Friday, September 30, 2016

Michael Josephson: Moral courage — The engine of integrity

  Mignon McLaughlin tells us, “People are made of flesh and blood and a miracle fiber called courage.”

  Courage comes in two forms: physical courage and moral courage. Physical courage is demonstrated by acts of bravery where personal harm is risked to protect others or preserve cherished principles. It’s the kind of courage that wins medals and monuments. Moral courage may seem less grand but it is more important because it’s needed more often.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1529: It’s easy to take strong positions when others bear the burden

  I answered the phone with a big, “Hey!”  

  “How are you?” he said.

  “I just called to see how you are doing.” I could tell by the rhythm of his voice that it was much more than concern for me.  I inquired about his well-being. I thought that I was prepared for anything.

  Let me say up front that I will not mention the young man’s name. He lives hundreds of miles from Alabama. I really want to protect his identity. However, I need to share this discussion because it touches on so many issues.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Tales from the Elite

  Alabama’s most famous political restaurant and watering hole for 50 years was Montgomery’s Elite Restaurant. Until it closed around 1995, the Elite (pronounced “E-light”) was the place to eat and be seen. Many a political deal was struck at its back tables.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

25 years of of Roy Moore's unconstitutional efforts to mix law and religion

  Since his appointment as a state circuit judge in 1992, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore has put his personal religious views above the law and the U.S. Constitution, frequently bringing religion into the courtroom and basing judicial opinions on his Biblical beliefs. He has been removed from office once for disobeying the federal judiciary on the matter, and now he again faces a trial for violating judicial ethics for refusing to recognize federal court rulings on same-sex marriage. Here is a timeline of events leading up to the September 28 trial in the Alabama Court of the Judiciary.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Alexandra Thornton: Tax simplification that works for everyone

  The idea of simplifying the U.S. tax code is perennially appealing. Yet proposals to simplify the tax code often promise more than they can deliver, by dramatically changing the balance of who pays taxes or significantly reducing tax receipts needed to fund government services.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Michael Josephson: The power of kindness

  I’ve mentioned before that, despite my great admiration for people who are instinctively and consistently kind, kindness does not come naturally to me. Yet the older I get, the more I agree with Abraham Heschel, who said, “When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people.” Henry James was more emphatic when he said, “Three things in human life are important: The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.”

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Craig Ford: VictoryLand reopening is a victory for democracy

  I have always believed that gambling is an issue that should be decided by the voters. And I will never understand why, in the middle of the biggest economic recession our country has seen since the Great Depression, our state leaders chose to put hundreds of people out of work and shut down legally operating casinos throughout the state.

  The legal battles that followed have cost the taxpayers millions of dollars and cost the state millions more in lost revenue that would have been coming in from the taxes paid by these casinos and their employees.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Racial and gender diversity sorely lacking in America’s courts

  This month a group of African American voters sued Alabama under the Voting Rights Act, alleging that its system of at-large elections for the state’s three appellate courts discriminates against black voters. Since 1994, every black candidate for the state’s 19 appellate judgeships has lost to a white candidate. As ThinkProgress noted, “At-large elections have been a common tactic across the country” to minimize the political influence of voters of color. A similar lawsuit was recently filed in Texas. Around 40 percent of Texas’ population is Latino, yet only 5 of the 76 justices who have served on the Texas Supreme Court since 1945—a mere 6.6 percent—have been Latino.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1528: God is still at work

  I was standing in the pulpit of the Pleasant Hill Baptist Church. I was both pained and pleased. I was pained because it was a memorial service for a woman who died so very young. I was pleased to be there for her family and others on the 45th anniversary of her death. As I stood, I decided to talk to the person being memorialized. I was moving by the spirit.

  Margaret Ann Knott is her name. She died at the tender age of 19. On 9/11 in the year 1971, she and others were protesting the discriminatory firing of Black teachers in Choctaw County, Alabama. A White man angrily drove his car into the group of youth, snuffing out the life of Margaret Ann Knott. That’s what brought us to this memorial moment on September 11, 2016. Here is some of what I said or intended to say or tried to say.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Reflections on the special session

  Folks, I have been observing and participating in the legislative process for over 50 years. Lest you think I am really old, I started paging in the Alabama Legislature when I was 12, served in the House of Representatives close to two decades, and have been reporting on the legislative process for now close to two decades, and I am here to tell you I have not seen a more up and down roller coaster ride than the recently completed special session to deal with the lottery issue.

  Extraordinary special sessions of the legislature are the way to go to get something accomplished if you are governor. The legislature has to address the topic for which the governor has called the special session. It is referred to as “the call.”

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Michael Josephson: The truth about trust and lies

  Honesty may not always pay, but lying always costs.

  Reputation, trust and credibility are assets no organization can afford to lose and the surest way to lose them is to lie.

  Building trust is like building a tower, stone by stone. But no matter how high or strong the tower seems, if you remove a stone from the bottom the tower will collapse. That’s what lying does — it removes the foundation stone of trust.

Monday, September 19, 2016

L.C. Holt from ‘You’re Next’ completes first feature film

  Known by horror fans for his acting work in films such as You’re Next, V/H/S 2 and Pop Skull, L.C.
Holt has stepped behind the camera to write and direct his first feature film Spiritus.

  With the tagline “It’s lonely being dead,” the film tells the story of a troubled girl named Marjorie Hines. One year after her mysterious death, Marjorie’s tormented spirit returns to seek bloody vengeance on those responsible.

  “We were able to tell this story in an interesting, nonlinear way,” said Holt. “The story unfolds piece by piece as each of Marjorie’s friends, along with an unscrupulous documentary filmmaker, start to uncover secrets surrounding the circumstances of her death.”

Gene Policinski: Sometimes, it would seem, artificial intelligence… isn’t

  As we hurtle through the innovative and endlessly updated second decade of the 21st century, the prospects seem brighter and better than ever that our new web and social media tools will help us better communicate and more effectively confront serious challenges like terrorism.

  But then, there are the reminders that the Algorithmic Age is still in its infancy and that all the programming in the virtual world sometimes falls short of good old people brainpower. And therein are the early warning signs that tech companies need to take in consideration of free expression rights into the inevitable — and perhaps even desirable — tilt toward AI over human “editors” controlling the flow of information.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Rhonda Brownstein: Federal guidance for police in schools won’t stop criminalization of kids

  Earlier this month, the federal government offered guidance to school districts that use police officers to keep order in their public schools. To say guidance is needed is a vast understatement.

  Since the deployment of officers in schools became routine across the country, there’s been no shortage of reports about children being pepper-sprayed, handcuffed, roughed up and otherwise abused by officers – often for nothing more than typical adolescent behavior.

  In many jurisdictions, school officials have essentially turned over routine disciplinary matters to the police.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Jacob G. Hornberger: 9/11 evil did not cancel pre-9/11 evil

  Immediately after the 9/11 attacks, President Bush and other U.S. officials declared that the attackers were motivated by hatred for America’s freedom and values. It was a lie, one of the biggest ever told by U.S. officials. The truth was that the attackers were motivated by anger and rage over pre-9/11 U.S. government interventionism in the Middle East, especially the large number of people, including children, that the U.S. military and the CIA had been knowingly and intentionally killing in Iraq prior to 9/11.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Michael Josephson: Be what you want to be

  “What will you be when you grow up?”

  It’s a serious question. As kids, we knew we were going to be something and that to be something was to be someone. Even as our ambitions changed, we knew what we were going to be was important and our choice.

  When I entered UCLA Law School in 1964, I wanted to do good. Yet when I graduated three years later, I just wanted to do well. My life’s mission had changed, not as the result of conscious choice but as a surrender to the momentum of an elaborate matchmaking ritual: the ultimate competition to get job offers from the most prestigious employers and to attain the most hard-to-get jobs.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Craig Ford: Want to save the state money?

  Our state government has money problems.

  It’s the reason we keep calling the Alabama Legislature back into special legislative sessions year after year to fix problems that should have been fixed during the regular legislative sessions.

  It’s the reason we have racked up almost a billion dollars in debt.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: All politics is local

  There is no truer adage in the political world than “all politics is local.” Therefore, the best politics and the best governing in the state is at the local level. The mayors of cities and towns throughout Alabama are the real governors of the state.

  Running a city is a full time job. It is the where the rubber meets the road. They are the closest to the people. It is more important to the average voter whether their garbage has been picked up on time or their utility bill is too high, than if we build a wall to keep Mexicans out of Texas or that Hillary Clinton hid her emails. These mayors get blamed for the garbage not being picked up on time and especially if their water bill is too high.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1527: The Special Legislative Session drama

  It was the Final Act of the Special Legislative Session Drama. Was it good? Was it bad? Was it in between? I don’t know, but I am truly glad that this was the Final Act of this Special Legislative Session Drama.

  We had been major players in this Special Session Drama before. Let’s call it Act One and Act Two. We had expected this to be a One Act Drama ending on August 24. It did not. We then expected just one more act – Act Two. The Session was supposed to end on August 26. It did not. We were back for Act Three on Tuesday, September 6. It was supposed to end in one day. It did not. It did end on September 7, 2016. It was the Final Act of this Special Legislative Session Drama.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Sam Fulwood III: Football fever and patriotic fervor

  San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the playing of the national anthem before preseason NFL games has football fans—and nonfans—flapping their jaws about something that has nothing to do with punting, passing, or running. Rather, Kaepernick has sparked a debate about the meaning of protest and patriotism in sports.

  The playing of the national anthem is a pre-kickoff ritual that goes back decades, usually without notice or comment. In fact, Kaepernick’s silent protest drew little attention until he was asked about it after the third preseason game. According to an ESPN transcript of an interview with Kaepernick, the quarterback explained he was making a personal statement to draw attention to social injustices in America. He said:

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Michael Josephson: Moving beyond 9/11

  I’ve become increasingly ambivalent about the way we commemorate the dark days and months that began on September 11th, 2001.

  Each year the memories and all the feelings they evoke are less vivid. Thus, the news articles, commentaries and TV specials about the 9/11 attacks serve as important reminders, not only of the immeasurable loss of life and the permanent degradation of our sense of security, but of the lessons we should have learned from the events and its aftermath.

  Of course, it’s important and appropriate that we pause to honor with reverence and gratitude the lives lost and mangled and the noble efforts of those who struggled mightily to rescue them.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Craig Ford: Once again, the legislature has failed to let the people vote

  After nearly two decades of waiting, it seemed like the people of Alabama were finally going to get the chance to vote on a lottery.

  On July 27, Gov. Robert Bentley announced, “We need your help solving our funding crisis. I'm giving you the opportunity to vote on a statewide lottery.” And the governor deserves credit for pushing the lottery and getting farther than any other governor has since former Gov. Don Siegelman was in office.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Billy Corriher: Big Business is still dominating state Supreme Courts

  The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the billionaire Koch brothers, and their big business allies have engaged in a decades-long effort to elect pro-corporate judges to state courts. In 1971, a corporate lawyer named Lewis F. Powell Jr. wrote a secret memo to the chamber arguing that big business was under attack from institutions he perceived as liberal: academics, the media, college students, and politicians. He also cited the public’s support for legislation to protect consumers and the environment. Powell lamented that “few elements of American society today have as little influence in government as the American businessman, the corporation, or even the millions of corporate stockholders.” Powell suggested a solution:

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Jacob G. Hornberger: Should states control their borders?

  Given the decades-long, ongoing controversy over immigration, a question must naturally be asked: Should the states of the United States be given the authority to control their respective borders? That is, should they have the same power to control their borders that the federal government has to control the nation’s borders?

  To clarify, I’m not asking whether state borders should be abolished. I’m asking whether state governments should be empowered to control the free movements of goods and people from other states into their states.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The rising role of Jeff Sessions

  Throughout this year’s prodigious presidential selection process, our junior senator, Jeff Sessions, has been at the forefront. He has become the darling of the extreme right throughout the country. He is and has been one of the most conservative members of the U.S. Senate for close to two decades now. Throughout his tenure in the Senate, he has been consistently ranked as one of the five most conservative members of this august body.

  It is because of Sessions' staunch conservatism that he is probably the most popular major political figure in Alabama. He adroitly reflects the philosophy and values of arguably the most conservative state in America.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Sam Fulwood III: Stepping away from racism

  During a 1960 televised interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. decried, “One of the shameful tragedies [is] that 11 o’clock on Sunday morning is one of the most segregated hours, if not the most segregated hours, in Christian America.”

  Much in American life has changed in the more than half century since King argued that no Christian church could follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and remain segregated. Legal segregation of public facilities and transportation systems are no longer enshrined in law. Yet the intimacy and privacy of worship remains, for the most part, racially separate.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Charles C. Haynes: Genocide in Syria: Who lives, who dies, who cares?

  A controversial milestone was reached on August 29 when the U.S. government announced that 10,000 Syrian refugees have been resettled in our country so far this year, reaching the target set by the Obama administration for 2016.

  Calling this number “a floor, not a ceiling,” administration officials promised more to come as a steady trickle of Syrians make it through the rigorous two-year vetting process.

  Although the numbers are modest – one-fifth of one percent of the nearly 5 million Syrian refugees – 10,000 is far better than zero as advocated by some candidates during the presidential campaign.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Craig Ford: Alabama Senators killed the lottery - Will they kill the BP bill, too?

  The governor called the Alabama Legislature into a special legislative session this summer with two things in mind: pass a lottery and pass a spending plan for the BP oil spill settlement. So far, the legislature hasn’t done too well with passing either of these bills.

  The lottery came as close to passing as any lottery bill has since Gov. Don Siegelman’s bill went to the voters in 1999, and I’d like to commend the governor for his leadership on getting the bill through the House, even though I disagreed with the split in funding.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1525: A eulogy for Alabamians who did not have to die

  It was a eulogy for so many deceased human beings. It was a eulogy for so many deceased human beings whose names we don’t know. It was a eulogy for so many deceased human beings who we can’t say exactly when and where they died. It was a eulogy for so many deceased human beings who did not have to die. A eulogy, a eulogy, a eulogy.

  This funeral was unique. The place was the steps of the Alabama State House. The time was Wednesday, August 24, 2016 at 11:00 a.m. The names of the deceased were unknown. It was a unique eulogy at a unique funeral, a mock funeral. However, it was dead serious. The funeral dramatized the deaths of up to 1,800 Alabamians over the last three years. The entire funeral was a protest led by SOS (the Save Ourselves Movement for Justice and Democracy). It was a mock funeral, but the deaths were real. It was a mock funeral, but the emotions of the moment were real. A eulogy, a eulogy, a eulogy.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Jacob G. Hornberger: Sell Amtrak

  If we learned anything from the 20th century, it’s that socialism is a disaster. It never works. It never has worked. It  never will work. It is an inherently defective system.

  So, why is it then that Americans continue to embrace socialist programs?

  Among the best examples of this phenomenon is Amtrak, the government-owned and government-operated passenger train service.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Give states the freedom to regulate drones

  In late June, a drone nearly collided with an aircraft carrying 500-gallon buckets of water to douse a wildfire in southern Utah. Incidents like this have been used to feed the narrative that drones are so dangerous that they must be regulated by the feds, leaving no room for states to act on their own.

  Utah has disproved that claim.

  Within weeks of the near collision, Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed into law a bill dealing with drone interference in emergency firefighting operations. Utah’s prompt action shows that states can and do act to protect the public without prodding from or preemption by Washington.