Saturday, March 30, 2013

Charles C. Haynes: Why fifth graders have rights too

  When people ask if kids in public schools have First Amendment rights, I’m tempted to answer “only if you think they’re human.”

  After all, the U.S. Constitution recognizes that every person is born with certain inalienable rights not granted by the government, including freedom of expression guaranteed by the First Amendment.

  But to be polite, I answer by re-framing the question to ask “to what extent are students free to exercise their inherent rights in public schools.”

Friday, March 29, 2013

Sam Fulwood III: What does the Facebook generation think about racism?

  Excited and agitated, my friend and colleague Liz Chen popped into my office yesterday to ask my opinion of the news that had her Facebook friends buzzing.

  Last month noted actor Forest Whitaker was falsely accused of stealing from a popular New York City deli when he stopped in to buy a cup of yogurt. A Milano Market employee frisked the famous black actor, believing him to be one of the shoplifters who pocket items from the store without paying for them. As it turns out, however, Whitaker didn’t steal anything—and when the story hit the celebrity websites, the employee quit his job amid apologies from the storeowner.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Cameron Smith: Bingo, gambling and the rule of law

  For years, Alabamians have read news articles, listened to radio talk shows, or spoken to politicians about gambling in the state. Even so, the issue seems to be a significant source of confusion about policy, politics, and the rule of law.

  The gambling conversation has percolated again after Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange raided the VictoryLand casino and filed suit against the gambling operations of the Poarch Creek Indians earlier this year.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Sally Steenland: The Religious Right wasn’t created to battle abortion

  The Supreme Court is hearing two cases on marriage equality this week, 40 years after it granted women access to legal and safe abortions in the landmark case Roe v. Wade. The timing of these cases—and the fact that both issues have spurred fierce and decisive culture wars—has prompted some legal experts and pundits to worry that a Court decision to legalize marriage for same-sex couples will trigger a public backlash for decades to come.

  This is supposedly what happened with abortion following Roe. According to the pundits and experts, the 1973 decision to legalize abortion outraged millions of Americans and mobilized them into a powerful movement to defend the rights of the unborn. They created the Moral Majority, the Christian Coalition, Focus on the Family, and Concerned Women for America. The Court’s decision in Roe triggered the birth of the religious right—or so the argument goes.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Halfway there

  The Alabama Legislature is approaching the midway point of their 2013 Regular Session. They are grappling with the woes that beset the General Fund Budget. The ongoing struggles with the General Fund are a priority. Despite the lean times, most state agencies will receive level funding. Even though there are increased insurance costs for state employees, the administration will not be forced to lay off or furlough any state workers. However, a pay increase is out of the question.

  Gov. Bentley’s proposed $5.8 billion Education Budget does allow for a 2.5% raise for education employees as well as $12.5 million in additional funding for voluntary pre-kindergarten programs.

Monday, March 25, 2013

James Glaser: I am sick of veterans who wave the flag and send others off to die

  A World War II vet told me something once that I have found to be true:

  “If you walk into a VFW or American Legion Post bar and hear some guy telling everyone what a hero he was and how he fought the enemy so well, but at the end of the bar there sits a man alone not talking to anyone, chances are great that the silent man was the one who really saw the thick of combat, while the braggart never even saw action.”

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Eric Alterman: Are journalists any less gullible today than they were 10 years ago?

  It’s a tribute to the good sense of the broader American public that on the 10th anniversary of President George W. Bush’s disastrous decision to invade Iraq, a majority of Americans are aware that the entire enterprise was a bad idea, according to a poll by the Gallup Organization.  As Eric Boehlert noted on the Media Matters for America blog, “To date, that conflict has claimed the lives of nearly 8,000 U.S. service members and contractors and more than 130,000 Iraqi citizens, and is projected to cost the U.S. Treasury more than two trillion dollars.”

Friday, March 22, 2013

Gary Palmer: Why the Accountability Act matters

  In 1963, Alabama Governor George Wallace stood in the doorway of Foster Auditorium to block the “schoolhouse door” in order to prevent black students from enrolling at The University of Alabama. Fifty years later, there are still people trying block “schoolhouse doors.” This time, it is Alabama’s education union and their judicial allies trying to block the door from the outside to keep predominately poor and minority students from leaving failing schools.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Ken Paulson: When online reviews lead to lawsuits

  When a Minnesota man felt his family was treated shabbily by a neurologist, he made sure the world knew about it.

  Dennis Laurion posted caustic reviews of Minnesota neurologist David McKee, saying he was insensitive to his father’s needs and claiming that a nurse called the doctor “a real tool.” This angered McKee, who offered his own prescription: a libel suit.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Sam Fulwood III: Fixing the GOP

  I suspect that those who need to hear it most are unlikely to read—or heed—what I’m about to say. After poring through all 100 pages of the Republican National Committee’s soul-searching report released Monday, the “Growth and Opportunity Project,” I feel compelled to offer the party faithful some advice.

  Yeah, I know that I’m not the sort of person whose ideas are typically associated with a group that would nominate former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for president. But, hey, I’m an American. I want to see a revitalized Republican Party because it’s good for the country to have at least two strong political forces battling in the marketplace of policy.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The Ballad of VictoryLand

  The continuous merry-go-round opening and closing of Macon County’s VictoryLand is like a circus. It is a comedic side show of political posturing. It plays out in a scenario reminiscent of Abbott and Costello’s Vaudeville classic, “Who’s on First.”

  It appears humorous and ludicrous but it is actually sad because people’s lives are being affected. This political chicanery is adversely affecting the lives and livelihoods of folks who want to work and live in one of Alabama’s poorest counties.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Ryan T. Anderson: Marriage, truth and consequences

  The deeply controversial, sometimes raucous marriage debate soon will be settled once and for all. Public opinion is swaying toward redefining marriage. And at the end of this month, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in two cases challenging state and federal laws that define marriage as one man and one woman.

  The nationwide creation of same-sex marriage seems all but inevitable.

  At least that’s what many journalists, pundits and activists would have us believe. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Sally Steenland: Selection of New Pope Underscores a Shortcoming of Church Rules

  Last week I took on the quixotic task of promoting a nun for pope by covering my office door with stickers: “Vote for hope, justice, joy!”, and “Yes, she can!”

  These homemade feisty signs boost the impossible election of Sister Simone Campbell to be head of the Catholic Church worldwide. For those unfamiliar with Sister Simone, she created and led the “Nuns on the Bus” tour last summer, where she and fellow nuns grabbed headlines and drew huge crowds for defending faith-based charities that would’ve been devastated by the harsh cuts proposed in Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) House Republican budget. Last September Sister Simone gave a primetime address at the Democratic National Convention and received a standing ovation. For more than 40 years, she has devoted her life to helping those who are poor and disenfranchised, aiming to emulate the gospel message of lifting up “the least of these.”

Friday, March 15, 2013

Sheldon Richman: The Dow Jones is lying

  The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) is at a record high, and the unemployment rate has ticked down to 7.7 percent, but this is no time to celebrate. The economy is still in the doldrums.

  A little perspective: The news media trumpet changes in the Dow as though it tells us almost all we need to know about the economic fate of the American people. That’s nonsense. Not everyone thinks the arbitrary index of 30 busily traded blue-chip stocks is terribly relevant to gauging the condition of the economy. Moreover, the average, which reflects the daily change in the companies’ stock prices, is not adjusted for inflation. In nominal terms the Dow hit a record high of 14,447.29 this month. But in real adjusted terms, the average is only at the level reached in the year 2000. In other words, if you invested in the companies that year, you’re no richer now, because the dollar has depreciated thanks to the Federal Reserve. That doesn’t sound so remarkable.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Gene Policinski: Mixed forecast for Sunshine Week

  The forecast from this year’s National “Sunshine Week,” which annually focuses on issues of freedom of information and transparency in government, is “partly cloudy, with some sun and some storms.”

  On one hand, an Associated Press analysis released during the week found that the Obama administration in 2012 answered the highest number during his time in office of FOI requests for “government documents, emails, photographs and more, and it slightly reduced its backlog of requests from previous years.”

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Michael Linden: Rep. Paul Ryan’s fantasy budget

  The newly released House Republican budget plan, authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), claims to achieve balance by 2023, but that’s only true if you ignore the $7 trillion tax hole, and the utterly unrealistic cuts to a category of federal spending that’s already set to decline to historic lows. Without these egregious gimmicks and magic asterisks, Rep. Ryan’s plan not only fails to balance the budget but would actually dramatically increase the deficit and debt.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Inherit the destruction

  The much anticipated BP trial began February 25th in New Orleans. British Petroleum faces billions of dollars in civil claims resulting from the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

  Alabama will reap a bonanza, which will go primarily to our beleaguered General Fund. To his credit, Attorney General Luther Strange has taken the helm of the legal battle rather than farming it out to expensive trial lawyers or political cronies as has been done by past AGs.

Monday, March 11, 2013

James Jay Carafano: Uncivil military relations

  Chuck Hagel survived the nomination process, but many problems still lie ahead.

  Hagel’s nomination as secretary of defense was not well received by most Republicans. And his performance during the confirmation hearings did nothing to help his cause. In the end, the nomination narrowly squeezed past a cloture vote. More than a few in Hagel’s old party gave him a thumbs-down in the final vote.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Sheldon Richman: Cutting government would boost economy

  Budget sequestration is as modest a step toward cutting Leviathan as one can imagine. Further progress will be difficult as long as people believe that slashing the size of government conflicts with reviving the economy. Nothing could be further from the truth.

  In his recent debate on Charlie Rose, Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman said that even wasteful government spending should not be cut, because it would undermine job creation and economic recovery. This view isn’t quite as popular as it once was, but it is still influential.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Alex D. Newton: Government infighting mirrors citizenry

  Every day I see posts from conservatives and liberals alike claiming that one side or the other is unwilling to work across aisles, clogging up legislation, playing games of brinksmanship, lying and any other number of things we don't want our government to spend it's time doing. There are rampant complaints that those at the highest levels are really not earning their pay and they couldn't find "the truth" with a map and compass. I have also made many of these same complaints.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Charles C. Haynes: Battling over yoga in public schools

  That’s the conundrum at the heart of a new legal battle in Encinitas, California over the teaching of yoga in public schools.

  In a lawsuit filed last month, a couple with two children in the Encinitas schools charge that the district is unconstitutionally promoting religion by giving yoga classes twice a week to students during the school day.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Sam Fulwood III: The Media’s stereotypical portrayals of race

  I’m no longer sure that seeing is believing.

  As a former newspaper journalist, I’m disheartened to say that what you now see in the media isn’t always an objective reality. Even when an article or broadcast reports the truth, the accompanying pictures and images can sometimes impress upon readers or viewers another set of facts that may be at odds with the story.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Budgeting... Alabama style

  Alabama is one of only a handful of states that does not work off of one unified budget. We have two budgets. We have a General Fund Budget like all states. Then we have an Education Trust Fund Budget that obviously funds education in the Heart of Dixie. This includes K-12 and higher education.

  Allow me to go back in history and share with you the reason we have a separate education budget. During the Great Depression, education was woefully under-funded. Both black and white children were going to dilapidated one-room schools and were sharing threadbare textbooks. Teachers were not even being paid. They were being given script or promissory notes for which they might eventually be paid. The education system in Alabama was abysmal to say the least.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Joseph O. Patton: Loaves and fishes… or bullets?

  Alabama should certainly be ashamed. We operate under one of the most regressive, unfair and debilitating tax systems in this nation. Yet invariably our fellow citizens of the conservative persuasion inexplicably brag about it… often in the face of those who suffer most from this codified curse.

  Repeatedly Rep. John Knight (D-Montgomery) has led the charge to make a dent in the suffering by introducing legislation to repeal our state’s oppressive sales tax on groceries, yet it has always failed, often at the hands of lawmakers who always crow about what “righteous and God-fearing” people they are and how the Bible guides their actions.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Cameron Smith: Better options for Medicaid?

  Many Alabamians may be unaware that Medicaid is the second largest budget item for Alabama’s state government at $5.23 billion in combined state and federal spending. For being such a significant expenditure, the average Alabamian might believe the state’s Medicaid beneficiaries receive some of the most generous health care around.

  Unfortunately, that is not the case with Alabama Medicaid. The state’s Medicaid program provides few services not mandated by the federal government and has some of the strictest eligibility requirements in the country.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Our Stand: Conned by the Alabama Legislature

  After the antics that unfolded Thursday in the Alabama Legislature, no citizen of this state should trust their lawmakers again… and we certainly shouldn’t trust our representatives with our tax dollars.

  For months Republicans in the “super majority” assured us that a bill they were pushing, specifically called “school flexibility,” was not to open a back door to private school vouchers or charter schools. They insisted that we trust them, though their Democratic counterparts voiced honest concerns… then they effectively pulled a cheap, dishonest hoax on every citizen in our state.