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.