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Joey Kennedy

Opinion | Beware the Ides of March

Joey Kennedy

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

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

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

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

There must be something.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that doesn’t mean arming teachers, either.

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

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

 

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Opinion | That climate change hoax is killing us

Joey Kennedy

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I grew up with hurricanes. For my first 11 years, my parents and I lived on the Texas Gulf Coast, near Beaumont. My father was transferred by the company he worked for, Texas Gulf Sulfur, to deep South Louisiana in 1967. We lived in Houma, in Terrebonne Parish, but Dad worked near Larose, in Lafourche Parish.

Hurricanes were regular events in Southeastern Texas and South Louisiana. Still are, but in much more frequent numbers. And Alabama gets clobbered every so often, most recently yesterday and today. Sally made landfall near Gulf Shores, and you can be assured the damage will be extensive, especially from flooding.

Flooding was a big factor in Texas hurricanes too, when I lived there. Hurricane Carla, in 1961, devastated High Island, not far from our home. Flooding was widespread. Carla was a Category 4 storm. But notably, that September, Carla was only the third named storm of the hurricane season.

This year, we’re running out of names. Striking Alabama this week, only a few days after Carla struck Southeastern Texas in 1961, Sally is toward the end of the hurricane alphabet. The National Hurricane Center and World Meteorological Organization are literally running out of names for storms this year.

Earlier this week, and maybe still, there were five named storms in the Atlantic. This is only the second time on record that five named storms are in the Atlantic at the same time. And they’re using up the Alphabet. The first time this happened was 1971, at a time when humans were first becoming aware of climate warming.

Little do we know, that before Sally decided to squat on Alabama, Hurricane Paulette made landfall in Bermuda on early Monday morning. There are so many hurricanes around, we can’t even keep up with them.

They’re like Republican scandals.

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Probably more than any other indicator, hurricanes tell the story of climate change, the very real climate change that Donald Trump and many Republicans deny or call a hoax.

Like the COVID-19 Pandemic. Like so many events that Trump and Trump Republicans can’t (or won’t) believe. Like the corruption that permeates the Trump administration. Like the wildfires destroying the far West Coast states.

That’s not climate change, claims Trump. It’s because California won’t sweep the forests. I call BS. Even on California being responsible for sweeping. Most of the forestland in California is federal land. Most of the burning areas are on or near federal trees. Yet, the state of California spends more money on forest management than the federal government, which owns most of the land. That’s the truth. No hoax.

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Trump should order secret federal teams of ICE forest sweepers to do their jobs.

The hoax from Republicans and the Trump administration is that crazy antifa hit squads are invading the West Coast to reign terror on the populations there. National security experts continue to assert that white supremacists and nationalists are the most dangerous domestic terror threat. But Trump defends those radicals – “they are very fine people” — because they hold up some mysterious white heritage above all others. If Trump is anything, he’s the whitest Angry White Man ever.

Climate change is real. The coronavirus pandemic exists. White nationalists are the most serious domestic terror threat in this country.

Black lives do matter.

Yet, once again and often, Trump shows the orange-hued emperor has no clothes. As Stormy Daniels has previously said, that is not a good look.

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Opinion | The bully-in-chief angling for a landslide — against himself

Joey Kennedy

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President Donald Trump speaks at the Republican National Convention

Donald Trump loves picking on Democratic Party-led cities where protests and unrest are regular or even nightly occurrences. We never hear Trump discuss Democratic-led cities that continue to have some protests but very little protest violence.

Birmingham is one of those cities. Sure, just as the #BlackLivesMatter protests began after the murder of George Floyd by four Minneapolis police officers, we had a scary night where looters and destroyers went through downtown, breaking windows and acting the fool.

That didn’t last long. Mayor Randall Woodfin and the city police leadership have done a remarkable job in quelling violent protests. One important step was removing a Confederate memorial from a downtown park in a city that didn’t exist in the Civil War.

That’s not to say Birmingham is not a violent city. It’s one of the most violent where gun violence is concerned. As in any large metropolitan area, there are locations that have the most concentrated violence and are a continual challenge for law enforcement and the residents who live there.

There’s not much mob violence in Birmingham, though. Certainly not like that which exists in Portland, Oregon, or Seattle, Washington. Trump won’t highlight success stories in Democratic Party-led cities, even those in a Republican-controlled state.

I do find it hypocritical that Trump isn’t as tough on states where the COVID-19 spread is the worst. As of early this week, there were nine states that had uncontrolled rates of infection, and Alabama ranked No. 8. All the states ahead of Alabama have higher populations, but a few high-population states, including New York, which at one time was the epicenter for coronavirus outbreak, has a very low infection rate today.

Infection in New York, a Democratic Party-controlled state, is less than 1 percent now, because state leaders did what they needed to do to control the spread.

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Alabama, not so much. Indeed, of the nine states with the highest infection rates, seven are led by Republicans — Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Texas, Arizona, Missouri and Maryland.

California, the most populous state in the nation, and Virginia, are the states in the top 9 that are led by Democrats.

So why isn’t Trump battering those Republican-run states like Texas and Florida and Georgia, high-population states where the virus continues to quickly spread, like he picks on Democrat-run cities that have protesters?

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Because Trump is all LAW & ORDER (attacking peaceful protesters) and not HEALTH & SAFETY (devising a plan to deal with COVID).

Trump basically ignores the virus. We’re nearly 200,000 deaths into this pandemic (nearly 2,300 in Alabama), but Trump golfs, and campaigns, and keeps his head in the sand trap. He admitted in a recorded interview with journalist Bob Woodward that he knew the virus was deadly, but still did nothing. Nada. Zilch. In fact, he intentionally downplayed the danger. And Americans, by the thousands, died. (No telling how many he figuratively shot and killed on that corner at Fifth Avenue.)

I will say this, Trump keeps digging that hole in the sand for himself. He’s alienated so many groups of people that about the only “humans” left to vote for him Nov. 3 are the Angry White Men, most whom are racist and petrified of the day, coming soon, that they’ll be the minority race in this nation.

The latest group that was targeted by Trump for his bellicose bullying was the U.S. military — top generals and admirals, the rank-and-file soldiers and sailors, wounded veterans, and our military dead. Suckers and losers, they all are, says Trump, a man who dodged the draft during Vietnam by getting daddy to pay off a doctor to say Donny had bone spurs.

If Trump is trying to lose in a landslide, that’s OK with me. But targeting Black and brown people, women, Native Americans, our military, the LGBTQ+ community, immigrants — that’s definitely not a strategy for success.

Because as hard as it is for Trump to believe it, there simply aren’t enough Angry White Men in the nation to save him this time. And all the other angry people, the great majority, are highly motivated to vote against him.

Trump can’t lose soon enough.

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

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Opinion | This is America

Joey Kennedy

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I once was racially profiled by a police officer. This was a number of years ago. My wife and I were on our way to work (we both worked at The Birmingham News then). I was in a coat and tie, so this was before the newspaper relaxed its dress code.

We crossed under a yellow light just as it turned red. A police car quite a bit ahead of me but heading my direction, did a U-turn and hit the lights. I pulled over. The officer said I had run the light. I disagreed, telling him I crossed under the yellow. He disagreed and said he was going to ticket me. He had a partner with him, and I realized he was a training officer and just had to stop somebody so the rookie could see how it’s done.

OK, fine. I told him to write the ticket but I wanted him to check my driving record to see how many red lights I had been ticketed for running in the past (none). I could be a serial red-light runner, a menace to the public. The officer told me he didn’t have any way to check my driving record. I chuckled cynically and told him that of course he could check. I could check on any driver’s record from my computer at The News.

“Well, I’m not going to,” he said.

So I told him to check and see if I had warrants. I may have warrants, I said (I didn’t and don’t).

“You don’t look like you have warrants,” he said. And then it hit me. I had just been profiled. My white privilege and my business dress prevented anything more than a cursory look at who I was. I had a valid license and insurance. I was white and wore a tie. That was good enough for this cop.

When I returned to my car, my wife scolded me for being confrontational with the officer. But I was kind of hot. Even at that time in my life, I was already aware my African-American friends could have a substantially different and more negative interaction with a police officer.

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Each semester I teach at UAB, I ask my black and brown students if they’ve ever been stopped while driving black (or brown). The number that respond affirmatively is striking, above even 90 percent. I’ve had students stopped and their cars tossed. I’ve had students stopped and handcuffed while the police “investigated.”

This broiling season of unrest that started with George Floyd’s murder at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers is not simply going to go away. While the protests will likely continue through the fall and perhaps even winter, there is a reason. Many reasons. Floyd and Breanna Taylor are two. Rayshard Brooks is another. So is Jacob Blake.

Indeed, there have been many unarmed black folks and even children either severely wounded or killed by police long before George Floyd’s neck was knelt upon.

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Even with tensions so high and police departments across the nation under microscopes, the shootings and abuse continue. The police clearly need better training.

Some officers are trained that every interaction they have with the public (and especially the black and brown public), is a dangerous interaction. They are quick to the trigger – seven times in the back, in Blake’s case — or to create a deadly custody. Even before this story is published, it would not be unusual for there to be another serious interaction between a police officer and a black or brown citizen.

Incidents occur all over the country, and even in Alabama. On Thanksgiving night in 2018, E.J. Bradford lost his life because a careless Hoover police officer shot first and asked questions later. Bradford wasn’t even facing his killer. Of course, as what usually happens, the cop got away with it.

Don’t for a second believe that this nation doesn’t have systemic racism permeating in city, state, and federal agencies, many of them law enforcement agencies. Our whole history is about deep-rooted racism.

My students should not have to have “the talk,” and I’m not referring to the birds and the bees. I’m referring to my black and brown students who have to be advised by their parents how to act around police if they get stopped: “Be polite.” “Keep your hands on top of the steering wheel.” “Do not reach into your pocket or glove box for your auto information with the explicit permission of the officer.”

“Pray.”

Our president tweets “LAW & ORDER.” He doesn’t follow the law or keep order himself. Instead, he stirs up dissent in a desperate and hopefully futile attempt to win re-election.

It just shouldn’t be that way. But it is.

Because, as Childish Gambino warns, this is America.

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Opinion | A missed opportunity for the Tubs

Joey Kennedy

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GOP Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville

I’ve been through the speakers’ schedule for the Republican National Convention, and nowhere can I find Tommy Tuberville on the agenda. Maybe I just missed it.

Considering how this convention is going so far, though, Tuberville would be a natural. He loves Donald Trump, almost in an uncomfortable way. And this convention is profoundly sycophantic, so Tubs would fit right in.

So where is he?

Incumbent U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, was a speaker at last week’s Democratic National Convention. Tuberville came out and said all sorts of nasty things about Jones after he spoke.

But Jones had the courage to speak at the Dems’ convention, knowing that lightweights like Tuberville and Terry Lathan, chair of the Alabama Republican Party, would take unfair shots at him. Jones was unfazed — sticks and stones and all that.

Why didn’t Lathan encourage Coach Tommy to speak at the four-day GOP event? It’s not like he would have to go to Washington D.C. and violate the city’s quarantine law like he did while fundraising in the nation’s capital recently. He could have given his speech from his home. Even the home in Florida.

And there’s no trick getting on the Republicans’ speaking schedule, especially when you are as in love with Trump as Tubby is.

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The Republicans could have used more speakers without the last name “Trump.” It must have been difficult to find them, considering so many of the speakers were Trump’s own family members.

Where was Mary Trump, by the way?

But I digress. If Tuberville had anything at all to say, he should have asked to say it on that national stage and be seen by Trump sycophants the world over.

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The Ku Klux Klan could have seen Tubs on their 77-inch 4K UHD television and offered up its important endorsement (Trump gets them all the time). Tubby could have impressed the “boogaloo” boys, that far-right extremist group that wants to take over the government (hint: Wear your Hawaiian shirt, Coach). He could have appealed to the QAnon crowd, and helped eradicate that Democratic Party-run pedophile ring that works out of pizzerias (some with basements, even).

These were huge missed opportunities, so we have to question Tuberville’s judgment.

And if the polls are correct, and Democrats take both the Senate and White House, Tuberville would be without even a little authority if he wins. His colleagues would hardly talk to him — and certainly not those on the other side of the aisle.

Who loses in that setup? Not Tuberville. He’s after the “power”(even though that’s less power than being a college football coach, even a mediocre one, when your party isn’t in control in Washington).

There’s no way, however, that Tuberville can do for Alabama what Jones can do if he’s re-elected. Jones is highly effective even as a member of the minority party in the Senate. No telling how much Alabama will benefit with Jones in the Senate as a member of the party in control.

I just don’t understand why Tuberville would miss the chance to speak at his party’s national political convention. The exposure would be impressive, even coming from a convention where speakers claim that Trump is a god and “Sleepy” Joe Biden is the antichrist himself.

Tubs’ supporters would have loved to see him speak at the RNC, perhaps right after Kimberly Guilfoyle, Don Jr.’s girlfriend, went completely off the rails Monday night. Or maybe on Night 2, before Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke, proving finally, without a doubt, that he truly is a pompous ass. Wednesday night, Tuberville could have preceded presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway, mother of the year, and likely could have picked up some tips on lying for the president and ignoring your family, two areas of expertise Tuberville may need.

The possibilities were endless. But nowhere – nowhere on that lengthy schedule that included the St. Louis gun-toting couple and the Covington, Kentucky, kid who, wearing a red MAGA hat, confronted a Native American at the Lincoln Memorial — was Tommy Tuberville to be found.

So we can come to only one conclusion: Tuberville really doesn’t have anything to say.

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