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?

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Kathleen Schafer: America at 237: A guiding light or a dimming beacon?

  Having made two trips to Egypt since the Arab Spring to work with current and emerging political leaders, I closely follow its ever-changing political situation. In the past week, the protests that allowed the country to exercise its voice for democracy have turned into ugly battles between the right and left, between those aren’t feeling empowered and those seeking to maintain their newly acquired rule, and, sadly, those with a thirst for blood and innocent bystanders. Regardless of one's political persuasion, the devolution from democratic ideals to the desire to see only one side dictate is leading Egypt away from its original goals and toward a future in which the majority of Egyptians do not want to live.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Cameron Smith: The Declaration’s legacy of liberty

  On July 2, 1776 the Second Continental Congress of the Thirteen Colonies approved a resolution of independence from Great Britain. John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail that he believed that day would be “commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty.”

  As history would have it, Adams was two days early. The Founders were not content with a mere resolution in the throes of the American Revolution. They recognized the need to make the moral case for independence, and the leaders of the colonies did so two days later on July 4, 1776.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Are regressive taxes something to brag about?

  A recent survey rated Alabama as the most conservative state in the Union. More than half of our residents describe themselves as politically conservative. The poll was done by the vaunted Princeton, New Jersey Gallup polling firm.

  Four of our sister states, Mississippi, South Carolina, Louisiana and Arkansas, also ranked in the top 10 of the 50 states in conservatism, according to Gallup. All five of us are predictably, reliably Republican. The states of North Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, Oklahoma and Nebraska rounded out the top ten. All these states are rural and also very Republican. Therefore, all ten of the most conservative states are Republican states.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Kirk Nawrotzky: Good Sport

View photos from this interview - Capital City Free Press on Facebook

"A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives." –Jackie Robinson

  I truly believed a Sunday afternoon would offer a more relaxed environment to profile Kirk Nawrotzky. The studios of the Alabama News Network seemed relatively quiet. The tower stood watch over the operation, and I was set for a laid back conversation. Supposedly all the cool kids work on the weekend.

  But upon entering the sports bunker, I soon realized Kirk was in full multi-tasking, sports-dishing, TV-conjuring mode. The sports world never stops turning, and the same apparently applies to this 25-year-old native of northern Virginia – near the D.C. metro area - who seems to function solely on the fumes of his passion for athletics. Those fumes can come in handy as he notes a 10-11 hour work day isn’t too rare depending on what sports are in season. The former college baseball player and “small town” guy is already a television weekend sports anchor, just a few years removed from college.