Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Sam Fulwood III: Milo’s fall from a hateful summit

  Until recently, I’d never heard of Milo Yiannopoulos. How I wish that blissful ignorance had remained intact.

  Over the past several years, Yiannopoulos has developed a fanatic following among a minority of Americans who’ve embraced his nasty bleating on Breitbart. Had he been confined exclusively to Breitbart, I might not have ever become aware of him. Alas, he crossed my path this month, turning up like a lightening bug smashing into my social media windshield.

  The bombastic provocateur accepted a headline speaking gig at the American Conservative Union’s Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC. That didn’t sit too well with some of Yiannopoulos’ critics, of which I’ve learned there are legions. He seems to enjoy attracting controversy as a means to burnish his reputation and line his pocket. Yiannopoulos is an unlikely hero for the conservative political action group; he’s an openly gay man who delights in thumbing his nose at mainstream social conventions.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Laurence M. Vance: Vouchers, thy name is welfare

  Elisabeth “Betsy” DeVos — whose father-in-law is a co-founder of Amway, the multilevel marketing company, and whose brother is the founder of the notorious mercenary firm Blackwater — was confirmed by the U.S. Senate a few weeks ago to be the eleventh secretary of Education. Because two Republican senators — Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski — sided with the Democrats and voted against her nomination, Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote to confirm her.

  Liberals and progressives are strongly to opposed to DeVos because she is a long-time big donor to the Republican Party and conservative organizations, a religious and social conservative who has spent heavily on Christian conservative causes, and especially because she is a strong proponent of charter schools and educational vouchers.

  Charter schools are publicly funded but privately operated schools. DeVos has said that she wants every family to have “educational choice,” which is code for government vouchers that allow parents to send their children to private or religious schools of their choice, at public expense.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Joe Valenti: First prepaid cards, then the rest of your wallet

  The U.S. Congress has wasted no time rolling back Obama-era regulations affecting health, safety, and the environment, and Americans’ wallets may be next.

  Congress is expected to soon attempt a rollback of a new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFPB, rule on prepaid debit cards used by millions of Americans. Through a once-obscure law known as the Congressional Review Act, the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate can quickly vote to undo rules put in place by federal agencies and even block regulators from considering new ones.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Michael Josephson: The Media – Enemies or guardians of democracy

  Is the truth still important? I know I tread dangerous ground inserting myself into the growing conflict between President Trump and the media he has labeled the “enemy of the American people.”  Much wiser and more informed folks than me have responded to this charge which escalated substantially a continuous campaign to discredit news organizations that we have counted on to tell us what’s going on and to hold people in power accountable. The problem is more complicated than it seems, and the stakes are higher than many people realize. To be sure the businessification of major media organizations has blurred the line between news and entertainment.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1550: The past, present and future that binds us all together

  There is a nexus of the past and the present and the future. The past is very important. The present is extremely important. The future is critically important. Each is separate, and yet all are tied together. The nexus of past and the present and the future binds us together.

  The Bridge Crossing Jubilee is just two weeks away, commencing Thursday, March 2nd and running through March 6th. The National Voting Rights Celebration is already upon us. The future is rushing headlong toward us, and we don’t know what to do. The nexus of the past, the present and the future binds us together.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Sam Fulwood III: President Trump has cheapened the dignity of his office

  It hasn’t even been a full month yet, but many of us who pay close attention to Washington feel like the Trump administration has aged us a full decade. Every day begins with a fearful peek at President Donald Trump’s latest insomniac posting on Twitter.

  Who is he attacking today? A fashion retailer? Or the all-knowing purveyors of “fake news?” Perhaps a beloved civil rights leader and member of Congress? In a way, starting the day with Trump’s tweets is like reading the comics before the front-page news.

  As tempting as it might seem, however, the president’s online hijinks are no laughing matter. It’s serious business when the leader of the free world expresses pique and ire daily in 140 characters or less.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The twisting paths of Bentley and Strange

  As I have suggested to you, we are looking at one momentous 2018 election year, and it has already begun. Get this, folks, we have an open governor’s race. We have openings at Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, State Treasurer, Agriculture Commissioner, three seats on the Alabama Supreme Court, including the Chief Justice position, all 35 Alabama Senate seats, all 105 House seats, one hotly contested congressional seat, as well as 67 sheriffs. Folks, that’s the most political marquee year in my long political life. If media outlets do not make money next year, they ain’t ever gonna make any money.

  As though the aforementioned cavalcade was not enough of a circus, we’ve got ourselves an open U.S. Senate seat. I believe that Ringling Brothers Circus closed in deference to us in the Heart of Dixie and our roadshow Vaudeville act called Alabama politics.

  Governor Robert Bentley has been a great ringleader. He is quite a show. Poor ole Bentley has relegated himself to not only being irrelevant, but considered a clown as well.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Gene Policinski: At long last, the stuff of journalism

  The resignation of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. White House internal disputes that stall policy decisions. Even a mini-crisis involving North Korea.

  At long last: the stuff of journalism.

  After seeming eons of the squishiness of reporting on campaign claims and counter-claims, email investigations that went nowhere, and distractions including faux-home TV shopping pitches, late-night tweets and daytime insults, a free press is now in full-operating mode in the role that the nation’s founders intended: as a watchdog on government.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Michael Josephson: A tribute to Lincoln

  I wish we still celebrated Lincoln’s birthday. I’m an Abraham Lincoln groupie. By sheer good fortune, my son Justin was born on his birthday, my daughter Abrielle was named after him, and one of our dogs is named Lincoln. My favorite place in Washington D.C. is the Lincoln Memorial where I stand in awe of the magnificent eloquence of this self-educated, self-made man.

  His ability to empathize and his genuine caring for others is constantly revealed in his letters and speeches. And though he felt the pain of others as deeply as any man could, fate and duty made him commander in chief during our nation’s bloodiest war.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Jacob G. Hornberger: Trump and Duterte: Birds of a feather

  When it comes to the drug war, the verdict is in: The big, drain-the-swamp, anti-establishment president, Donald Trump, is turning out to be just like all the other mainstream establishment politicians. He made that clear last week in a speech before a group of law-enforcement officials, where he vowed to be “ruthless” in the war on drugs. Trump told the group:

     We’re going to stop the drugs from pouring in. We’re going to stop those drugs from poisoning our youth, poisoning our people. We’re going to be ruthless in that fight. We have no choice. And we’re going to take that fight to the drug cartels and work to liberate our communities from their terrible grip of violence.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1549: The Transformative power of Black history

  “That Black History stuff is just going to make Black people mad.” Both Whites and Blacks made variations of this expression to me many years ago. At the time, I could not really explain the fatal flaw in their reasoning. I can now because I know how Black History made me love, not hate.  I know how Black History made me peaceful, not mad.

  When I was a child, I was always angry, always overreacting, and always being mean. I did not understand my meanness at the time. I did not know that I was really angry with myself. Even when I came to this realization, I did not understand why I was so angry with myself. Black History helped me to understand myself, Black people and all people. Black History made me love, not hate. Black History made me peaceful, not mad.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Why Americans should care about Russian hacking

  Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election was an attack on the American people, threatening the integrity and legitimacy of the democratic process, as well as the outcome of the election. And yet, the Intelligence Community Assessment on Russian activity in the election found that this was but the most recent and aggressive expression to date of a longstanding Russian desire to sow chaos and instability in the United States. Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election should be a wake-up call to every American about the diverse ways in which Russian malicious cyberactivity could affect every aspect of their lives.

  The so-called information warfare campaign ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin during the election is part-and-parcel of a longstanding and multi-faceted Russian intelligence strategy that “blends covert intelligence operations—such as cyberactivity—with overt efforts by Russian Government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social media users or ‘trolls’” in order to cripple its adversaries. The election is not the first time Russian cyberactors have been successful. Over the past decade, Russian hacking groups—many of which are backed by the government—have successfully deployed a technology-based strategy to infiltrate, tamper with, and steal sensitive information across government, military, banking, and communications systems in the United States and Europe.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Hate groups increase for second consecutive year as Trump electrifies radical right

  The number of hate groups in the United States rose for a second year in a row in 2016 as the radical right was energized by the candidacy of Donald Trump, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) annual census of hate groups and other extremist organizations, released yesterday.

  The most dramatic growth was the near-tripling of anti-Muslim hate groups – from 34 in 2015 to 101 last year.

  The growth has been accompanied by a rash of crimes targeting Muslims, including an arson that destroyed a mosque in Victoria, Texas, just hours after the Trump administration announced an  executive order suspending travel from some predominantly Muslim countries. The latest FBI statistics show that hate crimes against Muslims grew by 67 percent in 2015, the year in which Trump launched his campaign.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Changing the legislative landscape

  This third year of the quadrennium regular session of the Alabama Legislature has recently gotten a lot more complex. These next four months will be trying times for our lawmakers. They will not only have to deal with a beleaguered General Fund Budget that has to feed a money-eating monster named Medicaid; they have an overcrowding problem in the state prisons to deal with as well as major public school systems being taken over by the state because of mismanagement and underfunding.

  They now have been dealt a body blow that affects their own backyards. They will have to draw new legislative lines that will need to be in effect by June because legislative elections essentially begin this June. The primaries for 2018 political offices will be held in early June next year. All 105 House seats and all 35 Senate seats are up for election.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

30 Best love quotes for your Valentine

1) I love you, not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you. – Roy Croft

2) I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach. – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

3) Come live with me, and be my love, and we will some new pleasures prove, of golden sands, and crystal brooks, with silken lines and silver hooks. — John Donne

4) Love doesn’t make the world go round, love is what makes the ride worthwhile. — Franklin P. Jones

5) In real love you want the other person’s good. In romantic love you want the other person.  — Margaret Anderson

Monday, February 13, 2017

President Trump: Don't ignore terror from the radical right

  Last week PBS premiered Oklahoma City, an illuminating documentary that revisits the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and the broader climate of far-right extremism that spawned the homegrown terrorist Timothy McVeigh.

  The documentary couldn’t have come at a better time.

  We should all hope that President Trump and his advisers are paying close attention, because by focusing their attention exclusively on terrorism inspired by overseas groups like ISIS, they could be missing the next McVeigh.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Gene Policinski: Good news for the future of the First Amendment

  There’s good news from the new “Future of the First Amendment” survey being released this week: High school students nationwide show greater support for First Amendment freedoms that at any time since the survey began more than 10 years ago.

  As an advocate for those five core freedoms of religion, speech, press, assembly and petition, I don’t see any bad news that follows that finding.

  The Knight Foundation-funded survey of about 12,000 high school students, in spring 2016, found fully 91 percent of the students said it was important to be able to “express unpopular opinions,” up from 83 percent who felt that way in 2004.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Jacob G. Hornberger: Trump’s dictatorial tendencies are normal in a welfare-warfare state

  President Trump has lashed out in anger against a federal judge in Seattle for putting a temporary quietus on Trump’s recent immigration dictates. Trump labeled Judge James Robart  a “so-called judge,” notwithstanding the fact that this “so-called judge” has been a federal judge for 13 years, having been nominated by President George W. Bush, confirmed by Congress, and duly sworn into office. Referring to the temporary restraining order that Robart issued that temporarily blocked enforcement of Trump’s immigration edicts, the president went on a tweet attack, calling the order “ridiculous” and predicting that it would be “overturned.”

Friday, February 10, 2017

The Trump administration’s two-pronged assault on public health

  The 115th Congress and the Trump administration have already set their sights on gutting the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and other cornerstone protections that ensure that our air is safe to breathe and our water safe to drink. They have promised to get rid of pollution limits for power plants instead of shifting to clean energy and nullify pollution limits for oil and gas drilling—as they also promise to drill anywhere and everywhere. These actions alone would greatly endanger public health and environmental quality. If that was not enough, however, congressional Republicans and the administration are also set on eliminating health insurance coverage for millions of Americans. This extreme rollback of federal regulations and services would allow more pollution, affect public health, and, at the same time, remove health care options for treatment when people get sick.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1548: The time is upon us!

  The time is upon us. It comes every year like clockwork. It commenced February 7, 2017 this year. It will go until mid-May. The obstacle will be great. The challenges will be gigantic. The results will fall short. It’s the 2017 Alabama Regular Legislative Session.

  Even after 33 years, I can’t tell you all or most of the issues that will come before the 2017 Alabama Legislative Session. I can tell you two for certain. I can tell you others with a great degree of certainty. I can predict others, but predictions are worth very little in this legislative narrative. It’s the 2017 Legislative Session.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The looming dark cloud of Medicaid

  As the third regular session of this quadrennium begins, the paramount focus once again will be on the budgets. Even more specifically, it will be about the General Fund Budget.

  Alabama is one of five states that has two budgets. Our Education Budget now receives over two-thirds of our tax revenue due to the fact that our growth taxes, income and sales, are earmarked for Education’s coffers, whereas our General Fund gets the remaining one-third of revenue and that will continue to shrink because it has no growth taxes.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Charles C. Haynes: “A shameful day”

  On Jan. 27, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, President Donald Trump issued an executive order temporarily halting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries, suspending the refugee program and permanently imposing a religious test for refugees going forward.

  Jen Smyers of Church World Service spoke for many people of faith working on behalf of refugees when she called Jan. 27 “a shameful day” in the history of the United States.

  Numerous national security experts and diplomats — including more than 1,000 State Department officials — have also spoken out, warning that the order is wrongheaded and dangerous. The optics of an American policy that appears to target Muslims seriously tarnishes the reputation of the U.S. in Muslim-majority countries and throughout the world.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Craig Ford: My hope for the future of Alabama and the Democratic Party

  For the last six years, it has been my privilege to serve as Minority Leader in the Alabama House of Representatives. On Wednesday, I will step down and a new leader will be elected.

  While I will continue to serve in the legislature and represent the great people of Etowah County, I would like to share my outgoing thoughts on our state and the Democratic Party.

  One thing that seems to be clear after six years of the current supermajority is that their policies aren’t working for regular people in Alabama.

  Alabama’s unemployment rate continues to be well above the national average, and our public school system has lost millions of dollars to charter schools and the Accountability Act since the Republican supermajority took over in 2010.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Will Tucker and Cassie Miller: Systematic voter suppression — not 'voter fraud' — is the real cause for concern

  President Trump last week resurrected a big lie from the campaign trail, claiming that he lost the popular vote because as many as 5 million people voted illegally – all for his opponent.

  He offered no evidence. There is none. In fact, studies show conclusively that voter fraud is exceedingly rare.

  At best, Trump’s search for phantom voter fraud is a distraction from the very real voter suppression efforts carried out systematically by his own party – and from the recent, high-profile federal court decisions striking down those laws.

  At worst, it’s a precursor to a renewed push to suppress voting.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Gene Policinski: Wrong. Good idea – if it works both ways. Missed the point

  In order: Wrong. Good idea — if it works both ways. Missed the point. And, wrong.

  Trump administration senior advisers Stephen Bannon and Kellyanne Conway each vented — again — against “the media” in the midst of a turbulent week. Their comments are worth parsing.

  Bannon, not long departed from the perpetually vocal, ultra-conservative Breitbart News online site, said on Jan. 25 that “the media should … keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while.” In that rare news interview, he also called the news media “the opposition.”

  And then there’s Conway, complaining to “Fox News Sunday” on Jan. 29 that “Not one network person has been let go. Not one silly political analyst and pundit who talked smack all day long about Donald Trump has been let go….”

Friday, February 3, 2017

Deregulation Nation: Congress wants to let corporations take charge

  The new congressional session is still in early days, but members have wasted no time laying the groundwork to give Congress and the courts unprecedented power to vitiate critical federal regulations and prevent new rule-making. This push is in line with President Donald Trump’s promise to cut 75 percent of government regulations, but it goes against the wishes of Americans, a majority of whom oppose lifting regulations on businesses and corporations.

  Yet on January 4, the House passed the first in a suite of legislative actions to this end: the so-called Midnight Rules Relief Act, which expands an existing law giving Congress the power to review and disapprove recent agency regulations. The Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny, or REINS, Act, and Regulatory Accountability Act, or RAA, which create new mechanisms for blocking new rule-making and overturning well-established rules, followed days later.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: What's next for gaming in Alabama?

  During the past couple of months, everywhere I go people continually ask me why in the world the Alabama Legislature could not simply put the issue of whether they could vote for or against a lottery on the November ballot.

  The fact that this inquiry has lingered for this long tells me that folks are upset about this travesty. They are angry at the legislature. The blame, however, lies with the governor.

  Indeed, the legislature met in a special session to address this issue of whether or not to put the lottery proposal on the ballot and let the people vote on this lingering issue. Most polls indicate that the good people of Alabama would vote in favor of it, provided that there are no sweetheart deals, hidden chicanery or favoritism in the proposal.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Our Stand: Lay off our young people

  Monday evening we read the comments of many Montgomery-area Facebook users who unleashed a torrent of vile, misguided and utterly disgusting sentiments directed at young people who had organized and lead a symbolic demonstration at Montgomery Regional Airport. The demonstration was in opposition to President Trump's executive order banning travel from seven nations in the Middle East and indefinitely barring refugees from Syria from entering the United States.

  What troubled us most is that the target of the comments, which ranged from insults like "retard" to even accusing the participants of being aimless, unemployed and/or recipients of "government handouts," were in fact high-achieving students from the educational gem LAMP (Loveless Academic Magnet Program), home of some of Montgomery's best and brightest young people. Perhaps those hurling insults online were intimidated by these young people, and we were just witnessing their crippling insecurities bubbling up online.