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.