard-Right Americans fear the future

  I have a self-identified progressive friend who takes a perverse and masochistic interest in watching Fox News and frequently listening to Rush Limbaugh. He is quick to tell anyone that he doesn’t believe a syllable of what he hears from the right-wing media.

  "You have to know what the enemy is thinking," he says, when asked why he tortures himself. "How else can I understand what they’re doing and how they’re telling people to act if I don’t snoop on their media?"

  My friend has it twisted. It’s not the right-wing media that’s leading conservative voters astray; it’s quite the opposite. For proof, take a look at the efforts of Democracy Corps, a Democratic-leaning public opinion and strategic consulting firm that is "mapping the Republican brain" in an effort to understand why our national politics is mired in seemingly intractable gridlock.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Josh Carples: Ghost of a Town

  The hallmark of any Josh Carples song is uniqueness. Whether he's flying solo with a guitar or working as part of an ensemble, the music, the lyrical content and his voice are uniquely his. A great bonus when he takes a solitary approach to developing songs is he fully explores and embraces his role as a storyteller. And these endearing characteristics of Carples' songwriting, musicianship and delivery continue to evolve on the album "Ghost of a Town," which he also self-produced.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Congressional District 1 run-off a clash to watch

  Throughout history cities that sit on a coast have been perceived as sinful places. Perhaps it is because seafaring people land there and are in search of raucous recreation. Therefore, port cities give rise to transiency and a more whimsical and capricious environment than their inland neighbors.

  Even in biblical times the Apostle Paul would decry or pray intensely prior to his journeys to the wicked, sinful and libertine coastal city of Corinth. He found it a difficult place to win souls and even precarious to his survival.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Ken Paulson: Crass though it may be, this tweet is free speech

  It’s not just athletes and celebrities that damage their careers with indiscreet tweets.

  A University of Kansas journalism professor has blown up his own career with a tweet following the shootings at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C.

  His tweet: "blood is on the hands of the #NRA. Next time, let it be YOUR sons and daughters." The tweet was insensitive, disturbing and dumb, and elicited exactly the kind of reaction you would expect.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Jacob G. Hornberger: Why do conservatives support Medicare and Medicaid?

  For the life of me, I just don’t get conservatives. They profess to love free enterprise and free markets and they say they hate socialism.

  Okay, then why do they never call for the repeal of Medicare and Medicaid?

Friday, October 4, 2013

Robert Wilkerson: JeffCo bankruptcy plan hits poor the hardest

  "It isn’t fair, daddy. It isn’t fair." That’s what my children said to me on several occasions while they were growing up and facing certain situations. "I’m sorry, but life isn’t fair" has been my standard reply. I said it, I believe it, but I don’t like it, and sometimes, I don’t accept it.

  The residents of Jefferson County are being treated unfairly in order to get the county out of bankruptcy. Bankruptcy is bad business and has many bad consequences. While we appreciate the work of David Carrington and several other commissioners, their solution is not fair to everyone involved.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Michael Linden and Harry Stein: The Senate continuing resolution is already a compromise

  The Senate-passed measure to keep the government operating represents an enormous compromise by progressives to avoid a damaging government shutdown. The Democrat-controlled Senate agreed to temporary funding levels that are far closer to the Republican-controlled House budget plan than they are to the Senate’s own budget for fiscal year 2014. Moreover, this concession is only the latest of many such compromises over the past several years.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Cameron Smith: The Hill where federal government died

  By now, most Americans paying attention recognize that the federal government began shutting down on Monday based on the inability of congress to appropriate funds.

  The hill that both Republicans and Democrats seem to be willing to die on is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), otherwise known as "Obamacare." How many Americans noticed that essentially one vote on one piece of legislation served as the power switch for the entire federal government? Why does the love or hatred of one policy, albeit a significant one, mean that government shuts down?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Who will be the next Alabama Attorney General?

  Believe it or not the 2014 state elections are only eight months away. This gubernatorial year, which usually portends a plethora of interesting and exciting races, is shaping up as a ho hum year.

  Gov. Robert Bentley appears to be on a path to breeze toward reelection to a second four-year term. Bentley has done a good job as governor and folks seem satisfied with him. Bentley’s stratospheric approval ratings stem from his likeability and trustworthiness. When asked about those two traits his numbers shoot off the charts. Folks simply trust him the way people trusted their family doctor. To put it into layman terms or country jargon, he fits like an old shoe. Bentley is a plow horse, not a show horse.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Sam Fulwood III: Why economic disadvantage becomes educational disadvantage

  "Why are academically gifted students from poor families less likely to attend top-ranked colleges and universities than equally smart kids from wealthy families?"

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Gary Palmer: AARP’s enviro-agenda assaults Alabama’s economy

  Recently the American Association for Retired People (AARP) sent a petition to the Alabama Public Service Commission (PSC) urging the PSC to reconsider their Report and Order issued regarding the Alabama Power Company rate structure.

  On the surface, the issue of the PSC doing a thorough review of the rates charged to customers by Alabama Power seems reasonable and within the scope and expertise of the PSC. But that is not what this is about. It is about pushing an environmental agenda that kills jobs and increases the cost of electricity for all Alabama Power customers.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Charles C. Haynes: When God-talk by kids is protected speech

  If you ask a class of 5th graders to write about someone they "look up to," don’t be shocked when at least one of them decides to write about God.

  That’s exactly what happened in Millington, Tenn., earlier this month when 10-year-old Erin selected God as her idol because, as she explained, "He is the reason I am on this earth."

  A red flag went up for Erin’s teacher, who told the student she couldn’t pick God and directed her to choose someone else.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Sally Steenland: There’s more than one way to start a revolution

  At a time when religion is a damaged brand to many people—especially the young—and when it seems synonymous with intolerance and bigotry rather than justice and mercy, the recent words of Pope Francis are occasion for joy. Or as Equally Blessed, a Catholic support group for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT, people put it, his words are "rain on a parched land."

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Charles C. Haynes: By removing Islam display, Kansas school surrenders to ignorance

  Back to school means back to culture wars for Minneha Core Knowledge Elementary School in Wichita, Kansas.

  On the very first day of school, someone snapped a photo of a bulletin-board display in the hallway featuring the Five Pillars of Islam and then posted it on Facebook.

  "This is a school that banned all forms of Christian prayer," said the caption under the photo. "This can not stand."

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The Republican exodus

  During the summer Alabama had a rash of major political figures step down from office in the middle of their elected terms. The first to go was 1st District Congressman Jo Bonner. Beth Chapman also quit her job as Secretary of State as did State Representative Jay Love of Montgomery, who chaired the powerful House Ways and Means Education Budget Committee. Love’s counterpart, Rep. Jim Barton of Mobile, who chaired the House General Fund Committee, quit his House seat. Elmore County Rep. Barry Mask also resigned. All five left in August for personal financial gain.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Jacob G. Hornberger: Free trade or fair trade?

  Statists on the left side of the political spectrum oftentimes attack "free-trade agreements" like NAFTA by claiming that they aren’t "fair-trade agreements." Free trade is fine, they love to say, but only if it’s fair. When they’re not fair, the "free-trade" agreements inevitably impose onerous conditions on workers, conditions that only government can rectify.

  There are at least three big problems, however, with this statist analysis.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Michael Josephson: The application of religion to our lives

  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.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Matthew Duss: Finally, Iran reciprocates

  The most significant part of NBC’s interview with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani this week was not his announcement that Iran would never seek to develop nuclear weapons. Iran’s leaders have repeatedly said so. Much more important was Rouhani’s assurance that his administration had the backing of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei—the key decision maker in Iran’s political system—to resolve the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program. This signals a shift from Khamenei, who has been one of the biggest skeptics of efforts to repair Iran’s relations with the international community and with the United States in particular.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Jennifer A. Marshall: Responding to the call of ‘Duck Dynasty’

  "For the life of me, I can’t figure out why people are so attracted to our family," writes Phil Robertson. And that was before "Duck Dynasty," the Robertson family’s reality show, smashed records for a nonfiction cable program when 11.8 million viewers checked out the season premiere in mid-August.

  Phil, as nearly everyone calls him, is the bearded, 67-year-old progenitor of the backwoods Louisiana clan that made it big selling duck calls and found its way into millions of other American homes through the previous three seasons of "Duck Dynasty."

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Sam Fulwood III: How to fix college sports

  Although ESPN sports writer Jason Whitlock is not a personal favorite, there’s something compelling about his look-at-me writing approach to all things in the sports world. In the same way that motorists feel forced to rubberneck at calamity along the highway, Whitlock drives people to notice his antics, which often result in controversy over the point he’s trying to make. But last week, Whitlock’s showboating actually managed to draw attention to important issues: the corporate exploitation of young black men in sports and an ignorance of the historical importance of black athletes.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The return of Byrne

  Probably the biggest political story of the year is the resignation of 1st District Congressman Jo Bonner. Congressman Bonner left Congress on August 2nd to accept a newly created position as Chancellor of Governmental Affairs and Development at the University of Alabama.

  Bonner did a stellar job of representing his congressional district, which includes Mobile and Baldwin Counties. He represented the first district for a decade. Prior to that he was the administrative assistant to Congressman Sonny Callahan. Callahan represented the district for 20 years. Jack Edwards was Mobile’s congressman for 20 years before that. The legendary Frank Boykin, "everything is made for love," was the district’s congressman for 30 years prior to Edwards. Therefore, only four men have served in the seat since 1935. That, my friends, is 88 years with only four congressmen.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Robert Wilkerson: Another day of infamy - September 15, 1963

  My eyes puddled with tears and they began to trickle down my face, faster than I could wipe them away. Soon, they became a solid stream that I could not hide from my children, who saw me crying and came to comfort me. They sat on each side of me on the sofa, put their arms around me, and asked, "Why are you crying, daddy? What’s wrong? What’s the matter?"

  I was crying because I was watching the live television coverage of the aftermath of the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. Firefighters and emergency workers were going through the rubble. Then, it was announced that four little girls, about the same age of my own children, had been killed in the blast.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Eric Alterman: Rupert makes the news—literally

  Rupert Murdoch is one of the most powerful individuals in the world and inarguably the most powerful in global media. So he can’t help but make news. One day, he’s asking $29.7 million for his yacht, and on another, he’s divorcing his third wife, Wendi Deng. On a third day, he’s inspiring the much-admired British playwright Richard Bean, author of "One Man, Two Guvnors," to write a play on the phone-hacking scandal at his News of the World tabloid for the National Theatre in London. And on a fourth day, he’s the subject of the Melbourne Theatre Company’s recently premiered "Rupert," a new "cabaret-style dramatization" of the mogul’s life by Australian playwright David Williamson.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Katherine Green Robertson: Consider the cons of Alabama’s CON

  On September 6, Area Development magazine named Alabama the fourth best state in the nation for doing business. According to the magazine, states were ranked on factors such as: business environment, labor climate, and infrastructure. Governor Bentley and his economic development team should be proud of this recognition as they continue their quest to bring new businesses to Alabama.

  Texas received the honor of first place. Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) has traveled across the nation promoting his state as the land of a "low-tax environment free of overregulation." With one industry in particular, Governor Perry holds a significant advantage: healthcare.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Our Stand: Standing in the National Guard’s doorway

  From George Corley Wallace standing in a doorway at the University of Alabama to block the entry of black students to Robert Bentley assuming his position in the doorway of the National Guard to prevent same-sex partners from receiving benefits, sadly the attitudes of our state’s leaders haven’t changed much in the past half century.

  Even as our federal government has amended its woefully discriminatory policies that denied benefits to the same-sex partners/spouses of federal workers, Governor Bentley has vowed to do just the opposite, rolling back the clock and insisting that when National Guard personnel are under his control, the state will deny said benefits.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Sally Steenland: What we’ve learned since 9/11

  When people are forced to choose between protecting their safety and guarding their civil rights, almost everyone picks safety. After all, what good are rights if you’re injured or dead?

  In the days after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, many policymakers used this forced choice to argue for new surveillance laws such as the Patriot Act. The law gave the government sweeping new powers to spy on Americans by wiretapping, seizing financial records, tracking Internet activity, and more; but these measures, we were told, were a necessary trade-off for security.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: 9/11 and our changing face

  This week marks the 12th anniversary of the terrorist attack on America. Their mission was well planned and executed. The devastation and death surrounding the bombing of New York’s World Trade Center was analogous to the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The day that will live in infamy, as declared by America’s elected king, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Most of us were not alive nor do we remember that day. However, most of us vividly remember September 11, 2001.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Paul Schwennesen: Food safety: A market solution

  The FDA is trumpeting, with unseemly giddiness, sweeping implementation of new rules within the now thoroughly moldered food-safety bill, passed two long years ago. Like any dish served past its prime, this one smells a bit off.

  As a producer in the ascendant food renaissance (defined by a sudden respect for all things small and local) I’ve noticed a curious double incongruity: First, the clamoring for “safe,” centrally managed food rules leads unerringly to the sort of consolidated, industrially processed foods many of the clamorers so despise in the first place. Second, enacting more-stringent safety regulations actually reduces the incentive for truly excellent food-safety standards.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Michael Josephson: You’re only cheating yourself

  It’s in the news all the time – kids are cheating in school in new ways and at unprecedented rates.

  One of the reasons is the way schools and parents deal with or ignore the underlying issues of integrity and character. For instance, a popular thing adults say to discourage kids from cheating is, “You’re only cheating yourself.”

Friday, September 6, 2013

Sally Steenland: 57,000 reasons to restore early learning

  About 57,000 children won’t be going back to preschool this month, thanks to deep cuts to Head Start programs triggered by the sequester. Their teachers and aides will be out of a job. Their parents, most of whom are working, will need to find another place for them to go. And their country—the rest of us—will lose 57,000 future citizens who developed at an early age the necessary skills to compete in the global economy and maintain America’s innovative edge.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Cameron Smith: Is America in Syria’s trouble?

  President Obama has asked Congress to authorize the use of American military force in Syria against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. Recent American history in the region demands that the United States exercise tremendous prudence and discretion in how it handles the war in Syria.

  Syria is embroiled in a bitterly violent civil war that has claimed the lives of as many as 110,000 in a country of slightly more than 22 million. The conflict began in the spring of 2011 when revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt successfully challenged their respective nations’ dictatorships. Largely peaceful protests against Assad’s authoritarian rule quickly turned to armed conflict after the regime’s violent response.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Our Stand: Alabama Legislature should not be used like a temporary, extramarital lover

  It would be easy for any observer to view the antics of the Alabama Legislature and justifiably assume that many of its members think of their role as a joke. And after a total of three resignations during this summer by members of the ruling party, it’s no longer necessary to assume.

  Rep. Barry Mask (R-Wetumpka) announced this week he’s abandoning his obligation to his district and this state with less than a month’s notice and with a year remaining on his term. Jay Love (R-Montgomery) ditched his seat last month. Rep. Jim Barton (R-Mobile) resigned last month as well and did so without giving notice.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Joe Adams and the Ozark Southern Star

  The advent and proliferation of internet communication has caused newspaper readership to decline over recent years. It has hit close to home with the demise of the urban daily papers in Alabama. The Birmingham News, Huntsville Times and Mobile Press Register are no longer dailies.

  However, our middle-sized and small town papers in Alabama are surviving. This is welcome news to me because my column appears in most of these papers throughout the state.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Sally Steenland: Religious liberty + marriage equality = Harmony, not dissension

  Sometimes the way an issue is framed matters as much as the facts. Take the so-called battle between marriage equality and religious liberty. Many activists against marriage equality claim that the two are inherently opposed to each other. According to their argument, if one side wins, the other loses.

  The problem with this oppositional framing is that it isn’t true. In reality, marriage equality and religious liberty can support and strengthen each other. And this is true even when people are conflicted about same-sex marriage. Even then, they still believe that gay and lesbian couples should be treated fairly under the law.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Eric Alterman: The mainstream media and the slowly boiling frog

  Late August is when Americans tend to take their relatively meager vacations—workers in other social democracies tend to enjoy six paid weeks of vacation rather than just two weeks, a tendency that American news rarely recognizes. Since the vacation-bound mainstream media is preoccupied with Egypt, Syria, Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, Obamacare, and a possible government shutdown, the fact that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report was leaked to Reuters and The New York Times will almost certainly fall through the cracks.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Michael Josephson: Competition in the arts

  Competition often brings out the best performance but it doesn’t always bring out the best in people.

  Even in the arts, actors, singers, dancers, and musicians must survive and thrive in a competitive community as rude and rough as any. Ambitious parents often introduce toxic gamesmanship and back-biting attitudes very early as their children are judged and ranked by the awards they receive, the parts they get, and the schools they are admitted to.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Scott Lilly: The choice Congress won’t face up to

  Back in college, I had a textbook entitled Decision by Debate. The underlying premise of the book was that if you had a good debate, you were likely to end up with a good decision. It strikes me that the inverse of this lesson – that if you have a bad debate, you’ll end up with a bad decision – may explain much of the problem this country is having with budget policy.

  Much of what is commonly being said about the federal budget – including the causes of the mismatch of  revenues and expenditures and the options we have for resolving that imbalance – is either mischaracterization or flatly wrong. When you slice through all the heated rhetoric, the budgetary choices we face may be painful, but they are actually much simpler to make than the debate would suggest.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: College football is king in Alabama

  As we approach Labor Day, foremost on most Alabamians’ minds is the beginning of college football season. Traditionally, Labor Day has also marked the kickoff of the political campaign season.

  As we head into the Labor Day weekend of 2013, my suspicion is that more of you are excited about this Saturday’s first games of the season than who is going to run for governor or any other state office.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Jacob G. Hornberger: The dictatorial power to punish a dictator

  President Obama is considering what military action the U.S. government should take against Syria in retaliation for its purported use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people. At the risk of asking an indelicate question, where in the Constitution does it authorize the president to undertake such action?

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Robert Wilkerson: Good news, bad news

  There is a great deal of good news for almost all Americans. Unemployment is coming down. Last month our workforce increased by 175,000 jobs. Over the past four years, the unemployment rate is down from 10% to only 7.6% in Alabama.

  Home prices have risen and continue to rise. This makes it possible for homeowners to recover some of the value lost during and after the Great Recession. Home prices in April rose 12.1%, which was the largest year-to-year increase since 2006. Factories are getting more orders. Production is increasing. People are returning to work, and new jobs are being created.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Emily Goff: The top 10 ways Washington wastes money

  Whether it’s negotiating over how much to spend on government operations or the government’s borrowing limit, we hear a familiar refrain in Washington these days: There is absolutely no room to cut federal spending. This is not the case.

  Many people remember the millions spent on the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere.” But how about the millions of dollars in federal spending on caviar promotion, keeping empty bank accounts open, and creating “Star Trek” parody videos? Yes, those are a few examples of your tax dollars at work.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The March on Washington: Looking back on 50 years

  August 28 marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. It is a time to celebrate a movement, a speech, and leaders who influenced generations of people around the globe and achieved genuine progress for diverse groups of Americans.

  There is no doubt that America has come a long way since the civil rights era. But while the indignities of segregated public accommodations have largely disappeared, another significant theme of the march remains highly relevant half a century later: the struggle for economic opportunity and equality. It was perhaps due to the march and the great success of the larger civil rights movement that opposition to this sort of equality was immediate, persists to this day, and is reflected in all three branches of the federal government.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Michael Josephson: Why are young people so cynical?

  Agree or disagree? “In today’s society, one has to lie or cheat at least occasionally in order to succeed.”

  This is a fundamental and revealing question on our surveys about personal ethics and integrity. Most interesting is that the level of cynicism is closely related to age. In an online survey on integrity (with 16,000 responses) we found that 43 percent of the respondents age 17 and under (there were 862 of them) believe lying is sometimes necessary, 35 percent of those in the 18-24 age group agreed, and 21 percent of those 25-40 agreed. But the percentage drops sharply after that: 12 percent of those 41-50, and only 10 percent of those over 50, think lying is necessary to success. (By the way, the survey is available here if you want to take it yourself.)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The centers of power

  We southerners can lay claim to a rich political legacy. We have enjoyed the most colorful political characters in U.S. political history. Our history is filled with the likes of Huey Long, Theodore Bilbo, Herman and Gene Talmadge, Strom Thurmond and our own legends, Big Jim Folsom and George Wallace.

  A very ironic, interesting and inexplicable occurrence surfaces when you study southern politics in detail. Each Deep South state has a region and even a county that spawns an inordinate number of governors and senators.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Robert Wilkerson: Taking food from the poor

  There they go again, picking on the poor and defenseless. A recent Farm Bill pushed by Republicans would give billions of dollars in subsidies to large corporate landowners, while cutting the food stamp (SNAP) program so deeply that five million people would be kicked off. Most of those who would lose benefits (83 percent) are already living below the poverty line. In Alabama, about 910,000 people would lose their benefits on November 1, 2013.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

James Jay Carafano: PRISM is essential to U.S. security in War Against Terrorism

  "Our intelligence professionals must be able to find out who the terrorists are talking to, what they are saying, and what they're planning," said the president. "The lives of countless Americans depend on our ability to monitor these communications."

  He added that he would cancel his planned trip to Africa unless assured Congress would support the counterterrorism surveillance program.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Joseph O. Patton: My prayer for the haters, homophobes and garden variety assholes

  After enduring the noxious backlash and expected passive-aggressive venom over WWE Superstar (professional wrestler) Darren Young “coming out of the closet,” I couldn’t help but subject myself to some soul-searching and spiritual reflection. And instead of dishing some hot-headed diatribe, I would like to offer this heart-felt prayer:

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Charles C. Haynes: For most Americans, gay equality trumps religious objections

  In the wake of two favorable Supreme Court decisions, gay-rights proponents got another boost this month with the release of State of the First Amendment: 2013, a public-opinion survey supported by the First Amendment Center.

  According to the new poll, a majority of Americans (62%) now agrees that religiously affiliated groups receiving government funds can be required to provide health benefits to same-sex couples, even if the group has religious objections to same-sex marriage or partnerships.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Sam Fulwood III: An American Dreamer’s sad awakening

  Under a scorching Texas sun, Andrew Haryono proudly chanted “The Eyes of Texas.” It was 2001, and Haryono was graduating from the University of Texas at Austin, where he had earned postgraduate and bachelor’s degrees in accounting from one of the best finance programs in this country. And so, as Haryono thought at that moment, he stood on the portico of his American Dream.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Bentley’s Airbus coup

  When Robert Bentley ran for governor in 2010, he made a campaign promise that resonated with voters. He declared that he would not take a salary as governor until the state’s unemployment level reached a certain low bar.

  Bentley inherited a ship of state that was sinking. He rolled up his sleeves and went to work to bring jobs to Alabama. He has done a reasonably good job. We have led our sister states in job creation over the past two years and Alabama currently has the lowest unemployment rate in the region. However, Bentley is still refusing to take a salary.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Charles C. Haynes: Dispelling the myth of a ‘Christian nation’

  Culture warriors, pseudo-historians and opportunistic politicians have spent the last several decades peddling the myth that America was founded as a “Christian nation.”

  The propaganda appears to be working.

  A majority of the American people (51%) believes that the U.S. Constitution establishes a Christian nation, according to the State of the First Amendment survey released last month by the First Amendment Center.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Jacob G. Hornberger: Secrecy versus a free society

  A Texas company named Lavabit exemplifies everything that the national-security state has done to our nation. Lavabit is an Internet company that provides encrypted email service for its customers. It recently announced that it was voluntarily shutting down its business rather than capitulate to the demands of the NSA and its FISA Court to grant access to its customers’ communications.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Ranana Dine: Scarlet Letters: Getting the history of abortion and contraception right

  If recent legislation passed in Arkansas and North Dakota is allowed to stand, it will be harder for women to get an abortion in those states than it was in New England in 1650. Legislators in Little Rock and Bismarck have passed new restrictions that ban abortions according to when a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can occur as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. Federal judges have blocked the new restrictions until legal challenges to their constitutionality are settled. But the six-week deadline contrasts starkly with early American abortion law, where the procedure was legal until “quickening”—the first time a mother feels the baby kick, which can happen anywhere from 14 weeks to 26 weeks into pregnancy.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Robert Wilkerson: Watch out for ALEC!

  ALEC is not a person. It is an acronym for the American Legislative Exchange Council. This organization has connections in all fifty states. It has roughly 2,000 legislative members, and 300 corporate members, and has been called by Bill Moyers the “most influential corporate-funded political force most of America has never heard of.”

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Gene Policinski: With Post purchase, Bezos has chance to remake newspaper model

  Jeff Bezos made it clear in founding Amazon.com that he can compete in the marketplace.

  We’ll just have to wait and see if he can, and will, do the same thing in the marketplace of ideas — that equally combative zone protected and preserved by the First Amendment’s provision for a free press.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Secretary of State contest could be dramatic

  Last week I predicted that all three of our top constitutional officeholders will win reelection to a second four-year term in next year’s election. The election will be in June next year. Since we are now a one party state when it comes to statewide political races, winning next year’s June 3rd Republican Primary is tantamount to election. Folks, that is only ten months away. The actual bell to begin campaigning rang out two months ago when candidates could officially begin raising money.

Monday, August 5, 2013

David G. Bronner: Eight insights on Medicaid expansion in Alabama

1. Georgia is projected to create 70,000 new jobs from Medicaid expansion. Since Alabama has half the population of Georgia, Medicaid expansion could possibly generate 35,000 new jobs for Alabama. Even if expansion of Medicaid only created 17,500 jobs, that would still be the largest influx of new jobs in Alabama’s history.

2. Adding $15-17 billion per year, about $1.5 billion per year, to Alabama’s economy is a big deal that helps all 67 counties with the federal government paying 90% of it.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Michael Josephson: Good ethics make better relationships

  While I believe that good things tend to happen to people who consistently choose the high road, the correlation between ethics and success is a loose one at best. Thus, it’s pretty hard to sincerely promote ethics by appeals to self-interest.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Our Stand: Roby unfit to represent 2nd District… or anyone else

  Alabama U.S. Representative Martha Roby (District 2) has made a political life of contradictions and unabashed hypocrisy. She routinely bemoans government spending yet gloats without shame whenever she secures more government spending for her district. Roby incessantly condemns so-called “redistribution of wealth” and yet is an unapologetic cheerleader for farm subsidies (agricultural welfare). She is quick to bash “government interference” in our daily lives, but she’s more than happy to support measures that facilitate interference (assaulting women’s reproductive rights for example) when it suits her personal agenda.

  But a recent appearance at a Wetumpka Tea Party function proves without question that she should not be representing anyone through elected office.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Cameron Smith: The crisis of government cronyism

  For the last several election cycles, Democrats have successfully branded Republicans as the protectors of corporate greed, companies that are too big to fail and the much maligned “one percent.”

  This branding strategy succeeds because it resonates on some level with most Americans. The policy and political arguments of an executive whose annual compensation is more than many of us will make in our entire lives fails to draw sympathy regardless of political leanings.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Top 10 ways the House of Representatives’ environmental spending bill would ruin your summer

  While millions of Americans are relaxing and unwinding at parks, on beaches, and in backyards across the country this summer, the House Appropriations Committee is launching a massive assault on their public health and summer vacations. The Fiscal Year 2014 Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill is full of provisions to block the enforcement of clean-air and water safeguards, eliminate protection for America’s public lands, and make it easier for Big Oil and coal companies to pollute.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Will Ivey and Strange return in 2014?

  Last week we handicapped the 2014 governor’s race but it is definitely not the only race on the ballot next year. In fact, all constitutional offices are up for election as well as all 140 seats in the legislature and all 67 sheriffs. Indeed, this is the big election year in Alabama.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Charles C. Haynes: A right for the religious is a right for the nonreligious

  Government in America must be neutral among religions and neutral between religion and non-religion – at least that’s how the U.S. Supreme Court interprets the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

  But escalating conflicts involving government treatment of the nonreligious – atheists and humanists – reveal that far too many government officials are confused and conflicted about the meaning of “neutrality.”

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Michael Josephson: The dangers of absolutism

  The world of ethics spreads from the borders of the absolutists, who think every moral question has a clear and single answer, to the coast of the relativists, who believe ethics is a matter of personal opinion or regional custom.

  In distinguishing right from wrong, absolutists don’t see much of a difference between mathematical calculation and moral reasoning. They’re extraordinarily confident about their ethical judgments, which can range from uncompromising commitment to truth, responsibility, and authority of law to ideas about religious beliefs, abortion, premarital sex, protecting whales, and even body piercing and breastfeeding. Although absolutism is often associated with conservatism, radical liberals can be just as rigid.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Gene Policinski: Rolling Stone cover offers exercise of free speech for everyone

  Don’t like the latest Rolling Stone magazine, featuring “glam, rock-star” photo treatment on the cover of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev?

  Don’t buy the magazine.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Katherine Robertson: The evolution of mandatory minimums

  Mandatory minimums, when assigned to a crime in the penal code, set the lowest available punishment that a judge may sentence an offender to for a specified crime. Typically a defined term of imprisonment, mandatory minimums have been in place and utilized by our national and state criminal justice systems since the early days of the United States.

  The very first mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment were enacted by Congress in 1798 as part of the Sedition Act and imposed a minimum sentence of six months for “opposing or impeding a federal officer by means of insurrection, riot, or unlawful assembly.”

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

David A. Bergeron: The bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act would protect our students

  This week the Senate will vote on the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act, a bill written by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, or HELP, Committee. Sen. Harkin worked with Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Tom Carper (D-DE), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Richard Burr (R-NC), Angus King (I-ME), and Tom Coburn (R-OK) to develop this bipartisan compromise, which would lower interest rates for the 11 million student-loan borrowers who either have taken out or will take out a new federal student loan after July 1, 2013.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Ticking down to 2014

  Whether you realize it or not the 2014 election is upon us. The call to arms began in June which is when campaign fundraising can officially begin.

  Under Alabama law, candidates can begin raising money exactly one year prior to the elections. That has been interpreted to mean one year prior to the primaries. The primary next year is in early June. That is proper and fitting since we are now a one party state. Winning the Republican Primary next June in any statewide race is tantamount to election in the Heart of Dixie. The November election will be a formality or coronation.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Michael Josephson: Acting on principle and good intentions

  I once heard a story about an emergency medical technician I’ll call Jake who was summoned to help an unconscious woman. When he arrived, she had no pulse. From her color and dilated eyes, he could tell she’d suffered serious brain damage.

  Still, he did his job exceptionally well, trying over and over to restart her heart. She finally regained consciousness.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Gene Policinski: Fear after violent incidents imperils our core liberties

  At various times, every American likely has wished for less of some things that the First Amendment protects. Less hateful speech. One less noisy protest group. Or maybe even the swift departure of a media outlet or personality whose stance or voice is just grating on a personal level.

  But for the most part, those wishes come and go – or the targets do, as media fortunes or political trends wax and wane.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Sally Steenland: What’s race got to do with it?

  One of the more riveting images to appear last year after George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin was side-by-side photos of the two young men, altered to make Zimmerman appear black and Martin appear white and asking how those changes would have affected public perceptions of the shooting. Some of the more memorable comments after the shooting involved race reversals as well. In the months following Trayvon’s death, several commentators wondered why a black guy in a hoodie signaled danger, while a white guy in a hoodie signaled Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Cameron Smith: Populism, power and the Public Service Commission

  Over the last several months, the Alabama Public Service Commission (PSC) has held a number of informal hearings inviting public comment and questions regarding all aspects of Alabama Power’s business. Interested organizations and citizens were given the opportunity to examine a wide range of topics from the Rate Stabilization and Equalization mechanism to reviewing Alabama Power’s operations and painstakingly exploring its finances.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Ken Paulson: America’s favorite freedom

  What is America’s favorite freedom?  It’s freedom of speech by a wide margin, according to the annual State of the First Amendment survey.

  About 47% of those polled in the First Amendment Center survey said freedom of speech is the most important right, almost five times the number citing second-choice freedom of religion, named by 10%.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Robert Wilkerson: Who’s targeting the AARP?

  Big bucks are being spent by the 60 Plus Association for attack ads accusing AARP of selling out to Obamacare, trying to raise our taxes, increase our utility bills, and take money out of our wallets.

  Since I have known AARP to be an organization that stands up for seniors, have attended their meetings, and have read many of their newsletters, I was shocked by such allegations. Then, I remembered something my mother taught me years ago, “You have to consider the source.”

Monday, July 15, 2013

Joseph O. Patton: The Great Pretenders

  Every self-described progressive or person of conscience is quick to tell you how they support social justice and equality. I sure as hell do… and I’m not shy when it comes to expressing it. But what does it say about someone who only brandishes some type of righteous anger when a victim of discrimination or racial profiling looks like them or shares their sexuality, religious preference, gender or some other key characteristic?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Sheldon Richman: What the immigration bill overlooks

  In passing the monstrosity known as immigration “reform,” the Senate overlooked a few things of importance. This is unsurprising. A bill on immigration that is backed by leading Republicans and Democrats, big business, and government-co-opted unions is bound to have missed some things.

  The bill, whose fate in the House is uncertain, would appropriate $40 billion over the next decade to “secure the border.” This would entail hiring 20,000 more border patrol agents and building 700 more miles of fence along the U.S.-Mexican border. The spending would include $4.5 billion on technology for surveillance. As the Washington Post reported, “The border security plan … includes unusual language mandating the purchase of specific models of helicopters and radar equipment for deployment along the U.S.-Mexican border, providing a potential windfall worth tens of millions of dollars to top defense contractors.”

Friday, July 12, 2013

Marshall Yates: President Obama's politically selective Constitution

  Inside the Oval Office, President Obama is playing political games with the rule of law in America. While the Supreme Court has declared itself the final arbiter of the Constitution, the Constitution itself requires each branch of our federal government to act in accordance with our nation's highest document. However, President Obama has tried to have his constitutional cake and eat it too.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

David Madland and Keith Miller: Senate Republicans may allow workers’ rights to disappear

  If the Senate does not act quickly to approve President Barack Obama’s five bipartisan nominees to serve on the National Labor Relations Board, or NLRB, a number of workplace protections taken for granted by union and non-union workers alike could functionally disappear in August, leaving millions of workers vulnerable and with nowhere to turn.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Michael Josephson: The Parable of Brother Leo

  An old legend tells of a monastery in France well-known throughout Europe because of the extraordinary leadership of a man known only as Brother Leo. Several monks began a pilgrimage to visit Brother Leo to learn from him. Almost immediately the monks began to bicker over who should do various chores.

  On the third day they met another monk who was also going to the monastery and he joined their party. This monk never complained or shirked a duty, and whenever the others fought over a chore, he would gracefully volunteer and simply do it himself. By the last day the other monks were following his example, and they worked together smoothly.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Who will be the GOP’s savior?

  Alabama and the Deep South have now become the heart and soul of the Republican Party in America. We are the most reliable base of support for any GOP presidential candidate. We and our sister southern states of Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, South Carolina and Louisiana are the bastion of the GOP.

  Our loyalty to Republican presidential candidates is not only unquestionable and predictable, it has been going on for quite a while. Alabama has been a safe haven for the GOP for close to five decades when it comes to national politics. Since 1964, we have voted for the GOP candidate for president 11 out of 13 times. The Republican candidate has carried Alabama the last nine presidential elections going back 36 years to 1976.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Juliana Herman: Access to public preschool matters

  Preschool is essential to school readiness and can significantly impact a child’s chance of reading at grade level, of graduating high school, and of obtaining the necessary skills to be college and career ready. Yet today too many children do not have access to high-quality, publicly funded preschool, which means they arrive at kindergarten classroom doors without the skills they need to succeed. By letting this situation persist we are allowing these children to start the life race two steps behind.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Sally Steenland: Pulling up racial injustice by the roots

  When we think of racism in America, we usually think of individual people who are racist. Celebrity chef Paula Deen, for instance, has been in the news recently for racial slurs against African Americans and for a lawsuit charging her with racial discrimination. Her words and actions give racism a face. What is far less common is to think of institutions and their policies as perpetrators of racism. After all, institutions are impersonal entities, not human beings. How can they be racist?