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Josh Moon

Opinion | Alabama remains a safe haven for hate

Josh Moon

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In 1968, shortly after gunning down Martin Luther King Jr. at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, James Earl Ray was running from police, who were, he believed, right on his tail. He was looking for an escape route — a place where people might not be too upset by his crime.

He turned his Mustang towards Alabama.

Ray believed Alabamians would be sympathetic towards him, that then-Gov. George Wallace — whose hateful segregationist rhetoric had inspired Ray in the first place — would protect him, even pardon him, for killing King.

Alabama was his safe haven.

This has been the perpetual image of Alabama for decades now.

A safe haven for racists.

And with good reason.

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From our slavery roots, through Jim Crow, and George Wallace and anti-immigration bills and Roy Moore and Bull Connor and Jeff Sessions and all-white juries and breakaway school districts and separate but equal and the schoolhouse door, we have more than earned this reputation as a state filled with backwoods, good ol’ boys who hate anyone whose darker than khaki on a paint chart or rolls their R’s when speaking.

We’re the Hate Capital.

Over the last few years, as the KKK numbers dipped nationally, they grew in Alabama. Which helped the state place fourth in the number of hate groups — a number that also increased for Alabama as more hate groups moved in.

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We’re like Boca for hate groups, apparently.

We draw in the hateful and ignorant. And we do it by refusing to change, refusing to correct the sins of the past, and instead we elect leaders who cater to those sins. Who tell us that it’s OK to cling tightly to ignorant ideals if label them “history.”

People like Kay Ivey.

A popular interim governor, Ivey has enjoyed widespread support thanks to her political strategy of staying out of sight. That might seem like a simple strategy, because it is, but the last guy couldn’t do it.

Instead of using that political capital to steer this sinking ship of a state towards a brighter, more inclusive future, Ivey, who once bragged that “no step is too high for a high stepper,” did what Alabama politicians seem to always do: take the easiest and lowest road.

On Tuesday, Ivey’s campaign released an ad with her essentially praising confederate memorials and blaming “out-of-state liberals” for attempting to get us to take some down. Ivey refers to the monuments as “history” and says it’s important that we understand it.

This explains quite a bit about the failings of Alabama’s school kids during testing. Instead of books, our students are traveling monument to monument to learn history. (I can’t wait until they get to the monuments for kamikaze pilots in Hawaii or the hijackers in New York.)

Apparently nuance is the step too high for the high stepper.

Because no one has advocated tearing down historical markers at sites where significant events occurred or even tearing down memorials for the men who died fighting for the South during the Civil War.

But there’s a difference between historical markers — this is where the nuance comes in — and grand statues honoring traitors, like the one outside of the capitol building depicting Jefferson Davis, who proclaimed after the war was over that he’d gladly do it all again. Or the one in Selma honoring Nathan Bedford Forrest, a man so vile that he was a business outcast after the war for his part in a massacre of surrendered, black Union soldiers and who was a founding member of the KKK.

Leaving up signs that mark where slaves were bought and sold or where battles were fought or where soldiers were treated — that’s history. Those are the sort of sites and monuments that teach future generations, that make our history more understandable.

The idolizing of vile men, and the whitewashing of their awful deeds, through these monuments serves only one purpose: to push the idiotic notion that the Civil War was about anything other than slavery, that there was some noble goal for which the South fought, that we were right and the North was wrong and we don’t have to be ashamed of what we did and what we’ve continued to do.

So, people like Ivey pander to those who want to believe such garbage, because it is politically expedient. And those people believe because it’s “history” and their lawmakers and leaders say it’s OK.

And Alabama continues to be a safe haven for hate.

 

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Josh Moon

Opinion | The president is telling fairy tales again

Josh Moon

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President Donald Trump has refused to push for funding for the United States Postal Service. (STOCK PHOTO)

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night … has stopped the United States Postal Service from delivering the mail. But a corrupt president hellbent on undermining an American election just might. 

President Donald Trump on Thursday said the quiet parts out loud again, telling an interviewer on Fox News that he doesn’t want to fund the USPS — because doing so would make mail-in voting easier. 

“Now, they need that money in order to make the post office work, so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots. Now, if we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get the money,” Trump said. “That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting, they just can’t have it.”

A headline on Fox’s website later read, “Trump seeks to starve post office to limit mail-in voting.”

Because that’s precisely what he’s doing. It is the latest in a long line of ploys by Republicans to discourage voting — from absurd ID laws to shuttering thousands of polling locations to fighting tooth and nail to stop curbside voting during a pandemic to now the U.S. president saying out loud that he’s withholding funds in order to stop and discourage a perfectly legal, proven-safe method of voting. 

You know, guys, if you have to keep going to this much trouble to ensure low turnout, maybe you should reconsider some of your policies and fundamental ideas for governance.  It would, of course, be bad enough for a president to stymie legal voting at any time, but to do so at this time — in the middle of a pandemic — is simply horrible. 

There were stories all over the state of Alabama a few weeks ago of upticks in coronavirus cases after a runoff election was held — a runoff election with abysmal turnout. There were verified reports of poll workers both catching the virus and potentially spreading it to others. 

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And that was for a low-turnout, mid-summer runoff election in Alabama. Imagine a general election with a presidential race at the top of the ticket on the upswing of normal flu season combined with COVID-19. Our already-jammed hospitals will have to turn sick people away.

Here in Alabama, there is a way around such a ready-made disaster. We have, essentially, mail-in voting. It’s called absentee ballot voting. They’re the same thing. The only slight difference is that in Alabama you have to request a ballot before one is mailed to you and select a valid excuse. For now, fear of the coronavirus is considered a valid excuse.

It’s safe. It’s easy. There is almost no fraud (.00005 percent over the last 30 years).

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By the way, those are national numbers for fraud. There simply is very little actual fraud involved in mail-in voting.

And most often the fraud that is alleged isn’t actually “voter” fraud. It is application or registration fraud, in which someone writes down their dog’s name or the name of their favorite sitcom character. To be cute. Or to get paid more by the entity that’s paying them per name to register people to vote.

Those fictitious people don’t vote. Because there are more steps in the process that prevent it. None of this information, including the statistics on actual fraud committed, is hard to find. A simple Google search gets you all of it. However, these pretty basic facts have not stopped the president and his minions from exclaiming widespread fraud with mail-in voting, and hinting strongly that the November election will be fraudulent. 

This is a fairy tale being pushed by a desperate, dumb man who sees clearly that he is going to lose bigly, and this is his out. He’s perfectly fine with people dying to soothe his ego. 

And make no mistake about it, that will happen if we cripple main-in voting and force millions of people to the polls. Because despite what you’ve heard from your rightwing pals, this COVID virus is quite deadly. 

A New York Times analysis of U.S. deaths over the last few months found an uptick of 200,000 more deaths than usual for the same time period in previous years. Pause for a moment and consider that staggering number of deaths. Consider how insane it is that there are still — STILL! — people out there in this country who insist the virus is a hoax, that it’s overblown, that mask ordinances are overkill. 

A decent leader, in the face of such unimaginable loss of human life and continued human suffering, would seek to stop that pain, to limit the deaths and do everything possible to continue government functions without putting people’s lives at risk. 

Oh, if only we had a decent leader. 

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Josh Moon

Opinion | Someone should be fired for Decatur’s racist housing practices

Decatur Housing Authority employees admitted to the segregation practices, in which they routinely bypassed Black applicants on the waiting lists.

Josh Moon

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In the Decatur Housing Authority's high-rise buildings, the tenants are 94 percent white. (APR GRAPHIC)

Did you know that all Black people hate living in high-rise towers? Or that all Black people like to sit on their porches, and come and go easily? I was unaware of these common traits shared by all Black people until this morning when I read a news story in the Decatur Daily and then read a lengthy report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that detailed the insanely racist practices of the Decatur Housing Authority. 

Now, before we go much further here, I should warn some of you that this is going to shatter your beliefs that racism is mostly dead and that widespread, government-sponsored racism doesn’t exist, or is over-hyped by media attempting to shame all white people. Those views were ignorant, offensive and easily disproved anyway, but this story is going to cause you some sleepless nights. 

Here are the basic details: In Decatur, there are three options for low-income, elderly housing. There are two high-rise apartment buildings that sit beside the Tennessee River and offer tenants various activities and beautiful views of the river. There is also another group of garden-style apartments several miles away, located in a less desirable and impoverished area of Decatur, where crime rates are high and property values low, and there are no activities and no gorgeous views. 

In the beautiful high-rise buildings, the tenants are 94 percent white. 

In the very-much-not-beautiful apartments, the tenants are 100 percent Black. 

If you think this to be a mere accident, it was not. Decatur Housing Authority employees admitted to the segregation practices, in which they routinely bypassed Black applicants on the waiting lists at the high-rise buildings and placed white tenants in the rooms instead. 

The HUD review noted numerous instances of this occurring during the compliance review period. In other words, the people at the Decatur Housing Authority continued this racist nonsense even when they knew HUD was watching. 

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And it’s actually worse than that. Because DHA was warned back in 2017 that its segregation practices were illegal, and that serious changes and improvements needed to be made to its housing and placement practices. 

DHA did nothing. 

HUD officials found that one Black applicant remained on the waiting list for a room at the high-rise buildings for nearly 2,000 days. 

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That’s more than five years.

And when the HUD investigators asked about these practices and about the obviously segregated housing situation, DHA employees told them: “Black elderly tenants do not like to live in high-rise buildings. They prefer to live in garden-style units so they can sit on their porch and come and go as they please.” 

All Black tenants … Lordy. 

The HUD report sums this up nicely: “It is unclear how the (DHA) staff reached this conclusion.”

If you’re wondering, absolutely no one in Decatur has taken responsibility for this monumental embarrassment. And as of late Tuesday evening, no one has been held accountable. 

Decatur Mayor Tab Bowling ducked questions about the issue, despite the fact he is responsible for appointing some members of the DHA board. 

One of those board members, chairman James Ridgeway, ran from the problem too, telling the Daily that he “doesn’t oversee the thing,” meaning DHA, and that he’s just a board member. 

Ridgeway went on to say that even though the board does have authority to hire and fire the people in charge of DHA — executive director Andy Holloway and housing director Jeff Snead — there are no plans to do so. 

“We don’t have nothing against them. They’ve done a good job,” Ridgeway said. 

They actually didn’t. According to a spokesperson for HUD, the Decatur Housing Authority operated the absolute worst, most racist housing agency in the entire country. 

To rectify the situation, Decatur will pay out $200,000 in fines and will be forced to make improvements to bring the apartments up to decent standards and provide the additional services that are available in the highrises. 

All told, it will cost the city, and its taxpayers, millions of dollars. And it will have left hundreds of Black residents living in substandard housing, and suffering the indignity of being shuffled off to less desirable homes because of the color of their skin. 

Someone should answer for that.

 

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Josh Moon

Opinion | The nothingness of Tommy Tuberville

There is no reason to vote for Tuberville for anything, much less for one of Alabama’s two Senate seats. There never has been, and through two years of campaigning, he’s never given you a reason. Because Tommy Tuberville has never truly said anything at all.

Josh Moon

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U.S. Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville. (VIA TUBERVILLE CAMPAIGN)

There is no reason to vote for Tommy Tuberville. This is not partisan rhetoric. This is not even an opinion. It’s a fact. Through more than a year of campaigning and barbecue lunches and meet-and-greets and Sunrise Club breakfasts and ALFA dinners, Tommy Tuberville has never — not one single time — provided you with his solution to anything. 

I know this because I’ve listened to the recordings, read the stories, talked to the people who were there. Nothing. Zip. Zilch. On any issue facing Alabama currently. There’s a reason for that: Because Tommy Tuberville has nothing to say. He has no deeply held beliefs. He has no ironclad positions. He has no previous knowledge or experience that would make him a candidate for this job. 

So, everything that comes out of his mouth is regurgitated garbage that he thinks you want to hear. And if a bunch of you tell him that you don’t like what he said, then he happily and without an ounce of shame starts saying the opposite. 

Because at the end of the day, Tommy Tuberville doesn’t give a damn about you or this state — hell, he just moved here 10 minutes ago. He has no idea what problems are facing Alabama, much less how to solve them, and he hasn’t spent an hour trying to figure them out. 

He just wants this job as a senator — just for the prestige and the power. 

That’s how you wind up with a U.S. Senate candidate whose plan to solve the education woes of a state with one of the worst-rated education outcomes is this steaming pile of nothing: “The best and most viable solutions come from the local level where parents, students, and local administrators can collaborate and work towards success together. And I believe that school choice, charter schools, and improving our existing public schools are all things that need to be a part of the education mix for Alabama children.”

Read that again. The man could write anything he wants on his website with unlimited space and no editing. And his stated education plan is improving public education by “improving public education.” Inspiring! 

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But wait, you haven’t heard his ideas for fixing health care — the single biggest issue weighing on Alabamians, according to several voter polls. Our health care system in this state stinks, and we routinely rank at the bottom in the country for health and wellness. Alabama had more than 300,000 people without health insurance prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. We have thousands more now. 

Here is Tuberville’s plan for these issues: “Obamacare must go. This failed experiment has led to higher costs, less quality care, and a system that hurts patients and doctors more than it helps. I believe that we need a return to the free-market where companies compete for your business while ensuring that pre-existing conditions are not a deterrent to obtaining quality insurance and care.”

Now, I could write a series of columns on the stupidity contained within these three sentences, but let’s just hit the most obvious. There is NO plan here from Tuberville. There’s no anything. Just buzzwords and the obligatory shot at Obamacare. And the weird promise to take away people’s health care in the middle of a pandemic while offering zero alternatives. 

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Yeah, sure, tens of thousands of people would die, but all of those words were popular with the consultants who wrote them. 

Look, there are real-life consequences for placing unprepared, unqualified people in positions of power and importance. No people should know and understand this better than the people of Alabama. Yet, somehow, we don’t. Somehow, election after election, we get suckered into voting for fools because those fools paid their qualifying money to the most popular political party at the time. 

Which is exactly the way we have, as a finalist for U.S. Senate from Alabama, a man who has admitted on air that he “wouldn’t have a clue” how to address the current pandemic, called the stimulus bill that likely saved America from a deep depression “just absolutely criminal” and recently told people that $600 per week in federal unemployment benefits was just “too much.” 

And he said all of those dumb things because he thought that’s what you wanted to hear. Heck, he even said them with an aw-shucks, gal-darnit routine and complained about them rascals up yonder in Wash-uh-tun. 

Because after all, he’s just like “y’all” — if “y’all” own a house, a lake house, a beach house, several cars and a few boats. 

There is no reason to vote for Tuberville for anything, much less for one of Alabama’s two Senate seats. There never has been, and through two years of campaigning, he’s never given you a reason. Because Tommy Tuberville has never truly said anything at all.

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Josh Moon

Opinion | Humane Alabama prisons would be a real surprise

Just some Christlike compassion and decent management. Getting either in Alabama’s prisons would be a huge surprise.

Josh Moon

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Nearly every day, there is a notification on my phone announcing that APR reporter Eddie Burkhalter has submitted yet another story on some new horror that has occurred within Alabama’s God-awful prison system. 

A beating. A death. A suicide. Guards arrested. Guards accused of essentially murder. The Alabama Department of Corrections offering a lame-ass excuse for this death or that “suicide” or this drug overdose or that outright murder. 

Every single day. 

How he deals with it — listening to the pain and anguish of the prisoners and their family members — is simply unimaginable to me. 

But because of his stories, and the work done by the ACLU’s Beth Shelburne, I know — and the readers of APR know — all too well of the violence and all around horrors that exist daily within Alabama’s prison system. 

So, it was quite absurd to hear a few days ago that both the Alabama Department of Corrections and Attorney General Steve Marshall were “surprised” by a Department of Justice report that found the state’s prisons to be an absolute horror show, where beatings, suicides, murders and drug use are rampant. 

The only people in those positions who would be “surprised” by such a report are idiots and liars. Marshall and Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn can decide where they fall. 

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The report from the Donald Trump DOJ, which is led by Bill Barr, was produced following a near-four year investigation into the prison system in the state, and it came on the heels of other federal reports that found similar issues. 

The state is currently tied up in federal litigation over ADOC’s lack of health care and mental health care for prisoners. Testimony in that trial, highlighted by media, has brought damning details of the state’s prisons and the cruel and unusual punishment doled out within their walls. 

At this point, the only people who don’t know that Alabama’s prisons are dark holes where violence, death and disease run rampant are those who don’t want to know. 

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You would think that such despicable stories of death and misery, in a state where Christian values reign and we profess a deep and unbreakable respect for the sanctity of life, would prompt public outrage. You would think our prisons would be governed by the Christian ideals of forgiveness and salvation. 

You would be wrong. 

Now, we could get into the many reasons — or, really, the one reason — why that is, but let’s not get bogged down in race or in why Christian repentance seems far less available the darker your skin. 

Just know the prisons are awful and that their awfulness has never been a secret to anyone with a working brain and the ability to read. 

That didn’t stop Marshall from grandstanding, however. 

In a ridiculous press release, he declared that the state would not “be bullied” by the federal government into entering into a consent decree. 

(I’d like to take a moment here to give proper respect to the federal bullying of Alabama over the years. Without it, we’d still have slavery, Jim Crow and Roy Moore-approved same-sex marriage laws.)

Marshall also, for some weird reason, tied the release of the report to the 2020 election, saying the state won’t be pressured into an agreement “conspicuously, 53 days before a presidential election.”

Yes, how dare the feds force us to treat humans like humans just 53 days before … other humans … go vote? 

Hard to believe these guys aren’t getting the job done, isn’t it?

And they’re not. It doesn’t matter what happens — bad press, lawsuits, DOJ reports, threats from federal agencies — Alabama officials are NOT going to clean up our prisons. They’re not going to reduce overcrowding or provide proper care or hire and properly train enough corrections officers. 

Not unless Alabama citizens hold them accountable. 

And you should. Because the environment of any prison or detention center is set by the people who run it, not the inmates within it. 

Instead of cesspools of violence and death, the prisons could be models of reform and humanity — where men and women are rehabilitated and provided life skills that reduce recidivism rates. 

Isn’t it weird how such goals are not part of a $2 billion plan to build new prisons? 

Over the weekend, a group of activists rallied in front of the governor’s mansion in Montgomery to protest that new prison plan. The Alabamians Who Care group wants massive reforms and a plan for better prisons that treat people more humanely. 

That’s not impossible. Other countries and other states have done it. And it didn’t cost them $2 billion and federal intervention. 

Just some Christlike compassion and decent management. 

Getting either in Alabama’s prisons would be a huge surprise.

 

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