Monday, February 29, 2016

Jacob G. Hornberger: The Pope was right about Trump

  Referring to GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall along the Southern border to keep out illegal immigrants, Pope Francis declared, “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel.”

Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Supreme Court vacancy shines a spotlight on the judicial vacancy crisis

  It has been two weeks since the death of a conservative judicial titan: Justice Antonin Scalia. With the Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee vowing for the first time in American history to not even consider a president’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee, it is possible that the Supreme Court could have just eight members until 2017—well into the Court’s next term. If that happens, many Court observers predict that the justices will split their votes 4-4 on many of the most controversial cases. A tied vote would mean that the lower court rulings stand, even when the lower courts disagree over how to interpret important constitutional rights.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

SPLC, others file federal consumer fraud complaint against conversion therapy group

  A Virginia-based group is committing consumer fraud by offering services it claims can convert people from gay to straight – deceptive practices that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) must stop, according to a federal complaint the Southern Poverty Law Center and other civil rights groups filed with the FTC Wednesday.

  The complaint describes how People Can Change (PCC) has offered these services known as “conversion therapy” despite the lack of scientific evidence to support their claims. It urges the FTC to investigate the group under Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, which prohibits unfair and deceptive acts and practices.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Charles C. Haynes: Justice Scalia’s disastrous decision on religious freedom

  Since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia on Feb. 13, conservative religious and political leaders have lavished praise on the long-serving justice as a champion of religious freedom.

  Alan Spears, head of the Christian advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom, hails Scalia as “the most vocal and passionate voice on the Supreme Court for religious freedom.” Sen. Ted Cruz warns, “We are one justice away from a Supreme Court that would undermine the religious liberty of millions of Americans.”

  But surely this is either a case of selective amnesia or wishful thinking.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1498: Jimmie Lee Jackson and the tragedy that was a catalyst for change

  Jimmie Lee Jackson, a 26-year-old Black man who lived in Perry County, Ala. became a central figure in voting rights history. Some say he went to a nighttime voting rights rally on February 18, 1965 in Marion, Ala. Others say he did not go to the rally but was waiting at Mack’s Café to take his mother and 82-year-old grandfather home. There is no doubt, however, that all three were in Mack’s Café.

  State troopers had busted the head of Jimmie Lee’s grandfather, Cager Lee, and blood was running down his face. Viola Jackson, his daughter, tried to help. A trooper attacked her. Jimmie Lee, who was unarmed, tried to help his mother take the 82-year-old Cager Lee to a doctor. A state trooper shot him twice in the stomach, and he started running. Other state troopers beat him as he ran. There is no doubt that these events were the forerunners of the Bloody Sunday March and the Selma to Montgomery March. There is no doubt that these events were critical catalysts on the road to the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Super PACs take center stage in primaries

  As our primary selection day approaches, it appears that we are seeing significant campaign attention from the presidential candidates. The move by the Alabama Legislature to make us an early primary state was a good one.

  As is generally the case, we are seeing negative ads. That is not unusual in politics. The reason that they are employed so often is because they work. Otherwise, the media consultants would not use them. The difference in this year’s presidential contests, however, is who is paying for the ads.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Darrio Melton: Put the personal attacks aside for the primary

  March 1 is right around the corner, and Alabama's primary races are heating up. We've seen contentious rhetoric in the presidential nomination races, but the same tone is trickling down to our local primaries and communities.

  The primary process has produced a lot of negativity, especially with how closely Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders are performing in early states. It's easy to sit back and throw rocks at the super-delegates and talk about "party insiders" when both candidates are campaigning for a job that is, by definition, a "party insider."

  What people might forget is that the Democratic primary is the most democratic that it's ever been, and that speaks volumes about our party and the way that we choose the top of the ticket.

Monday, February 22, 2016

How Congress should respond to the Flint water crisis

  In recent years, a pernicious ideology has taken hold in Michigan and across the country: cut costs and roll back regulations no matter the consequences. Tragically, for the residents of Flint, Michigan, this approach to governance has produced a public health crisis that will affect the lives of thousands of people—especially young children—for decades to come.

This outcome was both foreseeable and preventable.

  In April 2013, the state-appointed emergency manager decided to stop purchasing safe drinking water from Detroit. Their plan was to build a new pipeline to nearby Lake Huron. However, government officials had no plan for how to provide clean water during the three- to four-year construction period. The need for another water source prompted local officials to tap into the heavily polluted Flint River.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Gene Policinski: Getting to the ‘core’ of the Apple-FBI iPhone encryption spat

  Make no mistake – the suddenly-white hot debate over whether or not Apple will create a means for the FBI to “unlock” one of its cell phones is a defining moment in the rollout of the 21st century’s mobile, connected world.

  This Silicon Valley-Washington D.C. face-off raises issues of privacy and national security, of freedom of speech, and even foreign policy considerations with respect to repressive regimes and those governments hoping to track journalists’ sources.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Sarah McBride: The economic cost of overly broad RFRAs

  In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic decision that brought marriage equality nationwide, dozens of reactionary state legislatures are considering a range of anti-LGBT laws designed to legalize and sanction discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Overly broad state Religious Freedom Restoration Acts, or RFRAs—one of the most common pieces of anti-LGBT legislation—provide wide-ranging exemptions that enable religiously based discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT, people and their families.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Craig Ford: Robert Aderholt has some explaining to do

  We need to let Congressman Robert Aderholt know we expect him to do his job and help us complete I-759 highway!

  When Congressman Aderholt speaks to the Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, he has a lot of explaining to do.

  To start with, he should explain why anyone who wants to hear their congressman speak has to pay $25 per person. We elected him; we shouldn’t have to pay just to have the opportunity to hear him speak and ask him questions.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1497: What will this session really mean for the people of Alabama?

  What will this 2016 Alabama Legislative Session mean for the people of Alabama? This is a question that numerous citizens are asking. This is a question that many legislators are asking. This is a question that reporters are asking. This is a question that I am asking. But what are the answers?

  I know where I stand on the issues. I do, however, not expect to pass a single piece of general legislation, but I will introduce a dozen or so bills. I may pass several local bills. I know well that it is not a question of what I can pass; the question is what I can help prevent passing? What will this 2016 session mean for the people of Alabama?

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The Trump factor

  The presidential primary parade has been colorful and fun to watch this year. It has been even more amusing because of the pervasive presence of one Donald Trump and the fact that those of us in the Heart of Dixie have a front row seat to the show.

  Since we will have an early vote in the presidential fray due to being one of the seven southeastern states holding our preference primary on March 1, we will be able to have an impact on the process. We will be voting for president in less than two weeks.

  Over the past few weeks I’ve been asked on TV and during radio interviews if the inevitable nominees will be Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. I would not use the word inevitable yet, but I would say they are the clear favorites.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Darrio Melton: Republicans want smaller government until they don't get their way

  "More jobs. Less government." -Governor Robert Bentley

  "Less regulation and a smaller government is better..." - Rep. David Faulkner

  We've heard these lines before, time and time again, from Republican candidates promising smaller government and more local control when they're elected. Despite the campaign promises, the same Republicans whistle a different tune when they're the ones wielding the power in Montgomery. "Less regulation and a smaller government" quickly becomes "enough regulations and a big enough government to have it my way."

Monday, February 15, 2016

Joseph O. Patton: Back to your corners, Democrats


  What follows can only be described in Deep South vernacular as a "come to Jesus meeting," only I'm writing here and haven't thrown anything at anyone so far.

  Presidential primaries are spirited endeavors - political punches are thrown, false claims are made, stupid-ass memes are circulated, feelings are hurt, and ultimately a political party chooses its nominee for the general election.

  But the tone of many participants in the Democratic Party's primary to choose a nominee is rapidly descending into a truly ugly, divisive screeching match that holds a serious risk of damaging the party's eventual nominee, especially if the toxic blah, blah, blah on social media is any indication.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Michael Josephson: Loopholes and slippery slopes

  As a former law professor, I know all about loopholes.

  I trained students to find omissions and ambiguities in wording — a perfectly legal way to evade the clear intent of laws and agreements. After all, that’s what lawyers are paid to do. And, despite commonly expressed disdain when lawyers do this, that’s precisely what most clients want and expect when they hire a lawyer.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Craig Ford: When ideology becomes idolatry

  We need to leave behind the idolatry of ideology and get back to what our country was founded on: Putting aside differences and coming together for a compromise that benefits everyone.

  There’s a fine line between standing up for your principles and political extremism. These days, unfortunately, political extremism seems to be the standard. There’s no clearer example of this than the reaction Alabama House Majority Leader Micky Hammon (R-Decatur) to House Democrats’ legislative agenda last week.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1496: Black history is critical for white Americans

  Black history is critical for White Americans. Wait! Wait! Wait! Don’t dismiss this idea out of hand. I know Black history is supposed to be for African Americans. Black history, however, is critical for White Americans because it is the flip side of White history (American history).

  We recognize that Black history started way before Columbus stumbled upon this place now called the Americas. Black history was in Egypt, Timbuktu, etc. But I want to start with slavery. I know that we don’t talk about slavery, but we must understand it. Black history is critical for White Americans because it’s the flip side of White history.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: "Appropriator" Shelby is facing four GOP challengers

  We are only a few weeks away from our March 1st primary. We have an early primary date this year due to the fact that we are in the "SEC" presidential primary. Therefore, we will have some say in who will be the GOP and Democratic nominees.

  Indeed, the presidential fray, especially on the Republican side, has been the center of attention. However, we do have some statewide races on the ballot this year, albeit they are not very interesting or competitive.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Darrio Melton: A great state with the wrong funding

  It's time to talk about how we fund the State of Alabama and get a few things straight. When we look to our state's funding mechanisms, money comes from three major areas and they're all three pretty dirty words: taxes, bonds, and the federal government.

  Last week, Gov. Robert Bentley rolled out his "Great State 2019 Plan" proposing big steps towards pre-k for all children, offer free community college, expand broadband access, and do away with our old, worn-out prisons and build new, state of the art "super-prisons"

  Now, if all of this sounds familiar, that's because these are policies the Democrats have been pushing for several years. The governor agrees with Democrats that these issues need resolutions, but we have big differences in terms of how we think these things should be funded.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Steve Phillips: What about white voters?

  Most analyses of America’s demographic revolution focus on the fact that people of color will comprise a majority of the country’s population in about 30 years—specifically, 2044 by the U.S. Bureau of the Census’ latest estimates. A question often underlying these analyses is: “How will this browning of America affect our country’s politics?” While the explosive growth of this group is a transformative element of modern American politics, another important and often overlooked question is: “What about white voters?” That is, how will the voting tendencies of whites affect election outcomes as our country moves toward becoming a majority-minority nation?

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Setting priorities for nuclear modernization

  In the next decade, the United States will have to make decisions that will shape its nuclear arsenal for much of the next century. Nearly every missile, submarine, aircraft, and warhead in the U.S. arsenal is nearing the end of its service life and must be replaced. As Congress and the Obama administration continue to wrestle with the effects of sequestration on projected levels of defense spending, the U.S. Department of Defense has begun a series of procurement programs that will nearly double the amount the country spends on its nuclear deterrent in the next decade compared to what it spent in the past decade.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Craig Ford: Do we want super prisons or super schools?

  During his State of the State Address Tuesday night, Gov. Robert Bentley laid out his four-year plan, which included spending up to $800 million to build four new super prisons. The next day, the governor announced that he wants to transfer $181 million out of the education budget and put it in the general fund budget, which also pays for prisons.

  Don’t get me wrong. There are some very serious problems with our state prisons. What’s happening at the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women is unacceptable! Changes need to be made, and more prison reform is absolutely needed.

  But how can the governor – or any legislator for that matter – justify spending almost a billion dollars on new accommodations for prisoners while thousands of our children are going to school in run-down facilities that have broken windows and no air conditioning?

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1495: Wrestling with fear and facts

  Facts don’t stand a chance in the face of fear. Fear just bowls over facts like a bulldozer over outhouses. Facts don’t stand a chance when facing fear.

  I have fought fear many times. In the last two weeks I fought against fear on two occasions.

  I was called by a reporter in Mobile, Ala. He asked if Perry County was in my senate district. I said that Perry County is indeed in Senate District 23 which I represent. He explained tuberculosis cases had been reported in Perry County and some schools had refused to go there to play basketball games. This was the first I had heard of this situation. I told the reporter that I would get back to him. I wanted to get the facts even though I knew facts don’t stand a chance in the face of fear.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The tale of Landslide Lyndon

  There are a good many stories about elections of the 1940s and 50s where votes were bought and elections stolen. The most brazen theft of an election occurred in the 1948 race for the U.S. Senate in Texas. The race was between Coke Stevenson and Lyndon B. Johnson. It can also be classified as one of the most relevant robberies in American history because if Johnson had lost as he was supposed to, it would have dramatically impacted U.S. history.

  Coke Stevenson was a Texas icon. He was the epitome of a Texas gentleman and he was revered. He was Texas’ Horatio Alger and Davy Crockett combined. He raised himself from age 12, built a ranching empire, was Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, and a very popular Governor of Texas. Stevenson was above reproach. He would not lie, steal or cheat, and Texans knew that about old Coke.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Darrio Melton: Alabama has an opportunity to improve the voting process

  With the Iowa caucuses yesterday and the New Hampshire primaries next week, the weight of the 2016 election season is upon us. We're less than a month away from Alabama's primary elections, in the first-ever "SEC Super Tuesday" where the Southern states will all head to the polls to cast their votes for their party's nominees. While Alabama has now moved to one of the first states to weigh in for the primaries, our election methods are still stuck in last place.

  While Alabama has a long way to go, I'm proud of Secretary of State John Merrill for working across the aisle and implementing common-sense changes like online voter registration. In a state where you can pay your taxes and renew your car tag online, the systems are clearly in place for safe and secure online voter registration. I'm glad to see that one more door has been opened to make the polls more accessible and reduce the need for bureaucratic paperwork.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Michael Josephson: The treasure of old friends

  In my lifetime, I’ve had the good fortune of having a handful of good friends.

  Each of my four teenage daughters have many hundreds. At least that’s what they call every Facebook connection they collect like trophies. The list of those kinds of friends includes people they barely know, some they don’t know at all, and even some people they don’t like.

  They also have lots of real friends – people they actually know and spend time with. They profess to “love” and “miss” quite a few and, though it defies the meaning of the word “best” they each have a rotating group of best friends often referred to a BFFs (best friends forever) or BFFLs (best friends for life).