Tuesday, July 31, 2018

What’s the ‘true threat’ to American journalism and democracy?

  Threats to the survival of a free press seem much in the air these days, from the near-daily online insults hurled from the White House podium to the lunatic who opened fire on an innocent group of news people in Annapolis, Md., on June 28.

  But the greatest danger facing our shared freedom of the press and to journalists’ role in our democracy is not so much either of those factors, as important and tragic as both are.

  Perhaps the greatest — and just as immediate — threat is the ongoing decline in the sheer numbers of those involved in the operating and staffing of newsrooms, for now, felt most strongly in the “print” sector.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Appeals court reinstates lawsuit challenging Alabama’s wage-hike ban

  An appeals court last week reversed a judge’s dismissal of a lawsuit that challenges a state law which blocks Alabama cities from raising the minimum wage.

  The reversal allows the plaintiffs to resume their argument in court that the law discriminates against black, low-wage workers by preserving the racial pay gap.

  Birmingham, a predominantly black city, attempted in 2016 to raise its minimum wage to $10.10 an hour from the federal minimum of $7.25 that is observed by the state. In response, the Alabama Legislature quickly moved to pass a law banning cities from raising the minimum wage above the federal level.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Omnipotent government, not Trump, is the problem

  Many of the people who are critics of President Trump don’t realize that they themselves are partly responsible for much of what Trump is doing. That’s because over the years they have supported the assumption of dictatorial powers by the president. In doing so, they always assumed that their favorite ideal candidate would end up being the one wielding and exercising such powers. They assumed the risk that someone like Trump would end up being the one doing so.

  The United States was founded as a limited-government republic. What that means was that the charter that brought the federal government into existence strictly limited the powers of the president and the other branches of the government. The idea was that no one should be trusted with dictatorial powers, not even people like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1624 - Minoring in the major and majoring in the minor

  My cell phone rang. The caller said: “Senator Sanders, the cops have surrounded your wife near Selma Avenue and Broad Street. It was about nine cops. When I drove by she hollered, ‘Call my husband.’ So I am calling you.”

  I dropped everything and dashed to Selma Avenue and Broad Street. This was the evening of Monday, July 16, 2018, the day before the Democratic Primary Runoff Election for Probate Judge of Dallas County.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Learning from President Trump: Words matter

  “I don’t see any reason why it would be”.

  Those words, voiced by President Donald Trump when asked whether he believed it was true that Russia interfered with the 2016 election, set off a media firestorm.

  Trump, of course, is used to media criticism, but this time was different. Joining the normal critics were a multitude of Fox News hosts including Neil Cavuto, Bret Baier, Brit Hume, Dana Perino, and even Brian Kilmeade of the oft-lauded by Trump Fox and Friends.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

There is no summer vacation for parents in the "gig" economy

  Let the record reflect that I began writing this from beneath my wiggling three-year-old. I had barely cracked open my laptop when he did a backbend across my legs and slid upside-down onto the floor, with a smile so wide I could see the ridges on the roof of his mouth. One of his feet hit my chest and the other hit my laptop, nearly toppling it to the ground. He giggled, and I nearly had a heart attack. My computer is how I keep a roof over our heads, and I can’t afford to replace it.

  Welcome to summer break.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse – GOP Primary Runoff analysis

  The storyline of last week’s GOP Primary Runoff was the extremely low turnout. The big surprises to me were the big victories by Steve Marshall for Attorney General and Martha Roby for Congress. Both winning was not a surprise; however, their margins of victory were impressive.

  Going into the runoff, my guess was that whichever candidate won between Marshall or Troy King, would win by a narrow margin. After all, they had arrived at the runoff in a dead heat of 28 percent each. It is hard to tell how Marshall was able to trounce King by a 62 to 38 margin. The only logical theory would be that he got a sympathy vote from his wife’s death, which occurred during the runoff.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Michael Josephson: Kids like to win; adults need to win

  Whether you’re a sports fan or not, you have to acknowledge the powerful cultural influence that sports have on our culture. The values of millions of participants and spectators are shaped by the values conveyed in sports, including our views of what is permissible and proper in the competitive pursuit of personal goals.

  Professional sports and even highly competitive intercollegiate sports seem irreversibly addicted to the idea that sports are basically a business and that the only thing that makes sports profitable is winning. And if that means we have to tolerate egocentric self-indulgent showboating or whining, violence or even cheating, so be it. Clearly these attitudes have invaded youth sports as well. Everywhere we see that a lot of adults — both coaches and parents — need to grow up and realize the game is not about either their egos or ambitions.

Monday, July 23, 2018

What the domestic gag rule means for Title X providers

  From cuts to teen pregnancy prevention funding to attempts to restrict a woman’s constitutional right to access an abortion, women’s reproductive health is under relentless attack from anti-choice policymakers and the Trump-Pence administration. As this barrage of attacks continues, the fate of a vital safety net hangs in the balance: the federal Title X family planning program.

  Almost 4,000 Title X health centers serve more than 4 million low-income women and men every year and provide important family planning and related preventive health services such as birth control, sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing, and cancer screenings. Enacted by the Nixon administration in 1970 after garnering broad bipartisan support, Title X has since saved taxpayers billions of dollars and reduced the country’s rate of unintended pregnancies, unplanned births, and abortions. The program is especially important to young women, women of color, and immigrant women, all of whom typically face systemic barriers to accessing care.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Mark Zuckerberg’s comments about Holocaust denial are disturbing

  In an interview with a tech magazine published last week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that while he personally finds Holocaust denial "deeply offensive ... at the end of the day, I don't believe that our platform should take that down."

  After a burst of criticism, Zuckerberg clarified his remarks, but only with respect to his personal feelings about those who engage with Holocaust denial. His company's policy, on the other hand, remains. On Facebook, it's officially permissible to proliferate content that denies the crimes of Nazi Germany.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1623 - If we looked back a little, we would see our way forward much clearer

  I am not an immigrant. I am not a descendant of immigrants. My fore parents were not immigrants, but they arrived in this country from another continent. They did not come by choice. They came by force and violence. They came in chains, but they were not immigrants.

  Virtually every nationality came to this country as immigrants. Each was escaping something – starvation, religious persecution, incarceration, war, poverty, lack of opportunity, etc. Each was seeking something. My African ancestors did not come seeking anything. My Africans ancestors were not running from anything. They appreciated their life in the Mother Land. They did not want to leave. They came against their will to much worse and horrific situations.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Confirming Kavanaugh would be a disaster for workers and people in poverty

  By now, most of Supreme Court Justice Nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s decisions and speeches have been pored over by both advocates and reporters. But comparatively little attention has been paid to a posture that has defined Kavanaugh’s legal career: a consistent willingness to side with the rich and the powerful over the most vulnerable members of society.

  While retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy generally has a pro-business voting record, he has often broken with the conservative wing of the Court on civil rights cases and issues of environmental law. At times, this led Kennedy to rule in favor of civil rights and against powerful interests.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Craig Ford: Something has to change

  Americans have been voting for change for as long as I can remember, and the desire for change isn’t limited to one political party. Before President Trump ran on “draining the swamp,” President Obama ran on a slogan of “change you can believe in.”

  In fact, the desire for change might be one of the only things left in politics that everyone can agree on.

  And it isn’t just changing the way our government operates. Most Americans are ready for a change in the way we campaign and how we talk about politics.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse – Notebook from the June 5 Primaries

  You have the results of Tuesday’s runoff elections. I had to go to press with my column before the results were known.

  There are some fantastic runoff races which should be close and interesting. The four best will be Troy King versus Steve Marshall in the Attorney General’s race. The Lieutenant Governor runoff between Twinkle Cavanaugh and Will Ainsworth will be interesting. The Agriculture Commissioner race between Rick Pate and Gerald Dial will be good. It will be interesting to see if Bobby Bright ousted Martha Roby from Congress in the 2nd district.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Ask Dr. Bumdinkle: Are open relationships healthy?

  Author's note: Yes, I'm back. It's a condition of my parole to give people advice on trivial matters which they should have the sense to sort out on their own.

Dear Dr. Bumdinkle:

  I love my girlfriend deeply. We may even get married one day. Since we met, we have considered ourselves to be in an "open relationship," which by our standards at least means we're free to romance other people, including having sex, but our emotional bond and the core relationship stays strictly between us. We do not get attached to other people. In other words, despite our flings with others, we always come home to each other. And yet we often get criticized by our friends for sleeping with other people.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Michael Josephson: Are cynics right? Is lying really necessary?

  What do you think? In today’s society, does a person have to lie or cheat at least occasionally to succeed?

  The question isn’t whether occasional liars and cheats sometimes get away with dishonesty; we all have to agree with this. The question is whether you believe people can succeed if they are not willing to lie or cheat.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Three reasons why you should care about occupational licensing reform

  During my years working in public policy, there have been a handful of issues that have gotten me fired up. Typically when I tell people about them, they have some level of understanding—a state lottery, education and school choice, taxes and budgets, things like that. These days, when I’m asked about the issue I most care about and I say “occupational licensing reform,” I’m often met with blank stares. Once I start explaining the issue, however, people start to understand why it is so important, not just to me, but to all Alabamians.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Does it really matter that Americans don’t know exactly what the First Amendment says?

  The majority of Americans are supportive of the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment but are also unaware of exactly what those rights are, according to the recently released 2018 State of the First Amendment survey by the First Amendment Center of the Freedom Forum Institute.

  When asked if the First Amendment goes too far in the rights that it protects, more than three-fourths of Americans disagree. That’s fairly good news, but it’s somewhat tempered by the fact that a third of Americans cannot name a single freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment. Another third can only name one. Only one survey respondent out of a sample of 1,009 could name all five. And 9 percent of Americans think that the First Amendment guarantees the right to bear arms. (For the record, that’s the Second Amendment.)

Friday, July 13, 2018

U.S. dictatorial fangs at the World Cup

  In his Fourth of July address to Congress in 1821, entitled “In Search of Monsters to Destroy,” John Quincy Adams warned the American people that if the U.S. government ever became an imperial, interventionist government, it would inevitably become like a dictatorial regime.

  A good example of how right Adams has been shown to be has occurred during the World Cup matches. The dictatorial nature of the U.S. government came through loud and clear in the case of Rafael Martinez, a star soccer player on the Mexican team.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1622 - I’ve got independence on my mind!

  Independence is powerful, and there are many dimensions to independence. I have independence on my mind, my heart, and my spirit. So I want to share several personal experiences involving independence. I've got independence on my mind.

  There is our internal independence. There is our external independence. Each will affect the other. However, they are very different. We must understand both. We must seek both.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse – Primary runoffs next week

  Well, folks, if you voted in the Republican primary, you may want to go back to the polls next week and finish selecting the GOP nominees for several important state offices. If you are a Democrat, the only reason you will need to vote on Tuesday is if you have a runoff in a local race, and there are very few of those around.

  We are still a very red Republican state. There are 29 elected statewide officials in Alabama.  All 29 are Republicans. When all the votes are counted in November, that 29 out of 29 figure will more than likely remain the same in the Heart of Dixie. The Blue wave has not reached here. There were twice as many Republican voters, 590,000 to 283,000, as Democratic voters on June 5. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

North Korea will never give up its nuclear weapons

  With North Korea accusing Secretary of State (and former CIA Director) Mike Pompeo of engaging in a “unilateral and gangster-like demand for denuclearization,” it should be increasingly obvious to most everyone that North Korea is not going to destroy its nuclear bombs.

  This should not surprise anyone. The dumbest thing that North Korea could ever do is to destroy its nuclear capability. One thing is for sure: No matter how brutal North Korea’s communist regime is, it’s not stupid. The North Koreans know that the second that they were to destroy their last nuclear bomb, North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un and his communist regime would become one great big nothing-burger in the eyes of President Trump and the U.S. national-security establishment.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Seeing the power of compassion, hope, and work first-hand

  Three years ago, I had the privilege of visiting South America for the first time. During my stay, I—along with the rest of my group—met a family whose story broke our hearts.

  Led by a single mother, the family lived in an aluminum-roofed and mud-filled house in the middle of a village town square, right between two churches. Her adult children still lived with her in their home: one blind and two deaf, blind, and intellectually disabled. Their abusive father abandoned them long ago.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Survey reveals people believe in media as watchdog

  The most encouraging part of the 2018 State of the First Amendment survey is the public’s embrace of the ideal of the media serving as the watchdog of a free society. The American public recognizes the essential importance of a vibrant and free press to serve the interests of the public as a check against government.

  According to the survey, nearly three-fourths of those surveyed (73%) either strongly agreed or somewhat agreed with the statement – “It is important for our democracy that the news media act as a watchdog on government.”

Saturday, July 7, 2018

‘The Rosa Parks of the transgender movement’

  It’s an open question whether Sylvia Rivera left home or was thrown out. Either way, she said she was relieved to be rid of the “viejita” – or little old lady – who was embarrassed by the child she considered an effeminate grandson.

  Rivera, whose mother died and father abandoned her, was finally on her own. She was only 11 years old.

  By the time she was 17, she would be well on her way to becoming, as one writer would later call her, “the Rosa Parks of the modern transgender movement.”

Friday, July 6, 2018

The Supreme Court’s deference to the Pentagon

  Imagine a county sheriff that took a suspected drug-law violator into custody more than 10 years ago. Since then, the man has been held in jail without being given a trial. The district attorney and the sheriff promise to give the man a trial some time in the future but they’re just not sure when. Meanwhile, the man sits in jail indefinitely just waiting for his trial to begin.

  Difficult to imagine, right? That’s because most everyone would assume that a judge would never permit such a thing to happen. The man’s lawyer would file a petition for writ of habeas corpus. A judge would order the sheriff to produce the prisoner and show cause why the prisoner shouldn’t immediately be released from custody. At the habeas corpus hearing, the judge would either order the release of the prisoner based on the violation of his right to a speedy trial, or he would order the state to either try him or release him.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Craig Ford: Could next year be the year we finally get a lottery passed?

  Alabamians have been asking for a lottery for years. It continues to be one of the most popular ideas polled year in and year out, yet we still don’t have a state lottery.

  But there’s a chance that could change next year.

  The Alabama Legislature won’t return to Montgomery until after the November general election. But because there will be so many new legislators after the election (since so many incumbent lawmakers are either retiring or running for a different office), and because it will be the first year of the new lawmakers’ terms of office, which is typically when lawmakers are most willing to make big changes, next year could be the year the legislature finally gives the people the chance to vote on a lottery.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse – 4th of July; Trump and Big Jim

  Otto Whittaker wrote the following essay, “I Am the Nation” in 1955 as a public relations advertisement for the Norfolk and Western Railway. The message found in Mr. Whittaker’s essay is still appropriate for this Independence Day, so I have chosen to include it below as part of my weekly column.

  "I was born on July 4, 1776, and the Declaration of Independence is my birth certificate. The bloodlines of the world run in my veins, because I offered freedom to the oppressed. I am many things and many people. I am the Nation.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Five dead, more hurt at Annapolis newspaper – a sad, sad story

  Sad. So terribly sad.

  Five people – several after a life’s work reporting on the daily lives of others – are now the subjects of news reports no one wants to write or read.

  On Thursday, police say a man described as having a long-standing grudge against the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Md., killed five staffers and injured several more in that small community newsroom. He shot through the glass doors of the paper into a place filled with journalists doing what most in that profession in America do: bring their community the news of itself.

Monday, July 2, 2018

How the latest ACA repeal plan would harm women

  The latest attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) comes from a working group led by former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) and several conservative think tanks and puts in place many of the repeal efforts in the 2017 Graham-Cassidy repeal bill, which failed to pass the U.S. Congress last fall. Despite that millions of people have stood up to say how important access to health care insurance is for their health and financial security, many groups are still trying to take away health care from people, including women and families, across the country. Not only would this so-called Graham-Cassidy 2.0 plan leave millions without coverage, but it would raise prices for people with pre-existing conditions and eliminate essential health benefits that women need, such as maternity care.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Do immigrants have the right to pursue happiness?

  This Wednesday, July 4, Americans will be celebrating the anniversary of the U.S. Declaration of Independence. An important question arises: How many Americans truly believe in the principles enunciated in the Declaration?

  The real significance of the American Revolution does not lie in the military battles between the English colonists and the English military. Those are interesting from a military-history standpoint, but the battles are of only secondary importance. What shook the world — and has shaken the world ever since — are the principles enunciated by Jefferson: that all men are created equal and are endowed by nature and God with certain fundamental rights.