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.