By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter
Question: What happened in the Alabama Legislature this past week?
- Lawmakers wasted time and money, like always.
- Lawmakers passed embarrassing, illegal legislation.
- Lawmakers got into entertaining arguments.
- All of the above.
It’s always “All of the above.”
Let’s recap this nonsense.
One of the most entertaining debates of the week came as the House attempted to pass a bill sponsored by Sen. Arthur Orr, which he had already ushered through the Senate, to require that Alabama high school students pass a civics test prior to graduating.
It’s the perfect Republican bill: It seems like a good idea until you consider implementation and practice, there was no additional funding to help with introducing this new requirement on our already overburdened schools and there was little evidence that such a test would help.
But it felt good to Republicans, so they passed it.
But not before two veterans of floor debates sliced the idea to pieces and made Rep. Terri Collins, who was carrying the bill for Orr, wish she could crawl into a hole.
First, Rep. John Knight, usually calm and measured, was nearly shouting by the time he ended a lengthy and sarcastic rant. “The more I talk, the angrier I am with you,” Knight told Collins at one point.
He went on to sarcastically change his mind about the bill, saying it’s “just what we need,” since it would force future lawmakers to also pass the civics test.
“So maybe those people who pass the test will know we’ve got people going hungry two blocks from here and the answer you’re giving them is a civics test, because that will solve it all,” Knight said.
A short time later, Rep. Alvin Holmes took his shot at Collins. Republicans like to cast Holmes as an ignorant clown, and Holmes often plays into that image of a less-than-serious lawmaker with off-the-wall statements. But I’m betting Collins came away with a newfound respect for Holmes.
For the better part of a half-hour, Holmes fired civics questions at Collins. And he challenged other House members that if they could stump him on him an Alabama-related civics question, he’d resign.
Holmes didn’t resign.
Gov. Kay Ivey signed the bill. So, congrats, teachers. One more thing to do.
Week nine was a bad one for women.
In addition to another round of anti-abortion rhetoric and useless bill that allows the people of the State to vote to make Alabama a “right-to-life state,” there was also a resolution condemning a woman.
The abortion bill, like all of Alabama’s abortion bills, was useless. It literally does nothing but cost us money to put it on a ballot. Even if it passes with 100 percent of the vote in the next statewide election, the amendment can’t change Federal laws and Alabama has never been in any danger of legalizing abortions if Federal laws change.
It did allow for our State lawmakers to go on record on the Senate floor making up things, such as being able to get an abortion on demand across the State.
Interestingly, Republicans shot down a proposed amendment that would have required the State to provide financial support for that child once born. So, not so much “pro-life” as “pro-fetus.”
Not to be outdone, in the House, Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow was attempting to pass a resolution to condemn Rebekah Mason, the former mistress of Gov. Robert Bentley.
And while I think most people can get behind a condemnation of Mason’s actions – even if they think it a tad silly to do so – it was the presentation of the resolution from Morrow that was a bit … um, off-putting.
Morrow clearly has a bad history with Mason, who he said killed one of his local bills four years ago because she was still holding a grudge over a bad college grade she received from then-professor Morrow. And that anger Morrow still holds for her seeped into his presentation.
He continually blamed Mason and her husband for scamming Bentley – making it seem as if he was blaming the whole embarrassing scene on her. He also continued to use the term “female” when describing Mason, which made the whole thing seem way too misogynistic.
But it was an attack on just one woman instead of all women, so maybe it was some progress.
For a group of lawmakers who spend so much time explaining how precious life is, Alabama Republicans sure do like to kill people.
Two bills this week prove my point. One speeds up the process for killing an inmate on death row and the other broadens the way in which we can kill death row inmates.
The first bill takes quite a bit of gall from a State that has watched as two death row inmates in the last three years have been exonerated after lengthy prison stays when wrongly convicted. Attorneys working with other death row inmates on appeals believe there could be more freed through technology advancements.
I’m not anti-death penalty. But I am pro-being absolutely certain a guy is guilty of an awful crime. After our failures over a number of years, it seems that shortening the appeals process could make it more likely that an innocent man is put to death.
And he’ll have a new manner in which to die.
Sen. Trip Pittman, who apparently has taken up studying weird ways to kill people legally as a hobby, pushed a bill through the Senate that would allow prisoners to choose nitrogen gas as a means of death.
Pittman’s original bill would have allowed death by firing squad, so as hard as it might be to believe, nitrogen was an improvement.
We Did It!
There were also two good bills – those do exist, believe it or not – that passed the House. One mandates insurance coverage for Autistic children and the other would have guaranteed church daycares were also licensed by the state. Both passed easily.
But it was the self-congratulations that occurred after those bills passed that was really something to see. House members acted as if they’d just rolled back controversial civil rights impediments.
Making sure sick kids get proper medical care and ensuring children in daycares are safe as possible aren’t great victories for competent government. They’re literally the least you can do.
And if we’re honest about it, you didn’t really do that great. The Autism coverage was tweaked and caps put in place. And the daycare bill grandfathered in existing church daycares.
What was more important to conservative lawmakers than the health and safety of children?
The healthy bottom lines of major companies and churches.
One of the worst things to occur all week was the passage by the Senate of a bill removing the requirement for a permit to concealed carry a firearm in the State. Sheriffs across Alabama spoke out against this, calling it a serious safety issue, but it didn’t matter. Making it even worse: lawmakers voted down an amendment that would have kept in place a requirement that people with a documented history of mental illness would still have to receive the permits.
Very soon, the marriage license could be a thing of the past. Having already passed the Senate, a bill that would abolish the license and sub in a marriage certificate instead passed out of the House Judiciary Committee this week. What’s the difference, you ask. None. But people get to feel better about a symbolic (it appears) strike back at gay people. So, congrats.
And finally, the Senate also voted to ban physician assisted suicide. When it was discussed in committee, it became apparent that such a ban would be very tricky to enforce, and some Republicans expressed deep concerns over the appropriateness of telling someone who is suffering with a terminal illness that he or she can’t humanely stop their pain and end their life. Luckily, they stamped out that bit of compassion and humanity on Thursday.
Opinion | COVID killed the Don
“The March invasion of the coronavirus derailed the Trump Train,” columnist Steve Flowers writes.
Around Labor Day when this year’s presidential campaign was beginning to heat up, I wrote a column about the classic 1960 presidential contest between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon. This pivotal presidential race marked the beginning of television as the premier political medium. The first televised presidential debate that year was the turning point of that campaign. Kennedy won the White House with his performance, or, as some would say, Nixon lost by his appearance on TV that fateful night in October of 1960.
A lot has changed in the past 60 years, America was a more Ozzie and Harriet, Andy Griffith Mayberry America. There was not a lot of difference, philosophically or ideologically, between a Republican Kansas farmer and a blue-collar Democratic factory worker in Pennsylvania. They both believed in American values of decency and hard work. Even though the Pennsylvanian was a union man who tended to vote Democratic and was probably a Catholic, and the Kansas farmer voted Republican and was a protestant, they both were Christian conservatives.
The country was more homogenous and amicable. This America lent itself to a close presidential contest where 40 states were in play in the Electoral College and only 10 predetermined. Today, it is just the opposite, 10 states are in play and 40 are predetermined.
The country is more divided than at any time since the Civil War. You are cemented into either a conservative Republican tribe or a liberal Democratic tribe, and there is no peace pipe to be smoked. There are very few independent voters in the middle. It is these truly undecided swing voters that decide the presidential race. Also, it is even a further defined swing voter who resides in a swing state — primarily the states of Florida, Ohio, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and now Georgia.
Both parties got their bases out to the maximum. Democrats hated Donald Trump. Republicans loath Nancy Pelosi and Bernie Sanders. They stoked every fire possible, and the two tribes almost broke about even.
Trump lost the middle of America swing voter in the key battleground states and he lost them overwhelmingly. Why? You ask: It is simple, the COVID pandemic.
It would have been impossible for any humble, genuinely caring, kind and compassionate president to overcome a pandemic that has killed over 250,000 people and annihilated the economy. A legendary, revered leader like Presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt or Ronald Reagan would have had a hard time surviving the epidemic destroyed our economy.
It is always about the economy. Trump’s administration was the overseer of the most robust economy in years. He could have possibly won re-election with this rosy economy. However, the March invasion of the coronavirus derailed the Trump Train. There is an old political adage that says, “If you claim credit for the rain, you got to take blame for the drought.”
Any presidential election campaign where there is an incumbent president up for re-election is a referendum on that president. Therefore, this presential race was all about Trump. He would have had to have been an FDR or Reagan to have survived the events of this year. Folks, Trump is no FDR or Reagan.
To win a presidency, people have to like you. Very few people genuinely like Trump. All exit polling revealed that even the most ardent Republicans disliked Trump the man. They were only voting for him because he was a proven true-blue, hardcore conservative. Even evangelical conservatives voted for him knowing his personal and business life was not exemplary of a practicing Christian, but he was the vessel for conservative Supreme Court Justices.
However, key swing voters, primarily suburban women, just did not like a brash, irreverent, egocentric, irrational, narcissist as their president. They had seen the sideshow on television and Twitter for over three years, and they had had enough. There is another tried and true maxim: “More people vote against someone than for someone.” This played out to the nines on Election Day. Very few people voted for Joe Biden. They voted against Donald Trump.
See you next week.
Opinion | The blackest Black Friday ever
“The coming weeks are going to be difficult, no doubt about that.”
Thursday was Thanksgiving, and it’s understandable that many people didn’t have a lot to be thankful for. More than 260,000 people are dead because of the COVID-19 pandemic that Donald Trump simply ignored. Around 3 million people have been infected, with many of those suffering lifelong health complications from the virus.
A first Thanksgiving without loved ones. A first Christmas without loved ones bearing down.
Millions of people lost their jobs because of the pandemic. Hundreds of thousands are in danger of being evicted from their homes. Many don’t have water or power or heat as the winter settles in.
Yes, there are many things to be thankful for. Our families, if we have them. Our friends, and we all have them. Our animals, and many of us have them.
We can be thankful that the long, horrible tenure of Donald Trump is nearly over. It’s the end of an error.
We can hope that racism will be wrong again. That homophobia, misogyny, xenophobia, and cruelty will fall from the everyday ordinary to the awful extraordinary. Kids in cages, separated from their parents, no more. Chaos in government simply an anomaly at last.
We can hope. That alone is something to be thankful for.
The year 2020 has been a hot mess. Masks, social distancing, hand washing and sanitizing are the norm now. They may be forever.
We should be thankful that COVID-19 vaccines are on the horizon. But that’s a strange thankfulness, and we cherish a vaccine for a disease that didn’t have to spread as far and wide as it did. It was mismanaged as badly as a crisis can be mismanaged.
There still are people out there who refuse to wear masks or who believe the virus is a hoax. A doctor described people she was caring for who were dying, and all the time denying the virus existed, even to their last breaths.
That’s certainly nothing to be thankful for.
Our health care workers, those on the front lines, deserve our thanks and our love. As do grocery store workers, first responders, teachers, and delivery people. Heroes work there.
I’m personally thankful for my wife of 41 years. My daughters in San Diego. My friends here and elsewhere. My pugs and other dogs and animals. I’ve got plenty to be thankful for, when we pare life down and don’t expect so much.
The coming weeks are going to be difficult, no doubt about that.
Too many people traveled this Thanksgiving, and there’s going to be a price to pay. Too many people are making plans for Christmas, and there’s going to be a price to pay. Too many people are planning New Year’s Eve celebrations, and there’s going to be a price to pay.
Oh, I’ll have some champagne and stay up until midnight on New Year’s Eve, if only to witness that this damn year doesn’t hang around for one second longer than is allowed.
Perhaps we can see a light at the end of this 2020 tunnel. Maybe by spring, we’ll all be vaccinated, and this pandemic will be at the beginning of its end.
But if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we can’t count on, yes, anything.
This is Black Friday. The blackest Black Friday ever. Be careful out there. Wash your hands and wear a mask. Take care of each other. Believe in science. Don’t trust a reality show president who, fortunately, finally has been fired.
Do your best to do your best. Let’s have a new year that at least promises hope.
Dig deep and find what you’re thankful for. Then hug it close with all your might.
Opinion | The emperor has no votes
The outcry of illegalities over the recent election is simply the latest example of just how far they’ll go.
Two-and-32. That’s the record of the super-fantastic “strike team” of “elite” attorneys representing the Donald Trump campaign in various lawsuits around the country that contest the outcome of the U.S. presidential election.
For a refresher: Joe Biden won that free and fair election in a landslide and will be the next president of the United States. The end.
In case after case after case, despite what the president has tweeted and despite what enablers and spineless politicians have helped him push, the Trump elite attorney strike team has failed to offer even the slightest bit of proof of the grand fraud that Trump has repeatedly claimed on Twitter or that his “dye hard” personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, has screeched about during insane, “Veep”-like press conferences. (Have you ever witnessed a stranger, more disturbing image than that of “America’s mayor,” wild eyed and ranting, with his cheap hair dye running down his face as if his ears were bleeding?)
In fact, in the overwhelming majority of the cases filed by strike team Trump, the team has been forced to admit to judges that they have no evidence of fraud or that they’re not able to claim fraud.
It’s pathetic that we’re still doing this — that the transition to a new administration is being held up by this band of grifters looking to squeeze one last drop of donations from the marks who have already forked over so much to this long-running American con.
That’s all this is.
The entire Trump presidency has been exactly this — a con game to enrich him and his closest business partners. To that end, it has been highly successful.
It has also been successful in turning seemingly rational people into googly-eyed yes men willing to sully themselves for a taste of the political fortune or fame that comes with being near the presidency.
It is, to be honest, shocking the ease with which so many in the highest offices of our federal and state government have been convinced to denounce reality and make fools of themselves to ensure they either benefit from being in the cult’s favor or at least not being a target of the cult.
The outcry of illegalities over the recent election is simply the latest and most horrific example of just how far they’re willing to go and how little of America they truly hold sacred.
Alabama’s Secretary of State John Merrill, for example, has given media interviews in which he willingly passed along wild, long debunked conspiracy theories of Biden getting thousands of votes at once, and how there’s no explanation for it. And yet, there was an explanation — one that had been given over and over and over.
Alabama congressman Mo Brooks, a man who so frequently buys into rightwing conspiracies that he almost certainly has purchased an extended warranty for all of his cars, sent a bat-guano insane letter to a constituent this week in which he laid out how “socialist Democrats” were able to “steal” the election through massive fraud and how Republicans in Congress can steal it back.
One of the means by which this election was stolen, according to Brooks, was by excluding Republican poll watchers. None were excluded. And the strike team has now dropped that line of attack altogether.
Brooks and Merrill aren’t alone, however. Up and down the line, Alabama GOP officials and the media mouthpieces they pay to amplify their idiotic ideas have gone full in on this idea of fraud, even when other Republicans — like that poor secretary of state in Georgia — were trying desperately to tell them it wasn’t real.
Honestly, it’s like Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes” is being played out in real life, right in front of us. Only, the swindlers became the emperor.
Trump and his minions continue to walk around stark naked while insisting that he has on the most beautiful, perfect clothing in the whole world. And there’s this one group of people who are buying it. And then there’s this whole other group who know full well that this guy is buck naked but they’re too afraid of alienating the first group, even if it means undermining the cornerstone of American democracy.
In the meantime, the swindlers just keep sending out fundraiser emails. Because, again, that’s all this is.
Look at the frivolous lawsuits and how thoroughly Trump’s strike team has been embarrassed in every courtroom so far. This isn’t about winning or about massive fraud or about correcting problems in the election system. It’s about money. Pure and simple.
Finally, late Thursday, two influential Republicans, Sens. Mitt Romney and Ben Sasse, said what we all know.
Sasse said the lawyers have “refused to actually allege grand fraud.” He was also critical of the strike team’s tactics.
Romney said Trump was trying to “subvert the will of the people.” And he said he couldn’t imagine “a worse, more undemocratic action by a sitting American president.”
Hopefully, that will open the floodgates for a river of sanity and basic common sense. Because the longer this goes on, the more likely it is something catastrophic takes place.
It’s not too late yet for the president to put some clothes on.
Opinion | Be thankful, not regretful
“We can stay home, because maybe next Thanksgiving, we can gather again.”
My wife, Veronica, and I just don’t have much real family left. But Thanksgiving Day is one of our favorite holidays. In the past – many years past – we hosted Thanksgivings.
Over the past few years, though, we’ve attended three Thanksgiving celebrations with friends. One, hosted by our dear friend Jo Ellen O’Hara, former longtime food editor at The Birmingham News, is no longer possible because she now lives at Fairhaven, an assisted living community in eastern Birmingham.
This was a typical Southern Thanksgiving, with turkey, cornbread dressing, various (and too many) side dishes, and featured a dozen or so people.
John Evon and Rian Alexander hosted us later in the day on Thanksgiving. Usually, this was simply the four of us at their Helena home. It was more a Northern Thanksgiving, with turkey or ham, stuffing (not dressing), and various (and too many) side dishes.
And for the past three years, we’ve attended the Thanksgiving bash hosted by APR editor Bill Britt and his wife, associate editor Susan Britt. This gathering, of maybe 20 or so people, was held at the Britts’ farm in Attalla. There was more than just turkey or ham, more side dishes than should be possible. Bill and Susan and the APR’s capable copy editor and the Britts’ assistant Charlie Walker did most of the cooking, but this gathering was also partially potluck. We’d all bring dishes to add to the abundant food choices. (Bill also makes a damn good Raw Apple Cider. Add a touch of whiskey.)
This year, we’ll have none of that. With the Coronavirus (COVID-19) spiking in Alabama and across the country, it’ll be just Veronica and me on Thanksgiving.
That’s sad, too. We’re social people. We like to be around others. A lot of others.
That hasn’t been much of a feature in 2020, and I don’t expect it will be through a big chunk of 2021.
The warnings have been issued. Gov. Kay Ivey’s mask mandate is staying in place, thank goodness, though there should be an enforcement effort, too.
Here is Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris: “We all want to see our family for holidays, yet this is a special year when we need to minimize risks because of the consequences of this highly infectious virus. Use your best judgment to plan the safest possible Thanksgiving. Consider hosting a virtual celebration, or if hosting or attending one, be sure to put prevention measures in place.”
Oh, that Alabamians – and Americans – would heed that advice. But so many won’t. They’ll gather anyway – with grandparents and parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends.They’ll gather at Thanksgiving, in a big dining room, have great conversations, and wonderful prayers.
And two or three weeks later, they’ll start to get sick and die, just in time for the Christmas some of them may not be around for.
Or they’ll survive Thanksgiving, thinking this virus is no big deal. And they’ll gather again for Christmas. Two or three weeks later, they’ll start to get sick and die, just before the presidential inauguration.
By then, too, the cases from all those New Year’s celebrations will be cranking up. And another group of people will start to get sick and die, just in the first month of 2021.
This plague is real. It’s killing hundreds of thousands of people – old people, middle-aged people, young people, children.
In Alabama alone, there have been more than 220,000 COVID cases, with more than 3,340 deaths. More than 88,000 people have recovered, but many of those are crippled with long–term, chronic health problems.
Daily cases in Alabama are ranging from 2,000 to 3,000 right now.
This is serious.
This is no hoax.
It is real.
Wear a mask.
Wash your hands obsessively.
Attend only small gatherings if you must attend any gatherings – and you really don’t have to attend any gatherings.
So for Thanksgiving, for Christmas, for New Year’s, it’ll be just Veronica and me. We’ll make the best of it. Have fun together. Watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and A Christmas Story and It’s a Wonderful Life. We’ll listen to Christmas music and drive around looking at Christmas lights. We’ll have great food (my wife’s cornbread dressing is the best in the world).
And we’ll miss our friends. But we won’t kill them, and they won’t kill us.
We have plenty to be thankful for today and next week. And at Christmas and New Year’s. But we won’t be attending any parties or gatherings. We cannot do that for awhile, just as we have not done it since March. We can stay home, because maybe next Thanksgiving, we can gather again, with our friends (our family) who lived through one of the darkest periods of our lives.