Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The charter schools trap

  In recent years, the Republican Party has taken control of the legislatures in all of the southern states. Alabama’s legislature is overwhelmingly Republican. The GOP holds a 25 to 9 majority in the Alabama Senate and an equally dominating 72 to 33 majority in the Alabama House of Representatives.

  Our supermajority GOP legislative body appeared to take on every conceivable ultraconservative reactionary issue during their first four year reign from 2011 to 2014. However, they forgot one - charter schools.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Michael Josephson: Coaching for character

  I’ve spent lots of time with some of the world’s most successful coaches. I discovered that many of them think about character a lot, especially traits that are important to winning – like self-discipline, perseverance, resiliency, and courage. They pay less attention to virtues like honesty, integrity, responsibility, compassion, respect, and fairness — aspects of character that make a good person, citizen, spouse, or parent.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Billy Corriher: Judicial elections make it impossible for Alabama judges to protect individual rights

  Alabama is the only state where the high court has defied a federal court to offer marriage licenses to same-sex couples. It is also the only state in which judges frequently override jury verdicts of life imprisonment to impose death sentences on convicts. It has become increasingly clear that what is happening in Alabama is the direct result of judicial elections.

  With the exception of Bolivia, the United States is the only other country in the world that elects its judges. This system ensures that judges are accountable to their constituents, but it also means that judges will face political pressure to rule in ways that please a majority of voters. A recent poll showed that only 32 percent of Alabama’s population supports marriage equality, and the state’s residents ardently support the death penalty. Alabama judges are keenly aware of these facts.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Charles C. Haynes: LGBT rights, religious freedom and the Utah miracle

  Whatever your faith or sexual orientation, what happened in Utah on March 12 should make you proud to be an American.

  That’s the day Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed into law groundbreaking legislation – Senate Bill 296 – protecting LGBT people from discrimination in housing and employment while also providing exemptions for religious institutions and protections for religious speech.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1450: Attacks on public education are mounting in Alabama

  Attacks on public education are mounting in Alabama. The attacks just keep coming. They come from different directions. They come in different forms. They come from different sources. The attacks on public education are mounting in Alabama.

  I personally know the power of public education. The public schools I attended were very separate and very unequal. However, without public education I would not have gone to school since my family of 15 was very poor (13 children, a mother and father). I certainly would not have graduated from high school or college or law school. I would not be serving in the Alabama Senate. I would not be writing this installment of Senate Sketches. Public education was one of the foundations of any success I may have achieved. The attacks on public education are mounting in Alabama.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Morris Dees: Fifty years later, we must rededicate ourselves to the Selma-to-Montgomery marchers' cause

  Fifty years ago today, I was standing near the steps of the Alabama Capitol when Dr. King spoke at the end of the Selma-to-Montgomery March.

  It was a triumphant moment.

  The courage of those on the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday had awakened the conscience of the nation and inspired people of good will from around the country to join in a great cause.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Can the doctor cure the General Fund?

  Our good doctor governor, Robert Bentley, has done a thorough physical exam on the state’s finances and his diagnosis is that the General Fund needs additional revenue. His Republican comrades in the legislature have been trying to starve the patient for the past four years. If the patient is an analogy to the state government, the approach over the past four years has been to put the patient on a rigid diet of starvation and bleeding to death in pretty much the same way that George Washington’s doctors did in his day. The patient according to basic tenets of medicine or government should weigh about 180 pounds. The legislature has starved the patient/government to 120 pounds of skin and bones.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Michael Conathan: Tracking seafood from bait to plate

  “Is this local?”

  This question, posed by consumers in restaurants and food markets across the country, has become a ubiquitous catchphrase. It even served as the subject of the very first sketch on IFC’s uber-hipster comedy series “Portlandia.” The bit focused on a cloying couple so concerned with the premortem welfare of the chicken offered on a bistro’s menu that they ditched dinner to ride out to the farm and check the bird’s paperwork.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Michael Josephson: Good karma

  I get lots of emails containing words of wisdom. I appreciate every one of them, but one time I got a real keeper. Here are 17 incredibly powerful observations attributed to the Dalai Lama worth posting on your bathroom mirror. Learn them and live them. They will improve your life.

1. Follow the three Rs: respect for self, respect for others, responsibility for your actions.

2. When you realize you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Senate Sketches #1449: How we made it over: 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday

  When our children’s children ask, “What mean ye these stones? You can tell them how you made it over." These are words from the Biblical Book of Joshua. They refer to the way the children of Israel miraculously crossed over the Jordan River on dry land to enter the Promised Land. I cite this passage to ask the question, “What mean ye these happenings at the Bridge Crossing Jubilee and the Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday, the Selma-to-Montgomery March and the 1965 Voting Rights Act?” I also want to tell how we made it over.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Richard M. Ebeling: Americans see big corruption in big business

  A recently released report on the degree of confidence that Americans have in the country’s leading political and economic institutions shows that few of these institutions are held in high regard by the public.

  The survey was conducted by NORC, a respected research organization at the University of Chicago. It was found that only 11 percent of those asked expressed significant confidence in the institution of the presidency of the United States. About 23 percent of the citizenry expressed positive confidence in the Supreme Court. But, seemingly, no one has confidence in the United States Congress. Only seven percent of Democrats and five percent of Republicans expressed any great deal of confidence in the legislative branch of the federal government.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Paul Larkin: Justice Department giving away the public’s money to third-party interests

  For the past decade, the U.S. Justice Department has engaged in the dubious practice of giving away the public’s money when it settles a case, by sometimes conditioning a settlement on a company’s agreement to donate money to a third party of the government’s (or the defendant’s) choosing.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: A few things Alabama's doing well

  Alabama may be in the lower tier of the country in some categories but not when it comes to providing health insurance for children. In that one category we excel.

  Brian Lyman with the Montgomery Advertiser provided an excellent study revealing that Alabama leads the south in taking care of its young people when it comes to giving them health coverage. A recent Georgetown University study showed that Alabama leads the south when it comes to healthcare for children. Remarkably we are ranked in the top 10 states in America.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Making subsidy reform stick

  Fossil-fuel subsidies impose a significant economic and environmental burden around the world, distorting markets and draining national budgets. In recent years, the total cost of fossil-fuel consumption subsidies worldwide has ranged from $480 billion to $630 billion per year, plus more than $100 billion spent every year in production subsidies.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Michael Josephson: Are cynics right? Is lying really necessary?

  What do you think? In today’s society, does a person have to lie or cheat at least occasionally to succeed?

  The question isn’t whether occasional liars and cheats sometimes get away with dishonesty; we all have to agree with this. The question is whether you believe people can succeed if they are not willing to lie or cheat.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Sam Fulwood III: Why does racism surprise us?

  Here’s a news item ripped from the pages of The New York Times:

       Sigma Alpha Epsilon, one of America’s largest college fraternities, closed its chapter at the University of Oklahoma late Sunday after a video posted hours earlier appeared to show fraternity members singing a racist chant....

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Charles C. Haynes: The perils of a “Christian America”

  Thanks to the First Amendment, the United States is arguably the most religiously diverse – and most religiously free – society on earth.

  But not all Americans welcome the new religious America.

  Consider the flap in Idaho this week when a session of the state Senate started with a Hindu prayer.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1448: A Taste of Jubilee!

  A taste of Jubilee. A taste of the Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday, the Selma-to-Montgomery March, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and much much more. This Bridge Crossing Jubilee was a once in a lifetime experience. Decades from now, people will say, “I was there for the 50th.” There were more than 50 events so I cannot begin to touch on all or even most. I could take one or two events and perhaps do them some justice, but I choose to share a taste of various Jubilee events. Next week I hope to write about the meaning of the Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Jeb Bush, Common Core and the rise of Florida

  The Common Core education topic is not only a hot political issue in Alabama, it has become a political football nationwide and it appears to be a hot potato in the looming 2016 GOP presidential contest.

  As soon as Jeb Bush announced that he would “actively explore” a 2016 presidential bid, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, also a potential candidate and Tea Party Libertarian said, “We need leaders who will stand against Common Core.” The right wing candidates like Paul and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin have staked out positions against Common Core.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Michael Josephson: Courtesy is kindness in action

  As a society we have become almost obsessed with identifying and asserting our rights – to think, say, and do what we want. That’s not surprising, given the history of our country and the prominent role the Constitution and Bill of Rights have played in shaping our culture.

  We have a right to be unkind, thoughtless, and disrespectful — but it isn’t right.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Human rights groups ask federal court to order Alabama probate judges to issue same-sex marriage licenses

  The Southern Poverty Law Center and a group of leading civil rights organizations yesterday asked a federal court to expand a lawsuit challenging Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage and to order all of the state’s probate judges to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

  The action comes amid a confrontation between the Alabama Supreme Court and the federal judiciary.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1447: Selma sacrificed and sowed the seeds of freedom

  It’s Harvest Time for Selma. Selma sowed abundantly in 1965, 50 years ago. It sowed blood, sacrifice, courage, struggle, victory, freedom and more. People all over this country and across the world have reaped the fruits of Selma’s sowing. Yet Selma has benefited little from that which it sowed. Now it’s Harvest Time for Selma.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Great Cost Shift: Why middle-class workers do not feel the health care spending slowdown

  In recent years, the growth in overall health care costs has slowed dramatically. But for millions of Americans with employer-sponsored insurance, or ESI, this slowdown is illusory. From 2008 through 2013, the average annual growth rate of employees’ monthly premium contributions and out-of-pocket expenses, adjusted for inflation, was more than double that of average annual growth in real per-capita national health care spending, which was less than 2 percent per year. This growth has also outpaced employers’ costs of offering these benefits by more than 40 percent.

  Employees experiencing higher health care costs tend to blame the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, even though the law largely leaves the employer-based system alone. In fact, many employers report that the ACA has had only a negligible influence on their health care costs.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1446: Harnessing history to stand on a stronger foundation

  History is powerful. Black History is powerful. If we know our history, we harness its power to stand on a stronger foundation, reaching higher and seeing farther. If we don’t know our history, the power of history stands on us, weighing down our minds, our emotions, our hearts, our spirits, our lives. History is powerful.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Another Common Core war on the horizon?

  The first regular legislative session of the quadrennium is beginning. Legislators have arrived in Montgomery for their three and a half month session and they will face a myriad of problems and issues.

  The General Fund Budget has been in the doldrums for several years. The chickens have to come home to roost. There is a crisis looming in the prisons. The escalating cost of Medicaid further exacerbates a desperate situation for the General Fund.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Gene Policinski: Tweeting — and setting the nation’s ‘chat agenda’

  From Sean Penn and the Oscars to Keith Olbermann and Bill O’Reilly at their cable TV perches, and with a dash of national security issues for good measure, we’re “all atwitter” – literally.

  Twitter – the 140-character social media phenom – is used by just 23% of adult Americans who are online, according to a 2014 Pew Research Center report. For teens, surveys say it’s about one-quarter of online regulars, and rising quickly.