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 This summer, the Senate passed a comprehensive bill that would redesign our nation’s outdated immigration laws by a bipartisan supermajority of 68–32.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.