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Opinion | Beware the Ides of March

Joey Kennedy

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Beware the Ides of March, warned the seer to Julius Caesar, but Caesar didn’t, and the Roman emperor was reportedly assassinated on March 15, 44 BC.

On this Ides of March, there are other warnings going out, not for a literal assassination but, perhaps, massive political consequences. Politicians on all levels – federal, state, and local – need to be paying close attention, because voters, and especially young voters, look to be mad as hell and aren’t going to take it anymore.

They’ll let their voices be heard this fall in the midterm elections, so the seer might warn the Caesar-like politicians to beware the 6th of November as well.

At some point, more Americans are bound to wonder exactly what President Donald Trump owes the Russians. Or what the Russians have on him.

There must be something.

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The president refuses to slap sanctions on Russia, despite near-unanimous approval of those sanctions in a bipartisan vote by Congress. The president is quick to criticize specific Democrats and even members of his own administration (AG Jeff Sessions is “beleaguered”), but has yet to call out Russian President Vladmir Putin on anything, whether it’s cyberattacking the United States, running a simulation that has Russian nuclear weapons targeting Florida, or assassinating his critics with a deadly nerve agent in the United Kingdom.

And most Republicans appear to be standing behind their “beleaguered” president. Together they stand, united they fall?

Perhaps the most serious warning politicos would be astute to observe, or at least understand, is the hornet’s nest stirred up after the Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

Wednesday marked one month since the shootings, a month, generally of little or no activity on the part of Congress or state legislatures to do something about the violent gun culture we live in today.

The United States is an anomaly on this issue. The politicians try to limit the causes to mental health or violent video games and movies.

There are mentally ill people across the world. Kids across the globe play violent video games and watch violent movies.

We live in the only nation that has such a high rate of violent gun deaths, either one-on-one on a daily basis or the much too often mass killings like the one a month ago in Parkland, Fla.

It’s not even close, and the major difference between us and them: We have more than 300 million guns, many of them easily converted to fully automatic, out there, and practically unregulated.

Young people across the country aren’t being quiet this time. They’ve taken up the challenge to either change the current politicians’ mind-set toward sensible gun restrictions, or to warn them (Beware the Ides of March) that they won’t be around for long if they don’t do something more than simply bowing to the thugs who lead the National Rifle Association.

On Wednesday, students across the United States, commemorating the one-month anniversary of the Parkland shootings, walked out of their classes for 17 minutes – a minute for each of the victims killed in the spree.

Many students in Alabama walked out, too, with the blessings of their school officials. Other administrators didn’t allow students to leave their classrooms. Some students walked out, anyway, risking discipline for doing so.

Gov. Kay Ivey, in her typical proclivity to double-speak, said the students were “noble,” but shouldn’t walk out of their classrooms.

“We need our children in school to learn so they can advance their own careers,” Ivey said.

They’re learning, Governor. And they’re teaching, too. The adults better be listening to this lesson, because many of these students are going to be voting in November and certainly after. Don’t take them for granted.

It was Ivey, remember, who said she had no reason to doubt the sexual abuse accusers of former Chief Justice and U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore, then declared she’d vote for Moore because he is a Republican.

Do not ignore these young activists. Hear them, and respond to their pleas to be allowed to live in peace in their schools.

And that doesn’t mean arming teachers, either.

So the Ides of March is upon us. It’s a good time to heed warnings. Or, like Caesar, be ready to pay the consequences.

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

 

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Opinion | In the wake of the Brett Kavanaugh disaster, let’s finally start living well

Joey Kennedy

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Folks, Brett Kavanaugh is now a justice on the United States Supreme Court. We can’t do anything about that. For now.

This man, who despite credible accusations that he is a sexual predator, still didn’t deserve a place on the highest court in the land even if no accusations had been made. Kavanaugh showed he could easily become unhinged in his bizarre testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, even rudely challenging questioners when they asked about his excessive drinking and sex games as a high school and college student. He lied to the Judiciary Committee and America, even before that disturbing day following the brave testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. His crocodile tears and mock anger were embarrassing.

The cloud Kavanaugh brings to the Supreme Court will remain until he dies, but, seriously, there’s nothing we can do now. When Donald Trump, a sexual predator himself, apologizes to Kavanaugh for him having to answer for his bad behavior, we know Trump has little respect for the court, or women, or, indeed, humanity.

So here we are. We’re angry, sure, and we have a right to be. Even the one woman who could have made a difference, Maine Sen. Susan Collins, turned her back on the many women who have been raped and sexually assaulted during their lives, to vote for a man credibly accused of sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl and others.

Old, angry white men — knowing they won’t be in power much longer or even among the majority in this diverse, growing nation of non-white citizens — rammed through Kavanaugh’s nomination, even as a great majority of Americans opposed it. The geezers have to live with what they’ve done, as does beer-loving boofer Kavanaugh, who will always have a tattered reputation among decent people, no matter how long he serves on the Supreme Court. They won a battle; however, friends, this is a war.

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And that war, we can win.

Our voices can be heard. Let’s not let our anger and depression and frustration over what happened during the torture of the Kavanaugh confirmation make us forget the power we do have.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill predicts that just 35 percent to 40 percent of Alabama’s more than 3.3 million active and inactive registered voters will turn out of the Nov. 6 elections.

I think turnout will be much higher. And I think that, finally, Democrats and Independents will swamp Republicans in overall numbers at the polls. I’m not being naïve; it’s likely Republicans will still win most races – voters in Alabama have a long history of voting against their best interests and Republicans know their gerrymandering. The hot-button issues Republicans love to mine – immigration, abortion, LGBTQ rights, race issues, even their evangelical god – will drive many low-information voters to the polls.

Still, a lot of smart voters will be there, too. So I expect some surprises on Nov. 6. I don’t think Republicans, so comfortable in their arrogance, have any idea what kind of giant they have awakened.

With the #MeToo movement energizing women, the March for Our Lives movement motivating young voters and others disturbed about gun violence, the failure to protect young immigrants and children now in danger of deportation inspiring families from all ethnic backgrounds, the cruel attack on access to affordable health care rousing those without easy access to doctors and hospitals – Republicans may have stirred up voters in a way we have never seen during our lifetimes.

Yes, even here in Red, Red, Red Alabama.

I mean: Really? Fewer than half of Alabama’s voters showing up in less than a month for the election of our governor, chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, and other important offices? A 65 percent level of apathy in the wake of Kavanaugh and the re-victimization of thousands and thousands of women raped and sexually assaulted by men during their lives? In a day when our elected representatives refuse to pass reasonable gun restrictions and mental health reforms? When race relations are getting worse, not better? While our gay and lesbian friends and family members are openly being discriminated against? As millionaires and billionaires are getting whopping tax cuts, but hard-working individuals can’t even earn a living wage, and lawmakers are actively working to prevent them from doing so?

Sixty-five percent of Alabama voters staying home during next month’s election?

Maybe so. But perhaps not.

We need to take a Xanax, tap down our anger and misery over Brett Kavanaugh claiming his soiled seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, and work hard during the next month and weeks to make certain voters know who is running for office, who they’re voting for, why they’re voting for them, and then, dammit, turn up at the polls in record numbers to actually vote.

My wife, Veronica, often says: “The best revenge is living well.”

Let’s get out and vote on Tuesday, Nov. 6, and let’s finally start living well.

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

 

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Opinion | Let’s vote against dysfunction and disaster

Joey Kennedy

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Hey, you! Yeah, you, that person out there thinking your vote doesn’t matter.

It does.

On the cusp of state elections in Alabama and vital midterm elections nationally, your vote matters more than ever. Dear nonvoter: You cannot sit this one out. You need to get registered to vote if you aren’t, and you need to make plans to actually cast that vote if you are.

The election for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, chief justice of the state Supreme Court and other statewide offices is Tuesday, Nov. 6. A new Alabama Legislature will be elected, too. Alabama and the nation will choose a new Congress that day, 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives (seven here in Alabama) and 35 members of the U.S. Senate (33 regular elections and two special elections).

Alabama doesn’t have a U.S. Senate race; we decided ours in December of 2017 when Democrat Doug Jones won in a special election against Republican Roy Moore, an accused child predator endorsed by just about every Republican in Alabama and nationally, including President Donald Trump, an accused sexual predator himself. Jones is completing the term of now Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

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If you’re still wondering how important your vote is, look no farther than the disaster of Donald Trump.

Just this week, Trump was mocking Dr. Christine Blasey Ford at a political rally. Ford is the woman accusing U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault when she was 15 years old. Ford’s account during a Senate Judiciary hearing last week was very credible, while Kavanaugh came off as a, well, drunken teen.

Regardless of Ford’s accusations, it’s clear now that Kavanaugh lied to the Senate multiple times, about multiple issues, yet he’s still in the running for a seat on the Supreme Court.

Leave it to a sexual predator (Trump) to nominate another sexual predator (Kavanaugh) to a lifetime position on the nation’s highest court.

And Republicans, who apparently haven’t met a sexual predator they don’t like, appear poised to confirm Kavanaugh, even as additional reports prove that not only was Kavanaugh a heavy drinker in high school and college, but a belligerent, obnoxious heavy drinker who helped start at least one bar fight while a student at Yale. It looked like he wanted to start a fight with Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. Rarely has white privilege been on display like it was when Kavanaugh showed his unjudicial temperament to a nation watching on TV. Plus, he’s whiney, especially about his calendars.

Your vote matters. It matters a lot. Even in disturbingly Red Alabama it matters. That was underscored no more clearly than in Jones’ victory in December.

Even with child sexual molestation accusations hanging over his head, Moore nearly beat Jones, a person of high integrity with no hint of scandal on his record. Moore, even before The Washington Post outed his proclivity for teenaged girls, had already been kicked off the state Supreme Court twice for failing to follow the law. But if not for a high turnout for Jones, especially from African-American women, Moore would have won.

The Republican nominee this year for chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Tom Parker, is a close Moore associate. That alone should give voters pause, especially considering that Judge Robert Vance is the Democratic nominee. Vance is a well-respected judge who is superbly qualified to lead the state’s court system. It should be no contest.

Indeed, there are many well-qualified Democrats running against Republicans across Alabama, but perhaps none more qualified than Vance. We should be bone-weary of a Supreme Court led by megalomaniacs who won’t even follow the state and national constitutions they swear to uphold. Dear voters, Moore and Parker have emerged from the same mold.

For governor, Democrat Walt Maddox, the accomplished mayor of Tuscaloosa, is vastly more qualified than current Republican governor Kay Ivey, who took over for another disgraced Republican, Dr. Dr. Robert Bentley, boob grabber. Except for ribbon cuttings and highly controlled events, Ivey has been invisible during this campaign.

Ivey, almost literally, is a ghost.

You don’t think one or two votes matter? Consider where we are today: A White House in disarray, with a conspiracy-theorist president who is racist, misogynous, xenophobic, homophobic, in love with Russia and North Korea, a pathological liar, a tax-scam criminal, and an embarrassment to decent people.

If you’re not embarrassed by Trump, you need to seriously self-examine your own perspective of decency.

And here’s the kicker: Trump lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton in 2016 by 3.5 million votes. Trump won the Electoral College, but if just 80,000 more votes across Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin had gone to Clinton, she’d be president today and we wouldn’t be deluged with all this disorder day in and day out.

Clinton ran a horrible campaign – she took those three states for granted, and that mistake gave us our current, (mostly) man-made, unnatural disaster.

Had Clinton just done one point better in each of those states, she’d have won the Electoral College, too. Yet, there were tens of thousands of likely Clinton voters who just stayed home and didn’t vote.

You don’t think your vote counts? Well, dammit, it does.

It truly does!

When we don’t vote, and vote smart, we often get what we deserve: Confusion, corruption, mobocracy, and more bad stuff.

We can begin to end our disturbing dysfunction one month from now. Let’s do this.

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

 

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Opinion | An election with a difference

Joey Kennedy

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The last full month of campaigning for the Nov. 6, General Election starts Monday, and unless voters demand more of Republicans running for office, Alabamians will likely see more of what they’ve been seeing so far this campaign season: Not a whole lot.

That’s too bad, because for the first time in a long while, voters truly have real choices, if they’re into choices, that is.

For voters who only care who has an “R” or a “D” by their names – no matter how qualified (or unqualified) a candidate is – it’s already a lost cause.

In Alabama, it could very well go that way.

Republican Gov. Kay Ivey, never elected to that position, remains practically invisible. She shows up at ribbon cuttings and industry announcements, but does little else. She steadfastly refuses to debate Democratic Party nominee Walt Maddox, the successful mayor of Tuscaloosa, apparently because she’s scared to death she can’t hold her own against Maddox.

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True, observers wonder whether Ivey is even all there – and, of course, she’s not. I’m not talking about Ivey’s mental or physical health, though that is a concern. I’m talking about Ivey showing up anywhere that anyone might ask a hard question.

For the most part, Republicans across the board have dodged debates as frantically as Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has dodged an impartial investigation into his alleged sexual assault of girls when he was a too-frequently drunk young man in high school and college.

Republicans, on both the state and national level, have made it clear they want nothing to do with accountability. Led by their party’s oligarch, Donald Trump, they have managed to alienate just about every group in the country but Angry White Men.

Over the past couple years, Republicans (overwhelmingly white males) have offended:

— Millions of women with their insensitivity to the #MeToo movement and their determination to dictate what women are legally allowed to do with their bodies.

— Immigrants with their cage-the-children, split-up-families policies and aversion to allowing political asylum to discarded refugees.

— African-Americans with their #WhiteLivesMatterMoreThanBlackLivesMatter rhetoric and race-baiting political campaigns.

— The LGBTQ community with their homophobic language and anti-gay policies.

— Victims of senseless gun violence and their families with their “A Firearm in Every Palm” mind-set and their Arm-Teachers-with-Pistols-Instead-of-Textbooks mentality.

— The environmental and conservation communities with their “More Fossil Fuels” crusades and science-challenged opposition to anything designed to check climate change.

That’s not all. Republicans have opposed raising the minimum wage, expanding Medicaid to the working poor, maintaining health insurance protections for those with pre-existing conditions, and keeping the social safety net in place for the nation’s profoundly poor men, women, and children.

Big tax cuts for billion-dollar corporations and millionaires are just fine with these Republicans, even as they increase the nation’s national debt by trillions of dollars and turn their backs on a once-proud legacy of fiscal responsibility.

Those receiving Social Security and Medicare should be afraid – very afraid – because Republicans are targeting those programs as well, and nothing good will come if Republicans prevail.

So, yes, in the upcoming midterm election, voters have real choices. They can vote for the practically invisible Republicans, simply because they have an “R” after their names, or take their chances on candidates who have promised to make a true Difference with a big “D” – and  have made it clear to voters the specific policies they’ll support and why they support them.

This isn’t complicated. Alabamians can vote for their best interests – or against them. Our history says we’ll vote against them, but we haven’t had this kind of election in a long, long time. There will be surprises. Many eligible voters who have stayed home in the past are motivated as never before this year.

If those men and women who mean-spirited Republicans have consistently, intentionally offended and marginalized over the past few years actually vote, it might truly be the very last gasp of the Angry White Man.

It couldn’t happen to a more deserving group, either.

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

 

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Opinion | Men are pigs; yes, they are

Joey Kennedy

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So it’s happening again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Opinion | Beware the Ides of March

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