Thursday, August 31, 2017

Jacob G. Hornberger: Only one way to end drug-war violence

  Two police officers in Kissimmee, Florida, were recently shot and killed while investigating illegal drug activity in a dangerous part of town. According to the New York Times, government officials praised the officers for their service and asked Floridians to pray for other law-enforcement personnel. President Trump weighed in with a tweet in which he offered his thoughts and prayers for the Kissimmee police and their families.

  There is one big thing about that picture, however: It is the drug war itself, which Trump and, no doubt, most of the Kissimmee Police Department, favor, that is the reason that those two police officers are dead. If drugs were legal, those two dead police officers would not have been investigating illegal drug activity because there would be no illegal drug activity.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Senate runoff too close to predict

  Most people would assume that as the race for the open U.S. Senate began that Luther Strange, the appointed incumbent, was the favorite. However, polling indicated that Roy Moore was the favorite and remains the favorite as we head towards the September 26 runoff.

  The initial polling showed that Moore had a hardcore 30 percent. It was and is as solid as a rock. He had 30 percent from the get-go. He had 30 percent midway in the race, and he had 30 percent at the end. It was also a fact that with a low voter turnout that his 30 percent would become accentuated because the final poll, and the one that counts, is election day and who actually shows up to vote. Moore’s supporters are more ardent and are going to show up to vote for him come hell or high water. They are also older, and older people tend to vote; 65- to 80-year-old voters are always more likely to vote.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Lawmakers must protect protesters — not the drivers who hit them

  Marissa Blair was walking down Fourth Street when the car struck. Her fiancé, Marcus Martin, had just a split second to push her out of its path.

  When she got up, all Blair could see of Martin was his bloodied baseball cap lying on the ground, she told The New York Times.

  “It terrified me,” said Blair.

  She found Martin, his leg broken. But the couple couldn’t find the friend who had been with them on Fourth Street — 32-year-old Heather Heyer.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Jacob G. Hornberger: The illegality of Trump’s Afghanistan war

  When President Trump attributed his flip-flop on Afghanistan to his team of military generals who informed him that a withdrawal from America’s 16-year war would leave a “haven” for terrorists, I couldn’t help but think of former presidential candidate George Romney during the Vietnam War. After opposing the war, Romney traveled to Vietnam and returned with the same flip-flop mindset that Trump has experienced. Like Trump, Romney blamed it on the generals, who, he said, had “brainwashed” him into supporting the war. Romney’s brainwashing, however, wasn’t permanent, as Romney later returned to an antiwar position. So maybe there’s hope that the same thing will happen to Trump.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Craig Ford: A crisis is coming to Alabama, but you aren’t hearing much about it

  Our state government is no stranger to crises. We’ve had multiple budget crises, Medicaid crises, and most recently, a crisis related to our prison system.

  But there is another growing crisis that hasn’t received the media attention these other issues have. It’s a crisis that could have a devastating impact on Alabama’s families, our economy, and the taxpayers.

  I’m talking about the opioid crisis.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

House Republican cuts to nutrition assistance would harm families in every state

  Budgets, it is often said in Washington, are moral documents meant to convey priorities. House Republicans’ fiscal year 2018 budget makes their priorities crystal clear—namely, delivering tax cuts to millionaires at the expense of America’s struggling working families.

  The budget’s radical, sweeping cuts to programs that everyday Americans rely on should be a wake-up call for anyone who believes that congressional Republicans are more reasonable than President Donald Trump. Like the budget the Trump administration released in May, House Republicans’ budget would gut services for people with disabilities, eviscerate Medicaid, cut Social Security, and hike costs for families struggling to afford college.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1576: What President Trump did is so dangerous

  What President Trump did is so dangerous. It’s dangerous for me. It’s dangerous for you. More importantly, it’s dangerous for this country. Let me tell you why. But first let me remind you of what President Trump did.

  On August 11, hundreds of Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, white nationalist, etc., marched near the University of Virginia at Charlottesville. They held high flaming torches as they chanted Nazi slogans used by German Nazis during the 1930s and 40s. “Blood and Soil!” they yelled. “Jews will not replace us!” they yelled. They also shouted slogans such as “Heil Trump!” and “Make America Great Again.”

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The American people deserve more answers on Afghanistan

  Eight months into his term, President Donald Trump is finally paying attention to the ongoing Afghanistan War, where thousands of U.S. soldiers are currently fighting. Trump’s new plan seems a lot like the old ones, with even less detail about how the war—or American involvement in it—will end.

  For 16 years, America has been fighting terrorists in Afghanistan and trying to help stabilize the country. America’s longest war has claimed the lives of more than 2,400 U.S. troops and 1,136 allied troops, with tens of thousands wounded. In addition to the loss of life, combat in Afghanistan has cost the American taxpayer an estimated $841 billion (if the fiscal year 2018 budget request is met) in defense costs alone.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Moore holds edge in U.S. Senate runoff

  When the race for the open Jeff Sessions seat began, it appeared to be a Roy Moore versus Luther Strange contest. Well, folks, that’s how it ended last Tuesday. We’ve got a runoff between our Ten Commandments Judge, Roy Moore, and Big Luther Strange.

  Roy Moore has been around Alabama politics for a while now. Alabamians know who he is and what he stands for. He has been standing up for Fundamentalist Christian values since his days as an Etowah County judge where he displayed a wooden Ten Commandments plaque on the walls of his courtroom. He became so famous for his stand that he rode that notoriety to being elected Chief Justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Danyelle Solomon: Black journalists are critical to our democracy

  The election of Donald Trump and the actions of his young administration have spotlighted the importance of facts. Since President Trump’s inauguration, truth and honest analysis have become rare commodities in the White House. In addition to promoting false narratives and condoning unrepentant lying, the Trump administration has also made it difficult to access government data, research, and other forms of information. His administration has directed government agencies to limit news releases, updates to agency websites, and communication with the press.

Monday, August 21, 2017

It took Charlottesville for Silicon Valley to stand up to hate

  Silicon Valley has a reputation as a liberal place, but it was a critical partner in the deadly “Unite the Right” rally that cost a counter-protestor her life.

  Hate groups of all stripes used their websites to advertise their participation in the rally. They turned to social media to urge their followers to join them. And they used services like PayPal and Patreon to fund their invasion of Charlottesville, Virginia.

  Such partnerships may soon be a thing of the past. By Monday morning of last week, service providers had begun to pull the plug on hate groups and individual extremists alike.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Trump premium tax will increase premiums up to $2,500 next year

  Since he entered office, President Donald Trump has taken numerous steps to sabotage the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by driving up costs and driving out insurers. With the failure of ACA repeal in the U.S. Senate, Trump has threatened to accelerate his efforts. In particular, by undermining enforcement of the ACA’s individual coverage mandate and threatening to stop billions of dollars in cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments that help lower consumers’ deductibles and copayments, Trump will significantly increase 2018 premiums.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Charlottesville shows that states must amend their open-carry laws

  We’ve all seen the pictures from Charlottesville.

  Peaceful protesters being met with men carrying military-style weapons. Many of those unarmed were probably intimidated. I certainly think I would have been.

  What did the scene represent? Were we looking at a clash of grand constitutional values, a clash between the cherished First Amendment right to protest peacefully and the revered Second Amendment right to bear arms? Or were we looking at something much more mundane?

  The answer is the latter. Our Founding Fathers didn’t tie us into a constitutional knot. Our state legislatures, bowing to pressure from groups like the NRA, did so not too many years back.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Confederate monuments expert explains how we memorialized white supremacy

  In the wake of the neo-Nazi attacks in Charlottesville, officials in several Southern states have renewed calls to remove Confederate monuments from public spaces.

  This week, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) called for the removal of all Confederate monuments in North Carolina. Mayor Jim Gray (D) of Lexington, Kentucky, announced the removal of two Confederate statues from a historic courthouse in the city. And officials in Florida and Maryland made similar announcements.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Gene Policinski: ‘Freedom’ is best response to white supremacy hatemongers

  Let them march in Charlottesville. Let them speak.

  Hate-propagating neo-Nazis and bottom-dwelling white supremacists — the dregs of our open society — have and should have First Amendment rights to speak and march in public.

  We need to see them for what they are: a disappointing collection of the disaffected; some parading around in silly costumes, often ignorant of the real meaning and history of the symbols they display, carrying torches meant as much to intimidate as to illuminate.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Will the next junior U.S. Senator from Alabama even matter?

  You know the results of Tuesday’s primaries for our U.S. Senate seat. I had to go to press before the vote. However, the assumption was that there would be a runoff in the Republican Primary. It is safe to say that the winner of that runoff on September 26 will be elected as our next junior U.S. Senator. We are such a reliably Republican state that winning the GOP Primary will be tantamount to election in December.

  It may surprise you for me to say that it really makes very little difference as to who ultimately wins this seat. Whichever Republican prevails will vote no differently than the other. Despite all the money spent, name calling, and campaigning, whoever the Republican Primary victor is will vote conservatively right down the line. They will have the identical conservative voting record as Jeff Sessions. They all would vote right on the litmus test, hot button GOP issues like abortion, immigration, balanced budget, pro-military, pro-gun and pro-agriculture. Whoever wins will support President Donald Trump and the most conservative Supreme Court nominee available.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Don’t let Trump start a war with North Korea

  North Korea’s recent launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that might be able to reach the continental United States is a stark reminder of the dangers posed by the rogue regime in Pyongyang. With the stakes so high, too often policy options are presented as a false choice: attack North Korea or allow it to have nuclear weapons. Instead, the United States needs a clear, consistent approach to deter threats from North Korea—one that ensures North Korea does not attack the United States or our allies or proliferate its nuclear and missile technology, while at the same time makes possible a path to the eventual denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Darryl Lorenzo Wellington: Let me remind you who Jeff Sessions is

  For the past several weeks, media coverage of Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a sympathetic turn. In article after article, the “beleaguered” Sessions is described as a victim of bullying, under Twitter assault by the president who appointed him. Meanwhile, Trump—angry that the law-and-order man he chose did not live up to his idea of loyalty—seems to be taking some joy in Sessions’ discomfort.

  I have been reading about Sessions with a kind of perverse fascination—but I have not read anything that makes me feel sorry for him. The things he stands for—the things he has stood for over the course of his decades-long career—are abhorrent. The President’s mean tweets haven’t made Sessions’ brand of law enforcement any kinder to poor and black and brown people.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Trump again refuses to take responsibility for a resurgence of white nationalism

  After the deadly clash between hundreds of white supremacists and counter-protesters yesterday in Charlottesville, Virginia, President Trump called for Americans to “come together."

  He used similar words in his victory speech in the wee hours of Nov. 9, even as white supremacists began to celebrate.

  The problem is that Trump’s words are hollow.

  His calls for the country to unite will continue to be meaningless as long he fails to take responsibility for his role in dividing it – something he conspicuously avoided again during his press conference yesterday.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Jacob G. Hornberger: The Cold War roots of a new Korean war

  While President Trump’s impulsiveness and erratic behavior are clearly bringing America closer to war with North Korea, the real root of the Korean crisis lies not with him but rather with the Pentagon and the CIA, whose overwhelming power within the federal governmental structure is what really governs foreign policy, especially with respect to Korea.

  Who would have ever thought that the national-security state’s anti-communist crusade in the 1940s and 1950s would lead to the possibility of another war in Korea in 2017, one that could lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, including tens of thousands of Americans?

Friday, August 11, 2017

Interior Secretary Zinke’s guide to running a sham review

  In April, President Donald Trump ordered the U.S. Department of the Interior to conduct a review of 27 national monuments, with an eye toward altering or revoking their status. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has been charged with leading the review and providing recommendations to the White House by August 24. So far, the review has amounted to nothing more than a popularity contest based on Zinke’s secret, ever-evolving, and seemingly personal criteria.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1574: Through the eyes of children

  Through the eyes of children. From the mouths of babes. We all, including children, have our perspectives. We reveal these perspectives through our words. On many national and state issues, we rarely view these issues through the eyes of our children. We rarely hear or read the words of our children. This is an opportunity to hear our children on voting. August 6th was the 52nd Anniversary of the signing of the 1965 Voting Rights Act into law by President Lyndon Johnson. It is truly a historic day. It is also a good time to share the experiences of our children.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Moore could finish first in special election

  Folks, we are getting down to the proverbial lick log in the much-anticipated vote for the open U.S. Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions. After 20 years in the U.S. Senate as our junior U.S. Senator, Sessions left to become Donald Trump’s Attorney General. He probably regrets this decision.

  When the race began it looked like a Roy Moore vs. Luther Strange race. However, the third horse emerged about a month ago. Tennessee Valley Congressman, Mo Brooks, got a $2 million bump from the shooting he endured while a member of the Republican Congressional baseball team. He seized the moment, and Mo’s momentum gave him the “Big Mo.”

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Kate Bahn: The value of equal pay to the U.S. economy

  This year, Equal Pay Day fell on April 4. This means that the average woman had to work from the start of 2016 through April 4, 2017 to earn as much as an average man did in 2016 alone. Put another way, women currently earn 80 cents for each dollar that men earn.

  As a result of these factors and others, women can lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in earnings over the course of their careers. But it isn’t just women’s individual bottom lines that suffer: The gender wage gap is also a drag on the U.S. economy, and closing the gap should be a top priority of any economic policy agenda that seeks to strengthen and grow the economy. In fact, comparing it to the current top priority of the GOP—tax cuts for the wealthy—equal pay would put twice as much income back into our economy as their current proposed tax cuts.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Domestic terror threat remains serious five years after Sikh massacre

  Five years after the deadly white supremacist attack on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, there are troubling signals from the Trump administration that it won’t be taking seriously the threat of violence and terrorism from white supremacists and other domestic extremists.

  It was Aug. 5, 2012, when a 40-year-old neo-Nazi walked into the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in the Milwaukee suburb of Oak Creek and opened fire with a 9 mm handgun, apparently thinking he was attacking Muslims. When Wade Michael Page stopped shooting, six people were dead and four wounded, including the first officer to confront him.

  Nearly three years later, on June 17, 2015, white supremacist Dylann Roof, just 21, massacred nine African Americans at the historic Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston in an act of racial terror that shocked the country.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Gene Policinski: Sessions' leak warning to journalists misguided, misplaced

  A threat from the Trump administration, apparently aimed at journalists as part of a larger campaign to prevent widespread government “leaks” that have enraged the president, is the wrong message delivered to the wrong messenger.

  Attorney General Jeff Sessions, only a few days removed from a  challenge from President Trump (issued via Twitter of course) to be tougher on tracking down leakers in the White House and elsewhere, made a statement Friday announcing ramped-up leak investigations and policy reviews–and included  a warning to journalists that they might be subpoenaed in these processes.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Why gutting gainful employment is a bad idea for Betsy DeVos

  On June 14, the U.S. Department of Education, led by Secretary Betsy DeVos, began a process to dismantle the gainful employment regulation. This crucial rule ensures that career training programs produce graduates who find jobs with incomes sufficient enough to repay their student loans.

  Since that time, the Trump administration has taken further steps to weaken the gainful employment rule while it works to rewrite the rule. On July 5, it announced a one-year delay for the requirements that institutions disclose information about the debt and earnings of graduates to students. It also announced that it would create a new process for the more than 2,000 programs that are in trouble under the rule to appeal their results in response to a narrow court ruling that affected about a dozen programs.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Craig Ford: A new school year is starting, but it should be starting later

  Remember when school didn’t start until after Labor Day? In a matter of days, students all across Alabama will start a new school year, and yet it’s only the second week of August!

  Instead of spending the last few weeks of August working summer jobs or on family vacations, teachers and students are preparing to head back to school. Why?

  It wasn’t always this way. In 2012, the Alabama Legislature passed a school start date bill that mandated a longer summer break for our public schools. It was a bill that had broad bipartisan support. Supporters argued that extending the summer break would benefit families, students, employers, Alabama’s tourism industry, and even the government.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

How the "religious liberty" executive order licenses discrimination

  The Trump administration’s draft religious liberty executive order, leaked in February, was explicit in its directives and sweeping in its implications. The order President Donald Trump signed in May—the “Presidential Executive Order Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty”—rather than formally codifying a view of religious liberty or instructing federal agencies on how to interpret the law, tasks the U.S. attorney general—currently Jeff Sessions—with advancing his interpretation of religious liberty through administrative guidance. Sessions has already taken steps to oppose workplace protections against discrimination for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. Now he will begin extending protections for those seeking a license to discriminate.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Friends and neighbors make the difference

  There is a proven theory espoused by political scholars that has prevailed in southern politics for decades. The premier political scholar, Dr. V. O. Key, first illustrated this repetitious theme that has weaved its way through the southern electorate. He called it “Friends and Neighbors” politics. It is not a complicated hypothesis. It simply means that southerners tend to vote for someone from their neck of the woods. It is a truism in all southern states. However, it is most pronounced in the Heart of Dixie.

  This friends and neighbors vote comes to light in open races for governor and U.S. senator. Folks in Alabama will consistently vote for someone from their county or surrounding counties, or region of the state overwhelmingly.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

David L. Hudson Jr.: High Court reverses woman’s conviction for profanity uttered at store

  A Connecticut woman who uttered a slew of profanity at a store manager during a customer service dispute had her conviction reversed by the state high court. The Connecticut Supreme Court explained that context matters in determining whether an individuals’ verbal outburst qualifies as fighting words – defined as words that can cause the recipient to react immediately with violence.

  "Fighting words" remains one of those narrow, unprotected categories of speech that sometimes leads to breach-of-the-peace or disorderly conduct convictions. The U.S. Supreme Court first identified fighting words as an unprotected category in Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire (1942), defining them as “words that by their very utterance inflict injury or cause an immediate breach of the peace.” Later cases have all but interred the first part of the definition – “words that by their very utterance inflict injury” – but fighting words cases still abound based on the “immediate breach of the peace” definition.