Saturday, December 31, 2016

Michael Josephson: Change your attitude and change your life

  The tradition of making New Year’s Resolutions reflects one the very best qualities of human nature – the ability to reflect on and assess our lives in terms of the goals we set for ourselves and the principles we believe in. It’s still not too late to formulate a self-improvement plan to make our outer lives and inner selves better by adopting more positive attitudes, living up to our highest values, and strengthening our relationships.

  Start with your attitudes, the way you think and feel about important things like your job, the people in your life, and, of course, yourself.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Sharon Shahid: Notable front pages in 2016

  2016 will be remembered as the year of losses, upsets and upset victories. The sports world suffered the loss of one its greatest athletes — heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali — and saw the end of the longest title drought in Major League Baseball. The rest of the world witnessed the passing of icon after icon, and was caught off guard as populism swept the globe, and country after country became the latest venue for the worst mass shootings or terrorist acts in history.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

David L. Hudson Jr.: First Amendment freedoms need “breathing space”

  “Breathing space” remains one of the most important concepts in First Amendment phraseology and jurisprudence. Government officials should not create an atmosphere or pass laws where individuals are chilled from speaking out and expressing their ideas. Oftentimes, more questionable speech is protected in order to provide “breathing space” for other expression.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Icons we lost in 2016

  At the close of every year my tradition is to acknowledge the passing of significant political players in Alabama. We have truly lost some political icons in the Heart of Dixie this year.

  Lucy Baxley passed away in October in Birmingham at 78. She was born on a farm in rural Houston County in the community of Pansy. She went to school at Ashford. After graduation from high school she went to work at the courthouse in Dothan and worked for Judge Keener Baxley.

  When Judge Baxley’s son, Bill, got elected attorney general in 1970, young Bill Baxley asked Lucy to come to Montgomery to be his administrative assistant. Eight years later she and Bill married. She was an integral part of Baxley’s first campaign for governor in 1978.  Bill became Alabama Lieutenant Governor in 1982, then lost in the race for governor in 1986.  Soon, thereafter, Bill and Lucy ended their ten year marriage.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Aman Tumukur Khanna: The strange customs and traditions of New Year

  The New Year is celebrated with much gaiety, enthusiasm and happiness all over the world, and there are many customs and traditions, even superstitions attached to the celebrations. Some of them are unique and interesting while some of them are rather strange and weird!

  The underlying theme of celebrating the New Year is looking forward to a period of happiness, good fortune, prosperity and good health, and putting behind a time of conflicts, mistakes and worries. Fireworks, music, dancing, parades, and feasting are all common across various cultures and faiths. The one shared belief globally is that specific actions taken on New Year's Day or at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve when one minute merges into the other, greatly influence how the New Year unfolds.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Michael Josephson: The seven Cs of character

  As you consider your goals for the New Year, I hope you’ll think about working on your character. No, you’re not too old and I don’t mean to imply you’re a bad person. As I’ve said often, “you don’t have to be sick to get better.” In fact, it’s a lot easier to make a good person better than a bad person good.

  The struggle to be better takes place during our daily choices.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Cameron Findlay: Christmas traditions around the world

The Democratic Republic of Congo

  On Christmas Eve, churches hold musical evenings and a nativity play which often goes on all night. The plays begin with the creation of the Garden of Eden and ends with King Herod killing all baby boys, with the birth of the baby Jesus timed for midnight. On Christmas Day, carol singers walk through the villages before they return home to make the final preparations for their outfits and offerings for the Christmas service.

South Africa

  Christmas in South Africa is celebrated as it is in much of the western world with one exception - as Christmas Day falls during the middle of the country's summer, it is spent outside. Once the heat of the day has subsided, families flock to the beach to light their grills and cook. South Africans see Boxing Day as a day of charity, a day where boxes of food and clothing are gathered up and given to the poor.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Renee Lee: Retail - why I hate Christmas

  I work in retail, therefore, I hate Christmas. Yes, that's what I said: I HATE CHRISTMAS. People often cluck their tongues and shake their heads in appalled disbelief when I tell them this, and then they often follow up the shaking of their heads with the same response: "I love Christmas because people are nicer to each other."

  Obviously these people do not and have never worked in a grocery store during the holiday season. Wherever these kinder, gentler folk are, they definitely aren't anywhere near my place of employment. Of course, I work at the customer service desk, which on any given day, is over-crowded with pissed off patrons demanding refunds and making general threats in order to get free food. During the holidays, this volatile behavior inevitably increases twofold, only to be compounded by the insane repetition of the Muzak in the background playing the 975th version of "White Christmas."

Friday, December 23, 2016

Liz Kennedy: Trump’s dangerous, unprecedented, and unconstitutional conflicts of interest

  President-elect Donald J. Trump’s private business holdings present foreign and domestic conflicts of interest that are severe and unprecedented for an American president. Last week, instead of getting clarity about the president-elect’s plans to address these conflicts of interest in a long-promised press conference, Americans were left with little more that another vague pledge about transferring operations and nothing about transferring ownership. As the office in charge of overseeing executive branch ethics noted, this is wholly inadequate. To protect the interests of the American people and the integrity of the presidency, Trump must resolve his conflicts of interest or resign from office.

  As it stands, Trump will be in violation of the Constitution the day he takes office because a key anti-foreign corruption provision, the Emoluments Clause, bars the president from receiving payments or things of value from foreign states or their agents. As America’s founders understood, if foreign governments can give payments to federal officials, then those federal officials can be bought.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Craig Ford: Remembering Christmas

  What does Christmas mean to you? It’s a question that will probably get a different answer from every person you ask. Every family has their own traditions and customs that make Christmas unique to them.

  Of course, certain things about Christmas are universal. For every Christian, Christmas is a time when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. He is literally the reason for the season; the “Christ” in “Christmas.”

  But even many who aren’t Christians still celebrate Christmas and embrace its values.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Looking back and looking forward

  Historically speaking, Alabamians have been more interested in the governor’s race than presidential politics.

  From 1876 to 1964, we were a totally Democratic state, more so out of tradition than philosophy. The hatred for the radical Republican Reconstruction imposed on the South made an indelible mark on white southern voters. It was so instilled that there are a good many stories told throughout the South where a dying grandfather would gather his children and grandchildren around his deathbed and gaspingly admonish them, “Two things I’m gonna tell y’all before I die – don’t ever sell the family farm and don’t ever vote for a damn Republican.”

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Infrastructure of the Great Outdoors

  Millions of Americans who visit national parks, live near national forests, or make their living from the enjoyment and use of America’s public lands now face deep uncertainty about how President-elect Donald Trump plans to manage the nation’s natural resources. These roughly 5.5 million square miles of public lands and ocean amount to a valuable system of natural infrastructure, which each president is tasked with governing. While on the campaign trail, President-elect Trump indicated a measure of commitment to protecting public lands, but it remains to be seen whether he will manage these resources on behalf of all Americans.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Michael Josephson: 12 hard-won life changing insights

  Perhaps the only major advantage of getting older is the prospect of getting wiser. I think I’ve learned a great many things over the years but here are a dozen of my most treasured insights.

1) I am still a work in process; that as long as I can think I can learn.

2) I still have a lot to learn but if I keep learning I will get better; and the better I get, the happier I will be.

3) Trying to be a good person doesn’t get any easier and that being a good person often requires me to do the right thing even when it costs more than I want to pay.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1540: Jeff Sessions cannot do justice as head of the Justice Department

  It was March of 1986. I was in Washington, D.C. before the Senate Judiciary Committee testifying against the nomination of Jefferson Beauregard Session for Federal District Judge. His nomination was not confirmed. Now, some 30 years later, we are faced with his nomination again. This time, it’s for United States Attorney General to head the U.S. Justice Department. This governmental agency helps pick all nominees for federal judges, U.S. attorneys and some other positions. More importantly, the Attorney General is charged with doing justice for all. In my opinion, Jeff Sessions cannot do justice as head of the Justice Department.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Romina Boccia: Home-sharing under attack

  Many homeowners and renters are using platforms like Airbnb, VRBO, and HomeAway to make extra cash. On a short-term basis, they rent out spare rooms in their homes — maybe even the entire house or apartment — to out-of-towners to help make the monthly mortgage or rent. Only a small minority of these providers are “pros,” buying up properties for the sole purpose of renting them out on home-sharing platforms.

  The real pros, however — hotel chains and hotel workers’ unions — don’t like this upstart competition. They’re working to get home-sharing banned or effectively regulated out of existence.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Laurence M. Vance: Trump sends property rights up in flames

  Alongside Catholicism and Protestantism, the primary religion in the United States is not Islam or Judaism but the American civic religion. The Pledge of Allegiance is the creed of this religion and the American flag is its chief symbol.

  In the American civic religion, the worst sin that an American can commit is to refuse to pledge allegiance to the flag or to desecrate it. Federal law contains numerous provisions regarding the use, handling, display, and disposal of the flag.

  After some college students recently burned American flags on their campuses, President-elect Donald Trump tweeted, “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag — if they do, there must be consequences — perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!”

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1539: Walking is so powerful

  Walking is so powerful. I don’t mean the placing of one foot in front of the other. I don’t mean taking one step at a time. These acts may be powerful in their own right, but I mean something more. I mean all the things that walking does for the human body, human mind and human spirit. With all the challenges of this ten-county Senate District I represent, I need every bit of power walking provides. Walking is so powerful.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Gearing up for Alabama politics in 2017

  While the presidential race played out this year, several things happened in Alabama politics that went under the radar.

  First, a federal appeals court upheld the Alabama Legislature’s measure that bans PAC to PAC transfers. The new Republican legislative majority that marched into the Statehouse in 2011 set out to destroy and bury the last bastion of Democratic power in the state – the once omnipotent Alabama Education Association. They succeeded.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Jacob G. Hornberger: The coming economic fascism

  The recent efforts by President-elect Donald Trump and Vice-President-elect Mike Pence against Carrier Corp. provide us with a signpost of the economic fascism that lies ahead after both men take office. Whatever might be said about economic fascism, one thing is for sure: it is contrary to the principles of economic liberty, private property, the free market, and the rule of law.

  Targeting Carrier for daring to move some of its operations to Mexico, Pence, as governor of Indiana, offered the company a package of tax incentives to induce the company to keep some of its operations in Indiana. At the same time, Trump announced that as president he will punish any American company that moved abroad with the imposition of a high tariff on any goods it wished to ship into the United States.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza: Making justice equal

  Access to justice is now more critical than ever. In the United States, Americans need a lawyer’s help for everything from avoiding an unjust eviction to preventing a wrongful conviction. Yet, effective legal assistance remains out of reach for the majority of Americans. The gap between legal needs and the services available exacerbates systemic inequities and disadvantages that will only grow over the next four years.

  For two years, Mary Hicks paid $975 per month for a run-down Washington, D.C., apartment. When she contacted the landlord about mold and mildew in the bathroom and holes in the walls, he did nothing. After Mary began to withhold rent, her landlord sued her.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Charles C. Haynes: Standing Rock: Historic win for Native American religious freedom

  On December 4, the two-year struggle by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to protect their sacred land and water ended – at least for now – when the Obama administration denied the easement needed to complete the Dakota Access Pipeline.

  The cancelled route, located one-half mile from the tribe’s reservation in North and South Dakota, would have allowed the pipeline to cross under the Missouri River, an action that the tribe believes would threaten their life-giving water and destroy sacred sites.

  Human rights advocates are savoring the moment. In the long, ugly history of persecution, exploitation, broken treaties, unkept promises and adverse court decisions, the victory at Standing Rock is a rare win for Native American religious freedom.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

SPLC prompts 50 Alabama cities to reform discriminatory bail practices

  Fifty cities in Alabama have changed their bail practices to ensure that poor people charged with minor offenses no longer languish in jail when they can’t afford to post bond – reform that comes after the Southern Poverty Law Center urged municipal courts across the state to end practices that unfairly punish the poor.

  The 50 cities collectively account for 40 percent of the state’s population.

  Instead of incarcerating people who don’t have money to post bond for minor infractions such as loitering, littering, disorderly conduct, and driving with a suspended license, the cities are either releasing them with a court date or taking into account their ability to pay before imposing bond.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Jacob G. Hornberger: The problem is foreign interventionism, not Muslims

  With Donald Trump’s accession to the presidency, the U.S. anti-Muslim crusade is going into full swing. According to an article in the November 14 issue of the Washington Post, hate crimes against Muslims hit their highest level since 2001. An article in the Post last week stated that four mosques have received letters stating that Trump will do to Muslims what Hitler “did to the Jews.”

  Ever since the 9/11 attacks, religious bigots have used that event as the excuse to go after Muslims. The problem with their mindset — or at least one problem with their mindset — is that they're letting their religious bigotry prevent them from recognizing that the root cause of anti-American terrorism is not based on religion but instead on the U.S. government’s interventionist foreign policy in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Craig Ford: New buildings won't solve Alabama's prison problem

  Prisons could be the issue that defines the Alabama Legislature in 2017. Gov. Robert Bentley has said he may call a special session to address the issue, and he has indicated that he will revive the prison construction bill he first proposed in his 2016 State of the State address.

  In recent years, numerous lawsuits have been filed relating to the conditions in our prisons. Violence and riots have increased as the number of corrections officers has decreased, and even the federal government has begun an investigation of violence, rape and overcrowding in our prisons.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Ethics law could stifle charitable giving

  It is Christmas time, and since Alabama is one of the most charitable states in the nation, I would expect that many of us are in the giving mood and plan to help many worthy causes across our great state. Unfortunately, it appears that some recent rulings by the Alabama Ethics Commission are going to make it more difficult for charities across the state to raise the funds that they need to serve our communities.

  Many charities in Alabama are concerned that an unintended consequence of recent Commission interpretations of the ethics law is that it could restrict the ability of public officials and employees and their family members to be involved in fundraising for charities and other organizations that they support, including public schools and universities.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1538: Culture is pervasive, powerful, stealthy and long lasting

  Culture is pervasive. Culture is powerful. Culture is stealthy. Culture is long lasting. Culture is the vessel that transmits our values. Culture determines so much about us. And we don’t even know it’s happening to us. I was reminded of the power of culture a few weeks ago.

  We gathered in our hometown of Bay Minette, Ala., for our annual Thanksgiving reunion. There were 13 children born into the family, but one died as a baby and the other died in Vietnam at the age of 22. Nine of the eleven living children gathered with their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Other relatives and friends came including children of the two siblings who did not come. We learned so much about and from each other. Culture is pervasive.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Jacob G. Hornberger: The Cuban embargo destroyed Americans’ freedom

  Amidst increasing speculation that President-elect Trump is going to reverse the Obama administration’s attempts to normalize relations with Cuba, this would be a good time for Americans to start pushing back against any further destruction of their rights and liberties at the hands of their own government. A good place to start pushing back is by standing firm in favor of a lifting of the decades-long failed, deadly, and destructive U.S. economic embargo against Cuba.

  In the Declaration of Independence, a document whose principles Americans celebrate every Fourth of July, Thomas Jefferson observed that everyone has fundamental, God-given rights with which no government can legitimately interfere.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Michael Josephson: Surviving critical relatives at family gatherings

  I realize that not everyone lives in a Norman Rockwell world where family gatherings are sources of warmth and good memories. For some, the prospect of holiday get-togethers generates dread and anxiety; they are something to endure, not enjoy.

  One reason is that family members can be tactless and downright cruel when expressing their opinions about perceived foibles, flaws and failures of their relatives, especially in-laws. Often comments are so laden with negative judgment that they could make the Grinch wince. Whether motivated by well-intentioned, but misdirected, love and concern, or by malice, insensitive or unkind words are like spears to the heart.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Craig Ford: Alabama’s public schools do not "suck"

  Gov. Robert Bentley made headlines a few weeks ago when he told an audience at a public forum that our public school system “sucks.”

  But Governor Bentley is wrong about our public school system.

  Alabama’s high school graduation rate rose 18 percent between 2011 and 2015. Today, 89.3 percent of students graduate high school in Alabama: the third highest graduation rate in the country!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Sam Fulwood III: Embracing an accurate depiction of the American story

  In the wake of the presidential election, one theme in the postmortem emerges very clearly: Our land is starkly divided. The divisions cut through us on so many levels; we’re separated along axes of black and white; men and women; urban and rural; affluent and poor. And that’s just to name a few.

  As The New York Times’ Tim Wallace wrote: “For many Americans, it feels as if the 2016 election split the country in two.” Indeed, this idea of “Two Americas” isn’t new. Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards made national headlines with a famous speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, in which he declared, “The truth is, we still live in a country where there are two different Americas.”

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Gene Policinski: Back to the “basics” in a new way

  There’s no one “key” to why so many believe that journalists missed the rise and election of Donald Trump as president — and that’s a good thing to keep in mind for the future.

  There’s no easy answer to why so many Americans are so critical of the press, so distrustful of news reports and so convinced — particularly post-election — that journalists are out of step and out of touch.

  And yet, a fair amount of speculation in print and on television — including great gobs of gassy talk show speculation — seems focused around ideas that it was Facebook foolishness, retweets of “fake news” or even “the death of facts” that were responsible for Trump’s rise from pre-primary punch line to being president-elect.