Thursday, April 30, 2015

Gene Policinski: How much violence do we need to see – or report?

  A tangle of violence and protest has engulfed parts of Baltimore and cannot be ignored by the news media. But how much reporting should be done, and when should it be done, and reports of what?

  Those questions and more swirl, even as smoke still billows over Baltimore amid appeals for calm from the family of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old man who suffered a spinal cord injury after being arrested by city police.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Borrower voices explain the need for affordable student-loan repayment

  Student-loan debt continues to be an issue of grave concern for American student borrowers. In 2014, there were approximately 41 million Americans with federal student-loan debt, up from 28 million in 2007. Outstanding debt has reached $1.1 trillion in federal student loans and $200 billion in private student loans. Last year, in an effort to make repaying student-loan debt more affordable, President Barack Obama announced his intention to expand Pay As You Earn, or PAYE, a repayment plan that allows certain student-loan borrowers to repay their debt based on their income. President Obama said that PAYE gives “graduates the opportunity to pursue the dreams that inspired them to go to school in the first place.”

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Recent Alabama governors haven't left much of a mark

  Recently, at a forum I was asked the question, “Which governor made a difference in Alabama politics?” The question caught me off guard because I really had not thought about that obvious inquiry. My knee-jerk reaction and answer to the insightful questioner was George Wallace and I gave a litany of reasons for my response. Later, after contemplation, I felt that my answer was probably correct. Wallace would be the appropriate choice, simply because he was governor so long. I prefaced my reply to the inquisitor with the caveat, “You know, I’m not as old as you might think.” Therefore, I qualified my answer with, “Let’s talk about the governors since 1954.”

Monday, April 27, 2015

Gene Policinski: A new world of ‘real video’ holds all of us accountable

  “Seeing is believing,” or so the saying goes.

  We certainly can “see” more than ever in this era of 24/7 news, omnipresent street surveillance, police “body cams” and cell phone video – and that fits nicely into the First Amendment’s role in providing for both press and citizen “watchdogs on government.”

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Michael Josephson: Who am I to judge?

  Almost every week someone indignantly attacks my integrity because I offended them with a real or perceived opinion they didn’t like. The underlying assumption is that stating an opinion on any controversial matter violates the sacred duty of neutrality.

  First, I’m a teacher and a commentator, not a judge or journalist. Although I strive mightily to be objective, I don’t feel obligated to be neutral. Objectivity implies impartiality, detachment, and independence in evaluating evidence; it doesn’t preclude expressing judgment.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Jacob G. Hornberger: Cubans love America but hate the U.S. government

  The New York Times recently carried an interesting article about Cuban citizens who are wearing clothes depicting the American flag. The fashion statement reflects the excitement among the Cuban people for renewed relations between the United States and Cuba and a hope that the decades-old U.S. economic embargo against Cuba will finally be lifted.

  The downside to this phenomenon is that it might encourage U.S. national-security state officials, especially those in the CIA, to believe that Cubans are finally willing to embrace a U.S. regime-change operation that ousts the communist regime from power and installs a pro-U.S. dictatorship in its stead.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Mayor: Confederate Flag at rural county courthouse ‘must come down’

  A large Confederate battle flag snapping in the wind at the top of a pole in front of the county courthouse in the small rural Georgia town of Summerville must come down and “it shouldn’t have been put up there in the first place,” the city’s first black mayor told the Southern Poverty Law Center today.

  “It certainly sheds a negative light on the city and the county,” Mayor Harry Harvey said. “We have a lot of positive things going on in the area, a lot of progress, and this distracts from it. It’s not something we want to be known for.”

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Strengthening the foundations of U.S.-Israel ties at a time of change in the Middle East

  Tensions between the United States and Israel soared earlier this month in the aftermath of the announcement of the framework agreement on Iran’s nuclear program. President Barack Obama declared that “a historic understanding with Iran” had been reached, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in stark contrast, stated that the understandings reached in Lausanne “threaten the survival of Israel.” Media outlets rushed to report on a tense telephone conversation between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu and the wide gaps that exist between the leaders’ positions on the Iran issue. This divide on Iran is just the latest in a series of tumultuous episodes between the two countries.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Looking ahead to 2018

  On a picture perfect sunny January day Governor Robert Bentley was sworn in for his second term as governor along with all of the other constitutional state officeholders. Taking their oath of office on the same day were Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey, Attorney General Luther Strange, State Treasurer Young Boozer, and State Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan. They were all sworn in for a second four year term. Newcomers Secretary of State John Merrill and State Auditor Jim Ziegler also took office on January 19.

  Speculation has already begun as to which of these folks are eyeing Dr. Bentley’s office four years from now. It is shaping up as quite a governor’s race in 2018. Unlike Bentley’s 2014 coronation victory trot, this one will be quite a horse race. Beginning in September, I will handicap the potential horses for the 2018 derby for the brass ring of Alabama politics. I have a list of 18 potential horses that I will discuss as we handicap the derby.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Charles C. Haynes: Remembering the Holocaust, speaking the truth

  In another of his patented truth-to-power moments, Pope Francis triggered international debate last week by having the temerity to call genocide “genocide.”

  Speaking at Sunday Mass on April 12, the pontiff described the killing of 1.5 million Armenians by Turks 100 years ago as “the first genocide of the 20th century” – a characterization of that horrific episode strongly supported by the evidence of history.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Alison Cassady: The Clean Power Plan: A critical step toward decarbonizing America’s energy system

  The United States is in the midst of an energy transition in which cheap natural gas is displacing coal as the go-to fuel choice for electricity generation. While this trend has helped reduce carbon pollution from the nation’s power plants, switching fuel sources does not go far enough to achieve the deep reductions necessary to prevent catastrophic and irreversible climate change. Ambitious deployment of renewable energy and energy-efficiency technology must form the cornerstone of any successful climate mitigation strategy. The Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA’s, Clean Power Plan is a critical part of the U.S. strategy to transition away from carbon-intensive fuels and toward a cleaner energy future.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Michael Josephson: Appreciating appreciation

  There’s a song called “Thank God for Dirty Dishes” that makes the point that if you’re lucky to have enough food to make dirty dishes, you should be grateful.

  So instead of grousing about your property taxes, be thankful you own property. When you have to wait in line at the bank or are stuck in traffic, just be grateful you have money in the bank and a car to drive.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Sam Wolfe: President’s support for conversion therapy ban is a huge step forward

  President Obama’s public support for a nationwide ban against the harmful practice of conversion therapy is an important step toward achieving equality for all LGBT youth and protecting them from the psychological abuse of being told they can and should change their sexual orientation.

  These bogus and dangerous conversion therapy services have no basis in science and are based on the lie that there is something wrong with LGBT people – that they’re sick and can be “cured” or “repaired.” The practice, in fact, has been thoroughly discredited or highly criticized by all major American medical, psychiatric, psychological and professional counseling organizations.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Rebecca Vallas: Cutting Social Security Disability Insurance won’t help anyone go back to work

“The injustice to the disabled should be corrected not simply by preserving these [Social Security] benefit rights but also by helping them to return to employment whenever possible.” — President Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1954

  Policymakers and elected officials on both sides of the aisle have long shared the goal of helping people with disabilities work. However, recent proposals to cut Social Security Disability Insurance for beneficiaries who attempt to return to work represent a step in the wrong direction that would undermine this bipartisan objective.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Fiddling while Alabama burns

  As the world turns in Alabama politics, a lot has happened in the first three months of 2015. After Inauguration Day, a federal judge in Mobile ruled that Alabama’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage was not constitutional under federal law. In appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court it was obvious that the high tribunal conferred with the lower court ruling and gave every indication that they would render a final edict on the subject come June. By midsummer same-sex marriage will be the law of the land as decreed by the omnipotent U.S. Supreme Court.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Jacob G. Hornberger: Draft registration and America's serf society

  With the start of baseball season, fans will once again be exhorted to stand up and glorify the troops. Among those fans will be teenagers who will be proudly singing some variation of “I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free.”

  But neither American teenagers nor any other American is able to reconcile the freedom he is so proud of with the fact that the federal government forces every man to register for the draft when he reaches the age of 18.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1452 I pray that we have real prison reform in Alabama

  A half loaf is better than no loaf. This is an old saying that contains much wisdom. However, the challenge is knowing when the choice is truly between a half loaf and no loaf. The choice is even more difficult when it’s a quarter loaf or a fifth of a loaf or sometimes just a few slices. The loaf/slices choice is one I struggled with in the Alabama Senate last week.

  The issue was prison reform. Republicans appointed a nearly 30 member Alabama Prison Reform Task Force. Only two members were African American in spite of race being a central issue. The Task force developed a series of recommendations, but the bill was filed before the Task Force made its recommendation. Suffice it to say that the bill is way, way less than a half loaf.

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Business case for the Green Climate Fund

  Since 2014, more than 30 countries have pledged support to launch the Green Climate Fund, or GCF, a new multilateral fund that will invest in projects that help developing countries reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and build resilience to climate effects. More than $10 billion has been pledged by countries from both developed and developing regions for the fund’s preliminary capitalization. The Obama administration requested $500 million in the fiscal year 2016 federal budget as an initial contribution toward the $3 billion U.S. pledge. Now is the time for Congress to appropriate this initial contribution and continue the bipartisan legacy of multilateral climate finance.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Steven P. Bucci, Ph.D.: The conditions are ripe for a major Middle Eastern war

  For years, the great nations of Europe spent huge sums of money to build their military might. They assembled themselves into blocs, all the better to play a dangerous game of power politics.  Slowly, surely, they were stumbling toward war.

  In June 1914, an assassin shot the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the powder keg was lit. The results were disastrous.

  The Middle East today looks frighteningly similar to the Europe of the early 20th Century.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Sarah McBride: A return to the status quo: Indiana’s so-called RFRA fix

  Indiana legislators recently announced their much-anticipated fix to the state’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA. The amendment was prompted by a national outcry from businesses, faith communities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT, Americans and their allies in response to the discriminatory consequences of the bill, which could nullify existing municipal sexual-orientation and gender-identity nondiscrimination protections in Indiana.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Rescuing online tax revenue

  Alabama’s senior and premier political reporter, Phil Rawls, has retired. Phil spent 35 years reporting on Alabama politics for the Associated Press. He was simply the best. He was fair and accurate. His 40 years of covering the state capitol made him easily the longest serving member of Alabama’s capitol press corps.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Laurence M. Vance: The root of support for the drug war

  Although many states have legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes, some states have decriminalized the possession of certain amounts of marijuana, and four states (Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington) have legalized the recreational use of marijuana, bipartisan support for the drug war throughout the United States continues unabated and unquestioned.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Michael Josephson: Curing Victimitis

  Watch your thoughts; they lead to attitudes.
  Watch your attitudes; they lead to words.
  Watch your words; they lead to actions.
  Watch your actions; they lead to habits.
  Watch your habits; they form your character.
  Watch your character; it determines your destiny.

  These words of unknown origin tell us that our silent and often subconscious choices shape our future. Every aspect of our lives, at home and at work, can be improved if we use our power to think, reflect, and make conscious choices about our thoughts, attitudes, words, actions, and habits.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Sally Steenland: State religious freedom restoration acts threaten true religious liberty

  There’s an important debate going on in our country that lots of folks aren’t paying much attention to. I can’t say that I blame them. After all, with work, kids, bills, errands, and more—how much energy is left over to think about religious freedom?

  But here’s the thing: The current debate about religious freedom is already shaping laws and policies that will affect each one of us. Many of these laws and policies are harmful and will have far-reaching consequences that affect the everyday details of our lives—from our ability to shop at certain businesses to the cost of our health care—that even the supporters of these laws are likely to regret.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1451: Answering the question, "Why did you go to Selma?"

  Why did you go to Selma? How did you end up in Selma? What made you go to Selma? I have been asked various forms of these question many times. My wife, Faya Rose Toure’, formerly known as Rose M. Sanders, has also been asked these questions numerous times. Leading up to the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery March, we were asked these questions even more. Last week we were again asked these questions during a joint documentary interview with Black Entertainment Television, better known as BET. These questions got me to thinking.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

President Obama’s visit to Alabama highlights need to regulate payday, title loan lenders

  President Obama’s visit to Alabama last week to discuss proposals to rein in predatory lenders underscores the need to regulate an industry the Southern Poverty Law Center has found traps low-income people in a crushing cycle of debt.

  The proposals from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau include common-sense safeguards for consumers who take out payday or car title loans. Lenders would be required, for example, to determine if a borrower can actually afford to pay back a loan.