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It’s never racism in the Alabama Legislature

Josh Moon

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By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter

It’s never racism.

So, just stop it with that. You’re ruining racism for the people who really experience it – the kind where someone burns a cross in your yard, makes you drink from a different water fountain, won’t let you sit in the front of the bus, makes your kids attend a different school.

You know, real racism.

Not an email.

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An email isn’t racist. Be serious. That was a joke – an innocent attempt at lightening the mood.

That’s all Rep. Lynn Greer’s email – the one about training monkeys — was about on Wednesday. A simple joke.

Hell, he didn’t even write it. It’s an old, well-known study about learned behavior and the pack mentality. And that’s why Greer was sending it around.

Because if there’s one thing the Alabama Legislature is famous for, it’s Legislators passing around scientific studies in the hopes of making the most intelligent decisions when deeply considering the pieces of legislation that pass before them.

OK, that’s a lie. Most of Alabama lawmakers don’t pass around scientific studies even when they’re voting on science-related issues. And in many cases, they willingly and ignorantly take positions exactly opposite of that of the scientific community.

Still, that doesn’t mean Greer’s email about the training of monkeys was racist.

Sure, it was sent during a time when the Legislature was busy arguing over a redistricting issue that has bogged down both houses because lawmakers can’t agree on the split of predominantly white and predominantly black districts. There was a very heated exchange over the issue to start the morning on Wednesday.

But still, that doesn’t mean it was racism.

OK, it’s true enough that the “study” referenced in the email never happened, despite the Alabama GOP, with the help of its fixer, David Azbell, sending out a statement with a number of links showing that the “study” was referenced often in various publications.

And yes, one of those links provided in the statement from Greer linked to a psychologytoday.com post, which was written to specifically point out that the study never happened.

Still, it’s not racism.

Because it’s never, ever racism.

It’s not racism when black voters are stacked and packed into districts to ensure that they won’t influence white, Republican control of Alabama’s State Government.

It’s not racism when lawmakers draw a white Republican into Jefferson County to ensure the party maintains control over the blacks.

It’s not racism when the GOP forces through a voter-ID law that will literally stop no fraud, ignore the most common fraud and disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of black voters.

It’s not racism when the Governor and GOP leadership back a plan to close driver’s license offices, which issue the aforementioned IDs, in most majority-black counties.

It’s not racism when the Alabama GOP leadership makes every effort for years to close the legally-operating casinos in majority-black counties – shutting down the only real job-producing businesses in those counties and crippling schools and government services.

It’s not racism when lawmakers set up a system to legally embezzle public school money and hand it to private schools, allowing the wealthy a tax break and leaving poor, minority students stuck in the underperforming and even more poorly-funded schools.

It’s not racism when Alabama’s lawmakers refuse to change embarrassing, decades-old language in the State Constitution that prevents wealthy land owners (read: plantation owners) from paying for the education of black children.

It’s not racism when a good chunk of this Session – in 2017 – was devoted to preserving Confederate monuments – the country’s original participation trophies.

It’s not racism when bills sponsored for years by black lawmakers to reform criminal sentencing and end judicial override fail time and again, but identical bills sponsored by white Republicans sail through on the first try.

It’s not racism when a House member proclaims – out loud and during a committee meeting – that minorities’ poor decisions are the reason they’re three times more likely to be arrested for a crime that whites commit at a much higher rate.

None of that is racism.

Because in the Alabama Legislature, it’s never, ever racism.

Even when it clearly is.

 

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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Opinion | AG Marshall doesn’t need evidence, testimony to back Kavanaugh

Josh Moon

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Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall supports Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Marshall issued a statement on Tuesday (first reported by the Montgomery Advertiser) that says exactly that. He called the allegations against Kavanaugh “partisan politics.”

Let’s think about that a moment.

The attorney general for this state, without the benefit of hearing testimony from women who, by all accounts, appear to be credible individuals, has already dismissed the claims of these women and deemed it all a political sideshow.

The rest of the country, and even some Republican members of the Senate committee, are withholding judgment until testimony from one of those accusers is provided and the facts — such as they are — are on the table. But Alabama AG Steve Marshall has it all figured out and doesn’t need the evidence.

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I bet if you’re a woman in this state, that must make you feel all warm and safe.

But then, it’s par for the course for Marshall.

Remember, this is the same man who resolved an incident in which one of his male employees violently sexually assaulted a female employee in his Marshall County District Attorney’s Office by moving the woman — the assault victim — to the basement.

Other Republicans around the state didn’t join Marshall.

Gov. Kay Ivey’s office, in a statement to the Advertiser, softened Ivey’s support for Kavanaugh and instead expressed confidence that the hearing process would produce the appropriate results.

Sen. Richard Shelby, who famously withdrew his support of then-Senate candidate Roy Moore, said he believed Kavanaugh’s accuser should be heard and also expressed confidence in the hearing process.

Which leaves Marshall with just one friend.

Roy Moore.

In a public statement last week, Moore announced his support of Kavanaugh and encouraged the embattled nominee to weather the storm and claimed that Democrats had “weaponized sexual assault allegations.”

Moore, like Marshall, also said the allegations, and the timing of the allegations, are “politically motivated.”

Two peas in a pod, that Moore and Marshall.

I’ve never understood the argument that the allegations are politically motivated because of their timing.

You mean the allegations were uncovered at a time when the alleged perpetrator is undergoing intense investigations, making it more likely that the victim’s account will be taken seriously and thoroughly investigated as part of a political process?

That’s not politically motivated. That’s a simple fact of life. A lot of dirty deeds stay covered up simply because no one bothers to look.

Is that the case with Kavanaugh — has his SCOTUS nomination, and the subsequent deep dive into his background, uncovered the dark secrets of a man with a deep character flaw?

I have no idea. But I find it highly unlikely that his alleged victim, a current college professor, would subject herself to death threats and public scorn if she didn’t have a real story to tell. And I also find it hard to believe that the senators and others with whom she shared her story would allow this process to move forward if they suspected she was making it all up.

But we’ll know on Thursday, when the accuser will tell her side and the accused will offer his defense.

Waiting on such a process to play out only seems fair to both sides. But particularly fair when you consider the #MeToo climate in which we currently live — a climate that has exposed an embarrassing number of sexual assaults and harassments by powerful men.

Some of those assaults were serial in nature, and they were facilitated by attitudes like Marshall’s, which sought out any available reason to discount, discredit or dismiss a woman’s allegation of harassment or assault.

If nothing else, holding Thursday’s hearing will prove to an entire generation of men that you can be held accountable for your actions, even decades later. That assault and harassment is not OK. That consent is an absolute must.

And that you can no longer just lock abused women in a basement and hope they go away.  

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Opinion | Supreme Court rules states can collect online sales tax

Steve Flowers

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The State of Alabama’s fiscal year begins next week on October 1. Our state’s finances are not the best in the world. However, they got a boost from the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year, The high tribunal ruled that states can collect sales tax on internet sales.

This was one of the most inequitable scenarios I have ever seen. If you went to the corner hardware store or Lowe’s or Walmart to buy a hammer and paint, you paid sales tax. However, if you bought these same items online you did not. That is not fair to the store or the state. What is even more unfair is if your wife went down to the local dress shop and tried on an expensive dress she liked and then came home and bought it online. How fair is that to the store, the clerk at the store or the state.

Finally, and thankfully, the Supreme Court clarified this inequality that had persisted for decades, since the inception of the internet.

Alabama had already gotten ahead of the curve in regards to collecting online sales tax. Through the wise stewardship of House Ways and Means Chairman, Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, we had joined 19 other states in passing legislation that companies were to voluntarily pay the online sales tax.

The legislation passed in 2015 was entitled the Simplified Sellers Use Tax. It allowed companies the permission to collect sales tax to be remitted to the state voluntarily in exchange for locking in a fixed rate of 8 percent no matter where in the state an online item was sold. As you know, the sales tax rate deviates throughout each city and locale. In Alabama’s case, the money collected under our SSUT Act was divided 50/50 between the state and cities and counties. The city’s and county’s half is disbursed based on population. The state’s half is divided 75 percent to the General Fund and 25 percent to the Education Fund.

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Chairman Clouse estimates that the state will reap an additional $18-20 million from the Supreme Court decision. The Supreme Court’s 5-to-4 ruling overruled decades of old decisions that had cost the state billions of dollars over the years.

The cases the Court overturned said that if a business was shipping an online customer’s purchase to a state where the business did not have a physical presence like a store, warehouse, or office, the business did not have to collect sales tax and remit to the state. Over the decades this has been referred to as the Physical Presence Rule.

Retiring Justice, Anthony Kennedy, wrote the majority opinion. He said, “Every year the Physical Presence Rule becomes further removed from economic reality and results in significant revenue losses to the state.” Retail trade groups praised the ruling saying that it levels the playing field for local and online businesses. President Trump praised the decision via Twitter. The President hailed the Supreme Court opinion as a “Big victory for fairness and for our country.”

Speaking of President Trump and the Supreme Court, it is said and it is very true that the greatest legacy a U.S. President can record is an appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. Trump has had two in the first two years. Regardless of what transpires in the next two years of Trump’s reign, from conservative Americans viewpoint, this presidency has been a success.

The nominations of Neil Gorsuch last year and Brett Kavanaugh this year were BIG. Both men are in their early 50’s and will make a powerful impact on public policy and law in America for decades. Long after Trump is gone, his legacy as a stalwart, conservative President will live on through Kavanaugh and Gorsuch.

Both are also men of character with impeccable credentials. They are strict Constitutional constructionists and adherents. Their intellectual prowess will be indelibly inscribed into the Law of the Land for generations.

As former President Barack Obama said, the night that Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump, “Elections have consequences.”

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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Elections

Opinion | Walt Maddox has lost his mind

Josh Moon

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Walt Maddox is nuts.

That’s the only explanation I have for what the man’s doing — going around the state and trying to engage voters on the issues. Holding press conferences talking about health care and offering plans for increasing Medicaid coverage.

The guy’s got an infrastructure plan. He’s got an education plan.

He’s got details and costs and information on how we can do it all and actually pay for it.

And this nonsense is what he believes will get him elected governor.

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See? Nutty as a fruitcake, that Walt Maddox.

Because Alabama voters do not care about such trivial things as an improved quality of life, better education for their kids and increased job opportunities that actually pay you enough to live and eat.

They don’t care.

Trust me on this. I’ve been banging my head against this particular wall for all of my life.

I screamed and screamed and screamed some more over Medicaid expansion under Obamacare. I pointed out the benefits and the zero costs. And I pointed out the meticulous studies done that showed massive increases in jobs, revenue and health services if that expansion occurred.

You know what people cared about?

That it was named after the black president.

That’s right. This bunch of hillbillies would rather drive across two counties while suffering a heart attack than give the “libs” the pleasure of knowing that their health care plan wasn’t terrible.

Oh, but that’s not even the most mind-boggling conversation I’ve had with Alabama voters.

That honor goes to anyone opposing gambling.

This is inevitably the dumbest debate. Because it starts with a flawed premise — that any lottery or gambling bill passed in the state — like the one Maddox is proposing — would “bring gambling to Alabama.”

I was in one of the three legally operating casinos in this state a month ago. I’ve known people who place bets with bookies or on online gambling sites. I’ve attended cash bingo games where thousands of dollars changed hands. I’ve bet on both dogs and horses, legally. And I’ve stood in line just across the borders in Tennessee, Georgia and Florida to buy lottery tickets.

Gambling has been here for decades now. The only thing we don’t have are the tax revenues that are paying for other states’ kids to attend colleges, eliminating other states’ food taxes and helping fund thousands of classrooms in other states.

But the voters here, they don’t care.

That’s why they keep electing goobers who vote against even allowing Alabama citizens to vote on the issue. Because democracy is great unless the majority is going to agree on something you don’t like.

This is the reality facing Walt Maddox, as he travels around the state on a bus, trying to pretend that Alabama voters know that a governor can’t influence either abortion laws or gun laws, but can ensure their children get to see a doctor this year.

The voters in this state are so unconcerned with the issues that they don’t really care if Kay Ivey ever debates Maddox. Because, honestly, they’d rather not know that she has no ideas, can’t think on her feet and can’t lead in a crisis.

It’s much easier to not know. To just vote blindly for the GOP candidate, convinced that it’ll all work out eventually (even though it never, ever has).

Walt Maddox foolishly believes that he can reason with these people, that at some point their sense of self-preservation will kick in, that they’ll grow tired of remaining stuck living paycheck to paycheck, that the GOP corruption will finally chase them to at least consider another option.

Basically, what I’m saying, is that Walt Maddox is nuts.

 

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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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It’s never racism in the Alabama Legislature

by Josh Moon Read Time: 4 min
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