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A Disquisition on greed in politics, Part 2: Examples of greed in Alabama politics

Samuel McLure

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By Sam McLure
Alabama Political Reporter

Politics is No Place for the Invisible Hand of Capitalism

In the early 20th century, G.K. Chesterton responded to a newspaper inquiry which asked readers to send in answers to a pressing question: “What is wrong with the world?”  Chesterton’s write-in response was, “Dear Sir: Regarding your article ‘What’s Wrong with the World?’ I am. Yours truly, G.K. Chesterton.”

Any analysis of greed in politics must start with this kind of humility.  We must acknowledge that the test of influence is far more perilous than the test of obscurity. With more power comes more opportunity for greed – more opportunity to use our position and influence to promote ourselves to the detriment of our neighbor.

This accurate self-assessment, is, in-part, what drove the founders of our government to establish safeguards to prevent too great a consolidation of governmental prowess. No man is up to the task of absolute power. In an ideal world, everyone would be as reluctant to acquire power as George Washington, who had to be begged into the Presidency. But, we do not live in an ideal world. We live in a very fallen world. Thus, in 2017 we must accurately diagnose occurrences of greed in politics and consider how to restrain the opportunity for acting on it, just as the founders of America did in 1776.

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In our Introduction with Mr. Blue Suit, we explored a satirical analogy of greed in politics; and  in Part I, we highlighted Sen. Calhoun’s observation that, behind the scenes of both political parties, there is a group of “active politicians”, controlled by greed, with whom “a regard for principle or this or that line of policy is a mere pretext. They’re perfectly indifferent to either and their whole effort is to make up on both sides such issues as they may think for the time the most popular, regardless of truth or consequences.”

Sen. Calhoun also observed “that our whole system is rapidly becoming a mere money-making concern to those who have the control of it.” And that “every feeling of patriotism is rapidly sinking into a universal spirit of [greed].”

On this point I must disagree with Sen. Calhoun; he could have benefited from a little more historical perspective.  The American governmental system was not “rapidly becoming” consumed with and controlled by greed. On the contrary, this has always been the bent of government.  As long as fallen men and women have the reigns of power, the most difficult questions of proper governing will revolve around how to restrain vicious greed in politics.

Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations 

The same year the American Declaration of Independence was submitted to the Crown, Adam Smith submitted his treatise to the world, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.  The notion of capitalism’s “Invisible Hand” and the great benefits of free trade between countries are some of the more conspicuous attributes of Smith’s work.

A less known attribute is Smith’s disdain for business-conglomerate-interests which tend to control governments for their own greedy interests, in violation of the free market, and to the detriment of the community.

“[T]he cruelest of our revenue laws . . . are mild and gentle, in comparison to some of those which the clamour of our merchants and manufacturers has extorted from the legislature, for the support of their own absurd and oppressive monopolies. Like the laws of Draco, these laws may be said to be all written in blood.”

“The capricious ambition of kings and ministers has not, during the present century, been more fatal to the repose of Europe, than the impertinent jealousy of merchants and manufactures.

It is the industry which is carried on for the benefit of the rich and the powerful, that is principally encouraged by our mercantile system. That which is carried on for the benefit of the poor and the indigent is too often either neglected or oppressed.”

Where do we find greed in Alabama Politics?

The examples of greed in Alabama politics are as ubiquitous as the aroma of peanuts in the Wiregrass. We need look no further than Oliver Robinson, Luther Strange, Mike Hubbard, or Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama’s monopoly on health insurance.

The atrocities of greed are grievous regardless of party affiliation. No five year old dreams of growing up to be a greedy bastard.  Children dream of being pure-hearted superheroes, or talented athletes, or kind and beautiful princesses.  Greed perverts the good intentions of our hearts in small and great ways every day.  It is thus incumbent upon those endowed with the public trust, our elected officials, to rigorously and daily subject themselves to the highest levels of scrutiny.

Lobbying for “Business Interests” to the Detriment of the Community

Prowling in the shadowlands of Alabama politics are two, so-called, non-profits which posses such a conglomeration of power over the processes of Alabama’s government, that they are inevitably used for greed: Business Council of Alabama (BCA) and the Medical Association of Alabama (MASA).  And, by “used for greed,” I do not mean that they only perpetuate policies of greed which serve a detriment to the community.  They often exude noble goals for the good of the entire state.  Their employees and members are not all evil actors consumed with greed. Their lobbyist aren’t all secretly serpentine sewer dwellers.

Yet, what they posses is such a conglomeration of power over the processes of government, that they are inevitably leveraged for greed.

Again, Adam Smith explains:

“It cannot be very difficult to determine who have been the contrivers of this whole mercantile system; not the consumers, we may believe, whose interest has been entirely neglected; but the producers, whose interest has been so carefully attended to and among this latter class, our merchants and manufacturers have been by far the principal architects. In the mercantile regulations … the interest of our manufacturers has been most peculiarly attended to; and the interest, not so much of the consumers, as that of some other sets of producers, has been sacrificed to it.”

The first red-flag to notice about BCA is that the CEO of this “non-profit” takes home a salary that is 1,500 percent higher than the average Alabamian’s income, not to mention his complimentary Montgomery Country Club membership.  There is nothing a-moral about earning such a salary, but there are two things which should alarm us, right off the bat. First, Bill Canary and the BCA are lying. The mantle of “non-profit” is a farce when the CEO takes home $600,000 in salary.  Second, living at this level of economic elitism, 1,500 percent above average, has the tendency to make a man 1,500 degrees out of touch with the average Alabamian – out of touch with the community and what serves its good.

The second red-flag is that almost nobody in the Yellowhammer State spends more on influencing elections than BCA.  In the last election cycle, BCA spent almost $250,000 just on ensuring that the two most powerful men in the Legislature, Mike Hubbard and Del Marsh, were re-elected … Not to mention dozens of other candidates from both major parties.

Is this inherently evil? No. It is not. But, it endows BCA with, at least, the reputation of being able to get anyone they want elected. It has the tendency to send a message to any politician who opposes their agenda, “Vote the way we want you to vote, or  you will not be sitting here after the next election. We will find someone more ‘business friendly’ to run against you, and will mega-fund their campaign.”

While this business-interest-power-conglomeration is not inherently evil, the net effect of the intoxication of its power gave Bill Canary the audacity to track down a Legislator in the halls of the State House and publicly wag his finger in this Legislators face demanding an account: “What were you thinking introducing that bill! You didn’t get our permission!” If Bill Canary is so brazen as to do this in public, we must wonder what cupidity transcends in private.

A third red flag we should notice is the irregularities in the source and frequency of contributions to BCA’s political action committee, Progress PAC. Most donations are from hundreds of different business in the $200-$300 dollar range.  Then there is the seemingly “random” donation of $15,000 from a towing company or $10,000 from a major law firm.  Gaining an explanation for these amounts and what specific benefit the larger “sporadic” donors hope to obtain, is a veil that perhaps only the Alabama Attorney General can pierce.

Politics is No Place for the Invisible Hand of Capitalism

Some of the initiatives that BCA has pursued seem noble and good for “the body of people” – like tort reform. While BCA’s stated mission is “to improve industry and labor conditions for the State of Alabama,” the trend of BCA’s legislative initiatives, of late, has been harder to connect with a state-wide benefit to business.  One particularly troubling trend should be highlighted.

Any time the Federal Government dangles the carrot of Federal money, BCA chases it. Under the Obama administration, the Federal Government promised billions of dollars if Alabama would implement certain educational policies known as Common Core. Under the Trump administration the same carrot is used with infrastructure money.  In both cases, BCA has served as the impetus for Alabama to relinquish its sovereignty for the financial benefit of a few business who gain exorbitant contracts.

The evils of being beholden to Federal Money have been covered in-depth and can be reviewed in the article, Something Wicked This Way Comes.  In order for Alabama to be truly free, we must stop taking money from the Federal Government.

Take the Orwellian Data Collection Bill, HB 97, for example. The ODC, as I like to call it, proposed to keep data on all Alabama citizens from pre-kindergarten, all the way through school, and into a persons working career, and until they die; then store all that data in one central location. After 30 minutes of debate in the House Committee, it became clear that this bill would expand government and put Alabama citizens at risk of identity theft.  But, the benefit to the State was that we would get more Federal money. That’s right, the Federal Government is bribing the states to gather and store data on all their citizens.

The Orwellian Data Collection bill is a terrible policy for the people of Alabama, but because certain business interests will profit from the arrangement, BCA lobbies in its favor, regardless if it is good for the citizens of the State of Alabama.

If time and space allowed, we could write an entire article on BCA’s chase to enrich select businesses with Federal infrastructure money and their plan to make the “body of people” pay with the excise of a 9 cent gas tax. We could cover the special subdivision BCA has established to convince Alabamians this is for their own good, Alliance for Alabama’s Infrastructure, their Twitter account Fix AL Roads, and their Facebook page, Fix My Roads Alabama, which coincidentally is endorsed by Vulcan Materials, which coincidentally is one of the nations largest producers of the stuff that is necessary to build roads and bridges. Alas, it does not.

 

Medical Association of the State of Alabama – Monopoly of the Home Market

Adam Smith poignantly observed the conflict of interests between the “merchants and manufacturers” and the “body of the people”:

“[The interests of the merchants and manufacturers is] directly opposite to that of the great body of the people [in buying whatever they want of those who sell it cheapest]. As it is the interest of the freemen of a corporation to hinder the rest of the inhabitants from employing any workmen but themselves; so it is the interest of the merchants and manufacturers of every country to secure to themselves the monopoly of the home market.”

The same is true of the Medical Association of Alabama, MASA.  They protect the turf of medical doctors. They seek a monopoly on healthcare by opposing expanded practice rights for chiropractors, oppose the licensing of naturopathic doctors, and oppose the practice of mid-wives.  MASA opposes protecting pre-born infants from murder and any policy that would permit the free-market to disturb their members’ monopoly on healthcare.

While it is true that MASA works on some laws and regulations that keep Alabamians safe, we must ask what restrains MASA from being used as a tool to accomplish what Adam Smith described as “a manifest violation of the most sacred rights of mankind,” to wit, preventing the citizenry “from making all that they can of every part of their own produce, or from employing their stock and industry in the way that they judge most advantageous to themselves”?

 

BCA and MASA are Just Playing the Game!?

I’m obviously picking on BCA and MASA, but they are not alone. 298 PACs supported Hubbard for a total of $1.25 million or 75% of his campaign contributions.  Del Marsh’s numbers are almost identical: 237 PACS for $1.1 million or 65% of his campaign contributions. And, let’s not be too hard on the candidates that took BCA money. In 2014, it was BCA that helped to ouster AEA … and the resulting Republican take-over.  It was almost a stamp of honor to take BCA money, because that meant you weren’t taking money from AEA.  Even the anti-establishment golden boy, Rep. Ed Henry, took $15,000 from BCA.

The sheer volume of PACs makes it nearly impossible for the people of the State of Alabama to understand what influences “their” politicians. For example Retailers of Alabama PAC gave Del March $42,500; ROADPAC gave $35,500; CAREPAC gave $35,000; Automobile Dealers Assoc. of Alabama Inc. Auto PAC gave $40,000; MASA gave $70,000; and Alabama Power Co. Employees State PAC gave $50,000.

ROADPAC for example is Chaired by Terry Bunn and has the stated purpose of “the protection and advancement of the roadbuilding industry.” The Bunn family is based out of Tuscaloosa and has been in the transportation industry since 1917.  Since 2013, ROADPAC received $450,000 in contributions from 40 construction companies.  These 40 companies used ROADPAC to pool their resources to get the biggest bang-for-their-buck.  What’s better than 40 small sticks? Answer: one big stick.

What would stop ROADPAC from using their one-big-stick to pass laws in Alabama that are contrary to the best interests of the State of Alabama, like the 9 cent gas tax? Certainly ROADPAC will pressure it’s politicians to pass laws that will enable the 40 companies who contributed to ROADPAC to get access to the $4 billion in infrastructure money promised by the Trump administration.

What if the next president says she will give $8 billion to each state for infrastructure on condition that each state implements an educational policy which promotes the “principle” that Christianity is a religion of hate.  Would ROADPAC be able to stop itself from going after the Federal Money? Would the 40 companies which fund ROADPAC step back and say, “Wait a minute guys … maybe we shouldn’t go after this Federal money.”

I don’t think so. Federal Money is like a heroine addiction.  Without an outside force acting on the addict, without an intervention, the addict will persist in his self-destructive ways.

The fact is that BCA and MASA are not villains. They’re just the best at the game.  And can we blame them? It’s a game everyone is trying to play.  Get control of government to get control of tax revenue and protect the turf of your industry. 

The citizens of Alabama must expect and fight for better.  In Edinburg, Scotland, at the base of so-named Castle, stands a monument with the inscription, “A true Scotsman gives up his freedom, only at the cost of his life.”  I wish this were true of Alabama. Adam Smith explained that the prohibitions and regulations on trade extorted by the business-interests-conglomerates of his day as an impertinent bases of slavery imposed upon [the community], without any sufficient reason, by the groundless jealousy of the merchants and manufacturers.”

BCA, MASA, and the hundreds of other business conglomerates in Alabama seek the same thing, “an impertinent bases of slavery,” imposed through the State Legislature, enforced by the Governor, and upheld by the Judiciary. Rep. Davy Crocket warned of this when he proclaimed that “the power of collecting and distributing money at pleasure is the most dangerous power known to man.”

Adam Smith is an Optimist

In addition to his bleak analysis, Adam Smith gives us hope that the invisible hand of capitalism can be restrained in politics:

“The violence and injustice of the rulers of mankind is an ancient evil, for which, I am afraid, the nature of human affairs can scarce admit a remedy: but the mean rapacity, the monopolizing spirit, of merchants and manufacturers, who neither are, nor ought to be, the rulers of mankind, though it cannot, perhaps, be corrected, may very easily be prevented from disturbing the tranquility of anybody but themselves.”

In Part 3, we expect to explore remedies for restraining the province of greed in Alabama politics.

 

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Bill Britt

Opinion | What is possible…

Bill Britt

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From the Capitol to the State House, from the business community to the halls of education, there is an urgent need for Alabama leaders who will work together to turn back the prevailing tide of self-dealing and mediocracy. Alabama is far too often the home of status quo where leaders don’t dare aim for the far horizon because that requires facing unpleasant facts that demand hard choices. Over the last several months, Alabama Power Company’s CEO, Mark Crosswhite, and  leaders from Regions Bank, Blue Cross Blue Shield, PowerSouth, Protective Life Corp., and others marquee businesses displayed extraordinary courage to salvage the burning ship that was the Business Council of Alabama.

As Crosswhite said in announcing BCA’s restructuring plan, “The wholesale governance and leadership changes made today show what is possible when businesses come together with a common goal.”

The fight to save BCA was not merely about what was best for business but how BCA, as an institution, could serve the higher interests of the state. Again, Crosswhite makes the point, “While the hard work of moving this organization forward remains, I am pleased with this progress and look forward to working with businesses across our state for a stronger BCA and a better Alabama.”

There is indeed hard work ahead because over the last several years, BCA’s culture has been shaped by the self-interests of a few unprincipled individuals.

What is BCA’s core mission?

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Its website says, “Making a sweet home for business.” That’s a slogan, not a purpose.

A mission statement in business is like an individual’s core beliefs; it is the guiding principle for every action and the place to run back to when things go wrong.

Going forward, the new executive committee will need to define what BCA is and what its character is.

Over the years, BCA has become synonymous with the Republican Party, but businesses, also like individuals, are more than a label. As billionaire industrialist Charles Koch said recently, “I don’t care what initials are in front or after somebody’s name.”

Perhaps Heather Brothers New, chairwoman of the Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama, said it best, “We are fortunate in Alabama to have a business community that understands the importance of providing strong leadership on matters that affect our state’s economic success,” New said. “Individuals, families, and communities can’t thrive if our state doesn’t provide an environment where businesses can thrive. Everyone in Alabama benefits from this effort to ensure a unified and effective BCA.”

With governance and leadership changes at BCA, there is an opportunity to start anew to create a better BCA to serve its members and the state. As Bobby Vaughan, a representative from the Alabama Self-Insured Worker’s Compensation Fund said, “At the end of the day, our members are our customers. Our job is to serve the interests of our members, and the new structure will enable us to do that more effectively.”

Crisis and opportunity are two sides of the same coin. Crosswhite and his fellow corporate leaders have shown what is possible. Now, the hard work begins.

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Opinion | Police are not above public scrutiny

Josh Moon

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Why are police above public scrutiny?

That seems to be a relatively new thing in this country, and it is a particular problem in Alabama — this notion that the general public has no right to even question a police officer’s actions.

We’re hiding body cam footage. There are very few regular citizens on cities’ police review boards. Some cities are hiding cops’ personnel files, despite that being one thing that Alabama Open Records Act laws specifically covers.

And if ever a cop is questioned … whoooo, boy! There will be shame and ridicule, and the full weight of city government will be brought down to protect the Brother in Blue.

It’s nonsense.

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And it’s happening every day in this state. There are, specifically, two egregious cases active now — one in Huntsville, one in Montgomery. In both instances, city cops have been indicted on murder charges.

In Montgomery, the victim was black and walking through his neighborhood late at night. In Huntsville, the victim was white and police were responding to a mental health call.

In both instance, the county district attorneys — who each have to work with the police departments in those cities — reviewed the evidence and determined that enough existed to seek indictments. And in both cases, a grand jury issued those indictments.

That would seem like enough reason for the mayors of the respective cities — Todd Strange in Montgomery and Tommy Battle in Huntsville — to back away and allow the justice system to work.

They have not.

Battle last week asked his city council to cover the legal expenses for William Darby, the cop accused of murder. The council agreed unanimously, although it did put a $75,000 cap on expenses — a cap Battle said he disagreed with.

In Montgomery last year, following officer A.C. Smith’s shooting of Greg Gunn, Strange implemented an unprecedented city-led review, and he promised to allow Smith to remain on the MPD payroll, receiving his full salary and benefits, as he awaits trial.

Seriously consider the facts of these two situations.

In Huntsville, the taxpayers are footing the bill for private attorneys, when they are already paying for court-appointed attorneys for anyone who can’t afford legal representation. Apparently, public defenders are good enough for poor, mostly minority regular folks — even when they are accused of murder — but not good enough for cops.

In Montgomery, even as other city employees have been immediately terminated after their arrests for various offenses — all of which fall well short on the moral scale of murder — Smith remains fully paid.

When questioned about this early in the case, Strange said he wanted to wait on more facts to come out at hearings before making a decision on terminating Smith. A couple of weeks later, at a hearing, a State Bureau of Investigations officer testified that Smith admitted in interviews that he had no probable cause to stop, pat down, chase, strike, Taser or shoot Gunn.

That was not enough for Strange.

Nor was it enough when a second Montgomery judge proclaimed after an immunity hearing last month that he didn’t find Smith to be credible during his testimony.

In Huntsville, Battle cited a clearance by the HPD Incident Review Board as his primary cause for supporting Darby so vigorously.

He should be careful, because I can’t find a single incident in which the HPD review board didn’t clear an officer in a shooting. That includes a number of shootings in which the suspect was unarmed, and several in which other law enforcement officers also engaged the suspect and didn’t fire a shot.

In 2015, for example, Orlondon “Dre” Driscoll was shot by HPD officers after he exited, unarmed, from a car he was accused of stealing. The review board cleared the officers, saying that while Driscoll was unarmed, his hand made a motion as though he was pulling a gun.

It’s absurd.

And here’s the thing: In most cases, there is body cam footage of the incident. There’s certainly footage of the Darby shooting. But these same mayors and city governments and police departments have fought like hell to hide those videos from the public — the same public that pays the salaries of the officers.

In Montgomery, while there is no video — because Smith “forgot” to turn on his body cam — Strange has refused to release the findings of the city-led investigation into the Gunn alleged murder.

His reasoning: he doesn’t want to taint the jury pool. Which is not, as far as the law goes, an accepted exception under the  

Look, cops have a tough job. Yes, they are mostly heroic individuals who deserve our praise and admiration.

But you know what, it’s not like the job’s a mystery at this point.

We’ve all seen “Cops” on Fox and watched a thousand cop shows and reality cop shows on TV. If you sign up to be a cop in 2018, you know what you’re getting into, and you know the pay.

So, let’s stop pretending that the cops who have committed horrible acts of aggression and assault — and even murder — against the citizens they’re supposed to protect are somehow overwhelmed by the toughness of the job. Because that’s insulting to the 99 percent of cops who manage to not do anything illegal or dumb every day.

 

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Opinion | A blue few days away, and a same-sex wedding

Joey Kennedy

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After another disappointing Alabama election where voters decided against their better interests, I was characteristically frustrated.

One of my friends, this one living in northern Virginia, wrote to me: “Joey, you and Veronica should move to a blue state just for a little while. It’ll add 10 years to your life.”

I chuckled. I can’t say how many times a reader, equally frustrated, no doubt, at what I’d just written, said to me: “If you hate Alabama so much, move somewhere else.”

I don’t write what I write about Alabama out of hate. I write out of love. I love Alabama.

My other career is as an educator. I try to educate. I welcome people to fact check my work. If I make a factual mistake, I’ll correct it. If you disagree with my informed opinions, then let’s disagree. But you need to be informed as well. Show me your evidence, and I’ll show you mine. Indeed, I most often include my evidence in my columns.

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Don’t tell me that Hillary Clinton is running a pedophile ring out of a pizza parlor’s basement or that Sandy Hook is a hoax or that the Parkland survivors are “crisis” actors. None of that is true.

And don’t cite Breitbart or InfoWars or Judicial Watch as your sources. Keep Drudge and Rush Limbaugh and Dana Loesch out of it. If you cite Fox News, do it honestly, understanding that Fox has some credible news coverage, but then it has its idiots – the Hannitys and Ingrahams and Lahrens — who don’t give a whit about facts, only about slant, and who will twist their stories to “support” their latest right-wing conspiracy or left-wing outrage.

As a favor, I won’t cite MSNBC or the other “left” sources. I don’t watch MSNBC. CNN does generally good journalism, as does the three major networks. Mostly, I’m going to reference the Washington Post or The New York Times. But even more mostly, I’m going to do my own research and reporting. And thinking.

It’s not that difficult, as long as you don’t approach an issue with a preconceived idea. Keep your minds open, and do a little homework.

Thanks to the Internet, we have more information available to us today than ever before. Yet, we really seem a whole lot dumber. That’s because we only look for crap that validates our preconceived ideas, not the truth.

Find the truth, or at least get as close to the truth as you can get. Among my most difficult challenges as a writing teacher is to show students how important it is to approach issues with an open mind. If you can’t be persuaded by indisputable evidence, you’re not going to learn.

I’m going to California this week. I’m not moving there, so don’t get your hopes up. I’m going for a few days to participate in my “daughter’s” wedding. Nicole Bowland graduated from UAB, and adopted Veronica and me as her “parents” shortly after coming her from her home in California. She came on a volleyball scholarship, and her parents couldn’t attend volleyball events, so she adopted us. We’ve become very close over the past 15 years.

Nicole’s fiancé, Sara Kate Denton, has the full support of her family for the wedding. Nicole’s parents are not as supportive and won’t attend the wedding, so I’m filling in the “daddy” role at Nicole and Sara Kate’s ceremony.

I hope this brief trip to one of the bluest states may add at least a few days or hours to my life, but that’s not a real consideration. Dancing with my daughter at her wedding and toasting her marriage to Sara Kate are.

My friends in the blue states know they, too, have citizens who believe the conspiracy theories, who oppose same-sex marriage, who hate people different from them. They just don’t have them in as great of numbers (proportionately) as we do in Alabama.

We’re a herd state. We follow those deceitful politicians (and they’re a dime-a-dozen in Alabama, both Democrats and Republicans) who won’t tell us how to make education better or how to lower our prison population or what we need to do about gun violence, but would rather tell us why immigrants are evil, gay people are going to hell, black people are less than white, and women’s bodies should be controlled by men.

Right now, 63 percent of them support President Donald Trump, which makes us one of the Trumpiest states in the country.

Think for yourself. Question authority. If a politician or journalist tells you something, make him or her show you the evidence. Maybe it’s simply a good argument, based in fact, and it will get you thinking. Thinking critically. Thinking skeptically.

Don’t be in the herd.

I’ll be back soon.

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

 

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Opinion | Brett Kavanaugh to SCOTUS would assure Trump legacy

Steve Flowers

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The appointment of a United States Supreme Court Justice is one of the most profound legacies that a U. S. President can achieve. The opportunity that President Donald Trump was given to appoint Neil Gorsuch to the High Tribunal last year will be a monumental achievement of the Trump administration.

The chance to name a second Supreme Court appointment will be a colossal legacy for the Trump presidency. The appointment of two seats on the Supreme Court has given Trump an indelible place in U.S. presidential history.

The leftist detractors of the Trump presidency are moaning. However, the conservative base of American politics has got to be rejoicing with hallelujahs. The quiet, conservative Americans who voted for Trump probably never realized how impactful their vote for Trump was in November of 2016. For within less than two years after casting that vote they will have placed America on a more stable conservative path for not only the rest of their lives, but possibly for the next generation.

President Trump’s appointment and subsequent confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to replace the deceased Antonin Scalia was a profound choice. However, his selection of Brett Kavanaugh to replace the retiring jurist Anthony Kennedy is equally brilliant. If Trump does nothing else during his tenure in the White House, if you are a conservative American, Trump’s presidency has been a rousing overwhelming success.

When the last votes were counted in November of 2016, and it became obvious that Donald Trump had defeated Hillary Clinton, conservative Americans were exuberant. Many had turned out to vote for one reason. The possibility of naming a conservative to the Supreme Court was their primary reason for voting for Trump. The naming of two within two years was beyond their wildest dreams.

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With the conclusion of the eight-year reign of the liberal Obama era and Trump’s defeat of Clinton, President Obama made one last simple, profound statement, “Elections have consequences.” That epitaph has become prophetic.

The court had been drifting leftward out to sea with the two extremely liberal Obama appointees, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor coming on board. However, the Supreme Court Ship of State has taken a turn to the right under the helm of Captain Trump.

Brett Kavanaugh is an excellent selection. He has impeccable credentials. He is only 53 years old, which means that he will be a sensible mainstream conservative voice of the court for probably three decades.

Brett Kavanaugh’s resume reads like a profile of someone born to be a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. Like most Supreme Court members, he graduated from a prestigious Ivy League Law school. He is a product of Yale undergraduate and Yale Law School.

Kavanaugh was the favorite for the appointment from the beginning. He was always on the top of Trump’s short list and the choice of the Republican legal establishment in Washington. He is a former law clerk of the retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Although Kennedy had been appointed by Republican Ronald Reagan, he was considered the one moderate on the court. There are four bona fide liberal justices and four stalwart conservatives. Kennedy was the swing vote in the middle. Trump’s appointment of Kavanaugh will replace a swing vote on the nine-member court with a staunch conservative.

Kavanaugh served in George W. Bush’s administration and has been a distinguished jurist in the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit for over a decade and has written over 300 opinions. Therefore, his record as a jurist has been thoroughly reviewed and scrutinized. He is looked upon as a top legal scholar and strict constitutional adherent with a record of following judicial precedence.

Kavanaugh will be confirmed along pretty much the same partisan lines as Gorsuch. Trump is blessed with a Republican majority Senate. Leader Mitch McConnell will put the confirmation hearings on a fast track and have Kavanaugh approved by the end of October, prior to the mid-term elections. The Republicans have a thin 51 to 49 majority. All 51 Republican Senators appear to be on board for confirmation. Our Senator Richard Shelby has given a big thumbs up to Kavanaugh.

In addition to the 51 Republicans, Kavanaugh is expected to pick up four Democratic Senate votes of moderate Democrats from red states.

The big question is how does our new accidental anomaly, Democratic Senator Doug Jones vote. He is considered a longshot to win in 2020. However, a yes vote on confirmation could give him a glimmer of hope. A no vote would guarantee his not being elected to a full term. 

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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A Disquisition on greed in politics, Part 2: Examples of greed in Alabama politics

by Samuel McLure Read Time: 14 min
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