Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Six things you can do to cope with boredom at a time of social distancing

  More and more of us are staying home in an attempt to slow down the spreading coronavirus. But being stuck at home can lead to boredom.

  Boredom is a signal that we’re not meaningfully engaged with the world. It tells us to stop what we’re doing, and do it better – or to do something else.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Whose votes count the least in the Electoral College?

  In the days following the 2016 presidential election, many pundits and voters alike were stunned by the disparity between the popular vote, which went for Hillary Clinton, and the Electoral College, which favored Donald Trump.

  If the president were elected by popular vote, every voter’s ballot would have been given equal weight, or influence, over the outcome, and Hillary Clinton would have won. But, as evidenced by Donald Trump’s victory, the Electoral College gives different weights to votes cast in different states. What are these weights, and how can we best compare them?

Sunday, March 29, 2020

What ‘Walden’ can tell us about social distancing and focusing on life’s essentials

  Seeking to bend the coronavirus curve, governors and mayors have told millions of Americans to stay home. If you’re pondering what to read, it’s easy to find lists featuring books about disease outbreaks, solitude, and living a simpler life. But it’s much harder to find a book that combines these themes.

  As the author of three books about essayist, poet, and philosopher Henry David Thoreau, I highly recommend “Walden,” Thoreau’s 1854 account of his time living “alone” in the woods outside Concord, Massachusetts. I qualify “alone” because Thoreau had more company at Walden than in town, and hoed a bean field daily as social theater in full view of passersby on the road.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Four reasons not to buy guns in response to the COVID-19 pandemic

  As Americans struggle with fear and anxiety related to the COVID-19 pandemic, a new disturbing trend has emerged: an increase in the purchasing of guns and ammunition. Some gun dealers and online retailers have reported an uptick in sales, and stories abound of individuals motivated to buy their first gun in response to this pandemic.

  But in a time of crisis, it is crucial to resist the impulse to make decisions driven by fear and anxiety. The threat posed by the new coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, is not the only relevant public health crisis to consider when deciding whether to buy a gun. Gun violence is already an urgent public health emergency in this country that takes the lives of nearly 40,000 people annually. Putting more guns in more hands is certain to exacerbate that problem.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1711 - Things are real bad now, so we have to be at our very best

  Times are real bad now. Therefore, I feel compelled to share my Mama’s advice. Ola Mae and Sam Sanders were not just poor, but “Po.” They lived in harsh poverty and under oppressive racial segregation. They carried the weight of a very large family, eventually growing to 13 children. But their spirits were strong. Daddy and Mama were both powerful in presence and in their work. But Mama put words to key moments and difficult situations. Things are real bad now, so I am calling on my Mama.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

How hope can keep you healthier and happier

  Hope can erode when we perceive threats to our way of life, and these days, plenty are out there. As we age, we may struggle with a tragic loss or chronic disease. As we watch the news, we see our political system polarized, hopelessly locked in chaos. The coronavirus spreads wider daily; U.S. markets signaled a lack of hope with a Dow Jones free fall. Losing hope sometimes leads to suicide.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Steve Flowers - Inside the Statehouse: U.S. Senate runoff moved to July

  The GOP contest to determine who sits in our number two U.S. Senate seat has been delayed until July 14, 2020 due to the coronavirus. The winner of the battle between Jeff Sessions and Tommy Tuberville will more than likely be our junior US. Senator for six years.  

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Closing polling places is the 21st century’s version of a poll tax

  Delays and long lines at polling places during recent presidential primary elections – such as voters in Texas experienced – represent the latest version of decades-long policies that have sought to reduce the political power of African Americans in the United States.

  Following the Civil War and the extension of the vote to African Americans, state governments worked to block black people, as well as poor whites, from voting. One way they tried to accomplish this goal was through poll taxes – an amount of money each voter had to pay before being allowed to vote.

Monday, March 23, 2020

4 ways to help kids relax as the coronavirus upends everyday life

  Families everywhere are adjusting to a new way of life due to social distancing measures like closed schools, workplaces, and more. Given that anxiety was already among the most common mental health problem in kids before the COVID-19 pandemic, what can parents do to help keep this problem at bay? Childhood anxiety scholar Mirae J. Fornander outlines strategies parents can follow.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Trump supporters have little trust in societal institutions

  President Donald Trump has a history of disregarding advice from experts, including diplomats, military leaders, trade experts, and scientists.

  Trump is not alone in his distrust. Our unpublished research shows that people who support Trump have lower trust in societal institutions when compared with supporters of leading Democratic candidates Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Joe Biden.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

As I write this, I am seeking balance in an unbalanced time

  As I write this, it is mid-morning and I’ve already washed my hands multiple times. I’ve got rubber gloves in my car now. I skipped the gym in favor of a good ‘ol driveway workout, but I paid my gym dues anyway. My law firm invested in enhanced video conferencing capabilities. My wife checked on our neighbors. This is just stuff that we all do now. But having said that, I will also say that this environment of concern and social restriction should not constitute our “new normal” – just our current state of affairs.

Friday, March 20, 2020

2020 Census safe and easy, helps communities

  This month kicks off a major — and vital — process that is fundamental to the success of our Democracy.

  The 2020 U.S. Census count begins, with every household receiving an invitation to complete a simple questionnaire either online, by phone, or by mail.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Why so few young Americans vote

  The United States has one of the lowest rates of youth voter turnout in the world. The gap between 18- to 29-year-olds and those over 60, a common measuring stick, is more than twice as large here than it is in comparable democracies like Canada and Germany.

  And early evidence from the 2020 presidential race suggests that isn’t going to change this year. Youth turnout in the first states to hold primaries and caucuses has ranged from 10% in Alabama to 24% in Iowa.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Steve Flowers - Inside the Statehouse: U.S. Senate race is ticking down to a runoff

Editor's note: The March 31 runoff election has been postponed until July 14. 

  We have a great race for the U.S. Senate seat. When the votes from the first primary were counted, Jeff Sessions and Tommy Tuberville were in a virtual tie at 32% and 33%, respectively. 

  Mobile-Baldwin Congressman Bradley Byrne garnered 25% of the vote, which is significant, and Roy Moore’s 7% is nothing to sneeze at. Tuberville and Sessions will be fighting to convince Byrne and Moore voters to come to their aid. However, the most important quotient of Sessions’ and Tuberville’s missions will be to get their voters back to the polls.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

10 things to know about the real St. Patrick

  Today people around the world are celebrating St. Patrick’s Day by parading in green hats, sporting images of shamrocks and leprechauns – tiny, grinning, fairy men – pinned to their lapels. Patrick’s picture will adorn greeting cards: an aged, bearded bishop in flowing robes, grasping a bishop’s staff and glaring at a coil of snakes.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Lies, damn lies and post-truth

  Most politicians lie.

  Or do they?

  Even if we could find some isolated example of a politician who was scrupulously honest – former President Jimmy Carter, perhaps – the question is how to think about the rest of them.

  And if most politicians lie, then why are some Americans so hard on President Donald Trump?

Sunday, March 15, 2020

The two-party system is here to stay

  The American two-party system has long been besieged. Many of the founders feared that organizing people along ideological lines would be dangerous to the fledgling nation. Alexander Hamilton called political parties a “most fatal disease,” James Madison renounced the “violence of faction,” and George Washington feared that an overly successful party would create “frightful despotism.”

Saturday, March 14, 2020

A coronavirus recession may be coming: Here’s what to do with your money

  Global markets are crashing, the price of oil is plummeting, and even entire countries are in lockdown. The odds of a recession due to the new coronavirus outbreak are rising every day.

  A question I’m often asked as a finance professor and a CFA charterholder is what should people do with their money when the economy is slowing or in a recession, which typically causes riskier assets like stocks to decline. Fear causes many people to run for the hills.

Friday, March 13, 2020

On Friday the 13th, leave the superstitions at home

  Of all the days to stay in bed, Friday the 13th is surely the best. It’s the title of a popular (if increasingly corny) horror movie series; it’s associated with bad luck, and it’s generally thought to be a good time not to take any serious risks.

  Even if you try to escape it, you might fail, as happened to New Yorker Daz Baxter. On Friday 13th in 1976, he decided to just stay in bed for the day, only to be killed when the floor of his apartment block collapsed under him. There’s even a term for the terror the day evokes: Paraskevidekatriaphobia was coined by the psychotherapist Donald Dossey, a specialist in phobias, to describe an intense and irrational fear of the date.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Don’t be fooled – most independents are partisans too

  Will Donald Trump win reelection in 2020? To find out, you’d think you could just look up whether more Americans are registered as Republicans than Democrats.

  But the truth is, it doesn’t really matter which party you register with on paper. Besides, 19 states don’t even register voters by party.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - March 3rd primaries analysis

  Allow me to share some thoughts and analysis on the results of the March 3rd primaries

  The turnout was amazingly high despite rain and inclement weather across the state. 1,168,000 Alabamians voted. 725,000 voted in the Republican Primary, and 450,000 voted in the Democratic Primary. That equates to 62% Republican and 38% Democratic voters.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

What really works to keep coronavirus away? 4 questions answered by a public health professional

  Editor’s note: The World Health Organization has declared that COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, has a higher fatality rate than the flu. Brian Labus, a professor of public health, provides essential safety information for you, from disinfectants to storing food and supplies.

1) What can I do to prevent becoming infected?

  When people are sick with a respiratory disease like COVID-19, they cough or sneeze particles into the air. If someone is coughing near you, the virus could easily land on your eyes, nose, or mouth. These particles travel only about six feet and fall out of the air rather quickly. However, they do land on surfaces that you touch all the time, such as railings, doorknobs, elevator buttons, or subway poles. The average person also touches their face 23 times per hour, and about half of these touches are to the mouth, eyes, and nose, which are the mucosal surfaces that the COVID-19 virus infects.

Monday, March 9, 2020

5 ways life would be better if it were always daylight saving time

  In my research on daylight saving time, I have found that Americans don’t like it when Congress messes with their clocks.

  In an effort to avoid the biannual clock switch in spring and fall, some well-intended critics of DST have made the mistake of suggesting that the abolition of DST – and a return to permanent standard time – would benefit society. In other words, the U.S. would never “spring forward” or “fall back.”

Sunday, March 8, 2020

The House of Representatives is working to restore America’s conservation vision

  In the 14 months since Democrats gained control of the U.S. House of Representatives, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-NY), and Natural Resources Committee Chair Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) have led congressional members in efforts to reverse a decade of legislative obstruction and stagnation in U.S. land, water, and wildlife conservation.

  In the eight years before this most recent Congress, the United States lost an estimated 19,000 square miles of natural area to urban sprawl, oil and gas fields, and other human development. In that same period—with a Congressional Republican anti-parks caucus blocking nature bills—Congress protected less than one-tenth of the amount of natural area that disappeared to development.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

An Amendment One postmortem: Idealism trumps reality

  The failure of Amendment One is a story of idealism trumping reality.

  On Tuesday, residents of Alabama denied Amendment One. The constitutional amendment, which would have shifted the State Board of Education from popularly elected positions to ones appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the State Senate, received a “YES” vote from only 25% of voters.

  The question for today is simple: “Why did it fail?”

Friday, March 6, 2020

10 years after Deepwater Horizon, oil spills and accidents are on the rise

  On April 20, 2010, an explosion and fire on the offshore drilling rig Deepwater Horizon killed 11 men and injured 17 other crew members. Over the next 87 days, an estimated 210 million gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico, poisoning fish and wildlife, forcing the closure of beaches and fisheries, and causing billions of dollars in damage to coastal communities along the Gulf.

  After this catastrophic spill, the Obama administration enacted a series of reforms to improve oil rig safety—reforms that the Trump administration has since rolled back. A Center for American Progress review of government data finds that oil spills, injuries, and accidents from offshore drilling are now on the rise, threatening to erase the progress made in the 10 years since the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Scaling back SNAP for self-reliance clashes with the original goals of food stamps

  Trump administration officials are trying to cut enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP but still sometimes called “food stamps.” They say that too many people are getting this aid in a strong economy.

  The program helped about 35 million low-income people buy food in 2019. The average recipient gets US$128.60 a month, about $1.40 per person per meal.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Chancellor Finis St. John and the University of Alabama System

  Our 1901 Alabama Constitution has been rightfully criticized as being archaic. However, it was simply a reflection of the times. The authors of our document were well-educated gentry. They appreciated and realized the importance of having a prized capstone university.

  The University of Alabama was founded in 1831 and had become one of the premier southern universities by the time of the Civil War. It was not by coincidence that one of the primary missions of the Union was to burn and raze the University of Alabama campus. They knew the importance of a state having an exemplary institution of higher learning.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Craig Ford: Every school should have a mental health counselor

  In her State of the State Address, Gov. Kay Ivey said that mental health would be a priority for both education and our prison system. Then she set the goal of having a mental health counselor in every school system.

  While I applaud the governor for recognizing the challenges our schools are facing when it comes to students’ mental health, the reality is we need a mental health counselor in every school, not just one for each school system.

Monday, March 2, 2020

7 lessons from ‘Hidden Figures’ NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson’s life and career

  Katherine Johnson, an African-American mathematician who made critical contributions to the space program at NASA, died Feb. 24 at the age of 101.

  Johnson became a household name thanks to the celebrated book “Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians who Helped Win the Space Race,” which later became a movie. Her legacy provides lessons for supporting women and other underrepresented groups in mathematics and science.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Craig Ford: Vote NO on Amendment 1

  Whether you vote in the Democrat or Republican Primary Election on Tuesday, all voters will get the chance to vote on Amendment 1. This is an extremely important amendment, and I encourage every voter to vote NO on it.

  Alabama currently elects our representatives to the state Board of Education. Each member of the board represents their district, just like each Congressperson represents their district in the U.S. House of Representatives.