Monday, April 30, 2018

We know the citizenship question will hurt the census. Alabama already tried it.

  Common sense tells you that adding a question to the 2020 Census asking about citizenship status will depress response rates from an immigrant community already traumatized by President Trump’s incendiary rhetoric and deportation machinery. But common sense was not enough for the Trump administration.

  Certainly, it was not enough for Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, whose department is responsible for administering the census and who has bowed to pressure from the Justice Department to include a citizenship question. Refusing to acknowledge the question’s predictable impact, Ross has instead insisted that “no one [has] provided evidence that reinstating a citizenship question on the decennial census would materially decrease response rates.”

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Hannity Hassle: Let’s apply ‘The Five W’s and How’

  If the burning national question of the moment is whether Fox News Channel star Sean Hannity is a “journalist” or not, let’s use the long-held set of journalistic questions to investigate: The proverbial who, what, when, where, why and how?

  First, the “who”: Sean Patrick Hannity is a cable TV conservative talk show host and best-selling author. Most recently he is said to serve as an unpaid advisor to President Trump — some say that relationship is so close that he “has a desk” at the White House. Hannity was born in New York City and has spent much of his broadcast career there.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Confederate monuments are going down. Lynching memorials are going up.

  The markers are about the size of a man. The color of bricks made from Alabama’s red clay, they hang from the roof, one for every county in America where a person was lynched.

  Appearing first at eye level, the markers read like headstones. But as the floor descends, they hang ever more ominously overhead, until visitors are forced to crane their necks — like the spectators who once gawked at the mutilated bodies of the black men and women who had been hung.

  The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, the nation’s first major memorial to the victims of lynching during the era of Jim Crow, opened this week in Montgomery, Alabama. It’s intended to help our country confront the racial atrocities of the past so that we can begin the path toward reconciliation.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Alabama Supreme Court races on the ballot this year

  Among the plethora of races on the ballot this year are the important seats on the Alabama Supreme Court. We have an unprecedented five out of nine seats up for election.

  Our Alabama Supreme Court as well as our Court of Criminal Appeals are extremely conservative, pro-business, and all Republican.

  This conservatism dates back to the 1980s and 1990s. During that two-decade run, the plaintiff lawyers controlled and dominated our Supreme Court. We were known throughout the country as a plaintiff’s paradise. It was like a fairytale jackpot justice system. It was not uncommon for ludicrous multimillion-dollar verdicts to be upheld daily for all types of cases. We were called "Tort Hell" by Time Magazine.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Prince-DeVos plan to privatize American institutions

  Despite President Donald Trump’s pledge to “drain the swamp” in Washington, D.C., it often seems like he is creating one. Take Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater Worldwide—now known as Academi—and his sister, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who both are leading efforts to privatize American institutions.

  Recently, Prince, the current chair of Frontier Services Group, took center stage in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections. It appears that Prince served as then-President-elect Trump’s surrogate to establish a back channel to connect Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Parker Snider: A guide to fake news

  More than once every day.... That’s how often President Trump publicly calls something “fake”—be it a story, poll, or news organization.

  Just weeks ago, Facebook CEO and Founder Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress about, among other things, the proliferation of falsities on his social media platform, including in Alabama’s special election for U.S. Senate last year.

  We see the term everywhere, hear it lobbied daily on cable news, and use it ourselves (although perhaps often in jest).  But what really is fake news, and how do we spot it?

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Michael Josephson: The peculiar concept of “ethics laws”

  Cynicism about the ethics of elected officials may be at an all-time high, continually fueled by news stories of outright corruption or bad judgment. At every level of government there are politicians who can’t seem to recognize or resist conflicts of interest, inappropriate gifts, improper use of the power or property entrusted to them, or the discrediting impact of shameful private conduct.

  Thus, it’s no surprise that news media are continually shining a light on real and perceived improprieties and putting the heat on federal, state, and city legislatures to pass new and tougher ethics laws to restore public trust.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Joseph O. Patton: The Great Pretenders

  Every self-described progressive or person of conscience is quick to tell you how they support social justice and equality. I sure as hell do… and I’m not shy when it comes to expressing it. But what does it say about someone who only brandishes some type of righteous anger when a victim of discrimination or racial profiling looks like them or shares their sexuality, religious preference, gender or some other key characteristic?

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Andrew Sasser: The shared foundation of liberals and conservatives

  Political discussion in the United States is often framed by party allegiance. When people are asked to explain the rationale behind their choice to identify with a specific party, however, they often cannot give an answer beyond listing particular positions that they support or oppose. While an understanding of specific policies is important, limiting debate to the realm of policy misses out on the deeper questions that lie at the heart of any political society.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1610: I am not retiring; I am just not running again

  “What are you going to do now that you are retired?” I get some version of this question all the time. Therefore, I decided to write about this concern. I am not retired. I am not retiring.

  I announced in February that I would not run again. I had already qualified to run for a tenth term. I did not withdraw my candidacy before qualifying ended on February 9, 2018. In fact, I only withdrew my candidacy in early March. But I knew in my heart that it was time.

Friday, April 20, 2018

"The Civil War is over, the Confederacy lost and we are better for it."

  In five Southern states, we’re in the middle of Confederate History Month, a dubious designation that’s at odds with the reckoning the region has engaged in since the Charleston church massacre by white supremacist Dylann Roof in 2015.

  Roof’s act of terror began to shake the South out of its 150-year reverence for the Confederacy, a glorification cemented, in part, by the widespread installation of monuments that peaked during the period after Jim Crow was established, and again during the civil rights movement. As the nation mourned the victims in Charleston, grassroots organizers like Take ‘Em Down NOLA modeled the kind of work necessary to persuade local governments to remove these monuments to slavery, white supremacy, and oppression from public places.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Trump’s executive order on work requirements punishes low-income people for being poor

  President Trump is quietly curtailing access to social safety nets for our nation’s most vulnerable people.

  The executive order he signed last week requiring federal agencies to establish or strengthen work requirements for social services — and reports that his administration is considering a proposal that would allow states to require drug testing for food stamp recipients — is not only heartless, it’s also based on false premises, including the assumption that poor people do not work.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Legislative races to watch

  Our antiquated 1901 Constitution was designed to give inordinate power to the Alabama Legislature. During the Wallace years, the King of Alabama politics himself usurped this power and controlled the legislature from the state's executive branch. Over the last couple of decades, the legislature has wrestled this power back and pretty much excluded the governor from their bailiwick. Governors Bob Riley and Robert Bentley were ostracized and pretty much ignored. Their proposed budgets were instantaneously tossed into the nearest trashcan.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Craig Ford: How we can make our schools safer

  Education is the most important service our government provides, and one of the top issues impacting education is school safety.

  Unfortunately, it seems like every conversation about school safety always turns into a debate about guns, and nothing ever gets done.

  But there are a lot of things we can – and should – be doing to make our schools safer without even getting into the gun issue. In fact, mass shootings are only one threat to our schools. Kidnappings, sexual assaults, fights and bomb threats are also concerns, and none of those have anything to do with guns.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Trump, Pompeo, and Bolton: The path to war

  President Donald Trump is putting the United States on a dangerous path to devastating wars by shuffling his national security team to assemble a war Cabinet. To fill the position of America’s top diplomat, President Trump has chosen the hawkish current CIA Director Mike Pompeo—a man who notoriously prefers regime change to diplomacy. And newly appointed National Security Adviser John R. Bolton was one of the principal architects and defenders of the Iraq War; wants to abrogate the Iran deal; and appears eager to launch preventive military strikes against North Korea. Both Pompeo and Bolton replace less hawkish advisers and will enable the worst instincts of the already erratic and reckless President Trump. By nominating Pompeo and appointing Bolton, Trump has chosen a path that could lead to war.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Trump’s trade war destroys our freedom

  It is a fundamental economic axiom that trade raises people’s standard of living. That’s because in every trade, both traders are giving up something they value less for something they value more. As soon as a trade is completed, both actors have raised their standard of living based on their individual, subjective valuations.

  You go to the grocery store and spend $100.You gave up the $100 to get things (groceries) that you valued more than the money. Your standard of living just went up. So did the standard of living of the grocer. He gave up something he valued less (the groceries) for something he valued more (the money).

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Jacob G. Hornberger: Immigration militarism

  Immigration statists are celebrating! Their icon, President Trump, has granted them their long-held wish. He has announced that he intends to militarize the U.S.-Mexico border by dispatching U.S. troops to that part of the country. You know — to defend our borders and our national sovereignty and, of course, to protect us from all those illegal immigrants who are “invading” our country (and stealing our jobs).

  Trump and his acolytes have been terribly frustrated over his inability to get his infamous wall built along the border. Not only has Trump failed to persuade or force Mexico to pay for it, he’s also been unable to get Congress to do so.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Sinclair: Next time, just put your name to the message

  Sinclair Broadcasting’s recent promotional message on the state of today’s news — delivered to its TV audiences nationwide — is as protected by the First Amendment as it was an oafish attempt to hide corporate messaging under the veneer of local news reporting.

  In other words, it was commentary from a conservative company that has a First Amendment right to express its views, but it was also a shoddy tactic that undermined the very thing Sinclair’s leadership claimed to support: good journalism.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Intersection of youth activism and faith-based values

  At times, young activists have been accused of being apathetic to the world around them, but history shows that they have played an important role in efforts to achieve critical change through progressive social movements. Today, student activists—some of whom are motivated by their faith—continue to drive such movements. On March 24, 2018, more than one month after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla., students organized the March for Our Lives, a massive rally demanding policy change to prevent gun violence and increase public safety. With an estimated 800,000 people in Washington, D.C., joined by approximately 800 sister marches across the country and throughout the world, the March for Our Lives was one of the largest youth protests since the Vietnam War.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The Congressional race to watch in Alabama

  There are dramatic differences between our congressional delegation of the 1940s-1960s and our group on the Potomac today. Obviously, their partisan badges have changed, as have Alabamians. There is also a tremendous difference in power and seniority of that era versus today’s group. That bygone era of Alabama congressmen was very progressive and they were New Deal Democrats, whereas, our delegation today is one of the most conservative in America.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

We need Dr. King's radical vision. We don't need a convenient hero.

  It was storming the night Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his final speech in Memphis, a storm so thunderous it made him jump at the pulpit.

  It was storming again on the 50th anniversary of that speech, the night we arrived in Memphis to take part in the National Civil Rights Museum’s ceremony outside the Lorraine Motel, where King was assassinated in 1968.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Taylor’s Top Eight: End-of-session edition

  It’s been just over a week since the 2018 Regular Session of the Alabama Legislature came to an end. After marinating on this year’s 26 legislative days, here are my takeaways in the final legislative review for 2018.

  There were a few pieces of legislation for which our legislators deserve a round of applause.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Fifty years after Dr. King’s assassination: I remember most how he lived

  I remember the day like it was yesterday. I was walking across the Harvard Law School Yard. It was dust dark. A fellow Harvard Law School classmate was walking in the opposite direction. He just said, “They killed him.” He didn’t say who they killed, but I knew from the tone, inflection and weight in his voice. It was April 4, 1968. The “him” was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

  It has now been 50 years since that fateful day. I can still feel the intense pain. I can still feel the exploding hurt. I can still feel the profound loss. Still, I don’t want to focus on the terrible death on that one day. Rather, I want to focus on the life Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. lived during the 14,324 days starting January 15, 1929, his date of birth, and ending April 4, 1968, his date of death. It was truly an extraordinary life.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Jacob G. Hornberger: Show me your immigration plan

  Whenever liberals or conservatives tell you that they favor immigration controls, one way to stop them dead in their tracks is to say to them: Show me your plan.

  They will stare at you blankly. They will be dumbfounded. They won’t know what to say. It is likely that they will simply respond with something like, “A nation has the right to control its borders.”

  Okay, but what is your plan for making your system of immigration controls work? What is your plan for finally bringing an end to the ongoing, never-ending “immigration crisis” that has lasted for at least 70 years?

Friday, April 6, 2018

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1608: Our children are more powerful and smarter than we know

  Our children are powerful. Our children are far more powerful than we know. They can go where we cannot go. They can do what we cannot do. They can unleash explosive energies that seemed securely bound. They can move those of us who know we need to move but can’t move. Our children are more powerful than we know.

  The power of our children was on full display with the March for Our Lives. There were more than eight hundred thousand participants at just one march in Washington, D.C., our nation’s capitol. And there were more than eight hundred other marches around the world with hundreds of thousands of marchers. That’s great power. But the power of our children did not start with the children of today. It started a long time ago. I can’t go that far back, but I can personally go back more than half a century.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Craig Ford: The most important decision Alabama will make

  The Alabama Legislative Session has come to an end, but legislators won’t be the ones making the most important decision our government will make this year. The State Board of Education will make that decision in April when they choose our next State Superintendent of Education.

  For all of the high-profile issues that have been raised in this legislative session, public education is still the most important issue our state government is responsible for. The education budget is three times the size of the general fund budget, and what happens in education can impact everything else, including job creation and even prison overcrowding.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Makeup of Alabama Legislature unlikely to change this year

  Republicans took control of federal offices and presidential races in 1964 in Alabama. It was referred to as the Goldwater Landslide. The Baxley-Graddick fiasco in 1986 was the game changer for the governorship. In the last 32 years, there have been eight governor’s races. Republicans have won all of them, with one exception. Don Siegelman was an interloper in 1998.

  During that same period, Alabamians have elected all Republicans to every secondary statewide office. There are six secondary constitutional offices. All six are held by Republicans. There are nine justices on the Alabama Supreme Court. There are also 10 judges on the Civil and Criminal Courts of Appeals. These 19 judges are all Republicans. If you add the three seats on the Public Service Commission to this list and include the governor, that is 29 state offices. All 29 are held by Republicans. In addition, we have seven seats in Congress. Six out of seven of our Congressional members are Republicans. Folks, that makes us a pretty Republican state. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Gun violence expert explains the link between inequality and gun deaths

  Support for gun safety laws is at an all-time high. More Americans than ever supported new laws to reduce gun violence—including nearly 70 percent of adults and half of all Republicans. But gun safety measures, while critical, are only the tip of the iceberg in addressing gun violence in the country.

  In both the United States and globally, gun violence is strongly correlated with both poverty and inequality. A recent World Bank study found that inequality helped predict the difference in murder rates between states in the United States—as well as between countries. Suicides, which make up the majority of gun deaths in the country, skyrocket in times of economic distress. The Great Recession alone was linked to more than 10,000 suicides, according to one study.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Environmental safety changes are threatening children’s health

  Imagine learning that water from your tap might be harmful to your family’s health. Imagine that in addition to thinking about the food you feed your children—something you can try to control—you must worry about the water they use to brush their teeth and wash their faces before school. For the past three years, Amy Brown has done just that. When Brown received a letter in 2015 from the NC Department of Environmental Quality warning that her North Carolina home’s water could be contaminated with heavy metals such as lead and mercury, she stopped using it. Today, she and her family continue to use bottled water for basic necessities.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Jacob G. Hornberger: The best hope for Korea: The North Korean citizenry

  With President Trump’s appointment of John Bolton as his new “national security advisor,” don’t be surprised if the Trump administration again begins banging the war drums against North Korea. Bolton has expressed support for initiating an attack against North Korea if it refuses to dismantle its nuclear bombs and missiles. For what it’s worth, Bolton was also a fervent supporter of the U.S. government’s attack in 2003 on Iraq, a country that, like North Korea, never attacked the United States.