Friday, January 31, 2020

Think twice before shouting your virtues online – moral grandstanding is toxic

  In an era of bitter partisanship, political infighting, and ostracization of those with unpopular views, Americans actually agree on one thing: 85% say political discourse has gotten worse over the last several years according to Pew Research.

  The polarization plays out everywhere in society, from private holiday gatherings to very public conversations on social media, where debate is particularly toxic and aggressive.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Laws aren’t the only barrier to abortion access. So is cost.

  When thinking of abortion access challenges in the United States, waiting periods, mandatory ultrasounds, biased pre-abortion counseling, bans on federal and some state funding, and a dwindling number of independent clinics come to mind. These challenges delay abortion care, increase medical risks, and especially hurt minors. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

First Amendment-ish

  There are some things that are obviously First Amendment issues and there are others that just as obviously aren’t. Did you get arrested for criticizing the mayor of your town? That’s a First Amendment issue. Did you get kicked out of your book club because you said Malcolm Gladwell was overrated? That’s harsh, but it’s not a violation of your constitutional rights. The First Amendment prevents the government from censoring or punishing your speech, but it doesn’t apply to private organizations.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Craig Ford: You get what you pay for

  State lawmakers will return to Montgomery on Tuesday, February 4th, and education will be one of the primary issues they will be taking on.

  Lawmakers expect an increase in both the education and general fund budgets for the coming year, and that means more resources available to address the issues facing our public schools.

Monday, January 27, 2020

‘Slow-minded and bewildered’: Donald Trump builds barriers to peace and prosperity

  The U.S. president “had no plan, no scheme, no constructive ideas whatever”, according to one of the world’s most influential economists.

  He was “in many respects, perhaps inevitably, ill-informed”. He was “slow-minded and bewildered”, and failed to remedy these defects by seeking advice. He gathered around him businessmen, “inexperienced in public affairs” and “only called in irregularly”.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1702 - Our religion is not what we say it is, but what we practice

  People keep asking me this question: "How can Evangelical Christians support Trump after all the unchristian things he has done and continues to do?" They usually give a litany of things, and the list is long. I usually reply: "I don't know, but I am a Christian. I teach Sunday School each Sunday morning on the radio and on the internet. But I know that the support for President Trump is not inconsistent with the long history of White European and American Christians. I then take the time to explain in detail again and again. Our religion is not what we say it is, but what we practice.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Public officials who betray the public trust pay the price—so should the president

  A New Jersey official sentenced to 18 months in prison for scheming to punish a local mayor deemed not loyal enough to former Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ). A Kentucky agriculture commissioner sentenced to 21 months for using official funds for personal gain. A Pennsylvania state treasurer sentenced to 30 months for threatening two citizens if they did not help his gubernatorial campaign.

  Public officials who break the law face real consequences. The president should be no different.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Why we are hard-wired to worry, and what we can do to calm down

  A new year brings both hopes and anxieties. We want things to be better for ourselves and the people we love but worry that they won’t be, and we imagine some of the things that might stand in the way. More broadly, we might worry about who’s going to win the election or even if our world will survive.

  As it turns out, humans are wired to worry. Our brains are continually imagining futures that will meet our needs and things that could stand in the way of them. And sometimes any of those needs may be in conflict with each other.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

The ‘bedrock principle’ of the First Amendment

  Many people recoil at the notion that the First Amendment protects the speech that they most dislike or detest. The late great Nat Hentoff captured this censorial impulse in his “Free Speech for Me, But Not for Thee.”

  But the reality is that the First Amendment protects much speech that is obnoxious, offensive, and repugnant. Justice William Brennan captured this principle eloquently in his majority opinion in the flag-burning decision Texas v. Johnson (1989):

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Three big ways that the United States will change over the next decade

  The United States has just entered the new decade of the 2020s.

  What does our country look like today, and what will it look like 10 years from now, on Jan. 1, 2030? Which demographic groups in the U.S. will grow the most, and which groups will not grow as much, or maybe even decline in the next 10 years?

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

What it looks like to be hungry in college

  Over the past few years, the issue of food insecurity among college students has gained national attention—and with good reason. A study released last year by the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice found that 48 percent of students at two-year institutions and 41 percent of students at four-year institutions experienced food insecurity during the 30 days preceding the survey.

Monday, January 20, 2020

MLK’s vision of love as a moral imperative still matters

  Fifty-two years after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., the United States remains divided by issues of race and racism, economic inequality as well as unequal access to justice. These issues are stopping the country from developing into the kind of society that Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for during his years as a civil rights activist.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

5 ways Trump’s latest anti-environmental proposal would allow fossil fuel companies to bulldoze communities

  A few weeks ago, the Trump administration released a draft of its proposed changes to the regulations that implement the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)—the most important law that requires the federal government to consider the environmental impacts of its decisions and that gives the public a voice in federal decision-making. This is not an effort to “modernize” the environmental review process, as President Trump and Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Chair Mary Neumayr claim, but rather an effort to allow fossil fuel companies to quickly bulldoze communities with less public input and without disclosing harmful public health, environmental, and climate change impacts.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Craig Ford: A New Year's Resolution for Alabama

  Many people like to make a New Year’s resolution. As we start this new year and new decade, I think our state leadership needs to make a resolution: To improve our storm warning systems.

Friday, January 17, 2020

An old debate over religion in school is opening up again

  As the 2020 election approaches in the United States, President Donald Trump is adding school prayer to the list of contentious issues up for debate. At a rally in early January, he announced plans to “safeguard students’ and teachers’ First Amendment rights to pray in our schools.” Yesterday, the White House issued new “guidance on constitutional prayer in school.”

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Senate impeachment trial must include all important evidence

  In impeaching President Donald Trump, the U.S. House of Representatives uncovered overwhelming evidence that Trump extorted a foreign government to interfere in the 2020 election. The House did so even though Trump engaged in unprecedented obstruction of Congress by blocking critically important witnesses and documents, circumstances that underlay the House’s second impeachment article. Now, as the U.S. Senate begins the trial phase of impeachment proceedings, every senator must make a crucial decision: recklessly support the president’s obstruction or uphold their oaths under the U.S. Constitution.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

The Trump administration has a new stealth approach to kicking people off disability

  Even though I’m a lawyer, receiving a letter in the mail from the Social Security Administration still triggers a panic attack. My heart races, I get nauseous, and my hands shake.

  Lately it’s gotten worse. A letter last month made me feel suddenly lightheaded as my vision started to fade. As I sat on the floor, my mind raced through all of the potential bad news the envelope could contain for a disabled Supplemental Security Income recipient like myself.

Monday, January 13, 2020

2020: The year to support, defend – and trust – our free press

  How about a new New Year’s resolution: To more appreciate a free press, in whatever brand, flavor, or medium you prefer.

  In that spirit, let’s start using a new term: Identifiable News Media. Time to let go of the vanilla-flavored “mainstream media” and drop the pejorative “lame stream” tag — its use as timely political snark ran out some time ago.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Why bad customer service won’t improve anytime soon

  Some of the most hated companies in the United States are also the most profitable.

  Much of this consumer resentment may stem from poor customer service. In fact, most Americans have fought with phone menus, desperately seeking a live service agent to seek a refund.

  In 2013, Americans spent an average of 13 hours disputing a purchase or resolving a problem with customer service.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Five principles for civil justice reform

  Each year, millions of civil cases are filed in courts across the United States concerning everything from family law and domestic violence matters to issues of housing and consumer debt. Unfortunately, deficiencies in the civil justice system perpetuate power imbalances; those who can hire private attorneys are much more likely to prevail in court or avoid court altogether. These power imbalances prevent people—mostly low- and middle-income people and disproportionately people of color—from prevailing in their cases, resulting in miscarriages of justice.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Cracking the mystery of the ‘Worldwide Hum’

  In the spring of 2012, when I was living near the coastal village of Sechelt, on British Columbia’s picturesque Sunshine Coast, I began hearing a humming sound, which I thought were float planes.

  The noise usually started later at night, between 10 and 11 p.m. My first clue that something unusual was happening came with the realization that the sound didn’t fade away like plane noises typically do. And the slightest ambient noise – exhaling audibly, even turning my head quickly – caused it to momentarily stop. One night after the sound started, I stepped outside the house. Nothing.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Should you avoid meat for good health? How to slice off the facts from the fiction

  More than half of Americans who make New Year’s resolutions resolve to “eat healthier.” If you’re one, you might be confused about the role meat should play in your health.

  It’s no wonder you’re confused. One group of scientists says that reducing red and processed meat is a top priority for your health and the planet’s. Another says these foods pose no problems for health. Some of your friends may say it depends and that grass-fed beef and “nitrite-free” processed meats are fine. At the same time, plant-based meat alternatives are surging in popularity but with uncertain health effects.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - What does the presidential race look like nationally?

  Our presidential primary in the Heart of Dixie is less than two months away. We vote on March 3, 2020. President Donald Trump will be the GOP nominee. It is a foregone conclusion that Trump will carry Alabama in the November general election. 

  One of the most intriguing questions will be which Democratic presidential candidate will win the Alabama Democratic Primary. Longtime Democrat kingpin, Joe Reed, who heads the Alabama Democratic Conference, will have a lot to say about the outcome. It will be interesting to see how former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s late entry into the Democratic race for president fares. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

7 science-based strategies to boost your willpower and succeed with your New Year’s resolutions

  It’s that time of year when people make their New Year’s resolutions – indeed, 93% of people set them according to the American Psychological Association. The most common resolutions are related to losing weight, eating healthier, exercising regularly, and saving money.

  However, research shows that 45% of people fail to keep their resolutions by February, and only 19% keep them for two years. Lack of willpower or self-control is the top-cited reason for not following through.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Catholic activism, not repentance for sexual abuse, is what forces clergy to resign

  The Roman Catholic bishop of Buffalo, New York, Richard Malone, became the seventh U.S. bishop since 2015 to be forced out of power for his role in covering up clergy sexual abuse cases. Malone resigned last month, stating that his departure stemmed from a recognition that “the people of Buffalo will be better served by a new bishop who perhaps is better able to bring about the reconciliation, healing and renewal that is so needed.”

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Why the race for the presidency begins with the Iowa caucus

  The first and most visible test of candidate support in the 2020 presidential election is the Iowa presidential caucus, which takes place on Feb. 3.

  While Iowa does not control who becomes the candidate of each party, Iowans’ choices almost always end up matching the rest of the nation.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Myths around mental illness cause high rates of unemployment

  Even though mental illness affects one in five adults – and depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide – secrecy and stigma around the issue continue.

  The problem is especially acute in the workplace. While individuals with mental illness often wish to work and are able to, their unemployment rates remain three to four times those of individuals without mental illness.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Why some people distrust atheists

  An ad featuring Ron Reagan, son of the Republican former President Ronald Reagan, surprised some viewers of the recent Democratic primary debates.

  In the 30-second spot, run by the Freedom from Religion Foundation, Reagan expressed concern that religious beliefs have gained too much political influence in the United States.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Young people are payday lenders’ newest prey

  Payday loans have long been marketed as a quick and easy way for people to access cash between paychecks. Today, there are about 23,000 payday lenders—twice the number of McDonald’s restaurants in the United States—across the country. While payday lenders target many different Americans, they tend to go after traditionally vulnerable populations. People without a college degree, renters, African Americans, individuals earning less than $40,000 a year, and people who are separated or divorced are the most likely to have a payday loan. And increasingly, many of these payday loan borrowers are young people.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Pleasure is good: How French children acquire a taste for life

  One of the most common New Year’s resolutions people make is to lose weight by dieting. The idea is that restricting the pleasures of tasty foods will lead to greater fitness and a finer physique. But if these rewards are so valuable, why is it so hard for us to stick to our resolution? Maybe the problem is that when we try to lose weight, we also lose the pleasure of eating.

  What if we could have it all? Keep the pleasure and stick to our resolution? In the United States, we tend to compartmentalize pleasure, separating it from our daily chores and relegating it to special times. We have happy hours, not happy days. We have guilty pleasures, as if enjoying chocolate or a favorite movie is a moral failing.