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.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Sam Fulwood III: America graduates record level of high school students

  For a change of pace, how would you like to hear some good news, followed by some promising news?

  The good news: Contrary to the dire accounts of how poorly American schoolchildren are doing in their class work, the nation’s high school graduation rate is rising at an astonishingly rapid pace. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the national high school graduation rate topped 80 percent for the first time in history and is expected to exceed 90 percent by 2020.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Michael Josephson: Do I have to tell everything?

  Should a job applicant properly withhold information about a criminal record or termination from a previous job? Should a woman starting a new relationship say nothing about a previous marriage or abortion? These are problems of candor: When does an ethical person have a duty to reveal negative information about his or her past?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Public schools in the crosshairs: Far-right propaganda and the Common Core state standards

  Across the United States, a fierce wave of resistance is engulfing the Common Core State Standards, threatening to derail this ambitious effort to lift student achievement and, more fundamentally, to undermine the very idea of public education.

  Developed by the National Governors Association and an association of state school superintendents, the standards were conceived as a way to promote U.S. competitiveness, increase educational equity, and resolve problems created by the No Child Left Behind Act.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The race to replace Spencer Bachus

  My early and continuous prognostication that this would be a lackluster political season has been justified. It may very well be the least interesting gubernatorial politicking year in memory.

  The fact that Gov. Robert Bentley is waltzing to reelection with essentially no opposition is the primary reason for the lack of activity. In addition, the offices of Agriculture Commissioner, Attorney General and Treasurer are held by popular incumbent Republicans who have no significant opposition.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Jacob G. Hornberger: Conservatives are doomed

  If you attend any conservative conference, I will guarantee you that you will encounter the following mantra countless times: "free enterprise, private property, and limited government." You will hear it in speeches, read it in brochures, hear it in casual conversations, and see it prominently displayed at exhibit booths. It is the guiding mantra of the conservative movement.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Harry Stein: Pfizer’s tax-dodging bid for AstraZeneca shows need to tighten U.S. tax rules

  American drug maker Pfizer is attempting to acquire AstraZeneca, the United Kingdom’s second-largest pharmaceutical company. If successful, Pfizer would avoid paying billions of dollars in U.S. taxes by becoming a U.K.-based corporation, and Pfizer executives have made these tax benefits a central element of their pitch to AstraZeneca. This corporate maneuver, in which a U.S. corporation becomes a foreign corporation for tax purposes, is called a corporate inversion. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have fought back against corporate inversions for years, and they could be stopped if Congress were to strengthen laws passed 10 years ago.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Sheldon Richman: The neoconservative obsession with Iran

  Americans could be enjoying cultural and commercial relations with Iranians were it not for U.S. "leaders," who are more aptly described as misleaders. Because of institutional, geopolitical, and economic reasons, Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton were not about to let that happen. They thought America needed an enemy, and Iran filled the bill.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Brandon Demyan: One photo, one vote: Alabama’s voter ID law

  The primary elections of June 3, 2014 could bring change for many of Alabama’s elected office holders. It will definitely bring a change in voter identification requirements. In previous elections, voters could simply provide a utility bill or a fishing license to vote. Alabama’s voter ID law, passed in 2011 and implemented for the first time with the upcoming primaries, will now require every voter to present a valid photo ID at the polls.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Sally Steenland: Conquering the religious-secular divide

  A few weeks ago, I participated in a private convening with multifaith leaders who are working for justice. We were Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, and Sikh; sprinkled among the participants and facilitators were a few secular humanists, agnostics, and atheists. The passion for justice among all of us was fierce. Leaders in the group are fighting anti-Muslim bigotry; striving for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT, equality; working to reduce poverty; and more. We are allies in the struggle for justice.

  And yet, during one of the small discussion groups, a man who isn’t religious confessed that he often feels judged by his religious colleagues. It is never overt, he said, but rather a subtle hinting that his moral code—coming as it does from nonreligious sources—is somehow inferior to theirs.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Is Bentley shifting to the left on Alabama's prison system and general fund?

  In 1967 when Lurleen Wallace became governor, one of her first missions included a trip to Bryce Mental Hospital in her native Tuscaloosa. The conditions she saw at Alabama’s primary mental health facility were beyond deplorable. It was a heart wrenching, Damascus road experience for the demure and soft-spoken lady. However, she roared like a lion with determination to remedy this blight on the state. She implored her husband’s legislature to appropriate significant increases in the mental health budget and she passed bond issues to relieve overcrowding.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Ken Paulson: The high stakes for short messages

  The queen of England had a rough weekend recently. It rained relentlessly and her youngest son Edward was stuck in the garden wearing an Easter Bunny suit. I know this because I follow "Elizabeth Windsor," a Twitter account that shares Elizabeth’s personal musings. It’s informative, amusing – and totally fabricated.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Michael Josephson: Eight laws of leadership

  Take a look around. Business, education, politics. If there’s one thing we don’t have enough of, it’s good leaders —men and women who have the vision and the ability to change things for the better.

  Former Air Force General William Cohen wrote a fine book called The Stuff of Heroes in which he identified eight laws of leadership. Here are his rules:

Friday, May 9, 2014

Cameron Smith: The balancing act between economy and environment

  According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s International Energy Outlook 2013, world energy consumption is projected to increase 56 percent between 2010 and 2040.

  Even with such growing demand, we are making significant progress towards a cleaner environment. Consider air quality in Alabama. According to the EPA’s Air Quality Index, the number of days in which air quality in Alabama has been unhealthy has fallen 97% since 1980. During the 1980s, approximately 1 in every 8.3 days in Alabama had unhealthy air in at least one of its cities. As of 2010-2012, that ratio has declined to 1 in every 80 days.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Sam Fulwood III: The conundrum of white-male privilege

  A pair of emails crossed my desk yesterday that plunged me down a rabbit hole and into an exploration of white-male privilege—it was an amazing trip.

  My understanding of the phrase "white-male privilege" tracks along the lines laid down by feminist writer and academic activist Peggy McIntosh, a senior research scientist and associate director of the Wellesley Centers for Women, whose 1988 essay coined the phrase "invisible knapsack" as a metaphor for the benefits "of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks" that white Americans disproportionately carry compared with black and other Americans of color. As McIntosh writes, the weightless and invisible backpack carried by white males is the largest and most expansive of all, granting them access to the most spaces with the least doubts about their sense of place or authority.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Michael Josephson: If you love competition, you never lose

  Suppose you’re an Olympic athlete and you hear that the only person who has a chance to beat you is ill and may have to withdraw. Are you overjoyed at your good luck or disappointed that you will not be able to compete against the very best?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The cost of legislative pandering

  The 2014 regular legislative session of the Alabama Legislature, which ended last month, was the last of the quadrennium. It ended on the same note it began on four years ago. This group of super majority Republican legislators has placed an indelible conservative stamp on Alabama state government.

  There has been no benchmark right wing social issue that they have failed to address. They began in the first year with what they proclaimed was the most pervasive anti illegal immigrant legislation in the country. It was quickly cast aside in a cursory federal court opinion as unconstitutional.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Big Oil wants to keep its tax breaks despite very profitable winter

  The United States experienced glacial economic growth during the first quarter of 2014, but the big five oil companies—BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, and Shell—did not. Even though their profits were lower than in the first quarter of 2013, they still earned a combined $23 billion. They spent $7 billion, or nearly one-third, of this amount to repurchase their own stocks, lining the pockets of their boards of directors, their executives, and their largest shareholders. On top of this, they have $68 billion in cash reserves. Big Oil continues to prosper in a slowly recovering economy.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Sally Steenland: The conservative fairy tale about government

  When people tell stories rooted in fantasy, they’re called fairy tales. Such was the case last fall when Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) spoke at an anti-poverty forum at the Heritage Foundation. His remarks spun a mythical tale of our nation’s past, when kind, hard-working men and women helped their neighbors and didn’t need the big, bad government. According to Sen. Lee, a free-market economy and a volunteer society were all we needed to thrive. These two magical ingredients supposedly spurred "millions of ordinary Americans to make our economy very wealthy and our society truly rich."

Friday, May 2, 2014

Michael Josephson: Do a little more

  In 1964, a young woman named Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death outside her apartment building in Queens, New York. She was attacked repeatedly over the course of an hour and despite her screams, none of the 38 neighbors intervened or called for help. Some were afraid. Some didn’t want to get involved. Some thought someone else would do it.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Sam Fulwood III: Calling foul against racism in the NBA

  It’s easy—and justifiable—to join the posse that saddled up to ride Donald Sterling right out of the National Basketball Association.

  TMZ Sports, a section of celebrity gossip website TMZ, reported late Friday night that it had obtained damning audio of Sterling, who owns the Los Angeles Clippers. The tape is allegedly of Sterling telling his girlfriend that, among other things, he didn’t want her bringing black people—specifically, former Los Angeles Lakers’ star and current businessman Magic Johnson—to watch his team play.