Featured Columnists A disquisition on greed in politics, an introduction with Mr. Blue Suit Published 2 years ago on May 23, 2017 By Samuel McLure Share Tweet By Sam McLure Alabama Political Reporter “I have no doubt from what I daily see that our whole system is rapidly becoming a mere money-making concern to those who have the control of it.” US Senator Calhoun, (Circa 1848) The Big 4 meet Mr. Blue Suit The State of YullaMama is located in the southern region of North America. YullaMama’s average temperature is well above 90 degrees. It’s warm weather has proven to be a fertile environment for the ice-production business. Currently there are four ice production companies that retain 95 percent of the market share – the Big 4. Advertisement The CEOs of the Big 4 met in the Capitol one day for lunch. One CEO lamented that, “it sure would be nice if there were some way to keep upstarts out of the ice making business.” Subscribe to our daily newsletter Another CEO chimed in, “Hey, what if the State required ice makers to be licensed? The State could set the requirements high enough to make gaining entry into the ice making business almost impossible.” The other CEOs applauded the idea, but couldn’t fathom how this would be possible. As fortune would have it, eating at the table right next to the Big 4 was a man in a nice blue suit who couldn’t help but overhear the conversation. “Excuse me, Gentlemen. I hate to interrupt,” said Mr. Blue Suit, politely. “My name is Mr. Blue Suit. I work for the Bureau for Community Advancement and I may have a solution for you.” Blue Suit explained to the Big 4 that the Bureau was a “non-profit”, member based organization, that specialized in helping like-minded business owners change State laws to further “community advancement.” For a small fee, the Bureau could lobby the Legislature of YullaMama, and with Blue Suit’s extensive connections, could get a law passed that would require licensure for any ice makers in YullaMama. The Big 4 were naturally skeptical. One CEO asked, “If we make this small contribution to the Bureau, can you ensure we get Legislation passed that would make it virtually impossible for new competitors to start ice-making business?” Blue Suit dropped his head and laughed with a chuckle that made the CEO feel naive. Blue Shirt explained that the Bureau controls one of the most powerful Political Action Committees in the sate. The Bureau’s PAC contributes to the political campaigns of almost every elected official in YullaMama. “That means,” Mr. Blue Suit explained while emphatically thumping his pointed finger on the table, “that these elected officials do what the Bureau tells them to do – otherwise, the Bureau will make sure these politicians don’t stay in office for long.” “But, won’t there be a public outcry about this?”, asked one of the CEOs. Blue Suit assured them that the standard protocol in these situations was fail safe. The Bureau would enlist scientist do perform focused research and retain marketing firms to disseminate their “evidence-based” research. “I’m just spitballing here,” said Blue Suit, “but, we could do some research on the health hazards of contaminated ice. If we could find a couple of cases where people have used ice from some no-name dispensary and gotten sick, well then, there you have it. A bill like this would be all about ensuring the public safety … and ensuring “community advancement” The Big 4 were in. They made the requisite contributions and Blue Suit used the influence of the Bureau for Community Advancement to pass the legislations. Five Years Later Five years later, the Big 4 found themselves eating lunch again at the Capitol; this time Blue Suit was comfortably seated at their table. One CEO commented, “Blue Suit, we couldn’t be happier with the legislation you passed. The demand for ice in YullaMama has doubled and our market share has remained the same. No new competitors have entered the market, and a few of the smaller fish even had to close shop because of the licensing regulations.” “I sense a ‘but’ coming here,” Blue Suit observed with a smile. “Well, your right,” said the CEO. “I wonder if we could do something more. Is there some other strategy that that Bureau could help us with?” “I’m so glad you asked,” said Blue Suit with a grin like a cheshire cat. “You’ve only just scratched the surface of possibilities. You’ve accomplished market share protection, but that’s just Phase 1. The real money comes from getting your hands into tax revenue. If you can find a way to reach into the public coffers, then … anything is possible.” “YullaMama’s state tax revenue is one thing, and we can reach into that for sure,” explained Blue Suit, “but, But, BUT … the Federal Government, has an unlimited power to tax and print money. Figure out how to get a piece of that and …,” Blue Suit leaned back and raised his eyebrows with an anything-is-possible look. The Big 4 sat at the table in silence. They mostly looked down at their plate or coffee cup … occasionally glancing at each other. The look each CEO gave to the other made it clear, “We’ve got to do this.” The boldest of the Big 4 broke the silence, “Okay, Blue Suit, lay it out for us. How do we get this done?” “First, we need to privatize the ice making needs of the schools and prisons,” Mr. Blue Suit was clearly in his element. “We can cite some studies that there has been an outbreak of contagious diseases from in-house ice making. So, it’s essential for ‘community advancement’ that we outsource ice-making to someone to ‘experts’ who are licensed by the State. And, of course, that would be you guys.” The CEOs of the Big 4 nodded in agreement with a slight smile. “Can we can get all that done legislatively – like we did with the licensing bill?”, asked the bold CEO. “Absolutely. Remember, nobody gets elected or stays elected in YullaMama without our blessing.” Mr. Blue Suit went on, “Next, we have to get you guys tied into Pres. Tupaloo’s infrastructure money. Pres. Tupaloo has promised 4 billion to the State for ‘infrastructure’ if YullaMama will pass 4 or 5 pieces of legislation. You guys could get a big chunk of that 4 billion as the sole distributors of ice for all the workers out in the field putting up bridges and such.” “Imagine this,” said Mr. Blue Suit, “we can find a medical doctor who can show that it is essential for workers in YullaMama to have ice on hand at all times for their health – due to the heat, of course. Then we have an analyst do some research to show that it saves a ton of money to have that ice delivered to the workers on the construction site.” Blue Suit leaned back from the table as before, with the same eyebrow lifting anything-is-possible look, “We are talking millions of dollars of contracts from federal money … and hey, it’s gonna go to somebody. Might as well be you, boys.” The CEOs of the Big 4 once again sat in silence as the possibilities of Blue Suit’s proposal sank in. After seconds that seems like minutes, the mildest and quietest CEO spoke up, “Something has been bothering me from the beginning of our work with the Bureau. Now, don’t get me wrong … we’ve all gotten filthy rich from the licensure requirement and what you’ve just proposed could triple our net worth.” “But, here’s my predicament,” said the mild CEO. “I don’t know that what we’ve done and what we are proposing to do is good for the State of YullaMama. People are paying higher prices for ice because there’s less competition. And, we stomped out all the little guys. And, if we get the contracts to make ice for the schools and the prisons, it’s going to costs taxpayers way more money than just making it in-house.” Brows began to furrow on the faces of the other CEOs, but the mild CEO continued, “And, I’m not really sure the Federal Government has the right to tax folks the way they do and spend money like we’re talking about. The 10th Amendment gave them very limited powers. Each time the Federal Government taxes and spends money outside those parameters, it sort of feels like stealing. I’m not sure I want to reap the benefits of stolen money.” Blue Suit leaned forward with a nervous laugh and quickly chimed in, “I get where you’re coming from. Look, lots of folks have that concern, but you can’t turn the clock back. Our whole two-party system is geared to people, like you boys, reaping the benefits of the tax revenue. Let me break it down to you this way: Republicans scream ‘Pro-Life’ and Democrats scream ‘Criminal Justice Reform.’ The reality is, if either party really cared about those things, they would be resolved yesterday. But the truth is, if they were resolved, then the respective parties wouldn’t have a platform to stay in power. We just ‘make up’ these social justice issues to keep the right people in power so the Bureau can continue to serve your business interests – the interests of ‘community advancement.’” “And this is just Capitalism, Boys.” Mr. Blue Suit was starting to sweat, “Greed is good. Greed gives us cars and air conditioning and medicine … and ICE! What we are talking about is just the invisible hand of Capitalism. I’m not proposing anything illegal.” Blue Suit looked at the group for affirmation, but all he saw was blank stares. “Look, my perspective is you get as much as you can from on the public’s dime without going to jail. If you don’t get it, someone else will … someone who is probably a flaming liberal. If that makes me a terrible person, then … I guess I’m a terrible person.” What Would You Do? What would you do if you were a CEO of the Big 4. If you agree with Mr. Blue Suit and would move forward with his proposal, then I don’t know if there is much I can do for you. But if, like the mild CEO, something doesn’t sit right with you about the Bureau’s arrangement, then travel with me on this three part series to explore greed in politics. Part I will focus on diagnosing greed. Part II will explore some of the most sinister examples of greed in Alabama politics. And, Part III will propose solutions to curbing the effects of greed in Alabama politics. Print this piece Related Topics:Alabama politicsCapitalismCEOCriminal Justice ReformdisquisitiongreedNorth AmericaPro-LifeSam McLure Up Next Alabama government: It’s not about you Don't Miss It’s never racism in the Alabama Legislature Samuel McLure Featured Columnists Opinion | Mayor Woodfin: Tear down that statue Published 2 days ago on January 16, 2019 By Josh Moon Dear Mayor Woodfin, Tear it down. Get a few blow torches and axes, maybe a jackhammer or two, and tear down that Confederate monument in Linn Park. If you’d like, to appease the phony historians out there, save a portion to be put in a museum in town. But tear it down. A Jefferson County Circuit Court judge ruled Monday night that you have the authority to remove it, and why wouldn’t you? It’s your city. It’s your city park. You maintain it. You should have complete authority over what goes or what stays in it. Advertisement As Judge Michael Graffeo wrote in his order, “Just as the state could not force any particular citizen to post a pro-Confederacy sign in his or her front lawn, so too can the state not commandeer the city’s property for the state’s preferred message.” Subscribe to our daily newsletter It’s the perfect ruling. Because it’s so obviously accurate. In fact, numerous people who worked in several cities around the state tried to explain to the legislature that this law was ridiculously encroaching — to the point of being counterproductive. And a number of attorneys tried to explain to state lawmakers that the overreach was troubling and likely illegal. But as the Legislature usually does, it ignored those cries of rationality. And instead chose the path of pandering. Pandering to the most awful among us. Pandering to the racists. Pandering to those who refuse to believe in an accurate history. Pandering to those who don’t care that statues honoring traitors and murderers offend large numbers of citizens in this state. How couldn’t they offend black citizens? Imagine learning stories of the horrific ways that your ancestors were treated — beaten, raped, tortured, bought and sold like cattle, and separated from their children — and then being told there was a statue of the men who did those things in the town square. If this state’s citizenry had half the decency and morals that we proclaim, we’d be ashamed that we ever had the gall to erect these statues, or to honor the dishonorable men who led the fight to preserve slavery. But instead, our state’s citizens have been brainwashed by decades of an absurdly whitewashed history, and will, in response to fact-based arguments for why the statues should be removed, talk passionately about the southern general’s great strategic mind or explain that this confederate treated his slaves well or tell you with a straight face that the whole damn thing wasn’t and isn’t about race and slavery. Quite honestly, Mayor Woodfin, I am tired of the stupidity and the phony arguments and the wink-and-nod racism from closeted racists. They don’t really care if the statue is in the park. It’s not like they’re bringing their families by on Saturday afternoons to have picnics in front of the Confederate monuments and soak in the history. They only want the statues to remain because those statues are one last poke in the eye to the people who say they have to treat black people as equals. That’s it. They get a little demented joy out of knowing that that statue is aggravating the blacks and the libs and the yankees. That’s why they’ve erected a huge confederate flag beside the Interstate north of Montgomery. It’s why three confederate groups attempted a couple of years ago to put up a large confederate flag across the Interstate from Alabama State University, a historically black college. And it’s why, most of all, they run around waving a flag that was never an official flag of the Confederacy, but was the battle flag of one confederate army and was later adopted by the KKK and other hate groups. Because the history doesn’t matter to these people. And those who are interested in it would be just as well served visiting the monuments in a museum. So, Mayor, I’m suggesting you do the right thing and set an example for other cities around the state to follow. Tear that statue down. Print this piece Continue Reading Featured Columnists Opinion | What will our Congressional districts look like after the 2020 Census Published 2 days ago on January 16, 2019 By Steve Flowers Preparations are being made to take the 2020 Census. This process is not just a fun game to spell out demographic changes and interesting tidbits about us as Americans. It is a very important mandate dictated by the Constitution. The number of people counted determines how many seats each state has in Congress. Thus, it is taken every 10-years. The Country has been changing, demographically, over the last decade, as it always has over the course of history. The states of California, Texas and Florida continue to grow exponentially. All Americans, not just older ones, seek the sun. They like a sunny, warm climate. That is why our neighboring state of Florida is and has been for decades America’s growth state. Last week I visited with you about our 1940’s Congressional Delegation. At that time we had nine seats. We lost one after the 1960’s census. We lost another after 1980. We are projected to lose another one after this upcoming Census of 2020. We now have seven seats. It is predicted that we will only have six after next year. We most certainly will lose one to California if they are allowed to count illegal immigrants. The State Legislature is constitutionally designated as the drawer of lines of congressional districts for each respective state. Currently, we have six Republican seats and one Democratic seat. If indeed we drop from seven to six Congressional districts, how will it shake out. The census will reveal that Huntsville and North Alabama have been our growth spots. Alabama’s population continues to move toward the northern tier of the state. Two out of every three Alabamians live in Birmingham, Hoover, and Tuscaloosa north. Advertisement The Black Belt continues to lose population. The census will also reveal quite a disparity of financial prosperity. It will show that the same Black Belt counties are some of the poorest areas of the country and conversely Huntsville will be one of the most prosperous. Subscribe to our daily newsletter So who are the winners and losers under Congressional redistricting? You start with one premise. You have to have one majority minority African American district. The federal courts have mandated this edict. Therefore, Congresswoman Terri Sewell’s district is sacred. It now is very large, geographically. It will become even larger. The district will take in most of the African American population in Birmingham, Tuscaloosa and Montgomery, and the entire Black Belt stretching from south of Birmingham and Tuscaloosa all the way to Mobile. It will be a big geographic district and be numbered district six rather than seven. This leaves us with five Republican districts and six incumbent Republicans. Therefore, who gets the short end of the stick. A cursory look says the odd person out is Martha Roby in the second district. However, our current delegates have already come up with a plan to save everybody. Mo Brooks, the Congressman from Huntsville, will choose to move up or out in 2022. He is assuming that Senator Richard Shelby retires at age 88. Therefore, Brooks will see his fast-growing Tennessee Valley district divided and delved out to a plan that grows the districts north, which complies with the growth pattern. Our senior and most seniority laden Congressman, Robert Aderholt, will opt to stay in Congress rather than risk a run for the Senate. This is a very wise and prudent move for him and the state. He has over 24-years in seniority and is in line to be Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. He will move north and pick up part of the Huntsville area and he will cut Gadsden loose. Mike Rogers will move north and pick up Gadsden and all of northeast Alabama, which is a more natural fit for him with his native Anniston area. Rogers’ move north will allow him to abandon Auburn-Opelika, which in turn allows Roby’s district to exist primarily like it is with the population centers of East Montgomery, Elmore, Autauga, and the Wiregrass and Dothan and that district will add Auburn-Opelika. The current 6th District of Jefferson-Shelby represented by Gary Palmer will remain essentially the same. Its upscale suburbs will make it one of the most Republican in the nation. The last district seat of Mobile-Baldwin will remain intact and will still be District 1. However, the tremendous growth of Baldwin will require that the district only contain Mobile and Baldwin. The cadre of rural counties north of Mobile that are currently in the District will have to be cut loose to probably go to the Black Belt district. The current 1st District Congressman, Bradley Bryne, is running for the U.S. Senate in 2020. However, his replacement will be a conservative Republican. 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. Print this piece Continue Reading Featured Columnists Opinion | Why do Alabama governors insist on taking the unpopular path? Published 3 days ago on January 15, 2019 By Josh Moon We’re doing it again. The same thing. We’re doing the same thing again, and hoping for a different outcome. Which I believe is the definition of insanity. And that might as well be our state motto at this point. Alabama: The Insane State. The state where the people continue to elect people who promise to do the same things as the last people who we hated, and who will eventually totally renege on those promises and try to do the opposite. Case in point: Kay Ivey. Advertisement At her inauguration on Monday, Ivey was all smiles and upbeat rhetoric. She talked of steadying the ship and putting Alabamians back to work. And she was governor while those things happened, so the rules say she gets credit, even if it’s mighty tough to pinpoint exactly what it is that she did to cause any of those good things. Subscribe to our daily newsletter But Ivey also dropped a few hints about the future. To no one’s surprise, she discussed a gas tax without ever saying the word “tax,” and she talked about a new prison construction proposal. Actually, neither of those ideas is “new,” and the proposals Ivey and the Legislature will put forth in the coming months won’t be new either. We’ve been talking about prisons for three years now, if not longer, and the gas tax was kicked around during the last legislative session. And both will be met with roughly the same amount of disdain by voters this time around. No matter how badly we might need to renovate our current prisons or build new ones, the average Alabama voter doesn’t want to do that. In fact, those voters have proven to be amazingly willing to let prisoners out of jail, if the alternative is a higher tax bill. And on the gas tax front, yeah, that’s a big ol’ no. I’m sorry, but you can’t set up a state income tax system that charges janitors more than CEOs, leaving the state with consistently no money to make necessary repairs to infrastructure, and then ask the working stiffs to pick up the bill for those repairs when things fall completely apart. And make them pay for it by charging them more to get to work every day. I don’t care that we just held elections and most lawmakers are safe for another four years. You vote for that sort of a tax on working people, and it’ll hang around your neck for the rest of your political career. What’s left of it. If you doubt this, ask Robert Bentley. He tried something similar. Actually, come to think of it, he was a lot like Ivey following his re-election in 2014. Very popular. Had pledged not to raise taxes. Was generally trusted by most people around the state. And then he hit people with a proposal for a cigarette tax. His whole world blew up from that point forward. Because it’s not right. Taxing gas or taxing cigarettes is a coward’s tax. It’s an admission that you know we don’t have enough revenue but you’re not brave enough to attack the real problem — to raise property taxes or restructure our state income tax. Or to do what’s popular: Legalize gambling. Why do Alabama Republicans continue to run from legalized gaming? It makes zero sense, considering the massive edge they hold in statewide voting and the unprecedented popularity of gambling among Republican voters. Poll after poll shows that conservative voters in Alabama now massively favor legalizing gambling. In one of the more recent polls, more than 60 percent of likely Republican voters were in favor of a vote to legalize full-fledged casinos with sportsbooks. And yet, Ivey, like the two governors who came before her, will stand on a stage at her inauguration and push for two completely unpopular ideas —— prisons and a gas tax — but never speak of the one subject that’s both popular and could raise enough money to pay for the infrastructure repairs. And the prisons. So, here we are again. Another governor who thinks she can thumb her nose at the will of the people. Another governor who seems hellbent on ignoring a popular solution. Another fight that will lead to nowhere. Insanity. That’s what it is. Print this piece Continue Reading Crime Opinion | Slain Birmingham officer needed our help Published 4 days ago on January 14, 2019 By Josh Moon On Sunday, Birmingham Police Sergeant Wytasha Carter was shot and killed by some criminals who were apparently trying to break into cars. Carter died at the scene. His partner was also shot, and remains in critical condition at UAB Hospital. It was senseless. And stupid. And maddening. And not at all unpredictable. In fact, it’s astounding that it has taken this long for a cop in one of the most violent cities in America — one of the most violent industrialized nations on earth — to be killed. Carter was the first police officer murdered in the city in 14 years. Advertisement In that same city, more than 200 people have been killed — most of them by gunfire — in just the past TWO YEARS. Subscribe to our daily newsletter And it will get worse. It will get worse because we continue to turn a blind eye to the root causes of the violence that permeates our major cities: under-education, extreme poverty, drug use and a flood of easy-to-obtain firearms. To put that another way: you have large groups of people who are hopeless, desperate and angry. They have been failed at every step of their lives — by their parents, their government, their schools and their justice system. They have been immersed in horrific violence since birth. They have no idea what acceptable conflict resolution even is, much less how to practice it. And they have been afforded ridiculously easy access to any firearm they would like. A few years ago, as Montgomery suffered through one of the ugliest and deadliest years on record, I spent several days essentially hanging out in the highest crime neighborhoods — the projects, the abandoned apartment buildings, the neighborhoods you tell your kids to avoid when they start driving. What I found was depressing. Because these were not bad people, They were not lazy or unmotivated. They were not happy with their lives, nor were they particularly hostile. They were hopeless. Every single day mothers in those neighborhoods sent their kids off to schools that they knew were failing them. Every day, they prayed that their kids found some crack to slip through and into a better life — maybe they would be great at sports or a gifted student who landed in a magnet program or … hell, anything. But deep down, they knew. They knew that at some point reality would take hold. Their kids, lured by quick and easy money, would fall into the gangs. The violence and crime would take root and become common. Juvenile detention facilities would follow. And probably, if their kids survived, jail and prison. The stories are more nuanced, and there are more twists and turns along the way, but this was life in a nutshell for a good chunk of Alabama’s capital city. The people had no hope. And when such a thing happens, when you remove hope from hurting people, you also remove a valuation of life. Their life seems to be so utterly unvalued by everyone, so why should they value yours? Or a cop’s? This is where we are. And it’s getting worse. You can get angry and stomp your feet and pretend that sticking kids in electric chairs or locking ‘em all up is going to solve it, but it’s not. Deep down, after centuries of that nonsense, surely you all know that by now. The only thing that will solve it is love. Until we love the poor kids, the black kids, the brown kids and all of the other kids who are a little bit different, this will never get better. Until we are as invested in the kids who dress in ratty clothes and have bad attitudes, in the kids who don’t speak the language well and who fight first and ask questions later, we will continue to produce murderers and cop killers. It seems that Sgt. Carter knew this. In interviews with local media outlets, those who knew Carter best said he served Birmingham because he wanted to make a difference in his city. He wanted kids and the good people to feel some measure of safety. He wanted kids to know there were alternatives to the gangs.. But mostly, he wanted the people in the worst parts of his city to simply know that someone cared about them. Sgt. Carter didn’t die because his efforts were naive or misguided, or because the people he tried to help are too hopeless. He died because not enough us joined him. Print this piece Continue Reading Authors Bill Britt Brandon Moseley Charlie Walker Chip Brownlee Joey Kennedy Josh Moon Steve Flowers Susan Britt Advertisement Latest Popular Governor5 hours ago Lieutenant governor picks deputy chief of staff Economy21 hours ago PCI investing heavily in out-of-state casinos using un-taxed dollars from Alabama Courts21 hours ago Limestone County Sheriff’s investigator files federal lawsuit against the sheriff, county commission Legislature21 hours ago Sen. 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