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.