Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Senate Sketches #1437: An open letter to Mr. Charles Barkley

Dear Mr. Barkley:

     I write you out of love. I write you out of profound pain. I write you out of deep concern. I hope you accept this letter in the spirit that I write.

     Mr. Barkley, I understand that you said, in so many words, that slavery was not so bad and that you were tired of people bringing up slavery. I was shocked by both statements. Then I was mad. Then I was terribly disappointed. Finally, I was just in deep hurt and great pain. Now, I am trying to help you and all those who may think like you.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Notable Alabamians we lost in 2014

  As is the custom with my year end column, we will take note of the passing away of notable Alabama political personalities during the year. Some legendary Alabama political icons passed away in 2014.

  Former U.S. Senator Jeremiah Denton died in March at age 89. Denton was born in Mobile. He served one six-year term in the Senate from 1981-1987. He was elected with Ronald Reagan in 1980. He was one of Reagan’s most loyal and staunchest supporters in the Senate.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Gene Policinski: Sure, you can say that – but please don’t

  The hecklers appear to be winning this one.

  A growing number of news, commentary and information sites are doing away with comments on some or all of their online offerings – exhausted, disgusted or repelled by the likelihood that the posts quickly will deteriorate into a morass (yes, that’s a pun) of vulgarity, obscenity, racism or just plain old irrelevance.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Michael Josephson: The Cowboy Code

  I grew up in much simpler times. Television was in its infancy, and the idea of a hero was exemplified by a white-hatted cowboy. There was a clarity and simplicity to this hero’s moral code that left no doubt there is a right and wrong.

  As I became more sophisticated, it was easy to ridicule these simplistic approaches to ethics and living. Yet the more I’ve learned, the more I’ve come to think there’s just as much danger in muddying our choices into endless shades of gray.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Charles C. Haynes: Without religious freedom, there will be no lasting peace

  On December 10, 1948, the nations of the world gathered at the United Nations to adopt the Universal Declaration of Rights, an American-inspired proclamation that launched the modern human rights movement.

  Voting in the shadow of the Holocaust, religious freedom was prominent among the inalienable rights that the world agreed must be guarded for all people.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Michael Josephson: Will this be a good Christmas?

  Will this be a good Christmas?

  To lots of kids, the answer may be embedded in the response to the question: “Whaddja get?”

  On the other hand, retailers and Wall Street investors will look to sales and profits.

  What a pity that the spiritual and social potential of this holiday can be so easily lost.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The legacy of Paul Hubbert

  Paul Ray Hubbert was born on Christmas Day in 1935 in the small rural crossroads of Hubbertville in Fayette County. The community was named for his family, who were the original and primary settlers. He died in October in Montgomery.

  Dr. Hubbert left an indelible mark on Alabama political history. The most enduring political giant in Alabama political history in my lifetime was George Wallace. Next to Wallace would be Senator Richard Shelby and Dr. Paul Hubbert.

Monday, December 22, 2014

5 Facts you need to know about legal challenges to executive action on immigration

  On November 20, President Barack Obama announced executive action on immigration that includes, among other provisions, a policy that could provide temporary relief from deportation to approximately 4.4 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. But because only Congress can pass legislation to create a pathway to permanent legal status, this action necessarily falls short of the benefits that full legislative reform could offer.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Robert Wilkerson: Swarming Christmas sharks

  You may be asking what Christmas sharks are. They are predatory lenders (payday and title loan companies) who prey on poor and low-income people. At Christmas they are trying to lure more of these unsuspecting people into their waters by offering fast, easy cash for Christmas.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Gene Policinski: Our core freedoms are put to use – and put to the test

  Our First Amendment freedoms have been put to use – and put to the test – in recent weeks.

  In the U.S. Supreme Court chambers in Washington, D.C., an angry ex-husband sought to overturn his conviction for making threats over the Internet, claiming the violence-laced language and the vile visions he conjured up on Facebook were just “therapeutic efforts to address traumatic events,” even akin to some song lyrics.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Jacob G. Hornberger: A Cold War breakthrough

  More than 50 years after the U.S. government’s imposition of its brutal economic embargo against the Cuban people, yesterday’s announcement by President Obama calling for a lifting of the embargo represents a major breakthrough for libertarians and others who are committed to the principles of individual liberty, free markets, private property, liberty of contract, freedom of travel, and freedom of association.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Robert Wilkerson: Scrooging Christmas

“. . . I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10).

  The “bah humbug” attitude toward Christmas is widespread today. The liberal pulpits have demythologized Christmas, while evangelical pulpits preach against it due to its pagan symbolism. They don’t like the pagan Christmas tree, the gluttonous feasts, the special emphasis on children, and particularly Santa Claus himself.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: What to watch for in 2015

  As we approach the end of the political year, I'll offer a few thoughts and observations on 2014 political happenings in the Heart of Dixie.

  Jim Sumner retired as Executive Director of the Alabama Ethics Commission in October. He had been Ethics Commission Chairman for 16 years. Jim had an outstanding career in state public service that spanned 35 years. Prior to heading the Ethics Commission, he worked as an administrative assistant to Bill Baxley while Baxley was Attorney General and Lieutenant Governor. He also lobbied for the University of Alabama. The only other person in state politics as meticulous and detail oriented as Sumner is Seth Hammett. Jim’s proudest accomplishment as Ethics Chairman was his overall success in 2010-2012 in garnering more power for the Commission by allowing them subpoena power.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Michael Josephson: Questions that must be asked about the use of brutal interrogation techniques

  1. Does our position reveal anything about our personal and our nation’s fundamental character and values?

  2.If it does, should we focus primarily on efficacy (does it work) or ethics (is it right)?

  3. If “what’s right” turns on our belief as to whether it works, are we comfortable telling our children our flag stands for the principle; “the end justifies the means” when security is at issue?

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Norbert J. Michel: Ease up on easing?

  Two reasons the Federal Reserve should stop trying to stimulate the economy:

-The policies it has enacted so far have contributed very little to the economic recovery.

-It has likely already reached the limits of what monetary policy can do to boost the economy.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Why we must pass comprehensive LGBT nondiscrimination protections

       Our nation’s uneven but dogged journey toward truer and more meaningful freedoms for our citizens has brought us continually to a deeper understanding of the first three words in our Constitution: we the people. ‘We the People’ have become a broader, more diverse family than once imagined. … We have arrived upon another moment in history when We the People becomes more inclusive, and our freedom more perfect. — Judge Arenda Wright Allen, Bostic v. Schaefer

  Individuals’ ability to fully and freely participate in society is fundamental to every person’s pursuit of the American Dream. Throughout the 230-year history of the United States, the nation has slowly but steadily expanded access to every vital facet of daily life—from housing to employment to the public marketplace—for communities of Americans who were once excluded. Through exhaustive efforts, each generation has broadened the nation’s perception of “we the people.” But despite this progress, too many Americans are still left behind, excluded from the country’s most basic legal protections.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1435: The power of faith

  Senator Vivian Davis Figures, Alabama Senate Minority Leader, asked each of the eight Democratic senators to say whatever was on their hearts and minds. I did not congratulate anyone. I did not say I was glad to be re-elected. I did not say what I intended to do. I did not say what others should do. Because we are so few, just eight out of 35, I shared my version of the biblical story of Gideon. I want to share the same with you.

  Gideon was a great general. He had some 32,000 troops. God told him to go forth and fight the Midianites. Gideon’s response was that he was willing to fight but he did not have enough troops. The Midianites had far more, “a whole host of troops.” Instead, God directed Gideon to reduce his troops. He had too many troops to fight effectively.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Michael Josephson: A vital dimension of respect

  We demonstrate the virtue of respect for others by being courteous and civil and treating everyone in a manner that acknowledges and honors basic human dignity.

  An important but often neglected aspect of respect is listening to what others say. Respectful listening is more than hearing. It requires us to consider what’s being said. That’s hard when we’ve heard it before, aren’t interested, or don’t think much of the person talking. It’s even worse when we act like we’re listening but are just waiting for our turn to speak.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The big red wave

  The GOP takeover of the U.S. Senate has a silver lining for Alabama. We came out like gangbusters with the Republican victory.

  Both of our U.S. Senators are Republicans and both have seniority. Our Senior Senator Richard Shelby has been in the U.S. Senate 28 years. He is in the top ten members of the Senate in seniority. He will become one of the Senate’s most powerful members. He will chair the Senate Banking Committee and will be Vice Chairman of Appropriations.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Richard Cohen: Decision in New York City exacerbates mistrust in justice system

  The decision by the Staten Island grand jury not to indict the police officer who choked Eric Garner to death in July cries out for an explanation. Without it, the anger being expressed across the country will only intensify.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Sam Fulwood III: America’s dearth of open-mindedness

  As I watch the yapping in the media and online—all these contentious mouths that pass off their opinions as real news—an important question keeps popping up: Is there any issue on which Americans collectively agree or withhold judgment with fair-minded neutrality?

  I can’t seem to find one.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Michael Josephson: The truth about trust and lies

  Honesty may not always pay, but lying always costs.

  Reputation, trust and credibility are assets no organization can afford to lose and the surest way to lose them is to lie.

  Building trust is like building a tower, stone by stone. But no matter how high or strong the tower seems, if you remove a stone from the bottom the tower will collapse. That’s what lying does — it removes the foundation stone of trust.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Congress needs to get its priorities straight on the tax extenders

  At a time when working families are struggling harder than ever to make ends meet but corporate profits are soaring to record highs, Congress might pile on even more tax breaks for businesses. At issue is the extension of a package of temporary tax provisions—known as the “tax extenders”—that expired at the end of 2013. The tax extenders package is a mixed bag of tax relief for both individuals and businesses; some provisions support energy efficiency, renewable energy, teachers, and struggling homeowners, while other provisions primarily benefit multinational corporations.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Bill Morlin: Austin shooter apparently tied to Phineas Priesthood

  A man who went on a shooting spree last week in Austin, Tex., firing at government buildings and a police headquarters, was a “homegrown American extremist” with “hate in his heart,” the city’s police chief said.

  Larry Steve McQuilliams, 49, also appeared to have been a devotee of a doctrine known as the Phineas Priesthood, an ideology that believes violence to be divinely justified if used against race-mixers, gay people, abortion proponents and others.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Senate steps to the right

  The 2014 elections were quite uneventful. The seven statewide constitutional offices were all retained by Republicans. In fact, the reason the election was so dull was because the top five constitutional offices were held by incumbent Republicans who all waltzed to reelection. These included Gov. Robert Bentley, Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey, State Treasurer Young Boozer, Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan and Attorney General Luther Strange.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Wendy McElroy: Due process versus secret courts

  Due process is a set of legal requirements that protect the individual against abuse by the state. Examples are a person’s right to be notified of court proceedings in which he is involved and the right against self-incrimination. Due process is woven into the fabric of American society through both the Constitution and legal precedent.

  Few practices are as damaging to due process as secret courts and secret law. From the abuses of the Spanish Inquisition to the English Star Chamber, historians have detailed how individual rights decline as state secrecy rises. This relationship can be explained in various ways. One of them is with reference to knowledge and power.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Michael Josephson: Give yourself the gift of gratitude

  For some, Thanksgiving is the beginning of a holiday season filled with joy and happiness at the prospect of spending time with family. For others, it’s a sadder time blemished by bad memories or dread. Some people see their lives filled with abundant blessings and find thankfulness easy and natural; others are so preoccupied with tending to past wounds or current crises that they simply don’t feel grateful.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1433: I had to hear the President

  I had to hear the President. I had a conference call for 7:00 p.m., Thursday, the very time the President was scheduled to speak. I had to hear the President so I had the conference call moved back to 6:30 p.m. I just had to hear the President.

  The President was going to reveal his executive orders on immigration reform. I had spoken about immigration many times. I had written about immigration a number of times. I had struggled against bad immigration bills in the Alabama Legislature. I had worked with others trying to persuade Congress to pass comprehensive immigration legislation. Immigration was very important issue for me. I had to hear the President.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Michael Josephson: Surviving critical relatives at family gatherings

  I realize that not everyone lives in a Norman Rockwell world where family gatherings are sources of warmth and good memories. For some, the prospect of holiday get-togethers generates dread and anxiety; they are something to endure, not enjoy.

  One reason is that family members can be tactless and downright cruel when expressing their opinions about perceived foibles, flaws and failures of their relatives, especially in-laws. Often comments are so laden with negative judgment that they could make the Grinch wince.Whether motivated by well-intentioned, but misdirected, love and concern, or by malice, insensitive or unkind words are like spears to the heart.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Is this the end of Mike Hubbard?

  Mike Hubbard is the political story of the year because our 2014 state elections were so mundane. The October indictment of the Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives overshadows all other political events in the state, even the reelection of Gov. Robert Bentley, which was a foregone conclusion. In fact, if Hubbard had not been indicted, it would have been the political story of the year.

  Speculation had been rampant for well over a year that the very powerful leader of the House would be indicted by a Lee County Grand Jury. Every time I had lunch at a Montgomery restaurant someone would come up to me and say, “It’s coming down today,” or “Hubbard is turning himself in this afternoon.” About once a month I would get a call with some information. It was always a false rumor. However, the prevailing opinion was that Hubbard inevitably would be indicted.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Jacob G. Hornberger: Rand Paul is wrong. Leave Iraq alone!

  Still opposing the Iraq War in 2003, Senator Rand Paul now wants Congress to declare war against the Islamic State and engage in military action in Iraq. He says that “national security” is at stake.

  I’ve got a better idea: Leave Iraq alone! Hasn’t the U.S. government done enough damage already in Iraq?

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Vanessa Cárdenas: Five facts to know about President Obama’s immigration announcement

  This week President Barack Obama laid out his plans for executive action on immigration. The new program will provide temporary administrative relief and work permits to undocumented immigrants who pass a background check, have lived in the United States for a minimum of five years, and have a child who is a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident, or LPR. The president’s actions mean that law-abiding immigrants with strong ties to the United States will no longer live under the threat of deportation. This program is modeled after the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program that benefits young people who came to the United States as children. The new executive action also broadens the DACA program by expanding coverage to children who entered the country before January 1, 2010, regardless of their age today. This is undoubtedly a tremendous win for the immigrant community and immigration reform advocates, and most importantly, it paves the way for a broader immigration reform when Congress decides to act.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Michael Josephson: Character is an essential part of competence

  If you were hiring a new CEO, what are the most important qualities you’d look for?

  Surely you’d want a high level of demonstrated competence – knowledge, experience, intelligence, vision, communication, and relationship skills and the ability to motivate, manage, and solve problems. But what about qualities such as honesty, moral courage, accountability, and fairness?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Gene Policinski: Free Speech can be shield or sword, as Cosby furor shows

  Bill Cosby’s career has been deeply rooted in the possibilities and protections provided by freedom of speech.

  The legendary comedian and actor’s career began with landmark comedy routines in which he tackled sensitive racial subjects. He was the first African American male with a starring role on TV, in the 1960s series “I Spy.”

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Tom Kenworthy: For President Obama, it is all about veto power now

  Similar to former President Bill Clinton before him, President Barack Obama now faces a Republican-controlled Congress, one that will almost certainly be implacably hostile toward progressive governance and determined to put a conservative stamp on the statute books.

  If the past is any guide, a significant part of the agenda of the incoming Congress will be a broad-based attack on the conservation of public lands. The GOP leadership launched exactly that kind of assault after sweeping into power on Capitol Hill in 1995 following an election in which Republicans gained 54 seats in the House and 8 in the Senate. It was the first time since 1954 that Republicans controlled the House, and they had considerable pent-up demands about how the federal government should manage its vast network of national parks, national forests, wildlife refuges, and rangelands.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: What happened in the 6th Congressional District?

  This was probably one of the dullest and least interesting gubernatorial election years in memory. It stemmed from the fact that Robert Bentley was a popular incumbent governor and nobody dared to run against him in the Republican Primary. These days winning the Republican Primary is tantamount to election in the Heart of Dixie.

  The only really exciting race was for the open 6th Congressional District seat vacated by Rep. Spencer Bachus. This district encompasses the suburbs of Birmingham and Jefferson County as well as several surrounding conservative counties. It is home to some of the state’s most affluent enclaves, such as Mountain Brook, Vestavia, Homewood and Hoover. It has been ranked in Washington as one of the most Republican congressional districts in the nation. Therefore, the congressman was elected in the summer GOP Primary.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1432: Thoughts of my family on Veteran's Day

  It was Veterans Day, which engenders many thoughts within me.  I thought a lot about my brother Thomas Sanders. I did not think much about my other brothers – Sam Arthur Sanders, Charles William Sanders and Douglas McArthur Sanders – who also served in the United States military. I thought about my mother, Ola Mae Sanders, in relationship to Thomas and me.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Michael Josephson: The intimidating power of integrity

  A teacher once wrote telling me that a parent with a great deal of clout at her school asked her to change attendance records to make her child’s record look better. The teacher said she thought long and hard about the request but eventually refused, knowing it would make the parent angry.

  I commended her moral courage. I wish it didn’t take courage to do the right thing, especially in such a clear case as this, but in the real world people with power often retaliate when they don’t get what they want. This can make our lives difficult.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1431: You find what you look for

  The old folks often said, “In every dark cloud there is a silver lining.” The dark clouds are indeed looming after Election Day, but I’m looking for the silver lining.

  For me, the clouds are dark on the national level. Republicans now control the U. S. House of Representatives and the U. S. Senate. It’s not the fact that they are Republicans that darkens the clouds, but the fact that they made great gains in the Senate and the House after the following: closing down the government; incessantly demonizing the president; opposing any measure with strong public support to improve the economy; stopping popular measures such as minimum wage; and so on. The clouds are indeed dark, so I am looking for the silver lining.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Jacob G. Hornberger: A lesson in interventionism in Iraq

  The great Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises pointed out that one government intervention inevitably produces a crisis, which then causes government officials to enact a new intervention to address the crisis. The new intervention, however, produces a new crisis, which then necessitates a new intervention. With each new intervention, the government’s power continues to grow.

  While Mises was referring to economic intervention, the principle applies in other areas. Good examples are the drug war, immigration controls, healthcare, and education, all areas that are characterized by a perpetual series of crises and interventions.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Michael Josephson: The Golden Rule as the road of honor

  Five hundred years before the birth of Christ, Confucius was asked, “Is there one word that may serve as a rule of practice for all one’s life?”

  He answered, “Reciprocity. What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.” This basic principle, now called the Golden Rule, can be found in every major religion and philosophy.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The Republican landslide dust settles

  In all my years of following Alabama politics, I have never seen as dull an election year as we just witnessed. It stems from the fact that we had an uneventful and noncompetitive governor’s race.

  Historically, Alabamians have turned out more for the governor’s race every four years than for a presidential race. This is dissimilar to the rest of the nation. Most Americans are more excited about who sits in the White House than who sits in the Statehouse.

Monday, November 10, 2014

First look at the fossil-fuel and anti-environment agenda of the next Congress

  After months of speculation about the outcome of last week’s elections, it is now clear that Republicans will control both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives starting in January. According to recent analyses of political contributions and advertising spending, fossil-fuel interests—including the conservative billionaire Koch brothers—appear to have played a major role in the races that ultimately decided the balance of power in the Senate. These campaign investments from the oil, gas, and coal industry are likely to have a major impact on the agenda of the coming 114th Congress, as Republican leaders work to pay back the support their fossil-fuel allies provided during the election.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Sam Fulwood III: Why young, minority, and low-income citizens don’t vote

  On Tuesday, voters across the United States cast their ballots in the 2014 midterm elections. As with any election, there are winners and losers.

  But, dear reader, this column offers neither post-election analysis nor after-the-fact second-guessing–well, at least, not in the well-worn, traditional sense. Instead, I want to use the occasion of Election Day to share an insight into the sad fundamentals of electoral democracy. Regardless of whether a favored candidate won or a popular ballot initiative passed, our nation suffered because of the number of people who didn’t vote at all.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Despite GOP efforts to expunge extremists, several far-right candidates elected

  Despite claiming its success this election cycle came from expunging extremists from its ranks, the GOP managed to let a fair number of candidates with extremist views rooted in conspiracy theories and far-right fears slip through the cracks.

  “Little was left to chance,” The New York Times reported earlier this week. “Republican operatives sent fake campaign trackers — interns and staff members brandishing video cameras to record every utterance and move — to trail their own candidates. In media training sessions, candidates were forced to sit through a reel of the most self-destructive moments.”

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Addressing the gaps in Syria policy in the fight against ISIS

  With the expansion of air strikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, into Syria in September, President Barack Obama exposed himself to a new round of criticism from armchair commanders at home and abroad. It is time for the Obama administration to clarify the Syria component of its strategy to combat ISIS.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: 1964 election still echoes today in Alabama

  You already know the results of yesterday’s general election, but my column had to go to press prior to Tuesday’s vote. Therefore we will discuss and analyze the outcome next week. More than likely there were no surprises. It would be a major upset if any Democrat won a statewide contest on Tuesday.

  We are now one the most Republican states in America. It all began 50 years ago this month. The 1964 election was the bellwether year that Alabama and the Deep South dramatically changed to the Republican Party. On that November day, Alabamians voted for the GOP candidate Barry Goldwater, and we have not looked back.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1430: If you know it’s a test, all you have to do is pass the test

  President Obama is in the throes of Job-like tests. He has been tested on every front from the inception of his presidency. No other president has been tested so often and so severely. Before you reject the truth of this statement, allow me to share a few facts with you.

Monday, November 3, 2014

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?

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Jacob G. Hornberger: Just another immigration horror story

  Since I grew up on the Texas-Mexico border, I have long become accustomed to heartrending stories involving the U.S. government’s decades-long war against illegal immigrants, but for some reason a front-page story in last week’s New York Times hit me really hard. I don’t see how anyone could read the article and still endorse immigration controls.

  The story details the immigration travails of Javier Flores, a Mexican citizen who illegally entered the United States 13 years ago. His reason? To better his life through labor. He was born and raised in one of the poorest villages in Mexico, named La Mixtequita, which is located in the southern part of the country in the state of Chiapas.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Senate Sketches #1429: A Giant lived among us: Dr. Paul R. Hubbert

  A Giant lived among us. He has now transitioned to a fully spiritual state. Even in this spiritual state, he is still a Giant. I am proud that I knew the Giant and called him friend.

  The Giant was born on Christmas Day. Some of us smile as we say that it was no accident that he was born on this day. He inspired great devotion and great antipathies. Those who loved him truly loved him. Those who hated him truly hated him. These powerful loves and hates bring to mind another spiritual being born on this same day.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Robert G. Wilkerson: Vote “no” on Amendment One

  Amendment Number One on the November 4th ballot prohibits Alabama Courts from considering foreign, international or religious law, which in turn could interfere with the freedom of many religious groups. Alabamians who believe in religious freedom should vote against it because:

·It would make it against the law for some religious leaders to perform marriages according to their own religious traditions.

·It poses potential threats to international adoptions, marriages performed overseas, and could cause nightmares over questions of property rights.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Jacob G. Hornberger: WMD blowback in Iraq

  According to a New York Times article last week, the Islamic State has employed WMDs against Iraqi police officers. The specific WMD used is chlorine gas. According to reports, ISIS forces set off an explosion that released the gas, causing injuries to 11 Iraqi police officers.

  Alistair Baskey, a spokesman for the National Security Council, observed:

     The use of chlorine as a chemical weapon is an abhorrent act. These recent allegations underscore the importance of our work to eliminate chemical weapons in this violate region.”

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Countdown to Election Day

  The 2014 General Election is Tuesday. It is set to be uneventful. I predicted over a year ago that this election year was going to be dull and, folks, my prognostication has come to fruition. This year has been a yawner from the get go.

  Even the GOP and Democratic Primaries in June were void of any drama. As the results trickled in from the summer primaries, there were absolutely no surprises or upsets. Even in the face of historic low voter turnout, every favorite or incumbent prevailed and usually by the margin suggested by polling.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Michael Josephson: We are what we think

  In the early 1900s, a little-known philosopher named James Allen wrote a powerful essay called “As a Man Thinketh” in which he argued that we are what we think, that a person’s character is the sum of his thoughts. He declared that the power to control our thoughts (whether we use that power or not) is the ability to mold our character and shape our destiny.

  This is a profound insight, making us personally responsible not only for our conduct but for our circumstances.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1428: The trial of the Faithful Seven

  It was a great moment. It was a great day. It was a great victory. It was a great time. The moment, day, time and victory sprung from acts of faith commenced on August 28, the 51st Anniversary of the Great 1963 March on Washington. The beginning was grand but the ending was momentous. This Sketches is really about the ending, but we have to go back to the beginning to truly understand.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Sam Fulwood III: U.S. Ebola hysteria is the wrong response to the epidemic

  The African continent’s Ebola epidemic is producing crazed hysteria across the United States.

  In scenes reminiscent of the fear mongering and scapegoating experienced by gay men during the early years of the 1980s AIDS epidemic, Americans today are overreacting with irrational fear and public ostracism of Africans. Examples abound:

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Renee Goodrich : Fifty fun Halloween facts

1. Halloween is held on October 31st which is the last day of the Celtic calender.

2. The Halloween custom has evolved from the ancient Celts belief that the border between this world and "the Otherworld" becomes thin on All-Hallows-Eve. People wore costumes to disguise themselves and avoid harm.

3. The day after Halloween is called All Saints Day. Christians dedicate this day to all those saints who don't have a special day of their own.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Robert G. Wilkerson: Political attack ads and eight reasons to reject them

  It’s the political season again, and we are being bombarded by attack ads, many of which are so gross they insult our intelligence. Whether they insult us or not, there are eight reasons we should reject attack ads.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The mid-term crystal ball

  We are not indicative of or really even a part of the national political equation. The Heart of Dixie is an integral part of the heart and soul of the Republican Party. We and our fellow Deep South sister states are such reliably Republican red states that we are essentially ignored in national elections.

  It is a foregone conclusion that our delegation in Washington will remain six Republicans and one lone Democrat. Our two Senators are also Republican. One of our Senators, Jeff Sessions, is waltzing to his fourth six-year term unopposed. In fact, Sessions did not even have a GOP primary opponent. However, even though we are a GOP ritualistic hinterland, this does not mean that the rest of the country is not embroiled in a pivotal midterm election.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Michela Zonta: The unequal mortgage market is no coincidence

  Persistent racial and ethnic inequality in the mortgage market is not a coincidence. Nearly 50 years after the adoption of the Fair Housing Act, newly released federal data indicate that people of color continued to lose ground in the home ownership market in 2013. In particular, black and Hispanic households continued to represent a shrinking fraction of the mortgage market and received higher-cost loans compared with white borrowers. Tragically, many prospective black and Hispanic homeowners never reach the loan-decision stage of the home buying process. People of color are still being treated unequally in the home mortgage market, even when they demonstrate an ability to repay their loans.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Richard Cohen: Secret Service failures are cause for concern after numerous extremist plots

  With its recent bumbling, the long-respected U.S. Secret Service is beginning to look like the Keystone Kops. But there’s nothing funny about the agency’s security lapses, particularly for the nation’s first black president, a man who is the target of enormous rage on America’s radical right.

  For those of us who monitor racist and anti-government extremists, it’s not surprising that, as The Washington Post reported, President Obama has faced three times as many threats as his predecessors.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Katherine Green Robertson: Property tax implications of Lynch v. Alabama

  On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari in the case of Lynch v. Alabama, which simply means the Court refused to overturn the decision of the federal judge in Birmingham and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. Filed in 2011 by plaintiffs representing public schoolchildren in Lawrence and Sumter counties, the lawsuit sought to nullify provisions of Alabama’s Constitution related to property taxes.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Jacob G. Hornberger: Military base dependency

  One of the most disastrous effects of America’s post-World War II embrace of a permanent warfare-state apparatus has been the extreme dependency on domestic military bases that dot towns and cities across America. The situation is akin to a drug addict who lies permanently in bed hooked up to an IV that is feeding heroin into his veins. The people in areas where military bases are located live in a constant state of deep fear that U.S. officials could, at any time, decide to close their base, which, in the minds of the local populace, would spell economic doom to the area.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1426: The Significance of dreams

  I had a terrible dream. It is still affecting me. It is probably too personal to share, but I am going to share it anyway. Come with me as I share this dream.

  I used to not dream or at least not know I dreamed. For some years, I have dreamed often. There are concrete patterns to my dreams. One pattern is being lost and unable to find my way or unable to find something such as my parked car. I call these my lost dream series.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Eric Cantor's exit

  This year’s state primary elections have brought very little drama or surprises. However, there have been the inevitable novel surprises nationwide.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Robert G. Wilkerson: Immigration: A Christian perspective

  Immigrants are people created in the image of God, and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. They are members of the human race and are people for which Christ died.

·The Bible tells us that immigrants should be treated as natives; they should not be wronged, and we should love them as we love ourselves (Leviticus 19:33-34).

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Michael Josephson: Be what you want to be

  “What will you be when you grow up?”

  It’s a serious question. As kids, we knew we were going to be something and that to be something was to be someone. Even as our ambitions changed, we knew what we were going to be was important and our choice.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Richard Cohen: A tent too large: the Republican Party and anti-LGBT bigotry

  Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus this week said something predictable and something startling in response to the Supreme Court’s refusal to overturn court decisions clearing the way for same-sex marriage.

  The predictable was his continued defense of the Republican Party’s position that marriage should be limited to a man and a woman.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Jacob G. Hornberger: The Virtues of free trade

  I find it absolutely amazing that there are still people around who look with disfavor on free trade. A recent example occurred in the New York Times just last Sunday in an op-ed entitled “Our Misplaced Faith in Free Trade” by Jeff Madrick. According to Madrick, “free trade creates winners and losers — and American workers have been among the losers. Free trade has been a major (but not the only) factor behind the erosion in wages and job security among American workers. It has created amazing prosperity — but mostly for those at the top.”

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Sally Steenland: So-called ‘cultural war’ issues are really about justice

  What a difference a decade makes. Ten years ago, the so-called “culture war” issues—especially abortion and same-sex marriage—were a boon to conservatives in terms of fundraising and energizing their base to go to the polls. Liberals and progressives, on the other hand, saw these issues as toxic and tried to avoid talking about them if at all possible.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Life after the White House

  This week our 39th President, Jimmy Carter, turns 90 years old. In my lifetime, he is the most ethical, moral and Christ-like president to occupy the Oval Office.

  Most, if not all of our presidents, have claimed to be Christians. However, Jimmy Carter truly walked the walk. There is no spectre of hypocrisy surrounding his life. Everything he did while in the White House was above reproach and his life after his presidential tenure has been an example of living your life humbly and being a true Christian servant.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Robert G. Wilkerson: Seven reasons prayer should not be in schools

-It would violate the Constitution. That document clearly calls for the separation of church and state. Those who wrote it knew history. They knew how horrible and oppressive life could be when the two were not separated. All attempts to circumvent this provision have been struck down by the courts and will continue to be.

-It would not be fair or just. Most of those advocating prayer in schools are advocating Christian prayer. If Christian prayer were to be allowed, then prayers of other religions (Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, Hindu, etc.) would have to be allowed as well. They are citizens and pay taxes that build, operate, and maintain schools; therefore, they have equal rights.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

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, to discourage kids from cheating, adults commonly say, “You’re only cheating yourself.”

Friday, October 3, 2014

Sam Fulwood III: Numbers put the lie to our national narrative

  While notions of impermeable social and economic stratification flaunt America’s egalitarian self-identity, our nation’s populace is becoming increasingly locked into rigid classes that frame life options from cradle to grave. As much as we are loath to admit it, the best predicate for a child’s eventual success is something that child has no ability to control: their parents.

  Such an unsettling conclusion follows from a series of recent studies that suggest that a child born into a family with parents who have the ability to comfortably house, educate and provide for them have an advantage they rarely lose for the rest of their lives.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1425: Fighting for voting rights

  We were fighting for voting rights as we sat around the conference table. On one end sat the Alabama Secretary of State, Jim Bennett, and three others from his office. On the other end sat the six of us: Deuel Ross of the Legal Defense Fund; Jeffrey Jones of Mobile; Rev. Hugh Morris and Albert Bell of Talladega; Brandon Fountain of Greater Birmingham Ministries; and me, Hank Sanders. Most of us were members of SOS (Save OurSelves Movement for Justice and Democracy). We were fighting for voting rights, the very heart of democracy, but we were just nibbling around the edges.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Laurence M. Vance: Dogs and diners

  Americans are dog lovers. In fact, many people love their dogs so much that they take them wherever they can. Some people would even take their dogs out to eat with them if they could.

  If they live in California — now they can.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Siegelman shows Fob the door

  Old Fob James had an unusual political personality. When he was out of the governor’s office he showed a tremendous yearning to get back. The proof is he sought the office in 1986 and lost in the Democratic primary and lost again in 1990 in the primary. However, he came back and won in 1994 as a Republican. However, once he got the job he acted as if he did not want it.

  As mentioned a few weeks earlier, Fob set a new standard for alienating his friends and supporters during his first term.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Peter Brookes: Al-Qaeda dead-enders alive, kicking

  While the dramatic U.S. and Arab air attacks last week in Syria on the Islamic State (aka ISIS or ISIL) should be welcomed, the real story is the strikes on the shadowy al-Qaeda-affiliated terror group Khorasan.

  Who? Yeah, that’s what a lot of folks said.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Michael Josephson: The pursuit of human perfection

  Jews all over the world are in the midst of a 10-day period called the High Holy Days. It starts with Rosh Hashanah, a celebration of a new year, and ends with Yom Kippur, a solemn day of atonement.

  The overriding theme is the pursuit of human perfection and the obligation of each person to continually assess and improve his or her character, or as Mordecai Kaplan put it, “to seek reconstruction of our personalities in accordance with the highest ethical possibilities of human nature.”

Friday, September 26, 2014

Maya Lindberg: The danger of censoring our history

  It’s Banned Books Week, an annual event that brings renewed attention to challenged and banned titles. For many educators and students across the country, this week represents a moment to celebrate the freedom to read and engage in conversations about censorship. For schools in Jefferson County, Colorado—the state’s second largest school district—Banned Books Week holds particular relevance.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Joseph O. Patton: Will the real Democrat please stand up?

  This time each election year I’m already popping antacid in anticipation of the invariably obnoxious, absurd, pander-prone TV ads of candidates seeking elected office in Alabama. Many of the spots you’d think were produced as comedy sketches for SNL, and others simply leave your brain feeling constipated. But imagine my surprise when it wasn’t the typical source of nutty-cakes campaigning but the Democratic Party’s own candidate for attorney general Joe Hubbard that left me rolling my eyes.

  Hubbard is currently completing his term representing District 73 in the Alabama House of Representatives. He’s being squeezed out of the area by race-based redistricting courtesy of his Republican colleagues in the Alabama Legislature in a statewide move to essentially eradicate white Democrats.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1424: What do you do when you are attacked?

  What do you do when you are attacked? Do you fight back? Do you just stand back? What do you do when you are attacked under circumstances that just will not allow you to fight back at the moment? Do you fight back anyway? Do you just take it? What do you do? I had to answer these questions again last week.

  I have been attacked many times over the 31 years I have been in public office, 43 years I have practiced law and the 50-plus years I have worked in the community. Answers to these questions are never easy because it is hard to deal with attacks under any circumstances.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Fobbed again

  When Guy Hunt won the governor’s race over Bill Baxley in 1986 it was well publicized that he was a part-time Primitive Baptist preacher. He was also billed as a part-time Amway salesman. These common man vocations appealed to the average Alabama voter. It was Hunt’s calling as a Baptist preacher that resonated warmly with his constituency. Alabamians are very religious and very Baptist.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Katherine Green Robertson: Budget Basics: The Legislature’s limitations and need for reform

  This is part 3 of API’s 3-part “Budget Basics” series, exploring Alabama’s budget system, the current fiscal climate and related challenges, and the implications for taxpayers.

  Alabama’s Constitution requires the diversion of certain categories of revenue to specific purposes, without those funds ever passing through the hands of the legislature. As noted in Budget Basics, Part 1, 86% percent of Alabama’s general tax revenue is earmarked this way, while the national average is around 25%. The majority of these earmarks pertain to education. The Education Trust Fund (ETF) receives 52% of Alabama’s total state funds, while the General Fund (GF) receives only 16%. Alabama’s income taxes, for example, are specifically dedicated to public school teacher salaries.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Keegan Hankes: Longtime Neo-Nazi Robert Ransdell running for U.S. Senate

  Robert Ransdell, former regional coordinator for the neo-Nazi National Alliance (NA) in Cincinnati, Ohio, and a current coordinator for the similarly-minded National Alliance Reform and Restoration Group (NARRG) is campaigning as a write-in candidate for United States Senate in Kentucky under the slogan “With Jews We Lose!”

  Ransdell is running for the seat occupied by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Although he admits he has no chance to win, Ransdell is using his campaign as a publicity stunt to push his white nationalist and anti-Semitic views.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Michael Josephson: Does personal necessity trump moral principles?

  Years ago, my wife Anne was talking to a woman I’ll call Lila about another lady I’ll call Gwen. Gwen had just been laid off and since she had only worked for the company for a short time, she wasn’t eligible to continue the company’s medical insurance. That’s important because she was eight weeks pregnant, and the reason she took the job was to get medical insurance.

  Gwen was upset and went to a lawyer. Together, they decided to threaten her employer with a lawsuit claiming the company terminated her because they found out she was pregnant.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Claire Markham: How would Pope Francis vote?

  Pope Francis is one of the most popular religious leaders in the world, with a fan base that stretches far beyond the 1.2 billion members of the Catholic Church. His admirers include millions of worshippers in other faith traditions, as well as millions of people who are not religious. Pope Francis is popular for many reasons: He is joyful, nonjudgmental, loving, smart, humorous, self-aware, humble, inclusive, and unpredictable. In other words, one thing the pope is not is a politician.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1423: Thinking about AEA in a historical way

  “Have you seen Dr. Hubbert’s letter?” That’s how a friend informed me of a developing controversy involving AEA (Alabama Education Association). I had not seen the letter, but I hastened to read the news article forwarded to me by e-mail. I was deeply concerned about AEA, and it spurred me to think about AEA in a historical way.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Hunt leaves mark as first GOP governor since Reconstruction

  When Guy Hunt took office as the first Republican governor in January of 1987 not much was expected of him. After all, he had been elected only because of the backlash resulting from the handpicking of Bill Baxley over Charlie Graddick by the Democratic Party leadership. Very few people voted for Hunt because they thought he was the better choice or that his credentials rendered him more qualified.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Michael Josephson: The Application of religion to business

  Most Americans say they’re religious and their beliefs are important to their lives, yet I’m astonished at how many seem to ignore their religion’s moral expectations and prescriptions. 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. In his fine book The Business Bible: 10 New Commandments for Bringing Spirituality & Ethical Values into the Workplace, Rabbi Wayne Dosick tells of a soap-maker who challenged a rabbi: “What good is religion? It teaches honesty, but most people are dishonest.”

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Katherine Green Robertson: Budget Basics: Understanding Alabama’s budget system

  This is part 2 of API’s 3-part “Budget Basics” series: exploring Alabama’s budget system, the current fiscal climate and related challenges, and the implications for taxpayers.

  The Alabama state budget process begins with the Alabama Department of Finance’s Executive State Budget Office (EBO), as required by Alabama law. The EBO puts together the Governor’s Executive Budget and presents it to the Alabama Legislature. The legislature reviews the governor’s budget and drafts its own, with assistance from the Legislative Fiscal Office (LFO). The two appropriations bills then go through the typical legislative process, starting with consideration by the relevant committees: the Senate Committee on Finance and Taxation- ETF, the Senate Committee on Finance and Taxation-GF, the House Ways and Means Education Committee, and the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Sally Steenland: Wise as serpents but harmless as doves

  I thought of Jesus the other day when I read about the Obama administration’s latest effort to provide women with the health care they need. In late August, the Obama administration announced yet another set of rules for insurance plans’ birth control coverage in response to a seemingly unending series of objections by employers and other opponents. Their complaint? That having to include contraceptive coverage in their insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, violates their religious liberty.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Michael Josephson: Moving beyond 9/11

  I’ve become increasingly ambivalent about the way we commemorate the dark days and months that began on September 11th, 2001.

  Each year the memories and all the feelings they evoke are less vivid. Thus, the news articles, commentaries and TV specials about the 9/11 attacks serve as important reminders, not only of the immeasurable loss of life and the permanent degradation of our sense of security, but of the lessons we should have learned from the events and its aftermath. And, of course, re-focusing on these horrible memories is made so much more poignant by the current debates concerning military intervention in Syria.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Our Stand: Governor Bentley should stop hiding

  The powers wielded by an incumbent governor cannot be enumerated here. Those are far too numerous to list. But no elected official seeking reelection should exercise the power to dodge a debate with his or her opponent. It's a disservice to everyone living under that individual's leadership.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The gubernatorial blood bath of ‘86

  The 1986 Alabama governor’s race will be remembered as one of Alabama’s most amazing political stories. In 1978 Fob James sent the Three B’s, Brewer, Beasley and Baxley packing. Brewer and Beasley had been permanently exiled to Buck’s Pocket, the mythical destination for defeated Alabama gubernatorial candidates. However, Bill Baxley resurrected his political career by bouncing back to be elected lieutenant governor in 1982, while George Wallace was winning his fifth and final term as governor. Another player arrived on the state political scene. Charlie Graddick was elected as a fiery tough, lock ‘em up and throw away the key attorney general. Graddick had previously been a tough prosecuting district attorney in Mobile.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Adam Hersh: The United States needs more and better jobs

  Hiring in the United States slowed dramatically in August, according to new data released last week by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS. This provides a sobering reminder that—despite 47 straight months of job gains—the labor market is not yet creating enough jobs for all who want work, nor quality jobs that lead to a middle-class livelihood.

  Private employers added 134,000 jobs in August, while the public sector added another 8,000 jobs. Headline unemployment ticked down 0.1 percentage points to 6.1 percent, but this decrease was due to fewer people actively looking for work rather than an actual increase in employment.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Katherine Green Robertson: Budget Basics: The facts about Alabama’s budget system

  This is part 1 of the Alabama Policy Institute’s three-part “Budget Basics” series, exploring Alabama’s budget system, the current fiscal climate and related challenges, and the implications for taxpayers.

  Many taxpayers are familiar with the federal budgeting system, thanks to incessant coverage of budget standoffs, government shutdowns, and increasing national debt. Yet many Alabamians remain completely unfamiliar with Alabama’s budget and the budgeting process. When the Alabama Legislature convenes in March, leadership will face the daunting task of balancing the FY2016 budget at a time when the long-term budget outlook is bleak.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Paul Larkin: Co-opting the criminal justice system for anti-competitive purposes

  Most people assume that legislatures pass criminal laws to benefit the public, and most of the time, they are right. Statutes outlawing murder, rape, robbery, and the like protect all of us against a small number of ruffians who would do us harm.

  But not every statute has that goal. Some protect favored sons and daughters at the expense of the public. When that happens, everyone — except certain cronies — loses.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Michael Josephson: Rebuilding your life and reputation

  Larry wrote me the following letter: “I’ve been a small businessman for almost 23 years in a business where people lie, cheat, and steal. I’m sorry to say I became one of them. In the short term it may have helped, but long term it came back to haunt me. There’s no amount of success that’s worth it. I am now 48 years old. I have lost my good name; my values and my ethics have been destroyed. Is there any way I will ever be able to restore my reputation and lead a life of integrity?”

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1421: The Power of acting in faith

  It was the seventh and last day of the seven-day Jericho March. For some of us, the day would not end until 2 a.m. or later. For a few, it meant time in jail. We were marching in faith around the modern day Jericho Walls in Montgomery, Alabama.

  During the previous six days, Jericho leaders marched around the Alabama State Capitol once each day. However, the seventh day called for marching around the Capitol seven times. This requirement changed things greatly, but something else happened that changed things even more. We were marching and moving in faith.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Wallace's curtain call

  As George Wallace presumably faded into the sunset, Fob James took the reins of Alabama state government in January of 1979. Fob’s inauguration was a somewhat strange event as Alabamians were used to a Wallace being sworn in as governor every fourth January since 1963. It had been 20 years since someone other than George or Lurleen Wallace had taken the oath on the steps of the Capitol where Jefferson Davis had been sworn in as President of the Confederate States of America.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Daniel Kochis: U.S. allies should do more to confront ISIS

  Make no mistake, ISIS’s methodical march of savagery across the Middle East threatens more than the religious and ethnic minorities caught in its path. The United States and its allies, especially those in the region, have every reason to be concerned about the human cost of allowing ISIS to roam freely.

  Any rational person must be disgusted by the cold-blooded murders (often by truly heinous methods), forced conversions, rape, pillaging, and plunder perpetrated by this Islamist army. The refugee crisis grows by the day; thousands of Yazidis and Christians remain trapped on Mount Sinjar in north-western Iraq. Shiite and Yazidi holy sites and Christian churches have been destroyed. It appears that even the dead will not be spared, as ISIS reportedly destroyed the tomb of the prophet Jonah revered among Christians, Muslims, and Jews.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Michael Josephson: Excellence is achievable

  As I watched nearly five dozen eager graduates of the Los Angeles Police Academy throw their hats in the air celebrating their achievement, I knew they were the survivors of a rigorous training, and that their journey wasn’t over.

  Ahead of them would be a full year of supervised field training, and it’s unlikely all of them would make it through their probation.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Jacob G. Hornberger: The Murder of James Foley

  In response to the Islamic State’s execution of American journalist James Foley, President Obama referred to Foley’s killers as a “cancer.” That, of course, implies that anti-American terrorism is like a disease, one that strikes at nations willy-nilly, without rhyme or reason.

  Obama’s cancer metaphor for ISIS brings to mind what President Bush said about al Qaeda after the 9/11 attacks — that the terrorists were motivated by hatred for America’s freedom and values.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1420: Acting in faith

  We spoke in faith. We prayed in faith. We sang in faith. We marched in faith. It is the same faith the children of Israel had when they marched around the impregnable walls of Jericho some 3,500 years ago and the walls came tumbling down.

  We spoke in faith. We prayed in faith. We sang in faith. We marched in faith. It is the same faith of which the children of Birmingham spoke, prayed, sang and marched with some fifty years ago and the walls of legal segregation came tumbling down.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Fobbed in ‘78

  The 1978 Alabama governor’s race between the three heavyweights, former Governor Albert Brewer, Attorney General Bill Baxley, and Lt. Governor Jere Beasley, was expected to be titanic. All three men had last names beginning with the letter “B.” The press coined the phrase “the three B’s.” The Republicans were relegated to insignificance on the gubernatorial stage. The winner of the Democratic Primary would be governor.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Sam Fulwood III: Will the troubles in Ferguson point toward a new way forward?

  Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself by writing a presumptuous summation of the turmoil roiling the streets of suburban St. Louis. After all, it’s been just a few weeks since the fateful moment when a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer shot and killed unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown. How can I be certain this event and its immediate aftermath will yield historical significance?

  Well, I can’t. Yet I’m compelled to look ahead, hoping there is greater meaning in the death, destruction, and despair of today’s news. The future has to be better. So I trust that what’s happening in the street-level conflicts and clashes in Ferguson are the birthing pains of a new American social order, one that will be more inclusive of all voices and not defined exclusively by predominately white political, economic, or military wishes.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Charles C. Haynes: ‘Cross at Ground Zero’: History lesson or state religion?

  At a time when Americans are deeply divided over the meaning of “separation of church and state,” a ruling from the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week provides a much-needed case study in how the First Amendment’s establishment clause is supposed to work.

  In a unanimous decision, the three-judge panel dismissed a challenge by atheists to the display of a cross-shaped beam at the National Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum at Ground Zero in New York City.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Richard Garrett: The Alabama Legislature must respond to tort liability expansion

  Last Friday, the Alabama Supreme Court denied a rehearing in the case of Wyeth v. Weeks. This let stand a holding that name-brand drug manufacturers can be held liable for alleged misrepresentations or failures to warn in regard to generic drugs that they did not manufacture or distribute. The Court’s reasoning is shared by a very small minority of courts, both federal and state. To quote Justice Murdock in his dissent:

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1419: The Jericho Wall March

  Joshua fit the Battle of Jericho and the walls came tumbling down. This is a refrain from a Negro spiritual made famous by the late great Mahalia Jackson. This refrain came to mind as I contemplated an upcoming Jericho Wall March.

  The story of Joshua and the walls of Jericho is a powerful Biblical story of faith, unity, marching, crumbling walls and victory. We are currently in a Jericho moment. Therefore, we need the Joshua kind of faith, unity and moral action to bring down the modern day Jericho walls.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Gene Policinski: Media and Missouri: What the heck is going on?

  What in the heck is going on with the police in Ferguson, Mo., and journalists?

  The St. Louis suburb has been the scene of peaceful protests and charged emotions, and nightly chaos and occasional looting, since the Aug. 9 shooting death of a black teenager, Michael Brown, by police officer Darren Wilson.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Sympathy for the governor

  Albert Brewer began the writing of George Wallace’s political obituary by beating him in the first primary in 1970. However, Wallace arose from the grave by playing his ever-present race card. He trumped Brewer with the race issue in the primary runoff and came from behind to win, thus, resurrecting his political career. Wallace would be governor again for a third time.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Michael Josephson: Planned abandonment

  Management guru Peter Drucker advocated a practice he called planned abandonment. He stressed how important it is that managers develop the wisdom and courage to regularly review what their organization is doing and determine whether it’s worth doing. He urged executives to note and resist the systemic and emotional forces that make it difficult to abandon activities that drain resources, detract from central goals, or otherwise impede progress.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Sam Fulwood III: Correcting the media’s skewed perspective

  Alarmed and frustrated by the news reports of a police officer shooting and killing an unarmed black teenager last weekend in a St. Louis suburb, C.J. Lawrence, an attorney from Jackson, Mississippi, monitored the horrific scenes as they unfolded on traditional and social media outlets. Through it all, Lawrence imagined what it might be like if he was the subject of the media’s unflinching stare.

  Eighteen-year-old Mike Brown was shot shortly after noon on Saturday in Ferguson, Missouri, a predominately African American community of about 21,000 people just northwest of the greater St. Louis metropolitan area. Details surrounding the shooting remain sketchy, but the outrage is undeniable, sparking protests against the police. Some rioting and looting occurred on Sunday night, and police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. More-peaceful protests took place Monday night as marchers challenged police with shouts of “Don’t shoot me!” Meanwhile, the Federal Bureau of Investigation opened on Monday a civil rights inquiry into the shooting.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1418: All we have to do is pass the test

  “When you are being tested, all you have to do is pass the test.” These are words of wisdom from my dear mother who passed on from this world seventeen years ago. I called up her words because I am being tested. You are being tested. We are being tested. We just have to remember that all we have to do is pass the test.

  It is painful for me to see where we are in Alabama and where we are headed. I see it on so many fronts: voting; health care; education; jobs; workers’ rights; women’s rights; immigration; civil justice; criminal justice; political extremism; etc. I don’t despair; I just tell myself that it’s a test, and all we have to do is pass the test.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The epic Wallace vs. Brewer showdown

  Upon Lurleen Wallace’s death in May of 1968, Lt. Governor Albert Brewer moved up to the governorship. Brewer was no novice in state government. He came to the legislature from Morgan County at a very early age and rose quickly to become Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives during his second term. He won the 1966 lieutenant governor’s race against two state senators without a runoff.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Melissa Boteach: Reimagining our social contract

  Every year, the Bureau of the Census releases its estimate of how many Americans lived below the federal poverty line at a specific point in time during the previous year. For the past several years, the official poverty rate has remained steady at about 15 percent.

  Hearing this statistic, one might conclude that the same 15 percent of Americans remain stuck at the bottom, year in and year out, constituting the nation’s poor. But look beyond the point-in-time data, and you will find an important but rarely discussed fact: It is not the same 15 percent year after year.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Michael Josephson: Grocery store ethics

  You can tell a lot about people’s character by how they act at the grocery store. I remember being in a crowded store when there was a shortage of shopping carts. A prosperous-looking fellow was pushing a cart when another man stopped him.

  “Excuse me,” the second man said, “but this is my cart.”

  The first guy looked really annoyed. Instead of apologizing, he protested, “But someone took my cart.”

Friday, August 8, 2014

Brandon Demyan: Big government’s Uber problem

  As Birmingham continues its evolution to become a modern and relevant city, recent ordinances designed to make it difficult for food trucks, Uber, and other innovative businesses to operate are putting that vision in reverse.

  What is Uber?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Brendan Duke: How overtime reform will grow the economy from the middle out

  Our overtime system is broken. Just 18 percent of full-time workers have guaranteed overtime rights today. And unless the Department of Labor modernizes the overtime rules, 0 percent will have them by 2030 if current trends continue.

  Without guaranteed overtime rights, employers can easily misclassify workers who spend most of their time at the cash register or restocking shelves as overtime-exempt “executives” or “professionals” and avoid paying them overtime—1.5 times their hourly wage or the equivalent for salaried workers.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1417: We must celebrate August 6th!

  August 6 ought to be a day of great celebration but it is not. President Jimmy Carter ought to celebrate August 6. President Bill Clinton ought to celebrate August 6. President Barack Obama ought to celebrate August 6. But they don’t.

  You and I ought to celebrate August 6. Everyone in the United States of America ought to celebrate August 6. African Americans especially ought to celebrate August 6. But we don’t.  August 6 is barely recognized, not to speak of celebrated.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Lurleen Wallace takes the stage

  After Ryan De Graffenreid’s plane crash and death in February of 1966 the governor’s race was wide open. De Graffenreid would have been governor in a cakewalk, but it was now a new ballgame with less than ten weeks until the May election. George Wallace mulled it over for a few weeks, then the amazing story of his wife Lurleen Wallace running for governor came to fruition. George would be her number one advisor.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Michael Josephson: Accountability in the workplace

  Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time consulting with large companies concerned with strengthening their ethical culture.

  Although I’m sure the leaders I work with care about ethics and virtue for their own sake, I know the driving force to seek outside assistance is self-interest. The risk of reputation-damaging and resource-draining charges resulting from improper conduct is so high that it’s a matter of prudence and responsible stewardship to stress ethical values and moral principles.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1416: Don't stir in mess

  “Don’t stir in mess,” my mother said on many occasions. “It makes worse the sight and smell.” She did not mean just physical mess but any kind of mess. I see mess all the time.

  Every elected official encounters mess. Every public personality encounters mess. In fact, most of us encounter mess of one kind or another. We just have to remember not to stir in it.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Charles C. Haynes: In a world of sectarian violence, what can be done?

  Last week, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – the extremist movement now occupying large swaths of territory in the region – forced the last Christians out of the Iraqi city of Mosul.

  Images of desecrated churches, looted homes and ruined lives now serve as the obituary for one of the world’s oldest Christian communities.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Sally Steenland: Working and still poor

  A few weeks ago, one of my favorite Washington, D.C. restaurants was celebrating its 35th anniversary with a special deal: a three-course dinner for $35. Since entrees at this particular restaurant run in the $35 to $40 range, the deal was too good to resist. So I made reservations, had a delicious meal with a friend, and felt incredibly satisfied as I paid the bill.

  At work the next day, some of my colleagues were talking about another anniversary—one that marked five years since Congress last raised the minimum wage. My colleagues discussed a campaign they were helping to launch called “Live the Wage,” a challenge inviting people across the country to live on $77 for food, transportation, and entertainment—similar to the budget of a minimum-wage worker—for a week. A person working full time at a minimum-wage job earns $290 a week—after taking out housing costs and taxes, that leaves about $77.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Jacob G. Hornberger: The Drug War is finished

  The drug war is finished. Kaput.  It’s now just a matter of time when the federal government calls an end to this evil, immoral, destructive, and racist government program.

  This week the New York Times became the latest addition to those calling for an end to the drug war, with an editorial entitled “Repeal Prohibition, Again.” That was followed by two more editorials written by members of the NYT editorial board, one entitled “Let States Decide on Marijuana” by David Firestone and the other “The Public Lightens Up About Weed” by Juliet Lapidos.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The emergence of Ryan De Graffenreid

  If race was a major issue in 1958, being the racist candidate in 1962 was the only way to be elected governor in Alabama. With this issue in hand and Wallace’s love for campaigning and remembering names, he would have beaten anybody that year.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Ryan budget in sheep’s clothing?

  House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) recently put forward a plan to overhaul our nation’s safety net. Among other things, Rep. Ryan proposes consolidating multiple safety net programs into a single grant in a select number of states in the name of granting localities and community institutions greater flexibility. But while Rep. Ryan paints his plan as embracing bold, new reforms, his proposals are either another version of his radical budget—a wolf dressed up in sheep’s clothing—or a complete about-face on his commitment to balance the budget. Ryan can’t have it both ways.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Chad Donohue: The Zero Effect

  “Despite evidence that grading as punishment does not work and the mathematical flaw in the use of the zero on a 100-point scale, many teachers routinely maintain this policy in the mistaken belief that it will lead to improved student performance.” -Douglas B. Reeves

  With all of the emphasis on change in education, it makes sense to look at our grading practices for some possible answers. The use of zeroes for missing work is a good place to start.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Gene Policinski: Examining the new importance of ‘where’ we speak

  When we say something that might be threatening, how much does where we say it matter?

  The U.S. Supreme Court agreed in June to examine that question from a new angle – the increasingly popular method of online comments and posts on social media, as distinct from directed or face-to-face exchanges.

  The First Amendment generally shields us from being punished for what we say, but there are exceptions, among them what is called a “true threat.”

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Sheldon Richman: In forein affairs, not doing anything is the thing to do

  The heartbreaking violence in the Middle East, Ukraine, and elsewhere carries many messages, but here’s one Americans shouldn’t miss: The United States — no matter who the president is — cannot manage world conflict. The corollary is that when a president tries to manage it, things will usually get worse. Foresight is always defective, and tragic unintended consequences will prevail.

  The foreign-policy “experts” in both major political parties, and the intelligentsia generally, think otherwise. No matter who holds power, we can expect the opposition to complain that the chief executive poorly anticipated and thus improperly responded to world events.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Missing the point: The real impact of native mascots and team names

  The debate over the racist name and mascot of the professional football team based in the nation’s capital, the “Redskins,” has reached a fever pitch in recent months. Fifty U.S. senators signed a letter urging the National Football League, or NFL, to take action and change the name. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office recently canceled several of the team’s trademarks because they were disparaging to American Indian and Alaska Native, or AI/AN, people and communities. And several media outlets across the country have stopped printing and using the name, including the San Francisco Chronicle, Slate, and The Seattle Times.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The rise of George C. Wallace

  The 1962 Alabama governor’s race really began in 1958. The governor’s office and the race for it was the big show in Alabama politics in that era. Being a U.S. Senator was secondary in Alabama politics. Governor is still probably the most important and glamorous political position today, but it certainly was at that time.

  Television had not come into its own. Most Alabamians did not own a television. There were no southern major league baseball teams to follow, such as the Atlanta Braves who were still in Milwaukee at that time. The closest team was the St. Louis Cardinals and they were miles away and not really in the south. The Grand Ole Opry was only on the radio on Saturday night. Therefore, southerners had to include politics as a prime source of their entertainment.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Michael Josephson: The Greyhound Principle

  Racing dogs are trained to chase a mechanical rabbit that always goes a little faster than the fleetest dog. This causes them to run faster than they otherwise would.

  Companies that annually set overly ambitious performance objectives for their employees employ this greyhound principle. To a point, it works. Most people achieve more when expectations are set high.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Sally Steenland: Hobby Lobby’s win is a loss for religious liberty

  When I first heard last year that Hobby Lobby and other for-profit corporations were claiming religious liberty rights for themselves, the notion sounded so ludicrous that it felt like a joke. After all, corporations do not have bodies or souls, do not worship, do not get baptized or bar mitzvahed, and do not bend their knee in prayer.

  Corporations are legal constructions, set up to be wholly separate entities from their owners. This wall of separation exists to differentiate the actions of corporations from their owners and to shield the owners from personal liability for corporate debts and lawsuits. Despite this reality, the Supreme Court took Hobby Lobby’s claims seriously and heard the case in March. The Court decided in favor of Hobby Lobby on June 30, ruling that corporations do, in fact, have religious liberty.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Clay Calvert: Telling the police to f*** off is risky First Amendment business

  “Fuck the fucking cops they ant shit but fucking racist basturds.”

  Regardless of whether those “basturds” are inglorious or otherwise, who among us hasn’t wanted, at one time or another, to utter similar stinging sentiments, perhaps in a hasty fit of rage or simply after getting pulled over in a speed trap? Even putative American princess and erstwhile sweetheart Reese Witherspoon has told off the police, rendering her illegally blonde.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Bundy ranch standoff was highly coordinated, reflecting threat of larger far-right militia movement

  The standoff between federal agents and armed supporters of a Nevada rancher earlier this year was a highly coordinated effort by far-right militiamen that has since energized volatile extremists who are increasingly targeting law enforcement officers.

  The Southern Poverty Law Center report – War in the West (PDF)– contains new details about the April standoff between the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and militiamen sympathetic to rancher Cliven Bundy, which was seen as a victory within the antigovernment “Patriot” movement after federal agents pulled out despite Bundy owing more than $1 million in grazing fees and fines to the federal government.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1414: The power of a nice house

  A nice house makes such a difference in our lives. I vividly recall the difference it made in my life. It changed the way I saw myself. It changed the way I saw my family. It changed the way my family saw me and others in the family. A nice house made a powerful difference in my life.

  I know that in our moments of idealism we say that material things should not make a difference. Maybe they should not, but they do. An appealing house makes a powerful difference in our lives.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: How segregation ruled the ’58 governor’s race

  As the 1958 Alabama governor’s race dawned, the shadow of Big Jim Folsom loomed over the scene. Even though Big Jim could not be on the ballot, because the Alabama Constitution prohibited a governor from succeeding himself, his larger than life presence was pervasive.

  Although Big Jim was prohibited from seeking a record third term in 1958, the aspirants could not decide if they wanted his support or not. On one hand he was popular with rural Alabamians, but on the other hand, his second term had been as tumultuous and chaotic as his first and probably more scandalous and corrupt.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Naomi Tsu: President Obama should take executive action to fix guest worker program

  President Obama acknowledged a painful truth about our nation’s immigration system this month: It’s not only broken, but some Washington lawmakers are unwilling to lift a finger to fix it. As the president noted, it’s “just politics, plain and simple.”

  This refusal by lawmakers to govern, particularly by House Republicans, is costing our nation dearly. The president has made the right decision to take whatever executive action is within his power, but there will be little meaningful change if he fails to address key issues.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Sheldon Richman: Let the immigrants stay

  Virtually all commentary about the influx of unaccompanied Central American children into the United States, which some say could rise to 90,000 this year, misses the point: no government has the moral authority to capture these kids and send them back to the miserable situations they have escaped.

  This claim will strike many people as outrageous. So I ask, Where does government get the moral authority — I’m not talking about legal power — to apprehend and detain human beings of any age who have committed aggression against no one? There is no such authority.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Sam Fulwood III: Millennial voters aren’t conservatives in waiting

  Predicting the future is a fool’s errand.

  Witness David Leonhardt’s ridiculous column this week in The New York Times, in which he gazes into a murky crystal ball to see that today’s teenagers may grow up to be—clutch your pearls, dear lady readers—conservatives. His specious argument rests upon a wobbly premise and ignores the sweeping power that demographic change will have over today’s young people as they become tomorrow’s voters.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1413: Remembering those excluded from the Declaration of Independence

  We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness . . . These are the beginning words of the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence. They are so sweeping. They are so lifting. They are so beautiful. They are so powerful. But yet they were so hollow for some people.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

David L. Hudson, Jr.: Court limits Garcetti – at least a little

  The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled 9-0 in Lane v. Franks that a former employee of a community college in Alabama had a First Amendment right to testify in court under subpoena without facing retaliation.

  Edward Lane alleged that he was retaliated against after he testified in the criminal case of a former state representative he had worked with when he was running a program for disadvantaged youths for Central Alabama Community College.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: GOP runoff drama

  If you think the turnout was low for the June 3 primary, “then you ain’t seen nothing yet.”  The runoff is next Tuesday. The prognostication is for a paltry 5 percent statewide voter participation. Pundits and columnists should not chastise the average Alabama voter because, for the most part, he or she does not have much reason to vote on July 15.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Morris Dees: The Promise of the Civil Rights Act

  I can vividly remember the moment, 50 years ago this month, when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law.

  His speech that day was a call to action at a time when our nation was deeply divided – and his words resonate even today.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Re-establishing religious liberty post-Hobby Lobby

  Religious liberty is woven into the very fabric of our nation. It defines the boundaries of our government and serves as a measuring stick of freedom. We are a nation of diverse religious beliefs and of no religious belief. From our nation’s earliest days, our Constitution has ensured both the freedom to worship and believe according to one’s conscience, as well as freedom from the government imposing religion upon its people or coercing them to follow beliefs that are not their own. This is the very essence of religious liberty.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Michael Josephson: Happiness and purpose

  As you celebrate the Fourth of July, please take time to discuss with your family the historical and spiritual significance of the Declaration of Independence and the 56 men who risked their lives issuing one of the great documents in human history.

  At the core of the Declaration is the profound assertion that each of us has an unalienable right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Charles C. Haynes: In Tenn. mosque fight, religious freedom trumps Islamophobia

  After four years of protests, lawsuits, vandalism, arson and a bomb threat, American Muslims in Murfreesboro, Tenn., can finally celebrate the power of religious freedom to triumph over hate and fear – at least in the courts.

  Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court put an end to a lawsuit filed in 2010 challenging the permit issued by Rutherford County for construction of an Islamic Center near Murfreesboro. By declining to hear the case, the high court let stand a Tennessee Court of Appeals decision in favor of county officials.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Bill Morlin: Far-right candidates will appear on ballots across the country this fall

  A number of candidates who hold extreme views on race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and government have either won their primaries or appear poised to do so. Here are some of the most notable examples.

  In Colorado last week, state House candidate Gordon Klingenschmitt, who was court-martialed while a U.S. Navy chaplain and later claimed he performed an exorcism on a lesbian soldier, advanced to the general election, the Colorado Springs Gazette reported.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Negative campaigning... it works!

  When talk turns to politics in Alabama it usually leads to the governor’s race. It does not matter if the governor’s race is four years away, political gossip starts early as to who will run for governor. In Alabama politics the governor’s office is the brass ring. As each new race approaches it is talked about more than ever around coffee clubs and kitchen tables from Sand Mountain to the Wiregrass. It is comparable to college football being the king of all sports in Alabama.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Access to effective teaching is the new measure of equity

  The recent ruling on Vergara v. California, in which a Los Angeles Superior Court judge struck down state laws governing the hiring, dismissal, and job security of teachers, generated a flood of responses. Some called the decision historic and have said it will pave the way to get effective teachers in all classrooms. Others say the case and the decision will make it more difficult to attract and retain good teachers and was no more than an attempt to undermine the profession and teacher unions in particular. As the California Teachers Association wrote, the ruling stripped “teachers of their professional rights” and “hurts our students and our schools.”

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Michael Josephson: The truth about trust

  Everyone seems to understand the importance of trust. No one seems to doubt the vital role that  it plays in personal relationships, business and politics. We want to trust the people in our lives and we want them to trust us.

  Trust is so hard to earn and so easy to lose. So why do so many trust seekers resort to short-sighted, seemingly instinctive, self-aggrandizing or self-protective strategies that are bound to damage or destroy this precious asset?

Friday, June 27, 2014

Charles C. Haynes: In new poll, marriage equality beats religious objections

  A solid majority of Americans now support equal treatment for same-sex couples despite religious objections, according to the State of the First Amendment survey released this week by the First Amendment Center.

  Sixty-one percent of respondents agree that the government should require religiously affiliated groups that receive government funding to provide health-care benefits to same-sex partners of employees – even when the religious group opposes same-sex marriage.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Sam Fulwood III: Why do we have gridlocked government?

  If you’ve paid attention to the noise in Washington, D.C., you know all too well that our nation’s government is hopelessly divided.

  Although some, such as the late William A. Niskanen—the former chairman of the libertarian Cato Institute and former member and acting chairman of President Ronald Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers—celebrate the fractured state of politics, most of us decry the leadership’s unwillingness to do the public’s business.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Gene Policinski: It’s vital to know how to use — and defend — our freedoms

WASHINGTON — C’mon, people — it’s just 45 words!

  We’ll even give you the Twitter version: Freedom of Religion, Speech, Press, Assembly, Petition.

  There, a whole lesson in what it means to be a citizen of the United States — and the answers to some of the questions on the actual test you have to pass to become a citizen.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Summer of indictments

  A recent Fortune magazine article ranks Alabama as one of the top ten states when it comes to corruption. We were ranked number six.

  The rankings were determined by a study of convictions of public officials for violations of federal corruption laws between 1976 and 2008. A good many of our sister southern states also made the list. Not surprisingly Louisiana came in at number two. They are a perennial corruption leader. It is part of their culture. They are proud of their status as one of the nation’s most corrupt environs. They are probably disappointed that they are not number one. Mississippi grabbed that ranking. Our sister states of Kentucky, Florida and Tennessee made the top ten along with us. That is six of the top ten. It looks like a final Associated Press Top Ten College Football ranking. It looks like corruption and college football go hand-in-hand.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Diane Katz: Kill the Export-Import Bank

  Rare is the issue that unites Michigan’s Democratic Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow with their chamber’s most conservative members. But when federal subsidies to foreign firms threaten American jobs, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle find common cause—and rightly so. Taxpayers should not be financing overseas business ventures that undercut U.S. companies.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Cameron Smith: Does Alabama already have a better healthcare model than the Medicaid expansion?

  Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court provided states with the opportunity to reject the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) Medicaid expansion without jeopardizing existing Medicaid funds, the expansion has become a political football.

  Governor Bentley has called the ACA Medicaid expansion “a federal government dependency program for the uninsured.” On the other end of the political spectrum, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Parker Griffith claims that growing Medicaid will generate “30,700 new jobs, [a] $2.1 billion economic boost, plus 500 lives saved every year.”

Friday, June 20, 2014

5 Ways cities can prepare for the carbon-pollution standards

  Today, hundreds of mayors are convening in Dallas, Texas, for the 82nd annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Climate change will play a prominent role on the meeting’s agenda because these mayors understand that the nation’s cities and towns are the front line of the response to climate change. This meeting comes on the heels of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s, or EPA’s, recently unveiled Clean Power Plan, which proposes carbon-pollution limits for the nation’s existing fleet of currently unregulated power plants. What some observers may not appreciate is that mayors can contribute to—and benefit from—plans to cut dangerous carbon pollution.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Michael Josephson: The Commencement curse

  Millions of teenagers across the land are about to leave the womb of high school for a world full of new freedoms and responsibilities. Although many have been waiting for this event for a long time, eager to get on with their lives as liberated adults, the thought of leaving behind friends and familiar places can be scary.

  The transition isn’t made any easier by well-meaning adults who deliver what I call the Commencement Curse: “These are the best days of your life.” It’s a curse because, if it’s true, we’re telling kids it’s all downhill from here!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1410: The Art of communication

  The art of communication is a well-worn term that means many things to various people. I want to share with you my personal perspective on the art of communication.

  I communicate in many ways. I speak to various groups. I write a weekly column. I write special articles, books, open letters and regular letters. I speak with radio and television news reporters; I host several radio programs from time to time. I appear on other radio and television programs. I teach Sunday School. I e-mail and text. I talk on the phone, in person and in meetings. Yes, I practice the art of communication in many mediums.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: GOP primary provides few surprises

  There is an old adage that says the more things change the more they remain the same. This is certainly apropos for this year’s primary elections.

  On election night, I kept looking for some upset or surprise. It was not forthcoming. Essentially every incumbent won reelection, especially when it came to Alabama Senate and House races.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Cruel Confinement: Abuse, discrimination and death within Alabama’s prisons

  An investigation by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program (ADAP) has found that for many people incarcerated in Alabama’s state prisons, a sentence is more than a loss of freedom. Prisoners, including those with disabilities and serious physical and mental illnesses, are condemned to penitentiaries where systemic indifference, discrimination and dangerous – even life-threatening – conditions are the norm.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Clay Calvert: ‘Slender Man’ and the First Amendment: why it protects his creator

  Can Eric Knudsen, the creator of the fictional character “Slender Man,” be held civilly liable for the recent violence suffered by the young victim of a stabbing attack in Waukesha, Wis.?

  The answer is a definitive “no” under First Amendment principles of free speech. Those rules were created by the United States Supreme Court 45 years ago in a case that protected a Ku Klux Klan member from responsibility for engaging in racist rhetoric at a cross-burning in Ohio.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Katherine Green Robertson: Ditch the excuses and vote on July 15th!

  It was predicted that voters would stay home on June 3rd without a tight race for governor at the top of the ticket, and this proved to be true. The meager 22% statewide turnout indicates a high level of apathy as an electorate toward state and local races, despite the fact that the decisions of our legislature and local governments have more of an impact on our daily lives than anything that goes on in Washington, D.C.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Jacob G. Hornberger: Ground Hog Day in the drug war

  A news article this week entitled “South Laredo Trafficking Group Indicted” caught my attention. That’s because Laredo is my hometown. I spent 26 years there, including 8 years practicing law, most of which was in partnership with my father.

  That newspaper article is about the drug war. It reports that an indictment was returned against 24 Laredoans for violations of federal drug laws. The indictment charges the defendants with distribution of cocaine, crack, and marijuana in the Laredo area.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Obama administration’s renewed workforce investment in Kentucky

  The Obama administration recently took an important step in confronting the challenges of a rapidly changing national energy landscape by helping Kentucky coal miners navigate the country’s ongoing energy transition. On June 4, the U.S. Department of Labor, with strong bipartisan support, announced that it is committing $7.5 million in National Emergency Grant, or NEG, funding for re-employment assistance for Kentucky workers affected by coal-mining layoffs.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: On to the runoff

  The big news out of last week’s political primaries is that there was no news. The results of every race came down almost precisely as was predicted.

  The prevailing hypothesis among experts that there would be a low voter turnout was fulfilled. The turnout was around 20% statewide, as was expected. The reason for the sparse voter participation was because there was very little reason to go vote. Most of the major statewide and constitutional races were decided before the first vote was cast.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Clay Calvert: Still risky for citizens to video police – even in public places

  Let’s start with a trio of foundational assumptions that affect us all as citizens and citizen journalists.

  First, when people are situated in public venues, such as parks, streets or sidewalks, they have no reasonable expectation of privacy. What they do in those common locations thus is fair game for anyone else to witness and, in turn, to photograph and record.

  Second, police officers and law enforcement officials are public servants and government employees. They work for us – the taxpayers – and their actions are not only of public interest, but also of public concern.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Adam Hersh: Economy’s new jobs strain to deliver middle-class wages

  Employment growth continued on its too-slow-but-steady trend in May, when U.S. employers added 217,000 jobs, according to new data released this week from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS. The headline unemployment rate remained unchanged at 6.3 percent.

  May marks the first time that the U.S. labor market surpassed its pre-recession level of employment—last seen in December 2007—making this the longest march to employment recovery in the postwar era. Over the past year, job growth averaged 198,000 new jobs per month, according to BLS data. While the economy continues adding jobs, these new jobs are too few to deal with the deep problem of unemployment and too often fail to deliver middle-class wages.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Michael Josephson: There’s no such thing as business ethics

  Some years ago, a senior executive at a Fortune 100 company objected when I asserted that corporations have an ethical, as well as a legal obligation to keep promises and honor their contracts. He said that the decision to live up to or ignore contractual commitments is a business decision, not an ethical one. The other party has legal remedies, he said, and therefore responsible managers have a duty to evaluate whether it’s in the company’s best interest to honor or breach contracts. The decision should be based on a simple cost/benefit analysis. Ethics has nothing to do with it.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

David L. Hudson, Jr.: Qualified immunity protects Secret Service agents

  A recent unanimous decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in favor of two Secret Service agents shows the power of the qualified-immunity doctrine.

  The high court ruled in Wood v. Moss that the agents were entitled to qualified immunity when they moved protesters an additional block further away than supporters of former President George W. Bush were allowed to gather in Jacksonville, Ore., in October 2004.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: 1964 election is still reverberating in Alabama

  You know the results of Tuesday’s primary elections. However, my column had to go to press prior to Tuesday’s vote. Therefore, we will discuss and analyze the outcome next week.

  It is doubtful that there were any surprises. Gov. Robert Bentley more than likely waltzed to the GOP nomination. He will probably face Parker Griffith in this fall’s general election. Ironically, both Griffith and Bentley are 72-year-old retired physicians. It is not likely that such a matchup has ever occurred in an Alabama governor’s race.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1408: Vantage points from behind-the-scenes in elections

  What really goes on behind the scenes in elections? We see signs on the roads. We see ads on television. We hear ads on the radio. We see candidates at forums, at meetings and sometimes in our neighborhoods. None of these actions tell us what really goes on behind the scenes in elections.

  With this primary election coming to a conclusion as this Sketches is published, I thought it might be worthwhile to peek behind the scenes at a few election issues. This is not about the race I just concluded or my previous races. It is a collection of experiences shared and information gathered over 42 years.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Charles C. Haynes: In higher education, low tolerance for free speech

  Daniel Harper, a student at Cameron University in Oklahoma, is the latest victim of the censorship pandemic currently infecting America’s colleges and universities.

  Earlier this semester, Harper handed out flyers expressing his religious objections to the World Mission Society, a religious group active on Cameron’s campus. Harper, an evangelical Christian, believes the group is a dangerous cult.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Michael Josephson: A call for more civility

  When George Washington was 16, he discovered a booklet of 110 maxims describing how a well-mannered person should behave. He was so convinced that these maxims would help him become a better person that he set out to incorporate them into his daily living. Among Washington’s many virtues, his commitment to civility marked him as a gentleman and helped him become a universally respected and enormously effective leader.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Our Stand: Remember what matters in the June 3rd Republican Primary

  After an exhaustive survey of rhetoric offered, public policy priorities voiced, and an examination of "values" routinely touted by River Region and statewide candidates running for elected office in the June 3rd Republican Primary, the editorial board of the Capital City Free Press has produced this insightful voter guide for registered voters who plan to participate in the Tuesday election.

  Instead of listing individual candidates and races, we have instead summarized the candidates' prevailing themes and talking points as a means to assist voters who wish to boil their decisions down to the most important areas of qualifications and goals. These points and areas of focus seem to be consistent among Republican candidates in Alabama regardless of the office they seek.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Charles C. Haynes: From the Supreme Court, prayer rules that won’t work

  Mixing prayer and state has always been a messy, contentious business – but earlier this month it got even messier and more contentious.

  In a close 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of prayers at legislative meetings, even when most prayers are prayed in the name of Jesus (Town of Greece v. Galloway).

  Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy reaffirmed the argument-from-history made by the Court 30 years ago in Marsh v. Chambers: Because legislative prayer dates back to the founding, it must be constitutional.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1407: The power of one vote

  The power of one vote. So many of us think that we have just one vote but we have many votes. However, since this one vote syndrome is so prevalent, I want to share various examples of the power of one vote.

  Did you know that Adolph Hitler became head of the Nazi Party and thereby the leader of Germany by just one vote? If just one person had voted differently or one additional person had voted, we would not have had World War II. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers would not have died on bloody battlefields. Millions would not have died in concentration camps. Just one vote a few years earlier damaged the entire world. That’s the power of one vote.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Primary colors

  Believe it or not we are one week away from the 2014 Alabama Primary Elections. The Republican and Democratic primaries are next Tuesday. The turnout may be historically low. The reason is simple. There are no good statewide races on the ballot.

  The governor’s race is usually a marquee event. However, Gov. Robert Bentley is essentially running unopposed. The same is true for Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan, State Treasurer Young Boozer and Attorney General Luther Strange. Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey has a viable opponent, but Stan Cooke is running a grassroots campaign with no money in a race for an office where there are no issues, only name identification.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Michael Josephson: Memorial Day, a day of remembrance

  It’s not just an excuse for a three-day weekend or a day for barbecue and beer.

  Memorial Day is a time for Americans to connect with our national history and core values by honoring those who gave their lives fighting for this country.

  It’s said that this special day to salute fallen Americans was born during the Civil War in Mississippi when a group of grieving mothers and wives who were placing flowers on graves in a Confederate cemetery noticed a neglected graveyard for Union soldiers.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Cameron Smith: The Accountability Act gets personal

  Since its enactment in 2013, the Alabama Accountability Act has been a focal point in Alabama politics. The law added flexibility from certain state education requirements for traditional public schools, provided tax credits for parents looking to transfer their children out of failing schools, and created a tax credit scholarship program.