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 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.