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.