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A Disquisition on Greed in Politics, Part 3: Solutions to Greed in Alabama Politics

Samuel McLure

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By Sam McLure
Alabama Political Report

“The greedy misuse the world by striving to acquire it; the monastics, by struggling to renounce it.” Carter Lindberg

The overall goal of restraining greed in politics should be aimed at making the political process more responsive to the “common community of voters” and less responsive to “business-conglomerate greed interests.” The irony of decreasing the influence of the business-greed party is that it actually promotes the prosperity of the community as a whole.  As discussed in Part 1 of our series, the mantles of Republican and Democrat mean nothing to the Greed Party which manipulates both for the enrichment of a select few business interests.

In our Introduction with Mr. Blue Suit, we explored a satirical analogy of greed in politics; and in Part 2, we explored poignant examples of greed at work in Alabama politics. This final installment of our series will focus on Jenga-Pin solutions to this most difficult political question: how to restrain the forces of greed in government.

As a boundary on the ideas presented, let me here say that I am not advocating for a complete eradication of the influence of the business community within politics.  The business community provides jobs, and jobs provide wealth to the common community.  What I am advocating for is a necessary shift in the paradigm of power.

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Five Failing Solutions to Restraining Greed in Government

I reference these topics as “five failing solutions,” because that is exactly what they are … without heeding the words that Michael Jackson so famously evoked – calling our attention to the Man in the Mirror:  “If you wanna make the world a better place / Take a look at yourself and then make the change.”  From beginning to end, this is where the change must occur.

Without further ado, our five solutions for consideration are as follows:

(1) mobilize grassroots activists to run for office; (2) restrict the prowess of the political action committee; (3) create pathways for third-party competition; (4) Attorney General should prioritize investigation and prosecution of “business-interest” lobbyists; and (5) implement a Pence-style federal money task force.

(1) Mobilize Grassroots Activists to Run For Office

When you see the world as Adam Smith did in 1776 and John Calhoun in 1830, you see that there are two great forces in opposition within any government.  It’s not Democrat v. Republican; the forces at odds are the greed-business interests and the interests of the common community.

Thus, there are two basic paths by which a political candidate finds themselves in the sphere of government influence. Political candidates are either thrust into service with responsiveness to the needs of the community or they are propelled into service by the covetousness of the business-greed party.

Alabama needs more concerned citizens engaged in politics.  Most people who are not consumed with greed have no desire to engage in political struggles. On the whole, the mass of the common community is content to eat, drink, and rise up to play. Truly, the greatest enemy for freedom is not tyranny, but apathy.

Alabamians are notorious for their love of football. We have to give up some other love in order to love doing justice, mercy, and humility … and their application to making our state a freer community.  It was the practice of ancient Rome to use the bloodbaths of the Coliseum to numb the citizenry to the awful tyranny of the ruling class.  We will never see different in our time. We will never see the government infringing on Alabama’s “right” to participate in sport.

It is incumbent upon the older generation to instill a passion in the younger generation to run for office and engage in our State’s political struggles. Many offices in the State of Alabama can be pursued at the age of 18 and many more at the age of 21. For example, a young man or woman can serve on the Public Service Commission or State Board of Education at the age of 18; Mayor, City Counsel, Sheriff, and County Commission are also in play for the ambition 18 year old.

If we are troubled by the reality of greed’s stranglehold on Alabama’s mechanisms of government, we must mobilize to service those whose allegiance are tethered to the community, not greed.

(2) Restrict the Prowess of the Political Action Committee.

The purpose of a political action committee (PAC), in federal elections, is to circumvent the $2,700 individual giving limit.  If you are a wealthy business owner of a coal company and want to donate $2,000,000 to a candidate that you think will protect the coal industry, you form a “super” PAC and put $2,000,000 in it. Then, you convince a couple other Coal CEOs to donate their money too. Before you know it, your Coal PAC has $10,000,000 to get the right candidates elected to Federal office.

State and local election (non-federal elections) are governed by state-law.  Shockingly, Alabama is one of only six states which allow unlimited PAC and Corporate contributions to candidates. Most states put comparatively aggressive restrictions on PAC and Corporate contributions. For example, PACs in Kentucky are restricted by the same $1,000 limit as individuals; and total PAC contributions must be less than 50% of a candidates total contributions.  Furthermore, Corporate contributions are completely banned in Kentucky.

The affect of Kentucky’s restrictions on PAC and Corporate contributions is to encourage political candidates to be more responsive to the people – to the common community of voters – as opposed to the greed-business interests. For a candidate in Kentucky to raise enough money to win an election, the candidate has to be in front of, and in relationship with, actual people and is thus more responsive to the voice of the people. For a candidate in Alabama to win, and to raise enough money to win, the candidate only has to be in touch with the right few power players.

One of the top three PAC contributors in Alabama is Progress PAC, controlled by the Business Council of Alabama (BCA).  Mike Hubbard and Del Marsh both received over $100,000 from the BCA.  In order to get the same contribution level in Kentucky, Hubbard and Marsh would have had to shake hands with 100 actual people who gave the maximum.  In Alabama, Del Marsh only had to shake hands with Bill Canary.

Some politicos would argue that Americans spend more on Halloween candy than political campaigns, and thus the problem is really more linked to apathy.  This is a good point, and I do not deny its veracity. After all, it was Winston Churchill who noted that “The malice of the wicked was reinforced by the weakness of the virtuous.”

On the other hand, even well intending “grassroots” advocates find the idea of limiting PAC donations unpalatable.  Even noble-minded politicos know that a PAC concentrates the power of donation into their own hands, making their own agenda more potent. But, buyer beware – even these noble-PAC-ventures have the same consequence of distancing the average voter from the elected official. The noble-minded politico becomes the expert and representative of the people –  with the same potential for unresponsiveness-to-the-commnity as BCA’s Progress PAC.

A note to the libertarian reader

Some libertarian-leaning politicos might cry “foul” here at the prospect of limiting the free market.  I would draw the attention of such a reader to the arguments presented in Part 2, illustrated by the maxim, “Politics is no place for the invisible hand of capitalism.”

In the realm of stewarding environmental resources, history and experience show us that there are some assets which must be protected from the free market.  There is no short-term financial incentive for Acme Corp to not dump its industrial waste into the Alabama River. And, the long term negative effect of such pollution to the health and wellbeing of the State is unquantifiable. Thus, we permit government to intrude on the free market and regulate the disposal of industrial waste.

However, this is a dangerous power being wielded by government. As soon as the hand of government has been extended to meet a legitimate need through regulation, business-greed interests will try to extend that same hand for the establishment of a monopoly on the market.

That disclaimer aside, the point is clear:  if the free market must be protected from greed with the environment, how much more must the full force of greed-business interests be restrained in politics?

 (3) Create Pathways for Third-Party Competition

The stranglehold of the business-conglomerate-interests on the two-party adversarial system is so strong it is doubtful that either party can extricate itself from the coils of the anaconda’s grip.  Alabama’s path forward presents with the solution of opening up competition with the two party system.  A third party must arise which competes with both parties by specifically attacking the slithering greed party and its hold on Republicans and Democrats alike.

Unsurprisingly, the two-party system has, in fact, protected itself from competition by implementing entry barterers to the political process against third parties.  Lamentably, Alabama is one of the top-ten most restrictive states in the Union for third parties to compete in the political process.

In Alabama, candidates must acquire written petitions of Alabama citizens in an amount equal to 3% of the population of Alabama. That’s about 35,000 signatures.  Through the process of determining if these signatures are valid, the Secretary of State discards many “invalid” signatures.  Thus, conventional wisdom dictates that third party should acquire 50,000 signatures – just to be safe.

For experienced third party advocates, like former Chairman of the Libertarian Party of Alabama, Leigh Lachine, the prospects of gathering volunteers to acquire those signatures is just too daunting.  Lachine recommends hiring a professional firm; the cost is about $3.00 per signature.  Thus, for a third party to get on the ballot, they have to spend an initial $150,000.

According to FairVote.org, “No one has managed to complete this petition since it came into existence in 1997 except the Libertarians in 2000.  Furthermore, if a party does get on, it needs to poll 20% of the vote for any statewide office to stay on.”

There is a rational basis in this, however.  Printing ballots is expensive. This bar, at least, ensures that the particular third party represents a sufficiently numerical interest of the community to justify the expensive to the State of placing their candidate on the ballot.

While the ballot access numbers can and should be lower, what is completely unacceptable is the prohibition on third parties from raising money.  Republican and Democratic candidates are able to raise money for the November 2018 election in June of 2017, one year before the primary.  Third party candidates are prohibited from raising money until November 2017.  Thus, not only are third party candidates handicapped with a $150,000 ballot access tab, they can’t get out of the gate with fundraising until 5 months after the two major parties. It’s hard to fathom any rational basis for this 1st Amendment infringement.

Further impeding the access of third-parties to compete against the greed-business party, is Alabama’s unwavering adherence to straight ticket voting.  Alabama is one of only eight states which implements this restrictive voting process. Straight-ticket ballots contain the option for a voter to check a box that will allow them to vote for all candidates in either the Republican or Democratic parties – without having to check any boxes for individual candidates.

Thus, for the busy and uninformed voter, the option of checking one box instead of 14 is attractive. According to Josh Tuttle, current Chairman of the Libertarian Party of Alabama, an incredible 60% of voters choose to check the box indicating straight-ticket voting.

While this policy may save a few seconds for busy voters, the net effect is to encourage voters to ignore any option outside of the traditional two-party system … a net win for the greed-business community.

(4) Attorney General Should Prioritize Investigation and Prosecution of “Business-Interest” Lobbyists

Perhaps the most unpopular, but impactful, suggestion so far will be to prioritize prosecution of the tools of business-interest conglomerates; i.e., lobbyists.  Certainly, we need stricter ethics restrictions … I would personally like to see persons whose livelihood is linked to lobbying for business interests barred from the State House during the legislative session.  However, we must first ensure that the laws we do have are being rigorously enforced.  Given all the ground we’ve covered; given the great propensity for the party of greed to manipulate government to their own good and the detriment of the community, we must demand that our Attorney General prioritize the investigation and prosecution of greed-party lobbyists.

We’ve seen the need for this with former speaker Mike Hubbard.  He was prosecuted for criminal conduct, but what of the business-interest lobbyists paying him off?  Why aren’t the payers of bribes, the lobbyists, being prosecuted?

We’ve seen this with Oliver Robinson, who struck a plead deal for corruption – for taking bribes from business-interest lobbyists … but, wait … where are the lobbyists? Are the bribers themselves being investigated and prosecuted?

Lobbyist are the tools in the hands of the greed interests. Lobbyists working for greed-business interests work in opposition to “grassroots” activists.

This legislative session saw the unprecedented volunteer work of a group of concerned citizens to pass Alabama’s mid-wife decriminalization bill.  It was a show of force indeed with some unpaid supporter, usually pregnant with children in-tow, at the State House everyday of the session.  One of the lobbyists of the greed-class in question could be heard saying under her breath, “What are THEY doing here?!”

We expect our tax-payer funded prosecutors to aggressively pursue criminals who rob houses to pay for crack cocaine. We should also expect our Attorney General to aggressively pursue politico-criminals who rob the poor to line their own pockets through manipulation of government policies and regulations.  By prioritizing the investigation and prosecution of lobbyist misconduct, the Alabama’s Attorney General can reap untold rewards for the people of Alabama.

(5)  Governor Should Implement Pence-style Federal Money Task Force

Just this week, the Alabama Department of Labor was bribed into collecting data on Alabama citizens with a $1,000,000 carrot from the Federal Government.  Rep. Terri Collins, in collaboration with BCA, have been chasing this Orwellian Data Collection money for some time.

Does BCA stop to consider whether the money we are receiving is rightly obtained in the first place? Or, if the Federal Government is within the bounds of the Constitution to dispense it?  No, the greed party doesn’t ask those questions. The greed party simply asks, “Is it possible, and do the rewards for me outweighs the risks for me?” Gov. Kay Ivey needs to establish a mechanism to oversee this race-to-the-bottom pursuit of federal money.

Alabama Attorney General’s Chief Counsel, Katherine Robertson, explained that when VP Mike Pence was Governor of Indiana, he “created the ‘Office of State-Based Initiatives’ in an effort to impose additional oversight and accountability on agencies receiving federal funds.  The main goal of the office is to “contribute to Indiana’s continued fiscal health” by “working with agencies to push back against onerous regulations that often accompany the return of federal dollars to Indiana.”

Such a federal-money-oversight office in Alabama can be “charged with reviewing the state’s federal grant opportunities and giving approval for any agency to seek a federal grant.”  Gov. Pence used this office to “subject each grant to a cost-benefit analysis” that “measure[s] the grant’s fiscal and regulatory impact.”

Alabama’s version of a Pence-style task force could go a long way to curtailing the forces of greed in Alabama politics. Access to the federal government’s deep pockets is often the main ambition of the greed-business interests in Alabama. Far too often, we see state actors competing to see how much of Alabama’s sovereignty they can cede to the federal government for a few ill-gotten morsels.

Conclusion

This is greed in politics: (1) powerful businesses use government to protect their turf and dampen competition, (2) elite businesses gain access to the public coffers through contracts, grants, and handouts, and (3) elected officials leverage their fiduciary position for self-enrichment or promotion.  With greed driving the wheels of Alabama politics, all of this happens to the great detriment of the community.

Alabama can be free again. We can cast off the noose of slavery, slowly hung by the greed-business interests of our State. To do this, we must embrace our motto: We dare defend our rights.

 

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Opinion | Mayor Woodfin: Tear down that statue

Josh Moon

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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.

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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.”

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.

 

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Opinion | What will our Congressional districts look like after the 2020 Census

Steve Flowers

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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.

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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.

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.

 

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Opinion | Why do Alabama governors insist on taking the unpopular path?

Josh Moon

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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.

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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.

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.

 

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Crime

Opinion | Slain Birmingham officer needed our help

Josh Moon

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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.

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In that same city, more than 200 people have been killed — most of them by gunfire — in just the past TWO YEARS.

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.

 

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A Disquisition on Greed in Politics, Part 3: Solutions to Greed in Alabama Politics

by Samuel McLure Read Time: 14 min
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