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.