Friday, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey was in Huntsville for the groundbreaking of Torch Technologies new facility.
Torch Technologies announced that they are building a new 35,000-square-foot solutions building and lab. Ivey was joined at the groundbreaking event by company founder Bill Roark, company President John Watson, Congressman Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, City of Huntsville officials, community leaders, and Torch employees.
Ivey said on social media, “Headquartered right here in AL, @TorchHuntsville is known for providing superior research, development & engineering services to the Department of Defense. I’m proud to hear their investment of more than $6 million dollars to expand.”
Ivey said that the project will create 40 more good-paying jobs. “Growing businesses & creating opportunities for Alabamians is a process; one I’m proud to say, we’re celebrating here today in Huntsville.”
Rep. Brooks said, “Torch Technologies is a great homegrown success story for the Tennessee Valley. An employee owned business, Torch broke ground today on a state-of-the-art, $6.3 million technology prototyping and integration complex in South Huntsville adjacent to their corporate headquarters. I was pleased to take part in today’s ceremony and offer my congratulations to Torch on their success.”
Economic Developer Nicole Jones told the Alabama Political Reporter, “It brings us great joy to witness a homegrown Huntsville company continue to succeed as it aids with defense and national security efforts. Torch Technologies’ newest expansion will create 40 new jobs in Huntsville. Employees working within the new 35,000 square foot laboratory and solutions facility will change the process of warhead testing and re-engineer products that protect our nation. In addition, Torch’s continued expansion on its current campus plays an integral role in the beautification and revitalization of south Huntsville.”
Jones added, “In October 2002, Bill Roark and Don Holder founded Torch Techonologies in Huntsville, Alabama with seven (7) employees and one location. Now, with more than 735 employees in fifteen locations within ten states, one territory, and one foreign country, Torch fulfills its mission and vision as the company continues to light the pathway to freedom.”
Watson stated, “As a native Alabamian – born and raised in rural South Alabama, educated at Auburn in Central Alabama, and working a large portion of my career in North Alabama – I am sincerely thankful for the partnership that we have with the city and state, as we all work together to improve the standard of living in our community.”
During its fifteenth anniversary celebration in autumn 2017, Torch Technologies donated over $300,000 to a myriad of local nonprofits.
Torch’s sister company, Freedom Real Estate & Capital, LLC, recently acquired the land located on the corner of Chris Dr. and Vermont Rd. Torch has partnered with Freedom Real Estate & Capital to develop the property and Torch will serve as the anchor tenant of the new facility. The project development partners include Matheny Goldmon Architecture and Turner Construction.
This new building will allow Torch to undertake projects of greater complexity, “ranging from developing instruments that will completely change how warhead testing is accomplished to re-engineering products that protect our nation,” said Torch President Watson.
Torch has received both national and local recognition for its business performance, workplace environment, and ethical business practices. In 2018, Torch was recognized as the ESOP Company of the Year by the New South Chapter of The ESOP Association. Torch was also named a winner of the 2018 Best Places to Work in Huntsville award, marking Torch’s fifth time to receive this honor, with previous wins in 2017, 2016, 2012, and 2008. In 2017, Torch was ranked number 16 on the Entrepreneur 360 list and was named one of America’s Best Small Companies by Forbes.
Opinion | Thinking: I’ll know it when I see it
“Have we accumulated so much knowledge that we know nothing?”
Lately, I’ve been adhering to the old adage, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” So, what have I been doing with all my free time? Thinking — or at least I think I’m thinking.
When I look over the political landscape here at home and across the nation, I see a great surge of self-interest, special-interest and “us versus them” loathing, but little in the way of what constitutes the common good.
Politics lately have more in common with the campfire scene in Blazing Saddles than a renaissance weekend in Charleston. All hot air and bluster and little fact or reasoning.
American politics have always been loud, factious, full of complexities and uncertainty, but these elements have generally led us to find consensus. Sometimes, it’s an uneasy truce but one that on the whole leaves us better and not irreconcilably divided.
However, today, tribal hatred in the form of political parties, a desire for one side to dominate the other and the widespread acceptance of “alternative facts” has reduced public policy to the equivalent of a high-stakes fight over which color M&M tastes best.
French-born philosopher, mathematician and scientist René Descartes wrote, “I think, therefore I am” as proof of his existence. Written originally in French and then Latin, it reads cogito ergo sum because I guess smart people in Descartes’ day wrote scholarly works in Latin.
Today we use memes, YouTube videos and trucker hats to convey our deeply held convictions.
I’ve been thinking about another Latin phrase I’d like to see added to the lexicon of debate: non cogito ergo non sum. Roughly translated: “I don’t think; therefore, I am not.”
Of course, we know that there are a lot of unthinking people — many we call voters.
A trip to a big box store or any retail outlet with the word “dollar” in its name proves that the average citizen shouldn’t be trusted with making big decisions, like who will run the country. But the alternative is worse, so we let everyone have a say on Election Day.
But because The People’s Republic of Walmart is a key voting block, the Constitution and individual states’ laws are there to check devotee’s lack of discernment. This is not to say that elites exercise greater intellect. Cable pundits and influential internet bloggers tell us that the nation faces multiple existential threats, not the least from people who use the word existential.
Merriam-Webster defines existential as “relating to, or affirming existence.” I defer back to big-box shoppers ergo ego emo: “I shop, therefore I am.”
Thinking is hard work and not for the faint of heart because reflection can reveal unpleasant truths or even cause us to realize that what we thought was true wasn’t.
In the early 1990s, a New York media mogul asked me what I thought the Internet might become in the future. I told him if we were lucky, every human-being would have access to a range of information to rival the Great Library of Alexandria. It could also, I said, be an enabling tool for global democracy. But then, I added, it would most likely be just a place for people to watch kittens and porn.
I used to think that moral wisdom and national interests depended on logical, coherent and precisely written words penned by studied minds. I believed this because The Ten Commandments carved in stone gave rise to a set of moral principles that shaped in part the ancient world and western civilization.
Our Nation’s Declaration of Independence, written with quill and ink, led to a new democratic republic in the United States and a model for the world over. Now the world’s most enduring democracy is often directed by tweets.
Have we accumulated so much knowledge that we know nothing?
Instead of inspired reason, will 220 characters do? Does writing in all caps make the thought better, or does the author think that readers are just too simple to understand their meaning without added emphasis?
Perhaps here, more Latin is needed. Cogito ergo non tweet. You guessed it: “I think, therefore, I don’t tweet.”
But nowhere is there less thinking than among those who know they are right because they are the chosen ones privy to all things conspiratorial.
In her book, Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism, Anne Applebaum writes: “The emotional appeal of a conspiracy theory is in its simplicity. It explains away complex phenomena, accounts for chance and accidents, offers the believer the satisfying sense of having special, privileged access to the truth.”
Having spent most of my life around powerful women and men, I’ve learned that none are capable of grand schemes as imagined on the internet, and even fewer can keep their mouths shut. If there were a cabal of Catilines, they would not be found on FaceBook or the pages to the John Birch Society’s website.
Politicians will always rage, people will hate, but with a bit of good fortune, our state and nation will endure because a few souls will place the common good above self-interest and factions.
It’s not always easy to tell who is thinking and who is not, but as Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said when referring to hard-core pornography: “I know it when I see it.”
While I still don’t have many nice things to say, and I’m not sure my thinking matters at all, I will admit I have hope, that enduring belief that there is a chance that we can do better, and that we will.
Opinion | Alabama’s public corruption problem might just be hopeless
“Mike Hubbard committed crimes with the solitary intention of illegally enriching himself.”
Mike Hubbard stole more than $2 million. Let’s start right there, so we don’t get things twisted, because there’s a tendency in this state, when the criminal is wearing a suit and tie, to believe that the crime wasn’t really a crime and that it was something more complicated and sophisticated than a guy stealing money from you for himself.
This wasn’t an accident. It wasn’t a wrong place, wrong time deal. He didn’t forget to carry the one and, oops, $2 million landed in his account.
No. Mike Hubbard committed crimes with the solitary intention of illegally enriching himself.
Hubbard used his intelligence and charm and ruthlessness to rise to a position of power that allowed him to influence the budget process, and then he used that position and his intelligence to benefit himself at the expense of state businesses, taxpayers and the state itself.
If Hubbard had his way, one of his clients would have been granted an illegal monopoly, improperly squeezing out other deserving state businesses and possibly costing Alabama citizens their jobs and livelihoods.
In other instances, Hubbard concocted a means by which wealthy business owners in the state could “gift” their “friend” hundreds of thousands of dollars. Money that we all know would have been returned to the friends many times over in the form of friendly legislation and government contracts — which is the very reason such “gifts” were deemed illegal by a Legislature led by Hubbard.
These things were wrong. They were deplorable. And they were, quite blatantly, illegal.
And yet, for the past four-plus years, this state’s judges and lawmakers — actually, let me be accurate: this state’s Republican judges and Republican lawmakers — have bent over backward to bend, alter and change the laws that convicted Hubbard — the laws that Hubbard helped write — in order to reduce or eliminate the sentence handed down to their friend.
Finally, last week, the day before Thanksgiving — the day historically set aside for information dumps of embarrassing news you’re hoping will get lost in a four-day holiday weekend — Lee County Judge Jacob Walker, leaning on the suspect legal work of the Alabama Supreme Court — the most activist court in all of America — cut nearly half of Hubbard’s sentence.
Instead of four years, Hubbard will now serve just 28 months.
That is a travesty.
Not because 28 months instead of four years necessarily sends a message of leniency to future thieves. But because the sordid and embarrassing manner in which the sentence was reduced has been a case study in systemic public corruption and ruling class privilege.
It has made clear that there is one set of laws and rules for the working stiffs and poor and a whole other set for the wealthy and powerful.
When the ethics laws of this state were adopted several years ago, Republicans, including Hubbard, hailed them as true game-changers for Alabama politics. They talked loudly and often about how necessary these ethics laws were to remove the stench of corruption and pay-to-play favoritism from our state government. They promised that these laws would help level the playing field and restore the faith of Alabama citizens in their government.
All of that was BS.
Within months, the primary architect of those laws was secretly plotting to circumvent them in the interest of personal gain, his private emails showed us. Not only that, he and top ALGOP officials and donors were conspiring together to subvert those laws and enrich themselves.
What they were doing was not in the interest of “economic development” or business growth in the state or even innocent mistakes. It was willful, purposeful schemes meant to get around the laws and use their public offices to benefit themselves.
In one email Hubbard actually writes: “those ethics laws … what were we thinking?”
Despite this clear intent and despite a solid verdict from a thoughtful Lee County jury, for the last four years, Republican lawmakers have attempted time and again to change the ethics laws — to weaken them and insert loopholes into them. They have succeeded twice.
At the same time, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals and the Alabama Supreme Court — all elected Republicans — spent an unbelievable and unheard-of amount of time to pick apart the Hubbard verdict and cast doubt on the laws that convicted him.
In both courts, the opinions mentioned the “unintentional consequences” of the laws, implying that lawmakers in the state could unwittingly find themselves as accidental lawbreakers as they innocently conducted the business of the state.
Oddly, not one lawmaker from either party has committed such a violation or even almost committed one.
And no one believes that Hubbard committed such an unwitting violation of the laws.
Because he didn’t.
Hubbard knew full well what the law was. He knew full well that what he was doing was illegal — his closest associates testified as much in open court. He worked tirelessly to concoct ways to subvert those laws and enrich himself, and there is a mountain of evidence that proves it.
And yet, our criminal justice system and our state Legislature spent the last four years trying to get him out of it.
That’s a level of corruption that is so staggering and consuming that I honestly don’t know if there’s any hope to combat it.
Supreme Court rules that churches can meet despite COVID restrictions
Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the three “liberal” justices in opposing the ruling. New Justice Amy Coney Barret was the deciding vote siding with the four conservative justices.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 5-to-4 decision Wednesday that the state of New York’s COVID-19 restrictions violated the freedom of religion rights of New Yorkers.
The court’s decision in Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo just pauses the enforcement of these rules against the litigants who’ve challenged them while the case proceeds, but it still sends a signal that the majority of the court thinks the restrictions are unconstitutional.
The lawsuits filed by the Diocese of Brooklyn and by Orthodox Jewish synagogues in New York will continue. However, the Supreme Court ruling will likely weigh heavily on the ultimate outcome of those cases.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo had passed COVID restrictions that limited church attendance to just 25 people in areas of the state considered to be in the “orange zone” of COVID-19 cases and to just ten people in areas of the state that were in the “red zone.”
The same rules applied to churches that can seat a thousand people and those that seat just one hundred. The size of the building did not matter.
“It is time — past time — to make plain that, while the pandemic poses many grave challenges, there is no world in which the Constitution tolerates color-coded executive edicts that reopen liquor stores and bike shops but shutter churches, synagogues and mosques,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in a concurring opinion.
“In a red zone, while a synagogue or church may not admit more than 10 persons, businesses categorized as ‘essential’ may admit as many people as they wish,” the court majority wrote. “And the list of ‘essential’ businesses includes things such as acupuncture facilities, campgrounds, garages, as well as many whose services are not limited to those that can be regarded as essential, such as all plants manufacturing chemicals and microelectronics and all transportation facilities.”
“These categorizations lead to troubling results,” the court added. “Not only is there no evidence that the applicants have contributed to the spread of COVID–19 but there are many other less restrictive rules that could be adopted to minimize the risk to those attending religious services. Among other things, the maximum attendance at a religious service could be tied to the size of the church or synagogue.”
The ruling would tend one to believe that the state may limit occupancy of churches and synagogues, but blanket restrictions like those in the New York law that do not take into account the size of the building are clearly unconstitutional, according to the court majority.
“The Court’s ruling is neither surprising nor alarming. Cuomo’s rules discriminate against religious services and thereby run afoul of the Constitution,” the editors of conservative National Review wrote. “And to fix the problem, Cuomo would not need to exempt houses of worship from the law everyone else follows, but merely ensure that churches aren’t relegated to second-class status. One approach may be to classify churches as essential and to assign all essential activities a capacity limit that takes establishment size into account. Another would be to simply let the hard capacity limits go, since houses of worship in orange and red areas are still required to keep to a low proportion of their total capacity (a third and a quarter respectively) — and because the areas at issue in the lawsuit aren’t classified as orange or red anymore anyway.”
Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote that whenever a policy creates a preferred, less regulated category — “essential” businesses, in this case — states must either include religion in that category or carry the burden of justifying churches’ exclusion.
“The question I always had was why was it okay for all the large box stores to be open, salons, dispensaries, casinos and tattoo parlors, but yet houses of worship were limited to much less capacity than all these places,” Rabi Yossi Mintz wrote in a statement. “I completely agree that we must have guidelines but it needs to be across the board and respect the freedom that our fathers granted us through the establishment of our great country.”
“There is no question that church is essential and maybe that is more true today than any other time,” Pastor Greg Laurie of the Harvest Christian Fellowship Church said in a statement. “Harvest is holding services outside because we want to keep people safe, yet give them an opportunity to worship together…. We practice social distancing and strongly encourage the wearing of masks.”
“I am proud to be leading the Diocese of Brooklyn and fighting for our sacred and constitutional right to worship,” said Diocese of Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio. “Our churches have not been the cause of any outbreaks. We have taken our legal battle this far because we should be considered essential, for what could be more essential than safely gathering in prayer in a time of pandemic.”
Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the three liberal justices in opposing the ruling. New conservative Justice Amy Coney Barret, appointed by President Donald Trump after Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death in September, was the deciding vote, siding with the four other conservative justices.
In an earlier 5-to-4 decision, the court found in favor of a California public health order that prevented churches from operating early in the pandemic. Then Justice Roberts sided with the liberals, but the liberal four has become the liberal three with the death of Ginsburg. Barret replacing Ginsburg appears to have reset the court’s previous position.
Robbers fire at police, race in I-20 car chase with speeds reaching 115 mph
One suspect is in custody. Another fled on foot into the woods in St. Clair County.
Sunday night police responded to a report of a burglary at a Hueytown business. The suspects fled the scene and led police on a high-speed chase down Interstate 20 through Jefferson and St. Clair counties. The suspects were driving a silver or white Cadillac SUV. They have fired multiple rounds at officers and one officer crashed his police vehicle.
The suspect’s speed reportedly reached 115 mph. Shots were fired at the Hueytown police officer responding to the call. The suspects then sped away. Officers from the Hueytown Police Department, Birmingham Police Department, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department, St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department, Pell City Police Department, Riverside Police Department and other agencies all participated in the high-speed pursuit. There are reports of multiple shots fired at officers.
As of press time, one suspect has been captured while another is in a foot pursuit in St. Clair County. The second suspect is still reportedly on the loose and should be considered armed and dangerous.
The crime spree began when Hueytown police were called to the Birmingham Auto Auction off of Allison-Bonnett Memorial Drive on a report of a burglary alarm. The suspect fired at the officers when they tried to block his vehicle there. A suspect shot at officers, wounding one officer.
Another Hueytown police car was reportedly hit by gunfire.
The suspect fled eastbound on I-20/59. Birmingham police responded to the call for aid as the suspect approached their jurisdiction. The suspect(s) also fired gunshots at the Birmingham police officers. An urgent request was put out for all possible officers to help in the pursuit.
A Birmingham police officer lost control of his vehicle and crashed east of the I-20 and I-459 junction. The officer reports no injuries but is being evaluated at an area hospital. The Birmingham officers lost sight of the suspect’s vehicle at exit 140 in the city limits of Leeds.
Officers caught back up with the suspect, who was traveling at speeds reaching 115 miles per hour, on I-20 in St. Clair County. Officers from the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department, Pell City Police Department and Riverside Police Department all took up the pursuit.
St. Clair deputies deployed spike strips on I-20 at mile marker 179. The suspect vehicle did not stop until the 182-mile marker. A gun battle ensued. A Riverside police patrol vehicle was reportedly struck.
One suspect is in custody. Another fled on foot into the woods in St. Clair County. The escaped suspect is reportedly armed and dangerous. Authorities have established a perimeter. The public should try to avoid the area.