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“Something wicked this way comes.” A toast to Chief Counsel Katherine Robertson’s vision for a free Alabama

Samuel McLure

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By Sam McLure
Alabama Political Reporter

On the last Wednesday of March, 2017, one of the best legal minds in the State of Alabama was appointed as Chief Counsel to the Alabama Attorney General. Given that Chief Robertson has been an attorney for less than seven years, lauding her as “one of the best legal minds in the State of Alabama,” may seem like a bit of an overstatement.

Well, buckle your seat belt – that’s a statement I’m about to defend.

First, this toast is not because Chief Robertson graduated from one of the highest ranked law schools in the country. Nor does it flow from the fact that her very first job as an attorney was with the U.S. Department of Justice, then as U.S. Senator Jeff Session’s own legislative counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Nor does this praise spring from being hand picked by A.G. Jeff Sessions to go to Washington and guide him through the process of confirmation.

No, none of these noteworthy accomplishments merit this toast. Chief Robertson stands out as one of the best legal minds in Alabama because of her work on a little known report entitled, Selling our Sovereignty: Alabama’s Federal Dependency, released on October 27, 2016.

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Selling our Sovereignty, or S.O.S. for short, is the first scholarly article of its kind to support the hunch that many Constitutional and political watchdogs have had for years – the Federal Government is using the carrot to bribe the States into ceding more and more of their sovereignty; a sovereignty that is necessary for a balanced American government.

Let me break it down a little more. When the 13 original “colonies” revolted from England, they realized that they needed to band together for the common good. These 13 “colonies,” were sovereign States that were more akin to Sweden, Switzerland, or Moldova today. The greatest evil in their mind was the centralization and consolidation of power across the pond – the English monarchy.

So, when they decided to create a “federal” covering, they were very careful to put in place a restraint on the amount of power this federal covering could possess, vis-a- vis the individual sovereign states.

Enter the 10th Amendment. With it, the 13 sovereign states rested a little easier that everything they had fought and sacrificed for – that their friends and family had died for – would not grow into an evil worse than that which they just cast off. With a modicum of continued reverence for the 10th Amendment, the Federal Government still restrains itself from a wide application of using “the stick” to control the states; rather it prefers to use “the carrot.”

The Carrot

In the 1962 novel, Something Wicked This Way Comes, author Ray Bradbury tells the story of a carnival, led by Mr. Dark, that comes to a small town. Mr. Dark and his carnival hold the allure of being able to grant the townsfolk their every secret wish. As the story progresses, the townsfolk realize the grave cost of being snared in Mr. Dark’s sinister web.

I have written much and often regarding the great perils of Alabama’s heroin-like addiction to Federal money: The Man Who Wears Underwear on His Head, Two Kinds of Republicans, and What Would it Take For You to Switch Political Parties?. Thus, I will not exert much more effort on the topic here, except to say, if Alabama wishes to exert it’s values in any sphere of society, it must learn the lessons that Bradbury’s 13 year-old protagonists, Jim and Will, learned from the deceitful Mr. Dark.

Conservatives may be lulled into forgetting the great evils of Federal Government overreach during this perceived respite under the Trump administration. However, we must be warned: will something more or less extreme than Obama come after Trump? Most likely, the next President will be a Democrat from the vein of Michelle Obama or Oprah Winfrey … or something worse. They will seek to use the carrot to force the States to comply with a federally- mandated homosexual agenda, a pro-abortion agenda, and a God-hating educational agenda.

How will Alabama respond when the Federal Government says, “We’ll take away your funding if you don’t comply?” If we work now to rid ourselves of this addiction to Federal Government money, we may have the fortitude to tell the Federal Government to take a hike.

Jenga Pin

Jenga is a children’s game where small wooden blocks are stacked to a height of about 1 foot. Each player in-turn pulls out a block. The game ends when the particular block is pulled that causes the whole tower to crumble.

The Federal Government’s use of the carrot to control the states is a Jenga pin of disfunction in society. It affects education, criminal justice, abortion, health care, and privacy. The rabbit-hole is deep and Chief Robertson proves to be a faithful guide.

Chief Robertson recommends that, “Alabama’s leaders should begin … to approach federal aid with a heightened sense of skepticism and to identify opportunities (big or small) for our state to maintain or regain its authority over various programs. At the very least, a deeper understanding of the degree to which we sell our sovereignty and the ramifications of our state’s federal dependency is necessary to advance sound policymaking at the state level.”

Obama’s Transgender School Policy

Robertson tipped her hand before the release of the report, on May 16, 2016, with an article entitled, Alabama’s Shrinking Sovereignty: [https://www.alabamapolicy.org/alabamas-shrinking- sovereignty/]

“On Friday, the omnipotent U.S. Department of Education threatened to pull federal funding from public school districts that refuse to fall in line over transgender bathrooms. Many school districts will submit, knowing that they cannot afford to jeopardize their federal cash flow. …

“Will we continue to carelessly sell our sovereignty—and, with it, our values—to the federal government? Or will we begin to take seriously Chief Justice John Robert’s admonishment when he said, writing for the majority of the Supreme Court: ‘In the typical case, we look to States to defend their prerogatives by adopting ‘the simple expedient of not yielding’ to federal blandishments when they do not want to embrace the federal policies as their own. The States are separate and independent sovereigns. Sometimes they have to act like it.’”

What could Robertson’s ascension to Chief Counsel mean for the State of Alabama?

Bills which seek to court Federal money may be opposed by the Office of the Attorney General.

It could mean that bills like HB97/SB153, a Data Collection Bill, sponsored by Sen. Singleton, which seeks to establish an Orwellian state by collecting data on Alabama citizens from kindergarten all the way through the life … it may mean that bills like this will no longer have a welcome mat in the Alabama legislature. It was only after 30 minutes of debate in the House Education Committee that light was shed on the fact that the Federal Government has been bribing the States, 47 in all, into collecting data on its citizens.

It could mean that bills like HB277/SB236, sponsored by Sen. Cam Ward, which seeks to limit the religious liberty of churches, in order to have more licensed day care facilities, to access more federal money, will not be tolerated.

According to Deborah Love, Executive Director of Eagle Forum of Alabama and 20-plus other concerned citizens, HB277 is appalling:

“Dollars are flowing from the federal government in support of licensed daycare facilities. The more that are licensed, the more money. With federal dollars come federal control.”

“As the fiscal note for the HB277 shows the financial support for this regulation comes from the Federal government.”

2) It could mean that lobbying groups which are in the business pushing legislation which drive us deeper into dependence on Federal Government money – groups which contribute more to State Legislative campaigns than any other entities – it could mean these types of lobbying groups will be watched like a hawk for ethics violations … and ubiquitously prosecuted for violations. []

3) It could mean the Attorney General spearheads a Federal Funding Accountability Task Force which investigates and evaluates all federal money flowing into the State. A similar protocol was introduced by Governor Mike Pence of Indiana. Chief Robertson’s report explains:

“In the Hoosier State, Governor Mike Pence created the ‘Office of State-Based Initiatives’ in an effort to impose additional oversight and accountability on agencies receiving federal funds. The goal of the office … is to ‘contribute to Indiana’s continued fiscal health’ by ‘working with agencies to push back against onerous regulations that often accompany the return of federal dollars to Indiana.’ The office is charged with reviewing the state’s federal grant opportunities and giving approval for any agency to seek a federal grant. The office also ‘subject[s] each grant to a cost-benefit analysis’ that ‘measure[s] the grant’s fiscal and regulatory impact.’ During the 2015 fiscal year, the office focused its analysis of grants to determine if the state should consolidate programs, seek more federal waivers, or discontinue certain programs altogether. The Pence Administration encourages other states to set up a similar office to help establish ‘the necessary coalition of states to assert state authority and make it easier for governors and state legislatures to run their states.’” (footnotes omitted)

Alabama Is Not Free

Alabama is the third most dependent state on federal money. We are the third most enslaved state. We have 8.4 billion reasons not to break our addiction.

The fact is that Alabama is not free. We live in the shackles of a tyrannical Federal Government. This tyranny extends to almost corner of our lives. If we wish to live as free Alabamians, we must fight for freedom from this addiction to federal money. Federal money is a heroine addiction. Alabama’s path to freedom passes through the pain of detoxing from addiction to Federal Government money. We must stop being dependent on a system that enslaves.

In 1959, just three years before the Supreme Court of the United States decided Engel v. Vitale, would the people of Alabama been able to imagine that the Federal Government would take away their right to pray to the Supreme Creator in Alabama’s public schools? In 1970, just three years before the Supreme Court of the United States decided Roe v. Wade, would the people of Alabama been able to imagine that Federal Government would take away the right to protect the most vulnerable? In 2009, just three years before the Supreme Court of the United States decided National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, would the people of Alabama been able to imagine that the Federal Government would take away their right to control their healthcare? In 2012, just three years before Obergefell v. Hodges, would you have imagined that the Federal Government would order a freely elected Alabama judge to perform homosexual marriage?

Try with me, now, to imagine what atrocity will befall us in the next years … if not in the Trump administration, then in the years that follow? Will the Federal Government tell the citizens of Alabama that their preachers may not speak the plain truth of the Bible’s message on homosexuality? What would stop the Federal Government?

Every freedom-loving citizen of Alabama needs to read Robertson’s report, Selling our Sovereignty: Alabama’s Federal Dependency. Alabama’s freedom has no friend in the man or woman who seeks to strengthen the Federal Government’s shackles on the State of Alabama, through deeper dependence on Federal money.

This toast is for Chief Robertson’s vision of a better Alabama, a freer Alabama, an Alabama that does not sell its own sovereignty.

At the base of Edinburgh Castle in Scotland, the Castle which Robert the Bruce scaled by night to usurp the English tyrants, is a monument with the inscription, “A True Scotsman Gives Up His Freedom, Only At The Cost Of His Life.” May the same be true of Alabama. May the same be true of Alabama citizens.

May we be able to say together, “A true Alabamian gives up his freedoms, only at the cost of his life.”

 

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Opinion | Collier’s allegations are not about Ivey’s health — they’re about retaliation

Josh Moon

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It’s not the (alleged) stroke, it’s the coverup.

That was the message from Walt Maddox and his campaign on Thursday, as they took shots at Gov. Kay Ivey for allegedly directing her security detail to cover up a health scare in 2015. She’s also alleged to have demoted a state trooper from her security team after he refused to conceal from his superiors a trip to the hospital Ivey was forced to take while attending a conference in Colorado.

And the story could use a little refocusing.

After APR’s Bill Britt wrote a story Monday that quoted former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency head Spencer Collier confirming the hospital trip for “stroke-like symptoms” and providing details of his conversations with Ivey about demoting the trooper, the story from state media outlets veered off course.

Instead of the focus landing on Ivey’s mistreatment of a law enforcement officer who was simply doing his job correctly, it became all about her health.

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Was she sick? Did she have a stroke? How’s her health these days?

Those are all fair questions.

They’re just not THE question that should have come from Collier’s revelations.

Because if Ivey did what Collier alleges, she possibly broke the law. And maybe, more importantly, she took money out of the pocket of a trooper who was trying to support a family simply because he refused to conceal her trip to the hospital.

That sort of behavior … well, we’ve seen that before in this state.

Mike Hubbard and Robert Bentley both went after law enforcement when they were initially caught in lies and illegalities.

Hubbard tried to defund the entire Alabama Attorney General’s Office and squeeze the prosecutors on his trail. He later launched public attacks against the lead prosecutor, Matt Hart, in a failed attempt to get out from under his misdeeds.

Bentley asked Collier, who was then head of ALEA, to lie to AG’s office investigators. And when Collier, after being terminated by Bentley for refusing to lie, told the world of the then-governor’s affair, Bentley set out to ruin the man.

Both Bentley and Hubbard wound up in jail for brief periods. And Alabamians wound up with more black eyes from the nation’s most corrupt state government.

That’s why this deal with the trooper matters so much.

Because it speaks to the character of Kay Ivey.

I mean, would she really demote this poor guy — the same trooper who sat by her hospital bed for three days — force him to uproot his family and go from the Montgomery area to Houston County, cut his pay and stifle his career because he followed trooper regulations instead of her improper/illegal directives?

Would she?

Because I think that’s something we should know.

Ivey, in response to Maddox’s comments on Thursday, told reporters that they should “check” the facts on the trooper, Drew Brooks.

I’ve done that.

I have copies from his personnel file showing where he lost pay and was sent from the governor’s security detail — a sought-after position — to giving out drivers licenses in Dothan — a very much not-sought-after position.



If Ivey has records indicating these things didn’t happen, I’d love to see them. And I’d also love to see records of her trip to Colorado in 2015.

Because right now, this is looking like a very familiar road.

A candidate who won’t debate. A politician who plays a little loose with the rules and law. A career politician who would do anything to stay in the game. A desperate politician who will stoop to any level to conceal their flaws and errors.

It all rings a bell, doesn’t it?

Mike Hubbard.

Robert Bentley.

Kay Ivey?

 

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Opinion | Kay Ivey’s official calendar is surprisingly empty

Josh Moon

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In late-August and early-September, there was one question dominating Alabama’s governor’s race.

Where is Kay Ivey?

The governor at that point had scarcely been seen in a few days. In one 10-day stretch, she held no public events and somehow managed to avoid even local ribbon cuttings and bridge openings. And her opponent’s campaign was raising questions about her lack of activity.

Walt Maddox, at that point, had already challenged Ivey to a series of debates. She declined, offering a number of excuses, including that she was “busy governing the state.” She had also told her Republican primary challengers that she was “too busy” to debate them.

So, I wanted to know: Who was telling the truth? Was it a big deal? Was Ivey too busy?

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There was only one way to find out: I filed an Alabama Open Records Act request for Ivey’s official calendar for a three-week span (Aug. 24 through Sept. 14).

That span, I figured, would provide a solid look into Ivey’s days and would cover all of the days that the Maddox campaign had questioned her whereabouts.

On Wednesday, after paying $17 and some change to a public entity to produce public records that the public had already paid to be produced once, APR was provided with copies of Ivey’s official calendar.

Counting every entry on the calendar for 21 days — including travel time to and from the governor’s mansion (which apparently takes 30 minutes) and air travel to a variety of meetings and ribbon cuttings — there are less than 60 hours accounted for.

That’s less than three hours per day.

But it’s actually worse than that, because most of that time is compacted into a handful of days, leaving large chunks of time — whole calendar pages — simply blank.

In total, seven days were blank. Three other days had just one entry.

In one calendar week — Sunday, Sept. 2, thru Saturday, Sept. 8 — Ivey’s calendar shows just three and a half hours of scheduled time.

That week, her days were completely blank on Sunday, Labor Day Monday and Tuesday. She had a single phone call on Wednesday and a single meeting on Thursday. She hosted the Alabama Association of Regional Councils on Friday morning and wrapped up the grueling week with a proclamation signing at 10:30 a.m. that Friday.

I’ll remind you that this is the governor — a governor in the midst of a campaign.

You would think her calendar would be crammed with events and meetings and staff scrums and trips all over the place.

But … there’s just nothing.

And that’s not normal. I know that for a fact.

I’ve been to the Alabama Archives and sorted through the official calendars for the last three governors of this state. None of their calendars look like Ivey’s. Not even close.

I shared photos on Facebook Wednesday night of entries from random days on Robert Bentley’s calendar. In some instances, his days spilled over onto a second page.

The same was true with Bob Riley. His days, like Bentley’s, seemed to be planned from morning until night. Every day. Even on the weekends.

What’s happening with Kay Ivey should raise eyebrows and a ton of questions. Mainly: Can she actually do this job?

I think that’s a fair question at this point, after the public freeze-ups, the long disappearances, the managed time by her staff, the refusal to debate, and now these nearly blank calendar days.

And then there are two other questions:

Who is running this state?

And who are you voting for?

 

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Opinion | Can’t write too much about voting until it’s too late

Joey Kennedy

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Yes, I’ve been writing about voting a lot over the past few weeks. I’ll likely continue until the Tuesday, Nov. 6, midterm elections where, in Alabama, we also elect a governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, justices to the state Supreme Court, and other constitutional offices.

There also are a limited number of local elections. Some constitutional amendments are on the ballot, so voters need to know about those.

And Alabama elects the seven members of the Alabama delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives. There could be some competitive races between Republican incumbents and Democrats in some of those races.

Most important for potential voters: Monday, Oct. 22, is the last day people qualified to vote can register to vote. There are probably hundreds, if not thousands, of young voters who just turned 18 who aren’t registered. They need to so they can have a voice in the Nov. 6 elections.

And others, who have just felt they had no reason to vote are potential voters as well. But they have to be registered.

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Alabama is one of many states where Republicans, led by Secretary of State John Merrill, is trying to keep non-Republican voters away from the ballot box.

Republican efforts to suppress the vote have been successful over the past several elections. Republicans claim that it’s important to control the ballot to keep at-the-polls voter fraud at bay. That, despite studies that repeatedly have shown that there is very little voter fraud at the polls. It’s a guise Republicans use to keep voters they don’t like at home.

In Alabama, voters need to get to the polls. We have an unelected governor, Republican Kay Ivey, who refuses to debate her opponent, Tuscaloosa mayor and Democrat Walt Maddox.

Clearly, Maddox is much more qualified than Ivey, but Ivey, like most Republicans, are refusing to debate their Democratic Party opponents. That’s because they know if they go head-to-head with their more qualified Democratic rivals, they’ll be unmasked.

Just ask yourself: What have Republicans truly done to make Alabama a better state to live in? Sure, they tout a strong economy and new industries coming to Alabama. The truth is, those jobs were coming here anyway. And as far as the economy, this resurgence started under President Barack Obama, not Donald Trump. That’s the fact. That’s the truth. Low-information voters who would rather support Russia than a Democrat will never admit it, but facts don’t lie. Republicans do.

Point to one real effort Republican members of the Alabama congressional delegation have made to improve Alabama. What they are doing is folding under the Crazy Town politics of Donald Trump. The result, of course is that these “fiscal conservatives” have allowed the national deficit and debt to explode.

Year after year, the deficit is what Republicans pounded Democrats for, even as Democrats helped bring the deficit under control. Now, it’s expected with those Republican tax cuts for billionaires passed this year, the debt will go up at least $1 trillion a year for the foreseeable future. That’s not being fiscally responsible, but too many voters don’t seem to care if their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren are going to be in debt for the rest of their lives.

And on a whole range of issues, from climate change to protecting the environment to health care, Republicans are on the wrong side of history and the issues.

Important for older voters, many of whom vote overwhelmingly for Republicans, the GOP is targeting Medicare and Social Security to bring down the deficit they created with their tax cuts. The rich get their big tax breaks, while Social Security recipients and Medicare users face cuts that will hit them hard in their pocketbooks.

People will die because of their decisions.

Republicans stoke hate for the very diversity that helps make our country great. They are the party of white nationalists. They claim they care for children, yet allow the government to remove children from refugee families seeking asylum in the United States and throw them into cages. They revictimize women who have been sexually assaulted and raped.

What should we expect when a sexual assaulter occupies the White House and a sexual predator runs for the U.S. Senate on the Republican ticket?

This we’re-better-than-anyone nationalism Republicans love so much is not making America greater. It’s making America uglier than it’s ever been since slavery and the Indian wars of the 19th century and before.

So, yeah, I’m likely to write about voting for a few more weeks. Smart voters must make it to the polls this time. What we might become permanently isn’t very pretty if they don’t.

Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column each week for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected]

 

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Opinion | The Shorty Price story

Steve Flowers

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Since this is Alabama vs. Tennessee week and we have a Governor’s Race in three weeks, allow me to share the Story of Shorty Price.

Alabama has had its share of what I call “run for the fun of it” candidates. The most colorful of all these perennial “also ran” candidates was Ralph “Shorty” Price. He ran for Governor every time. His slogan was “Smoke Tampa Nugget cigars, drink Budweiser beer and vote for Shorty Price.”

In one of Shorty’s campaigns for governor his campaign speech contained this line, “If elected governor I will reduce the governor’s tenure from four to two years. If you can’t steal enough to last you the rest of your life in two years, you ain’t got enough sense to have the office in the first place.” He would use recycled campaign signs to save money but he rarely garnered two percent of the votes in any campaign.

Shorty loved Alabama football. Following the Crimson Tide was Shorty’s prime passion in life. You could spot Shorty, even though he was only 5 ft tall, at every Crimson tide football game always sporting a black suit, a black hat with a round top, his Alabama tie and flag.

I do not know if Shorty actually had a seat because he would parade around Denny Stadium or Legion Field posing as Alabama’s head cheerleader. In fact he would intersperse himself among the real Alabama cheerleaders and help them with their cheers. There was no question that Shorty was totally inebriated in fact, I never saw Shorty when he was not drunk.

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Shorty worshiped Paul “Bear” Bryant. Indeed Bryant, Wallace and Shorty were of the same era. Like Bryant, Shorty hated Tennessee.

Speaking of the Tennessee rivalry, I will share with you a personal Shorty story. I had become acquainted with Shorty early on in life. Therefore, on a clear, beautiful, third Saturday, fall afternoon in October Alabama was playing Tennessee in Legion Field. As always, Shorty was prancing up and down the field. I was a freshman at the University on that fall Saturday. Shorty even in his drunken daze recognized me. I had a beautiful date that I was trying to impress and meeting Shorty did not impress her. Shorty pranced up the isle and proceeded to sit by me. His daily black suit had not been changed in probably over a year. He reeked of alcohol and body odor and my date had to hold her nose.

After about 20 minutes of offending my date, Shorty then proceeded to try to impress the crowd by doing somersaults off the six-foot walls of Legion field. He did at least three, mashing his head straight down on the pavement on each dive, I though Shorty had killed himself with his somersaults. His face and his head were bleeding profusely and he was developing a black eye. Fortunately, Shorty left my domain and proceeded to dance with Alabama cheerleaders that day as bloody as he may have been.

Shorty was beloved by the fans and I guess that is why the police in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa seem to ignore Shorty’s antics. However, that was not the case in a classic Alabama game four years later. By this time I was a senior at the University and we were facing Notre Dame in an epic championship battle in the old New Orleans Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Eve. It was for the 1973 national championship. Bear Bryant and Ara Parseghian were pitted against each other. We were ranked #1 and 2.

One of the largest television audiences in history was focused on the 7:30 p.m. kickoff. It was electrifying. Those of us in the stands were awaiting the entrance of the football team, as were the ABC cameras. Somehow or other, Shorty had journeyed to New Orleans, had gotten on the field and was posed to lead the Alabama team out on the field.

As was customary, Shorty was drunk as Cooter Brown. He started off by beating an Irish puppet with a club and the next thing I knew two burly New Orleans policemen, two of the biggest I had ever seen, picked up Shorty by his arms and escorted him off the field. They did not know who Shorty was and did not appreciate him. Sadly, Shorty, one of Alabama’s greatest fans, missed one of Alabama’s classic games sitting in a New Orleans jail.

I have always believed that Shorty’s removal from the field was a bad omen for us that night. We lost 24-23 and Notre Dame won the National Championship.

See you next week.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

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“Something wicked this way comes.” A toast to Chief Counsel Katherine Robertson’s vision for a free Alabama

by Samuel McLure Read Time: 10 min
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