Sunday, March 31, 2019

Equal pay is fundamental for women’s success in the new economy

  In recent months, opponents of strengthening equal pay protections have parroted a common refrain from the Trump administration and its supporters by focusing on the fact that women gained 58 percent—or roughly 1.5 million—of all new private sector jobs created in 2018. They tout this singular piece of data as evidence that the economy must be working well for women and their wages. However, this talking point obscures and oversimplifies the diverse experiences of working women—particularly women of color—and ignores why equal pay is so critical to women’s economic progress. Women’s full participation in the economy is indeed vital to U.S. economic growth and gender equality. Yet women must also have access to quality, well-paying jobs in which they have a fair chance in order to succeed and maximize their contributions to their families and the economy.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Conscription is slavery

  Last month a federal judge in Texas declared the all-male military draft to be unconstitutional because it applies only to men and not also to women. The decision flies in the face of a decision by the Supreme Court in 1981 that upheld the constitutionality of the draft-registration process. Back then, however, women were not permitted to serve in combat roles, which was the justification for the Court’s ruling. Today, women are permitted to serve in combat roles, a point cited by that Texas federal judge.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Existing libel laws protect the right to speak freely – for all of us

  There is a lot of “libel talk” — and filing of mega-million-dollar lawsuits — in the air, and as long as such stays there, the people’s ability to openly criticize public officials is safe.

  Advocates of free speech, free press, and holding government publicly accountable — liberals and conservatives alike — need to keep cautious eyes on new, perhaps coordinated, efforts to chill critics and water down legal protections regarding public comments about officials and famous individuals. In the space of a few weeks:

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1658 - Women’s History Month

  March is designated as National Women’s History Month. We have National Women’s History Month because the history of women, like that certain other peoples, gets lost in the shuffle of history. Women’s History Month is just a beginning step in recognizing and acknowledging women who overcame great odds to achieve great success.

  There is an African proverb that says, “Until the lion tells his side of the story, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” That’s true of the story of women as well. As long as men are telling the stories, they will always glorify men. It will always be history. Therefore, we will never know the great challenges and achievements of women. Women must tell the stories of women so it will be her story rather than "hisstory."

  Whoever tells his story or her story makes decisions about what the great challenges were, who faced the great challenges, who overcame the great challenges, and who celebrated the overcoming of the great challenges. We men have one set of criteria for determining these factors. For us men, the criterion is usually about the exercise of power in contests with other men. For women, it may well be other criteria. If the writer does not understand that something was a great challenge, he cannot go to the next steps of who faced, overcame, and celebrated the overcoming of the challenge. I do not know those criteria for women, and I am holding myself back from sharing my perceptions. However, I will offer one example that involves my mother, and every child can speak about his or her mother. March is Women’s History (Herstory) Month.

  Family is the very foundation of society. It is the most critical institution. However, men rarely tell the overcoming story of family. In my opinion, women usually value the challenges and achievements of family very differently. Our very language is pregnant with prejudices for the male character such as history and heroes. There is no place for "herstory" and "sheroes." My mother, Ola Mae Sanders, was heroic or should I say sheroic. She will not make the usual history books. She was "sheroic" because she met and overcame the great challenges of stifling poverty, a huge family, a limited formal education. and oppressive white supremacy.

  The Ola Mae Sanders family was not just poor, but “Po.” At one time the family lived in a three-room house with nine children, a mother, and a father. But she led the family in overcoming that poverty. Not only did she eventually do better herself, but all of her children escaped poverty. Every child has owned his or her own home and more. Ola Mae Sanders was sheroic.

  My mother overcame the great challenges of having a limited formal education. She had a seventh-grade education. Her husband, Sam Sanders, just went to the first grade and could not write his name. Yet, they managed to graduate 12 of their 13 children from high school. (The 13th died as a baby). All but two of her children went to college, and several obtained doctorate degrees. In the face of these challenging circumstances, this was a great achievement. March is Women’s Herstory Month.

  I have touched on the size of the family, the poverty, and limited education. However, I need to further explore the challenges of a big family. A big family meant not having the kind and amount of food needed. But Ola Mae Sanders took what she had and made what was needed. A big family meant stuffing 11 persons – nine children, a mother, and a father – in three rooms, (a kitchen, a middle room, and a front room). But Ola Mae Sanders took what she had and made what was needed. The family couldn’t afford toothbrushes, but she taught the children to take twigs from a certain tree, peel the bark, chew the end until it became soft and use salt to brush their teeth. Ola Mae Sanders took what she had and made what was needed. Poverty added to the challenges of a big family. A big family added to the challenges of poverty. But my mother met and overcame both challenges.

  The challenges of poverty, a big family, and a limited formal education were multiplied by the oppressive burden of white supremacy. White supremacy constrained my mother at every turn in what education she could get, what work she could do, what money she could make, what she could accumulate, what respect she could have, what she could say to white folk, where she could go and so forth. It was a heavy burden on her self esteem and the self esteem of her children. But Ola Mae managed to achieve a sense of self-worth for herself and impart a sense of self-worth in her children. Ola Mae Sanders met and overcame these collective challenges. In addition, she became a strong community leader. People came from miles around to seek her wisdom. She had her flaws, but so does every hero and shero. Ola Mae Sanders was sheroic. March is Women’s Herstory Month.

  History and/or "herstory" acknowledge and celebrate the overcoming of great challenges. Did Ola Mae Sanders not meet great challenges? Did Ola Mae Sanders not overcome great challenges? Is her story not history? Can you see most men perceiving and writing this as history? It is herstory. It is history. March is Women’s History Month.

EPILOGUE – Because the victors write the history, I hope more women will see their victories and write their stories so we can have "herstory" as well as history.

  About the author: Hank Sanders represented District 23 in the Alabama Senate from 1983 to 2018.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Infrastructure: Alabama needs a road program

  One of the obvious political changes in Alabama government over the last decades with the Republican takeover of the Alabama Legislature has been the reluctance to raise new revenue to fund state government. Many of the current Republican legislators came to Montgomery in 2010 with a "no new tax pledge". Voting for any kind of tax or fee increase was considered blasphemous.

  In bygone days, powerful governors like Big Jim Folsom and George Wallace would raise taxes at the drop of a hat, especially when it came to a gasoline tax to build roads. It was perfunctory and almost mandatory for a governor to have a road program. That was their legacy and how they and their legislative allies made friends. It was expected that a governor would build roads. Raising the gas tax was the only way to fund a road program. Folks didn’t seem to mind. Looks like this current legislature may have realized that they need a road program.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Craig Ford: Robbing Peter to pay Paul

  One of the problems exposed during the gas tax debate was the fact that $63 million a year gets diverted out of the Alabama Department of Transportation’s road and bridge funding to pay for state troopers and the court system.

  The logic (if you can call it that) for this transfer of funds is that the troopers patrol the roads and the courts process the tickets and arrests the troopers make, so therefore, they should be eligible for a portion of that road and bridge funding.

  Many of those who opposed the gas tax argued that the state should keep that $63 million in the Department of Transportation’s budget and find other sources of revenue for the troopers and courts.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Trump’s pick to run Interior looms large behind ocean sell-off

  On March 20, 2019, the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) opened all planning areas in the Gulf of Mexico for the fourth-straight offshore oil and gas lease sale since President Donald Trump took office. Throughout the past 35 years, the DOI has typically auctioned leases in 1 of 3 Gulf sections at a time. But ever since David Bernhardt, the current acting secretary, was sworn in as deputy interior secretary in August of 2017, the whole Gulf has essentially been up for grabs. These Gulfwide auctions are likely watering down the competition, allowing the oil and gas industry to buy up America’s taxpayer-owned mineral resources at fire sale prices—and Bernhardt’s former industry clients are among those who benefit.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

College executives need to pay up when their schools close abruptly

  Within the last few weeks, students attending several Argosy University campuses across the country received a nasty shock: Their campuses would be shutting down in 48 hours. The move leaves thousands of students in the lurch with unclear futures and millions of dollars in missing federal financial aid that the school received from the federal government but failed to disburse to students.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Free trade: A key to a rising standard of living

  Trade is a key to a rising standard of living in society, especially for those at the bottom of the economic ladder.

  In every exchange, both sides benefit from their own individual subjective perspective. That’s because, at the moment of the trade, they are both giving up something they value less for something they value more. Thus, trade enables people to improve their standard of living. The greater the ability of people to trade, the better off they are.

Friday, March 22, 2019

David Bernhardt is President Trump’s most conflicted Cabinet nominee

  On the whole, President Donald Trump’s Cabinet has not demonstrated integrity, honesty, or accountability to the American public. Four top Trump administration officials have resigned under a cloud of corruption after wasting taxpayer dollars or abusing their position for personal gain: U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt; U.S. Secretary of Veteran Affairs David Shulkin; and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke.

  Rather than cleaning house in the wake of these controversies and resignations, President Trump is doubling down on nominating conflicted individuals to his Cabinet. In February, the U.S. Senate confirmed former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler as Pruitt’s replacement at the EPA, the federal agency that enforces air and water protections. And this month, Trump nominated David Bernhardt to lead the U.S. Department of the Interior. Currently serving as the acting interior secretary since Zinke’s departure, Bernhardt is a former oil and gas lobbyist—and has so many conflicts of interest that he must carry around a list of former clients to remember them.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Horrific, long-term consequences of regime change

  84-year-old Emma Thiessen Alvarez has never forgotten the day in 1981 when Guatemalan officials came to her house looking for her daughter, a student leader who had escaped from military custody. Unable to find her, the officials settled for Thiessen’s 14-year-old son. She never saw him again.

  Thiesen’s story was highlighted in a recent New York Times article because the Guatemalan legislature is now contemplating granting blanket amnesty to military officials who participated in the reign of terror that the Guatemalan national-security establishment inflicted on the Guatemalan people for a period of some 36 years.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Rural roads need fixing

  Last week, we talked about the importance of roads to economic development. We spoke about urban growth and expansion, especially the need for highways in Huntsville and the improvement of the port in Mobile.

  Well, I overlooked the need for and importance of our rural roads. Make no doubt about it, our rural roads need fixing too. A good many of the rural bridges in the state have been condemned and are hazardous for heavy trucks and school buses to travel. Many folks figure it would be cheaper to pay more for gasoline than it is to pay for having their front-ends aligned and tires balanced every few weeks from hitting potholes in the road.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Trump’s effort to cut SNAP by fiat would kill 178,000 jobs over the next decade

  President Donald Trump’s latest budget blueprint is out, and it again calls for eviscerating nearly every program that helps families afford the basics, including cutting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—the United States’ largest food assistance program, which helps nearly 39 million people get enough to eat—by a staggering $220 billion, literally shrinking the program by one-third. While presidential budgets are often considered dead on arrival, since they do not themselves become law, one particular proposed cut to SNAP poses an immediate and dangerous threat, given that Trump is trying to sidestep Congress to enact it by fiat.

Monday, March 18, 2019

The ongoing, never-ending U.S. death star

  The U.S. national-security establishment’s death star continues operating at full-speed and on auto-pilot. According to an article in Newsweek, the Pentagon and the CIA have now killed half-a-million people since 9/11. The article didn’t say how many of those dead people are estimated to have participated in the 9/11 attacks, but I’d say that a reasonable estimate would be maybe 10 or 20 at the most. That would mean that 498,980 people who have been killed by the U.S. death star since 9/11 had absolutely nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks.

  Moreover, those half-a-million deaths don’t include the hundreds of thousands of people who have been killed in the U.S.-incited civil wars in Syria and Lebanon.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Trump’s education budget ignores needs of students and schools

  When it comes to education policy, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and the Trump administration have no new ideas. Much like the Department of Education’s proposed budgets for fiscal years 2018 and 2019, the FY 2020 budget asks for students and teachers to pay for the administration’s misguided policy aims in the form of cuts to education programs. Though DeVos’ education agenda has never been popular, this year’s budget proposal is particularly tone deaf to the needs of students and schools. The Trump administration has been fiscally irresponsible to the extreme, granting enormous tax cuts to wealthy corporations at taxpayers’ expense and letting a costly partial government shutdown drag on. And yet, every year when the budget is released, programs that help students and families seem to come last on its list of priorities, receiving huge cuts or being targeted for elimination.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

New Zealand attack shows white supremacy is global terrorist movement

  The atrocity in New Zealand shows us, once again, that we’re dealing with an international terrorist movement linked by a dangerous white supremacist ideology that’s metastasizing in the echo chambers of internet chat rooms and on social media networks.

  This hatred is even being amplified by our own president, who speaks of an “invasion of our country.”

Friday, March 15, 2019

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1657 - Selma has given so much; we must all give back

  Selma has given so much. We must give back. Selma has given so much to Alabama. Alabama must give back. Selma has given so much to the South. The South must give back. Selma has given so much to the United States of America. The United States of America must give back. Selma has given so much to the world. The world must give back. Selma has given so much. We all must give back.

  Selma is a powerful symbol. A symbol for struggle. A symbol for overcoming great odds. A symbol for freedom. A symbol for voting rights. A symbol for democracy. A symbol for nonviolence overcoming violence. Selma is a symbol all across this country and around the world.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Trump’s FY 2020 budget exposes his false promises and misplaced priorities

  If there is truth in the old adage that “budgets are moral documents,” then-President Donald Trump’s fiscal year 2020 budget is morally bankrupt. It aims debilitating cuts at programs on which American families rely in order to pay for tax cuts, strips regulators’ ability to stop corporate wrongdoers and polluters, and launches yet another brutal attack on Americans’ health care. Every year, pundits declare the president’s budget “dead on arrival,” but Americans should make no mistake: Trump’s FY 2020 budget is a clear statement of his priorities, and its policies are those the president would enact if given the opportunity. And Trump’s priorities and policies reveal his sheer contempt for the “forgotten men and women” for whom he pledged to fight.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Infrastructure package is sailing through the legislature

  Gov. Kay Ivey has made infrastructure improvement in the state her cornerstone issue for this year, and more importantly, for her term as governor. Within less than three months in office, she and the Alabama Legislature have successfully accomplished this mission.

  Last Friday, the Alabama House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed monumental legislation on an 84-20 vote. It was a remarkable victory for the governor and the House leadership. It was a bipartisan coalition of support. Only 18 of the 77 Republicans voted against the bills, and only 2 of the 28 Democrats voted no. It is expected to pass in the Senate this week.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Why is racism still America’s biggest problem?

  It rained on marchers from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965, and it rained on them again this month they commemorated the day when police beat civil rights marchers so badly that the date became known the nation over as Bloody Sunday.

  Fifty-four years have passed since that historic march for voting rights, but as speakers lamented at the commemoration, we are still fighting for the right to vote today.

  However, as Rep. John Lewis told a crowd at the Civil Rights Memorial Center in Montgomery as part of the Bloody Sunday anniversary, “We come with the spirit and the belief that we can change things. We have the power. We have the ability. We can do it.”

Monday, March 11, 2019

On campus speech: Thanks, Mr. President — but no thanks

  At first hearing, President Trump’s recent announcement of a planned presidential order to mandate free speech on college campuses might seem to be just what free expression advocates would support.

  However, regrettably, they should not. Keep reading, please.

  Taking a shortcut through the First Amendment in the name of free speech is not a good idea — and that’s what Trump’s approach will be, no matter how admirable the stated goal of encouraging and protecting the rights of all in university communities to speak freely.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

I paid 118 percent on a payday loan. The administration is canceling efforts to rein them in.

  There was a moment in my life when it felt as if everything that could go wrong went wrong — and all at the same time.

  I had just started a new job. My household went from two incomes to just one, and we were definitely starting to feel it. The mortgage was due, all of the regular household bills and responsibilities were still there, and my son still needed money to cover school and sports expenses.

  I managed to use the remainder of my savings to pay for everything, but I was still $500 short for my mortgage payment. I was stressed out, trying my best to make ends meet and keep some normalcy in my son’s life. I knew I had a paycheck coming, but it would not arrive in time to avoid all of the late fees and the credit hit for being 30 days late on my mortgage.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1656 - Come with me as I participate in the 27th Annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee!

  Come with me. Come with me as I participate in the 27th Annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee in Selma, Alabama. I will not go into the months of preparation. I will not share the behind-the-scenes developments. I will just start with the first day of the 2019 Bridge Crossing Jubilee. Come with me vicariously as I participate in the 27th Annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee.

  Jubilee is comprised of so many events I cannot possibly participate in all or most, or half or even a quarter of these 40-50 events. You are now vicariously experiencing some of my participation.

Friday, March 8, 2019

National-security statism and North Korea’s nukes

  The Pentagon and the CIA and their policy of foreign interventionism are the root cause of the nuclear crisis with North Korea.

  Keep in mind that we are talking about one country, Korea, which was artificially divided into two halves, North Korea and South Korea. Therefore, the war that ultimately broke out between North Korea and South Korea was actually nothing more than a civil war, one in which the North was trying to reunite the country under communist rule and in which the South was trying to retain its independence.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

'If I’d been white, I guarantee you they wouldn’t have taken my money'

  “The robber didn’t get anything, but the police got everything.”

  That’s what Isiah Kinloch told The Greenville News during its investigation into civil asset forfeiture in South Carolina.

  Kinloch fought off a home intruder, sustaining head injuries that put him in the hospital. He called 911, and when North Charleston police arrived at his apartment, they found an ounce of marijuana, charged him with possession with intent to distribute, and seized the $1,800 in cash they found in his apartment.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - State revenues up as legislature prepares for session

  The governor has been inaugurated and the Alabama Legislature has had its organizational session. The quadrennium has begun. It is time for our state officials to get to work.

  Among the three branches of government, legislative, executive and judicial, our 1901 Alabama Constitution renders our legislative branch as the most powerful.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

How one tribe is fighting for their food culture in the face of climate change

  As in many tribal communities, the Swinomish relationship with the environment is complex. The Northwest coastal tribe not only uses the land for food, medicine, and material goods, but many cultural traditions like ceremonies are land-based.

  The federal government has long attempted to sever tribes from the land — their source of knowledge, culture, and health. Through war and forced relocation, tribes were physically removed. Policies such as the 1887 General Allotment Act forced many to adopt sedentary lifestyles and use Western agricultural techniques. And contemporary legal restrictions on centuries-old fishing, hunting, and gathering techniques mean that tribes are still limited in how they can gather foods and medicines.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Gas tax increase should be ‘Even Steven’ – raise one tax, lower another

  Can Alabamians support raising our gas tax for better roads while remaining true to our belief in limited government and protecting a beneficial, low-tax environment for our businesses, our families, and our future?

  Yes … if taxes are lowered elsewhere so that the overall amount of money taken from the people doesn’t increase.

  The concept is called “revenue neutral tax reform.” It essentially means that if Alabama raises one tax by $100 million next year, then it should have a comparable decrease in something else.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

We should be building great schools, not great prisons

  Earlier this month, Gov. Kay Ivey announced her plan to spend almost a billion dollars of taxpayer money to build three new prisons for men (there will be no new prisons for women, even though it was the conditions at the women’s prison in Elmore County that started the whole prison debate).

  There’s no question that the hard-working men and women who staff and run our prison system deserve to have a safe and proper work environment (they also deserve to be paid a whole lot more than they are, and deserve some help in the form of more corrections officers and healthcare staff).

  But I question any state leader who would choose to spend a billion dollars on prisons instead of education.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

The legal loophole that lets companies like Doordash steal tips

  Popular courier services such as Instacart, Doordash, and Amazon Fresh have been making headlines recently with the news that they’re meeting minimum pay promises to drivers by cutting compensation and using tips to make up the difference. In other words, customers were tipping under the impression that drivers got tips on top of the delivery fee earned per trip, but instead, the companies subtracted the value of those “tips” from the payments that they had promised to workers — saving the company money but cheating drivers. (Under pressure, Instacart recently reversed its policy.)

  Why can these companies get away with such behavior, especially in states like Washington where the tipped minimum wage is illegal? The answer is that these workers aren’t employees. They’re independent contractors, and labor law for independent contractors is very different than it is for employees. As self-employed workers, they are entitled to fewer protections, but also, in theory, have a greater degree of freedom and control.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1654 - A 400-year sojourn of continuous struggle

  The year 1619 does not mean much to most Americans. For those who understand the significance of 1619, it was the beginning of a journey of 400 years of continuous struggle for Africans in America. It is now 2019, and the struggle continues and continues and continues.

  It was in 1619 that 350 Africans were stolen from the continent of Africa, likely in the area of what is now Angola. They were intended to be taken to Mexico on a slave ship named Bautista. Somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean, the ship was robbed by pirates. A number of enslaved Africans were stolen from Bautista. Of the 350 Africans who left the West Coast of Africa, 147 arrived in Mexico. More than 20 arrived in Jamestown, Virginia. Many died in what was known as the Middle Passage.