Friday, March 31, 2017

Our Stand: MPAC can, and should, do better than Ted Nugent

  We were thoroughly disappointed and disheartened when the Montgomery Performing Arts Centre announced that it had booked "performer" Ted Nugent. He's scheduled to play some time this summer, but we won't be providing ticket information in this space or through our social media accounts as we believe this booking decision reflects poorly on the venue and the Capital City as a whole.

  Since its inception, MPAC has hosted countless acts - ranging from theater to music - all highly reputable, award-winning, world-class performers and productions from around the globe. The MPAC stage has featured everyone from Willie Nelson to the Russian Ballet, not to mention phenomenal touring Broadway productions.

  But booking such a divisive, race-baiting, reckless, disreputable character as Ted Nugent - an individual whose talent isn't prone to overwhelm anyone either - marks a stark and sad departure from what we're accustomed to seeing and appreciating at MPAC.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

John Podesta: Battling climate change in the time of Trump

  There is no way to sugarcoat the outcome of the 2016 election for anyone who cares about the health of our planet. President Donald Trump has made clear that he intends to pursue a special interest-driven agenda that would make climate change worse. Since the start of his administration, he has taken steps to increase America’s dependence on oil, including foreign oil; eliminate limits on carbon pollution; and weaken vehicle efficiency standards at the expense of American families. His budget decimates scientific research and he selected an administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, who denies that carbon pollution is a main cause of climate change.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Are there any Democrats considering the 2018 governor's race?

  Last week we handicapped some of the potential horses in the upcoming 2018 governor’s race. We mentioned Judge Roy Moore, PSC President Twinkle Cavanaugh, Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan, Secretary of State John Merrill, State Treasurer Young Boozer, State Senator Del Marsh and Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle.

  Some others that may be considering pursuing the brass ring of Alabama politics are Lt. Governor Kay Ivey, Supreme Court Justice Jim Main, Jefferson County Commission President David Carrington, Trump’s Trumpeter in the state - Perry Hooper, Jr., Huntsville State Representative Jim Patterson and ADECA Director and former Prattville Mayor Jim Byard. You can also add former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville to the mix of possible gubernatorial candidates.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

President Trump’s budget breaks his promises to workers—again

  President Donald Trump ran on and was purportedly elected to deliver good jobs. So far, however, his jobs agenda has amounted to little more than threats to strip workers’ health care and promises to slash corporate taxes and reward companies shipping jobs overseas. His budget is the latest in a series of attacks on workers. Not only does it fail to deliver jobs; it also decimates programs designed to help workers.

  President Trump’s newly released “skinny budget” would make disastrous cuts to vital programs that have a real impact on the lives and pocketbooks of families across the country. If implemented, the cuts would reduce wages, hollow out protections that keep Americans safe on the job and ensure they are paid the wages they earn, and gut worker training programs that help workers secure good jobs and raise their wages.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Jacob G. Hornberger: Prepare now for blowback

  By this time it has become painfully obvious that Donald Trump is going to follow the interventionist road in the Middle East that Republicans and Democrats have been following ever since the Cold War ended in 1989. Like any good conservative, Trump is expanding the size of the military establishment, unleashing the Pentagon to wage its war on ISIS and terrorism, and continuing the bombing, shooting, and assassinations by the military and the CIA in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and other parts of the Middle East. At the same time, he’s keeping the entire NSA surveillance machinery fully intact and operational.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Left Behind: How the Trump budget fails rural communities

  Rural communities across the country continue to struggle to find the resources they need to strengthen their economies, improve quality of life, and maintain vibrant local connections. These communities rely on federal programs that support local economies and health and safety improvements.

Despite promises to the rural and small-town voters who supported him, President Donald Trump’s new budget blueprint delivers a massive blow to these programs, cutting or eliminating essential services for rural Americans.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1554: Come move with me through one legislative week

  Can you move with me? Can you move with me through one legislative week in this 2017 Session? Do you want to? I hope so because I want to share just a little of my legislative experiences this week.

  I had lots of meetings with various organizations, groups and individuals. But I’m not going to involve you in those meetings. I want to deal strictly with matters on the Senate floor, in Senate committees and other during Senate processes. Can you move with me?

Friday, March 24, 2017

Jacob G. Hornberger: Why are Americans searched at the border?

  Whenever American citizens travel to another country, they are subjected to intrusive searches at the hands of U.S. officials upon returning to the United States.

  Why? What’s the justification?

  Since Americans living today have all been born and raised under this type of system, hardly anyone questions it. It’s just accepted, passively and submissively, as part of living in a “free” society.

  Yet, when the government wields the authority to conduct a complete search of people without any suspicion of a crime having been committed, that is far from any free society.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Craig Ford: Hypocrisy and injustice from the Alabama Legislature

  State legislatures and the U.S. Congress typically have the lowest approval ratings of any government branch or agency, and last week the Alabama Legislature showed exactly why that is.

  The same state legislators who made their own pay raises part of the state constitution and are subsequently receiving more than a $2,000 pay raise this year for their part-time job, have decided our state employees aren’t deserving of a pay increase this year.

  It isn’t a question of money. The budget passed by the Alabama House of Representatives is holding back $97 million “for future needs and uncertainties,” while the cost of a four percent pay increase would only be one-fifth of that (about $19 million).

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The 2018 governor's race

  We are on the cusp of one of the best political years in modern political history in the Heart of Dixie. Prior to the 1970s, the Alabama Constitution disallowed succession of office for our state constitutional offices. In other words, you could not run for two consecutive four-year terms. That is why George Wallace ran his wife in his place in 1966. George and Lurleen campaigned side-by-side. George would wink at the crowds still drawn to courthouse squares by a country band and say, “I’m going to be her number one advisor.” By the way, she won in a landslide. She beat eight male opponents without a runoff, including two former governors, an agriculture commissioner, the sitting state attorney general and two powerful state senators.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Judge Gorsuch threatens the dignity of LGBT people

  Judges with Supreme Court aspirations tend to guard their views, avoiding stances and statements that could impede a nomination or confirmation. Judge Neil Gorsuch has done just that, leading observers to look to his influences rather than his issuances. Among them is Justice Anthony Kennedy, for whom he clerked. While Judge Gorsuch and Justice Kennedy may share a bond, they part ways on several issues. One lesser known but critically important point of potential disagreement surrounds a somewhat nebulous legal principle critical to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT, rights: the dignity of free persons.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Alexandra Werner-Winslow: State legislators attack the right to protest

  Fifty-two years ago Friday, famed civil rights judge Frank M. Johnson Jr. issued a momentous federal court ruling that prohibited Alabama Gov. George Wallace and a local sheriff from interfering with voting rights marchers.

  It came 10 days after Bloody Sunday, the day protesters began marching to the Alabama Capitol only to be turned back and brutally beaten by state troopers and a sheriff’s posse as they tried to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma.

  Four days after Johnson's ruling, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led more than 3,000 marchers across the bridge and then on to the steps of the Capitol in Montgomery – their right to protest upheld, their path unimpeded by law enforcement.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1553: It is not what we call it but what it answers to

  The name sounds so innocent. In fact, it sounds good. But it is not what it is named but what it answers to. This Senate Bill 60 answers to the call of rank oppression.

  It is called the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act of 2017. Each word sounds good in its own way. Alabama. Memorial. Preservation. Act. 2017. Together they sound real good. However, it is not what we call it but what it answers to. This bill answers to the beck and call of rank oppression.

  The bill moves in the name of Alabama. It moves in the name of memorials. It moves in the name of preservation. It moves in the name of 2017. It moves in the name of history. But its spirit is the opposite of the name. It is not about preservation as much as exclusion of symbols of other history. It is not what we call the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act but what it answers to. And it answers to the beck and call of rank oppression.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Ken Gude: Russia’s 5th Column

  Russia’s actions to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election and help then-presidential candidate Donald Trump win were similar to its activities to build a network of far-right political parties and movements in Europe. Russian President Vladimir Putin is using this network to advance his policy objectives at home and abroad.

  In this effort, Russia is motivated by both the desire to lead a conservative revival against Western liberal democracies and a flawed interpretation of recent waves of popular uprisings against autocratic rulers that sees an American conspiracy behind them. Putin has adopted a deliberate strategy to directly challenge the liberal international order led by the United States. That global system helped end the historical pattern of devastating wars among major powers and brought much of the world an unprecedented era of peace and prosperity since the end of World War II.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Craig Ford: Is the legislature about to pass a $250 million backdoor tax increase?

  It doesn’t claim to be a $250 million tax increase, but that’s exactly what would happen if the Alabama Legislature passes a proposed bill to privatize the state’s ABC stores.

  Though it may seem like a reasonable, pro-private sector bill that would decrease government bureaucracy and expenses, in reality this bill would hurt small businesses, cost the taxpayers $250 million (or more) a year, and worsen the “wild west” situation we already have with private liquor stores.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Dorian Warren: Trump romanticizes the White America of the past - It’s time to stop

  I’ve been reading a lot about how many of the people who ushered in the Trump era were driven by a longing for a white Christian America of the past. They harken back to a heyday when white men were the power brokers in all situations, women stayed home, and America was a stratified society where everyone knew their place.

  These folks hope the new president will bring us back to this romanticized vision: the U.S. as Mayberry, the small town from the The Andy Griffith Show that has become synonymous with an idealized, folksy life.

  The problem is, that America never actually existed.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The future of online sales taxes and Alabama's roads

  My tradition for over two decades has been to give my children money for Christmas. Under this system, there is no returning of items. They get what they want or need. There is no way that I would know what style of clothing, color or size they like. It works well.

  The most illuminating thing that occurred to me this year is that both of my daughters and my granddaughter bought all of their Christmas gifts for me online. Without question, our country and state have changed dramatically in my lifetime in terms of technology. As a result, Alabama and other states have to change the way that sales tax is collected. States have to find a solution and the will to derive sales tax from online purchases.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Richard M. Ebeling: The national debt limit equals a balanced budget

  Once again the United States government is rapidly approaching a fiscal debt ceiling: After March 16, 2017, Uncle Sam will not be legally allowed to borrow any more money to cover its budget deficits, unless Congress votes to raise the debt limit, once again, like it has every time in the past.

  Uncle’s Sam’s debt has been growing at a frightening rate over the last several decades. It took almost two hundred years, from around 1790, when the government of the United States was established, to 1980 for the federal government to accumulate $1 trillion of debt through deficit spending.

Monday, March 13, 2017

John Norris: Trump’s siege on international development

  Up until the news dropped in February that the Trump administration plans to boost military spending by $54 billion and make cuts of up to 40 percent to foreign aid, the international development community was in overdrive to put its work in the best light. Development experts had been making the case for foreign assistance in terms that they hoped would resonate with the Trump administration—which on the diplomatic and development side consists of only one appointee, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

  Some tried quoting Ronald Reagan to make their case: “Our national interests are inextricably tied to the security and development of our friends and allies.” Others argued that to “Make America Great Again” would require renewed investments in Africa through new energy projects and expanded investment opportunities to help shape the United States’ future markets. And in The New York Times, former Republican Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN) pushed to maintain support for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, insisting that buttressing weak states by combating AIDS is “a key element of America’s national security strategy.”

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Justice Sotomayor expresses concern over Court’s true threat jurisprudence

  U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor agreed with her colleagues that the Court should deny review in a true-threat case out of Florida, involving a man who uttered, while drunk, that he could blow up a liquor store.

  However, Sotomayor wrote a separate concurring opinion denying review in Perez v. Florida (16-6250) to express her concerns about holes in the Court’s current true-threat jurisprudence.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Craig Ford: Public leaders set the example whether we like it or not

  Bullying and intimidation are nothing new to American politics. In 1856, Congressman Preston Brooks famously beat Senator Charles Sumner with a walking stick. Just ten years ago, state Senator Charles Bishop assaulted state Senator Lowell Barron on the floor of the Alabama Senate.

  People can be passionate about their beliefs, especially their political beliefs. For the most part, these passions are not expressed in violent ways. But recently we have seen our country become more violent over politics, and part of that increase in violence is due to the example our leaders have set.

  This isn’t a partisan issue either. There are people behaving badly on both sides of the aisle, and leaders in both political parties have failed to speak out against the bullying, violence and intimidation. Some of them have even encouraged some of it as a means of keeping their base supporters energized.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1552: Come with me as we share the continuing Jubilee experience!

  Come with me as we share the Bridge Crossing Jubilee on the 52nd Anniversary of Bloody Sunday, the Selma-to-Montgomery March and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. I cannot share everything because I could not attend all of the more than 40 events. I don’t even have space to share all I participated in over these five days. Come with me as we share the continuing experience of the Bridge Crossing Jubilee.

  Let’s start on Thursday of last week. I returned from a Senate session in Montgomery. Two television reporters had set up interviews about the Jubilee. I agreed to do the interviews in spite of the potential for negative publicity. I met them at Tabernacle Baptist Church. Rather than respond to the controversy, I tried to address the big picture: the Jubilee would go on; the forty-plus events would go on as planned; and only one event, the Jubilee Festival, would be moved.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Unfairness in class action: A new attack on civil rights

  President Donald Trump’s budget proposal may eliminate the single greatest funder of civil legal aid in the United States, the Legal Services Corporation—a long-standing goal of Vice President Mike Pence. At the same time, Congress is working to block Americans from seeking justice on their own with the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2017. This bill was drafted to address an imaginary problem; if it passes, it will have very real, devastating consequences.

  For those who face systemic corporate abuses and failures of government, class action lawsuits are a critical tool for seeking justice. Through a class action, a few people or organizations can represent a larger group that has been harmed in a lawsuit against the perpetrator to seek a remedy, whether a change in practices or monetary damages. Actions that aim to force actors to change their behavior—for example, to follow the law or cease a bad practice—are referred to as seeking injunctive relief.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Prisons bill will fail

  The premier issue of this year’s legislative session will be whether to borrow a massive amount of money to build new prisons in the state. This initiative appears to be our lame duck Gov. Robert Bentley’s primary agenda.

  Last year Bentley proposed an $800 million bond issue for new prisons. He has come forward with a similar proposal this year. His plan would close all existing prisons and replace them with three new super men's prisons and one smaller women’s prison.

  Folks, $800 million is a lot of money. There is no question that we have a prison problem. Alabama’s prison population is at 175% of capacity. It is among the highest in the nation. This overcrowding obviously causes violence and safety problems for our prison guards.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Naomi Tsu: This family was targeted by Trump's dragnet

  Last Tuesday night, President Donald Trump once again insisted that the immigrants he is targeting for deportation are criminals.

  “As we speak tonight,” he told a joint session of Congress, “we are removing gang members, drug dealers and criminals that threaten our communities and prey on our very innocent citizens. Bad ones are going out as I speak.”

  The speech echoed his earlier calls to rid the country of the “bad hombres” from south of the border.

  But as a civil rights lawyer representing immigrants in the Southeast, I’m not fooled.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Joseph O. Patton: Jim Zeigler's Confederate flag panties are showing

  Though I shouldn't be surprised, Alabama Auditor Jim Zeigler has once again slinked into the spotlight to flash his unique brand of embarrassment and dysfunction to taxpayers. Following President Trump's address to Congress, Zeigler felt compelled to share a disturbing, unfair and borderline slanderous bit of material on social media, equating female members of Congress to Ku Klux Klan members.

  The congresswomen in question simply wore white to the address, a classy, non-confrontational nod to the American suffrage movement. In Zeigler's post, it included the inflammatory and insulting text, "now appearing without hoods," and "Nancy Pelosi and the Klannettes" along with an actual photo of Klan members.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Sam Fulwood III: A black history lesson for the ages

  Black History Month drew to a close last week, and I’m guessing the White House is relieved. After all, the month that is reserved to celebrate African Americans began with President Donald Trump boasting his abject ignorance about the mortality of Frederick Douglass. Then the observances concluded with his education secretary revealing her lack of knowledge about the history of black colleges.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Charles C. Haynes: “Welcoming the stranger” in the Age of Trump

  On Feb. 8, a group of Latino men were leaving an overnight hypothermia shelter at Rising Hope Mission Church in Alexandria, Va., when they were surrounded by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers, arrested and taken away in vans.

  The church’s pastor, Kerry Kincannon, worries that ICE is now targeting churches, abandoning long-standing ICE guidelines that treat houses of worship, hospitals and schools as “sensitive areas” to be avoided when rounding up people for deportation.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1551: Standing on history is never a party

  I could not believe my eyes. I just could not be seeing what I saw. It was a Facebook message posted by the Mayor of Selma and forwarded to me. The Facebook message said that the Bridge Crossing Jubilee was a “four-day party for Senator Sanders and his wife.” After all the years of hard work, this was unbelievable. I could not believe my eyes.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Rethinking Tobacco Policy: The federal government should stop blocking alternatives to smoking

  Cigarette smokers who are trying to quit smoking have many new and innovative options to help them break the habit. At least they do as of now. E-cigarettes, as well as even newer products which heat but do not burn tobacco, allow those who are unable or unwilling to quit using nicotine to dramatically reduce their exposure to the deadliest components of cigarettes, the products of combustion in the smoke.

  However, the federal government is about to prevent individuals who desperately want to stop smoking from having access to these options.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The legacies of Alabama governors

  We have unbelievable natural resources in Alabama from the Tennessee Valley to the beautiful white sands at Gulf Shores. Many of our natural resources have been exploited over the years. A prime example would be the exploitation of our rich vaults of iron ore discovered in Jefferson County in the early 20th Century. It created the city of Birmingham, the Steel City of the South.

  U.S. Steel swept in and bought the entire region, used cheap labor in the mines and steel mills, and kept poor whites and blacks in poverty wages and shantytowns. They owed their soul to the company store. Finally they organized into labor unions. The United Steel Workers Union Local in Birmingham became the largest in the nation. Alabama also became the most unionized state in the south.