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Opinion | How has Trump deceived you? Let’s count the ways

Josh Moon

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Over the weekend, the same Facebook post kept popping up on my feed.

It was, essentially, a long whine about how poorly Donald Trump has been treated by pretty much everyone since becoming president. And at the end, before sharing it to show support for dear leader, each person signed his or her name and listed their hometowns.

I was not shocked to find that most of the names were from Alabama.

Trump is essentially a poor man’s George Wallace — all of the hate, shadiness and ego, none of the craftiness and intelligence — so of course he plays well among this crowd. He hates non-white people, thinks we should hear the white nationalists’ side of things and made a public display of praying with the Alabama football team. We’re already looking for a stretch of interstate to name after the dope.

But if you’re looking for real world reasons to support the guy, well, that’s where the good people of Alabama lose me.

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Trump doesn’t just lie all the time, he’s lied to you, Alabama voter, repeatedly. And not small lies. Big lies.

And YUGE failures.   

  • “I’m gonna say, ‘Mexico, this is not going to continue, you’re going to pay for that wall,’ and they will pay for the wall.”

— Donald Trump, Aug. 5, 2015

Guess what? Not only has just 20 miles of border wall been approved so far, you won’t believe who’s paying for it. Here’s a hint: It’s not Mexico, and it looks a lot like the person you see in the mirror.

  • “We will repeal and replace disastrous Obamacare. You will be able to choose your own doctor again.”

— Donald Trump, July 22, 2016

You’ll be shocked to discover that Obamacare was not repealed. Also, there was no Trump health care plan that covered everyone for much less, as he also promised. The plan he did introduce — so awful that even Congressional Republicans didn’t have the heart to pass it — cost ten times as much and covered 20 million fewer people.

  • “We will bring back coal and get clean coal” to “put you (coal workers) back to work.”

— Donald Trump, July 28, 2016

Nope. Since Trump took office, coal jobs have continued to decline. You know, it’s almost as if it’s an outdated energy resource that’s being replaced by less costly, more efficient resources. Because that’s exactly what’s happening. Which is why the last president — you remember, the black guy you thought was the antichrist — tried to give you job training in those new technologies. Instead, you trusted the billionaire who literally thought “clean coal” meant scrubbing the black off. Good call.

  • “When I see the crumbling roads and bridges, or the dilapidated airports or the factories moving overseas to Mexico, or to other countries for that matter, I know these problems can all be fixed, but not by Hillary Clinton. Only by me.”

— Donald Trump, June 22, 2016

We’re well over a year into this presidency now and Trump has just dumped out his “plan” for infrastructure — an utterly impossible dream that would be unworkable even if he hadn’t ballooned the annual deficit with his stupid tax cuts for the wealthy.

  • On day one of a Trump administration, the U.S. Treasury Department will designate China a currency manipulator.

— Donald Trump, Nov. 9, 2015 (Wall Street Journal)

China … still not labeled a currency manipulator on Day 475.

  • “We are getting rid of the carried interest loophole.”

— Donald Trump, Aug. 11, 2016

Narrator voice: He did not get rid of the carried interest loophole.

  • “I’m so much more into the middle class who have just been absolutely forgotten in our country. Everybody’s getting a tax cut, especially the middle class.”

— Donald Trump, May, 2016

Funny story: the tax plan will actually benefit the middle class the least, with the top 1 percent receiving 84 percent of the cuts by 2024 and 53 percent of Americans actually paying more.

And it doesn’t stop there.

Trump has been engulfed in scandal since his first day, when he started a stupid fight over his inauguration crowd size, and has slowly eroded any decency associated with the office of U.S. president. He’s been caught paying off a porn star, has been accused by multiple women of sexual assault, has spent more on golf vacations in one year than Obama did in three, has run through more White House staff than most presidents do in two terms and he’s employed some of the swampiest of swampy DC insiders.

And none of that even touches on the ongoing Mueller investigation, which has already led to four Trump associates being indicted and the raid of Trump’s lawyer’s office.

It’s an embarrassment that will cheapen the office of president for years to come. But these folks in Alabama — the same ones who wanted to impeach Obama because of this thing that happened in Benghazi that he was probably responsible for, because he was a secret Muslim terrorist sent by George Soros — are signing public declarations of support.

But then, I can only give you the facts. I can’t comprehend them for you.

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Opinion | Maddox is right: The state shouldn’t pay for Bentley’s attorneys

Josh Moon

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Should the state be footing the bill for attorneys to defend former Gov. Robert Bentley in a wrongful termination lawsuit filed by former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency head Spencer Collier?

Gov. Kay Ivey says it should, that the state has an obligation to do so under the law.

Her challenger for the seat she currently holds, Walt Maddox, says no, and that Ivey is wrong about the state’s requirement to do so.

The war of words about the lawsuit started last week, when the Maddox camp questioned why the state was still footing the bill — a bill that’s surpassed $300,000 so far — to defend Bentley. Ivey responded to questions about the payments to Bentley’s attorneys over the weekend, saying it was appropriate to pay the bill, because the law requires it.

On Tuesday, the Maddox campaign issued a press release saying Ivey is mistaken about the law.

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And so, here we are.

First things first, let’s back up and explain just what’s going on.

Near the end of his tenure as governor, Bentley had a falling out with Collier over a request the Alabama Attorney General’s office was making of Collier. Basically, the AG’s office wanted Collier to file an affidavit about an investigation that was sort of related to the Mike Hubbard prosecution.

Bentley ordered Collier not to provide an affidavit and to instead tell the AG’s office that the investigation was ongoing.

Collier was concerned that lying to the AG’s investigator would violate the law. (It definitely does.) So, instead, he worked with Bentley’s legal advisor and issued a watered-down affidavit. When Bentley discovered what had been done, he fired Collier.

Collier, in his court filings, claims Bentley then set out to destroy him professionally through an investigation into misappropriated funds in ALEA and a smear campaign that, among other things, alleged that Collier was a drug addict.

So, Collier filed a wrongful termination lawsuit.

Ordinarily, such lawsuits would be kicked quickly by judges because state employees, such as the governor, enjoy immunity from lawsuits that arise from official acts. And in this case, Judge Greg Griffin agreed and dismissed most of the counts in Collier’s lawsuit.

But he also found that some of Bentley’s actions — specifically, the parts in which he retaliated against Collier — fell outside of his official duties. And so, he allowed the lawsuit to move forward. 

You should also know just why we, the taxpayers, are paying for Bentley’s defense in the first place.

The State of Alabama has an insurance program known as the General Liability Trust Fund that is used to pay for the legal defense of state employees who are sued as a result of incidents that occur while these employees are doing their state jobs. It also is used to cover any settlements stemming from lawsuits against state employees.

The official wording from the Code of Alabama says the GLTF will be used to cover “acts or omissions committed by the covered employee while in the performance of their official duties in the line and scope of their employment.”

And that brings us back to the argument between Ivey and Maddox.

Ivey claims that the law says Bentley should be covered. The Maddox camp says that was true up until the point the judge in the case found that Bentley’s actions fell outside the scope of his official duties.

After speaking to a few attorneys, it seems that the Maddox camp is right.

Griffin’s decision to allow the case to move forward, and specifically rejecting the defense’s motion to dismiss on the grounds that Bentley was immune from prosecution, recast Bentley’s position. His actions had to fall outside of the scope of his official duties in order for the lawsuit to proceed, which means the state has no responsibility to cover him.

Of course, there’s one other option here: Ivey could simply settle the lawsuit.

Collier was clearly wronged, and the state has all but admitted as much. The guy nearly went broke because our former governor lost his mind. To continue on with this lawsuit and the defense of Bentley is not just a monumental waste of money, it’s an embarrassment.

And it’s one more example of the political elite in this state operating a system that ensures they’re protected no matter the crimes they commit or the egregious nature of their behavior.

Collier didn’t deserve what happened to him and the rest of us don’t deserve to watch our hard-earned dollars be squandered on Bentley’s high-priced attorneys.

 

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Opinion | Why are white people so scared?

Josh Moon

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Several Saturdays each Fall, Auburn University students, faculty and alumni — thousands of them — roll into Jordan Hare Stadium on campus to cheer for the school’s football team.

The majority of the players are black.

The school’s basketball teams — both mens and womens — are made up primarily of black players.

The school’s most recognized alumni, who have giant banners and statues on campus, are mostly black former athletes.

The Auburn marching band is influenced by the bands at historically black colleges.

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The music played at most athletic and other campus events comes mostly from black artists.

And yet, last weekend, when Auburn officials decided to honor the impact and influence of diversity on its campus, many of the students and alums and sidewalk fans reacted like … backwoods rednecks who had to shrug off their klan hoods on their way into the stadium.

There were fights. There were racist banners hung up by over-privileged frat boys. There were racist comments on several different university-operated social media pages.

It was, to put it bluntly, an utter embarrassment.

To the state. To all Auburn people.

The diversity weekend sponsored by the university was a fantastic idea, and holding it on the same weekend that the football team played Alabama State University, a historically black college in Montgomery, was a nice touch.

I know a lot of the people at ASU, including president Quinton Ross and several people in the athletic administration. They were genuinely excited about going to Auburn, playing that game and enjoying the gameday experience in an SEC venue.

They had no expectations of winning. They just wanted to compete, pick up some much needed cash for their program, show off their band and then head back down I-85. Everyone happy. Everything good.

What they got instead was a clown show from a bunch of racist morons.

But then, why am I surprised?

On a certain cable “news” network over the past several weeks, there have been hosts of opinion shows openly questioning “the value of diversity.” On something called “NRA TV” recently, there was a segment that put a children’s cartoon character in a KKK hood because the NRA hosts were trying, without success, to make some derogatory point about diversity. On college campuses all around the country, and especially in the South, there has been an uptick in controversial, racist speakers.

So, it should come as no surprise, I guess, that one of the most conservative campuses in America — a campus where such programming is consumed and parroted and where there exists a “white student union” — would be so resistant to recognizing the positive impacts of different perspectives and backgrounds.

I don’t understand what’s happening in America now.

For decades, we seemed to acknowledge that our racist ways were wrong, and at the very least everyone pretended to be in favor of equality and inclusion. We seemed genuinely intent on correcting the sins of the past and moving towards a country that lived up to its promises of equality for all men.

Now, almost overnight, there seems to be a shift back to a time when ignorant ideas, grounded in fear and hatred, were prevalent. Ideas that have convinced privileged white kids they’re being held back. Ideas that have left many white people living in fear.

And look, I’d love to pretend that it isn’t so bad, that people are making more out of it than they should. But then … Nazi sympathizers have been marching in American streets and the U.S. president said some of them were probably “good people.”

That’s a bit of a problem.

And the results of the spread of this nonsense were on display last weekend in Auburn, when the simple act of playing a historically black college so incensed people that they were a few steps away from fire hoses and dogs.

Enough is enough. White people need to get their stuff together and stop falling for the same tired fear tactics that have been used for centuries. America, like all countries, is never stronger than when it truly works together, ensuring the equality of all citizens.

 

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Josh Moon

Analysis | The myth of the “simple lottery bill”

Josh Moon

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There is no such thing as a “simple lottery bill” in the state of Alabama.

You hear this phrase a lot from state lawmakers, as they field the inevitable questions about gambling that pop up prior to each legislative session or prior to elections in which one candidate — usually a Democrat — has proposed a lottery to raise state revenues.

And right on cue, with Walt Maddox running for governor and the state facing huge budget deficits in 2019, the lottery question has surfaced again.

And again, state lawmakers have proclaimed that the only thing that will pass in this state is a “simple lottery bill.”

What they mean by that, of course, is they want to pass a bill that approves only a statewide lottery, with no provisions for legalizing other gambling, such as electronic bingo, video lottery terminals or table games. (Also, keep in mind that any legislation passed by lawmakers would have to go on a ballot and be approved by state voters, since the state’s constitution outlaws gambling.)

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The problem with that is it ignores the very complicated, very nuanced world of Native American gaming law.

To put it simply: Because Alabama has a federally recognized tribe, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, that’s already operating casinos, the implementation of a lottery would almost assure the Poarch Creeks the right to operate casinos with a higher class of casino games, and would likely lead to the tribe operating full-fledged casinos, complete with table games and real slot machines. 

While that would be great for the Poarch Creeks, it wouldn’t be the best path for the state, at least from a revenue standpoint. Non-Indian casinos can be taxed at much higher rates and stand to bring the state much higher revenue numbers.

To understand why a “simple lottery bill” is a misnomer, you have to read about three dozen federal court and U.S. Supreme Court decisions, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) and a number of news stories on the fights between states and tribes. It also wouldn’t hurt to talk to a few attorneys, and read a few legal opinions, from people who have no dog in Alabama’s fight.

Luckily for you, I’ve done all of that. And while I’m no attorney, and don’t even play one on TV, I am pretty good at repeating stuff I’ve been told and acting like I know what I’m talking about.

So, here’s the condensed version of all that.

IGRA breaks gambling into three categories: Class I, which is social games such as raffles and junk; Class II, which is bingo and lotto; and Class III, which is everything else, including table games, slot machines and — here’s the biggie — lotteries.

Under IGRA, in order for a tribe to be able to offer any sort of Class II or Class III gaming, games that fall into those categories must be legal elsewhere in the state where the tribe’s lands are located. (This is why the Poarch Creeks can offer electronic bingo, a Class II game, in Alabama — because bingo is legally played in Alabama elsewhere, and the federal government, unlike Alabama’s courts, determined that the game can be played electronically.)

Also, IGRA requires that states and tribes enter into compacts before the tribes can offer the games that fall in Class III. That requirement provides some protections to states, ensuring that it can have some say-so over the more serious casino-style gaming.

But there’s also a protection built in for tribes, and this is where the lottery component opens things up for the Poarch Creeks.

IGRA, enforced by the National Indian Gaming Commission and the Department of the Interior, requires states that offer Class III gaming to negotiate in good faith with tribes seeking a compact. Until a recent federal court ruling in Florida, tribes could compel states to negotiate through the use of the courts, but a sovereign immunity ruling in Florida’s favor upended that avenue.

Instead, now, if a state refuses to negotiate with a tribe, the Secretary of the Interior can simply implement a gaming plan on his own for that tribe, legalizing Class III gaming with or without the state’s consent.

So, what does all of that mean for Alabama?

It means that approving a lottery for the state opens up other possibilities for the Poarch Creeks, and could result in the state being either forced into a compact or forced to allow some form of Class III gaming.

I say “some form,” because generally speaking, the NIGC will not allow the tribes to offer games that are not offered in the state. But as we’ve seen with the electronic bingo v. traditional bingo argument, there is some wiggle room in the definitions.

Most likely what we could bank on is this: If a lottery passes, the Poarch Creeks would then have the right to operate their own lottery. Just like with the liberal definitions of “bingo,” the NIGC has also been flexible on lottery games, such as video lottery terminals (VLTs), allowing them in most cases. And the courts, with a few nuanced exceptions, have mostly backed the tribes in any disputes.

VLTs operate similar to slots and mimic the paper scratch-offs. They’re faster than electronic bingo games, and due to their popularity in other states, the VLT games and machine offerings are much more advanced and nuanced.

That would, of course, automatically give the Poarch Creeks a leg up over non-Indian casinos. As if the tribe needs another one at this point.

But it would also severely limit the state’s ability to earn revenue from both its lottery and the revenue available from gaming.

And it’s why there is no such thing as a “simple lottery bill” in Alabama.

 

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Opinion | Jeff Sessions’ lonely island

Josh Moon

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You live by the cowardice, you die by the cowardice.

Jeff Sessions is learning that lesson the hard way these days, as he adjusts to life on his lonely, lonely island.

Years of bigotry and shadiness alienated him from everyone center-right and to the left. And now, the poor ol’ fella has done been out-bigoted by a Yankee — Donald Trump, interim president.

And that Yankee has made awful comments about Sessions.

Said he talked like he had a mouth full of marbles. Said he went to a substandard law school, the University of Alabama.

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Trump has tossed Sessions under so many buses at this point, he’s starting to resemble the possum that “SNL” makes him out to be.

And yet, as this Yankee insults one of Alabama’s true sons — a man so southern that he carries the name of a Confederate president AND one of the Dukes of Hazzard — there isn’t so much as a peep from the Alabama Republican guard.

As Sessions has come under repeated attack from Trump, not one prominent Alabama Republican has come to his defense. Except for Gary Palmer. So, as I said, no one.

Not Mo Brooks. Not Bradley Byrne. Not Mike Rogers. Not Martha Roby. Not even longtime Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby.

They’ve all sold out Sessions for Trump, a deranged lunatic who will be an embarrassment to this country for generations to come. All because Sessions made the right decision for once in his life and righly recused from the Russian collusion probe.

So, for finally doing the right thing, Sessions will probably be fired. And he’ll be fired by a president who, on Sunday, while again vilifying Sessions, openly advocated for the U.S. AG to determine criminal prosecutions based on political party affiliations.

And still, not a peep from Sessions’ party mates.

Which should come as a shock to no one.

Because today’s GOP is the party of cowardice.

The entire party platform is built on fear and scare tactics. Its members vote in lockstep, afraid to step out of line. And its voters are the ones who fall for the oh-my-God-we’re-all-gonna-die sales pitches.

Sessions should know this better than anyone.

He’s built an entire political life peddling fear and playing the victim — whether it’s convincing everyone that black people are vilifying cops by asking not to die for no good reason or pretending that colleges are disenfranchising white people by prioritizing diversity or proclaiming that the true victims of religious bigotry are the American Christians with the churches on every corner.

Sessions has been playing this game for decades now, just waiting on the party to shift to the extreme right enough that it embraces blatant white supremacy and finally his views wouldn’t be so radical.

It’s actually quite the glorious irony that Sessions would have his dream job ripped away from him because some New York loudmouth was better at being a racist.

Because that’s exactly what’s happened.

As Trump has continued to blow his racist dog whistles, causing the ears of Alabama’s racist rednecks to perk, defending Sessions became more and more of a political liability to the state’s elected officials.

The same guys who donned red MAGA hats and gleefully enjoyed being Sessions’ guest at rallies and DC parties are now pretending like they’ve lost the guy’s number, can’t remember his name and never really knew him that well.

Because, at the end of the day, they are cowards.

That’s all they’ve ever been. That’s all the party has been built on — absolute fear of everything and everyone different.

Different skin color, different religion, different dress, different language, different origin.

They’re scared of it all. And they’ve convinced their voters to be scared of it.

But there’s a cost to pushing all of that fear: When you need someone to get your back in a tough situation, there are nothing but cowards around.

 

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Opinion | How has Trump deceived you? Let’s count the ways

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