Thursday, January 31, 2019

What should and should not be in any Homeland Security funding deal

  It is almost hard to believe that the very same funding deal that President Donald Trump rejected in December when he drove the country into a partial government shutdown—and that Trump and all but six Senate Republicans rejected again last week—is the one that Congress finally adopted unanimously and that President Trump ultimately signed the very next day. The pain the shutdown caused to approximately two million federal government workers and contractors, as well as to their families and communities, was literally all for nothing. With this deal, Trump temporarily caved on his commitment to shut down the government for “months or even years” if he failed to secure $5.7 billion for wall funding. However, securing that funding remains his top focus heading into a bipartisan, bicameral conference committee that aims to produce full-year government funding legislation for both House and Senate consideration.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse – Infrastructure program should be priority one

  As the new quadrennium crests in Alabama government, everybody looks toward a new beginning. There is a new, fresh four-year period for the newly elected leaders. They are overwhelmingly Republican. The governor is a Republican and all of the accompanying constitutional officeholders are members of the GOP. More importantly, the Alabama Legislature, both the House and the Senate majorities, are Republican. In fact, over two-thirds of each chamber is Republican. It is a supermajority.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Justifying the 17-year war

  When I first learned about the Thirty Years War in a history class in college, I was both fascinated and amazed. How in the world could a war go on for 30 years? That just seemed incomprehensible to me.

  Not anymore. The U.S. war on Afghanistan has now been going on for 17 years. And if the American people follow the advice of Michael E. O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, it’s a virtual certainty that the United States will easily surpass the Thirty Years War and, maybe, the Hundred Years War, which needless to say, also amazed and fascinated me when I learned about its existence.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Your ultrasound isn’t a car. Why are you told to shop like it is?

  When my doctor suggested an ultrasound for the pelvic pain I was experiencing, my first question was “How much will that cost?” I am one of the many Americans with a high-deductible health care plan — $10,000 to be exact. I often scoff that my health insurance is a “get-in-a-doctor’s-door-plan,” because I pay cash for basically everything anyway.

  My doctor, recalling my poor insurance, asked, “Do you ever get to the other side of the state?” I looked at her quizzically. “Because there’s an imaging service over there that offers ultrasounds for …” She paused and searched her computer. “Let’s see … $137, maybe closer to $300 if they think you need both abdominal and transvaginal. But it’s like a two-hour drive.”

Sunday, January 27, 2019

'I’m going to be paying it down until I die.'

  The women incarcerated in Corinth, Mississippi have a phrase for it: “sitting it out.” We have another name for it: “debtors’ prison.”

  Since the 1970s, the Supreme Court has been clear that it’s unconstitutional to jail people simply because they can’t afford to pay fines and fees.

  But in states across the South — and across the country — that’s exactly what cash-strapped municipalities are doing.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1650 - The power of celebrating service and the power of the humble servant!

  A lot was packed into this one event. The event celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s actual birthday. It had a swearing-in for a recently elected official. It has an activity for the Selma Nonviolence Center that included over a hundred students from the Midwest. A lot was packed into this one celebration.

  It started out simple. Faya Rose Toure and I were talking about a special person who is such a good community worker and gives so much. However, she is almost never honored or appropriately recognized. I wanted it to be a simple dinner, but Faya wanted it to be a surprise and more. I did not think we could keep it a secret.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Suffering from Trump's eminent-domain tyranny

  In my blog post, “Stealing Land to Build Trump’s Wall,” I explained how a system of immigration controls, in general, entail tyrannical enforcement measures and how Trump’s wall, in particular, entails the use of eminent domain to steal people’s land on which to build the wall.

  Coincidentally, Global Village Space published an article detailing one family’s fight against the eminent-domain stealing of their land to construct a portion of Trump’s wall. U.S. officials are using their power of eminent domain to steal land belonging to 69-year old Jose Alfredo Cavazos and his sister Eloisa, who live in Mission, Texas, which is located in the Rio Grande Valley. The Cavazos family has lived on their property their entire lives.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Treading water: The current challenges of women’s work

  The rosy economic narrative that the Trump administration often touts glosses over women’s diverse experiences—and a closer look at economic data suggests that this narrative is dangerously deceptive. Since 2000, for example, women’s wages have grown more slowly than men’s wages, and women overall have been less likely to participate in the labor force. The labor force participation of some women, particularly women of color, is irregular or has stagnated. Persistent racial and ethnic disparities in wages only compound challenges for many women of color, who disproportionately work in low-wage jobs. These trends make it difficult for women, especially those working in low-wage jobs, to keep up with the United States’ soaring costs of living. This means that women must work more while making less and struggling to get ahead. In other words, women workers today are treading water.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: New federal judges in Alabama

  Regardless of what happens in Donald Trump’s administration over the next two years, he will have a proven record of success as president, especially if you are a conservative American.

  One of, if not the most important accomplishment of any president is the opportunity to appoint a United States Supreme Court Justice. Folks, Trump has appointed and gotten confirmed two members of the Supreme Court in two years. This is a remarkable achievement. Justices Neal Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh will have an immense impact on American laws and values for more than likely over two decades, long after Donald Trump is dead and gone. Both Gorsuch and Kavanaugh are young, in their early 50s, and will be a part of many landmark rulings that will profoundly affect American public policy.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

There’s a retirement crisis and the new $15 minimum wage bill could help

  We’re several weeks into the 116th Congress, every day of which has been consumed by the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. The president has manufactured this crisis, holding the government hostage to fund a symbol of his xenophobia, while ignoring the deep, snowballing damage he is inflicting on workers, families, and the economy. But Trump’s shutdown doesn’t mean newly-empowered congressional Democrats have been twiddling their thumbs.

  Last week, House and Senate Democratic leadership introduced the Raise the Wage Act, which would gradually increase the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2024. It would also link the minimum wage to median wage growth thereafter, and phase out sub-minimum wages for tipped workers, which has been stuck at $2.13 per hour for 28 years, and workers with disabilities, which allows employers to pay disabled workers as little as pennies per hour.

Monday, January 21, 2019

The wisdom and philosophy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

  For a man who never reached the age of 40, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., left a powerful and important body of thought. He was a preacher and orator, so rather than writing in the form of books or treatises, Dr. King spoke to the world in sermons and speeches and a few articles.

  His impact and image as a social activist are so prominent that I think his contributions as a philosopher are underestimated. Here is a very brief tour of a few things he said worth noting.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Five ways the Trump shutdown is harming struggling workers, families, and communities

  For an in-depth overview of the individuals, families, and grants affected by the shutdown, see Table 1.

  President Donald Trump recently claimed that he can relate to the strain experienced by federal workers living paycheck-to-paycheck. However, his efforts to prolong the current government shutdown—already the longest in U.S. history—suggest otherwise. In addition to furloughed federal workers, this cruel, manufactured crisis has added immeasurable uncertainty to already stressed low-wage workers and families, disproportionately harming low-income families with children, people with disabilities, and seniors.

  Here are just five of the myriad ways that Trump’s shutdown is irresponsibly harming and holding low-income communities hostage.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

We need King’s radical message as badly as we did in 1968

  On Monday, we’ll celebrate Martin Luther King Day, the 33rd time our nation has officially honored this giant of American history.

  But the figure we’ll honor seems to bear a little less resemblance to the real Dr. King with each passing year.

  In speeches and commemorations, America will inevitably hold up the martyred leader of the nonviolent movement that toppled Jim Crow – the brilliant, charismatic pastor whose soaring rhetoric, typically laced with biblical metaphors, inspired millions of people across the globe to march for justice.

  King was all that. And he was much more.

Friday, January 18, 2019

For low-income Americans, the IRS is always shut down

  The ongoing partial government shutdown has dragged on for more than 27 days, and it doesn’t look like the Trump administration is interested in ending it any time soon. One of the agencies affected is the IRS, and the longer the shutdown continues, the likelier it is that tax season becomes ensnared in a significant way. The Trump administration was spooked enough by the prospect of people not receiving their 2018 tax refunds that it ordered furloughed IRS employees back to work despite the fact that it may be illegal.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Trump's nighttime trip to Iraq confirms the debacle

  What better proof of the Iraq debacle than President Trump’s middle-of-the-night trip to that country at Christmastime to visit U.S. troops who are still occupying the country some 15 years after the Pentagon and the CIA invaded?

  The U.S. national-security establishment has had a decade-and-a-half to bring its federally planned paradise into existence. From the very first day of the U.S. conquest of Iraq - a country that had never attacked the United States - the Pentagon and the CIA wielded total control over the country, being able to install whatever type of regime they wanted, with no pesky constitutional restraints to inhibit whatever they wanted to do.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse – What will our Congressional districts look like after the 2020 Census?

  Preparations are being made to take the 2020 Census. This process is not just a fun game to spell out demographic changes and interesting tidbits about Americans. It is a very important mandate dictated by the U.S. Constitution. The number of people counted determines how many seats each state has in Congress. Thus, it is taken every 10-years.

  The country has been changing, demographically, over the last decade, as it always has over the course of history. The states of California, Texas, and Florida continue to grow exponentially. All Americans, not just older ones, seek the sun. They like a sunny, warm climate. That is why our neighboring state of Florida is, and has been for decades, America’s growth state.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

2019 threats to First Amendment freedoms

  First Amendment threats and defenses have, for much of the past 100 years, largely focused on protecting individual speech — the rights of any one of us to express ourselves without interference or punishment by the government.

  Not to be too glib but, oh, those were the days! This glee is due, in no small part, to the degree that individual speech and press rights triumphed in that era. But looking into this new year, that situation — and those victories — may be more nostalgia than the norm. There is increasing danger to our core freedoms from what I’ll call “systemic” challenges, which often appear focused on other issues but which carry a First Amendment impact, if not a wallop.

Monday, January 14, 2019

For low-income people, generosity is a survival tactic

  If you aren’t one of Renee Rushka’s neighbors in Bethel, Connecticut, you probably don’t know about the chain of events that took place there this past December. They were small and quiet and didn’t change the world, but they changed the lives of the people they touched. It started a few weeks before Christmas when Rushka was a few dollars short of what she needed to pay for her groceries. Someone behind her in line offered to cover what Rushka couldn’t. The following week she posted a thank you on the neighborhood’s Facebook page. There was an immediate flood of replies, she says, from people asking whether her family needed anything else to get through the holiday. There was also one woman asking if Rushka could recommend resources because she was struggling too.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Risks in Betsy DeVos’ rethink of higher education

  In its first two years, the Trump administration bent over backward to gut Obama administration regulations designed to hold colleges or programs accountable for ripping off students. Now, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is kicking 2019 off with an attempt to dismantle bedrock protections created decades ago that define what it means to receive a college education and the role gatekeepers play in conducting quality oversight.

  Last week, the U.S. Department of Education detailed exactly how it plans to accomplish its goals. The elimination of these protections risks the proliferation of poor-quality schools in the name of innovation, leading to more dead ends and broken promises for students.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Tucker Carlson and Fox News are wrong, on both immigration and free speech

  Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson got himself into some hot water with Fox News advertisers last month after he made a derogatory comment about immigrants on his show. According to Hollywood Reporter, at least 24 advertisers decided to boycott Carlson’s show in response to his comment, including Toyota, Lexus, Farmers Insurance,, IHOP, Pacific Life Insurance, Bowflex, and Samsung.

  What did Carlson say that caused this large exodus of advertisers from his show? He suggested that immigrants make America “dirtier.” Carlson’s advertisers clearly did not agree with his assessment and registered their discontent by pulling their ads from his show.

Friday, January 11, 2019

9th Circuit panel rejects religious school's use of ministerial exception, creates circuit split

  A religious school in California cannot use the “ministerial exception” to label one of its former teachers and, therefore, avoid her disability discrimination lawsuit, a divided federal appeals court has ruled. The court’s decision creates a split among the federal appellate circuits and could cause the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit and perhaps provide more guidance on the meaning of its 2012 decision on the ministerial exception.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

How long should the workday be?

  It has been eighty years since the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) was passed by Congress and signed into law by Franklin D. Roosevelt on June 25, 1938. The FLSA established a national minimum wage of 25¢ an hour, mandated time and a half for overtime in certain jobs, prohibited most child labor, and established a 44-hour workweek (lowered to 40 hours in 1940).

  Although the national minimum wage has steadily risen to $7.25 per hour (where it has stood since 2009), the workweek has never been lowered below 40 hours.

  Some people want that to change.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse – Alabama’s 1940s congressional delegation

  Recently I came across a copy of an old congressional directory from 1942. It is always fun for me to read about this era in American political history.

  Franklin Delano Roosevelt had been first elected in 1932 in the depths of the Great Depression. He would go on to be reelected in 1936, 1940, and 1944 and would have been reelected into perpetuity. However, he died in Warm Springs, Georgia in April of 1945, only four months into his fourth term. He was the closest thing we Americans have ever had to having a king. Nobody has or ever will serve four terms as President. After FDR's omnipotent reign, the Constitution was changed to limit our presidents to two four-year terms.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Missing paychecks due to Trump shutdown total $2 billion every two weeks

  President Donald Trump has suggested his shutdown could last “for months or even a year or longer” due to his insistence on extorting taxpayer money for a border wall that the American public overwhelmingly opposes—one that he swore Mexico would pay for. The new Democratic House majority passed legislation to reopen the government, but there is no indication that the Republican-controlled Senate will agree to end this impasse soon. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has voiced his refusal to bring legislation to reopen the government to the Senate floor despite the fact that the chamber passed a similar deal unanimously just three weeks ago.

Monday, January 7, 2019

What Trump leaves out when he talks about the black unemployment rate

  President Donald Trump has a lot to say about the economy. His tweets on it are as incessant as they are unreliable: There’s his insistence that we have the “best jobs numbers” in the history of the country (job creation has slowed since Obama’s presidency ended), the time he bragged that we have the “hottest jobs market on planet Earth,” and his confusing claim that he has revitalized the steel industry and spurred the development of six new steel mills (he has not).

  None of those claims are exactly true, but the one that happened during his State of the Union address last year is what keeps me up at night. While making the case for his economic platform, Trump specifically touted low black unemployment, saying, “[It’s] something I’m very proud of, African American unemployment stands at the lowest rate ever recorded.” Republicans cheered; Democrats grimaced. I rolled my eyes.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

"This is what a family looks like."

  Jay was worried he wouldn’t be fed. He was in trouble at school. He was sick a lot.

  And he was only 5 years old.

  Before he met Chelsey and Bailey Glassco, Jay (not his real name) had never lived with a foster family longer than 90 days. But the Glasscos, who were shunned by their tight-knit Southern, Christian communities when they came out, have what they call “a soft spot” for foster kids.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

The "great man" theory of governance

  One of the political phenomena that the Trump administration has brought to the surface is the political philosophy that now guides much of the conservative movement. Unlike libertarians, who have a deep philosophical commitment to the principle of a government with very few, limited powers, conservatives have come to embrace what can be called the "great man" theory of governance.  It holds that people should elect (or select) a great man to serve as president and then loyally and unconditionally support whatever he decides to do in the interests of the nation.

Friday, January 4, 2019

We already have a border wall. It’s an environmental disaster.

  As of Friday, the U.S. government has been partially shut down for 14 days due to the Trump administration’s demand that a new funding package include money for a border wall with Mexico. The new House Democratic majority intends to vote on a bill to re-open the government that doesn’t include such funding soon after it’s sworn in. The administration and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have called the bill a non-starter.

  But ask anyone living along the U.S.-Mexico line, and they’ll tell you: We already have fences and walls, drones and helicopters, surveillance towers, checkpoints, and border patrol agents speeding their ATVs across the fragile biotic crust of the desert.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

While the Supreme Court deliberates, Alabama should shine the light on asset forfeiture

  The U.S. Supreme Court recently signaled that it’s ready to limit the government’s power to confiscate things like cars, houses, and cash that prosecutors have proven, or maybe just reasonably suspect, were involved in crimes.

  The court heard oral arguments related to Indiana’s use of the power, known as asset forfeiture, to confiscate a $42,000 vehicle — a value nearly four times the maximum fine for the underlying crime. Specifically, the court is looking at whether the state is subject to the Eighth Amendment’s ban on imposing excessive fines.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse – A new quadrennium: Alabama potpourri and trivia

  As we begin this new year of 2019, Alabama begins a new quadrennium in state government.

  All of our Alabama Constitutional officeholders begin their new four-year terms this month. Gov. Kay Ivey will be sworn in for a four-year term on January 14. Also, being sworn in on Inauguration Day will be Will Ainsworth as lieutenant governor, John Merrill as Alabama Secretary of State, John McMillan as state treasurer, Rick Pate as Alabama Agriculture Commissioner, Steve Marshall as Alabama Attorney General and Jim Ziegler will be sworn in for a second term as Alabama Auditor. By the way, all of the above and indeed all statewide officeholders in Alabama, are Republicans.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

How about the truth regarding the Department of “Defense”?

  With all the born-again fervor for truth among the mainstream press within the context of the Donald Trump regime, would it be too much to ask for the truth regarding the U.S. Department of “Defense”?

  I mean, come on, there is no way that what U.S. troops have been doing overseas for the past 70 years has anything to do with the defense of the United States. Instead,  it has all been about empire and intervention.

  So, while we are on the subject of truth, how about if we change the name of the Department of Defense to the Department of Empire and Intervention?