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.