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Marsh’s Call To Define Journalist Causes Blow-Back from Conservatives

Bill Britt

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By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

In an opinion piece published by several newspapers throughout the State, the presumptive Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh wrote that, “Freedom of the press is not going anywhere in Alabama.”

(See article here.)

Marsh is responding to the negative attention he has received after saying he wanted to define who is a journalist.

Now, after the publication of his editorial, things are getting even more heated for the Senator, with the conservative Daily Caller and The Liberty Papers both taking issue with his proposed actions.

Under the headline, “Meet The ‘Conservative Champion’ Who Wants To Quash Press Freedom,” the Daily Caller takes Marsh to task for wanting to license journalists…

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(see article here.)

…while the Liberty Papers suggest that Marsh would exclude Thomas Paine and other patriots from the Alabama press room.

(See article here.)

More than one reporter has questioned how Marsh is fit to oversee the Alabama Senate, when he is not willing to uphold the US Constitution?

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Marsh says that he asked, “the Secretary of the Senate to put together a definition of what qualifies as a legitimate journalist.”

The Alabama Political Reporter, along with the Anniston Star and the Montgomery Advertiser, have questioned Marsh’s mission to define who is and who is not a journalist.

Marsh says he is concerned about what might happen “IF partisan bloggers requested official credentials.”

Marsh is also concerned that, “Allowing agenda-driven bloggers the same access and legitimacy as serious, long-established and unbiased reporters, could soon create a confusing, circus-like atmosphere and blur the line between promoting opinions and reporting facts.”

Who are these “partisan bloggers” and “agenda-driven bloggers” that are causing Marsh such great concern?

He seems worried that these hypothetical partisan and agenda-driven bloggers, “blur the line between promoting opinions and reporting facts.”

(It is important to note that Marsh is setting-up a number of straw men, this becomes even more interesting at the end of his piece, because there he will change to another straw man altogether to add credibility to his argument)

He never identifies these partisan and agenda-driven blogger and doesn’t supply an example of reports that “blur the line between promoting opinions and reporting facts.”

Marsh says he doesn’t want these unnamed bloggers having the same “legitimacy as serious, long-established and unbiased reporters.”

But, Marsh doesn’t want serious, long-established and unbiased reporters, he wants reporters who will not challenge the State’s Republican super majority. That is why Marsh, along with his partner, Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, have cowed the press with threats or curried their favor with special access.

He says that, “Just as elected officials are accountable to the people they represent, so, too, are journalists accountable to an editor.”

This is terrible logic.

Anyone who has witnessed the actions of the Republican super majority over the last four years knows that they are beholden to the “money men” and not to the people of Alabama. It is Hubbard, Marsh and former Gov. Riley who supply the cash and call the tunes.

Marsh’s argument also falls apart because of the First Amendment and the Supreme Court’s confirming the rights of the “lone pamphleteer.” Would Marsh have demanded that Thomas Paine report to an editor to publish to be considered legitimate?

He states, “While a free and open press is vital and necessary, there are some who are attempting to hijack the profession by promoting raw, political agendas from the confines of the press gallery. This is not freedom of the press, it is deceitful and wrong.”

Again, who are these people, “attempting to hijack the profession by promoting raw, political agendas from the confines of the press gallery?”

This is a bold accusation, one that demands an answer as to the identities of these individuals, as well as proof of their deceit and wrong-doing.

Marsh told Tim Lockette of the Star that he only wanted “real” journalists to have access to the press rooms. He also told Lockette that he “Never considered the Britts to be real journalists.”

He then told Mary Sells of the Decatur Daily that this was not about Bill Britt.

Of course, we have ample proof that Marsh considered us journalists until we began publishing the unvarnished facts about his deceit and wrong doings with Hubbard.

Marsh also states, “Several past and present members of the Capitol Press Corps reporters have indicated to us that they do not fear this process because they agree that paid political operatives must not be allowed to disguise themselves as journalists. They join us in recognizing the importance of preserving the integrity of their profession.”

Remember I told you that he would change the nature of the straw man to bolster the credibility of his argument? Well, here it is! In this paragraph Marsh, says that “past and present members of the Capitol Press Corps…agree that paid political operatives must not be allowed to disguise themselves as journalists.”

He changed his focus from partisan bloggers/agenda-driven bloggers to “paid political operatives.” Like most politicos, Marsh prays that the citizens he represents have the reading comprehension skills of a six-year-old.

No member of the press corps would agree that “paid political operatives” should have access to the press rooms. That’s what lobbyists do, and if they pay enough, they can sit in Marsh’s office (In Hubbard’s case, he will want to be paid directly).

Marsh, and especially Hubbard, have tried to convince the political class that because the Alabama Political Reporter accepts advertising from the Alabama Education Association, we are not credible. We will take anyone’s advertising dollars, including Marsh’s and Hubbard’s. We would have more advertisers if businesses were not afraid of Hubbard and Marsh.

Of course, it is interesting to note that both SEAGD and APCI, two companies named in the Hubbard indictments, have had paid advertising and/or editorial space on al.com.

This is just one more straw man on which to hang a false premise.

Over the last two years, Marsh and Hubbard, along with a handful of sycophant followers, have sought to revoke our press credentials. Is this the legacy of those who came to power promising an end to public corruption?

Sadly, the Republican super majority in the House is led by a man charged with 23 Felony counts of public corruption and the Senate is led by a man who is stuck to his side like a Siamese twin.

The scriptures teach us to beware of “Scribes and Pharisees, Hypocrites!” who are like “whitewashed sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but are within, full of dead men’s bones and of all uncleanness.”

Heed the warning.

Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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National

Today is Thanksgiving

Today is a national and state holiday. Schools, banks, government offices and many private businesses are closed.

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Four hundred years ago, on Nov. 11, 1620, after 66 days at sea, a group of English settlers landed near what is today Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Onboard the Mayflower were 102 men, women, and children, including one baby born during the Atlantic crossing, who made up the Pilgrims.

The Mayflower, captained by Christopher Jones, had been bound for the mouth of the Hudson River. The ship took a northerly course to avoid pirates, but the decision to avoid the then widely traveled sea lanes to the New World took the ship into bad weather, which had blown the Mayflower miles off course and left the ship damaged. Off Cape Cod, the adult males in the group made the fateful decision to build an entire colony where none had existed prior. They wrote and signed the Mayflower Compact.

“In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God of Great Britain, France, and Ireland King, Defender of the Faith, etc. Having undertaken for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith and Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the First Colony in the Northern Parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God and one of another, Covenant and Combine ourselves together in a Civil Body Politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute and frame such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the Colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cape Cod, the 11th of November, in the year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France and Ireland the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Domini 1620.”

After a few weeks off Cape Cod, they sailed up the coast until they reached Plymouth. There they found a Wampanoag Indian village that had been abandoned due to some sort of plague. During the Winter of 1620-1621 they lived aboard the Mayflower and would row to shore each day to build houses. Finally, they had built enough houses to actually move to the colony, but the cold, damp conditions aboard the ship had been costly.

Some 28 men, 13 women (one of them in child birth), and 8 children died in that winter. Governor John Carver would die in April. His widow, Kathrine White Carver, would follow a few weeks later. There is some recent archaeological evidence suggesting that some of the dead were butchered and eaten by the survivors.

The Mayflower and her crew left for England on April 5, 1621, never to return.

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About 40 of the Pilgrims were religious Separatists, members of a Puritan sect that had split from the Church of England, in defiance of English law. In 1609, they immigrated to Holland to practice their religion but ran into problems there too. Others in the group had remained part of the Church of England but were sympathetic to their Separatist friends. They did not call themselves Pilgrims, that term was adopted at the bicentennial for the Mayflower voyage. The members of core Separatist sect referred to themselves as “Saints” and people not in their sect as “Strangers.”

In March 1621, an English speaking Native American, named Samoset, visited the Plymouth colony and asked for beer. He spent the night talking with the settlers and later introduced them to Squanto, who spoke even better English. Squanto introduced them to the chief of the Wampanoag, Massasoit.

Squanto moved in with the Pilgrims, serving as their advisor and translator. The friendly Wampanoag tribe taught the Pilgrims how to hunt and grow crops. The two groups began trading furs with each other.

William Bradford, a Separatist who helped draft the Mayflower Compact, became the longtime Plymouth Governor. He was also the writer of the first history of the Plymouth Colony and the Mayflower. Bradford’s more notable descendants include author, dictionary writer and scholar Noah Webster; TV chef Julia Child; and Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

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In the fall of 1621, 399 years ago, the Pilgrims invited their Wampanoag Indian friends to a feast celebrating their first harvest and a year in the New World with a three-day festival. This has become known as the first Thanksgiving.

Today is a national and state holiday. Schools, banks, government offices and many private businesses are closed.

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Health

Alabama hospitals nearing COVID-19 summer surge levels

Wednesday was the 18th straight day with more than 1,000 people in hospitals in Alabama with COVID-19. 

Eddie Burkhalter

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UAB Chief of Hospital Medicine Dr. Kierstin Kennedy.

Alabama hospitals reported caring for 1,483 people infected with COVID-19 on Wednesday, the highest number of patients since Aug. 11, when the state was enduring its summer surge. Wednesday was also the 18th straight day with more than 1,000 people in hospitals in Alabama with COVID-19. 

The seven-day average of hospitalizations was 1,370 on Wednesday, the 36th straight day of that average rising. The Alabama Department of Public Health reported 2,453 new cases Wednesday. The 14-day average of new cases was — for the eighth day in a row — at a record high of 2,192. 

Across the country, more than 80,000 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 on Tuesday, a record high and the 15th straight day of record hospitalizations nationwide, according to the COVID Tracking Project, a coronavirus tracking website.

The CDC this week recommended people not travel for Thanksgiving to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. 

“The only way for us to successfully get through this pandemic is if we work together,” said Dr. Kierstin Kennedy, UAB’s chief of hospital medicine, in a message Tuesday. “There’s no one subset of the community that’s going to be able to carry the weight of this pandemic and so we all have to take part in wearing our masks, keeping our distance, making sure that we’re washing our hands.” 

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Kennedy said the best way she can describe the current situation is “Russian Roulette.” 

“Not only in the form of, maybe you get it and you don’t get sick or maybe you get it and you end up in the ICU,” Kennedy said, “but if you do end up sick, are you going to get to the hospital at a time when we’ve got capacity, and we’ve got enough people to take care of you? And that is a scary thought.” 

The Alabama Department of Public Health on Wednesday reported an increase of 60 confirmed and probable COVID-19 deaths. Deaths take time to confirm and the date a death is reported does not necessarily reflect the date on which the individual died. At least 23 of those deaths occurred in November, and 30 occurred in other months. Seven were undated. Data for the last two to three weeks are incomplete.

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As of Wednesday, at least 3,532 Alabamians have died of COVID-19, according to the Department of Public Health. During November, at least 195 people have died in Alabama from COVID-19. But ADPH is sure to add more to the month’s tally in the weeks to come as data becomes more complete.

ADPH on Wednesday announced a change that nearly doubled the department’s estimate of people who have recovered from COVID-19, bringing that figure up to 161,946. That change also alters APR’s estimates of how many cases are considered active.

ADPH’s Infectious Disease and Outbreak team “updated some parameters” in the department’s Alabama NEDSS Base Surveillance System, which resulted in the increase, the department said.

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Corruption

Judge reduces former Alabama Speaker Mike Hubbard’s prison sentence

The trial court judge ordered his 48-month sentence reduced to 28 months.

Eddie Burkhalter

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Former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard was booked into jail to begin serving his four-year sentence for ethics violations in September. (VIA LEE COUNTY DETENTION CENTER)

Lee County Circuit Court Judge Jacob Walker on Wednesday reduced former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s prison sentence from four years to just more than two. 

Walker in his order filed Wednesday noted that Hubbard was sentenced to fours years on Aug. 9, 2016, after being convicted of 12 felony ethics charges for misusing his office for personal gain, but that on Aug. 27, 2018, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals reversed convictions on one counts. The Alabama Supreme Court later struck down another five counts.

Hubbard’s attorneys on Sept. 18 filed a motion to revise his sentence, to which the state objected, according to court records, arguing that “Hubbard’s refusal to admit any guilt or express any remorse makes him wholly unfit to receive any leniency.”   

Walker in his order cited state code and wrote that the power of the courts to grant probation “is a matter of grace and lies entirely within the sound discretion of the trial court.” 

“Furthermore, the Court must consider the nature of the Defendant’s crimes. Acts of public corruption harm not just those directly involved, but harm society as a whole,” Walker wrote.

Walker ruled that because six of Hubbard’s original felony counts were later reversed, his sentence should be changed to reflect that, and ordered his 48-month sentence reduced to 28 months. 

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Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall on Wednesday said Walker’s decision to reduce Hubbard’s sentence was the wrong message to send.

“Mr. Hubbard was convicted of the intentional violation of Alabama’s ethics laws, the same laws he championed in the legislature only later to brazenly disregard for his personal enrichment,” Marshall said in a statement. “Even as he sits in state prison as a six-time felon, Mike Hubbard continues to deny any guilt or offer any remorse for his actions in violation of the law.  Reducing his original four-year sentence sends precisely the wrong message to would-be violators of Alabama’s ethics laws.”

Hubbard was booked into the Lee County Jail on Sept. 11, more than four years after his conviction. On Nov. 5 he was taken into custody by the Department of Corrections.

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News

Nick Saban tests positive for COVID-19, has “mild symptoms”

It’s unlikely Saban will be able to coach in person during Saturday’s Iron Bowl against Auburn.

Eddie Burkhalter

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University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban.

University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban has tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the Iron Bowl and has mild symptoms, according to a statement from the university on Wednesday. 

“This morning we received notification that Coach Saban tested positive for COVID-19,” said Dr. Jimmy Robinson and Jeff Allan, associate athletic director, in the statement. “He has very mild symptoms, so this test will not be categorized as a false positive. He will follow all appropriate guidelines and isolate at home.” 

Saban had previously tested positive before Alabama’s game against Georgia but was asymptomatic and subsequently tested negative three times, a sign that the positive test could have been a false positive. He returned to coach that game. 

It’s unlikely Saban will be able to coach in person during Saturday’s Iron Bowl against Auburn, given the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for quarantining after testing positive and with symptoms. Neither Saban nor the university had spoken about that possibility as of Wednesday morning.

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