Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Your next U.S. Senator will be....

  As the race for our open U.S. Senate seat begins, let’s look at the lay of the land.

  First of all, it will be a sprint. The race is upon us with the primaries on August 15 and the run-off six weeks later on September 26. The Republican primary victor will be coronated on December 12. We in the Heart of Dixie are a one-party state when it comes to major statewide offices. Winning the GOP primary is tantamount to election.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Attorney general takes us back to failed, mass incarceration policies

  Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently directed all federal prosecutors to pursue charges for the “most serious possible offenses.”

  He put it plainly: “By definition, the most serious offenses are those that carry the most substantial guidelines sentence, including mandatory minimum sentences.” If a U.S. attorney deviates from the new policy, supervisory approval must be obtained and the reasons documented.

  This is a serious mistake.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Michael Josephson: Memorial Day, a Day of Remembrance

  It’s not just an excuse for a three-day weekend or a day for barbecue and beer.

  Memorial Day is a time for Americans to connect with our national history and core values by honoring those who gave their lives fighting for this country.

  It’s said that this special day to salute fallen Americans was born during the Civil War in Mississippi when a group of grieving mothers and wives who were placing flowers on graves in a Confederate cemetery noticed a neglected graveyard for Union soldiers.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Trump budget’s attack on people with disabilities

  President Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric about people with disabilities during the presidential campaign is no longer just words. Now his budget threatens to set disability rights and inclusion back 50 years or more by stripping away critical protections and slashing vital programs that ensure basic living standards for the 1 in 5 Americans with disabilities. Meanwhile, despite media reports to the contrary, his budget breaks one of his core campaign promises: not to cut Social Security.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Gene Policinski: Montana millionaire charged with journalist assault – and headed for Congress?

  Sadly, shamefully, disgustingly, it has come to this: A Montana candidate for Congress was charged Wednesday evening with assaulting a reporter who was asking him a question about the American Health Care Act.

  The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported Thursday morning that U.S. House candidate Greg Gianforte, a Republican, was charged with misdemeanor assault for what witnesses and the reporter involved said was an unwarranted attack.

  Ben Jacobs of The Guardian, who has reported for weeks on the state’s close race for its only House seat, later tweeted that “Greg Gianforte just body slammed me and broke my glasses.”

Friday, May 26, 2017

Craig Ford: It’s not about right-wing and left-wing - It’s about right and wrong

  It would be easy to think nothing good has happened lately in the world of Alabama politics and that Montgomery is so mired in corruption and bickering that nothing ever gets done.

  After all, the legislative session that just ended began with one governor and ended with a different one. Tensions over legislative redistricting and a controversial email slowed its final days to a crawl, and important issues that were left unfinished will most likely lead to a costly special session.

  In what may be an historic first, we now have a governor, U.S. senator, chief justice of the state Supreme Court, and a state Attorney General – none of whom were elected to those positions.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1563: Ain’t no fun when the rabbit got the gun

  Ain’t no fun when the rabbit got the gun. Senator Bobby Singleton proclaims this phrase with gusto. He is making the point that the hunter usually has the gun hunting the rabbit, but on rare occasions, the rabbit gets the gun and hunts the hunter.

  Sheer power usually determines who has the gun. On occasions, circumstances determine who has the gun. In the Alabama Legislature, the majority nearly always has the gun. Republicans have super majorities in both the Alabama House and Senate. Therefore, they have the gun virtually all the time. But every now and then circumstances allow the rabbit to get the gun.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Crowded field lines up for U.S. Senate race

  Well, folks, the field is set for the sprint to fill the open U.S. Senate seat of Jeff Sessions. The primary is less than three months away on August 15. There will probably be a run-off on September 26, and the winner of that GOP run-off will be our Junior Senator from Alabama. In the Heart of Dixie, winning the Republican nomination is tantamount to election. The December 12 General Election will be a coronation for the winner of the September 26 Republican primary.

  It was an interesting closing day of qualifying last Wednesday. It was unbelievable how many people showed up to qualify. There are 11 candidates running in the Republican primary and amazingly, the Democrats fielded eight candidates. It was like ants coming out of the woodwork. It was similar to our olden days of Alabama politics when everybody and their brother ran for an open governor’s race or a seldom seen open Senate race. We ought to refer to this race as an ant race rather than a horse race.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Trump budget will worsen climate change while hurting the most-affected families

  Throughout his campaign, President Donald Trump referred to climate change as a “hoax.” And now, along with 180 members of Congress who question the legitimacy of climate change or humans’ contributions to it, he is undercutting progress toward limiting greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to warming our planet. At the same time, he is pursuing budget cuts that will make climate change even worse while hurting the families struggling most with its effects. Such cuts include eliminating the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which helps seniors, people with disabilities, and families with children pay for their utility bills.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Gene Policinski: Hassling journalists damages our ‘watchdog on government’

  It’s not just journalists who are getting hauled out of a state capitol, pinned to the wall in a federal office building, or serving as the butt of a recent tone-deaf “joke” from a cabinet member involving a ceremonial sword.

  The ultimate targets of these incidents are you and me, and our fellow citizens. Conservative and liberal. Republican and Democrat. People from all states, all regions.

  When it comes to the government, at any level, “we the people” are the ones who run the place.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Miscarriage of justice

  In rural Alabama, the men were told they were being treated for rheumatism, bad stomachs, or “bad blood.” They were promised free meals and free health care.

  They didn’t get the health care they needed most.

  Hundreds of men — mostly poor, all of them black — were recruited in 1932 for the infamous Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male. They were never told they were to be the subjects of a secret U.S. Public Health Service experiment. They were never informed that they had been diagnosed with syphilis. And they never received treatment.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Rosa DeLauro: It’s time to stop shaming students when their parents can’t pay the lunch bill

  Last spring, a third grader in an Alabama elementary school walked into the cafeteria to get lunch. But because his lunch account was running low, he was stamped on the arm by a school employee with the words “I need lunch money” for all his peers to see.

  Across the country, schools are using similar tactics to humiliate students with outstanding lunch bills. According to a troubling 2014 report from the United States Department of Agriculture, almost half of all school districts used some form of lunch shaming to get parents to pay outstanding bills. These tactics range from making children clean the cafeteria, to forcing them to wear a special wristband, to replacing their hot lunches with alternate food, to throwing away a student’s lunch right in front of their eyes—and the eyes of their peers.

Friday, May 19, 2017

David L. Hudson Jr.: First Amendment doesn’t protect public employees from all Facebook posts

  Public employees should enjoy a strong dose of personal freedom to express themselves on political and social issues online.  However, a recent example from Nashville, Tennessee, shows quite well that there are limits to free-speech protection for public employees who cross certain boundaries and denigrate those with whom they work with on a daily basis.

NewsChannel 5 reported this month that a teacher from East Magnet High School resigned after her students confronted her about some of her Twitter posts.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Richard M. Ebeling: Trade deficits don’t matter – unless caused by government

  In 2016, the United States exported goods and services equal to $2.209 trillion, and imported goods and services with a market value of $2.712 trillion. The balance of trade deficit for 2016, therefore, came to $502.3 billion. The trade deficit represented a little over 10 percent of the over $4.92 trillion of total trade in goods and services between America and the rest of the world. And was only about 2.7 percent of the entire $18.56 trillion Gross Domestic Product of the United States in 2016.

  But listening to the rhetoric coming from Donald Trump and others in his administration, it would be easy to assume that America’s balance of trade deficit is causing market misery and economic harm to the people of the United States.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Who to watch in the 2018 governor's race

  The race for our open U.S. Senate seat will be the marquee political event for the remainder of this year. It will be a great show. However, we have a sensational and pivotal 2018 governor’s race evolving simultaneously. This much-anticipated gubernatorial derby will be affected by the preliminary Senate horse race.

  The political landscape has changed dramatically with the decisive move by new Governor Kay Ivey to call for the election of Jeff Sessions’ successor to the Senate this year.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Gene Policinski: Attacking a free press: Actions speaker louder than heated words

  Much of the heated rhetoric directed by the Trump administration toward news organizations has been little more than that – just a blast of hot air. Uncomfortable, but deserving of little attention beyond the moment, and best simply endured.

  Of course, when a president of the United States calls journalists “enemies of the people,” it raises the verbal stakes a bit. It shows disregard for the checks-and-balances system of our democracy, and ignorance of the very role of a free press, which the nation’s founders saw quite clearly, even given the hyperpartisan press of that era. It also bears a disturbing resemblance to language used by dictators and thugs-in-power in nations where freedom is in short supply.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Rolling back LGBT rights

  Less than 48 hours after election day, Kyle Chester and Corey Hurley found a note taped to their front door. Scrawled on a piece of notebook paper, someone had written: “TRUMP is our president now! Get out of our neighborhood now faggots!”

  There were at least 95 separate incidents in which LGBT people experienced hate like this in just the first 10 days after the election. In West Virginia, LGBT people were the targets in one of every six bias-related incidents reported to us during the period.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Jamila Taylor: How President Trump’s policy agenda hurts mothers

  President Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office have been an all-out war on women. Despite statements he has made about supporting women and “invest[ing] in women’s health,” he has ushered forth an agenda that will go down in history as one of the most egregious efforts in decades to deny women’s fundamental rights. On the first Mother’s Day with Trump as president, let’s take a deeper look at how his anti-woman policies could have a particularly harmful effect on mothers.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Sam Berger: Trump’s Regulatory Accountability Act is a license to kill

  Don’t let the innocuous name fool you: The Regulatory Accountability Act recently introduced in the Senate is nothing less than President Donald Trump’s License to Kill Bill. Described as the means of realizing Steve Bannon’s dream to deconstruct the government, this bill is part of Trump’s two-step strategy to first strip people of important health, safety, and consumer protections and then prevent agencies from ever protecting people from these harms again. By hamstringing the dedicated public servants charged with ensuring everything from safe infant formula to clean drinking water to a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work, this bill would put corporate profits before people’s lives and livelihoods.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Oklahoma student forced to remove a “Black Lives Matter” T-shirt he wore to school

  Various sources report that a student in Deer Creek, Oklahoma, was forced to remove a t-shirt containing the phrase “Black Lives Matter.” The ACLU of Oklahoma has written a letter in support of the student’s right to wear the t-shirt and explains that school officials should apologize.

  The ACLU has a point, as the U.S. Supreme Court explained years ago in Tinker v. Des Moines Indep. Comm. Sch. Dist. (1969) that students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” The Court in Tinker protected the right of several students from Iowa to wear black armbands in protest of the Vietnam War.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1561: Mother’s Day is coming!

  Mother’s Day is coming. It’s always on Sunday. This year, it’s on May 14, 2017. It’s always a very special day. Let us all lift our mothers on this day. Let us lift all mothers every day.

  Mothers are one of God’s great gifts to humankind. Mothers conceive us, carry us, birth us, care for us, suffer with us, cry for us, pray for us, sacrifice for us, lift us, protect us and more. There is simply no end to what mothers do. That’s why they say, “A mother's work is never done."

  Mothers just give more. Yet mothers are the most taken-for-granted creatures on God’s earth. We take mothers for granted every time we fail to recognize their gifts. We take mothers for granted every time we fail to say thank you. We take mothers for granted ever time we fail to help when we should. We take mothers for granted every time we break their hearts. We take mothers for granted every time we disobey. We just take mothers for granted in ways too numerous to name.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Some positive political notes

  Most of the time political columns are critical of politicians. However, today I would like to share some positive observations from the first few months of this year.

  Sometimes I enjoy striding down the halls of our old Capitol reminiscing about my younger days when I would walk those halls as a page boy and then during my 30s and 40s as a member of the Alabama Legislature. In bygone days you would never see a constitutional officer in their offices working on Fridays, not even the governor. A few months ago I walked down the halls at about 3:30 on a Friday afternoon and popped into Secretary of State John Merrill’s office. To my amazement, Secretary Merrill was in his office working.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Jacob G. Hornberger: Madison was right about war

  Given that so many Americans continue to express gratitude to the troops for their forever service in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Syria, and elsewhere, it would be worthwhile to revisit the immortal words of James Madison, the father of the U.S. Constitution:

Monday, May 8, 2017

Reckless Endangerment: President Trump and the use of military force

  During his first 100 days in office, it has become clear that President Donald Trump views military force as his primary—if not only—foreign policy tool. From a botched special operations raid in Yemen to a cruise missile strike against an Assad-regime airfield in Syria, Trump has proven more than willing to order America’s armed forces into action. Moreover, his administration’s proposed “hard-power budget” cuts U.S. State Department funding by more than one-quarter to help pay for a $54 billion increase in military spending.

  President Trump’s reliance on military force at the literal expense of America’s other foreign policy tools is bad policy. No U.S. foreign policy failure this century has been due to insufficient military power. Having chosen to buy more ammunition rather than fully fund the Department of State—something his own secretary of defense, James Mattis, advised against when he served as the commander of American forces in the Middle East—Trump is painting America into a dangerous corner. In crisis situations, he will be faced with a stark choice between using military force or backing down.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Craig Ford: Alabama feeling buyer’s remorse over Superintendent of Education

  When we hear the words, “buyer’s remorse,” we usually think of somebody who bought a car they couldn’t afford or some luxury item that ended up not being as great as they thought it would be.

  But the term also applies to the way a lot of members of the Alabama Legislature and the state Board of Education feel about our school superintendent, Michael Sentance.

  The warning signs should have been there from the beginning.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Amy Crawford: White nationalists are targeting college campuses, and these students are fighting back

  In January, the night before alt-right figure Milo Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak at the University of California, Berkeley, two members of the white supremacist group American Renaissance got in a fistfight with other young men after they were caught plastering trees and buildings around campus with posters that proclaimed, “Embrace white identity!”

  In February, a spoofed faculty email address sent hundreds of University of Michigan students messages that threatened black and Jewish people, using the phrase “Heil Trump.” The emails, which the FBI is investigating, followed the appearance of racist flyers around campus the previous fall.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Caleb Crosby: Political power tests character

  Character needs to be a much higher priority in Alabama politics. While our state is blessed with many officials who conduct public service with integrity, the failures of relatively few cast a broad shadow on our political arena.

  As obvious a priority as that might sound, no candidate is going to campaign on his or her intent to violate the ethics laws, abuse our trust, or cause embarrassment for the people of our state.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Joe Valenti: Please stand up if you support financial deregulation

  The first 100 days of the Trump administration have had no shortage of broken promises to American workers and families. But the president’s troubling promise “to do ‘a big number’” on Dodd-Frank—the financial reform law passed in 2010—may actually be kept. Congress takes a big step toward that goal this week when the House Financial Services Committee votes on the Financial CHOICE Act, committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling’s (R-TX) bill that would largely undo financial reform. The sweeping, 593-page bill would take a wrecking ball to financial reform, undermining tools that regulators use to safeguard the financial system and decimating key consumer and investor protections.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The gubernatorial dark horses

  Well, folks, let’s put the final coup de grace to Robert Bentley's six-year reign as governor and move on. Ole Bentley was quite a story his last two years. He had become the ringleader of a circus and an infamous national cartoon character. The salacious and lurid details of his affair with Mrs. Rebekah Mason were a never ending, titillating saga. The story, along with his picture, could aptly be a plot for a tabloid or a soap opera. I will actually be surprised if it does not make it to television or even the movies.

  Unfortunately, this story will be his legacy as governor. He has no public policy initiatives to tout for posterity. He will be known as the “Love Gov.”

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Jacob G. Hornberger: South Korea should give U.S. troops the boot

  The best thing that South Koreans could ever do, both for themselves and for the American people, as well as the Japanese citizenry, is boot all U.S. troops out of their country.

  Isn’t the reason obvious?

  If President Trump, the Pentagon, and the CIA succeed in instigating a war with North Korea, guess who is going to pay the biggest price for such a war.

Monday, May 1, 2017

David L. Hudson Jr.: Controversial speakers and the problem of the hecklers’ veto

  A controversial speaker is invited to a public university to deliver a speech. Many people exercise their free-speech rights to protest the selection of that speaker. However, some of those opposed to the speaker cross the line and engage in non-peaceful activities. Their disruptive behavior leads to the university canceling the event. This phenomenon, which is not fanciful or far-fetched, shows the power of the “heckler’s veto” – a term that arose out of so-called “hostile audience” cases.

  “Heckler’s veto” refers to a situation involving a government official who allows a hostile audience’s reaction to shut down or silence an unpopular speaker. In other words, the speaker’s right to free speech is suppressed by the fear of disruption.