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?