Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Privatization of ABC stores fails again

  Alcohol was on the minds of many Alabama lawmakers this year as the legislature considered an abnormally high number of alcohol-related bills. Several of the bills passed. Most notable was legislation that made it possible for Alabama businesses to deliver beer, wine, and liquor to customers’ homes, and separate legislation that allows state residents to order wine directly from wineries, even if those producers are out of state.

  One piece of legislation that did not pass was Sen. Arthur Orr’s perennial bill to privatize ABC liquor stores. There are a number of reasons for Alabamians to be thankful this legislation did not pass.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Hank Sanders: Sketches# 1776 - Juneteenth will never be a national holiday

  They will never make Juneteenth a national holiday. These were the words of a young Black man. He stated this conclusion with such certainty and authority. We were in a meeting of the Dallas County Chapter of the Alabama New South Coalition. One person said that we needed to make Juneteenth a national holiday. That’s when the young man made his statement. He also said, in so many words, that we did not know what we were doing and needed to do things his way. I did not know anything of note he had done. Juneteenth will never be a national holiday.

Monday, June 28, 2021

A cruel legacy: Alabama anti-immigrant law remembered

  Ten years ago this month, countless Latinx community members wanted to know what happened to their home, a state whose highway signs welcome visitors to “Alabama the Beautiful.”

  They ultimately marched in the streets, wearing shirts with slogans saying, “We love Alabama. We are Alabama.” Their faces were marked with worry, panic, and tears amid an atmosphere of uncertainty.

  The state had just enacted what lawmakers proudly proclaimed the nation’s toughest anti-immigrant law, one that “attacks every aspect” of an undocumented immigrant’s life. The Beason-Hammon Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act – better known as House Bill 56 (HB 56) – was modeled after an Arizona law that granted police the authority to demand “papers” demonstrating citizenship or legal status during routine traffic stops. HB 56 was signed into law by Gov. Robert Bentley on June 9, 2011.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Why it’s such a big deal that the NFL’s Carl Nassib came out as gay

  The video was short and simple, but for America’s gay community, it was a blockbuster event.

  In an Instagram post, Las Vegas Raiders defensive lineman Carl Nassib announced from his yard in West Chester, Pennsylvania, that he’s gay and that, while he’s a private person, he feels “representation is so important.” He added that he would donate US$100,000 to the Trevor Project, which offers suicide prevention services to LGBTQ youth.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Free-speech ruling won’t help declining civil discourse

  A Supreme Court decision saying a school district could not punish a student for profane complaints made on a weekend and off school grounds will not stem the torrent of crude, disrespectful speech in American society.

  In 2017, high school sophomore Brandi Levy tried out for and failed to make the varsity cheerleading squad at Mahanoy Area High School in Pennsylvania. She made the junior varsity team instead.

  The angry 14-year-old turned to social media to vent her frustration. She posted to Snapchat a photo of herself with a middle finger raised and a caption that read, “F— school, f— softball, f— cheer, f— everything.”

Friday, June 25, 2021

Planned abandonment

  Management guru Peter Drucker advocated a practice he called planned abandonment. He stressed how important it is that managers develop the wisdom and courage to regularly review what their organization is doing and determine whether it’s worth doing. He urged executives to note and resist the systemic and emotional forces that make it difficult to abandon activities that drain resources, detract from central goals, or otherwise impede progress.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Steve Flowers: Inside the State House - Legislative session essentially successful

  The 2021 Alabama Legislative Session ended last month with an impressive slate of legislative accomplishments.

  A goodly amount of the credit for the success of the session goes to the leadership of the new President Pro Tem, Sen. Greg Reed of Jasper, who just completed his first session in this role.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

As urban life resumes, can US cities avert gridlock?

  Traffic is so ubiquitous in U.S. cities that until recently, imagining urban life without it meant looking to other nations for examples. Then, in 2020, COVID-19 closures and lockdowns took drivers off the roads. The thought experiment became real.

  The main impacts are clear. First, public transit ridership plummeted by 80%, leaving mainly lower-income workers in jobs declared essential riding buses, subways, and commuter trains.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Young people are eager to have sex, but will post-pandemic hookups bring happiness or despair?

  As an associate teaching professor who teaches a very large human sexuality class at the University of Washington, I benefit from frequent access to young people’s inner thoughts and desires surrounding relationships and sex.

  Recently, I administered an online poll asking my students what they predicted fall quarter would be like when everyone returns to campus. Nearly three-fourths – or 73% – said that they expected to engage in more hookups and casual sex themselves, and 94% agreed that there would be more hookups among other students in general than there were prepandemic.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Conservative hard-liner elected as Iran’s next president – what that means for the West and the nuclear deal

  Iran’s conservative rulers’ effort to orchestrate the outcome of the June 18 presidential election triggered a voter boycott – but the result may still bode well for ongoing negotiations over the lapsed 2015 nuclear deal.

  Iran’s Interior Ministry on June 19 announced that the winner is Ebrahim Raisi, chief of Iran’s judiciary and close ally of the supreme leader. He was all but assured of victory after the candidates who could have posed a serious challenge to him – including three reformists – were disqualified and prevented from participating in the election.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Fighting back against cyber attackers

  “There is no way that this winter is ever going to end as long as this groundhog keeps seeing his shadow. I do not see any other way out. He’s got to be stopped. And I have to stop him.”

  Bill Murray’s “Groundhog Day” comes to mind as we witness the recurring spate of ransomware, cyberattacks, and cyber espionage that have targeted U.S. agencies and businesses in recent years. From the ransomware attacks on the Colonial oil pipeline, which caused consumer panic and gas shortages along the East Coast, and on JBS, the world’s largest meat processor, the problem is only getting worse.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Racial bias makes white Americans more likely to support wars in nonwhite foreign countries – new study

  The effects of American racial bias and anti-Asian sentiment do not end at the nation’s borders. The racial attitudes of white people also influence their support for American military intervention abroad according to our working paper on U.S. foreign policy and racism.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Biden’s Supreme Court commission probably won’t sway public opinion

  In late 2020, President Donald Trump nominated conservative jurist Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court. She was quickly confirmed to fill the seat previously held by the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

  Many liberals feared the court was becoming too conservative and called on then-candidate Joe Biden to “pack the court” by adding new seats and filling them with liberal justices.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Why the Second Amendment protects a ‘well-regulated militia’ but not a private citizen militia

  When a federal judge in California struck down the state’s 32-year-old ban on assault weapons in early June 2021, he added a volatile new issue to the gun-rights debate.

  The ruling, by U.S. District Court Judge Roger Benitez, does not take effect immediately, because California has 30 days to appeal the rejection of its assault weapons ban. Most coverage has focused on Benitez’s provocative analogy between an AR-15 and a Swiss army knife. But the case raises troubling questions about the meaning and proper role of “militias” under the Second Amendment.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Property disputes in Israel come with a complicated back story – and tend to end with Palestinian dispossession

  The threat of violence in Israel is never far from the surface. It is sustained and fueled by what is at the core of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict: land and property ownership.

  A key component in the most recent violence – 11 days in which 282 Palestinians were killed by Israeli bombs or bullets and 13 Israelis killed by Hamas rockets from Gaza – was tension following efforts by Jewish settlers to evict Palestinians from their homes in the urban neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Prison issue unresolved

  There were two major issues not resolved during the just-completed regular legislative session. Gambling and prisons were left on the table.

  It is foolish to not garner some revenues for the state from gambling. However, it is not imperative that the problem be solved.

  The prison problem is another question. It has to be addressed. The federal courts will take over Alabama’s prisons and tell the governor and legislature what to do to resolve the crisis. The federal courts will win that fight every day of the week. They will act and give the legislature the bill for the expenses.

Monday, June 14, 2021

What are ‘ghost guns,’ a target of Biden’s anti-crime effort?

  It’s not expensive or difficult to produce large numbers of untraceable firearms in the United States. Whether for private use, sale on the criminal market, or arming violent extremists, it’s actually startlingly cheap and easy to mass-produce firearms that police can’t track – what are often called “ghost guns.”

  For just over US$2,000, I can buy a machine – not much bigger than a desktop laser printer – that will do the trick. If I’m feeling handy, I can get it done with just simple power tools.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Humane policies, not harmful propaganda, will improve quality of life for everyone

  Let’s focus on human rights, not hate.

  The national conversation on immigration has suffered in recent months, hijacked by lies and misinformation about families seeking protection on our shores.

  It’s a tired tactic that ignores our moral and legal obligations toward people fleeing danger. We cannot allow those with large platforms to so carelessly mislead the public on policies that directly impact citizens’ and non-citizens’ safety and livelihoods.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - George Wallace stories

  A good many of you enjoyed the George Wallace story I shared with you a while back. Allow me to reminisce and share two more funny Wallace-era stories.

  I became acquainted with Governor Wallace when I was a young page in the Alabama Legislature.  

  I was elected to the legislature in 1982. Ironically, my district was comprised of my home county of Pike and also the portion of Barbour County that was Wallace’s home, including Clayton and Clio.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Congress considers future of the military draft, while Supreme Court holds off

  The Supreme Court has declined to hear arguments in the case of National Coalition for Men v. Selective Service System. In doing so, it acceded to the Biden administration’s wishes that it not address the question of whether women should join the millions of young men required to register each year with the Selective Service – the federal agency responsible for the draft. It will now be up to Congress to decide what, if anything, to do with the law governing registration and the draft.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Trans kids in the US were seeking treatment decades before today’s political battles over access to health care

  In 1942, a 17-year-old transgender girl named Lane visited a doctor in her Missouri hometown with her parents. Lane had known that she was a girl from a very young age, but fights with her parents over her transness had made it difficult for her to live comfortably and openly during her childhood. She had dropped out of high school, and she was determined to get out of Missouri as soon as she was old enough to pursue a career as a dancer.

  The doctor reportedly found “a large portion of circulating female hormone” in her body during his examination and suggested to Lane’s parents that he undertake an exploratory laparotomy – a surgery in which he would probe her internal organs in order to find out more about her endocrine system. But the appointment ended abruptly after her father refused the surgery, feeling “the doctor did not know what he was talking about.”

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Opposing Israel is not necessarily anti-Semitic

  Defenders of the Israeli government’s policies in the Middle East, especially with respect to the Palestinians, are increasingly going on the attack by pointing out that some critics of the Israeli state are also anti-Semitic. A good example is the May 24 article “Anti-Zionism Isn’t Anti-Semitism? Someone Didn’t Get the Memo” by New York Times columnist Bret Stephens. Stephens cites example after example of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Can people vaccinated against COVID-19 still spread the coronavirus?

  When the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its guidelines about mask-wearing on May 13, 2021, plenty of Americans were left a little confused. Now anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physical distancing.

  Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Biden, said the new guideline is “based on the evolution of the science” and “serves as an incentive” for the almost two-thirds of Americans who are not yet fully vaccinated to go ahead and get the shot.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Sick of dangerous city traffic? Remove left turns

  To reduce travel times, fuel consumption, and carbon emissions, in 2004, UPS changed delivery routes to minimize the left-hand turns drivers made. Although this seems like a rather modest change, the results are anything but: UPS claims that per year, eliminating left turns – specifically the time drivers sit waiting to cut across traffic – saves 10 million gallons of fuel, 20,000 tons of carbon emissions, and allows them to deliver 350,000 additional packages.

  If it works so well for UPS, should cities seek to eliminate left-hand turns at intersections too? My research suggests the answer is a resounding yes.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Are companies that support Pride and other social causes ‘wokewashing’?

  Consumers increasingly want companies to address society’s big problems such as climate change and crumbling infrastructure. And polls suggest more than half say they want to buy from brands that take stands on social issues.

  At the same time, consumers are increasingly skeptical about these partnerships – such as corporate sponsorships of LGBTQ Pride Month – and instead see them as marketing stunts rather than acts of genuine activism. This is called “wokewashing.”

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Why it matters that 7 states still have bans on atheists holding office

  Tennessee’s Constitution includes a provision that bars three groups from holding office: atheists, ministers, and those engaging in duels. Efforts are under way in the state legislature to remove this exclusion for ministers, but not for duelists – or atheists.

Friday, June 4, 2021

Weight stigma is a burden around the world – and has negative consequences everywhere

  Lazy. Unmotivated. No self-discipline. No willpower.

  These are just a few of the widespread stereotypes ingrained in American society about people who have a higher body weight or larger body size. Known as weight stigma, these attitudes result in many Americans being blamed, teased, bullied, mistreated, and discriminated against.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Gambling left on the table

  The 2021 Alabama Legislative Session is in the books. I would rate it a success. When you pass budgets that are balanced, any session is a success. In fact, the only constitutional mandate given to the legislature is that they pass the two budgets.

  The amazing revelation that is almost difficult to comprehend is the fact that both the General Fund and the Educational Fund budgets were not only status quo but were flush with growth coming out of a year of the COVID-19 pandemic. State employees and teachers both received raises in the budgets.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Celebrating Pride Month: Honoring the movement to end discrimination against LGBTQ people amid record-breaking year for anti-trans laws

  June is Pride Month – a time set aside to honor the Stonewall uprising, which launched the movement to end discriminatory laws against LGBTQ people – and to remember the many important cultural and legislative victories since that pivotal summer in 1969.

  This year, the celebration occurs under the cloud of more than 125 anti-LGBTQ bills that have been introduced in state legislatures, many targeting children who identify as transgender by denying them access to lifesaving medical treatment, banning them from participating in sports or using the restroom. This is up markedly from last year when more than 40 such bills were introduced.

  In fact, 2021 has set a record for the number of anti-trans legislative efforts.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

A year after George Floyd’s murder, nation reckons with history of racism, police brutality

  He died in less than nine minutes, gasping for air before lying motionless on the concrete without a pulse.

  People across the country, especially in the Black community, recoiled in horror as video evidence of the police brutality careened across the internet and TV screens. Thousands of protesters would soon surge into the streets, powering up a movement that had been brewing for years.   

  The murder of George Floyd was nothing new; this one had simply been laid bare for the world to see. And the nation cried out for justice.