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.