Sunday, December 31, 2017

For mixed-status families, a “choiceless choice”

  Nora Sándigo has more presents stashed in a spare bedroom than her children could possibly open. They are stacked on top of each other, some wrapped, some in cardboard boxes, some in plastic tubs and trash bags. They touch the ceiling.

  The presents are not for Christmas morning. Sándigo keeps them for the more than 1,000 children who are counting on her to become their guardian if their undocumented parents are deported.

  She is, as Brooke Jarvis writes for The New York Times, “the most powerful person in many people’s worlds.”

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Craig Ford: College professor gets it wrong on K-12 teachers

  Walter Williams, who is a professor of economics at George Mason University, has written an editorial where he insulted every school teacher and every university in the country (including the one that employs him) by claiming that, “With but a few exceptions, schools of education represent the academic slums of colleges,” and that “American education could benefit from eliminating schools of education.”

  The only thing more frustrating than the arrogance behind these statements is the ignorance in them, and I feel obligated to respond.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Alabama Juvenile Justice Task Force report is progress, but more needed

  The Alabama Juvenile Justice Task Force, with technical assistance from the Pew Charitable Trust, surveyed Alabama law and considered data-driven and evidence-based reforms to the juvenile justice system. Its final report contains a number of recommendations that, if enacted, would represent progress for Alabama and its most vulnerable children. For instance, the Task Force recommends ending fines and fees in the juvenile justice system, restricting out-of-home placement, and preventing unnecessary or inappropriate arrests of children from K-12 public schools.

  Unfortunately, because it does not recommend ending the practice of charging children as adults, the Task Force fell short of its goals of protecting public safety, containing costs and improving outcomes for children, families, and communities.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

In Selma, Alabama, whose heritage?

  On each anniversary of Bloody Sunday, people from across the country and the world make a pilgrimage to Selma, Alabama, to listen to civil rights luminaries, walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and recommit themselves to the fight for equal justice.

  One place these pilgrims are unlikely to visit is Selma’s Old Live Oak Cemetery, home to a bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest, the Confederate general who lost the Battle of Selma and, after the Civil War, became the grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Those we lost in 2017

  At the close of each year, my tradition is to acknowledge the passing away of significant political leaders from the political stage in our beloved state.

  We lost some icons this year. As I sit in my office writing this year-end column, pictures of two of my favorite friends and legends adorn my walls. The photos of Governor Albert Brewer and Congressman Jim Martin look down at me. Both were Christian gentlemen.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Richard M. Ebeling: Capitalism and asymmetric information

  Capitalism is a wondrous human institution for the mutual betterment for all in society. Yet, critics often insist that market systems enable sellers to take advantage of buyers because those on the demand-side often lack the specialized knowledge that suppliers possess, thus, enabling a possible exaggerated misrepresentation of what is being offered for sale. What is missed is that market competition generates the incentives and opportunities to earn profits precisely by not misinforming or cheating the buyer.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Gary Palmer: The Christmas that saved America

  Given the current condition of the American economy, there might be a temptation to view what Americans are spending this Christmas as the Christmas that saves the American economy… or at least keeps it from going deeper into recession. But regardless of what Americans spend this Christmas, you would have to look farther back to find the Christmas that saved America.

  By the end of November 1776, American independence was on life support. Gen. George Washington had just suffered a devastating defeat and lost the city of New York to the British. Not only was New York City entirely in British hands, Washington made a strategic blunder by not evacuating his forces from Fort Washington and Fort Lee, on the Hudson River.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas food around the world

  The following provides just a taste of favorite festive foods from around the world:


  Austrians celebrate Christmas in grand style with a Christmas Eve supper of carp simmered in a ginger and beer-flavored sauce and seasonal vegetables, followed by Topfenpalatschinken (sweet cheese crepes topped with an apricot caramel sauce) for dessert. The traditional fare on Christmas Day is roast goose with all the trimmings.


  Australian Christmas dinners vary from state to state and from one group of people to another. In general, however, traditional Australian festive fare consists of roast turkey, with ham and/or pork. Christmas pudding (containing a lucky token) and mince pies are also served.


  As with many other European countries, the main Christmas meal is enjoyed on Christmas Eve rather than on Christmas Day. A typical Bulgarian Christmas dinner consists of twelve different meat-free dishes such as beans, nuts, dried fruit (typically plums), cakes and Banitza (cheese and spinach filo parcels).


  In Brazil, chicken, turkey, pork and ham are all popular meats for the main Christmas meal, served with rice, salad, and dried fruits.

Czech Republic

  Christmas is celebrated on Christmas Eve in the Czech Republic. Following a typical starter of cod roe soup, a main course of carp or Wiener Schnitzel is served with potato salad including carrots, peas, celery, onions, eggs, pickles and mayonnaise, or with sauerkraut and dumplings. Linzer (sweet vanilla flavored delicacies) are popular for dessert.


  Codfish cooked in a creamy, spicy sauce served with boiled or mashed potatoes, and roast pig, ham and vegetables are typical Christmas dishes in Finland.


  In France, Christmas fare varies from region to region. The Parisians, for instance, are fond of oysters and foie gras for their main Christmas meal, whereas in Alsace, goose is a favorite. In other regions including Burgundy, Christmas food is similar to a traditional British Christmas dinner with turkey, cranberry sauce and chestnut stuffing, followed by Christmas pudding and mince pies. But the French tend to take their festive fare one step further with a mouth-watering array of sweet pastries and petits fours.


  Christmas Eve, fondly referred to as "dickbauch" (fat stomach) is when the Germans gather together to enjoy their main Christmas meal. German and Austrian Christmas dinners are very similar, consisting typically of gebackener karpfen (carp), or roast goose served with potatoes, cabbage, parsnips and pickled vegetables. Sweets include Christbaumgerback, sweet, sugary dough delights cut into festive shapes and baked until crisp, as well as Stollen, the traditional German Christmas cake.


  Pork is the most popular meat for a Greek Christmas feast, served with sweet loaves called Christopsomo (Christ Bread).


  Christmas treats in Greenland range from lamb to a dish of small auks, (seabirds, wrapped in sealskin until they decompose before they are ready for cooking), or whale steaks. After the meal, Mattak (whale skin with a strip of blubber inside) is passed around for the guests.


  A traditional Italian seven-course Christmas dinner (Cennone) may consist of antipasto, anchovies, various fish, pasta especially spaghetti, meat (only occasionally), salads, fresh broccoli, fruits, cheese, sweets and magnificent cakes and pastries that vary from region to region.


  Turkey and plum pudding are traditionally served for dinner on Christmas Day in Malta. Timpana (pastries filled with minced meat macaroni) are also popular.

New Zealand

  Barbecued meats such as pork, lamb or venison are served with roasted vegetables including sweet potato and pumpkin. Salads and coleslaw are also popular Christmas fare in New Zealand. For pudding, hot fruit compote with custard and ice cream is a "hot" Christmas favorite among New Zealanders!


  Christmas in Poland is celebrated on Christmas Eve (Wagilia) with a traditional feast of twelve different dishes, each representing a month of the year. Oplatek (Christmas wafers or sacred offerings) are also shared. Fish dishes, especially herring, pike and carp are generally served instead of meat at Christmas time. Other Polish favorites include fish or mushroom soup, or red borscht (beetroot soup served with soured cream), sauerkraut with wild mushrooms with pierogies (crescent-shaped, stuffed dumplings with a variety of fillings), and kutia (a rich dried fruit compote) for dessert.


  The Portuguese are partial to a specialty dish called Bacalhau (dried salt cod). For dessert, Rabanadas (bread soaked in wine, sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and fried in eggs) or Bolo Rei (a fruit cake with a topping of glazed fruit and chopped nuts), are traditionally served at Christmas.


  The focus in Scandinavian countries is on sweet foods more than on savory dishes. Pepparkakor (cinnamon and gingerbread biscuits) in the shape of stars, moons, hearts, and even pigs are traditionally baked for Christmas.


  In Sweden, the main celebratory meal, consisting of pork, ham, fish (usually herring) and brown beans, is served on Christmas Eve rather than on Christmas Day.


  Similar in many ways to Portugal, Spanish festive fare focuses on seafood. White sea bass roasted in olive oil, onions and lemons and sprinkled with breadcrumbs is a traditional Christmas dish. Almonds and marzipan both feature prominently in most traditional Spanish Christmas "puddings" and sweets. Turrón, (nougat made from toasted sweet almonds and honey, similar to nut brittle, is particularly popular.


  In the Ukraine, it is customary to serve a special twelve-course supper on Christmas Eve. Traditional courses include borscht (beetroot soup), various fish dishes, cabbage stuffed with millet, and dried fruit compote topped with honey and crushed poppy seeds.

Christmas Dinner Past and Present

Did you know....

• In Britain during Elizabethan times, the well-to-do would feast on roast swan, peacock, boar's head and goose for Christmas dinner?

• More and more people in Britain today are foregoing the traditional Christmas dinner of turkey with all the trimmings in favor of vegetarian options such as chestnut pate, borscht, savory strudel parcels, chestnut stuffed mushrooms, cranberry sauce and walnuts, and vegetarian Christmas lasagne?

• In some European countries, including Slovakia and in the Netherlands, Saint Nicholas's birthday, December 6th, is also celebrated, with sweets pastries and goodies handed out to children who have been particularly well-behaved throughout the year. Naughty brats are traditionally handed pieces of coal, potatoes or onions!

  About the author: Paul T. Gregory works at the and is an eclectic online writer.

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Saturday, December 23, 2017

Schedules that work for working families

  Many workers in the United States are all too familiar with the pressure of managing work demands and family responsibilities. Now, imagine trying to juggle the two while not knowing your work schedule for the following week or how much your next paycheck will be. Unfortunately, this is a troubling reality for many workers with unfair work schedules. For example, among young workers, 38 percent receive their schedule with less than a week’s notice and 44 percent have no control over their work hours. Unfair schedules affect the health and economic security of workers and their families, harm employee morale, and may increase the likelihood of sexual harassment.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Black voters turned out in Alabama — despite suppression

  When it came time to cast her ballot in the presidential election last fall, Dechauna Jiles voted at the First Assembly of God in Dothan, Alabama. But when she returned to her polling place last week to vote in Alabama’s special election, poll workers told her she was “inactive.”

  “That makes no sense,” said Jiles.

  The African-American woman had always voted at the First Assembly of God.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Trump administration’s new tipping rule could make sexual harassment worse

  Months into our national reckoning with sexual harassment, media coverage shifted last week from the abuses taking place in elite circles—like Hollywood and Capitol Hill—to the restaurant industry, where prominent restaurateurs like Mario Batali, John Besh, and Ken Friedman face allegations of misconduct toward their staff.

  These allegations inch the media coverage closer to the reality many women face, in part because many of the people reporting are ordinary restaurant employees rather than high-profile actresses or news anchors. There’s also the matter of the industry they work in: Low-paid working women are often at the greatest risk for abuse, particularly if they are in service professions.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: 2017 was a dramatic year in Alabama politics

  Well, folks, we have had a more exciting and fun-filled political year than we expected. Usually, most of the fun is reserved for even-numbered years when presidential or gubernatorial elections are held.

  However, it’s been a good ride. Obviously, the Special Election for the remaining three years of Jeff Sessions’ U.S. Senate term monopolized the year. Although you will have to remember, that election was preceded by two events that set up that race.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Peter D Knight: Find the spirit of Christmas that you once had

  Every year the Christmas season comes earlier. It used to be that we put up our outside Christmas lights on the last weekend of November. Shortly after, we gradually transformed the inside of our house with Christmas decorations. This culminated with the purchase of a real pine tree, which we decorated shortly before Christmas, at times as late as Christmas Eve. The earliest that we went to get our tree was a couple of weeks before Christmas.

Monday, December 18, 2017

What Doug Jones’ win means for people in poverty

  Doug Jones’ victory in the Alabama Senate race is just a week old, but the hot takes are still pouring in. For some, the outcome is a signal that Democrats can win both houses of Congress in 2018. For others, it is an outlier—a race that a Republican not accused of sexually assaulting children would have easily won. And for the kind folks at Fox & Friends, it wasn’t much of a win at all—“a referendum on Harvey Weinstein, not on President Trump.”

  The only thing not up for debate is why Jones won: It’s because people of color—particularly African Americans from Alabama’s impoverished “Black Belt”—turned out to vote for him. But lost in the political discussion of the election is one key question: What does the election mean for the lives of Alabamans—especially those who voted for Doug Jones?

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Craig Ford: All I want for Christmas is for every child to have a good education

  When my kids were growing up, I don’t know who was more excited on Christmas morning: the kids opening their presents or me and Gwen watching them!

  Ever since God gave us the original and best Christmas gift, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, giving gifts has been a part of celebrating Christmas. But as I thought about what I wanted most this Christmas, it wasn’t anything material or even something for myself.

  What I want most for Christmas is to finally see every child in Alabama be given a chance at the quality education they deserve. And believe it or not, that is a gift that we could actually provide.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Gene Policinski: Two wrongs do not make a ‘right’ — but they can misuse one

  Didn’t we all learn, long ago, that “two wrongs don’t make a right”?

  But two wrongs can misuse a right — as in our right to free expression, guaranteed by the First Amendment.

  First, there’s the wrong done by “Project Veritas,” a gaggle of self-proclaimed operatives on a purported mission to root out corruption and dishonesty in the media. The group uses deceitful tactics to wrong-foot reporters.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Is the American Dream alive and well in Alabama?

  A recent Pew Research study found that over 80% of U.S. citizens believe they’ve achieved the American dream, or at least that they’re on the way to doing so. Only 17% of those surveyed said the American dream is “out of reach” for their family.

  But what about Alabamians? This high level of satisfaction seems like it might not translate in a relatively poor state like ours.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Public school athletes can protest during the Pledge of Allegiance

I recently was asked during question-and-answer periods at conferences in New Hampshire and Tennessee whether public school students have a First Amendment right to protest by kneeling during the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

  Yes, they do, or at least they should. The U.S. Supreme Court declared back on Flag Day in 1943 that public school students did not have to stand, salute the flag, and recite the Pledge of Allegiance in West Virginia Bd. of Educ. v. Barnette (1943).

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Will Alabama lose a Congressional seat?

  The legendary Speaker of the U.S. House Sam Rayburn coined a famous phrase he used often and imparted to young congressmen when they would arrive on Capitol Hill full of vim and vigor. He would sit down with them and invite them to have a glass of bourbon and branch water with him. The old gentleman, who had spent nearly half a century in the Congress, after hearing their ambitions of how they were going to change the world, would look them in the eye and say, “You know here in Congress there are 435 prima donnas and they all can’t be lead horses.” Then the Speaker in his Texas drawl would say, “If you want to get along, you have to go along.”

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Net neutrality is the free speech fight of our generation

  Late last month, the Trump administration’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a plan to effectively end net neutrality. To help unpack what this means for regular people who use the internet, I spoke with Katrina vanden Heuvel, the editor and publisher of The Nation.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Our Stand: Alabama needs Doug Jones

  Though the campaign to fill Alabama's vacant U.S. Senate seat his been marked by controversy - namely twice-ousted former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore's shady past and serial abuse of elected office - since the beginning of the race, it has been clear who is better qualified and suited to represent the people of Alabama: Doug Jones.

  As the U.S. Attorney for Alabama's Northern District, Jones successfully prosecuted two Klan members for their involvement in the horrible bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963, which killed four little girls. Those perpetrators had evaded justice for nearly 30 years by the time of their convictions, and Jones has been credited for taking the stalled case, putting in the work, and finally bringing the long nightmare to an end.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Tales and truth in the Masterpiece Cakeshop arguments

  In July 2012, Charlie Craig and David Mullins went into Masterpiece Cakeshop to buy a wedding cake. The store owner, Jack Phillips, refused to sell the same-sex couple a cake. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission and state courts have agreed that Phillips’ refusal to serve Craig and Mullins violated Colorado’s anti-discrimination act, which bars businesses such as Masterpiece Cakeshop from refusing service based on characteristics including religion, race, and sexual orientation.

  Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission and will decide whether Phillips’ has a constitutional right to discriminate under the First Amendment. At stake is whether nondiscrimination laws will continue to provide meaningful protection against discrimination, not only for LGBTQ people but potentially for other protected classes as well.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Six things President Trump got wrong when decimating America’s national monuments

  On Monday, President Donald Trump announced the largest revocation of protected areas in U.S. history. The two proclamations he signed removed protections of more than 2 million acres by eliminating both Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments and replacing them with five much smaller national monuments. His illegal action could result in the destruction of Native American archaeological sites, widespread loss of wildlife habitat, and economic harm to local businesses.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Jacob G. Hornberger: No American is willing to die for South Korea

  Let’s engage in a thought experiment. Let’s assume that President Trump today ordered all U.S. troops in South Korea to immediately withdraw and come home, a position that I hold is the best and possibly only solution to the Korean crisis. After all, let’s not forget that the reason North Korea wants nuclear capability is to deter or defend against one of the U.S. government’s storied regime-change operations (e.g., Iran, Guatemala, Cuba, Chile, Panama, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Libya, etc.). Virtually no one suggests that the reason North Korea wants a long-range nuclear capability is to enable it to start a war with the United States. It wants nuclear capability for defensive, not offensive, purposes. Once U.S. troops are brought home, the incentive for North Korea to acquire nuclear capability that would strike the United States plummets.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1591: I am going to vote on Dec. 12th!

  I am going to vote on Tuesday, December 12, 2017. I am going to vote because my vote matters. I am going to vote because your vote matters. I am going to vote because my vote is my voice. I am going to vote because my mother and father were denied the right to vote for most of their lives. I am going to vote because I couldn’t vote in Alabama when I became of age. I am going to vote because too many are working to make it more difficult for me and others to vote. I am going to vote because people died so I and others could vote. I am going to vote on Tuesday, December 12.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Moore vs. Jones

  The final vote for the remaining three years of Jeff Sessions' six-year term in the U.S. Senate will be next Tuesday. The race is between Democrat Doug Jones and Republican Roy Moore.

  Jeff Sessions is probably sorry he left his safe Senate seat of 20 years to be at the Justice Department in a tentative position with constant ridicule from an irrational egomaniac as president.

  It would be highly unlikely that a Democrat could beat a Republican for a U.S. Senate seat in the Heart of Dixie.  We are one of the most reliably Republican states in America, especially when it comes to federal offices.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Rosa Parks, #MeToo, and the nature of the struggle

  Three and a half years before Rosa Parks sat down, Pfc. Sarah Keys refused to get up.

  Keys was in the Army and traveling home on furlough. When a new bus driver took the wheel in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, he demanded that she give up her seat to a white Marine.

  Keys refused. So the driver emptied the bus, directed the other passengers to another vehicle and barred Keys from boarding it. She was charged with disorderly conduct and jailed, paying a $25 fine.

  She filed a complaint — and in a milestone for civil rights, she won.

Monday, December 4, 2017

High Court to examine Minnesota law banning all political speech near polls

  Pure political speech represents the core type of speech the First Amendment was designed to protect. A case this term, Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky, before the U.S. Supreme Court will test the Justices’ commitment to this principle.

  A Minnesota law forbids voters from wearing a “political badge, political button, or other political insignia . . . at or about the polling place on primary or election day.”

  The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law, reasoning that a polling place is a nonpublic forum instead of a traditional, designated or limited public forum where free-speech rights are greater. Under the Court’s public forum doctrine, restrictions on speech in nonpublic forums are constitutional if the restrictions are viewpoint neutral and reasonable.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Craig Ford: State leaders have lost their credibility on prisons

  With all the attention being given to the special election for the U.S. Senate, you may not have seen what has been happening in Montgomery with the prison crisis.

  Last year, Gov. Robert Bentley proposed a plan to build four new “super prisons” at a cost of about $800 million. At the time, a lawsuit had been filed claiming that the state’s prisons were overcrowded and did not provide adequate safety and healthcare services, which is a violation of the 8th Amendment that prohibits “cruel and unusual punishment.”

  State leaders claimed that building new prisons would solve all the problems by allowing the state to house the same number of prisoners without having to hire more guards or mental health care professionals.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Ulrich Boser: The value of guardrails in education

  The real estate crash of September 2008 provided a powerful lesson about the nature of government oversight. After federal regulators failed to rigorously manage the real estate industry, a pool of bad loans caused a housing bubble that nearly destroyed the world economy.

  While schools are much different than houses, education reformers should take note of the value of government oversight because the core lesson remains the same. Markets function better when government plays a strong role, and education policymakers should help to inform consumer decisions and police bad actors.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Jason Fernandes: The quiet attacks on your rights you probably haven’t heard about

  Last Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a plan to repeal Obama-era net neutrality rules. Their proposal would allow internet service providers to charge consumers more for higher streaming speeds or for access to certain websites, effectively opening a legal route to deny people access to a free and open internet based on their ability to pay. This came just a week after the FCC voted to roll back Lifeline, a program that helps low-income Americans pay for phone and broadband service.