By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ on Friday talked with Alabama Deputy Secretary of State Emily Thompson at the Alabama Secretary of State office about concerns that some third party activists had about paperwork that they had submitted in the last hours of qualifying for the Presidential ballot. Assistant Secretary of State Thompson said that the Alabama Secretary of State’s office was still in the process of verifying the signatures on the ballots; but the paperwork was correct, it appears that the candidates’ do have the requisite number of signatures too qualify and the paperwork was submitted on time. If there are no problems in the signature verification process, Alabama voters will have five candidates for President of the United States to select from.
Deputy Secretary of State Thompson said that the Constitution Party successfully qualified their candidate, Virgil Goode. The Libertarian Party candidate for President, Gary Johnson will also be on the Alabama ballot as will Green Party candidate, Dr. Jill Stein.
‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ talked with Conservative Party Chairman Richard Rutledge from Birmingham. While Rutledge’s Conservative Party chose not to nominate a candidate for President in this election, he worked closely with the leaders of the Alabama Constitution Party to help them qualify their candidate, Virgil Goode. Richard Rutledge said that for a third party to get ballot access statewide they had to collect 44,600 signatures of Alabama registered voters who sign that they support that party’s candidate getting on the ballot. If a third party candidate manages to win 20% of the Alabama vote, then all the ballot is opened up for that party in the next election. The problem with that according to Chairman Rutledge is that the 44,600 signature number is simply too high to easily achieve. For that reason third party candidates actually qualify as independents. Independent candidates only need 6,000 signatures to get ballot access. According to Rutledge the problem with that is even if Johnson, Stein, or Goode get 20% of the Alabama vote (or even if they won the office) their party would not get automatic ballot wide access in the next election. Candidate’s are paying paid petition collectors $1.75 to $2.75 per signature, thus making getting full third party access prohibitively expensive.
Virgil Goode is a former Democratic Congressman who switched to the Republican Party before his eventual defeat in 2008. Goode is now running for President as the nominee of the conservative Constitution Party. In a Forbes interview Goode said, “I believe we’re an exceptional country,” observes Goode “but we must get back to being exceptional. We’re not globalists.” To “balance the budget, we need to step back from foreign entanglements.” Goode said that the other parties “are prone to extend ourselves into too many areas.”
Gary Johnson is a former construction company founder and CEO and the Republican Governor of New Mexico. He is a strong proponent of smaller government and drug legalization. Governor Gary Johnson said on Twitter, “Ron Paul’s movement is not a fluke, it is the future.” In an interview by Ben Johnson, Gov. Johnson said, “Forty-three cents out of every dollar we’re spending is…being printed. If we don’t balance the federal budget, I maintain we’re going to have a monetary collapse.” Johnson is calling for a massive 43% cut in defense spending while also cutting Medicare and Medicaid.
Dr Jill Stein is a doctor, writer, and frequent Green Party candidate in Massachusetts. Dr. Stein said on Twitter, “We support eliminating corporate person hood w/ a constitutional amendment to clarify that only humans have constitutional rights.” Dr. Stein said in the Philadelphia Inquirer, “I’m running because we’re in a crisis. Because I’m a mother and mothers don’t give up. When the president put Medicare and Social Security on the chopping block last year, I suddenly got religion about national politics. I’ve always been active on the state and local level, but suddenly I understood and felt like so many others that it was unthinkable that these threats would go unchallenged in the national debate. So I became involved with the Greens. The nation is in crisis. People are losing jobs, losing their homes, the climate is in meltdown, the rich are getting richer and the political establishment is making things worse by imposing austerity on the American people while they squander trillions on wars, Wall Street bailouts and tax breaks for the wealthy.”
As of press time none of the three candidates have been invited to participate in the debates between Republican Mitt Romney and Democratic incumbent Barack H. Obama.
Opinion | Thinking: I’ll know it when I see it
“Have we accumulated so much knowledge that we know nothing?”
Lately, I’ve been adhering to the old adage, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” So, what have I been doing with all my free time? Thinking — or at least I think I’m thinking.
When I look over the political landscape here at home and across the nation, I see a great surge of self-interest, special-interest, and “us versus them” loathing, but little in the way of what constitutes the common good.
Politics lately have more in common with the campfire scene in Blazing Saddles than a renaissance weekend in Charleston. All hot air and bluster and little fact or reasoning.
American politics have always been loud, factious, full of complexities and uncertainty, but these elements have generally led us to find consensus. Sometimes, it’s an uneasy truce but one that on the whole leaves us better and not irreconcilably divided.
However, today, tribal hatred in the form of political parties, a desire for one side to dominate the other, and the widespread acceptance of “alternative facts” has reduced public policy to the equivalent of a high stakes fight over which color M&M tastes best.
French-born philosopher, mathematician, and scientist René Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am” as proof of his existence. Written originally in French and then Latin, it reads cogito ergo sum because I guess smart people in Descartes’ day wrote scholarly works in Latin.
Today we use memes, YouTube videos, and trucker hats to convey our deeply held convictions.
I’ve been thinking about another Latin phrase I’d like to see added to the lexicon of debate “non cogito ergo non sum” roughly translated, I don’t think; therefore, I am not.
Of course, we know that there are a lot of unthinking people; many we call voters.
A trip to a big box store or any retail outlet with the word “dollar” in its name proves that the average citizen shouldn’t be trusted with making big decisions, like who will run the country. But the alternative is worse, so we let everyone have a say on Election Day.
But because The People’s Republic of Walmart is a key voting block, the Constitution and individual states’ laws are there to check devotee’s lack of discernment. This is not to say that elites exercise greater intellect. Cable pundits and influential internet bloggers tell us that the nation faces multiple existential threats, not the least from people who use the word existential.
Merriam-Webster defines existential as “relating to, or affirming existence.” I defer back to big box shoppers, “ergo ego emo.” I shop, therefore I am.
Thinking is hard work and not for the faint of heart because reflection can reveal unpleasant truths or even cause us to realize that what we thought was true wasn’t.
In the early 1990s, a New York media mogul asked me what I thought the Internet might become in the future. I told him if we were lucky, every human-being would have access to a range of information to rival the Great Library of Alexandria. It could also, I said, be an enabling tool for global democracy. But then I added It would most likely be just a place for people to watch kittens and porn.
I used to think that moral wisdom and national interests depended on logical, coherent, and precisely written words penned by studied minds. I believed this because The Ten Commandments carved in stone gave rise to a set of moral principles that shaped in part the ancient world and western civilization. Our Nation’s Declaration of Independence, written with quill and ink, led to a new democratic republic in the United States and a model for the world over. Now the world’s most enduring democracy is often directed by tweets.
Have we accumulated so much knowledge that we know nothing?
Instead of inspired reason, will 220 characters do? Does writing in all caps make the thought better, or does the author think that readers are just to simple to understand their meaning without added emphasis?
Perhaps here, more Latin is needed; “Cogito ergo non tweet.” You guessed it, I think, therefore, I don’t tweet.
But nowhere is there less thinking than among those who know they are right because they are the chosen ones privy to all things conspiratorial.
In her book, Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism, Anne Applebaum writes, “The emotional appeal of a conspiracy theory is in its simplicity. It explains away complex phenomena, accounts for chance and accidents, offers the believer the satisfying sense of having special, privileged access to the truth.”
Having spent most of my life around powerful women and men, I’ve learned that none are capable of grand schemes as imagined on the internet, and even fewer can keep their mouths shut. If there were a cabal of Catilines, they would not be found on FaceBook or the pages to the John Birch Society’s website.
Politicians will always rage, people will hate, but with a bit of good fortune, our state and nation will endure because a few souls will place the common good above self-interest and factions.
It’s not always easy to tell who is thinking and who is not, but as Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said when referring to hard-core pornography, “I know it when I see it.”
While I still don’t have many nice things to say, and I’m not sure my thinking matters at all, I will admit I have hope, that enduring belief that there is a chance that we can do better, and that we will.
Opinion | Alabama’s public corruption problem might just be hopeless
“Mike Hubbard committed crimes with the solitary intention of illegally enriching himself.”
Mike Hubbard stole more than $2 million. Let’s start right there, so we don’t get things twisted, because there’s a tendency in this state, when the criminal is wearing a suit and tie, to believe that the crime wasn’t really a crime and that it was something more complicated and sophisticated than a guy stealing money from you for himself.
This wasn’t an accident. It wasn’t a wrong place, wrong time deal. He didn’t forget to carry the one and, oops, $2 million landed in his account.
No. Mike Hubbard committed crimes with the solitary intention of illegally enriching himself.
Hubbard used his intelligence and charm and ruthlessness to rise to a position of power that allowed him to influence the budget process, and then he used that position and his intelligence to benefit himself at the expense of state businesses, taxpayers and the state itself.
If Hubbard had his way, one of his clients would have been granted an illegal monopoly, improperly squeezing out other deserving state businesses and possibly costing Alabama citizens their jobs and livelihoods.
In other instances, Hubbard concocted a means by which wealthy business owners in the state could “gift” their “friend” hundreds of thousands of dollars. Money that we all know would have been returned to the friends many times over in the form of friendly legislation and government contracts — which is the very reason such “gifts” were deemed illegal by a legislature led by Hubbard.
These things were wrong. They were deplorable. And they were, quite blatantly, illegal.
And yet, for the past four-plus years, this state’s judges and lawmakers — actually, let me be accurate: this state’s REPUBLICAN judges and REPUBLICAN lawmakers — have bent over backwards to bend, alter and change the laws that convicted Hubbard — the laws that Hubbard helped write — in order to reduce or eliminate the sentence handed down to their friend.
Finally, last week, the day before Thanksgiving — the day historically set aside for information dumps of embarrassing news you’re hoping will get lost in a four-day holiday weekend — Lee County Judge Jacob Walker, leaning on the suspect legal work of the Alabama Supreme Court — the most activist court in all of America — cut nearly half of Hubbard’s sentence.
Instead of four years, Hubbard will now serve just 28 months.
That is a travesty.
Not because 28 months instead of four years necessarily sends a message of leniency to future thieves. But because the sordid and embarrassing manner in which the sentence was reduced has been a case study in systemic public corruption and ruling class privilege.
It has made clear that there is one set of laws and rules for the working stiffs and poor and a whole other set for the wealthy and powerful.
When the ethics laws of this state were adopted several years ago, Republicans, including Hubbard, hailed them as true game-changers for Alabama politics. They talked loudly and often about how necessary these ethics laws were to remove the stench of corruption and pay-to-play favoritism from our state government. They promised that these laws would help level the playing field and restore the faith of Alabama citizens in their government.
All of that was BS.
Within months, the primary architect of those laws was secretly plotting to circumvent them in the interest of personal gain, his private emails showed us. Not only that, he and top ALGOP officials and donors were conspiring together to subvert those laws and enrich themselves.
What they were doing was not in the interest of “economic development” or business growth in the state or even innocent mistakes. It was willful, purposeful schemes meant to get around the laws and use their public offices to benefit themselves.
In one email Hubbard actually writes: “those ethics laws … what were we thinking?”
Despite this clear intent and despite a solid verdict from a thoughtful Lee County jury, for the last four years, Republican lawmakers have attempted time and again to change the ethics laws — to weaken them and insert loopholes into them. They have succeeded twice.
At the same time, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals and the Alabama Supreme Court — all elected Republicans — spent an unbelievable and unheard of amount of time to pick apart the Hubbard verdict and cast doubt on the laws that convicted him.
In both courts, the opinions mentioned the “unintentional consequences” of the laws, implying that lawmakers in the state could unwittingly find themselves as accidental lawbreakers as they innocently conducted the business of the state.
Oddly, not one lawmaker from either party has committed such a violation, or even almost committed one.
And no one believes that Hubbard committed such an unwitting violation of the laws.
Because he didn’t.
Hubbard knew full well what the law was. He knew full well that what he was doing was illegal — his closest associates testified as much in open court. He worked tirelessly to concoct ways to subvert those laws and enrich himself, and there is a mountain of evidence that proves it.
And yet, our criminal justice system and our state legislature spent the last four years trying to get him out of it.
That’s a level of corruption that is so staggering and consuming that I honestly don’t know if there’s any hope to combat it.
Supreme Court rules that churches can meet despite COVID restrictions
Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the three “liberal” justices in opposing the ruling. New Justice Amy Coney Barret was the deciding vote siding with the four conservative justices.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 5 to 4 decision Wednesday that the state of New York’s onerous COVID-19 restrictions violated the freedom of religion rights of New Yorkers.
The Court’s decision in Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo just pauses the enforcement of these rules against the litigants who’ve challenged them while the case proceeds, but it still sends a signal that the majority of the Court thinks the restrictions are unconstitutional. The lawsuits filed by the Diocese of Brooklyn and by Orthodox Jewish synagogues in New York will continue; however, the Supreme Court ruling will likely weigh heavily on the ultimate outcome of those cases.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo had passed COVID restrictions that limited Church attendance to just 25 people in areas of the state dubbed in the orange zone of COVID-19 cases and to just ten people in areas of the state that were in the red zone. The same rules applied to Churches that can seat 1,000 people and those that seat just one hundred. The size of the building did not matter.
“It is time — past time — to make plain that, while the pandemic poses many grave challenges, there is no world in which the Constitution tolerates color-coded executive edicts that reopen liquor stores and bike shops but shutter churches, synagogues and mosques,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in a concurring opinion.
“In a red zone, while a synagogue or church may not admit more than 10 persons, businesses categorized as ‘essential’ may admit as many people as they wish,” the court majority wrote. “And the list of ‘essential’ businesses includes things such as acupuncture facilities, camp grounds, garages, as well as many whose services are not limited to those that can be regarded as essential, such as all plants manufacturing chemicals and microelectronics and all transportation facilities.”
“These categorizations lead to troubling results,” the court added. “Not only is there no evidence that the applicants have contributed to the spread of COVID–19 but there are many other less restrictive rules that could be adopted to minimize the risk to those attending religious services. Among other things, the maximum attendance at a religious service could be tied to the size of the church or synagogue.”
The ruling would tend one to believe that the state may limit occupancy of churches and synagogues, but blanket restrictions like those in the New York law that do not take into account the size of the building are clearly unconstitutional according to the court majority.
“The Court’s ruling is neither surprising nor alarming. Cuomo’s rules discriminate against religious services and thereby run afoul of the Constitution,” the editors of National Review wrote. “And to fix the problem, Cuomo would not need to exempt houses of worship from the law everyone else follows, but merely ensure that churches aren’t relegated to second-class status. One approach may be to classify churches as essential and to assign all essential activities a capacity limit that takes establishment size into account. Another would be to simply let the hard capacity limits go, since houses of worship in orange and red areas are still required to keep to a low proportion of their total capacity (a third and a quarter respectively) — and because the areas at issue in the lawsuit aren’t classified as orange or red anymore anyway.”
Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote that whenever a policy creates a preferred, less regulated category — “essential” businesses, in this case — states must either include religion in that category or carry the burden of justifying churches’ exclusion.
“The question I always had was why was it okay for all the large box stores to be open, salons, dispensaries, casinos and tattoo parlors, but yet houses of worship were limited to much less capacity than all these places,” Rabi Yossi Mintz wrote in a statement. “I completely agree that we must have guidelines but it needs to be across the board and respect the freedom that our fathers granted us through the establishment of our great country.”
“There is no question that church is essential and maybe that is more true today than any other time,” Pastor Greg Laurie of the Harvest Christian Fellowship Church said in a statement. “Harvest is holding services outside because we want to keep people safe, yet give them an opportunity to worship together…. We practice social distancing and strongly encourage the wearing of masks.”
“I am proud to be leading the Diocese of Brooklyn and fighting for our sacred and constitutional right to worship,” said Diocese of Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio. “Our churches have not been the cause of any outbreaks. We have taken our legal battle this far because we should be considered essential, for what could be more essential than safely gathering in prayer in a time of pandemic.”
Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the three “liberal” justices in opposing the ruling. New Justice Amy Coney Barret was the deciding vote siding with the four conservative justices.
In an earlier 5 to 4 decision, the Court found in favor of a California public health order that prevented churches from operating early in the pandemic. Then Justice Roberts sided with the liberals, but the liberal four has become the liberal three with the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Barret replacing Ginsburg appears to have reset the court’s previous position.
Freeze warning Monday night into Tuesday morning
Winter was slow in getting here this year, but much of Alabama is experiencing its first day of cold weather in the winter of 2020/2021. Almost all of Alabama will experience the coldest temperatures thus far in the 2020/2021 winter.
Birmingham Meteorologist James Spann wrote, “Temperatures will go the wrong way across Alabama today following the system that brought soaking rains and wind to the state yesterday and last night. We are in the 40s at daybreak, but look for 30s by mid to late morning with an icy north wind. As a deep upper trough swings through, it will squeeze out snow flurries and showers in the cold air over the northern half of the state today and early tonight. The main window for snow will come from about 10:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m.”
Spann said that “A few moderate snow showers are possible over North Alabama, but for now we expect no significant impact or accumulation due to warm ground temperatures.”
The greatest chance for snow buildup is in hill country in northeast Alabama.
Temperatures this afternoon across North/Central Alabama will drop into the 33 to 38 degree range. We are under a wind advisory and a northwest wind of 15 to 25 mph will produce a wind chill that makes it feel colder than it is.
South Alabama will be spared the worst of this and temperatures are predicted to hold in the 40s today.
Tonight temperatures in the Birmingham area are expected to drop all the way down to 25 degrees F. This is the first night of frost for most of Alabama. Remember to bring plants indoors. The remaining vegetable plants growing in the garden need to be covered. You might also want to consider bringing the pets inside tonight. Remember that water will likely freeze for pets and livestock that are left outside so be prepared to thaw waterers and troughs early Tuesday morning. Remember that children will likely need to dress warmly with coats or jackets today and tomorrow.
By Tuesday morning at daybreak Spann is projecting lows in the 20 to 26 degree range over the northern half of the state, with a freeze all the way down to the Alabama Gulf Coast. Freeze warnings are in effect for South Alabama. There are no freeze warnings for the northern part of the state since they have already experienced a significant freeze earlier in the season.
Cold weather brings with it influenza. If you have not already gotten your flu vaccination this would be a good time to schedule it. Public health authorities are urging everyone to get their flu shot this year, due to the heightened threat the flu poses given the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic which has already killed 3,577 Alabamians. The flu and COVID look a lot alike when a patient is first admitted. The fewer flu cases that health professionals have to deal with, the more resources they have for the COVID-19 patients. Alabama currently has 81,706 active cases of COVID-19 in the state. A COVID-19 vaccine is likely sometime in December.
This is a one day event. Things will warm into the forties during the day on Tuesday with temperatures rising in to the fifties on Wednesday.
This is also the last day of hurricane season. A hurricane did make landfall on December 1, 1925 near St. Augustine, the latest hurricane on record.