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.