Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Seven years after Shelby County vs. Holder, voter suppression permeates the South

  JoAnne Bland was only 12 when she collapsed in horror on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama in 1965. State troopers were brutalizing people all around her – including her sister – with tear gas, clubs, whips, and rubber tubing wrapped in barbed wire, simply because they sought the right to vote.

  Television footage of the “Bloody Sunday” attack sparked national outrage, galvanized public opinion in favor of Black suffrage, and mobilized Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act, which outlawed racial discrimination in voting.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Coronavirus responses highlight how humans are hardwired to dismiss facts that don’t fit their worldview

  Bemoaning uneven individual and state compliance with public health recommendations, top U.S. COVID-19 adviser Anthony Fauci recently blamed the country’s ineffective pandemic response on an American “anti-science bias.” He called this bias “inconceivable,” because “science is truth.” Fauci compared those discounting the importance of masks and social distancing to “anti-vaxxers” in their “amazing” refusal to listen to science.

  It is Fauci’s profession of amazement that amazes me. As well-versed as he is in the science of the coronavirus, he’s overlooking the well-established science of “anti-science bias,” or science denial.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Devil in the detail of SCOTUS ruling on workplace bias puts LGBTQ rights and religious freedom on collision course

  The Supreme Court’s landmark ruling extending workplace discrimination protection to cover sexual orientation and gender identity was cheered by LGBTQ people and allies. Indeed, the June 15 decision represents a big win in the fight for LGBTQ equality.

  But buried towards the end of a 33-page majority opinion written by conservative stalwart Justice Neil Gorsuch is a sober warning that those celebrating the decision might have initially missed.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

The need for education reform didn’t die with the defeat of Amendment One

  When voters defeat a proposed state amendment, it is often thought that the matter is put to rest. That is often the case, but when Alabama’s voters went to the polls in March and shot down a proposal to replace the elected state board of education in favor of one appointed by the governor, they only answered the question of the board’s composition.

  They did not answer the deeper problem of the board’s accomplishment.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Don’t rename those military bases. Close them instead.

  A controversy has erupted over the naming of U.S. military bases here in the United States. The bases are named after Confederate generals and there are people who want to change that. They want the bases to be named for more politically correct military figures.

  I’ve got a better idea: Let’s not rename the bases. Let’s close them instead.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Can people spread the coronavirus if they don’t have symptoms?

  Screening for symptoms of COVID-19 and self-quarantine are good at preventing sick people from spreading the coronavirus. But more and more evidence is suggesting that people without symptoms are spreading the virus too. Monica Gandhi, an infectious diseases physician and researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, explains what is known about asymptomatic spread and why she thinks it may be a big part of what is driving the pandemic.

What does it mean to be asymptomatic?

  SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19 – can produce a range of clinical manifestations.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - How has the coronavirus affected Alabama politics?

  As we end the first half of 2020, there is no doubt that the coronavirus is the story of the year. The coronavirus saga of 2020 and its devastation of the nation’s and state’s economic well-being may be the story of the decade.

  How has the coronavirus affected Alabama politics? The answer is negligibly, if at all. The Republican Primary Runoff to determine the nominee for the junior U.S. Senate seat was postponed by the epidemic. It is set for July 14, which is right around the corner. The race between Tommy Tuberville and Jeff Sessions should be close and interesting.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

The ‘first scientist’s’ 800-year-old tonic for what ails us: The truth

  It seems that science has been taking a beating lately. From decades of denial by the tobacco industry that smoking causes cancer to more recent attempts to use the COVID-19 pandemic to score political points, a presumption seems to have taken root that it is okay to seek and speak the truth only when it suits personal interest.

Monday, June 22, 2020

A military perspective on climate change could bridge the gap between believers and doubters

  As experts warn that the world is running out of time to head off severe climate change, discussions of what the U.S. should do about it are split into opposing camps. The scientific-environmental perspective says global warming will cause the planet severe harm without action to slow fossil fuel burning. Those who reject mainstream climate science insist either that warming is not occurring or that it’s not clear human actions are driving it.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Stripping voting rights from felons is about politics, not punishment

  In 2018, Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment ending the disenfranchisement of ex-convicts. Though it excluded people convicted of murder or sexual offenses, Amendment 4 restored voting rights to felons “after they complete all the terms of their sentence including parole or probation.”

  Civil rights groups and prisoner rights groups celebrated the election result. In contrast, Republicans worried that allowing felons to vote would tilt Florida toward Democrats.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Craig Ford: You should consider voting absentee this summer

  The Republican and Democratic Primary Runoff Elections are still scheduled to take place on July 14th, and many voters are understandably concerned about trying to vote while Alabama is seeing record numbers of new cases of the coronavirus.

  Part of Alabama’s recent spike in cases of COVID-19 is the result of Memorial Day events where large crowds gathered together, and it only stands to reason that forcing large crowds together again in just a few short weeks for this election could create yet another spike.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Police reform must bring about meaningful accountability

  The killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by four Minneapolis Police Department officers has raised the consciousness of the United States on the issue of police violence. Yet there is still a failure by many to recognize the systemic nature of the problem and the racism that permeates the structures of policing and the criminal justice system. Those minimizing or ignoring the serious foundational issues plaguing American policing often use the term “bad apples” to cabin off police brutality and misconduct to a theoretical handful of officers. For example, in his comments about the George Floyd protests, President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien flatly denied that there is systemic racism and claimed that “a few bad apples” were giving law enforcement a bad name.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

George Washington would have so worn a mask

  The genre “What would X do?” – where X stands for a noted figure in history, say, Jesus or Dolly Parton – is silly. And yet, as a scholar writing a new biography of George Washington, I can’t help making a bold declaration: The Father of His Country would wear his mask in public.

  Face masks have become something of a political statement in the U.S. They are seen by some as a line in the sand between “effeminate” Democrats and “masculine” Republicans.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Why George Wallace said “no” to the U.S. Senate

  My next book on Alabama politics will expound on who I believe have been the top 60 political leaders in Alabama over the past 60 years.

  More than likely, in any political historian’s book, George Wallace and U.S. Senator Richard Shelby would rank as the top two. The question is, “Who gets the number one spot?”

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Trump, the politics of fear, and racism: How our brains can be manipulated to tribalism

  Tribalism has become a signature of America within and without since the election of President Trump. The nation has parted ways with international allies, left the rest of the world in their effort to fight climate change, and most recently the pandemic, by leaving the World Health Organization. Even the pandemic was not a serious issue of importance to our leaders. We did not care much about what was happening in the rest of the world, as opposed to the time of previous pandemics when we were on the ground in those countries helping block the progress so long as it was China’s or the European Union’s problem. This marks a drastic change from the previous U.S. altruistic attitude, including during World War II.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Trump and his standing army

  President Trump’s warning to state governors that he is prepared to send his military forces to quell violent protests in cities across the land serves as another reminder of why our ancestors had such a deep antipathy toward standing armies. They knew that giant, professional, and permanent military establishments constitute the biggest threat to the freedom and well-being of the citizenry.

  When it comes to shooting American protesters, make no mistake about it: Soldiers will do their duty. They will follow Trump’s orders. Their loyalty is to the president. In their minds, anything the president orders is constitutional because he has been elected pursuant to the Constitution. If their commander-in-chief orders them to fire on protesters, they will fire on protesters.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1722 - Black lives do not matter

  Being Black in America is a never-ending challenge of whether Black lives matter. If you have not lived it, you cannot really understand it. You may sympathize. You may even empathize. Still, you cannot really understand because it is a pervasive experience from the moment we wake up in the morning to the minute we fall into a deep sleep at night. And I cannot make you understand, so I will not try. However, I do want to share a few episodes of my experiences of being Black in this country. To even begin to understand, you must understand that to so many Black lives do not matter.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

What it tastes like to eat what you want for the first time

  All my childhood grocery shopping memories center on being poor: Walking 10 minutes from our two-bedroom home in the Malden Housing Authority’s projects to the local Stop & Shop and filling the cart with juice, eggs, and bologna. There was the joy of adding the small amount of treats we could afford — at the time, that meant fresh bakery chocolate muffins, apple turnovers, and Gushers fruit snacks — and the embarrassment of putting some of the food back at the register when it rang up over our limit.

Friday, June 12, 2020

What goes into the toilet doesn’t always stay there, and other coronavirus risks in public bathrooms

  Most public restrooms are grungy in the best of times. Now we have the coronavirus risk to contend with, too. There are lots of risks – dirty sinks and door handles, airborne particles, and other people in small, enclosed spaces who may or may not be breathing out the coronavirus.

  So, how do you stay safe when you’re away from home and you’ve really got to go?

Thursday, June 11, 2020

What – or who – is antifa?

  The movement called “antifa” gets its name from a short form of “anti-fascist,” which is about the only thing its members agree on.

  President Donald Trump and some far-right activists and militants have claimed antifa is allegedly conspiring to foment violence amid the protests sweeping the U.S. In my forthcoming book, “American Antifa: The Tactics, Culture, and Practice of Militant Antifascism,” I describe antifa as a decentralized collection of individual activists who mostly use nonviolent methods to achieve their ends.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Senate runoff resumes with Trump and Sessions in a Twitter battle

  The U.S. Senate runoff between former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville and former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was placed on hold by the coronavirus. The primary on March 3 had Tuberville and Sessions in a dead heat. The runoff was scheduled for March 31. However, the pandemic shutdown placed a freeze on everything politically. The runoff is now set for July 14.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Trump’s use of religion follows playbook of authoritarian-leaning leaders the world over

  It was a striking moment: Donald Trump, Bible in hand, posing for photos in an apparent moment of political theater made possible by the dispersal of protesters through the use of tear gas.

  The president’s visit to St. John’s Episcopal Church, known as “the Church of the Presidents,” came immediately after giving a Rose Garden speech framing himself as “your president of law and order” and threatening to send federal troops to “restore security and safety in America.” The next day, Trump made another high-profile visit to a place of worship, this time Washington’s St. John Paul II National Shrine.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Militarization has fostered a policing culture that sets up protesters as ‘the enemy’

  The unrest sparked by the death of George Floyd after being pinned to the ground by the knee of a Minneapolis police officer has left parts of U.S. cities looking like a battle zone.

  Night after night, angry protesters have taken to the street. So, too, have police officers dressed in full riot gear and backed by an arsenal that any small military force would be proud of: armored vehicles, military-grade aircraft, rubber and wooden bullets, stun grenades, sound cannons and tear gas canisters.

  The militarization of police departments has been a feature of U.S. domestic law enforcement since the 9/11 attacks. What is clear from the latest round of protest and response, is that despite efforts to promote de-escalation as a policy, police culture appears to be stuck in an “us vs. them” mentality.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1720 - An open letter to Vice President Joe Biden

Dear Vice President Biden:

  I write because the moment is critical and urgent. I write because the opportunity will soon pass. My dear departed mother said to me on many occasions, “Son, opportunity is like a man with long hair in front who is completely bald in the back. When opportunity is coming toward you, you can grab a good hold because the hair is long. However, when opportunity passes you, you can grab all you want but your hand just keeps slipping off the back of that slick bald head.” Vice President Biden, you have a great opportunity right now. If you cannot grab it now, you will be left grabbing at the back of the slick bald head. Opportunity is coming toward you.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

As states reopen, tensions flare between the rule followers and rule breakers

  Since Republicans, on average, are five times more likely than Democrats to believe it’s safe now to resume normal business activity, reopening the economy has often been framed as a partisan issue.

  But within households, many families are having their own arguments about how lax or strict they should be about the threat of the virus. Is it okay to have friends over? Can we invite Aunt Sally to our birthday party? Can dad slip away to the golf course? Can mom get a haircut?

Friday, June 5, 2020

A justification for unrest? Look no further than the Bible and the Founding Fathers

  The civil unrest seen across the United States following the killing of George Floyd brings to the fore the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous observation that “a riot is the language of the unheard.”

  Taken from his 1968 speech “The Other America,” King condemned the act of rioting, but at the same time challenged audiences to consider what such actions say about the experience of those marginalized in society.

  “Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention,” King said.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Authoritarian state or inclusive democracy? 21 things we can do right now

  I understand the rage. I was in 4th grade the first time I was chased by police. My best friend got caught; I did not. His life ended up very different from mine, in part because I ran faster than he did.

  I understand the rage. I lived ten blocks from the Signal Hill Police Department in Long Beach, California where Ron Settles was found beaten and hanging from a noose in his jail cell the day after his 1981 arrest just a few blocks from my house. Two years later, I was 17, on my bike, near that very spot. A cop pulled me over, put a gun to my head, and said, “I could kill you right now and no one would care.”

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Stellar group studying gambling in the state

  Another legislative session has passed and Alabama still has no lottery. Actually, the Alabama Legislature does not in itself have the authority to pass a state lottery; lawmakers can only authorize a ballot initiative to let you vote on a lottery. It requires a constitutional amendment.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Clap all you like now, but workers with meaningful jobs deserve to be valued in a post-coronavirus economy too

  The coronavirus recession has laid bare how illogically the U.S. labor market values work that matters.

  In the United States, as elsewhere, citizens have been extolling the role of essential workers – such as nurses, grocery suppliers, and delivery drivers – by, for example, rewarding them with nightly claps. Yet many of these employees receive low pay and few protections, suggesting a different appreciation of their worth in the market.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Trump tweets, 'When the looting starts, the shooting starts', extremists will respond

  Amid mounting protests against the death of George Floyd and other unarmed black Americans, President Trump took to Twitter early May 29, calling protesters “thugs” and warning, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

  When President Trump advocates violence against political opponents and protest groups, extremists hear approval for their actions. Trump’s tweet glorifies violence against protesters and coincides with the president’s and the Republican Party’s history of encouraging harm against Black Lives Matter protesters. Right-wing extremists have previously responded to such calls with violence and have already responded favorably to Trump’s tweets threatening “shooting,” raising fears that some may act amid the violence and tension surrounding public health closures amid the ongoing global pandemic.