Sunday, July 31, 2016

Jacob G. Hornberger: Should we have prayer in public schools?

  Suppose someone proposed a law requiring every child in America to report to a government facility to receive Christian indoctrination. How many Americans would support such a law?

  Actually, most Americans would. According an article in Lifestyle, 57 percent of Americans favor prayer in public schools. 54 percent of Americans believe that there isn’t enough religion in public schools. A whopping 76 percent of American adults believe that Christmas should be celebrated in public schools; that figure rises to 82 percent among parents with children.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Michael Josephson: Good ethics make better relationships

  While I believe that good things tend to happen to people who consistently choose the high road, the correlation between ethics and success is a loose one at best. Thus, it’s pretty hard to sincerely promote ethics by appeals to self-interest.

  What’s more, when self-interest is the controlling justification for moral behavior, moral reasoning is replaced by a pragmatic cost-benefit analysis that invites rationalizations and condones selfishness. When people are kind, honest, or respectful only when there’s a pay-off, or obey rules only when they think the risk of punishment is too great, ethical behavior is just an investment.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Craig Ford: Why lottery revenue must go to scholarships

  Over the last year or so, the lottery has been getting more and more attention and support from Alabama legislators. The lottery is extremely popular, getting over 60 percent favorable support in all the public opinion polls that I’ve seen. The debate these days isn’t so much over whether we should have a lottery but how we should spend the revenue the lottery will create.

  There are three ways the lottery revenue can be spent: Spend all of it on education, spend all of it in the general fund, or split it between the two budgets. Considering all the problems with Medicaid and the general fund budget, some legislators see the lottery as their ticket out of a no-win situation. But the fact is the lottery won’t save Medicaid or the general fund—and there are several reasons why it won’t.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1520: Do black lives really matter?

  Black lives matter. This three-word phrase is so powerful. It evokes powerful hopes and powerful fears. Some see this phrase as strongly asserting value to lives that have been historically devalued. Others see this phrase as strongly urging violent attacks on law enforcement. And many hold various positions in between. "Black lives matter" is a powerful phrase that expresses a powerful concept.

  Why is this simple three-word phrase so controversial? Let’s start with the basic question: Do Black lives matter? Do Black lives matter as much as White lives? If we can rationally respond to these questions, perhaps we can discuss the issues that embroil law enforcement and the Black community. We are all entitled to our opinions. We are not entitled to our own facts.  Can we deal with the facts? "Black lives matter" is a powerful concept.  

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: What 2016 means for the SCOTUS

  As we have watched and participated in the presidential foray this entire year, an equally important event occurred. The death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in February is a very important event in American government.

  Scalia’s unexpected death at 79 could affect the ideological tilt of the Supreme Court and could essentially have a profound impact on our nation’s public policy.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Jacob G. Hornberger: Help the poor by abolishing the income tax

  The standard leftist position on helping the poor is: Increase income taxes on the rich and give the money to the poor in the form of welfare. The idea is that it’s just not fair that someone has more money when someone has less money. By equalizing people’s financial conditions, through the force of a progressive income tax and a welfare state, the financial plight of the poor will be improved.

  The left, however, is wrong. As our American ancestors, who lived without income taxation for more than a century, learned, the best way to help the poor would be by abolishing the income tax (and the IRS).

Monday, July 25, 2016

Gene Policinski: What is “free speech” on the web — in theory and in practice?

  Who can say what, on the Web?

  Twitter has raised questions anew with reports of a lifetime ban on tweets from conservative blogger Milo Yiannopoulos — reportedly after complaints that he engineered a wave of racist and sexist comments directed against comedian and actress Leslie Jones, who is co-starring in the latest “Ghostbusters” movie.

  Yiannopoulos is an editor on the conservative blog site whose posts frequently create controversy on the web. He responded to the reported Twitter action by saying, “Anyone who cares about free speech has been sent a clear message: You’re not welcome on Twitter.” He also called the ban “cowardly.”

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Michael Josephson: Parents are teachers first

  When John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach, referred to the last game he “ever taught,” he was asked about this phrasing. He said simply that a coach is first and foremost a teacher who should not only improve his players’ athletic skills, but also help them become better people. And he was a superb teacher whose lasting influence is reflected in the values he instilled, not the championships he won.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Maggie Jo Buchanan: Anti-choice efforts to divide women

  For decades, anti-choice politicians have sought to erode women’s reproductive rights by structuring legislation in a way that allows some women to access comprehensive reproductive care, while blocking others from doing so. These efforts implicitly divide women into distinct groups in order to help many opponents of choice advance their ultimate goal of ending access for every woman in an incremental, more politically palatable manner.

  Two cases that went before the U.S. Supreme Court this past term—Zubik v. Burwell and Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt—also demonstrate the anti-choice movement’s systematic efforts to divide women into groups and limit each group’s rights step by step.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Craig Ford: Gov. Bentley has doomed the special session before it even begins

  Members of the Alabama Legislature were treated to a bit of déjà vu this week when we found out through the newspaper – and not directly from Gov. Bentley – that the governor is planning to call the legislature back into a special legislative session within the next month or two.

  Last summer, Gov. Bentley used a similar strategy (he called it using “the element of surprise”) when he called the legislature back to Montgomery without talking with legislators or reaching any kind of agreement on any issues. Needless to say, nothing was accomplished in that special legislative session. In fact, the legislature met on the first day and immediately “recessed” for a month to buy some time to try to work out a solution.

  Now here we are again. The governor has said he will call a special session without talking with any legislators and without reaching any compromises. He hasn’t even proposed any solutions of his own for legislators to consider, and the House of Representatives has no leader yet to negotiate a solution even if the governor had offered one.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Mitch McConnell: A legacy of obstruction

  Tuesday marked 125 days since President Barack Obama nominated D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Merrick Garland, an eminently qualified judge, to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. The Senate’s inaction on the Garland nomination is the longest a Supreme Court nominee has ever waited for a hearing or confirmation. When the Senate, led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), reconvenes in September, the wait for a vote—let alone a hearing—will have grown to 176 days.

  The blame for this unprecedented delay can largely be placed at the feet of Sen. McConnell. Under his leadership, the Senate has refused to do its job of offering advice and consent on the nominee. Moreover, by this and other actions—or more rightly put, inaction—Sen. McConnell has all but sealed his legacy as an obstructionist.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: 2016 - The big picture

  Sometimes when I observe national politics I am enthralled by the magnificent creation of our American government. When our forefathers founded our democracy, it was grounded in British parliamentarian philosophy with a unique American blend, which of course omitted a monarchy. Now, 240 years later, it is a very representative democracy.

  As our founders designed, we have three very independent and equally important branches of government - Executive, Judicial and Legislative. The Executive Branch is the most visible with the election of a U.S. President every four years. In earlier times, military men ascended to the presidency. George Washington was first and foremost a general. Our last military Chief Executive was Ike Eisenhower.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Jacob G. Hornberger: What if ISIS were to win?

  For the past few years, the American people have been exhorted by the U.S. national-security state to be obsessed with ISIS, the brutal organization that is fighting to achieve political power in Iraq, Syria, and Libya, the three countries that, not coincidentally, have been targets of regime change by the U.S. national-security state.

  Today, ISIS is constantly on the minds of millions of Americans. “We have to stop ISIS!” the battlecry goes. “We have to stop them from winning.”

  So, today, more than 10 years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, there are almost 5,000 U.S. troops back in Iraq. Their mission? To stop ISIS from winning in Iraq.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Wendy McElroy: Six steps in analyzing political issues

  Every political issue can be analyzed or argued on at least six levels. The levels are usually conflated, but they should be addressed separately even when there is overlap. Otherwise, confusion rather than clarity results. Indeed, sometimes the only way to make sense of a disagreement is to peel away the layers and inspect them one by one. The gender “wage gap” issue illustrates this dynamic.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Sam Fulwood III: When words fail us

  Words fail.

  After the absolute horror of two black men being shot by police in separate incidents more than a week ago, the aftermath of both recorded in all-too-real and all-too-graphic cell phone videos, what more is there to say?

  Alton Sterling, 37, died in the early morning hours of July 5 after police shot and killed him outside a Baton Rouge, Louisiana, convenience store. An onlooker captured the incident on video.

  The next day, another black man, Philando Castile, 32, was fatally shot in suburban St. Paul, Minnesota, by an officer who stopped him for driving with a busted taillight. Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, captured the moments immediately after the shooting in an excruciating video that circled the globe on social media.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Steven Bucci: Growing ballistic missile threats cannot be ignored

  China, Russia, Iran, North Korea—all are U.S. adversaries, and all are making remarkable and continual advances in long-range ballistic missile capabilities.  Maintaining and modernizing our upper-tier missile defense system has never been more vital in order for the U.S. to be able to win on the future war landscape.

  Repeated cuts to the U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) budget over the last eight years have already put us behind where we should be.  Moreover, the entire BMD enterprise has been retarded by leaders who reject a modern view of how technology should be developed and deployed.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Anti-gay conversion therapy plank should not be part of GOP platform

  The Southern Poverty Law Center strongly condemns the possible inclusion of an anti-gay, conversion therapy plank in the Republican Party platform that will be adopted at the party’s convention next week.

  Modern science has entirely and thoroughly debunked conversion therapy – a term used to describe the discredited practices that purportedly can change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1518: I am afraid, but I summon my courage

  Every time I am stopped by law enforcement, I’m afraid. I recently shared this fear with a friend who is White. He said he understood, but it is very hard for most Whites to understand what it is like to be stopped by law enforcement when you are Black. I understand that difficulty, so I want to share why I’m afraid in spite of being a lawyer, a state senator, a graduate of Talladega College and Harvard Law School, a father of three lawyers, a husband of a lawyer, a grandfather of nine, and a senior citizen. I am afraid, but I summon my courage.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The race is on

  As if we have not been inundated enough with politics this year, hold on to your seats. Over the next few weeks that is all you will hear, read or see. The Republican Convention is set for July 18-22 in Cleveland, and the Democratic Convention will begin on July 25 in Philadelphia.

  After a full year of primaries, caucuses and delegate collecting, the field is finally set for the fall campaign for president. After the July conventions are over, the race is on between Democrat Hillary Clinton and the Republican standard bearer, Donald Trump.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Robert E. Moffit: Here's how Congress can save Medicare

  When will Medicare’s hospital insurance trust fund run out of money? A newly released report from the Medicare Trustees says it will be exhausted in 2028—two years earlier than they projected last year. Using slightly different assumptions, the Congressional Budget Office earlier predicted that the trust fund would be insolvent by 2026.

  No matter how you slice it, the fund meets neither short-term nor long-term standards of “financial adequacy” (to use the trustees’ term). But the Trust Fund’s precarious financial state is merely the symptom of a more serious problem: the growth of Medicare spending and financial burdens on seniors and taxpayers.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Justice still waits: The nondecisions of an 8-Justice Supreme Court

  Since Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February 2016, the country has suffered at the hands of an obstructionist Senate that refuses to do its constitutional duty to offer advice and consent on filling the U.S. Supreme Court judicial vacancy. After senators initially threatened obstruction on anyone whom President Barack Obama nominates, the Center for American Progress released an issue brief that estimated that more than 100 million Americans could be affected by the lack of a ninth justice. CAP warned that if the threatened obstruction continues through two Supreme Court terms, it could damage the Court’s ability to rule on key issues.

  But the nation did not have to wait until the 2016 term to see the impact of the Senate’s unprecedented obstruction. The vacancy has already damaged the Court’s status as the final arbiter of critical legal issues and constitutional questions that affect millions of lives.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Gene Policinski: Let’s keep the Fourth going all year long

  The red, white and blue bunting is down, the flags are furled and the last of the fireworks have been sent aloft. And for far too many of us, that surge of patriotic fervor and effort found around July Fourth goes back into metaphorical storage for another year.

  Not that millions of our fellow citizens suddenly turn anti-American on July 5 — far from it. Americans wear their love of country on their collective sleeves all year long, and on license plates, t-shirts and knickknacks galore.

  But there is a sudden, dramatic falloff in the depth of attention we give to our nation. Back to work, back to play, back to the daily grind — and largely out of sight, out of mind are the spectacular, amazing, literally revolutionary messages that these United States have proclaimed since 1776 in the Declaration of Independence, since 1789 in the Constitution and since 1791 in the Bill of Rights: A respect for “inalienable” rights, a commitment to a strong central government restrained by the rule of law, and a profound pledge to honor the basic rights of its citizens.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Craig Ford: The next Speaker of the House should not be chosen behind closed doors

  When former Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard was convicted on 12 felony counts of corruption, he was immediately removed from office. Now, the state House of Representatives must elect a new speaker.

  The Alabama Constitution requires legislators to hold a public vote to elect the next speaker, but the reality is that unless there is a public outcry, the next Speaker of the House will have already been chosen in a private meeting held behind closed doors months before the legislature returns to Montgomery.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1517: The long, long, long reach of slavery

  Slavery has a long, long, long reach. Its reach is so long, it stretches across years, generations, and centuries. It not only reaches and touches, but grabs and holds. Let’s look at a few examples from the Alabama Slave Code to see the codified sources.  

  Slavery has a long, long, long reach. It grabs and holds education. Let’s look at Slave Code #31. It reads as follows: “Anyone who attempts to teach a free person of color or slave to spell, read, or write will be fined between $250 and $500 dollars.” In today’s money, that is between $7,250 and $14,500. Those fines are, by far, the largest in the Slave Code. Alabama was really serious about making certain that Black people, whether free or enslaved, did not learn to spell, read, or write.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Sam Fulwood III: Americans must understand that a bullet has all of our names on it

  By any measure of civil rationality, the plague of gun violence in America is out of control. Almost daily and across the nation, the body count of people wounded or killed rises like the mercury in a thermometer under a summer sun. Every weekend, for example, news reporters in Chicago and Washington, D.C., track shootings and deaths in what has become a morbidly routine tally.

  These daily accounts read like a police blotter—all cool details and dry facts. The stories are devoid of the emotional wallop that surely fills the hearts of the family and friends who knew and loved the victims. There is little humanity shared in the description of the lives crippled or ended by a bullet.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Mike Hubbard: What's next?

  The conviction and downfall of Alabama Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard is the political story of the year. It has not been the most profound conviction of an Alabama public official in my lifetime. We have had two governors convicted of crimes while in office and removed in fairly recent years, Guy Hunt a Republican, and Don Siegelman a Democrat. Siegelman is still in federal prison in Louisiana. However, Hubbard’s trial has been the most anticipated and most dramatic.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Jacob G. Hornberger: Federal drug enforcement tyranny in Colorado and Washington

  Although Colorado and Washington have legalized the sale and possession of marijuana for recreational purposes, possession and distribution of the drug remain a crime under federal law.

  However, the U.S. government, including the DEA, has been exempting the residents of those two states from federal drug law enforcement.

  That is obviously a good thing for people selling or consuming marijuana in those two states. However, it is not a good thing when it comes to the rule of law and the principle of equal treatment under law.

Monday, July 4, 2016

This Independence Day, celebrate religious liberty for all

  Millions of Americans have gathered with family, friends, and neighbors to celebrate Independence Day today. But the July 4th weekend has long been about more than just barbeques and fireworks. It is also a chance for Americans to reflect on the nation’s fundamental values and celebrate fundamental American freedoms, including what many call the first freedom: religious liberty.

  This year, Independence Day coincides with the end of Ramadan—the Islamic holy month when Muslims worldwide fast from dawn to sunset. However, Ramadan includes more than just abstaining from food and drink. During this month, Muslims strive to come closer to God by performing charitable acts, mending broken relationships, and building character while practicing self-discipline. Ramadan can be a challenging month for Muslims to observe, not only because of the long, hot days of fasting but also because of the constant scrutiny, discrimination, and hate crimes that Muslims face today from bigoted individuals in the media, politics, and the general public. These daily aggressions offer a stark reminder that religious liberty is not a reality for all in the nation.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Michael Josephson: Enough is enough

  What does it take to make you happy? How much do you have to have to be grateful?

  To the barefoot man, happiness is a pair of old shoes. To the man with old shoes, it’s a pair of new shoes. To the man with new shoes, it’s more stylish shoes. And, of course, the fellow with no feet would be happy to be barefoot.

  This leads to the ancient insight: If you want to be happy, count your blessings, not your burdens. Measure your life by what you have, not by what you don’t.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Gene Policinski: Join in the fireworks: The ones you watch or the ones around freedom

  This year’s State of the First Amendment national survey (SOFA), conducted in partnership with USA TODAY, does more than just sample our attitudes about those five core freedoms – it also may show just how those freedoms can work.

  Overall, the survey’s specific findings tilt to the positive on the First Amendment, thankfully. But there also are a few signs that we and our fellow citizens can do a better job of supporting freedom, or even knowing its components.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1516: Struggling to be a better father

  Father’s Day is always hard for me. It makes me focus on my failures as a father. Every bit of praise enlarges my failures rather than lifting my successes. I know it’s strange, but that’s the way it is for me on Father’s Day.

  Most of my children think I am a good father. I know because they say so on various occasions. I believe they really think that I am a good father. They would not lie about such a thing; they would simply not say anything. I am sure my daughters think that I am a good father. I am not as sure if my son thinks the same. There are others who say that I have been a good father to them even though we do not share the same blood line. I know they all mean what they say, but I know how much I fall short as a father. Father’s Day is always hard for me.