Monday, August 31, 2020

Higher education’s market reckoning

  Want to buy a college campus? Maybe you’d like to commission the services of a psychology department. Perhaps you’re hoping to hire an associate provost for diversity initiatives.

  If so, you’re in luck! It’s a buyer’s market.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Mail-in voting does not cause fraud, but judges are buying the GOP’s argument that it does

  The Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee filed lawsuits recently against New Jersey and Nevada to prevent expansive vote-by-mail efforts in those states.

  These high-profile lawsuits make the same argument that Republicans have made in many lesser-known lawsuits that were filed around the country during the primary season. In all of these lawsuits, Republicans argue that voting by mail perpetuates fraud – an argument President Donald Trump makes daily on various media platforms.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Trump’s dictatorial tendencies

  We have seen President Trump’s dictatorial tendencies in the past, such as when he diverted Pentagon slush money to build his Berlin Wall along the border, or when he launched his vicious and destructive trade war against China, or when he raised taxes (i.e., tariffs) on the American people. All of these actions were done without congressional authorization, which is what dictatorship is all about.

Friday, August 28, 2020

4 science-based strategies to tame angry political debate and encourage tolerance

  “Climate change is a hoax,” my cousin said during a family birthday party. “I saw on Twitter it’s just a way to get people to buy expensive electric cars.” I sighed while thinking, “How can he be so misinformed?” Indeed, what I wanted to say was, “Good grief, social media lies are all you read.”

  No doubt my cousin thought the same of me, when I said Republican senators are too afraid of the president to do what’s right. Not wanting to create a scene, we let each other’s statements slide by in icy silence.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

It’s past time to grant D.C. statehood

  For more than 200 years, the residents of Washington, D.C. have been subjected to systemic inequality and denied the full rights of citizenship that the residents of states enjoy—including voting representation in Congress.

  The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed H.R. 51 to remedy this imbalance and make Washington the 51st state. This column explores the history underlying D.C. residents’ fight for their full rights as Americans, including efforts to both advance and suppress statehood. The district’s more than 700,000 residents deserve not only to have a vote in Congress but also to enjoy the full benefits of citizenship without being subjected to the uneven and punitive oversight of the federal government and Congress in particular.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Legendary U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black was from Alabama

  The most enduring legacy a president will have is an appointment to the United States Supreme Court. A lifetime appointment to the high tribunal is the ultimate power. The nine Justices of the Supreme Court have omnipotent, everlasting power over most major decisions affecting issues and public policy in our nation. President Trump has had two SCOTUS appointments and confirmations. This is monumental. These appointments may be his lasting legacy.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

9 reasons you can be optimistic that a vaccine for COVID-19 will be widely available in 2021

  As fall approaches rapidly, many are wondering if the race for a vaccine will bear fruit as early as January 2021.

  I am a physician-scientist and infectious diseases specialist at the University of Virginia, where I care for patients and conduct research into COVID-19. I am occasionally asked how I can be sure that researchers will develop a successful vaccine to prevent COVID-19. After all, we still don’t have one for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

  Here is where the current research stands, where I think we will be in five months, and why you can be optimistic about the delivery of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Trump’s war on the Postal Service hurts all Americans

  Donald Trump has declared war on the U.S. Postal Service in order to make it harder for people to vote by mail. The pandemic has placed financial strains on the post office—and when coupled with a 2006 law requiring the Postal Service to pre-fund retirees’ health care benefits, a requirement that exists for no other public or private entity, it is no surprise that the Postal Service is facing significant economic burdens. Yet Trump has repeatedly refused to provide it with the necessary funding to continue effective operations, noting that “they need that money in order to make the Postal Service work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots.”

Sunday, August 23, 2020

The state of women’s suffrage – 100 years later

  The 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote, but systemic sexism and disenfranchisement of Black women still block equitable access to the ballot.

  Like other disenfranchised people in the United States, women have employed many strategies over the years in their fight for the right to vote.

  In the late 19th century, some women pushed for equal suffrage laws in individual states. Others turned to the courts. Still others made their voices heard through public protests, silent vigils, and hunger strikes.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Here’s why some people are willing to challenge bullying, corruption and bad behavior, even at personal risk

  Utah Senator Mitt Romney voted in February to convict President Donald Trump on the charge of abuse of power, becoming the first senator ever to vote against his own party’s president in an impeachment trial.

  Two Theranos employees – Erika Cheung and Tyler Shultz – spoke out about their concerns regarding the company’s practices even though they knew they could face lasting personal and professional repercussions.

Friday, August 21, 2020

After the civil rights era, white Americans failed to support systemic change to end racism. Will they now?

  The first wave of the Black Lives Matter movement, which crested after the 2014 police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, had the support of less than half of white Americans.

  Given that Americans tend to have a very narrow definition of racism, many at that time were likely confused by the juxtaposition of Black-led protests, implying that racism was persistent alongside the presence of a Black family in the White House. Barack Obama’s presidency was seen as evidence that racism was in decline.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

“Small government” is an empty Republican mantra

  Favoring “small government” has long been a Republican and conservative mantra. It is also an empty one. It’s a shame that some libertarians have adopted it to describe libertarianism.

  After all, what does “small government” mean? A smaller IRS? A more streamlined DEA? A fascist Social Security system? A reformed Medicare system? A 10 percent cut in the military budget. Fewer CIA assassinations? Fewer coups and invasions of foreign countries? Reduced secret surveillance? Less immigration highway checkpoints within the United States? A reduction in no-knock raids and asset forfeiture? A smaller border wall?

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: We have six living former governors. How are they doing?

  Gov. John Patterson is our oldest living chief executive. Patterson is 99 years old and living on his ancestral family farm in rural Tallapoosa County in an obscure area named Goldville. Patterson is a legend in Alabama politics. He was governor from 1958-1962. He has the distinction of being the only person to beat George Wallace in a governor’s race in the Heart of Dixie. When he was elected in 1958, he was 37-years-old and was dubbed the “Boy Governor”. Patterson was Attorney General of Alabama for a term prior to being governor and served several decades on the Court of Criminal Appeals after his governorship.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Private browsing: What it does – and doesn’t do – to shield you from prying eyes on the web

  Many people look for more privacy when they browse the web by using their browsers in privacy-protecting modes, called “Private Browsing” in Mozilla Firefox, Opera, and Apple Safari; “Incognito” in Google Chrome; and “InPrivate” in Microsoft Edge.

  These private browsing tools sound reassuring, and they’re popular. According to a 2017 survey, nearly half of American internet users have tried a private browsing mode, and most who have tried it use it regularly.

Monday, August 17, 2020

The belief that demons have sex with humans runs deep in Christian and Jewish traditions

  Houston physician and pastor Stella Immanuel – described as “spectacular” by Donald Trump for her promotion of unsubstantiated claims about anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a “cure” for COVID-19 – has some other, very unconventional views.

  As well as believing that scientists are working on a vaccine to make people less religious and that the U.S. government is run by reptilian creatures, Immanuel, the leader of a Christian ministry called Fire Power Ministries, also believes sex with demons causes miscarriages, impotence, cysts, and endometriosis, among other maladies.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Money buys even more happiness than it used to

  Many factors determine happiness, but one has stirred considerable controversy over the years: money.

  While the old adage says that money can’t buy happiness, several studies have determined that the more your income increases, the happier you are, up until US$75,000 a year. After hitting that threshold, more income doesn’t make a difference.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Extremist profile: Stephen Miller

  Stephen Miller is credited with shaping the racist and draconian immigration policies of President Trump, which include the zero-tolerance policy, also known as family separation, the Muslim ban, and ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Miller has also “purged” government agencies of civil servants who are not entirely loyal to his extremist agenda, according to a report in Vanity Fair.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Why are SNAP benefits so confusing that even social workers can’t figure them out?

  Crystal Ortiz, a master’s student studying social work at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration, has been receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) benefits since 2017. The $200 a month she received made it possible for her to buy more fresh produce, especially bagged salad kits that made it easier for her to eat a healthy lunch when she didn’t have a lot of food prep time.

  This January, that was threatened when she received a letter stating that her benefits would be canceled if she did not fulfill a 20-hour-a-week work requirement.  When I first met with Ortiz, she stated that “I would have to make major cuts to the food that I get” if she lost her SNAP benefits.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

The evil, immoral, vicious, and hypocritical embargo against Cuba

  The banality of evil that characterizes the U.S. national security state is demonstrated perfectly by the continuation of its deadly economic embargo against Cuba, which has been ongoing for some 60 years.

  What’s the point of the embargo? After all, the Pentagon’s, CIA’s, and NSA’s official enemy, Fidel Castro, died years ago. Why continue to intentionally inflict harm on the Cuban people?

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

IRS budget cuts let wealthy tax cheats get away with it

  Over the past decade, Congress dramatically cut the IRS’ budget and with it, the agency’s capability to enforce the nation’s tax laws. New data released by the IRS, as well as reports from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), underscore the toll that IRS budget cuts have taken. The reports and data provide even more evidence that the IRS needs to be substantially rebuilt, with its priorities directed toward policing tax cheating by wealthy individuals and corporations.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Could employers and states mandate COVID-19 vaccinations? Here’s what the courts have ruled

  A safe and effective vaccine could end the coronavirus pandemic, but for it to succeed, enough people will have to get inoculated.

  Recent polls suggest that the U.S. is far from ready. Most surveys have found that only about two-thirds of adults say they would probably get the vaccine. While that might protect most people who get vaccinated, research suggests it may be insufficient to reach herd immunity and stop the virus’s spread.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Electoral College benefits whiter states, study shows

  States can force members of the Electoral College to vote for the winner of the popular vote in their state’s presidential primary, the Supreme Court recently ruled. The July 6 decision removed one of the two reasons why the framers of the U.S. Constitution created this election system: to empower political elites who may know more about the candidates than ordinary voters. Now, the founders’ only remaining justification for the Electoral College is structural racism.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Confederate symbols have no place in public spaces. Stone Mountain is no exception.

  Stone Mountain is the world’s largest monument to white supremacy. The enormous landform – the centerpiece of a state park that draws more than 4 million visitors a year, some 15 miles northeast of Atlanta – is marred by a massive carving commemorating the hateful legacy of the Confederacy.

  The carved surface depicts Confederate leaders Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson in a reverent light across three acres. The men sit on horseback, hats over their hearts, in a tableau that cannot be interpreted as anything other than a celebration of the Confederacy and the values – white supremacy and the enslavement of Black people – for which it stood.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Leaders like Trump fail if they cannot speak the truth and earn trust

  During a recent Senate committee hearing on the COVID-19 crisis, Dr. Anthony Fauci told lawmakers he was concerned about “a lack of trust of authority, a lack of trust in government.”

  He had reason to be worried. The Pew Center reported that July 7 only 17% of people in the U.S. have confidence in government to do the right thing. Never in the history of their surveys, which began in 1958, has that confidence been so low.

  Why is trust so low and why does that matter, especially during a crisis – and especially during this crisis?

Friday, August 7, 2020

Energy is a basic need, and many Americans are struggling to afford it in the COVID-19 recession

  Several months into the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, lower-income families are struggling to pay their energy bills. That’s a big concern during extreme events like summer heat waves, which can be deadly – especially for elderly people, young children, people of color, and the poor.

  We ran a nationally representative survey in May 2020 of U.S. low-income households to measure energy insecurity. We found that 13% of respondents had been unable to pay an energy bill during the prior month, 9% had received an electricity utility shutoff notice and 4% had had their electric utility service disconnected.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Street vendors make cities livelier, safer and fairer – here’s why they belong on the post-COVID-19 urban scene

  Cities around the world are emerging from pandemic shutdowns and gradually allowing activities to resume. National leaders are keen to promote economic recovery, with appropriate public health precautions.

  Recently, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang announced economic growth plans that included creating 9 million new jobs and reducing urban unemployment to less than 5.5%. One surprise was his emphasis on street vending. After decades of trying to clear city streets of vendors, the Chinese state is now embracing them as a new source of employment and economic growth.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Tommy Tuberville ran a good, disciplined primary campaign

  Old political maxims clearly played out true to form in the July 14 GOP runoff for our junior U.S. Senate seat.

  Tommy Tuberville ran a very wise and disciplined campaign. He steadily stayed on point and simply said, I am going to support Donald Trump. Undoubtedly, when Tuberville decided about a year ago to leave his Florida home and run for the U.S. Senate in Alabama, whoever was advising him knew that the only issue was going to be who could cozy up to Donald J. Trump the most. They gave Tuberville the script, and he followed his playbook to perfection. He never deviated and never got distracted by issues, questions, or debates. He simply rode the Donald Trump horse all the way home.  

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Keep a weather eye on the horizon – a legal storm is brewing

  I don’t know if you’ve ever had the displeasure of being at sea when a major storm develops. It is disconcerting to say the least. As the deck pitches and rolls, the mental review of the all-hands disaster planning takes place in the mind. Pulling into a safe harbor and putting feet on dry land is a multi-layered relief.

  In Alabama, we have a legal storm brewing on the horizon, and businesses, churches, hospitals, and non-profits are all sailing directly into the maelstrom.

Monday, August 3, 2020

To reduce world hunger, governments need to think beyond making food cheap

  According to a new United Nations report, global rates of hunger and malnutrition are on the rise. The report estimates that in 2019, 690 million people – 8.9% of the world’s population – were undernourished. It predicts that this number will exceed 840 million by 2030.

  If you also include the number of people who the U.N. describes as food insecure, meaning that they have trouble getting access to food, over 2 billion people worldwide are in trouble. This includes people in wealthy, middle-income, and low-income countries.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Black Lives Matter meets the moment

  After a neighborhood watch captain killed unarmed Black teenager Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26, 2012, I spent hours watching the media coverage. I turned to social media, posting, retweeting, and sharing my outrage at this senseless act that prematurely took a young man’s life.

  Like many others, I changed my profile picture to a selfie in a hoodie, like the one Trayvon was wearing when he was killed – a sign of solidarity with those who knew his murder should never have happened.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Empire kidnapping on American streets

  Lest any observer refuse at this late date to acknowledge that the full weight of the police state is pressed on the American citizenry’s neck, let the recent developments in Portland, Oregon settle the debate conclusively.

  Unidentified federal police are now snatching American citizens off the streets of Portland. Their victims receive no due process because the proceedings are entirely extrajudicial – no warrants, no Miranda warnings, no phone calls to lawyers.