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Five Ideals Every Republican Should Love About the Alabama Democratic Party

Samuel McLure

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By Sam McLure
Alabama Political Reporter

On November 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy was assassinated; an event which overshadowed the death of a much more remarkable man, C.S. Lewis.  But, such is the way of historicism; we often attempt to grasp at meaning in the past through dates and deaths and wars and events. In contrast, Lewis suggests “that what is really important is the peace between wars and the lives of ordinary people.” While it may be absurd to assert that C.S. Lewis led an “ordinary” life, failing to sit at his feet on this topic would be equally absurd. 

In the last installment of the Chronicles of Narnia, The Last Battle, a unicorn named Jewel explains to Jill, the visiting English child, “that there’s not ‘always so much happening in Narnia,” and that in between the visits of the English children there were ‘hundreds and thousands of years … in which there was really nothing to put into the history books.’” This is the great ideal of government: To foster and facilitate a lasting peace that is so dull, it bankrupts the click-bait industry of persistent controversy.

The Principles of the Alabama Democratic Party (ADP) contain ideals by which the party sets its course and measures its success. Contained in these ideals are five landing points, or safe harbors, where Republicans and Democrats can find common ground and work toward a very dull peace, where there is “really nothing to put into the history books.”

(1) Local control of public education.

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The very first principle of the ADP is “[t]hat government functions best when it is closest to the people.” The spirit of this sentiment is foundational to our American system of Government. The risk of centralized, distant, and uninformed government was on the forefront of the minds of the first Americans as they resisted rule from the English Monarchy.

The desire for a government that is “closest to the people” was embodied in the 10th Amendment to the US Constitution, which sought to limit the rise of a Federal Government that would distance control of local issues from the people it affected. This struggle for local control is seen in a myriad of issues from criminal justice reform, to immigration policy, to the rights of pre-born persons.

Not least of these issues is the public education of our children. The ADP’s third principle states, “[t]hat a quality system of public education is the cornerstone of all our attainments and the foundation of our hopes for the future; that we must relentlessly strive to attain such a system so that every child is afforded full opportunity to realize his or her God-given potential.”

John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, two men who were often at odds politically, were in agreement on the importance of public education. Brad Desnoyer, law professor at the University of Missouri School of Law, reminds us that:

“Rather than squabbling, Adams and Jefferson knew that public education was at the heart of democracy. ‘The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it,’ wrote Adams. ‘There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves.’

“Jefferson, witness to the Revolution, drafter of the Declaration of Independence, and founder of the nation’s first public university, rightfully believed that it was the government and citizenry’s duty to invest tax dollars in public education: ‘[T]he tax which will be paid for this purpose [education] is not more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to kings, priests and nobles who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance.’”

Republicans should have no heartburn embracing these ideals and can work toward peaceful prosperity by championing the ADP’s efforts to resist distant powers from influencing local education.

(2) Stewardship of Natural Resources

The Stewardship Principle is inherent in all Judeo-Christian religions and common sense itself. When God created Adam and Eve, he made them stewards of creation, charging them to “take dominion” of the earth. Fundamentally, the earth does not belong to mankind; it belongs to God.

Common sense also tells us that, if we are to maximize our enjoyment of our State’s natural resources for our lifetimes and the lifetimes of our children, we must see that it is protected from the inertia of harm resulting from post-industrialization’s peculiar capitalism.

Take for example Acme Corp. Acme produces 1 bazillion widgets per day. In order to maximize their profits, Acme locates its plant beside the Alabama River. The Acme’s factory is cooled by water drawn from the Alabama river. Acme also produces 5 gazillion gallons of toxic waster every day.

Unfettered capitalism, i.e., a desire for profit that surpasses principles of stewardship, could lead to the decision for Acme to dump the used water and 5 gazillion gallons of toxic waste back into the river.

All Alabamians will agree, except perhaps the shareholders of Acme, that dumping the refuse back into the river would be bad … bad for Alabama’s natural resources … bad for the next generation … bad stewardship.

Thus, it is the noble ideal of stewardship that rings true in ADP’s desire to fulfill their ideals:

“[T]he Democratic Party is committed to clean air and water. We recognize that the complex problems of our era necessitate governmental action, control of which must be in the hands of the people and not those whose regulation has become unavoidable.”

Lest it be lost, let’s pause to notice last phrase of the principle: “control of which must be in the hands of the people and not those whose regulations has become unavoidable.” This means that the common Alabamian who lives on and enjoys the river should be the person in control of regulating Acme, not the shareholders of Acme. This is common sense, good sense.

ADP’s guiding principles go on to state,

“That the preservation and protection of our natural resources is a sacred obligation to unborn generations of Alabamians; that the development of our parks, recreational facilities, historical sites and wildlife is among the highest duties of our state.”

The phrases, “sacred obligation” and “highest duties” ring with the echoes of a people that deeply care about ensuring that our enjoyment of creation does not sully creation. I for one can see no room for damning this ideal, and I tend to think those who do have some obligation to report their Acme dividend income to the IRS.

(3) Honesty and Integrity

By anyone’s account, honesty and integrity have been lacking in the landscape of Alabama politics.  Robert Bentley, Mike Hubbard, Jefferson County Fund, gambling money, and the ubiquitous influence of lobbying money on campaigns are just a sampling of issues that could benefit from the ADP’s ideals of honesty and integrity:

“That the people are entitled to honest and ethical government; that it is demanded of all public servants that they make complete, current, public disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest; that in carrying out their public trusts they serve no master save only the people; and that they fairly make and administer the laws without fear or favor. It is the duty of all public servants to relentlessly support and enforce the highest ethical standards without any regard to political exigencies of affiliations.”

Tracing the ways of greed in politics is like tracking a scorpion in a boulder field. Its trail is elusive, and the more you hunt it, the more it hunts you. Greed seeks to daily corrupt all of our motives and decisions. Each political party must take it upon itself to enforce the solemn duties set out in ADP’s ideals of honesty and integrity.

If the Alabama Republican Party embraced this ideal, the silence may have not been so deafening when Luther Strange accepted Bentley’s appointment to US Senate; love of constitutional restraint over access to tax revenue might annihilate gun permits; and the reach of “pro-business” lobbyists into nearly every elected official’s pocket in Alabama would be treated with the utmost suspicion.

(4) Commitment to Cultivated Fields

The ancient Hebrew King, Solomon, had historic success in establishing a nation state that prospered with peace and justice.  He wrote that, “this is gain for a land in every way: a king committed to cultivated fields.”  The ADP embraces this wisdom in its ideal:

“That it is the duty of our State government to provide imaginative leadership and to strengthen the capacities of our free enterprise system in meeting the challenge of providing decent housing for all Alabama citizens.”

Providing “imaginative leadership” and “strengthening the capacities” of the free market, is a far cry from socialistic mandates from the government which constrain the free enterprise system.  Not only does this ideal rightly articulate the ideal of economic prosperity, it roots its purposes in attention to the needs of the poor.

Stated another way, the ADP’s ideal does not espouse that “Alabama citizens should be taxed to build houses for the poor.” On the contrary, the ADP’s ideal envisions providing leadership to encourage the free market to flourish, without forgetting the poor.

(5) Humility of Openness to Self-Correction

The last principle of the ADP contains a phrase that embodies that rare attribute of humility; a sense of humility which produces openness to self-correction: “that all Democrats are bound to defend, protect and honor our Nation, our state, or Party, that when they are right, it is our privilege to sustain them, that when they err, it is our duty to correct them.”

If wings were given to this ideal, Alabama could soar. If Alabama politics fostered humility of openness to intense feedback and correction, peace and prosperity would flourish.  In this ideal, the ADP has committed itself to creating a culture of self-correction. The faithful implementation of this ideal is essential to maintaining the integrity of any organization.

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I wish the best for the Alabama Democratic Party.  The sure path of Christ is often lost in the dark forest of party-spirit.  The more the ADP succeeds in accomplishing these ideals, the more the fundamental purpose of government is accomplished:  “hundreds and thousands of years … in which there was really nothing to put into the history books.”

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Bill Britt

Opinion | The last refuge of a scoundrel

Bill Britt

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The Republican Party nationally and especially here in Alabama prides itself on its patriotism.

But what is patriotism?

Noted English scholar Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), best known for “A Dictionary of the English Language” wrote, “It is the quality of patriotism to be jealous and watchful, to observe all secret machinations, and to see publick dangers at a distance. The true lover of his country is ready to communicate his fears, and to sound the alarm, whenever he perceives the approach of mischief.”

Today, it seems that those who expose corruption or sound an alarm where there is injustice are often vilified.

It appears that rewards most often go to those who ignore wrongdoing or worse, enable it.

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Over the last eight years when scandal has rocked the state’s Republican political elite, the state’s Republican governor, Lt. governor, legislators and the Alabama Republican Party did not call out the perpetrators. More often, they remained silent or offered them aided comfort.

Only on the rarest occasions did anyone dare utter a word, much less raise the type of patriotic alarm Dr. Johnson wrote about in his book, “Patriot.”

Likewise, when Gov. Robert Bentley ran amuck, those around him remained silent or enabled his dangerous behavior.

The House did finally launch an investigation into Bentley, but only after it became apparent that he was too weak and incompetent to offer much of a defense. Still today the Republican led government chooses to pay Bentley’s legal bills rather than cut ties with its former leader.

When Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard was brazenly using his office for personal gain, not only did the Republican establishment support him, traditional news outlets, as well as radio talking heads and online media, remained willfully quiet, or in some cases voiced Hubbard’s defense or talking points.

It should be noted that Republican Rep. Will Ainsworth, who is the current Republican nominee for Lt.Governor, did stand in the well of the House and call out Hubbard for his crooked ways. At the time, many said Ainsworth’s political career was over, but they were wrong. There were also other individuals who worked in private to bring about Hubbard’s righteous end, but they were few.

Merriam-Webster found that patriotism was one of the top eight political buzzwords of 2016, but what does it actually mean?

The roots of political patriotism are found in the ancient understanding of the Greek and Roman concepts of loyalty to the republic and is “associated with the love of law and common liberty, the search for the common good, and the duty to behave justly toward one’s country,” according to Britannica.com

Over the last few years, patriotism has been confused with nationalism and they are sometimes used interchangeably, but there is a marked difference. Nationalism is more about the homogeneity of culture, language and heritage, while patriotism places its emphasis on shared values and beliefs.

Patriots may come in many forms, but patriotism has certain irrefutable qualities far beyond mere outward gesture; speaking truth to power, exposing wickedness wherever it’s found and holding high the sacred values that are enshrined in our founding documents.

It is neither the individual who stands for the National Anthem hand-over-heart or the one who kneels head-in-hand, but it is the one who lives the founding principle of our nation who shows patriotism.

Isn’t it time for Republicans here in Alabama to do more than mouth the word patriotism?

The patriot is ever watchful, ever ready and always mindful that there are those among us who will steal, kill and destroy the blessings of liberty while claiming that their’s is true patriotism.

As Dr. Johnson said, “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”

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Opinion | The plan to kill public education in Alabama is succeeding

Josh Moon

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Put the flashlights away, Jason Taylor has been located.

Maybe.

The Alabama State Department of Education’s $700,000 accountant is still working for the state, just not doing much — or anything, depending on who you ask — for the Montgomery Public Schools.

Instead, according to ALSDE spokesman Dr. Michael Sibley, Taylor is spending the majority of his time working with other school systems in the state, in an attempt to be more proactive and avoid issues like the ones plaguing MPS.

At least, that’s one story.

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A state school board member recently said that Alabama state superintendent Eric Mackey told the board earlier this month that Taylor was spending most of his time working in MPS.

This was news to the MPS system’s new CFO, Arthur Watts, who told his own board members that he speaks with Taylor a couple of times per week but has no idea what Taylor is working on.

You know what? I don’t even care who’s right or what the truth is.

Because at the end of the day, here’s all that matters: The Montgomery intervention has been a complete and utter dumpster fire.

Take the $700,000 being paid to Taylor, add it to the multiple six-figure contracts awarded to wholly unqualified and now-departed administrators, add that to the raises to every principal, the legal fees out the wazoo and a ridiculous cleaning bill, and you know what you get?

You get a seven-figure tab paid out by one of the brokest state departments of education in the country and by the brokest school district in that state, and somehow, someway they have failed to help one single child.

There has been no purchase of additional supplies or books. There have been no additional teachers hired. There has been not one advancement of school safety equipment, whether a security officer, a metal detector or just a damn floor mat to keep kids from slipping down on a rainy day.

Nothing.

Zip. Zero. Zilch.

And you know why this travesty has occurred?

Because somewhere along the way, like with everything else in this state, public education was hijacked by greed and self-interest and, ultimately, corruption.

That’s how we ended up with Mike Sentance in the first place — a corrupt search undermined by a state board member (who lacks self awareness to such an astonishing degree that she’s writing blog posts bemoaning corruption) and steered to land a pro-business candidate. Instead of, you know, the candidate who was best qualified to fix education.

None of the people behind that ruse cared about teaching and learning.

They cared about training kids to work in the factories of the companies to which they have given ridiculous economic incentive packages. Because teaching students to read and write and do complicated equations is hard damn work and just takes too much money. Lots easier to just train ‘em for the job you want them to have instead of producing well-rounded citizens with career options.

This has been the dream of the business class in this state for years.

Montgomery was to be the first test in this plan — a combination of trade schools and charters and conversion charters.

But like all things done in Alabama, it turned into the powerful white men trying to force a system change on everyone else. Instead of doing things the right way and presenting well-meaning, well-intentioned ideas to the general public and building support for a comprehensive plan that benefitted all students, ALSDE and Montgomery leaders went with the we-know-what’s-best-for-you-so-shut-up approach.

And it has been an unmitigated disaster.

Which is how you end up with a $700,000 accountant who isn’t accounting. And a superintendent who lasts a year. And your third largest school system in, astonishingly, a bigger mess than it was before the state intervened and spent millions.

What’s happened, and continues to happen, in Montgomery is a microcosm of the failures in public education around Alabama.

Greedy people making selfish decisions, with the best interest of educating ALL children near the bottom of the priority list, and lining their pockets and the pockets of people like them at the very top of that list.

From the AAA to charter schools to pathetic funding to phony “failing schools” lists to ignorant rants over Common Core, these people have been hell bent on ruining public education in Alabama for decades.

And it’s the only thing in education at which they’re succeeding.

 

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Opinion | Men are pigs; yes, they are

Joey Kennedy

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So it’s happening again.

A woman accuses a man of sexually assaulting her many years ago, this time while she and the man were in high school, and the voices, mostly those of men (but a few women, too) declare openly that she should have come forward earlier.

Why wait years, even decades, before making such damaging accusations? If it’s true, she should have come forward right after the assault took place. Right?

Federal judge Brett Kavanaugh, nominated to fill a U.S. Supreme Court vacancy left by Justice Anthony Kennedy, is being accused by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford of sexually assaulting her while they were at a party in high school. As usual when a woman comes forward with such accounts, the men – in this case, Kavanaugh and those supporting him – lash out at the accuser and deny anything ever occurred.

We’ve seen this many times before: Movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, CBS boss Les Moonves, former Alabama chief justice Roy Moore, Fox News chief Roger Ailes, television journalist Charlie Rose, comedian Louis C.K., even our notorious president Donald Trump and many others, including Anniston Star publisher H. Brandt Ayers.

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The Ayers case is especially close to me, because Ayers assaulted my wife, Veronica, by striking her 18 times on her butt with a metal ruler in the Star newsroom more than four decades ago, even as she fought and yelled at him to stop. In Veronica’s case, another Star reporter witnessed the assault.

Veronica only went public earlier this year, but I knew about the assault before we were engaged to be married more than 40 years ago. Throughout our marriage, I’ve seen first-hand how that abuse altered her outlook and left scars on her confidence. After Veronica went public, other women who had been assaulted by Ayers came forward.

Veronica had many good reasons not to go public at the time, not the least of which was that Ayers controlled her newly burgeoning journalism career.

At first — like just about every other man accused of similar disgusting behavior — Ayers denied anything happened. “I have no memory of the alleged incidents,” Ayers said when first contacted by journalist Eddie Burkhalter, who resigned from the Star because the newspaper would not pursue the story.  Ayers then said he regretted some things that occurred when he was younger (he was in his 40s). Finally, Ayers admitted to spanking one woman and, about Veronica’s assault, said: “Let the accusation stand.” Ayers then resigned as chairman of the company that publishes the Star.

The #MeToo movement gave Veronica the final bit of courage she needed to go public, and let me tell you, Veronica already was a brave, strong, independent woman.

Amazing Pulitzer-Prize-winning reporting by The Washington Post exposed Roy Moore for the stalker and assaulter he is. Other stories in many different publications, from The New York Times to New Yorker magazine, exposed so many other cads.

So I understand why Christine Blasey Ford kept quiet for so long. She told her husband and her therapist a number of years ago, but only went public after the allegation was revealed as the Senate considers Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination.

Dr. Ford has nothing to gain by making a false allegation, and from my reading of news sources, her allegation comes off as credible, like so many others we’ve heard.

The Senate, controlled by Republicans, has tried to ram Kavanaugh’s nomination through without proper vetting. The vast majority of documents the Senate needs to understand what kind of candidate Kavanaugh truly is was withheld from the Senate. Even this latest allegation was deemed confidential by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

But it’s out now, and it’s possible, if Republicans go forward with a vote on Kavanaugh, we could have two known sexual assaulters on the Supreme Court. Justice Clarence Thomas, remember, was credibly accused of sexually harassing Anita Hill after he was nominated to the court in 1991.

A lot of men, mostly old white men, just don’t see anything wrong with such misbehavior. These are the same men who want to tell women what they can do with their bodies. But because Dr. Ford went public, she and her family have been forced to leave their home, her email has been hacked, and she has received death threats.

When Burkhalter and I wrote about Veronica’s assault by Ayers, comments from some readers were typically misogynous. The women stalked and assaulted by Roy Moore have experienced threats of violence and worse. Men don’t like to be called out for their sexual misdeeds. And when they are, their accusers, no matter how credible, have to pay a high price.

Just the fact that Dr. Ford stepped forward publicly and stands by her account shows there’s more here than Kavanaugh cares to “remember.”

To go forward with Kavanaugh’s nomination would be a travesty. But, sadly, we live in a time of travesties.

Folks, this is not just “boys being boys,” but rather, men being pigs – and a whole lot worse.

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

 

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Opinion | Maddox is right: The state shouldn’t pay for Bentley’s attorneys

Josh Moon

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Should the state be footing the bill for attorneys to defend former Gov. Robert Bentley in a wrongful termination lawsuit filed by former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency head Spencer Collier?

Gov. Kay Ivey says it should, that the state has an obligation to do so under the law.

Her challenger for the seat she currently holds, Walt Maddox, says no, and that Ivey is wrong about the state’s requirement to do so.

The war of words about the lawsuit started last week, when the Maddox camp questioned why the state was still footing the bill — a bill that’s surpassed $300,000 so far — to defend Bentley. Ivey responded to questions about the payments to Bentley’s attorneys over the weekend, saying it was appropriate to pay the bill, because the law requires it.

On Tuesday, the Maddox campaign issued a press release saying Ivey is mistaken about the law.

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And so, here we are.

First things first, let’s back up and explain just what’s going on.

Near the end of his tenure as governor, Bentley had a falling out with Collier over a request the Alabama Attorney General’s office was making of Collier. Basically, the AG’s office wanted Collier to file an affidavit about an investigation that was sort of related to the Mike Hubbard prosecution.

Bentley ordered Collier not to provide an affidavit and to instead tell the AG’s office that the investigation was ongoing.

Collier was concerned that lying to the AG’s investigator would violate the law. (It definitely does.) So, instead, he worked with Bentley’s legal advisor and issued a watered-down affidavit. When Bentley discovered what had been done, he fired Collier.

Collier, in his court filings, claims Bentley then set out to destroy him professionally through an investigation into misappropriated funds in ALEA and a smear campaign that, among other things, alleged that Collier was a drug addict.

So, Collier filed a wrongful termination lawsuit.

Ordinarily, such lawsuits would be kicked quickly by judges because state employees, such as the governor, enjoy immunity from lawsuits that arise from official acts. And in this case, Judge Greg Griffin agreed and dismissed most of the counts in Collier’s lawsuit.

But he also found that some of Bentley’s actions — specifically, the parts in which he retaliated against Collier — fell outside of his official duties. And so, he allowed the lawsuit to move forward. 

You should also know just why we, the taxpayers, are paying for Bentley’s defense in the first place.

The State of Alabama has an insurance program known as the General Liability Trust Fund that is used to pay for the legal defense of state employees who are sued as a result of incidents that occur while these employees are doing their state jobs. It also is used to cover any settlements stemming from lawsuits against state employees.

The official wording from the Code of Alabama says the GLTF will be used to cover “acts or omissions committed by the covered employee while in the performance of their official duties in the line and scope of their employment.”

And that brings us back to the argument between Ivey and Maddox.

Ivey claims that the law says Bentley should be covered. The Maddox camp says that was true up until the point the judge in the case found that Bentley’s actions fell outside the scope of his official duties.

After speaking to a few attorneys, it seems that the Maddox camp is right.

Griffin’s decision to allow the case to move forward, and specifically rejecting the defense’s motion to dismiss on the grounds that Bentley was immune from prosecution, recast Bentley’s position. His actions had to fall outside of the scope of his official duties in order for the lawsuit to proceed, which means the state has no responsibility to cover him.

Of course, there’s one other option here: Ivey could simply settle the lawsuit.

Collier was clearly wronged, and the state has all but admitted as much. The guy nearly went broke because our former governor lost his mind. To continue on with this lawsuit and the defense of Bentley is not just a monumental waste of money, it’s an embarrassment.

And it’s one more example of the political elite in this state operating a system that ensures they’re protected no matter the crimes they commit or the egregious nature of their behavior.

Collier didn’t deserve what happened to him and the rest of us don’t deserve to watch our hard-earned dollars be squandered on Bentley’s high-priced attorneys.

 

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Five Ideals Every Republican Should Love About the Alabama Democratic Party

by Samuel McLure Read Time: 9 min
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