Monday, December 31, 2018

Top 10 ways to make New Year's resolutions stick

  Another year rolls around and gyms across the country fill with newcomers. Gym regulars grouse about how the competition for the treadmills and elliptical machines has grown ten-fold, but they smile knowingly because they have seen it all before. In a month or two, the gym will be back to normal as all the New Year's resolution makers lose steam and go back to business as usual.

  Yet every year there are a few who defy the odds and keep going to the gym regularly. They stick to their resolutions. What is it that sets the resolution-keepers apart from the resolution drop-outs?

Sunday, December 30, 2018

How much are you willing to pay for money?

  Disdain for money is a common theme among moralists and philosophers. But money’s not the problem. It’s what people do to get it and what they do with it when they get it.

  In "Fiddler on the Roof," a poor man sings of his daydreams of the wonderful life he’d have if he were a rich man. And surely it would be better. As someone once said, “I’ve been poor and I’ve been rich. Rich is better.”

  Yet the Biblical warning that “love of money is the root of all evil” reminds us to be aware of the difference between need and greed.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1646 - The ride to save the last five!

  The Ride to Save the Last Five. It’s a slogan that makes sense only when we know the background. When we know why we were on a ride to save the last five, we understand the slogan. When we know the situation of the last five, then we know that it is really a matter of life and death.  A Ride to Save the Last Five.

  Murder of African Americans in Selma, Alabama is a crisis of monumental proportion. Last year, Selma ranked first in Alabama and eighth in the country among the most dangerous cities in the United States of America. Those rankings are for last year. However, we don’t know the rankings for this year. We do know that it is likely to be worse, much worse.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Gay rights activist and Supreme Court victor left his mark on the First Amendment

  Raymond Wayne Hill, who passed away at the age of 78 on November 24, was known for his championing of gay rights causes and his social activism. He co-founded Houston’s first LGBTQ organization, helped to galvanize the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, and served as executive director of the Houston Human Rights League.

  But, Hill also left his mark on the First Amendment, achieving a stunning victory before the U.S. Supreme Court in City of Houston v. Hill (1987). Hill thought that a police officer was picking on a friend of his, another man with the last name of Hill. Hill approached the officer and said: “Why don’t you pick on somebody your own size?”

Thursday, December 27, 2018

With Rosa Parks Day, Alabama moves toward recognition of its true heroes

  On December 1, the state of Alabama marked its first Rosa Parks Day.

  It was a significant step toward recognizing the state's prominent civil rights activists.

  Sixty-three years ago – on Dec. 1, 1955 – Parks was arrested and jailed for refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger on a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse – We lost some great leaders in 2018

  As is my custom at the close of the year, I like to memorialize great Alabamians who have appeared and lived legendary lives upon the stage of political history in the Heart of Dixie.

  This year we have had some real legends. I have expanded the geographical limits to outside of Alabama to include two of the greatest men in American history. America’s greatest preacher and one of the nation’s great presidents passed away. Most of these fellows lived a long time. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Christmas around the world

  Christmas is both a religious holiday and increasingly a secular holiday heavily influenced by local culture. As a result, Christmas traditions are as diverse as the world is diverse culturally.

  In the United States, for example, Christmas traditions are a literal potpourri of the Christmas traditions brought by immigrants, mostly European. For example: Yule log (English), Christmas tree (German), carols or noels (France), Santa Claus (Dutch). In more recent times, newer Christmas traditions have arrived with the most recent immigrants such as luminaries (Mexico) and the greeting "Feliz Navidad!" (Latin America generally).

Monday, December 24, 2018

What is a good Christmas?

  Will this be a good Christmas?

  How will you measure it?

  For lots of kids, the answer may be embedded in the response to the question, “What did ya get?”

  On the other hand, retailers and Wall Street investors will look to sales and profits.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Conservatives are using the courts to attack health care for all Americans

  Conservative state officials, in conjunction with the Trump administration, have launched an all-out attack on health care in the United States. They have brought a suit to overturn the entirety of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which would have serious consequences for nearly every American who has health coverage, whether through their employer, the individual market, Medicare, or Medicaid. And they found a partisan judge who proved willing to ignore the rule of law and help them advance their political agenda through the courts.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Trump’s school safety commission recommendations would make schools less safe

  The Federal Commission on School Safety—established by President Trump following the tragic school shooting in Parkland, Florida, and led by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos—released a report Tuesday that recommends withdrawing the 2014 Department of Justice and Department of Education legal guidance on discriminatory discipline.

  The commission’s recommendations threaten to make our nation's schools and students less safe; ignore settled law; ignore both evidence and evidence-based solutions; and ignore progress made towards safe, welcoming, and healthy schools for all students.

Friday, December 21, 2018

He said he'd be murdered if deported. He was.

  He said he would be murdered if he were deported back to Honduras. He was.

  Nearly a year after a judge rejected Santos Chirino’s case for asylum, his 18-year-old daughter and 19-year-old son returned to the very same courtroom to plead their own.

  “Your honor, this is a difficult case,” their father’s lawyer, Benjamin Osorio, told Judge John Bryant. “I represented their father, Santos Chirino Cruz. … I lost the case in this courtroom. ... He was murdered in April.”

Thursday, December 20, 2018

How a tax break meant for low-income communities became a mini tax haven for the rich

  The Trump tax bill, signed into law last year, established the Opportunity Zone incentive program. It’s meant to spur growth in low-income neighborhoods by giving investors tax benefits for putting money into distressed areas and leaving it there for a few years.

  The goal of boosting development in low-income areas is certainly laudable, but one major concern is that funds are going to be directed to places that are not really distressed: Take, for instance,  the area where Amazon’s HQ2 will land in Long Island City, the area around a Trump golf course, or the future home of the Las Vegas Raiders NFL franchise, all of which qualify for benefits. Ahead of a White House event last week about Opportunity Zones, reports emerged regarding how the Kushner family business stands to take advantage of the program after Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump pushed for its creation.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse – Very few white Democrats left in legislature; several legends retiring

  The Republican tidal wave that swept Alabama’s statewide office-seekers to landslide victories filtered down to legislative races.

  Even though our legislature really didn’t need to become any more conservative or Republican, it did anyway. We had a super majority Republican House and Senate. We now have a super, super GOP majority. Republicans picked up five more Alabama House seats and added another Senate seat. That gives the GOP a 27 to 8 advantage in the Senate and a 77 to 28 edge in the House.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Upheaval within League of South leaves group without a convention site

  Conflict within the neo-Confederate white nationalist League of the South (LOS) has forced the group to find a new location for its annual convention after the owners of a Wetumpka, Alabama building said it will no longer rent its property to the LOS.

  For the last seven years, the LOS held its annual meetings at a building owned by the Southern Cultural Center Inc., an Alabama nonprofit.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Time to stand up for journalists, for the pursuit of truth

  Unlike most of Time magazine’s “Person of the Year” designees since 1927, we can be certain none of those featured this year on that iconic, red-framed cover wanted to be there.

  This year, Time has four cover images, all recognizing journalists who are imprisoned, facing charges, or who died in the pursuit of news on behalf of the rest of us — collectively titled, “The Guardians and the War on Truth.”

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Anti-immigrant rhetoric was defeated in the 2018 midterm elections

  In what has been coined the “blue wave,” the 2018 midterm elections resulted in 40 seats being flipped from Republican to Democratic control, the largest midterm gains by Democrats since Watergate in 1974. While candidates debated a number of critical issues this election season—including health care, Supreme Court appointees, and the economy—many candidates followed the lead of President Donald Trump, putting an overwhelming emphasis on pushing anti-immigrant and restrictionist messages in the hope of energizing voters. As races were called, and as a wide variety of polling has shown, it is clear: Anti-immigrant fearmongering did not work.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Truckers spend the holidays driving too much for too little pay

  Much of America will be engaged in a holiday gift-buying bonanza this month. And whether it’s via online order or plucking wares directly off store shelves, they have truck drivers to thank for the available goods.

  “Black Friday, Cyber Monday, everything you shop for or order online is going to be brought by a truck. Many truck drivers opt to spend the holidays alone to deliver that freight and to make that little bit of extra money,” said Desiree Wood, a driver and president of REAL Women in Trucking, an organization that advocates for better work conditions for drivers. “It means you may be in some strange town you’ve never been in before, and isolated to where you can park, which is usually a truck stop where there isn’t any good food.”

Friday, December 14, 2018

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1644 - We just don’t know from whence a second gift of life may come!

  A gift of life. Life is a precious gift from God. Sometimes human beings are vessels for a second gift of life. Of course, mothers and fathers are vessels for God’s first gift of life. But sometimes a second gift of life comes from other directions. It’s still from God, but we never know from what vessel a second gift of life may come.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Frank Earnest is the chief of ‘heritage defense.’ The question is, whose heritage?

  Even before neo-Nazi James Alex Fields Jr. was convicted of first-degree murder, no one disputed he drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia during the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in August 2017.

  And neither the prosecution or the defense disputed that Heather Heyer died on impact. Watching video of that moment in court last week, one juror clapped his hand over his mouth — but Fields showed no emotion.

  Fields was among the white supremacists who were in Charlottesville to protest the city’s plan to remove giant statues of Robert E. Lee and Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson from its parks.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse – Last of the famous probate judges: Hardy McCollum

  In Alabama political history, the office of probate judge was the most powerful and prestigious position. In the old days, in every county in Alabama, the probate judge was not only the judge, but he also appointed all county positions, hired all county employees, and was chairman of the county commission. He was essentially the “King of the County.” 

  In bygone days, gubernatorial candidates ran grassroots campaigns. There were no televisions, therefore, the first and maybe the only stop they would make in their quest for the governor’s mansion was to kiss the ring and get the endorsement of the probate judge. The omnipotent probate judge would endorse them and that endorsement usually meant that that they would carry that county. The local folks would follow the lead of their judge. They and their county would be on the right side of the governor’s race. 

  The last vestige of the era of vintage probate judges will end this year with the retirement of Tuscaloosa Probate Judge Hardy McCollum.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Don’t worry, Santa, the ‘war on Christmas’ isn’t real

  When I read that 52% of American adults say they believe in Santa Claus (according to a survey from Public Policy Polling), I wasn’t surprised to learn in the same poll that 42% also believe there is a "war on Christmas."

  After all (spoiler alert), both are figments of the imagination.

  Belief in Santa, at least, perpetuates a spirit of joy and goodwill. But the "war on Christmas" narrative, by contrast, does little more than stir up anger and ill will.

  Like so much else surrounding the commercial Christmas, the "war on Christmas" has become a lucrative franchise guaranteed to boost ratings for talk-show hosts and book sales for culture warriors.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Why isn't Trump making Mexico pay for his wall?

  Correct me if I’m wrong, but my recollection is that in his campaign for the presidency, President Trump said that he was going to make Mexico pay for his 1900-mile wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. All I see today is Trump and his supporters getting angry over the fact that Congress is, so far, refusing to pay for Trump’s Wall.

  I don’t get it. Forcing Mexico to pay for Trump’s Wall is quite a bit different from forcing American taxpayers to pay for it. Why did Trump go from his initial position to his new position?

Sunday, December 9, 2018


  The driving mantra for the Trump administration, the one that energizes every Trumpster and Trumpista, is MAGA — Make America Great Again.

  The problem arises in how Trump defines national greatness. For him, it means a gigantic military-intelligence establishment — i.e., the national-security state, consisting of the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA. The more powerful this branch of the federal government, the greater the nation in the eyes of President Trump.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

‘Feel-good’ holiday stories are actually just a symptom of a crumbling society

  Over the Black Friday weekend, Mother Jones editor-in-chief Clara Jeffery saw a need on the popular education crowdfunding site DonorsChoose, where teachers request financial assistance for classroom supplies. For 22 hours, Jeffery tweeted out fundraiser after fundraiser, until her followers raised $60,000 by responding to the lone Twitter thread. They sent paper and pencils to San Francisco, books to fire evacuees in Chico, an instructor’s computer to a tribal school in South Dakota, warm weather gear to East Flatbush, and much more.

  Throughout the thread, Jeffery expressed frustration that teachers’ needs were so dire. “She [is] asking for pencils and glue sticks,” Jeffery commented on a fundraiser for a low-income San Francisco school. On a request for help buying laundry equipment, she said: “These asks for ways to help kids and their families get and clean clothes are so sad. We need to serious[ly] overhaul our society.”

Friday, December 7, 2018

Why won't conservatives take responsibility?

  One of the conservative movement’s favorite mantras is “With freedom comes responsibility.” Given such, a question naturally arises: Why won’t conservatives take responsibility for their actions and beliefs?

  Consider the current brouhaha over the Central American citizens who are trying to enter the United States to seek refugee status. They are fleeing their countries in an attempt to save their lives from violence and tyranny.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Misinformation, hoaxes and hyperpartisan news

  “Misinformation” is’s word of the year. The site defines it as “false information that is spread, regardless of whether there is intent to mislead” and is careful to distinguish it from disinformation, which does require a deliberate intent to mislead. Note that that the word of the year is not “fake news.” That’s SO 2016.

  For anyone concerned about the varieties of false information, the recent U.S. midterm elections were seen as a test of whether or not, in the past two years, we’ve learned anything about how to deal with them.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse – Winners and losers

  Now that the dust has settled on this year’s elections, let’s look back at who have been the big winners and losers of the year.

  The obvious winner in the Heart of Dixie is the Republican Party. The GOP retained the reins of the state’s highest office and every other statewide Constitutional position. Kay Ivey was elected governor, overwhelmingly, as was Will Ainsworth as lieutenant governor, John Merrill as Secretary of State, John McMillan as Alabama Treasurer, Rick Pate as Agriculture Commissioner, Jim Ziegler as State Auditor, and Jeremy Oden and Chip Beeker as PSC members. Our entire judiciary is Republican, all members of the Supreme Court, and the Courts of Criminal and Civil Appeals.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Note to White House: You don't get to decide the “rules,” either

  Even as the White House restored the “hard pass” to CNN’s Jim Acosta, permitting him onto White House grounds, it promulgated some new, unrealistic rules for journalists attempting to fly under the flag of “decorum.”

  Let’s start with Rule No. 1 — only one question.

  Rule No. 2 — well, maybe more than one if the president or someone else at the podium decides otherwise.

  But what if the person at the podium tries to evade the first tough question? Horrors, the very idea that politicians might consider such a tactic! Any journalist worth his/her salt will and should want to follow up — that’s in the public’s interest, if not that of the podium prevaricator. So Rule Nos. 1 and 2 won’t work for anyone on the public’s side of the mic.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Frequently asked questions about universal background checks

What is a firearm background check?

  A firearm background check is the process by which a gun seller determines whether a prospective buyer is legally eligible to purchase a gun. Under both federal and state laws, certain individuals are barred from gun possession for reasons such as violent felony convictions or a history of domestic violence. The FBI operates the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to conduct background checks. In addition, some states elect to conduct firearm background checks through their own state system, functioning as what is known as a “point of contact” for these checks.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Marijuana wins again

  In the recent election, some Democrats won and some lost. Likewise, some Republicans won and some lost. There is one “candidate,” however, who won on most of the ballots “he” appeared on: marijuana.

  According to Ballotpedia, “Voters in 37 states decided 155 statewide ballot measures in November 2018.” A total of 167 statewide ballot measures were certified for 2018 ballots in 38 states, but 12 were decided at pre-November elections, and the validity of one measure in Kentucky was pending a court ruling scheduled for after the election.” Of those 155 ballot measures, “64 were citizen-initiated measures, 81 were binding measures referred to the ballot by state legislatures, 7 were referred to the Florida ballot by the Florida Constitution Revision Commission (CRC), and the remaining 3 measures were advisory votes or automatically referred to the ballot.” Of the 64 citizen-initiated measures, “62 were ballot initiatives — which propose new laws — and two were veto referendums — which challenge laws recently passed by state legislatures.” Of the total, “116 statewide measures were approved, and 50 were defeated.”

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Low-income people pay when government tech contracts sour

  Earlier this year, the tech company Novo Dia Group announced it would not continue as a vendor with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, due to a switch in federal contractors. What seemed a run-of-the-mill business decision threw a very real wrench into the availability of locally-grown foods for low-income Americans.

  The problem was that Novo Dia held the only keys to a USDA program dedicated to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program processing software and equipment for 1,700 farmers’ markets nationwide. Without Novo Dia providing this service, markets would have no way to accept SNAP — a disruption that would cost farmers income and SNAP recipients food.

Friday, November 30, 2018

How a bold new Disability Insurance proposal would benefit individuals with disabilities and taxpayers

  A half-billion-dollar fraud conspiracy… thousands dying as they await their benefit hearings… Social Security’s Disability Insurance program does a good job making the news. Unfortunately, it’s for all the wrong reasons.

  The Disability Insurance program is broken, both functionally and financially. It doesn’t serve disabled people well; it doesn’t serve taxpayers well. Its excesses have stripped about $150 billion from Social Security’s retirement program over the past three years.

  Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) introduced a bill that addresses many of the program’s functional shortfalls. His Making DI Work for All Americans Act of 2018 (H.R. 6352) would also make the program solvent over the long run, setting the stage for a significant payroll tax cut.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1642 - Transitions are powerful, and I am in transition

  Transitions are powerful. Transitions may be powerfully good or powerfully bad. Transitions are rarely neutral. Transitions are nearly always powerful.

  I am in transition. After 35 years in the Alabama Senate, I have transitioned out of that body and that world. The Senate did not dominate my life, but it did frame it. The Senate did not determine who I needed to be, but it did reflect who I needed to be. The Senate did not make me the man I am, but it did enlarge my reach.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the State House – Analysis of General Election

  A few last thoughts and observations on our November 6 General Election in Alabama.

  Our newly-elected 55th governor looked and sounded more like the old Kay Ivey than the one we have seen the past few years and during the campaign. She was vibrant, succinct to the point, had a perfectly timed and unscripted victory speech. Her green jacket was becoming. She will be a good governor. She will tackle the tough issues the state must face in the next four years, especially our pressing infrastructure needs.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

These white Southerners changed their views on race. Your family can, too.

  Last Thursday, many of us sat around tables with family members who don’t share our politics, our belief systems, or even our values.

  That can be difficult. Just ask the people who were interviewed by Donna Ladd earlier this fall in Mississippi: white Southerners whose views on race have changed since their racist upbringings.

  There’s Bob Fuller, who grew up in Mississippi in the 1970s but whose history class made zero mention of the freedom fighters who transformed his state.

  There’s Laurie Myatt, who voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 election but reached out to a black friend after realizing she had never sat down in a home with a black person to share a meal.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Crowdfunding is a symptom of America’s sick health care system

  “I nearly went to the hospital for the 22nd time in 7 months. As you can imagine this has depleted all of my money,” writes Tara. She continues: “My family has done so much and will help me once I’m there, but I need to move on my own…So look, I’m a responsible girl, I’ve been holding it down for 16 years while feeling like I could be taken at any time.”

  Tara is running a campaign on the popular crowdfunding site GoFundMe. She has fibromyalgia and a host of complications and needs to relocate to access health care. She started fundraising in March 2017, and a year and a half later, she’s raised less than a quarter of what she needs. She’s not alone. Medical expenses are already the leading crowdfunding cause and donations can’t keep up with demand; a 2017 study showed that 90 percent of medical crowdfunding campaigns failed to reach their goals.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Are we being invaded yet?

  If President Trump’s and the Pentagon’s military defense against the impending refugee invasion of America shows how they defend our country from an invasion, maybe it’s a good thing that the commies didn’t invade the United States by coming up through Latin America during the Cold War. Otherwise, there is a good chance that we all would be speaking Red today.

  Why do I say that? Well, it turns out that most of the troops who were sent to the border either forgot their weapons or were ordered to leave them back at home. What gives with that? How can soldiers be expected to defend our country from an invasion if they can’t even shoot the enemy?

  We mustn’t forget that the president and the national-security establishment were as scared of a commie invasion through Mexico during the Cold War as they are today of the Central American refugee invasion.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse – Alabama vs. Auburn

  The only sport that Alabamians enjoy more than Alabama politics is college football. We especially love the Alabama vs. Auburn football game. Folks, this is Alabama/Auburn week in Alabama!

  The Alabama vs. Auburn annual event is one of the fiercest of college football rivalries. It is the game of the year. It is a state civil war that divides friends and even families. It is bragging rights for the entire year. The loser has to live with his boasting next door neighbor for 364 days. It seems that one must choose a side no matter if you despise college football and could care less who wins. Newcomers to our state are bewildered on this fall day each year. They cannot comprehend the madness that surrounds this epic war. It is truly that, a war. It is the game of the year.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Five ways the new Congress should support resilient infrastructure

  In the past two years, hurricanes have devastated urban and rural communities from Puerto Rico to North Carolina, Florida, and American Samoa. Record-breaking and deadly wildfires have raged across Northern and Southern California, displacing families, destroying homes, and devastating communities. In the first three months of 2018 alone, the United States saw three disasters with damage topping $1 billion.

  These two years of extreme weather are the latest in a sobering trend. Since 1980, the United States has suffered 238 weather- and climate-related disasters causing a billion dollars or more in damage. Billion-dollar events are growing markedly more frequent: Over the entire 37-year period between 1980 and 2017, the annual average number of such events was six, but in the past five years for which complete data are available, the annual average number of billion-dollar plus events (adjusted for inflation) nearly doubled to 11.6.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

14 Thanksgiving facts you may not know about

1) Because it is unclear that the Pilgrims ate turkey at their inaugural Thanksgiving meal in the 1620s, the writer Calvin Trillin mock-campaigned for years to have the national Thanksgiving dish changed from turkey to spaghetti carbonara.

2) The people who crossed the Atlantic on the Mayflower weren't even called Pilgrims. Most of them, dissidents who had broken away from the Church of England, called themselves Saints while others called them Separatists. Some settlers were known as Puritans, dissidents but not separatists, who wanted to "purify" the Church. Not until roughly the American Revolution did the name Pilgrims become associated with the Plymouth settlers.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Sorry, Mr. President — You don't get to choose

  Sorry Mr. President, but you don’t get to just pick and choose who — on behalf of the public — gets access to the White House to ask you questions on our behalf.

  Your predecessors in the White House — Washington, Jefferson, Madison and the like — settled that matter with the Bill of Rights some time ago.

  Whoever told you that you should pull the security pass for CNN’s Jim Acosta — or failed to tell you that you shouldn’t — was wrong.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Why do leftists settle for a $15 minimum wage?

  If economic ignorance among leftists (i.e., liberals and progressives) had no adverse impacts, we could consign it to the ranks of the humorous. Unfortunately, however, such ignorance has very serious adverse consequences, especially on poor people.

  The classic example of this phenomenon is the minimum wage. Last week a liberal website named In These Times published an article about the minimum wage by a liberal named Marc Daalder. The title of the article is ”Why Every Democrat in Congress Should Support Bernie Sanders’ $15 Minimum Wage Bill.” In his article, Daalder sets forth the standard progressive justification for the minimum wage — to help the poor, needy, and disadvantaged.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Making the web, social media ‘better’ places — with caution

  We’d all like a “better” internet in terms of privacy, politeness, taste, and safety. And who would oppose eliminating false or misleading information from social media sites, or preventing online bullying and such?

  Some of the world’s most significant, influential and powerful figures around such issues — in the words of The Wall Street Journal, “the giants of the web” — gathered at the 2018 Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal and in Brussels at an international conference on data privacy and policy.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1640 - My last Sketches written as an Alabama Senator

  This is my last Senate Sketches. Wait! Wait! Wait. Don’t be disappointed. Sketches will continue, but Senate Sketches will cease. My tenure in the Alabama Senate ended on November 6, 2018. The new senator for Alabama Senate District 23 is Malika Sanders Fortier. I have written Senate Sketches for 1640 weeks over more than 32 years. That’s too, too long to stop now. Therefore, my weekly writings will be Sketches, not Senate Sketches. I no longer have the right to call it Senate Sketches because I am no longer a member of the Senate.

  I was elected to the Alabama Senate on November 8, 1983. As I recall, Gov. George Corley Wallace called us into Special Session immediately after the election. I had to hit the ground running. I have been running ever since for 35 years. I published the first Senate Sketches on April 29, 1987. I have not missed publishing Senate Sketches even once in nearly 32 years. I can’t miss now. It just will not be Senate Sketches. It will be Sketches.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Trump lies again about voter fraud

  The president is using a far-right tabloid to elevate baseless conspiracy theories and undermine our democracy.

  Studies have repeatedly shown that voter fraud is virtually non-existent. President Trump’s new claim, in fact, is about as valid as his false assertion in 2016 that millions of people voted illegally for his opponent. His own commission dissolved after finding no evidence to support it.

Friday, November 16, 2018

The conservative life of the lie

  Attempting to bolster the spirits of conservatives in the wake of the Democrat takeover of the U.S. House of Representatives, Kay Coles James, the president of the Heritage Foundation - the premier conservative think tank in the country - sent out an email to her fellow conservatives that states in part:

    Now is not the time to falter and shrink, but rather the moment to fight harder, send more resources and become more committed to preserving the principles of limited government, freedom, opportunity and a flourishing civil society.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Voters repudiate President Trump and GOP policy agenda—2020 re-election is uncertain

  Americans took to the polls in record numbers in the 2018 midterms, shifting party control of the House of Representatives and sending a clear message of disapproval to President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans. Although the president and his party gained ground in the U.S. Senate, primarily in states Trump won handily, they failed to capitalize on the low unemployment rate or overall positive sentiments about the economy. The signature GOP legislative achievement of the first two years—the $1.5 trillion tax cut that passed last year —failed to boost Republicans’ chances overall and hurt candidates in several seats. Subsequently, they lost in major suburban and urban districts across the country and also lost ground in some rural areas.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse – Kay Ivey, our 55th governor

  The legendary Alabama storyteller Kathryn Tucker Windham used to say, “Alabama is like a big front porch.” She was right, and I have found that to be the case my entire life. Even recently, as I’ve traversed the state, I am always amazed at how you can visit with someone in one part of the state who is kin to or were college roommates with someone in another corner of Alabama. 

  The Alabama that Kay Ivey and I grew up in was even more like a front porch. Ivey grew up in Wilcox County where her family had been for generations. Therefore, she knew most everybody in the county and Camden. There were and still are less than 12,000 people in Wilcox County. There have always been more pine trees than people in the county. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Long lines, broken machines, voter ID laws: Welcome to the neo-Jim Crow

  Felon disenfranchisement was designed to “preserve the purity of the ballot box,” or in other words, the whiteness of the electorate.

  By the time the Alabama Supreme Court issued that opinion in 1884, Florida had already beaten it to the punch. Florida outlawed voting for anyone convicted of a felony in 1868, at the very same time that it began to convict more black people of felonies.

  Exactly 150 years later, Florida voters finally overturned that discriminatory policy, re-enfranchising 1.5 million people in a single stroke last Tuesday. The news that Florida had passed Amendment 4, giving as many as 40 percent of the state’s black men the right to vote, was cause for celebration around the country and certainly here at the Southern Poverty Law Center, where we invested heavily to support its passage.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Thank you, veterans

  A cold north wind chilled the backs of their necks as they waited outside the church. Tired, hungry, and homesick, the soldiers of the 353rd Infantry stood like time-worn statues against the tattered and war-worn buildings of stone. Some of them had dreamed of seeing France one day, but not like this. All they wanted now was a hot meal, a bath, and a good night's sleep in their own beds back home.

  It was November 11th, 1918, and these brave individuals had given their all to defend the freedoms of millions of people they would never meet. Slowly the minutes ticked by and, after what seemed like forever, the moment finally arrived. The Armistice was signed, and on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, World War I, "the war to end all wars," was over.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1639 - Government is powerful in what it does and does not do

  Government is powerful. Government is powerful in what it does. Government is powerful in what it does not do. We often focus on what government does. We also focus on what government fails to do. For this brief moment, let’s explore what government refuses to do. I want to share two recent examples of what government has refused to do. I participated in two press conferences within the last week or so, one concerning each example. Government is powerful in what it does. Government is powerful in what it does not do.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

The Paradoxical Commandments

  In 1968, when Kent M. Keith was a 19-year-old sophomore at Harvard University, he wrote “The Paradoxical Commandments” as part of a booklet for student leaders. He describes the Commandments as guidelines for finding personal meaning in the face of adversity:

1. People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway.

2. If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway.

3. If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Rhetorical hyperbole protects free speech

  Rhetorical hyperbole is a concept important to the protection of free speech under the First Amendment. Many benefit from the principle, including protestors, sportswriters, editorialists and even the President of the United States.

  When the United States Supreme Court created the true threat doctrine in Watts v. United States (1969), the Court emphasized that care must be taken to ensure that in the pursuit of punishing true threats, the government doesn’t infringe on protected speech. The Court determined that a young African-American protestor named Robert Watts engaged in “political hyperbole” when he criticized the draft by saying that “the first person he would put in his scope is L.B.J” referring to President Lyndon Baines Johnson. In other words, the Supreme Court recognized that Mr. Watts engaged in “political hyperbole” rather than uttering a true threat.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Big Business’s bonanza week in the Supreme Court

  Large corporations and special interests often target the legal rights of consumers and workers in an effort to increase their profits. Now, with the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, a 5-4 conservative majority is even more likely to rule in favor of big business.

  Last week, the Supreme Court began its November sitting, hearing oral arguments in six cases. Four of these cases threaten to undermine consumer and labor rights; issues include forced arbitration, class-action lawsuits, and overseas liability. Over the past four decades, corporate interests have spent tens of millions of dollars supporting conservative nominees to the Supreme Court. Corporate interests primarily spend this money on ad campaigns for nominees that are targeted at the senators who will vote on these nominees’ confirmations. This trend accelerated over the past two years, as dark money organizations funded by pro-corporate sponsors spent more than $15 million to help ensure the confirmations of Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - More than an election going on in Alabama politics

  Our gubernatorial election year politics ended yesterday. However, there have been other political maneuverings and developments going on behind the scenes that could ultimately have more long-term ramifications in the Heart of Dixie.

  The selection of a new Business Council of Alabama leader is imminent and will probably occur in the next few days. In addition to this, the jockeying and wrangling for the U.S. Senate seat in 2020 have begun.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Trump plays the white nationalist card – again

  Every day, it seems like there’s a new outrage from President Trump.

  In an interview released October 30, Trump said he’s preparing an executive order to eliminate the constitutional guarantee of birthright citizenship.

  It’s an obvious, election-eve ploy to light a fire under white voters who are anxious and resentful about our nation’s changing demographics and culture.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Don't kill the "invaders"

  As some of you might know, I was a trial lawyer for 12 years in Texas before I shifted into the libertarian movement. Although I haven’t practiced law for more than 30 years, I wish to give Trumpsters and Trumpistas some free legal advice.

  My advice is this: Don’t go out and start killing people who you suspect or are certain are illegal immigrants — that is, foreigners who have violated the illegal-entry law that prohibits foreign citizens from entering the United States without official permission.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Rise of far-right populism threatens global democracy and security

  Brazil’s recent election of soon-to-be President Jair Bolsonaro demonstrated that far-right populism and authoritarian promises to restore law and order remain a potent and growing force in global politics. Bolsonaro’s campaign drew from a familiar playbook, placing at its heart an authoritarian and xenophobic vision of Brazilian society. He declared that he would not accept election results if he lost; defended Brazil’s decades-long brutal military dictatorship; threatened to shoot supporters of the opposing Workers’ Party; and vowed to pack the country’s supreme court with sympathetic jurists and persecute media critical of him. Like many right-wing populists around the world, Bolsonaro embraced racist, homophobic, and misogynist rhetoric, achieving a level of provocation so incendiary that the country’s attorney general charged then-candidate Bolsonaro “with inciting hatred and discrimination against blacks, indigenous communities, women and gays.”

Saturday, November 3, 2018

To fight hate, vote

  Consider the last 11 days in our country.

  First, a white gunman killed two African Americans in Jeffersontown, Kentucky, after trying to break into a black church.

  Then, a man who reportedly identified as a white supremacist was arrested for mailing pipe bombs to President Barack Obama, George Soros, Hillary Clinton and other people President Trump has criticized.

  And last Saturday morning, as worshippers gathered at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, a white gunman shouted “All Jews must die” as he opened fire, killing 11 people.

  Behind each attack was the same kind of naked hate.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - General Election next week

  This time two years ago, I was bubbling over with anticipation with expectations that I would have two years of fun following an exciting governor’s race. Well, Ole Robert Bentley spoiled my parade.

  Back in the old days, governors could not succeed themselves. They were governor for one four-year term and then they were out. That means we had a governor’s race every four years, and man, would they be doozies! We would have 10 candidates, and about half of them would be “run for the fun of it” candidates. The most colorful would be Shorty Price. 

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Sexual harassment in the judiciary: Women’s rights and safety are at stake

  The past two years will almost certainly be remembered as a pivotal time when women fought back against institutionalized sexism. Both the Women’s March and the #MeToo movement, two landmark women’s empowerment efforts that gained global attention, shed light on a terrible truth that most women know all too well: Women in nearly every sector of society regularly face sexual violence or harassment.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

10 Things you didn't know about the history of Halloween

10) While today's costumes channel an inner fantasy, they started with a much more solemn purpose.

  One of the earliest examples we have of people donning costumes comes from Hallow Mass, a ceremonial mass dedicated to prayers for the dead. People appealed to their ancestors for everything from happy marriages to fertility, and costumes were a part of that.

  It wasn't until the Victorian era that the idea of dressing up really went mainstream, and a lot of that started with the Robert Burns' poem "Halloween." Originally, the best costumes were the ones that were creepy, which isn't entirely surprising. The Victorians were obsessed with the idea of spirituality and the afterlife, so pioneering the ghost costume made a lot of sense.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

'We won't be erased': Transgender people's existence not up for debate

  The existence of transgender people is not up for debate.

  But the Trump administration seems to be proposing that our country do just that. The New York Times reported that the Department of Health and Human Services is planning to change the definition of sex encoded in federal civil rights law to one in which sex would be determined by a person’s genitalia at birth.

  That would exclude transgender Americans from civil rights protections — and effectively write them out of legal existence. 

Monday, October 29, 2018

You think bombs will deter, discourage and destroy freedom? Think again.

  We — all of us, Americans and others around the world — will not be silenced by bombs, bombast or even murder.

  The lowlife behind the spate of pipe bombs sent to prominent critics of President Trump and his administration was engaged in a futile, juvenile attempt to punish a group of former public servants and private citizens, while trying to send a chilling message to all of us: “Speak out ‘the wrong way’ and you will die.”

  Message back: No luck, pal. Free expression in its many forms wins out every time. You’ve already failed.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Conservative lawmakers are suppressing voters—Here’s what you can do to fight back

  Another election year, more voter suppression. Every election, eligible Americans—particularly people of color, young people, and Americans with disabilities—are forced to fight for their fundamental right to vote.

  For years, conservative lawmakers have systematically excluded and actively prevented these groups from making their voices heard in the democratic process. Suppressing the vote of people of color, for example, dates to the origins of America, when voting was reserved for white male property owners. Even with the 15th Amendment, racially motivated disenfranchisement—such as poll taxes, felon disenfranchisement laws, issuance of English-only voting materials, and discriminatory voter purges—has become a horrific and shameful electoral tradition in the United States. Young Americans and Americans with disabilities have also historically been targeted by voter suppression measures, such as strict voter ID laws that exclude student IDs as acceptable forms of identification and polling places that are noncompliant with requirements in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1637 - Take what we have and make what we need

  “How is the election coming?” I hear this question with increasing frequency, growing concern, and snapping urgency as the November 6th Alabama General Election draws nigh. My usual response is, “It is not just uphill; it is up-mountain. However, the real question is whether we are mountain climbers.” But that is just an initial part of my response. The complete response emerges only when there is a real conversation.

  My most profound and complete response commences with the sentence, "Take what we have and make what we need." As I was growing up, my mother imprinted this life lesson on my mind, my emotions, my heart, my spirit, and my life. I have shared it widely over the years. I helped make it the motto of the Black Belt Community Foundation in its formation. It’s my life motto. Take what we have and make what we need.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Winter is coming, and fuel costs will hit the poor the hardest

  Winter is coming, and it’s going to be colder for some than others.

  “Starting junior year,” recalls Alexis Stewart, a West Virginia-based writer and musician, “my mom said we couldn’t afford heat and I had to ‘suck it up.’ I don’t know if we didn’t qualify for [the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program] those years or if the funding ran out before they got to us. I bought a space heater with money from my part-time job, but because of the poor insulation, I’d still wake up to a stiff, frozen blanket.”

Thursday, October 25, 2018

The benefit to Republicans in losing the House

  If Republicans lose control over the U.S House of Representatives in the mid-term elections, they don’t have to be totally depressed. The reason? They will then be able, once again, to campaign in the 2020 elections on the promise that if control over the House is restored to the Republicans, they will be able to rein in the out-of-control federal spending and debt that is threatening to take our country down.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Frank Johnson and the legend of the Free State of Winston

  Those of us who are Baby Boomers remember the tumultuous times of the 1960s. We lived through the Civil Rights revolution. Those of us who grew up here in the Heart of Dixie witnessed the transpiring of racial integration first hand. Most of the crusades and struggles occurred here in Alabama, especially Montgomery.

  A good many of the landmark Civil Rights court decisions were handed down in the Federal Court in Montgomery. The author and renderer of these epic rulings was Frank M. Johnson, Jr. Johnson, who served as Federal Judge in the Middle District of Alabama for 24 years from 1955 through 1979.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Craig Ford: The future of education is at stake on Election Day

  Do you believe money should be taken out of our local public schools so that kids in Birmingham, Montgomery and other parts of the state can go to a private school?

  That is what’s at stake when you go to vote in two weeks.

  In 2013, the Alabama Legislature passed a bill called the “Accountability Act.” The idea behind it was that money that would otherwise go to our public schools would instead be used to fund private school scholarships for kids who attend “failing schools.”

Monday, October 22, 2018

Michael Josephson: Unkind words are weapons

  With four teenage daughters, I frequently find myself correcting, disciplining, or simply protesting unnecessary and unkind comments certain to anger or wound a sister and evoke counterattacks that fill the air with nastiness.

  Hoping to get them to think before they speak in the future, I often ask, “What did you expect to accomplish by that remark?” and “Did it make things better or worse?” It rarely makes a difference.

  It’s as if their instinct to express anger or utter sarcasm, accusations, and complaints is too strong to allow for wise strategies like “Think before you speak” to operate.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Violence and hate, that's The Proud Boys in a nutshell

  On October 12, members of the hate group Proud Boys and at least three ultranationalist skinheads attacked protesters outside the Metropolitan Republican Club in New York City.

  By the following Monday, NYPD announced it had enough evidence to charge nine of them.

  Even a few seconds of footage of the attack makes it clear why. In one video, an assailant in a group of at least 15 people kicks a person curled in the fetal position, yelling “Faggot!”

Saturday, October 20, 2018

How banks slid into the payday lending business

  Meet the new payday loan. It looks a lot like the old payday loan.

  Under the Obama administration, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau attempted to rein in abusive payday lending, by, among other measures, forcing lenders to ensure borrowers had the means to pay back their loans. The Trump administration, under interim CFPB Director Mick Mulvaney, is looking to roll back those rules and give payday lenders, who as an industry donated significant amounts of money to Mulvaney when he was a congressman, more room to operate. A high-profile rule proffered by the CFPB to govern payday loans is under review, and Mulvaney’s CFPB has also dropped cases the bureau had previously pursued against payday lenders.

Friday, October 19, 2018

We should protest proposed restrictions on White House protests

  The White House.

  To the world, it’s the image of the United States.

  To Americans, it’s the “us” in U.S. — and the universally recognized metaphor for the president and the administration behind him.

  And for at least 100 years, it’s been the prime spot for demonstrators focused on many of society’s most important issues — war and peace, abortion and gun rights, health care policies and more.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - The Shorty Price story

  Since this is Alabama vs. Tennessee week and we have a governor’s race in three weeks, allow me to share the story of Shorty Price.

  Alabama has had its share of what I call “run for the fun of it” candidates. The most colorful of all these perennial “also ran” candidates was Ralph “Shorty” Price. He ran for governor every time. His slogan was “Smoke Tampa Nugget cigars, drink Budweiser beer and vote for Shorty Price.”

  In one of Shorty’s campaigns for governor, his campaign speech contained this line, “If elected governor, I will reduce the governor’s tenure from four to two years. If you can’t steal enough to last you the rest of your life in two years, you ain’t got enough sense to have the office in the first place.”  He would use recycled campaign signs to save money, and he rarely garnered two percent of the votes in any campaign.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Seven implications of protectionism

  In a speech on the campaign trail in 2016, then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said about Hillary Clinton and trade,

    Hillary Clinton unleashed a trade war against the American worker when she supported one terrible deal after another, from NAFTA, to China to South Korea. It doesn’t matter. No matter where she went, the American worker was hurt and you’ll be hurt worse than ever before if she becomes president of the United States. That I can tell you.

  He then promised that a Trump administration would “end that war by getting a fair deal for the American people and the American worker.” “The era of economic surrender will finally be over,” he said. “You’re not going to see it anymore.”

  Donald Trump has now done what he accused Hillary Clinton of doing: He has unleashed a trade war.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Michael Josephson: The illusion of success

  Reach for the stars. Pursue goals beyond your grasp. These are good life strategies. We never know how much we can accomplish until we try.

  But what happens when we’re told we must reach the stars or suffer consequences?

Monday, October 15, 2018

Trump's unwitting devotion to socialism

  Donald Trump and, unfortunately, many of his conservative followers, are absolutely clueless when it comes to socialism. You couldn’t find a better example of this phenomenon than a Trump op-ed that was published in USA Today recently. In fact, Trump’s op-ed is a perfect demonstration of the life of the lie that has come to afflict the entire conservative movement.

  In his op-ed, Trump takes Democrats to task for supporting “Medicare for All,” which would essentially be a full-fledged socialist healthcare system. He says that this shows that Democrats are committed to turning the United States into another Venezuela, a country in chaos, crisis, poverty, and violence owing to its socialist economic system.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Ben Carson wants HUD to stop fighting housing segregation

  Today, a child born to a low-income family and raised in the Tremé neighborhood of New Orleans will have beaten the odds if they live past age 67. They can also expect to make just $20,000 a year by the time they reach their thirties.

  Just a 20-minute drive away, in the Uptown/Carrollton neighborhoods near Tulane and Loyola Universities, that same child could expect to live 20 years longer and take home roughly $53,000 more in annual salary.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

How you vote In November could decide whether you get to vote on a lottery

  The lottery has been talked about for decades in Alabama. There’s no question that the voters support it, but the Alabama Legislature has failed to pass a bill that would let the people vote.

  Two years ago, the lottery almost made it through the legislative process before it died in the Senate. But now the lottery is getting new attention after the Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives told the press that a lottery would be on the legislature’s agenda next year.

  There’s no question that the lottery could do a lot of good for our state. The most recent estimates are that a lottery could bring in $332 million a year, and that kind of money could solve a lot of problems.

Friday, October 12, 2018

How to prepare for Russia’s October surprise

  Russia is in the business of mind control.

  They’re not doing it through sinister headgear, satellite interference, or dream invasion like in Inception, though.

  Instead, Russia seeks to control the minds of Americans through something we all have and spend arguably too much time on - social media.

  This isn’t news to many of us. For years we’ve heard how Russia infiltrated Facebook and Twitter in an effort to divide our nation during the 2016 election. It seems, however, that Russia’s interference in our last presidential election wasn’t a “one-and-done” deal.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Trump is rewriting our immigration law to come after families like mine

  Late last month, the Trump administration released a draft rule that would change the way immigration works in the United States. Under the proposal, immigration officials will try to predict whether a person applying for a green card might receive government assistance, like Medicaid or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program, at any point during their future life in the United States. If it seems possible — because the applicant isn’t wealthy or has a disability — then the green card will be denied, even if the applicant has met all of the other criteria.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse – Democrats have three viable candidates, but Republicans will prevail

  In politics, perception is reality. It is perceived and therefore factual that a Democrat cannot win a statewide race in Alabama.

  The proof is in the pudding. We have 29 elected statewide officeholders in the Heart of Dixie. All 29 of them are Republicans.

  In addition, 6 out of 7 of our members in Congress are Republican. We have one lone Democratic member of Congress. Terri Sewell occupies the seat in Congress designed to be held by an African American.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

'They served their time. Their voices could make a huge difference.'

  Lorena Barnum Sabbs was just 11 years old when she was arrested.

  She was trying to integrate the local movie theater in Americus, Georgia. But when the group of 30 girls refused to leave the balcony, police arrested them and drove them almost an hour away to the Leesburg Stockade. They slept on the cells’ cement floors. They were threatened. A snake was thrown into their cells. Some were held as long as 45 days.

  Their parents didn’t know where they were until a local dogcatcher spread the word. No one could get them out until the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee sent a photographer. Sabbs told the story of her 1963 arrest to Susan Chira, who interviewed more than 50 black women during a voter mobilization bus tour across Georgia, Florida, and Mississippi last week.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Three takeaways from the New York Times’ bombshell Trump investigation

  Last week, The New York Times published a bombshell investigative report alleging that the Trump family engaged in “outright fraud” and other schemes to dodge federal taxes over many years. Through these schemes, the Trump family may have avoided or evaded as much as $500 million of taxes on the transfer of wealth from President Donald Trump’s parents to him and his siblings.

  If true, the revelations in the 14,000-word story are shocking. They bear on Trump’s personal finances, his credibility, his greed, and—perhaps most importantly—his policies. The revelations include:

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Being basically honest

  After a workshop, a fellow came up to me and complained that I had made him feel uncomfortable. “I’m not perfect,” he said, “But I’m basically honest.” His implication was that it’s unfair to expect people to be honest all the time.

  His comment reminded me of a cartoon where one fellow confided to another, “I admire Webster’s honesty, but his insistence on being scrupulously honest is really annoying.”

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Detention system forces people to give up claims to stay in U.S.

  Before fleeing Somalia, Yuusuf was a teacher.

  He was dedicated to education and its ability to empower the next generation of Somalis. But Yuusuf’s passion for teaching also put him in the crosshairs of al-Shabab, the al-Qaida-linked extremist group that has terrorized his country.

  The group opposes Western-style education and is willing to kill teachers and students alike to stop its spread in the region. In 2015, extremists attacked Yuusuf’s school, slaughtering his fellow teachers.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Trump administration’s proposed MATS rollback is a direct attack on women and children

  This week, the Trump administration plans to take initial steps to allow power plants to spew toxic mercury and other hazardous pollution into the air, threatening the health of the American public. Like so many of the Trump administration’s rollbacks, this proposed change to undo the existing Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) comes with devastating health impacts for pregnant women and children. For this reason, the rollback has been criticized by many and is even opposed by a coalition of utilities and union groups.

  Worst of all, rolling back the MATS is likely to have a disproportionately negative impact on pregnant women and children—in particular, those living in communities located near coal- and oil-fired power plants. Furthermore, data show that people of color and people with disabilities are more likely to live in these communities, further increasing the health disparities that exist between these groups and the general population. Mercury exposure has been linked to severe damage to the lungs, brain, and other organs, and those who are exposed often later experience developmental disorders.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Some politicos learn lessons the hard way

  For some untold reason or some would say, ungodly reason, I have always been enthralled by and involved in politics. As a boy growing up in Troy, I was tutored and trained in the rules and rituals of Alabama politics by two masters of my county’s political history.

  The probate judge and state representative were my mentors. They both had been in politics for decades. Both mentors had taught me a lot of political tidbits over the years, but when it finally came time for me to make my first foray into the arena, they sat me down. I could tell that I was going to get some sage advice since both were present. They gave me one of the cardinal rules of politics – you run your own campaign and never ever get involved in other people’s races. They said you should be thankful that they elected you to your office. It made sense that it would be arrogant and presumptuous, even if you had been in your post for a while, that you should not offer your opinion on other races. In addition, the old adage applies – you make one ingrate and hundreds of enemies.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Lawsuits challenging DeVos’ anti-student higher education agenda

  Under the leadership of Secretary Betsy DeVos, the U.S. Department of Education has sought to unravel protections for college students. In an attempt to push back against the department’s dubious legal maneuvers, a number of state attorneys general, civil rights organizations, and advocacy groups have engaged the courts. The National Student Legal Defense Network (NSLDN), the Harvard Legal Services Center, the National Consumer Law Center, and others have sought to prevent the rollback of crucial regulations and bring more transparency to the department’s decision-making.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Social Security is more than unsustainable

  It seems that Russia is having the same problem as the United States when it comes to its government retirement system: the system is unsustainable because the number of retirees receiving benefits is growing faster than the number of workers supporting the system.

  Soon after his inauguration for a fourth term as president of Russia, Vladimir Putin spoke about his plans to cut poverty, boost economic growth, improve medical care, and increase life expectancy. When asked whether the retirement age would be raised, Putin gave an evasive response:

Monday, October 1, 2018

By undermining the ICC, Bolton is compromising America’s values

  In his first speech since becoming President Donald Trump’s national security adviser in April, John Bolton took aim at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Describing the court as “ineffective, unaccountable, and … outright dangerous,” Bolton announced that the Trump administration would use “any means necessary to protect our citizens and those of our allies from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court.”

  Far from being illegitimate, the ICC has been a critical mechanism for securing accountability and justice since its inception two decades ago. While it has had its challenges, the court is not known to have ever prosecuted cases unjustly. Nevertheless, in his speech, Bolton cited specific measures that the administration would take if the ICC were to pursue actions against the United States and Israel, including banning ICC judges and prosecutors from entering the United States, sanctioning their funds in the United States, and prosecuting them in the U.S. criminal system—although for what crimes is unclear. He also threatened similar actions against any nation or company that assists the ICC in any investigations of Americans.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Towards a less angry politics

  “When angry, count to ten before you speak; if very angry, count to one hundred.”

  If only we followed the advice of the Founding Fathers.

  Thomas Jefferson, who expressed this sentiment, knew first-hand how politics can lead to indignation. Today, one glance at cable news or Twitter affirms that we too are accustomed to an angry politics.

  What Jefferson also understood, and what I am worried we too often forget, is that anger in politics is to be avoided and tempered, not embraced and weaponized.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Ensuring the special counsel’s independence if Rosenstein is fired

  President Donald Trump has repeatedly threatened to take drastic action to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the 2016 election. His latest target is Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees Mueller.

  If Trump seeks to undermine the investigation and obstruct justice by firing Rosenstein, there would be serious concerns about the impartiality of any political official at the U.S. Department of Justice who replaces him. These concerns are heightened by Trump’s repeated demands that the Department of Justice protect him from accountability for his actions. The only way to repair the trust of the American people in the integrity of the investigation would be to follow past precedent and ensure the special counsel is truly independent.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1633 - I was caught between a rock and a hard place

  Between a rock and a hard place. That’s where I was more than fifty years ago. It involved a rape. No, I didn’t rape anyone. No, I was not raped. But I was caught between a rock and a hard place. It is a burden I carry to this day.

  The term, between a rock and a hard place, goes all the way back to Greek mythology. The rock is hard. The hard place is hard. One cannot move against a rock. One cannot move against a hard place. They are both too hard. Therefore, we can’t move forward and we can’t move backward.

  A terrible injustice happened when two of my young male friends had “forcible sex” with my young female friend. All were my fellow college students. My young female friend did not call it “rape.” She said, “They forced me.” It was rape.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

What you need to know about proposed Constitutional Amendments Three and Four

  On November 6, Alabamians will vote on four proposed statewide constitutional amendments. Although the first two amendments will likely receive the most attention, amendments three and four deserve notice as well. They are, in fact, changes to the longest known constitution in the world.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Supreme Court rules states can collect online sales tax

  The State of Alabama’s fiscal year begins next week on October 1. Our state’s finances are not the best in the world. However, they got a boost from the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year. The high tribunal ruled that states can collect sales tax on internet sales.

  This was one of the most inequitable scenarios I have ever seen. If you went to the corner hardware store or Lowe’s or Walmart to buy a hammer and paint, you paid sales tax. However, if you bought these same items online, you did not. That is not fair to the store or the state. What is even more unfair is if your wife went down to the local dress shop and tried on an expensive dress she liked, and then she came home and bought it online instead of in the store. How fair is that to the store, the clerk at the store, or the state?

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Corrections should be seen as good things, not weapons for critics

  To err is human — but, it would seem, corrections are not seen by many as divine.

  Inevitably, when journalists in all kinds of mediums start fresh each day, sometimes assembling the equivalent content of a paperback book, mistakes will be made.

  Once upon a time — ironically, in a time when a free press was held in higher public esteem though mistakes were made — corrections were made less frequently and, at least in newspapers, often placed in lesser-read spaces.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Kavanaugh’s credibility chasm

  Amid a crisis in Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination process, new reports suggest that President Trump’s nominee may have been personally involved in a public relations effort to shift blame for sexual assault allegations made against him onto another specific individual with unsubstantiated speculation from an ally. This alone would demonstrate a deep breach of integrity and credibility and would be disqualifying in itself for a position on the highest court in the land. Unfortunately, it also aligns with an entire career using dishonest tactics and statements to advance his personal ambition.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1632 - Why there is no Lost Cause

  “Hank, I have to go to Washington, D.C. Can you fill in for me on the panel of the Museum of the Lost Cause Symposium?” Those were the words of Faya Rose Toure, my wife of nearly 49 years. I had a radio program scheduled as well as my weekly law office meeting. But I went to Montgomery for the Museum of the Lost Cause Symposium. The event was organized by Dr. Derryn Moten, chair of the History Department of Alabama State University. I want to share some of what I said or tried to say, or intended to say.

  I say, there is No Lost Cause. It was never lost. It is alive and well. It can be perceived most anytime, most anywhere, in most anything, if we open our eyes, our ears, our minds, and our spirits. In fact, The Lost Cause is more visible in 2018 than at any time in the last 53 years. Just look to the White House. The Lost Cause is not lost.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Craig Ford: Alabama’s educators are "overwhelmingly well-qualified," so why aren’t we paying them what they are worth?

  Alabama State Superintendent Eric Mackey said last week that Alabama’s public school teachers are “overwhelmingly well-qualified.”

  His assessment came after the Alabama Department of Education issued its latest report cards on the college and university programs that prepare our teachers.

  Our public school teachers do a great job. There’s no doubt about that. And for those of us who have had one or more children grow up in and graduate from our public schools, we know how hard our educators work and how much they sacrifice for our children.

Friday, September 21, 2018

The Trump administration’s new attack on marine monuments

  This past Saturday, September 15, marked the second anniversary of the creation of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument—the largest monument in U.S. Atlantic waters. From ancient deep-water corals to an incredibly diverse array of marine mammals, seabirds, and fish, the monument is home to an extraordinary abundance of rare marine life. Unfortunately, even being 150 miles offshore has not spared the monument from the Trump administration’s anti-environment agenda.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

U.S. perversity on peace in Korea

  Just when you think that the U.S. national-security state’s policy toward Korea can’t get more perverse, it does. The latest perversion? Opposing a peace agreement between North Korea and South Korea! Imagine that. And why would U.S. officials oppose such an agreement? Because it would inevitably lead to calls for U.S. troops in Korea to be sent packing home to the United States. After all, when a peace agreement is entered into, what would be the justification for keeping U.S. troops in that faraway land?

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The 1986 governor's race

  Since this is a gubernatorial election year, allow me to share an epic governor’s race with you.

  The 1986 governor’s race will be remembered as one of Alabama’s most amazing political stories. In 1978, Fob James sent the Three B's, Brewer, Beasley, and Baxley, packing. Brewer and Beasley had been permanently exiled to Buck’s Pocket, the mythical destination for defeated Alabama gubernatorial candidates. However, Bill Baxley resurrected his political career by bouncing back to be elected lieutenant governor in 1982, while George Wallace was winning his fifth and final term as governor. Another player arrived on the state political scene. Charlie Graddick was elected as a fiery, tough, lock ‘em up and throw away the key attorney general. Graddick had previously been a tough prosecuting district attorney in Mobile.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Michael Josephson: Responsibilities of management

  Modern managers often utter clichés about wanting employees to “think outside the box,” take risks, and be creative. And while I’m sure companies do appreciate break-through innovative ideas that increase profits, productivity, or quality, the fact is that most organizations are inhospitable to those who challenge old ways of doing things, even practices that are inefficient, useless, or counterproductive.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Interventionists are addicted to interventionism

  In an editorial opposing a U.S.-supported coup in Venezuela, the New York Times gets it right, mostly. Unfortunately, the Times’s editorial board, like so many advocates of foreign interventionism, just cannot let go entirely of its interventionist mindset.

  But let’s first give credit where credit is due. In its September 11 editorial, “Stay Out of Venezuela, Mr. Trump,” the Times makes a good case for non-interventionism in Venezuela, notwithstanding the fact that Venezuela’s ruler, Nicolas Maduro, has developed into a brutal socialist dictator whose “election” was illegitimate. Maduro’s socialism has thrown the country into crisis, chaos, and violence, with Venezuelans on the verge of starvation. More than a million people have fled the country in an attempt to survive.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

“We go on electing politicians who heat the kettles of hate.”

  Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley were getting ready for church in the basement ladies’ lounge when the bomb exploded.

  They were killed instantly.

  Addie Mae, 14, and Denise, 11, had been planning to sing in the choir; Carole, 14, and Cynthia, 14, were going to serve as ushers.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Four ways to improve proposed higher standards for college accreditation

  Last month, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) sought feedback on proposed standards that would raise the bar for college oversight agencies. These agencies, known as accreditation agencies, serve as the gatekeepers to more than $130 billion in federal student grants and loans that flow to more than 6,000 colleges and universities each year. Yet they have been widely criticized as the “watchdogs that don’t bark” due to their failures to hold problematic colleges accountable. As a national voice for accreditation and quality assurance, and the only entity aside from the U.S. Department of Education that formally recognizes accrediting agencies, CHEA’s role in creating higher standards will be critical to improving quality in higher education.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1631 - The power of slogans infused with action

  Lift Our Votes High; Make Our Voices Sing. Vote or Die. I am sick and tired of being scared and tired, and I am voting on November 6th. Our Vote is Our Voice. So many voting slogans. So many strong messages. All non-partisan. Slogans capture an idea, a spirit, an action in one or so phrases or sentences. Slogans are like symbols in that we see and hear in them what we need or want. Slogans are written and spoken symbols. Slogans are powerful.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Toxic EPA appointees spell conflict for public health safeguards

  Since taking over as acting administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in June 2018, Andrew Wheeler has followed in the footsteps of disgraced former Administrator Scott Pruitt—especially when it comes to prioritizing polluting industries over Americans’ health and well-being. Across the EPA, many former chemical industry insiders have been placed in charge of programs that are meant to protect American communities. Wheeler, for example, previously lobbied for chemical companies and is now directly involved in decisions about a massive Superfund site in New York and New Jersey for which two of his former clients are responsible.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse – Illegal immigrants and the census

  Conservative Republicans like Jeff Sessions have been obsessed with illegal immigrants for years. Sessions is - and has always been - a stickler for obeying the laws of our land. He is the most honest, upright, squeaky clean politician I have ever seen in my lifetime of observing politics in Alabama. He is like Dudley Do Right, only shorter and straighter. He was an Eagle Scout, and you can tell he was not making that up on his resume. He epitomizes a grown-up Eagle Scout. He has never outgrown the straight and narrow path. During his 20-year tenure in the U.S. Senate as our junior senator, he was the ultimate ideologue and one of, if not the most, conservative members of the U.S. Senate. He did not just give lip service to his reactionary positions. He put leg service into every right-wing cause and issue.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Understanding Constitutional Amendment One: The Ten Commandments and religious freedom

  For years, discussion over the public display of the Ten Commandments has animated Alabama’s political landscape.

  The issue is so energizing, it seems, that many politicians frame their own races through the lens of this battle––that support for their candidacy is a vote for the Ten Commandments.

  Even so, Alabamians have never actually gotten a chance to vote directly on the issue.

  This November, however, a constitutional amendment sponsored by Sen. Gerald Dial (R) provides that opportunity.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Can social media be “fixed”?

  Last week, executives from Twitter, Facebook and Google testified before Congress. Again. This was the third congressional hearing this year where the internet giants were grilled on their content policies, their privacy and security practices, and their role in democracy.

  It’s been a rough couple of years for social media platforms. They’ve come under fire for so many different things that it can be hard to remember all of them. To recap: For enabling Russian propagandists to influence our presidential election and terrorist organizations to find new recruits. For allowing fake news stories to go viral. For exacerbating political polarization by trapping their users in “filter bubbles.” For giving hate mongers and conspiracy theorists a platform to reach a wider audience. For filtering or down-ranking conservative viewpoints. For collecting private user data and selling it to the highest bidder. For siphoning profits away from struggling local news organizations.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Still dying for nothing in Afghanistan

  It wasn’t until history class in college that I heard of the Thirty Years War. My immediate reaction was: No way! It just wasn’t possible that a war could last 30 years. Nobody would be that dumb.

  But given that the U.S. war in Afghanistan has now been going on for 17 years, it’s now easier for me to understand how a war could go on for 30 years. Just think: Another 13 years, and the U.S. government can tie that record.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

What the 2017 census data won’t show about families struggling in the Trump economy

  On September 12, the Census Bureau will release its annual data on income, poverty, and health insurance coverage in the United States. These data, collected from the Current Population Survey for calendar year 2017, are expected to show that the national poverty rate continued the downward trajectory it has followed since 2014, measured by both the official poverty measure and researchers’ preferred Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), which also counts tax credits and certain in-kind assistance as income. Yet despite this expected decrease, experts anticipate that the typical American family experienced only modest income gains in 2017—if any—and that health insurance coverage rates flatlined.

Friday, September 7, 2018

In a changing climate, access to cooling is a human right

  When I wake at 5:00 a.m. on a summer desert morning, it’s to catch the only cool moments before the day begins. In a few hours, the temperature will rise past 100 degrees, and by mid-day, the dashboard thermometer in my car will read 117 degrees. I keep my children’s car seats covered with old towels and grocery bags to prevent the buckles from heating up like branding irons.

  Along the roadsides, the leaves on the orange trees droop and even the cacti look thirsty. At the Santa Rita Park, dozens of people are stretched out on top of blankets in the grass, taking refuge beneath the few leaning shade trees. Every summer there are seasonal warnings on the news: Remember to stay hydrated. Never leave your pets or children in an enclosed vehicle. Seek out a cool, indoor space during the hottest part of the day.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Prepare to vote on constitutional amendments, Alabama

  The drought, as they say, is over. Football season is back in Alabama.

  To no one’s surprise, the Alabama Crimson Tide was ranked #1 in both the AP and Coaches preseason polls.

  Almost simultaneously as the return of college football, however, is the beginning of another all-too-familiar season for Alabamians.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse – The 1978 governor's race

  Since this is a gubernatorial election year, let’s reminisce about an epic governor’s race. The 1978 governor’s race is one of the classics in Alabama political lore. That governor’s race between the three heavyweights, former Governor Albert Brewer, Attorney General Bill Baxley, and Lt. Governor Jere Beasley, was expected to be titanic. All three men had last names beginning with the letter “B,” thus, the press coined the phrase “the three B’s.” The Republicans were relegated to insignificance on the gubernatorial stage. Therefore, the winner of the Democratic Primary would be governor.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Dangerous racialization of crime in U.S. news media

  From the start of his presidency, Donald Trump has consistently proven his effectiveness at using fear as a political weapon. At his 2016 inauguration, President Trump claimed that the United States was ridden with poverty and “rampant crime,” vowing to put an end to this “American carnage.” Since then, he has perpetuated false claims that murder rates are rising overall, even though violent crime rates declined in the nation’s largest cities in 2017, continuing the national trend of reduced crime. President Trump has also put unauthorized immigrants at the center of crime by exaggerating the scope and threat of MS-13.

Monday, September 3, 2018

If Mississippi can pass a lottery, then so can we

  Alabama can no longer say, “Thank God for Mississippi.”

  The Mississippi Legislature has passed a state lottery, and Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant has said he will sign it into law. This means that Alabama will now be one of only six states in the entire country – and the only state in the south – that does not have a state lottery.

  Year after year, and in survey after survey, the lottery continues to poll extremely well among voters of every background. The lottery isn’t even a partisan issue: whether Democrat or Republican, or liberal or conservative, support for the lottery continues to top 70 percent among all voters.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1629 - God works in mysterious ways

  God works in mysterious ways. When I think of Selma and Dallas County, Alabama, I am comforted by this simple thought. I really need such comfort every time I think of Selma and Dallas County, Alabama. Why do I need such comfort in thinking about Selma and Dallas County? I don’t know why the need for such comfort is so great, but I do know that God works in mysterious ways.

  There was great struggle across the South and beyond to secure voting rights for African Americans. There was struggle in Mississippi. There was struggle in Georgia and Florida. There was struggle in South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. There was struggle in Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas. There was struggle in various other places. But Selma, Alabama was unique in the struggle for voting rights in America.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Why won’t conservatives pick a peach?

  The favorite slogan of conservatives has long been “free enterprise, private property, and limited government.” Another conservative favorite is the term “personal responsibility.”

  Since personal responsibility is so important to conservatives, one must ask: Why hasn’t even one conservative taken personal responsibility by traveling to the Midwest and helping farmers pick their crops, given that conservatives are responsible for the massive crop losses that farmers are incurring?

Friday, August 31, 2018

From cable to the White House, the mainstreaming of white nationalism

  It doesn’t take the infiltration of a hate group meeting or a deep dive into extremist chat rooms to be exposed to white nationalist ideas.

  Take Dylann Roof, who murdered nine black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, after a chain of events that started with a simple Google search.

  As Roof wrote in an online manifesto, when he typed the words “black on White crime” into Google, he came across the website of a crudely racist group called the Council of Conservative Citizens. There, he found what he described as “pages upon pages of these brutal black on White murders.”

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Limited government demands more, not less, of Alabama

  In Alabama, politicians and residents alike proclaim the benefits of limited government.

  Appropriately, our state’s motto is Audemus jura nostra defendere, which, when translated into the more popular language of English, reads, “We dare defend our rights”. The phrase in original context––an 18th century poem by Sir William Jones––is followed by the potential thief of rights: “the tyrant while they wield the chain”, i.e. the government.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - BCA is back, bigger and better than ever

  Alabama Power is and has always been a force in Alabama politics. Some entities may have influence in the Alabama Legislature, but the power company has the ear of folks in all three branches of State government: legislative, executive and judicial.

  To quote the great Dr. Paul Hubbert, if you asked elected Alabama officials who they would call if their ox got into a ditch, it would be an overwhelming vote for Alabama Power. Alabama Power is the friend and confidant that both Democratic and Republican senators and representatives would name. The company is known for listening to legislators and treating them fairly and honestly, and it is truly nonpartisan in its approach.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Trump Administration says poverty barely exists and measuring it is ‘arbitrary’

  According to a recent Trump administration report, when poverty is “properly measured,” less than 3 percent of Americans are poor. If that sounds like a dramatic underestimation to you, that’s because it is—the comparable Census Bureau estimate is four times higher. That’s the difference between saying there are about 11 million people with below-poverty incomes in the United States (about the population of Georgia), or 44.8 million (roughly the combined populations of Georgia, New York, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia).

Monday, August 27, 2018

Can Brennan make a First Amendment case? Yes, to ‘us’

  Does former CIA director John Brennan have a First Amendment case against President Trump for pulling Brennan’s national security clearance?

  Definitely – in the court of public opinion, if not automatically in a court of law.

  Our freedom of speech is most protected when we choose to speak out on matters of public concern; in short, when we join in “political speech.” We are protected against government censorship in advance of such speech, and from government retaliation afterwards, and even – though least often considered – also protected against being forced to speak if we chose not to.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

President Trump is stoking white nationalism, exploiting racist fear

  In the days since he was implicated as a co-conspirator in a federal crime, the president – with the help of his allies in the right-wing press – has fallen back on his most basic political strategy: stoking racial resentment and fear.

  He has not only shamelessly exploited a horrible tragedy in Iowa but tweeted out his intention to put the full force of the U.S. State Department behind a white nationalist conspiracy theory.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Women of color will lose the most if Roe v. Wade is overturned

  The crucial question swirling around President Donald Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy on the U.S. Supreme Court is just how far right the court will shift. Could Kavanaugh’s appointment gut and even overturn Roe v. Wade? Will the Affordable Care Act’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions be in jeopardy? Will the rich and powerful be emboldened and empowered at the expense of the less fortunate?

  While it is understandably important to reflect on the stakes this nomination will have on the future of the court, it is equally important to consider who will be harmed most if Judge Kavanaugh is confirmed.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Charter schools are keeping promises

  On the campaign trail in 2012, Mitt Romney remarked that “charter schools are so successful that almost every politician can find something good to say about them.”

  Romney was right.

  President Bush told crowds he was a “big believer” in charter schools, President Obama proclaimed National Charter Schools Week year after year, and 2016 presidential candidates Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, and Hillary Clinton are all on record praising public charter schools.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1628 - The power of looking back to move forward!

  Looking back to move forward. This is a powerful concept. It is not a new concept. There is even an African symbol for this concept. It is an eagle-like bird with its head looking back while its feet are facing forward. The name of the concept is Sankofa.

  As a child, I looked back to move forward. I looked back at Thurgood Marshall, the great civil rights lawyer who was the architect of the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling. This decision cracked the wall of oppressive segregation constructed by the Plessy v. Ferguson Case of 1896 that forged the specious "separate but equal" doctrine. I looked back and commenced my journey to become a civil rights lawyer.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse – Beth Chapman... on Rane's plane ride?

  Recently, I wrote about Alfa’s influence in Alabama politics. In my August 8 column, I said, the Alabama Farmers Federation still controls the Alabama Legislature. They used to play in the governor’s race. However, they got burned badly by Bob Riley when they helped him get elected, and the first thing he did was stab them in the back. They have slipped around this year, however, and will not only own the legislature but will probably have a good friend in the governor’s office as well.

  The day before the Republican Primary, Kay Ivey was on Jimmy Rane's jet to fly around the state. Boarding with her was Beth Chapman, Alfa’s political consultant. The next night when she came off the platform after giving her appreciation speech, guess who was helping her off the stage and holding her arm so that she would not fall. It was Jimmy Parnell, the Farmers Federation President.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Families first, taxpayers last

  Milton Friedman may have put families first, but he put taxpayers last.

  Friedman (1912–2006) was one of the most influential free-market economists of the twentieth century. After receiving his Ph.D. in economics from Columbia University, he worked for the federal government and then taught economics at the University of Chicago for thirty years. In 1976, he received the Nobel Prize in Economics “for his achievements in the fields of consumption analysis, monetary history, and theory and for his demonstration of the complexity of stabilization policy.”

Monday, August 20, 2018

"You people who’ve got gay children, don’t mess up like I did"

  “Half-baked maggot.” “If he wants to be a female, make him a female. A good sharp knife will do the job really quick.”

  That’s what adults in Oklahoma had to say last week about a transgender middle schooler named Maddie who used the girls’ bathroom during her first week at Achille Public Schools. She is 12 years old.

  A parent’s post on Facebook — “the transgender [sic] is already using the girls [sic] bathroom” — attracted adults from outside of the school district. In just a few hours, hundreds of shockingly violent comments had proliferated.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

‘Enemies of the people?’ Simply, plainly — ‘no.’

  As plainly and clearly as one can say or write this:

  Journalism and journalists are not “enemies of the people.”

  A free press brings us the news of the day, from weather to Wall Street, and when done properly, functions as a “watchdog on government.” The public expects that first part, and the First Amendment — on behalf of all of us — protects that last part.

  At many small-town publications and major metropolitan dailies and broadcast outlets big and small, something extraordinary is happening: News outlets are publishing editorials defending a free and independent press, pushing back against those who have attacked them as “enemies,” “despicable people” and purveyors of “fake news.”

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Common roots of the wars on immigrants and drugs

  I just read a very insightful article about the history of the war on drugs, entitled “How America Convinced the World to Demonize Drugs” by J.S. Rafaeli. The central theme of the article is that while nations around the world have their own particular drug laws and drug wars, the overall originator and instigator of the global war on drugs is the U.S. government.

  What particularly fascinated me about the article, however, was the way it showed how the war on drugs originally intersected with the war on immigrants.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1627 - The frightening force of a powerful personality

  “Why do all these people believe Trump? It’s obvious that he lies all the time. They have documented his lying more than 3000 times in the year and a half he has been president. It makes no sense!” I get some form of this question very often. I may not answer the question, but I address it. I think it’s the frightening force of a powerful personality.

  During the election, one of my grandchildren by foster relationship was a Trump supporter. I talked with him on several occasions. He is well over voting age. Each time my grandchild agreed that it made no sense to support Trump for president. However, the next time I would talk to him, he would be supporting Trump for president.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Craig Ford: Every school should have a school resource officer

  Now that school has started back, a lot of attention has been given to the issue of school safety and security.

  Concerns over school safety and, particularly, the possibility of a mass shooting are nothing new. Though the Columbine massacre that happened nearly 20 years ago was not the first school shooting, it became the first in a wave of shootings that has plagued this country right up to the shootings in Parkland, Florida and Santa Fe just a few months ago.

  That’s why most school systems throughout Alabama used the summer months to improve school safety by tapping into funds that the Alabama Legislature unearmarked earlier this year.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Inside the Statehouse – Brett Kavanaugh to SCOTUS assures Trump a legacy

  The appointment of a United States Supreme Court Justice is one of the most profound legacies that a U. S. President can achieve. The opportunity that President Donald Trump was given to appoint Neil Gorsuch to the High Tribunal last year will be a monumental achievement of the Trump administration.

  The chance to name a second Supreme Court appointment will be a colossal legacy for the Trump presidency. The appointment of two seats on the Supreme Court has given Trump an indelible place in U.S. presidential history.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Trump’s war on Turkey for Pastor Brunson

  Every year, thousands of American citizens are incarcerated in foreign countries. Yet, President Trump has decided to go to war to secure the release of only one of them. What gives with that?

  The citizen who is receiving the privileged treatment is Andrew Brunson, an American pastor incarcerated in Turkey. He is charged with participating in an attempted coup in 2016 against Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.