Thursday, December 31, 2015

Darrio Melton: We can't keep cutting our way out of a budget crisis

  As we're moving into the New Year, Alabama legislators are--once again--focused on old problems that have only been placated by patchwork solutions: namely, our state budget. The 2016 legislative session is right around the corner, and the Republican leadership is wasting no time saying how this session is going to be exactly like the last one.

  Remember the last one? The Republican supermajority's in-fighting sent us into two special sessions, spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars before we finally passed a make-shift budget.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: A nod to Alabama political players we lost in 2015

  As we close the final page on 2015, my year-end tradition is to reminisce about the passing of significant players on the Alabama political stage.

  The first obituary is not a person but an entity. The Alabama Education Association is essentially dead as a political organization. The king is dead. When Paul Hubbert died, the AEA died. It is as though it rose and fell with his life. He reigned as King of Goat Hill for over 30 years.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Charles C. Haynes: The First Amendment, our articles of peace

  In 2015, America’s increasingly crowded public square was often filled with hostility, becoming an angry arena where people shout past one another across religious and ideological divides.

  Incendiary rhetoric and personal attacks are now commonplace in culture war conflicts over everything from refugees and immigration to religious freedom and sexual identity.

  Any notion of the “common good” gets lost in the crossfire of charge and counter-charge – and, on the fringes, wars of words escalate into outbursts of hate and intolerance.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Laurence M. Vance: Five years is five years too long

  I mentioned in my article “The Prospects for Drug Freedom” back in 2012 that Oregon was one of the first states to legalize medical marijuana and that sixteen other states and the District of Columbia had done likewise. I am happy to report that after three years, that number is now up to 25 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and the District of Columbia have also legalized marijuana for recreational use.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Vera Appleyard: Top 10 ways to make New Year's resolutions stick

  Another year rolls around and gyms across the country fill with newcomers. Gym regulars grouse about how the competition for the treadmills and elliptical machines has grown ten-fold, but they smile knowingly because they have seen it all before. In a month or two, the gym will be back to normal as all the New Year's resolution makers lose steam and go back to business as usual.

Friday, December 25, 2015

William D. Atkin: Christmas around the world

  Christmas is both a religious holiday and increasingly a secular holiday heavily influenced by local culture. As a result, Christmas traditions are as diverse as the world itself.

  In the United States, for example, Christmas traditions are a literal potpourri of the Christmas traditions brought by immigrants, mostly European. For example, Yule log (English), Christmas tree (German), carols or noels (France), Santa Claus (Dutch). In more recent times, newer Christmas traditions have arrived with the most recent immigrants such as luminaries (Mexico) and "Feliz Navidad!" greeting (Latin America generally).

  The following is a whirlwind tour of some of the fun and different Christmas traditions around the world.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Andrew A. Yerbey: The cultivation of our children

  Christmas is a time for rejoicing and reflection. Both are manifest in one of the last poems written by T. S. Eliot, “The Cultivation of Christmas Trees,” a majestic work that deserves revisiting every Christmastime.

  “The child wonders at the Christmas Tree,” the speaker of Eliot’s poem observes, recalling “the glittering rapture, the amazement / Of the first-remembered Christmas Tree” and “the surprises, delight in new possessions” found beneath it. The speaker wishes for the child to “continue in the spirit of wonder”—to hold tight to these moments, to the happiness and hope that accompanied them. In so doing, even when the innocence of childhood is inevitably replaced by the travails of adulthood, “the reverence and the gaiety / May not be forgotten” and “the accumulated memories of annual emotion / May be concentrated into a great joy.” Through the remembrance of Christmases past, joy can be kept evergreen.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Three events that continue to reverberate in Alabama politics

  As we look back over the past year’s political events one week stands out. During one week in the middle of 2015, three momentous events occurred. All three came down bang, bang, bang in the week leading up to the Fourth of July.

  First was the landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, which deemed same sex marriage legal and the law of the land. Then the historic BP settlement, which granted Alabama $1.3 billion for environmental recovery and an additional $1 billion for economic losses. Finally, Governor Robert Bentley’s executive order removing all of the Confederate flags from the Capitol.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Darrio Melton: Even the Grinch understands the reason for the season

  Amidst the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, sometimes it's difficult to stop and remember the spirit of the season is about one thing: giving.

  It's easy to get caught up in the gifts, shopping and sales, making sure you've made your list and checked it twice, having to frantically run to the store for last minute items.

  But the "giving" of Christmas is best summed up by a childhood favorite by Dr. Seuss, when the Grinch finally realizes that he can't take Christmas from Whoville: "What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!”

Monday, December 21, 2015

Michael Josephson: Listening: 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.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Craig Ford: Alabama can’t have education without educators

  If our state leaders continue their war on education, we may not be able to find any qualified teachers willing to work in our schools.

  One of the biggest problems we have in education right now is the shortage of teachers. This is true nationally and in Alabama.

  Today, fewer college students are enrolling in education courses. Eric Mackey, the executive director of the state superintendents association, recently told the Times Daily that there are about 40 to 45 percent fewer college students studying to be teachers than there were just five years ago and that there are school systems in Alabama that do not have any certified math, science and special education teachers.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Dozens of ideas for state executive action to prevent gun violence and crime

  It has been three years since one of the nation’s most horrific mass shootings: the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The movement to enact stronger gun laws since that tragedy has been characterized by two seemingly conflicting trends. In communities across the country, the groundswell of activism and engagement has been unprecedented. The public is demanding action by local, state, and national leaders to address the epidemic of gun violence in this country—not only regarding the mass shootings that garner the bulk of media attention, but also for the thousands of shooting deaths that too often go unnoticed. Millions of Americans have signed petitions and pledges; called their elected representatives; and organized and attended rallies and vigils pleading for change. At the same time, the inertia in Congress has been inexorable, as our elected representatives have largely failed to heed these calls for action to enact the common sense legislation that is supported by a vast majority of Americans and would undoubtedly save lives.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1488: The danger of fear; the destructiveness of terror

  I was terrified. But I learned powerful lessons. I not only learned that terror is extremely powerful but that it affects us in so many ways. I avoid terror like the plague.

  When I was about 16, I had a girlfriend named Louise. She lived in Pine Grove, some five miles from Tall Pine, Alabama where I lived. I walked the five miles to her home and five miles back. That was ten miles of walking just to see Louise. The walking, however, did not terrify me.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The final round of potential gubernatorial candidates

  This week we will conclude our analysis of the potential horses in the 2018 Alabama Gubernatorial Derby. First, let me briefly recap the horses we have already handicapped. The list includes, in descending order, Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (18), Supreme Court Justice Jim Main (17), Sen. Greg Reed (16), Sen. Arthur Orr (15), Anniston Mayor Vaughn Stewart (14), Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox (13), Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson (12), Congressman Bradley Byrne (11), Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey (10), Sen. Del Marsh (9), State Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan (8), Attorney General Luther Strange (7), Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle (6), State Treasurer Young Boozer (5), and Secretary of State John Merrill (4). The final three horses will be revealed today.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Darrio Melton: Alabama's community colleges are worth protecting

  While Governor George C. Wallace is best known for his stand in the schoolhouse door, he is also responsible for establishing a community college system that made a huge impact on rural and middle-income families.

  Wallace wanted to be sure that a junior college education was within reach for every Alabama student to better prepare them for study at a four-year institution or enter the job market trained in a trade.

  Fast forward 50 years and our junior college system is struggling to meet the needs of Alabama families.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Gene Policinski: Closing down ‘Free Speech’ is no joking matter

  If this were a joke, it would have to start out: “So, three censors walk into a bar….”

  Except that it’s no joking matter when the trio calling for private or public censoring of the Internet include the two leading candidates (at this moment) for leader of the Free World, and the head of the largest search engine and information company on the planet.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Michael Josephson: Rules about trust

  I’ve talked about it lots of times before: The high cost of lying and deception — by politicians and police, corporate executives and clergy, even journalists, accountants and educators — has been to weaken every major social institution.

  As each of these institutions wages its separate battle to remove the cloud of suspicion and cynicism that hovers over it, there are certain truths about trust that must be understood and dealt with.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Charles C. Haynes: Fear and loathing in America

  On December 7 – a day that already lives in infamy – Donald Trump called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

  Trump’s outrageous, un-American and unconstitutional proposal is the latest escalation of his ongoing campaign to demonize Islam and Muslims. He has already informed us that, if elected, he will consider closing mosques and registering American Muslims.

  With this latest attack on Muslims, Donald Trump has inspired a rare unity among leaders of the Republican and Democratic parties.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1487: The poisonous roots of violence in America

  The contrasts were great. Non-violence taught, but violence implemented. History of violence shunned, but current violence shared widely. Symbols of non-violence known all over the world, but the massive reality of violence unknown. The contrasts were so great.

  This week led up to the 150th anniversary of the end of chattel slavery in the United States of America. This slavery was the world’s most violent and inhumane. The Selma Center for Non-Violence, Truth and Reconciliation was holding a Week of History and Healing commemorating the end of slavery. But the media was full of violence in San Bernadino, Calif. where 14 human beings were murdered and 21 injured. The contrasts were so great.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The third round of potential gubernatorial candidates

  This week we will continue our analysis of the potential horses in the 2018 Alabama Gubernatorial Derby. So far, we have counted down from 18 to 8. In descending order the list includes Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (18), Supreme Court Justice Jim Main (17), Sen. Greg Reed (16), Sen. Arthur Orr (15), Mayor Vaughn Stewart (14), Mayor Walt Maddox (13), Mayor Sandy Stimpson (12), Congressman Bradley Byrne (11), Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey (10), Sen. Del Marsh (9), and State Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan (8). The next four horses will be revealed today and we will conclude the series next week when we reveal the top three horses.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Ken Gude: Anti-Muslim sentiment is a serious threat to American security

  The incredible barbarism perpetrated by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, too often dissuades those in the West from any meaningful assessment of the group’s strategy and tactics. From beheading or burning alive captives to slaughtering entire minority populations and gunning down innocent civilians in previously quiet streets, the violence is incomprehensible and thus can appear devoid of reason or planning. That is far from the truth. ISIS has been very clear about its objectives. It uses violence to achieve its goals, including to spread fear and induce governments and the public to make choices they otherwise would not; to mobilize its supporters with demonstrations of its capabilities; and, most importantly, to provoke an anti-Muslim backlash to help it attract new followers and prepare for a clash of civilizations. The ignorance of most in Western society to ISIS’s clear and openly described objectives is providing the necessary fuel for their continued growth and momentum.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Darrio Melton: Watch out for the second year of the quadrennium

  Each year, the joke around the State House is that the best time to slip something into the law and not be held accountable by news media and constituents is the second year of the quadrennium. By this point, media attention has usually shifted to the upcoming presidential election, and 2018 is far enough away that voters won't be looking ahead yet.

  In 2012, the second year of the last quadrennium, the Republican supermajority pushed through its infamously unconstitutional immigration bill, those lawmakers pulled the teeth out of their signature ethics bill, and pushed through a dozen or so incentives to help businesses over families.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Financial rollbacks would leave coal in consumers’ stockings

  In October, a bipartisan budget deal was announced with great fanfare: Legislators across party lines agreed to a broad framework that could stave off a government shutdown. That’s the good news.

  The bad news? The budget deal could use important consumer protections as a bargaining chip to prevent a shutdown.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Michael Josephson: Suitability versus capability

  A critical maxim of management is: “Suitability is as important as capability.” Capability asks, “Can they do the job?” Suitability asks, “Are they right for the job?”

  If the job isn’t a good fit, it’s not a good job.

  Yes, an employee has to have (or be able to readily acquire) the skills and knowledge required for excellent job performance, but compatibility can be more critical than capacity.

  There are three aspects to suitability: intellect, temperament, and objectives.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Craig Ford: Republicans should leave teachers’ retirement alone

  The Republicans in the Alabama Legislature have put teachers in their crosshairs again. This time, they are going after educators' retirement.

  It’s been a rough year for the powers that be in Montgomery.

  There have been more than a few bad headlines this year, and we only avoided a government shutdown after three costly legislative sessions that led to an $80 million raid on public education and $86 million in new taxes.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The second round of potential gubernatorial candidates

  This week we will continue counting down and handicapping the prospective horses in the 2018 Alabama Gubernatorial Derby. We handicapped the following horses in descending order last week, Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (18), Supreme Court Justice Jim Main (17), Sen. Greg Reed (16), Sen. Arthur Orr (15) and Mayor Vaughn Stewart (14). 

  This week we begin with horse Number 13, a spot which is held by a mayor of a major city. Interestingly, four of the eighteen horses in the 2018 Alabama Derby are mayors. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Darrio Melton: Alabama's education budget must be divided equitably

  Parents always emphasize the importance of investing time and money in a quality education. They teach that you can lose money and material items, but you can never lose your education.

  That's why families put their children's education at the top of their family budget every year,  making sure they have the tools to succeed and the resources to pursue higher education.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Charles C. Haynes: Muslims, refugees, and the struggle for the soul of America

  The horrific terrorist attacks of recent weeks have brought out the worst – and the best – in the American character.

  First, the worst: Attacks on Muslims have spiked significantly across the country. A number of American Muslims have been assaulted, including a pregnant woman in San Diego. Others have been harassed and intimidated. At least seven mosques have been vandalized, shot at or threatened.

  In this growing climate of fear, Syrian refugees fleeing violence and oppression have become scapegoats in the frustrating, seemingly endless war on terror.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1485: The power of fear

  Fear is powerful. Fear changes what we see. Fear changes what we hear. Fear changes what we perceive. Fear changes what we feel. Fear changes things.

  Fear is powerful. Fear changes what we do. Fear changes what we don’t do. Fear warps our judgment. Fear slows our actions. Fear speeds up our actions. Fear changes things.

  Fear is powerful. Fear makes us see what is not there. Fear blinds us to what is there. Fear enlarges that which is bad. Fear contracts that which is good. Fear changes everything.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Craig Ford: Be thankful for our educators

  In our house at Thanksgiving, our family likes to sit around the table and name the things we are thankful for in our lives. Of course, everyone always names the big things like family, our freedom and so on. But the things that I’m most thankful for are the people in my life who have made a difference: the people I work with, those serving in the church and the military just to name a few. But this year, I am especially thankful for our educators.

  It’s not just how teachers have shaped my life, or how I’ve watched them shape the lives of my children. It’s that they do this job year after year, each year with more expectations, fewer resources and less in their pockets. But they don’t complain because for them, teaching isn’t just a job, it’s a calling.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Darrio Melton: Thanksgiving is a time to pause and reflect on the kind of America we want to be

  Thanksgiving is a uniquely American tradition, a time to join together with friends and family to celebrate the gifts we've been given. As we move forward into the holiday season, I think it's especially fitting that we stop and say thank you for our blessings.

  Many of us know the story of the first Thanksgiving. Pilgrims came to America from Europe, struggling to survive in the New World. Some historians cite religious freedom as their major motivation while others point to economic concerns. Bu regardless of their motives, they made it to America and put down roots that would last for centuries.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The first round of potential gubernatorial candidates

  Last week I gave you an alphabetical list of the 18 potential horses in the 2018 Alabama Gubernatorial Derby. We will begin this week handicapping them in descending order.

  The Number 18 horse is current Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard. We will know whether the beleaguered Speaker of the House will remain in the derby by next March. He is on trial in Lee County. A grand jury indicted him over a year ago on 23 felony counts of ethics law violations. If he is convicted on any of the 23 charges, he becomes a felon and will not only be removed from my 2018 Alabama Derby, he will be removed from the House of Representatives and as Speaker of the House.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Gene Policinski: Want to terrorize a terrorist? Try a bit of ‘freedom’

  Want to know how to terrorize a terrorist? Read the 45 words of the First Amendment – preferably aloud.

  Airstrikes and drone strikes? Threats and condemnations from the leaders of the most powerful nations in the history of the planet? Targeted assassinations at home or abroad?

  To some degree, those tactics may well put fear in the shadowy collections of would-be dictators and pseudo-religious fanatics now operating around the world. And certainly the quick French response– including the raid in which the suspected mastermind of the November 13 attacks died – should serve as a graphic demonstration of speedy justice.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Alexandra Thornton: Getting beyond rhetoric on corporate tax reform

  It seems that corporate tax reform is perpetually in the news, but the debate never seems to move beyond rhetoric. This was reinforced when new Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI), acknowledged last week that congressional Republicans would take up corporate tax reform next year for purposes of positioning Republicans for the 2016 election.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches: #1484: Felony convictions are life sentences

  Every felony conviction carries a life sentence. No, I don’t mean a sentence to life in prison. However, I do mean a life sentence. Let me tell you why felony convictions carry life sentences.

  Every felony conviction carries a sentence of at least one year in prison, jail, probation, parole or a combination thereof. We tend to think of sentences to prison or probation or parole as the total sentence. These sentences certainly should get our attention because they are serious. In fact, when we plead to a felony – whether guilty or innocent – it’s usually to avoid or reduce prison time or reduce the length of the sentence. However, we don’t think about the collateral sentences that come with every plea. In reality, felony convictions carry sentences that last for life.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Craig Ford: Progress has been made, but there is more work to be done!

  Congratulations to Gov. Robert Bentley and Secretary of State John Merrill on their work to fully enact the “motor voter” law! It’s refreshing to see a news article about voting in Alabama that isn’t negative. And while it did take more than twenty years and the threat of a costly lawsuit, Alabama is finally moving toward compliance with the federal voting law.

  If you are unfamiliar with the law, the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, more commonly referred to as the “motor voter” law, is a federal law that among other things requires state governments to offer voter registration opportunities to any eligible person who applies for (or renews) their driver’s license or public assistance.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Darrio Melton: National Guard Armory closings reveal priorities

  This week, our hearts went out to the victims of tragedies in Paris and Beirut. Americans stood in solidarity with the victims of these horrific attacks and committed ourselves to continue working to prevent these attacks at home and abroad.

  At the heart of the conversation about dealing with terrorism, extremism, and ISIS has been a conversation about Syrian refugees and their role in our nation.

  Many have argued it's time to shut down our borders to prevent bad people from coming in with those who are looking for safety, while others have quoted the lines etched into the Statue of Liberty: "give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The road to 2018

  We Alabamians love the governor’s race. When talk turns to politics in our beloved state, 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 on the subject of who will run for governor. As each new race approaches it is talked about more than ever around the coffee clubs from Sand Mountain to the Wiregrass and from the Tennessee Valley to the Gulf Coast. It is comparable to college football being the king of all sports in Alabama.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Sam Fulwood III: The inequality racism begets affects us all

  Lately, I have noticed a palpable sensation that white people around me are increasingly talking about race.

  Sometimes, it is palaver about racial disparities in criminal sentencing, the reality of institutional racism, or the vagaries of white privilege. Often, these topics come up in private, one-on-one dialogues, but—just as frequently—I eavesdrop into others’ conversations and hear more frank talk than ever before.

  I hadn’t given it much thought. After all, my work focuses on race and public policy, and I am surrounded by extremely progressive and socially aware white people who aren’t shy about engaging in challenging issues and debates. Still, the preponderance of race talk has seemed oddly noteworthy—like the incessant buzzing of a bee that gets louder the more I ignore it.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Charles C. Haynes: Islam, public schools, and the challenge of teaching about religions

  In recent weeks, fights have erupted in Georgia and Tennessee over how Islam is taught in public schools.

  Charges of “Islamic indoctrination” are countered by charges of “anti-Muslim bigotry” as people shout past one another at school board meetings and in the media.

  Before this dispute becomes a full-blown culture war, my advice is for people on all sides to take a deep breath, sort out what’s actually going on in schools, and then consider how school officials can best respond.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches: #1483: DMV closures are purely about politics

  It’s about politics. It’s not about the budget. It’s about politics. It’s not about revenue. It’s all about politics, politics, politics. The closing of the driver’s license offices (DMVs) is all about politics, not revenue, not budgets. Let me tell you why.

  First, the fees for driver’s licenses were recently increased from $23.50 to $36.25. That’s a 54 percent increase. The Alabama Legislature placed explicit language in the budget requiring portions of these increased fees to be used to keep open all driver’s license offices. But the governor closed them anyway. It’s not about revenue. It’s not about budgets. It’s all about politics.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: "Friends and neighbors" bias drives Alabama elections

  As a young boy I would sit for hours contemplating and analyzing the next governor’s race. At that time the governor could not succeed himself. He was limited to one four-year term. Alabama had developed a tradition whereby the man who had run second in the last governor’s race would automatically be considered the frontrunner for the next election. He had run what was called his “get acquainted race.” So I always began my speculating by assuming that the second place finisher was the man to beat.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Josh Carples: The War on Christmas 2015: Breakfast Blend

  Editor’s note: This is the first official update on the War on Christmas since we risked our lives on the front lines in 2012. We were unprepared for the next two years because as we all know, the world was supposed to end in December of that year. Please review the last update from the field here: Warning: The War on Christmas is in full effect.

  Before the turkey could even get shoved into the oven to later be consumed for the bodily energy needed to trample our fellow Americans on the ever-encroaching hours of Black Friday, the first shot rang out on the annual face-off we’ve come to lovingly call the “War on Christmas.”

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Michael Josephson: The ultimate display of citizenship

  The holiday we now celebrate as Veteran’s Day was originally called Armistice Day in tribute to the end of World War I on November 11, 1918. Sadly, the “war to end all wars” didn’t accomplish that goal. In 1954, Congress officially changed the name to Veteran’s Day.

  Too often we think of the term “citizen” only in terms of rights. Yet the veterans we thank today demonstrated their citizenship in terms of responsibilities.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

An open letter to Governor Robert Bentley

Governor Bentley:

  I understand that the State of Alabama has been undergoing complicated financial obligations arising from years of poor budgeting decisions. I respect that you have worked to address these issues head on and to establish a more stable financial base for our state’s future.

  However, I would like to urge you to reopen Paul M. Grist State Park, as the benefits that our state parks provide for our state vastly outweigh the cost to our General Fund budget.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Jacob G. Hornberger: Oh no! The Cold War is back on?

  Last week the New York Times published a fascinating article entitled “Putin’s Forever War” by Masha Gessen. The article provides a deep insight into the type of mindset that converted the U.S. government into a national-security state and that has led our nation to the dark side.

  Gessen’s article revolves around a critique of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who, he says, favors endless war for its own sake. Poo-pooing Putin’s concern about counteracting U.S. world domination, Gessen says that the “strategic purpose of his wars is war itself.”

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Michael Josephson: It's not easy

  Let’s be honest. Ethics is not for wimps.

  It’s not easy being a good person.

  It’s not easy to be honest when it might be costly, to play fair when others cheat, or to keep inconvenient promises.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Craig Ford: Animal cruelty and neglect are no laughing matter

  It blows my mind that we still have to deal with animal cruelty and neglect in 2015. But unfortunately there are still sad stories like the one that just came out of Walker County.

  A man there owned more than 50 dogs. When his house was foreclosed on, he took 11 of the dogs with him and the rest were left to fend for themselves. After two weeks, authorities were finally able to round up the surviving dogs he had left behind and take them to the local Humane Society. But by then, six of the abandoned dogs were dead while the rest had either been running loose or trapped inside the house. The situation had gotten so bad that one of the neighbors saw two of the puppies eating the body of one of the dead dogs while the dogs inside the house had eaten through the walls and furniture. The reports said there were “three or four inches of feces everywhere.”

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Darrio Melton: I have your silver bullet, Governor Bentley

  In politics and in life there is seldom a "silver bullet" solution. Panaceas and cure-alls are typically the talk of snake oil salesmen while public policy is frequently grounded in realms of give-and-take and cost-benefit analyses.

  Alabama's budget crisis has been no different. There have been a number of solutions on the table, each with a costly drawback in exchange for a budget cure... except one.

  Gov. Robert Bentley has tried to raise taxes on working families and close DMVs and state parks as punishment when legislators on both sides of the aisle failed to comply with his requests.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: A tough mountain to climb for eventual GOP nominee

  The 2016 presidential election has not only begun, it is well under way. Running for president is now a lengthy process that spans the entire four-year presidential term. The race essentially begins the day a president is sworn into office. Aspirants begin jockeying for the brass ring of American politics the next day and the marathon begins. It becomes exponentially more intriguing when there is no incumbent in the fray as will be the case in 2016.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Sam Fulwood III: The myth of police reluctance

  FBI Director James Comey seems to believe that a recent uptick in violent street crime plaguing several major U.S. cities can be traced to the reluctance of police officers to do their jobs in the wake of intense public scrutiny.

  Some observers call it the “Ferguson effect,” an anecdote-rich belief that criminals are more brazen and that cowering police officers are declining to fight crime since the death of Michael Brown in August 2014. The Atlantic’s David A. Graham labels such a theory “the Bigfoot of American criminal justice: Fervently believed to be real by some, doubted by many others, reportedly glimpsed here and there, but never yet attested to by any hard evidence.”

Monday, November 2, 2015

Charles C. Haynes: Politics and perils of Muslim bashing on the campaign trail

  According to conventional presidential campaign wisdom, loose talk denigrating a religious tradition practiced by millions of Americans would seriously damage – if not sink – a candidate’s bid for the nomination of either major party.

  But in what is already the most unconventional presidential primary contest in modern history, Republican presidential hopefuls Ben Carson and Donald Trump continue to rise in the polls despite statements suggesting that American Muslims are somehow dangerous and un-American.

  Not only has anti-Islam rhetoric become politically acceptable in this campaign, it may actually be good politics in the fight for the Republican nomination.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Sherry Goodrich: Fifty fun Halloween facts

1. Halloween is held on October 31st which is the last day of the Celtic calendar.

2. The Halloween custom has evolved from the ancient Celts' belief that the border between this world and "the Otherworld" becomes thin on All Hallows Eve. People wore costumes to disguise themselves and avoid harm.

3. The day after Halloween is called All Saints Day. Christians dedicate this day to all those saints who don't have a special day of their own.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Darrio Melton: We’re standing up for our communities

  Twentieth Century author Eric Hoffer once pointed out an illogical truth about humans: "People who bite the hand that feeds them usually lick the boot that kicks them."

  Such is true with the duality of our political perceptions in Alabama: we lament the Federal government's role while holding out our hand for more than $3 returned to our state for every dollar we send to Washington DC.

  We talk about "welfare queens" and support legislation to cut food stamps for our neediest children, yet we never discuss the $13 billion in food stamp dollars that goes back into WalMart's coffers as it pays employees poverty-level wages that forces them to live off assistance programs in the first place.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Craig Ford: Where’s the beef?

  After five years of Republican leadership in Alabama, are you asking yourself the same thing I am: where's the beef?

  Do you remember that old Wendy’s commercial with the older lady asking, “Where’s the beef?” The point of the commercial was that Wendy’s competitors didn’t deliver what they promised and, more importantly, didn’t give the customer what they wanted.

  When I think about Alabama politics and what’s going on in our state government, I find myself asking that same question: where’s the beef?

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: A look at the 2016 Republican presidential primary

  The most pressing political event on the radar is next year’s presidential contest. It will be an interesting and protracted campaign. In fact, it has been ongoing for well over a year.

  Like our 2018 governor’s race, the 2016 presidential race will be void of an incumbent seeking reelection. Barack Obama will have served his eight-year constitutional limit. Therefore, we will have an open oval office for political hopefuls to fill.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

David L. Hudson Jr.: Supreme Court to consider ‘association rights’ of public workers

  In the late 19th century, Oliver Wendell Holmes, then a jurist on the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, wrote in McAuliffe v. City of New Bedford that a “petitioner may have a constitutional right to talk politics, but he has no constitutional right to be a policeman.”

  The ruling meant that police officer John McAuliffe did not have a free-speech right to engage in any politics while on the police force. This crabbed view of public employee First Amendment rights dominated the legal field for much of the 20th century.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Todd A. Cox: Congress should act to make criminal justice reform history

  Over the past two weeks, Congress has taken historic steps to reform the nation’s broken criminal justice system. The impact of mass incarceration resonates throughout the United States. Between 70 million and 100 million—or as many as one in three—Americans have a criminal record. A criminal history erects lifelong barriers that can block successful participation in society and carries broad implications, not only for the millions of individuals who are prevented from moving on with their lives and becoming productive citizens but also for their families, communities, and the nation as a whole.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Craig Ford: State leaders need to abandon the extreme and get back to the mainstream

  When even the Republican leader in the state senate says you're out of touch, you know things have gone too far. But that is where we are in Alabama politics these days. It’s about the mainstream versus the extreme, and right now the extreme is winning!

  In a recently released recording of a meeting between the governor and the Alabama Republican Party’s governing committee, Republican Party chair Terry Lathan said that the Republican Party brand had been damaged by Sen. Del Marsh’s (R-Anniston) support for a lottery.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Michael Josephson: Money is the icing, not the cake

  Despite the advice of preachers and philosophers warning us of the shortcomings of money, it’s hard to argue with Gertrude Stein’s observation: “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. Rich is better.”

  Although money is better at reducing suffering caused by poverty and relieving anxiety caused by debt than it is at making us happy, it can buy lots of things that make us feel good and important.

  But wealth is not a certain road to happiness. A poor person with good relationships is much more likely to be happy than a rich person with lousy ones. And people who earn moderate wages, but love their work, are much more likely to be happy than those who earn a lot but hate what they do.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Jacob G. Hornberger: How can anyone still be an interventionist?

  Given the ongoing disasters in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Libya, and the rest of the Middle East, how can anyone in his right mind still be an interventionist?

  Look at Iraq. The U.S. invasion and multi-year occupation of that country was supposed to bring a paradise of peace, prosperity, and harmony to the country. That’s what killing all those Iraqis was about — sacrificing them for the greater good of a beautiful society. Wasn’t it called Operation Iraqi Freedom?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Protecting public health in the fallout of the Volkswagen pollution scandal

  Four years ago, President Barack Obama was joined by the CEOs of 13 major automakers to announce new tailpipe emissions standards for cars and trucks sold in the United States. One notable absence from this gathering was Jonathan Browning, the then president and CEO of Volkswagen, or VW, Group of America. Browning released a statement refusing to endorse the tough new standards because of the company’s commitment to diesel engines. We now know that VW’s commitment to diesel engines may have led them to violate the law.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Darrio Melton: Victim bashing is not a solution to Alabama's budget woes

  While national and local leaders have condemned Gov. Robert Bentley's decision to close DMV offices around the state, Rep. Mike Ball has taken this opportunity to throw a punch at my community this week, claiming that we've "got some people who just wallow in being a victim," and that those people "enjoy being a victim" and "want everyone else to do everything for them."

  Now Representative Ball did say that he's met plenty of "innocent victims" in his law enforcement career and throughout his work in the legislature - people who are looking for solutions and just need a little guidance. But those of us in the Black Belt? We're just being difficult... or at least that's the story they want to tell.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Charles C. Haynes: Holidays, public schools and what it means to be “American”

  Battles this month over holidays in public schools — from Halloween in Connecticut to Christmas in Indiana — are about far more than witches, ghosts, Santa Claus, or Jesus.

  What’s really at stake for people on all sides are emotional questions such as “whose schools are these?” and “what kind of nation are we — will we become?”

  As the United States grows increasingly diverse, our perennial holiday fights turn public schools into a microcosm of the public square, places where we debate and define what it means to be “American” across differences that are often deep and abiding.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Lauren Kokum: Voting with values that work for all

  Each year, the Family Research Council sponsors the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C. The summit postures itself as the “premiere conservative event” in the nation—one that sets a framework for “values voters.” As in years past, this year’s summit agenda included traditional marriage, religious liberty, sanctity of life, and limited government.

  For decades, social conservatives have championed these issues—which supposedly encompass the entire values universe—along with the discriminatory policies they entail. But this year, the summit was easily upstaged by the prophetic and political nature of an international visitor: Pope Francis. During his U.S. visit in the days leading up to the event, the pope preached a starkly different message—one that was merciful and welcoming rather than judgmental.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Craig Ford: What education surplus?

  Some state legislators claim there's a "surplus" in education, and that that money should be used to make up the difference in the general fund budget. Here's why they're wrong:

  What education surplus?

  Stealing from children is wrong. Period. But that's exactly what the Alabama Legislature has done and will probably continue to do.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Hank Sanders: Why the Edmund Pettus Bridge must be renamed

  The Edmund Pettus Bridge is a symbol of freedom all over the world. It is also a symbol of voting rights and democracy. However, the very name stands for the exact opposite. Symbols are powerful.

  Symbols enter into our conscious and subconscious without our screening them. Then they impact us without us realizing it. The effects manifest themselves in manifold ways that we don’t even recognize. The name of the Edmund Pettus Bridge is a symbol. Symbols are powerful.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: What if Richard Shelby retires?

  Many of you liked last week’s column detailing our Senior Senator Richard Shelby’s ascent to the U.S. Senate in 1986. Senator Shelby has represented us in the U.S. Senate admirably for close to three decades now. He has no plans to retire any time soon. Shelby will tell you straight away that he is running for reelection to his 6th six year term in 2016. Shelby turned 80 last May but he looks 65 and is in good health. He loves being a U.S. Senator and will be easily reelected if indeed he runs again in 2016.

  However, what if Shelby changed his mind and retired in 2016? The big question mark in Alabama politics is who would run to succeed Shelby. The answer is everybody and their brother. United States Senate seats do not open up every day. Everybody who currently holds an elected office office plus everybody who ever won a 4-H speaking contest would enter the fray.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Charles C. Haynes: In words and gestures, Pope Francis re-awakens the American ideal

  At a cultural moment when celebrity trumps character in America, it took a humble priest from Argentina to remind us of the better angels of our nature – and of the kind of nation we must aspire to build in the 21st century.

  Pope Francis arrived in our public square as a self-described migrant, and for a refreshing week in late September his message of compassion and justice drowned out the divisive, ugly, sometimes hateful rhetoric of this political season.

  Temporarily pushed out of the headlines was trash talk about immigrants, demonizing language about American Muslims, and the puffed-up buffoonery that passes for political discourse in 2016 America.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Darrio Melton: DMV closings put working families between a rock and a hard place

  When you open the pages of a national newspaper or turn to a major news network and see "Alabama," you can pretty much bet something has gone terribly wrong, and we are, once again, the butt of jokes nationwide. Over the past weeks, Alabama has made headlines from the New York Times to The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore for Governor Bentley's decision to close DMV offices across the state and the impact it will have on voting in upcoming elections.

  Since Alabama now requires a photo ID to vote, closing the DMV offices will certainly have an adverse affect on voter turnout, particularly among low-income, rural voters.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Gene Policinski: Blame it on Rio for the future of journalism

  RIO DE JANEIRO — If you want to see the future of journalism and the benefits of a free press, at least some of it can be seen in parts of this huge South American nation.

  More precisely, look in the coastal city of Salvador in a small, multistory building on a steep and narrow street in a modest area of town just above the cargo docks that is home to the Ethnic Media Institute.

  Look and learn from community journalist Thais Cavalcante, who publishes her own newspaper and lives in Rio in a favela — a slum where the poorest of the poor lives — that’s both a short distance and yet a world away from the sunny, shiny beaches of Copacabana.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1478: When Alabama gets a cold, the Black Belt gets pneumonia

  When one community gets a cold, another community gets pneumonia. I heard variations of this wise saying many times as I grew up. It was said to illustrate how the exact same thing can adversely impact some much more than others. This is not only true of groups but of geographical areas. When Alabama gets a cold, the Alabama Black Belt gets pneumonia. Alabama has a real bad budgetary cold. However, the Black Belt has economic pneumonia.

  The Alabama General Fund budget was seriously underfunded in spite of taking $80 million from public education. The General Fund budget was enacted only after protracted struggles in the 2015 regular legislative session and two special legislative sessions. It was signed by  Gov. Robert Bentley on September 17, 2015. On September 30, less than two weeks later, I received two phone calls bearing bad news of a troublesome cold for Alabama and walking pneumonia for the Alabama Black Belt. When Alabama gets a cold, the Black Belt gets pneumonia.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Darrio Melton: You can’t run the state like a business

  Fifty years ago, American democracy fundamentally shifted in Selma, Alabama. As men and women from all walks of life joined together to march in solidarity for the precious principle of "one man, one vote," the nation watched and took note. What happened in Selma 50 years ago changed this nation, and what's happening in Alabama is rolling the clock back.

  The Selma to Montgomery march brought us the Voting Rights Act, which banned discriminatory voting practices and resulted in mass enfranchisement of minorities across the nation and especially across the South.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Richard Shelby has become untouchable

  In 1986 Richard Shelby was a 50-year-old congressman from Tuscaloosa. He was elected to congress eight years earlier after two successful four-year terms in the Alabama Senate. However, Shelby was ready to move up again. He was planning to run for the United States Senate.

  Shelby had never lost a political race. He was six for six in races to represent his beloved Tuscaloosa and the people of West Alabama. He was a conservative Democrat who had a stellar conservative voting record. He was safe in his U.S. House seat. In fact, it appeared that the congressional seat was his for life. His decision to challenge an incumbent U.S. Senator was a gamble.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Jacob G. Hornberger: The chaos of the “War on Terrorism” spreads to Syria

  It had to happen. It was always inevitable that the U.S. government’s much-vaunted “war on terrorism” would devolve into absolute chaos, especially by attracting authoritarian and totalitarian regimes into the “war on terrorism” maelstrom.

  Ever since President George W. Bush declared his much-ballyhooed “war on terrorism,” we have seen authoritarian and totalitarian regimes infringe on or destroy the civil liberties of their citizenry, citing the “war on terrorism” as their justification. Bashing down people’s doors in warrantless searches, arbitrary arrests, indefinite detention, torture, assassination. The war on terrorism has become a dictator’s best friend. Hey, if the U.S. government is doing it, why not every other regime in the world, including the dictatorial ones?

Monday, October 5, 2015

David L. Hudson Jr.: Case of student rapper deserves close examination

  The case of a former high school student from Mississippi punished for a rap song he created off-campus and posted online has the potential to be the most significant K-12 student speech case in several years.

  A divided full panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled in Bell v. Itawamba County School Board that school officials were justified because they could reasonably believed that the song would create a substantial disruption at school.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Michael Josephson: Authentic apologies

  “I’m sorry.”

  These are powerful words. Authentic apologies can work like a healing ointment on old wounds, dissolve bitter grudges, and repair damaged relationships. They encourage both parties to let go of toxic emotions like anger and guilt and provide a fresh foundation of mutual respect.

  But authentic apologies involve much more than words expressing sorrow; they require accountability, remorse, and repentance.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Craig Ford: Bentley got his tax increases, but he’s still closing parks and drivers license offices

  As if $86 million in new taxes and an $80 million raid on public education weren’t bad enough, Governor Bentley has now announced that he will close more than thirty drivers license offices as well as some state parks and National Guard armories.

  The governor has spent this entire year trying to convince legislators and the people of Alabama that higher taxes were the only thing that could prevent these closures. The Republican legislature gave the governor the tax increases he wanted, but Bentley is still closing these parks, armories, and most drivers license offices.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1477: Where there is no vision, the people perish

  Where there is no vision, the people perish. These prophetic words are found in Proverbs 29:18. They were written thousands of years ago but still ring true today. They are screaming out to us right now. Where there is no vision, the people perish.

  We should easily agree that vision is important. We do not easily agree on the definition of vision. To me, vision is that which is not yet in existence but is seen in our mind’s eye in the hope that it comes into existence. Vision is not an idea involving a single person; that is merely an ambition or goal. A vision is for the people. Where there is no vision, the people perish.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Robbing education

  The State of Alabama's fiscal year begins this week and we finally have a budget for the year. Constitutionally, the only mandatory requirement that the legislature has each year in its legislative session is to pass the budgets. The education budget was approved during the four month regular session, but it was uncertain if we would have a budget for the beleaguered General Fund.

  Gov. Robert Bentley called a special session in early summer to pass a budget. However, despite costing taxpayers around $400,000, there was still no budget. Therefore, the governor called yet another special session for September. The third time was a charm. A budget was passed with only two weeks to go until the fiscal year begins this Thursday.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Darrio Melton: Bentley dares to selectively defend his rights

  "We dare defend our rights." The state motto has been flaunted by politicians across Alabama to promote partisan agendas for years, however Governor Bentley is taking the motto a step further by asking the Alabama Supreme Court to determine whether certain parts of the state's General Fund budget are unconstitutional.

  Bentley's camp is saying that the Constitution creates certain powers for the Executive Branch that the General Fund budget attacks. Bentley is daring to defend his rights as Chief Executive Officer of the State of Alabama by challenging those provisions in court.

Monday, September 28, 2015

David L. Hudson Jr.: Banned Books Week: A time to reflect on the First Amendment

  Banned Books Week is an excellent opportunity to reflect on the dangers of censorship and the importance of the First Amendment

  This week the American Library Association (ALA), the American Booksellers for Free Expression, and a host of other groups will remind us once again that that banning books damages the “marketplace of ideas” and is contrary to the meaning and purpose of a free society and a constitutional democracy.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Craig Ford: Tax-raising legislator should be ashamed

  It would be an understatement to say that this year has been an odd one for Alabama politics. But nothing surprised me more than when Rep. Paul Lee, a Republican from Dothan, came up to the microphone on the last night of the legislative special session that ended last week and gave a speech where he said that it was “courageous” to raise taxes, and that those who voted against raising taxes “should be ashamed of themselves.”

  Yes. Rep. Paul Lee said it was courageous for him to vote to raise your taxes, and those of us who voted against tax increases should be ashamed of ourselves.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches: We failed to rise to the occasion

  The 2015 second special session of the Alabama Legislature is over. However, there is no sigh of relief because there was no relief. There is just a sigh and the prayer, “Thank God it’s over!”

  There is no sigh of relief because budgetary troubles still abound. Government is not soundly funded. We secured a little bit of revenue but not enough. We took revenue from places we should not have. We level-funded things that should be raised. We reduced things that ought to be maintained or raised. We raised things that ought to be reduced. There is no sigh of relief, just the prayer, “Thank God it’s over.”

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Sanam Malik: The ‘Clock Kid’ incident is a small part of a bigger problem

  Last week, 14-year-old Texas high school student Ahmed Mohamed brought a homemade digital clock to school hoping to impress his teacher. Instead of receiving praise for his great work, however, he was handcuffed, booked, and falsely charged with bringing a bomb to school. After an intense public outcry, all charges against him were dropped, and he was released. Ahmed is a Muslim American.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Bentley has been rendered irrelevant

  This first year of the quadrennium has been an interesting mix of politics in the Heart of Dixie. At the heart of the news and interest has been the continuous wrangling over the General Fund budget. From the get go, Gov. Robert Bentley has taken a gung ho approach to raising taxes in order to bolster the beleaguered General Fund.

  Beginning in January, Bentley laid down his proposals for the legislature to increase revenue to solve the problems and predicted shortfalls. He relentlessly stayed on course with his intentions. His resolve to raise new money never wavered, although his proposals changed numerous times.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Darrio Melton: Bentley needs to put away his stick

  "Walk softly and carry a big stick.”

  President Teddy Roosevelt's nutshell-theory on foreign policy has become a common political expression, heard in historical context more often than seen used by political leadership. The theory, of course, refers to the use of soft-power in difficult political situations--using words, strategic planning and diplomacy over hard-power tactics of military intervention, embargoes and sanctions.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Pope Francis and access to justice

  Pope Francis—leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics and a global celebrity with fans from many faith traditions—is visiting the United States for the first time beginning tomorrow. He brings with him strong messages regarding many of the nation’s most pressing justice issues, including economic inequality, mass incarceration, and climate change.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Michael Josephson: Too poor to give

  When Teresa, a widow with four young children, saw a notice that members of her church would gather to deliver presents and food to a needy family, she took $10 out of her savings jar and bought the ingredients to make three dozen cookies. She got to the church parking lot just in time to join a convoy going to the home that was to receive the congregation’s help.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Craig Ford: Republicans target working people with more taxes

  In a special legislative session where their options were to either raise taxes, cut services or raid education, the Republicans in the Alabama Legislature somehow managed to do all three and still not solve the long-term problems in the budget.

  What’s also very telling are the taxes they chose to raise. Every one of their tax increases are taxes on people trying to live paycheck-to-paycheck. They voted to raise taxes on cigarettes, car titles and car rentals, nursing home beds and medications! They even proposed a five-cent tax on gasoline because the Republicans in Montgomery apparently don’t think you pay enough for gas.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1475: Put your money where your mouth is

  Put your money where your mouth is. I heard this saying many times when I was growing up. It means that we have to back up our talk with money or other valuables. Putting your money where your mouth is was a living challenge. The challenge continues to this day.

  Let me go a little further. The Good Book (Matthew 6:21) says that, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be." Luke 12:34 says it a little differently. "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." We can tell what is important to us by where we put our money and/or other valuables. This is no less true for state budgets. Put your money where your mouth is.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Two Alabama titans of public service

  When Jim Bennett left the Alabama Secretary of State’s office earlier this year, he set the record for the longest serving Secretary of State in the state’s history. His 12 years in the office surpassed the legendary ladies, Agnes Baggett and Mabel Amos, who would rotate between State Treasurer and Secretary of State over the years.

  Jim also served five terms in the legislature prior to being appointed Secretary of State. He was elected to two four-year terms and then appointed by different governors to serve out unexpired terms. He and Fob James are the only two people to be elected to statewide constitutional offices as both a Democrat and as a Republican.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Greg Dotson: Appropriations showdown on climate change

  Earlier this year, in promoting its fiscal year 2016 budget resolution, the Republican majority on the House Budget Committee pronounced, “It is fundamentally unfair to our kids and grandkids for today’s policymakers to be so undisciplined and to ignore difficult decisions. Inaction is only making the hill we will eventually have to climb that much higher.” Was this an impassioned call for action on climate change, echoing the pope’s recent encyclical urging nations to act “so that future generations will not have to suffer the effects of our ill-advised delays?”

Monday, September 14, 2015

Gene Policinski: Drones in the sky: ‘Up, up … and NOT going away’

  In the sky. It’s a bird. It’s a plane. No, it’s … a drone?

  With apologies to the opening seconds of the classic 1940s-50s radio and TV show “The Adventures of Superman,” a flying object high overhead today is increasingly likely to be an Unmanned Aircraft System — a “drone” — rather than superhero.

  And while there are reasons that can lead us to cheer or fear these new eyes-in-the-sky, the focus of late has been more “grounded” in a real concern that has nothing to do with complex issues like privacy, free press and the like: The worry that one of the multi-rotor, camera-toting things will crash, and injure or kill someone.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Michael Josephson: The beginning of positive thinking

  I am a strong believer in the power of positive thinking, which is the title of a best-selling book published in 1952 by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, a controversial preacher and pastor who popularized the idea that if you can change your attitude, you can change your life. He urged people to consciously train themselves to be optimistic and enthusiastic, to believe in themselves, to refuse to dwell on negative thoughts, and to visualize success. He also vigorously advocated forgiveness, gratitude, and building one’s own character.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1474: Family is so powerful!

  Family is so powerful. It’s powerful in our conception. It’s powerful in our birth. It’s powerful in our life. It’s powerful in our death. Family is so powerful.

  I thought specifically about the power of family this week because I was asked by the pastor of Brown Chapel, Rev. Leodis Strong, to make remarks at the Faith + Family + Friends Day. He wanted me to share about my family experiences, and that translated in my mind to the power of family. Family is so powerful.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Darrio Melton: Republicans missed the Labor Day memo about hard work

  This Labor Day was a time for family and friends to come together and enjoy a day off in celebration of the American Labor Movement--the men and women who have worked hard to guarantee honest pay, safe working conditions, and fair treatment for the people who built this country.

  The labor movement was never about getting something for nothing. It was about the honesty and dignity of a hard day's work.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Alabama is one big front porch

  Shelby County, Alabama sits in the geographic center of the state and is the birthplace and childhood home of Gov. Robert Bentley. It is also renowned for being the fastest growing county in Alabama for the past four decades. Shelby County has become a mecca for suburbanites in the Hoover/Birmingham metropolitan area.

  Shelby County has not always been a suburban enclave of Jefferson County. While Governor Bentley was growing up, it was a rural county much like most of the counties in the state. Shelby County was part of a four county center that was known as the home of the first organized Republicans in the state.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Rhonda Brownstein: Report highlights racial disparities in school discipline – once again

  Suspensions are just one of the ways schools are meting out shockingly cruel punishments for minor school infractions.

  With each new study, it becomes even clearer that harsh school discipline policies are not only outrageously discriminatory toward African-American children but highly destructive to our country.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Andrew Schwartz: Engaging the American workforce

  Labor has literally and figuratively built America, but all that hard work is rarely celebrated. Even the establishment of Labor Day required major sacrifices: Congress quickly created the national holiday after U.S. troops opened fire on striking workers during a protest at the Pullman Palace Car Company in 1894. So much has changed in the 120 years since the Pullman Strike that it is understandable that the turmoil surrounding the event has faded from the collective American consciousness. Modern workers now have important legislated protections—including a 40-hour workweek, a minimum wage, and the right to a healthy and safe working environment. But even after considerable gains in labor rights and workplace safety, much remains to be done to improve the relationship between employees and their jobs.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Jacob G. Hornberger: How about closed borders between the states?

  Here is an idea to consider, based on the protectionist and anti-immigration positions held by leading GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump and many of his fellow conservatives: Let’s end the system of open borders between the respective states of the Union and impose the same type of controlled system of trade and immigration that Trump favors for America’s international borders.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Craig Ford: Alabama Legislature shouldn’t waste another opportunity to pass a lottery

  There aren’t a whole lot of good things anyone can say about what’s been going on in Montgomery lately. The legislature has failed to pass a budget twice. Next week, legislators will return to Montgomery for a third legislative session to address the budget crisis, but there is still no agreement on any solution.

  But despite all of this, there is one area where some progress has been made: support among legislators for a state lottery.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1473: A giant passed our way

  Amelia Platts Boynton Robinson passed on the night of August 25, 2015. She was 110 years of age. I saw her driver’s license when I visited her just three days before she passed. It read DOB August 18, 1905. I saw the 1910 U.S. Census report showing her as 4 years of age. She was 110 although many perceived her as 104. She was a giant in the struggle for voting rights in particular and human rights in general.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Conservative Alabama is nonetheless a welfare state

  It is common knowledge that the Indian casinos in Alabama and throughout the country are granted federal sovereignty and are not subject to state intervention and authority. Several years ago state attorney general Luther Strange filed a hail Mary frivolous lawsuit against PCI Gaming Authority for political posturing purposes. The federal district court in Montgomery took about three weeks to rule against the state.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Darrio Melton: This budget crisis is a ticking time bomb for Alabama

  Monday marked exactly one month before the state enters full-blown crisis mode without a functional general fund budget. Governor Robert Bentley called a special session to resolve the $300 million budget shortfall, and it was a tremendous failure to say the least. Three different Republican leaders are fixed firmly on three different plans for the state of Alabama, but it seems to me the right hand doesn't understand what the left is doing, and nobody is willing to compromise to find the solutions that will work for the people of Alabama.

Monday, August 31, 2015

New overtime rule could raise wages for 4.7 million Millennial workers

  This summer, the U.S. Department of Labor proposed a new rule that will give 13.5 million workers, including 4.7 million Millennials, a raise if it becomes a regulation. The new rule, which determines who is covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act, more than doubles the annual salary threshold for guaranteed overtime pay from $23,660 to $50,440. This change would guarantee that workers with salaries below this level earn overtime pay—the equivalent of 1.5 times their hourly wage—whenever they work more than 40 hours per week. The fate of the rule will be decided by the Department of Labor after a comment period ends on September. 4, 2015.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Craig Ford: State leaders say life matters, but they need to prove it

  Last week, Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey wrote an article entitled “Life Matters” in response to the recent Planned Parenthood videos. Like Lt. Gov. Ivey, I am 100 percent pro-life, and was shocked by the videos that came out. Life does matter, and should be treated with dignity and respect at every stage, including before birth.

  But Lt. Gov. Ivey’s article–specifically the title–also raised another point: the difference between being “pro-life” and “pro-birth.” The title of the lieutenant governor’s article was “Life Matters,” but she didn’t write about life after birth.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1472: Reaping the Whirlwind

  They sow the wind and they reap the whirlwind. That principle is embedded in the Biblical Book of Hosea. It is rooted in the sowing and reaping of farming and other areas of life. We plant one grain and reap many grains. We see that as good. We sow one trouble and we reap many troubles. We see that as bad. This principle applies beyond agriculture and wind, revealing itself in every area of life including politics. We sow the wind and we reap the whirlwind.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Darrio Melton: Budgets show our priorities: Where are Alabama’s?

  When families sit down each year to make our household budgets, it's a negotiating process. It's an exercise in give-and-take. It's a time to sit down and evaluate where we are and prioritize our plans for the upcoming year.

  Yet as we are still in the process of creating our state's operating budget, we have to wonder if we see the same level of prioritizing and planning that we would expect of our own families.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Are lawmakers doing what their constituents want them to?

  Many would argue, and indeed numerous surveys indicate, that Alabama is one of, if not the most, conservative states in America. I would argue that if that is true then our Alabama Legislature is reflective of its constituents.

  A good many of the online and remaining large city daily newspapers castigate our super majority Republican legislature as ultra right wing, uncaring crazies that pass ludicrous social issue fanatical bills that are blatantly unconstitutional. They also say that they have taken an ostrich approach to facing the state’s financial crisis in favor of sticking to their no tax pledges. I would argue, however, that they are representing their constituents’ beliefs and concerns. These left-leaning modern day journalists have never run for, nor could they get elected, to any public office in Alabama.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Charles C. Haynes: Despite settled law, schools still struggle to get religion right

  Although I can’t cite a scientific survey to prove it, I have detected a recent upswing in conflicts over religion in public schools. Just as I was beginning to believe that most schools were finally getting religion right, it appears that the trend is in the other direction.

  Two examples from the past school year — one from each end of the spectrum — will suffice to illustrate the wider problem.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Our Stand: Montgomery deserves stability and progress

  In an election season that has been marked by an unsavory level of negativity and questionable claims, one thing has remained constant - incumbent Mayor Todd Strange is clearly the most logical choice to provide stability and continue a streak of progress in Montgomery, Alabama.

  From a rapidly expanding, thriving downtown that is making the most of its historical value while embracing new opportunities, to cracking down on residential and commercial decay and neglect, Mayor Strange has led a movement to balance growth with revitalization. The renovation and expansion of Cramton Bowl even earned the City of Montgomery a college football bowl game.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1470: Alabama's bad tooth syndrome

  “Son, most people have the bad tooth syndrome. I hope you never have the bad tooth syndrome.” These words were spoken by my dear mother who passed 18 years ago. She had a 7th grade education but was one of the wisest persons I've ever known.

  My mother was Ola Mae Sanders who gave birth to 13 children. She was not only wise but really had a way with words. The following is how she explained the bad tooth syndrome.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Craig Ford: A new school year is starting, but it should be starting later

  Remember when school didn’t start until after Labor Day? Over the last few weeks, students across Alabama have started a new school year – right in the middle of August. Some have even been back for two or three weeks.

  Instead of spending the last few weeks of August working summer jobs or on family vacations, teachers and students are preparing to head back to school. Why?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Gene Policinski: Julian Bond — A voice of reason, a call for change

  In a nation beset for more than 50 years by racism, divided by war, and brimming with confrontation, anger and violence — there was the voice of Julian Bond: soft spoken and serious, reasoned but no less passionate, and always, always, challenging.

  Bond, 75, was a renowned civil rights activist, vocal anti-Vietnam War protester, a former board chairman of the NAACP and a former Georgia legislator and university professor. He died Aug. 15 after a brief illness.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Alabama-grown business powerhouses

  Last week we discussed the legendary story of Aflac. Three more remarkable business success stories are just as magnificent. Again, all three of these companies are Alabama born and raised fairytale ventures.

  Alfa is Alabama’s largest property and casualty insurance company. Today, Alfa employs more than 2300 people and has almost 450 agents in Alabama. It has 229 offices in Alabama, with an office in every county.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Thomas R. Eddlem: Conservatives deceived me on immigration

  I grew up in the conservative movement at the end of the Cold War, but eventually realized I had been misled on the issue of immigration. When I finally took the trouble to research the issue after receiving a private offer to write a series of anti-immigration tracts (a contract which I declined), I found that most proponents of smaller government throughout American history had opposed immigration controls. This included especially the great classical liberal congressman William “Bourke” Cockran, who was himself an immigrant who spoke out eloquently against the Emergency Quota Act of 1921.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Darrio Melton: Bentley endorses Kasich’s campaign but not his policies

  Governor Bentley has just announced that he is endorsing Ohio Governor John Kasich for President of the United States. Governor Kasich has been faulted by many Republicans for stepping up and expanding Medicaid in Ohio, although he has doubled-down on his decision several times.

  Governor Kasich has been quoted as defending his decision from his religious perspective, saying, "Now, when you die and get to the meeting with St. Peter, he’s probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small. But he is going to ask you what you did for the poor. You better have a good answer."

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Michael Josephson: Planned abandonment

  Management guru Peter Drucker advocated a practice he called planned abandonment. He stressed how important it is that managers develop the wisdom and courage to regularly review what their organization is doing and determine whether it’s worth doing. He urged executives to note and resist the systemic and emotional forces that make it difficult to abandon activities that drain resources, detract from central goals, or otherwise impede progress.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Charles C. Haynes: Olympic fiasco: Awarding Beijing rewards persecution

  Last month, the International Olympic Committee awarded Beijing the 2022 Winter Games, demonstrating yet again that selection of a host city has everything to do with politics, money and power — and nothing whatsoever to do with human rights.

  While Chinese government officials were celebrating the “Olympic spirit” in Beijing, it was religious persecution as usual in the rest of the country.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Craig Ford: A path forward

  They call us "tax-and-spend liberals" and then they want us to do what most of them won't do: vote to raise taxes. This week, I wrote about what just happened in Montgomery and how we can move forward to get out of this crisis.

  It isn’t often that legislators in Montgomery are universally in agreement on anything. But this week it happened... twice.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Aflac's Alabama roots

  There is a very iconic company founded in Alabama that has made state, southern, national and international history. It is an insurance corporation known as Aflac.

  Aflac is one of the greatest success stories in American business lore. Although it is headquartered on Alabama’s border in Columbus, Georgia, we in Alabama claim it as our own because its origins are in Coffee County, Alabama. Indeed, Alabama has always had the highest number of policyholders per capita within the tremendous Aflac clientele base.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Michael Josephson: Accountability in the workplace

  Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time consulting with large companies concerned with strengthening their ethical culture.

  Although I’m sure the leaders I work with care about ethics and virtue for their own sake, I know the driving force to seek outside assistance is self-interest. The risk of reputation-damaging and resource-draining charges resulting from improper conduct is so high that it’s a matter of prudence and responsible stewardship to stress ethical values and moral principles.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Jamal Hagler: It is time to update the Voting Rights Act

  The right to vote is one of the hallmarks of American democracy, as well as one of the most sacred rights granted to U.S. citizens. The power of the ballot box is one of great importance, allowing citizens to choose their leaders and preventing those leaders from forgetting the people that they represent.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Jacob G. Hornberger: Dealing with the cops

  Everyone has to do some serious soul-searching when it comes to dealing with the cops. This is especially true for African-Americans, given that police departments seem to have attracted a disproportionate share of racial bigots to that line of work. But it’s also true for everyone else, given that the police have effectively been given a license to kill citizens with impunity.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Craig Ford: GOP legislators need to stop blaming Democrats and start leading

  Republicans legislators are actually blaming Democrats for voting AGAINST tax increases! Folks, the wheels have come off the bus in Montgomery.

  Republican legislators need to stop blaming Democrats and start leading.

  The wheels have come off the bus in Montgomery. That’s the only way to describe what’s happening in our state legislature. Now more than ever is the time for legislators to reach across the aisle and work together to solve this budget crisis. But instead, Republican legislators are attempting to blame Democrats because they can’t pass their own tax package.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1469: Special session questions

  What shall we do? That is the question every Alabama legislator is asking. What will they do? That is the question many Alabama citizens are asking about Alabama legislators. The central question is: What? What? What?

  Legislators returned to a special session of the Alabama Legislature Monday. Governor Robert Bentley hastily called this special session for July 13. The legislature came into session on the day specified and hastily adjourned to August 3. What impelled Alabama’s governor to quickly call a special session of the Alabama Legislature without consulting legislative leaders? I can’t answer that “what.” What impelled the Alabama Legislature to hastily adjourn to August 3? I can’t really answer that “what” either. It’s just: What? What? What?

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: An Alabama government success story

  The junior college corruption scandal, which occurred around 2006, was one of the worst white collar crimes in Alabama’s history. This highly publicized federal probe of the state’s two-year college system sent a lot of people to jail.

  Roy Johnson, who was serving as director of the system, orchestrated one of the most sensational, brazen, flagrant and pervasive robberies imaginable. Johnson justly was sentenced to ten years in prison and was ordered by the court to pay back $1.4 million in restitution to the state.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Darrio Melton: Our kids know iPads and iPhones, but do Alabama schools prepare them for the iFuture?

  If you've spent any amount of time around a young person lately, you've probably had a tough time prying the iPhone, iPad, iSomething, away from them. The new generation of students is growing up in a digital age--one where they can't imagine having to stop to use a pay phone, get a map for directions, or live without googling anything on their mind.

Monday, August 3, 2015

The 50th Anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid: Providing hope for the ACA’s future

  Last week marked the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Social Security Amendments of 1965, which introduced Medicare and Medicaid into the American health care system. The programs currently enjoy widespread public support, with the majority of Americans indicating that Medicare and Medicaid, respectively, are “important to them and their family.” But the popularity of these programs stands in stark contrast to the political resistance they faced before their passage.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Craig Ford: Robbing our children is not the answer

  Legislators return to Montgomery next week, and one of the bills that has been introduced would combine the state's education and general fund budgets. I think that would be a disaster for our state, and here's why:

  Robbing our children is not the answer.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Additional ethics complaint filed against Alabama chief justice for defying federal judiciary

  Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore continues to “flout and violate” the state’s code of judicial ethics following a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that legalized same-sex marriage across the country, according to a new supplement filed this week in the Southern Poverty Law Center’s ongoing ethics complaint against Moore.

  “Justice Moore has been removed from office for unethical actions once before, but it’s clear that he hasn’t learned his lesson,” said SPLC President Richard Cohen. “It’s obviously unethical for him to urge defiance of a United States Supreme Court ruling. He needs to understand that he is a judge, not a preacher.”

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1468: The Voting Rights Act at 50 and the Legal Defense Fund at 75

  The Voting Rights Act at 50; the NAACP Legal Defense Fund at 75: Landmark Law That Transformed America. I was one of four panelists at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D. C. On this special occasion. I had planned what I was going to say, however, I did not say what I had planned because the format was different than I expected. It was a question and answer session throughout that was streamed live on the Smithsonian’s web site. The session will also be airing on C-SPAN in August. The following is what I had planned to say.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Bentley's bizarre behavior

  During the press conference three weeks ago announcing the historic BP settlement and windfall for the state, Governor Robert Bentley repeatedly said, “The $55 million a year to the General Fund is fantastic, but it will not solve the state’s long term financial woes. It only accomplishes about 12 percent of what we need. We’re still going to have a Special Session to address the need for new revenue, and we will call it for late summer.”

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

James L. Gattuso: Amazon and antitrust: Should Washington sue to make books more expensive?

  As Americans set out to the beach this summer with their favorite novels in hand, federal officials are being asked to sue the nation's largest bookseller, Why? For not having higher prices.

  A group of authors and competing booksellers recently petitioned the Department of Justice to open an antitrust investigation into the activities of the online retailer. Their complaint, expressed in separate letters to DOJ from the American Booksellers Association and Authors United, is not that the firm charges too much for books, but too little.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Darrio Melton: Broadband Internet is critical to the future of Alabama

  If the statistics hold, seven out of ten people reading this article will be doing so on a laptop using the Internet. Among all American adults, 56 percent have used a cell phone to access news in the last week.

  Needless to say, the Internet has changed the way that we access news and stay up-to-date with current events. It has changed the way we stay in touch with friends and family, pay bills and make purchases.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Michael Josephson: The blue stone and the white lie

  This story is about a truth-versus-caring ethical dilemma I once had. I think I did the right thing, but I keep wondering if there was a better way.

  I was putting my two-year-old to bed when Abrielle, who was four, came screaming down the hall in a panic. Samara, the five-and-a-half-year-old, was right behind her equally terrified. “I swallowed a stone. I don’t want to die,” Abrielle cried in terror.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Charles C. Haynes: When combatting extremism, schools are the long game

  Propaganda works.

  Consider Mohammad Abdulazeez, the young man who shot and killed five service members in Chattanooga, Tennessee last week.

  According to FBI reports, Abdulazeez was inspired to “martyrdom” through listening to the hate-filled sermons of Anwar al-Awlaki, the al Qaeda recruiter killed by an American drone strike in 2011.

  Or consider Dylann Roof, the suspect in the murder of nine African American churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina earlier this summer.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Craig Ford: Our governor should stop playing games

  Two weeks ago, Gov. Robert Bentley surprised everyone when he called the special legislative session. Legislators had expected the governor to wait until mid-August to call the session, but the governor said he wanted to use “the element of surprise” and take pressure off legislators over the gambling issue.

  The people of Alabama expect their leaders to work together, and Governor Bentley’s use of “the element of surprise,” as he chose to put it, is not in the spirit of that. The reason this crisis wasn’t solved during the regular legislative session is because House and Senate Republicans wouldn’t work together, and neither of them wanted to work with the governor. Legislators and the governor need to be able to work together during this special session, and that can’t happen when state leaders decide to play political games.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: An eventful Alabama summer

  The week leading up to the Fourth of July had a lot of fireworks. In fact, my guess is that when we look back at the year 2015, we will look to that week as the most momentous of the year. It was like bang, bang, bang!

  The declaration by the U.S. Supreme Court that same sex marriage is the law of the land may be one of the most monumental court decisions in decades and unquestionably the landmark ruling by the high tribunal this year.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

James Bovard: Cops and donuts don’t mix

  On a Sunday morning early last summer, I was driving south across the Potomac River to a hike in Fairfax County, Virginia. The previous night the hike leader posted online a map of the jaunt. It looked like a typical suburban stroll until I saw a Dunkin’ Donuts marked near the start point. As the Food and Drug Administration has warned, donuts can be addictive and publicizing the location of donut stores can utterly destroy people’s free will. (Or maybe I am confusing this with the FDA’s hectoring on cigarettes.)

Monday, July 20, 2015

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1466: A huge economic project really wants to come to Alabama

  A huge economic development project wants to come to Alabama. It’s just raring to come. It wants to come so badly that it will come without any tax breaks, any cash, any infrastructure investment, any job training or anything else. It’s been trying to come for some time. It is convinced that it can do great good for Alabama and that Alabama can do good for it. Of course, we Alabamians truly love economic development, and a huge economic project really wants to come to Alabama.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Sam Fulwood III: Atticus Finch and Bill Cosby—fallen heroes?

  In what must be the greatest literary shocker of the past century, Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman—a companion to the widely read 1961 Pulitzer Prize winner To Kill a Mockingbird—went on sale Tuesday, detonating the sterling reputation of a much beloved and respected fictional hero.

  In Lee’s latest work, Atticus Finch—the stolid, strong-willed white lawyer who, in To Kill a Mockingbird, risked his social standing within a small-minded Alabama town in the 1930s by defending an innocent black man wrongly accused of raping a white woman—is shown to have become an anti-black racist.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Craig Ford: The smart way to spend the BP money

  Alabama won a huge victory last week when the BP Oil settlement was announced. As a part of that settlement, the state will receive $2.3 billion dollars over the next 18 years, with a billion of those dollars being given to our state’s General Fund budget. That means legislators now have to determine what is the best use of that money.

  Smart leaders, like Rep. Steve Clouse (R-Ozark) and Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) who Chair the state House and Senate General Fund Budget Committees, see this as an opportunity to pay back the state’s existing debts. I couldn’t agree more. Over the last few years the state has withdrawn over $598 million from the rainy day account in the Alabama Trust Fund. So far, even though a bill was passed setting a schedule to pay it back, we’ve only deposited $15 million in the account.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Michael Josephson: Using all your strength

  A young boy was walking with his father along a country road. When they came across a very large tree branch the boy asked, “Do you think I could move that branch?”

  His father answered, “If you use all your strength, I’m sure you can.”

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: A cautionary tale for Robert Bentley

  A good many of you let me know that you agreed with my column last week when I suggested that stealing from the Special Education Trust Fund budget to resolve the dilemma in the General Fund is not the solution needed during the extraordinary special session.

  This potential raid on the school children’s and teachers’ money is not the first time that this idea has been suggested. Every time a crisis comes up in the General Fund, some governor will try to raid the Education Trust Fund. The most powerful governor in state history tried to do it, and now 50 years later Governor Robert Bentley is testing the water. Believe me, if George Wallace could not succeed at it in his prime and when he owned the legislature, Robert Bentley sure cannot do it today.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Jacob G. Hornberger: Iran's criminal justice system reminds us of ours

  The judicial procedures that Iranian officials are using in the criminal trial of Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian remind us of our judicial system here in the United States. No, not the federal judicial system here within the United States but rather the U.S. judicial system that the Pentagon and the CIA have established and operate at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Achieving the president’s goals for increased next-generation vehicle use

  Although state and federal policymakers are laying the groundwork for an electric car future, progress has been slower than anticipated.

  During his 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama announced a goal of putting 1 million advanced technology vehicles—plug-in hybrid electric or electric vehicles, or EV—on the road by 2015. In 2011, President Obama reiterated this goal and launched several initiatives designed to drive consumer demand for next-generation vehicles and to spur new research and development. And in 2012, he announced another initiative, the EV-Everywhere Grand Challenge, which created a collaboration of engineers, scientists, and industry to develop by 2022 EV models that are as affordable as 2012 gasoline-powered cars.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

James Jay Carafano: Get ready for the next wave of trouble with North Korea

  While the White House winds up its deal on the future of Iran’s nuclear program, angst abounds in U.S. national security circles. Contributing to the anxiety over how the Tehran regime will act in the future is knowledge of how the Pyongyang regime has acted in the past.

  For years, the North Korean government dabbled in deals and threats, stringing along the international community, until it became an established nuclear weapons power. Who is to say Iran isn’t playing the same game? In the end, the US could wind up with two nuclear headaches instead of one.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Craig Ford: You can’t fix something you don’t believe in

  For months, we have been told that the state needs at least another $200 million to avoid catastrophe. We have been told that we are broke because the way we budget for our state government is broken.

  Unfortunately, what we have been told is true: our government is broke, and it is broken. But you can’t fix something if you don’t believe in it, and our state leaders don’t believe in government.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1465: An open letter to Dr. Ben Carson

Dear Dr. Carson:

  I appreciate your excellent accomplishments as a physician. I am truly impressed by your great medical skills and leadership. I was inspired by how you overcame huge odds to become a world-renowned surgeon. I was glad to see you considering running for president as a Republican. Then you absolutely shocked me. I was shocked when you said that the Affordable Care Act, widely known as ObamaCare, “is the worst thing since slavery.” Your words pierced my heart and weighed on my spirit.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The tale of two budgets

  As the legislative session was winding down, it was obvious no solution was going to be found for the beleaguered General Fund Budget. The Governor Bentley's $541 million tax increase proposal had been ignored. Although he still kept preaching that this was the prescription for the ailing General Fund, the good doctor’s prognosis and recommended course of treatment was completely disregarded.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Charles C. Haynes: After gay marriage, can we move from battleground to common ground?

  In recent years, religious freedom — or, more precisely, religious freedom claims — have been front and center in the battle over same-sex marriage.

  From bitter debates in Arizona and Indiana to the grand compromise in Utah, proponents and opponents have shouted past one another about if and when to grant exemptions for conscientious objectors to same-sex marriage.

  The Supreme Court’s decision on June 26 in Obergefell v. Hodges recognizing gay marriage as a constitutional right will not end this debate. But it might, just might, move people of goodwill on both sides from battleground to common ground on how best to balance competing visions of equality and liberty.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Michael Josephson: Being decisive

  Frank is a new supervisor who wants to do well. Maria consistently comes in late. When he confronts her, she makes a joke out of it.

  Hoping to win friendship and loyalty, Frank is painfully patient with her, but Pat, a conscientious employee, urges him to do more. Soon others begin to come in late, and Pat quits. Frank feels victimized, but he has no one to blame but himself.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Gene Policinski: New thought on ‘the flag’ – and a new lyric line for ‘Dixie’

  Amid all the discussion and debate over public display of the Confederate flag, where do Americans actually agree or disagree?

  A new survey shows that a majority of all Americans agree with banning the Confederate battle flag from license plates, public buildings and store shelves.

  But a majority of white and Hispanic respondents, asked what they think when they see the contested flag, don’t identify it as a symbol of racial bias against African Americans, even though an overwhelming number of African  Americans do.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Sam Fulwood III: Confronting white privilege

  In a remarkably straightforward and honest essay that’s perfectly timed to make sense of current events, Katherine Speller lays out the argument for “why it’s not racist to talk about white privilege.”

  “We know these conversations can be really hard to have,” Speller posted Tuesday morning on the website. “They involve taking a critical look at not only our lives, but the society we live in and the power structures that have been in place since way before we were born.”

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The VictoryLand revival

  Last week’s verdict that VictoryLand be allowed to reopen is justice served. The people of Macon County voted for a constitutional amendment to allow for electronic bingo. The issue of pari-mutuel style casino betting and the closing of the ultramodern and successful luxury gaming resort in Macon County has been laid to rest.

  There have been extensive studies and articles that crystallize several obvious observations. First of all, gambling or gaming is an extremely profitable venture, and it is apparent that most Alabamians and Americans gamble whether it be online, through a bookie, or via a lottery. By the way, 48 of the 50 states receive revenue from gambling. Alabama and Utah are the only states that do not.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Richard Cohen: Either comply or resign else you're just being arrogant

  Since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last week that bans on same-sex marriages are unconstitutional, we've seen many Alabama probate judges – including Steven Reed in Montgomery, Alan King in Jefferson County, and Don Davis in Mobile – say that they'll comply with the law by issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

  But some Alabama probate judges say that they'll get out of the marriage business altogether.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Craig Ford: Alabama needs a real answer to the gambling question

  Decisions made by the government and high profile court rulings consumed the news last week. Most of the breaking news has centered on the U.S. Supreme Court decisions. But there is one court ruling that hasn’t gotten as much attention, and it’s just as important to the people of Alabama because it has such a huge impact on the future of our state.

  Late last week, an Alabama circuit judge ruled that the state was wrong to “cherry-pick” the casinos it prosecuted (and I think “persecuted” would be more accurate), and that the state must return all the seized money and bingo machines. The case was brought by VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor, and the judge’s ruling means that VictoryLand is once again free to open its doors.

Monday, June 29, 2015

5 Criteria for a nuclear agreement with Iran

  The United States is on the verge of preventing one of the most serious threats to the security of the United States and its allies in the Middle East: a nuclear-armed Iran. After two and a half years of intense negotiations and more than 20 years of sanctions, the P5+1—the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany—are finalizing the details of a comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran ahead of their self-imposed June 30 deadline.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Charles C. Haynes: After Charleston

  The brutal murder of nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17 was an act of “racial terrorism” – to quote NAACP President Cornell Williams Brooks.

  It was also a chilling assault on fundamental freedoms guaranteed every American under the First Amendment – the freedom to worship, the freedom to speak out for justice, and the freedom to assemble and organize for change.

  What happened in Charleston must not be reduced to a story about a mentally disturbed “lone wolf” – as often happens when a young white man commits mass murder.

Friday, June 26, 2015

3 Facts you need to know about proposed child support rules

  In fall 2014, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Child Support Enforcement—after consulting with states, law enforcement officials, employers, and other stakeholders—published and sought public comment on a set of proposed changes that would modernize the federal rules that govern the child support system. These changes would strengthen the child support system in ways that would increase regular, on-time payments to families; boost employment and earnings for noncustodial parents; and increase the amount of time that noncustodial parents spend with their children.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1463: Symbols are powerful

  Symbols are powerful. On Wednesday night, June 17, 2015, a 21-year-old white man named Dylann Roof drove 120 miles to Charleston, South Carolina. He entered the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church where African Americans were participating in weekly Bible studies. He shot down nine human beings in cold blood, reloading his .45 caliber Glock handgun five times. I grieve for each life lost, each suffering family, each community in mourning, and each person weighed down by this terrible tragedy. But we cannot lose sight of the powerful role symbols played in these hate-filled acts of terrorism. Symbols are powerful.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Sizing up the budget crunch

  Alabama is only one of a handful of states that work out of two budgets. We have a General Fund Budget and a separate Education Budget. Our General Fund is where the severe problem rests. The reason is that the General Fund gets none of the growth taxes, so its volume of revenue has remained the same for decades.

  The Alabama Legislature failed to find a solution during the four-month regular legislative session. The new fiscal year begins October 1. Therefore, a summer special session will be necessary.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Craig Ford: Opposing gambling legislation protects gambling interests not the people

  The people of Alabama deserve the right to vote on gambling and the lottery. What they don’t deserve is to see their taxes go up.

  Last week, Gov. Robert Bentley announced that he would not include any gambling proposals in the call for a special legislative session later this year. I believe Governor Bentley is wrong to refuse to include gambling in the call for a special session, and I will introduce a gambling bill when the legislature returns to Montgomery.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Richard Cohen: Charleston shooter’s manifesto reveals hate group helped to radicalize him

  This weekend we found out more about how the suspected Charleston church shooter, 21-year-old Dylann Storm Roof, became a violent racist extremist at such a young age.

  On his website, Roof left a 2,000-word manifesto in which he identifies himself as a white nationalist and says he was “truly awakened” to his beliefs after reading the online propaganda of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a notorious, racist hate group.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1462: What I really want for Selma

  “What do you really want for Selma?” I have been asked this question in various forms on many occasions. I am never asked this question about any of the other towns and/or areas in the ten-county district I represent in the Alabama Senate. Neither am I asked the question about other places in Alabama. It’s always Selma, Selma, Selma!

  In many ways, I want the same thing for every area in Senate District 23. In truth, I want the same things for Alabama, the country and the world. Such wants, however, are so broad and massive they become little more than wishful thinking. Therefore, let me try to answer the question for Selma... again.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Richard Cohen: The criminalization of black children in McKinney, Texas, and schools across America

  It’s hard to watch the video of the 15-year-old, swimsuit-clad African-American girl at a pool party in McKinney, Texas, being shoved into the ground by a white police officer and not be shocked.

  There was nothing that could have justified the use of force in that situation.

  But the reality is, this kind of police overreaction to the perceived misbehavior of black children is happening every day across America – not just on the streets but in our schools.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Michael Josephson: Refuse to be afraid

  Tim Wrightman, a former All-American UCLA football player, tells a story about how as a rookie lineman in the National Football League, he was up against the legendary pass rusher Lawrence Taylor. Taylor was not only physically powerful and uncommonly quick but a master at verbal intimidation.

  Looking young Tim in the eye, he said, “Sonny, get ready. I’m going to the left and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Countdown to the special session

  The regular legislative session ended without a General Fund Budget. As we look back politically on the first half of the year, the dilemma with the General Fund has been the dominant issue. It has been at the forefront since the beginning of the year and it is not yet resolved.

  After five months of wrangling over the beleaguered General Fund Budget, a late summer special session is in the works. The state must have a budget by October 1, when the new fiscal year begins.