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Opinion | We don’t matter, because we don’t want to

Joey Kennedy

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I generally don’t make New Year’s resolutions. I have a few times, but not too often.

The last New Year’s resolution I made was in 2012, about this time of the year, just before the world became 2013. I had just seen Les Miserables, the big-budget movie musical, and I loved it. I’ve seen the stage musical five times. I’ve watched all the nonmusical movie adaptations I can find. But I had never read Victor Hugo’s classic novel.

So late in 2012, I resolved to read Les Miserables, and I would start on Jan. 1, 2013. I climbed to our attic, which is the depository of most of our books, dug out the paperback copy of Les Mis I’d bought years before, and tried to mentally prepare myself for this marathon of words.

Les Miserables is more than 1,400 pages. It’s hefty and intimidating, even if you’re an avid reader. Hugo’s historical novel does not focus on the French Revolution, but, rather, a period two decades later when small groups of rebels were attempting to reinstate a French republic over a newly re-established monarchy. Just read it; this isn’t Cliff’s Notes.

On Jan. 1, 2013, I started Hugo’s legacy. I struggled through one chapter, and simply couldn’t imagine reading the entire tome, printed on no telling how many hundreds of dead trees, that weighed down my lap. So I called a New Year’s resolution audible. I downloaded the book to my Kindle, where it was less than a quarter-inch thick, but still had the 1,400-plus pages. Psychologically, that worked. Six weeks later, I finished the book, and the journey was satisfying and fulfilling. I revere wonderful writing, and this is wonderful writing.

I also vowed then to never make another such New Year’s resolution. I’ve never read Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, and I’m not resolving to do that now, even though it’s significantly shorter at just more than 1,200 pages.

So resolutions aren’t my thing. I like to try new stuff, like my one-hour beginner’s yoga class I endured when I visited my daughters who live in California in October. I did the hour. I’m done with yoga.

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When I turned 60, my wife gifted me with a tandem sky-dive from 14,000 feet. I did it, and it was amazing. And I would do it again.

What I’ve never understood about Alabama is that we do the same stuff, over and over and over again, expecting something different as a result. It’s not going to happen. That second French Revolution foretold in Hugo’s novel never happened.

Our beautiful state will stay the same – dysfunctional, broken, hurtful to our poorest citizens, laughingstock of the South – if we simply keep repeating the same moves.

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We recently went to the polls, and while the nation shouted loud that we’re doing it differently this time, Alabama whispered in overwhelming numbers that we’re not going to change.

We whispered and nobody heard or cares. Alabama is insignificant in the bigger scheme, and insignificant in the smaller scheme, too, and we’re proud of our insignificance. As Congress goes after our health care, our Medicaid, our Medicare, our Social Security, we give them sanction to do it. As we cage children and block immigrants, we don’t care, and we don’t matter. As we shoot black men in their backs and isolate gay men and women, we turn our heads.

As we tolerate and confront a president who is unhinged and dangerous, we do not matter.

Thank goodness, other states said: “Enough!” Thank goodness, they said: “We matter!”

Yet, we whisper. And we are not counted. Because we’ve shouted to them: “Hey! We don’t matter! So, there!” And our shout is a whisper. We truly do not matter.

The Kay Iveys and Steve Marshalls and John Merrills do not matter. The Richard Shelbys and Doug Joneses do not matter. The Bradley Byrnes, Gary Palmers, Martha Robys and Mo Brookses don’t matter. The Mike Rogerses and Robert Aderholdts never mattered.

Like Jean Valjean and Cosette and Jevert and Fantine and Eponine and Gavroche in Les Miserables, in the bigger world, we do not matter. Neither did they.

We pretend to have our own “revolution,” but we don’t, really. Because we do not want to matter.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, either, because they do not matter.

And in 2019, I believe, and I fear, Alabama will never matter.

Happy New Year.

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

 

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Opinion | Electing Tuberville could cost Alabama billions

If your conscience or decency isn’t enough, vote your wallets.

Josh Moon

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Sen. Doug Jones, left, and Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville, right.

Money matters in Alabama. Oh, I know that we’re not supposed to say that out loud. That we’re supposed to promote our image of southern grace and hospitality, of churchiness and care, of rich people never getting into heaven. 

But the truth is greed is our biggest character flaw in this state. 

Every problem we have can be traced back to our unending thirst for dollars. Our ancestors didn’t keep slaves because they hated black people. They did it because they loved money and the difference in skin color gave them an excuse — a really, really stupid excuse — to mistreat other humans to take advantage of the free labor. 

Our rivers and lakes and dirt aren’t filled with poisons from factories because we’re too dumb to understand how this works. They’re that way because our politicians are paid off to turn a blind eye to the dumping of toxic waste. 

Our schools aren’t terrible because we have dumb kids or bad teachers. It’s because we’re too cheap to pay for them. 

You see what I mean? It’s our lust for the almighty dollar. Every time. 

We love money. 

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Which makes me seriously wonder why so many people in this state are going to vote for a man who will cost us all — and especially our biggest businesses — so much of it. 

Tommy Tuberville will be like a money vacuum for Alabama. Billions of dollars will vanish for this welfare state that relies so much on federal contracts, federal programs and federal dollars. 

If you doubt this, don’t simply take my word for it. Just Google up the press releases from Sen. Richard Shelby’s office from the last, say, six years — the most recent span in which Republicans have controlled the Senate. 

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Almost every single release is about Shelby securing millions or billions of dollars in federal funding for this project or that project, getting the state’s share of dollars from a variety of different programs and initiatives implemented by Congress. 

Shelby and I obviously have different political viewpoints, but it’s hard to argue that the man has been successful in securing money for Alabama. Lots and lots of money. 

Money for airports and roads. Money for defense contractors in Huntsville. Money for the port in Mobile. Money for car manufacturers. Money for farmers. 

Money. Money. Money. 

Shelby can do that because of three things: He’s on the right committees, he’s a member of the party in power and he’s liked by the right people.

Tuberville will be none of those things. 

Most pundits are predicting that Democrats will take over the Senate, tipping the balance of power and giving the party control of both houses and the White House. 

That automatically means that a first-time senator in the opposition party will have little to no say in any decisions. 

But what’s worse for Tuberville, and for Alabama, is that other Republicans don’t like him either. 

Establishment Republicans essentially openly campaigned against Tuberville in the primary, tossing tens of millions of dollars behind his opponent, Jeff Sessions. They even favored third-place finisher Bradley Byrne over Tuberville. 

It’s not hard to understand why — he’s clueless. 

I know that’s a Doug Jones talking point, but this one happens to be true. Let me give you an example: On Thursday, Tuberville tweeted out what was meant to be a shot at Jones, claiming that Alabama’s current senator wouldn’t meet with Trump’s Supreme Court nominee because Jones knows “he won’t have much time in the Senate to work with her.”

If you’re unaware, the Senate doesn’t “work with” the Supreme Court. They’re separate entities. 

Combine that with his other nonsensical answers on COVID relief, school reopenings, the Voting Rights Act, senate committee assignments, education, foreign affairs — really, the list is almost endless — and it shows how little work he’s put in over the last two years to understand this job he’s applying for. 

Now, that might be just fine with Alabama voters who care more about the party affiliation and owning the libs, but it’s not OK with grownups who take the job of running the country seriously. 

And those people — both Rs and Ds — don’t like Tuberville or his here-for-an-easy-check-like-always approach to one of the most serious jobs in the world. 

He will be frozen out of the most sought after committee assignments. His voice will carry zero weight. His presence will be all but forgotten. 

And in the process, so will Alabama. Especially in two years, when Shelby retires and his senior status is lost. 

In the meantime, Jones is highly respected by senators on both sides of the aisle. He already has a presence on top committees, and is so well liked within the Democratic Party that he’s on the short list to be Joe Biden’s AG, should he not be re-elected. 

The choice seems pretty simple. On the one hand is a competent, prepared and serious statesman who knows how to maneuver his colleagues to get the most for the state. On the other hand is an unprepared, uncaring, lazy carpetbagger who doesn’t understand any process. 

If your conscience or decency isn’t enough, vote your wallets.

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Opinion | Laura Casey offers sunshine for the PSC

Last time she ran for PSC president in 2016, Cavanaugh didn’t have an opponent. This time, however, she does.

Joey Kennedy

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Alabama Public Service Commission candidate Laura Casey

Editor’s note: This is an opinion column. APR does not endorse political candidates.

During every big election cycle, Public Service Commission President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh, a former chair of the Alabama Republican Party, sticks her finger out of her Montgomery offices to see which way the wind is blowing. If there’s a political position that looks possible, Cavanaugh steps out to take a run at it.

Last time she showed up, it was to test a run for governor in 2018. But that balloon quickly lost its air, so she decided to try for lieutenant governor, losing in a runoff to current Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth. Twinkle hurried back to her safety zone, the Alabama PSC. The pay is good, and work isn’t really heavy lifting – except when lifting Alabama Power’s rates to whatever level the company asks for.

Last time she ran for PSC president in 2016, Cavanaugh didn’t have an opponent. This time, however, she does. Perhaps her safe place isn’t so safe anymore.

Cavanaugh’s Democratic Party opponent is Laura Casey, a former actuary and attorney who moved with her husband, Sean, to Alabama in 2016.

Casey is known as the woman who tried to record hearings at the Public Service Commission but was denied the right to record the public meetings. She sued the PSC, and the Alabama Supreme Court, very Republican and very partisan, sided with Cavanaugh and the other two Republican PSC members.

A citizen of Alabama is prevented from recording a public meeting of the PSC: That’s outrageous, and if we had a more active legacy press in Alabama, that would have dominated headlines. But the issue got little notice, and now people who attend PSC meetings aren’t allowed to even take out their cell phones during hearings.

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“I worry that if people don’t start to take an everyday, year-long concern about energy policy, then it may be too late,” Casey said Wednesday in a telephone interview from her home in Hoover.

If anything, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it more difficult for Casey to challenge Cavanaugh. She hasn’t run into Cavanaugh on the campaign trail because Casey mostly speaks to Democratic Party groups. Likewise, Cavanaugh may be spending her time before Republican groups. There just isn’t much of a campaign trail.

“As far as I’m aware, she’s not really out there,” Casey said. “There is nobody to organize a debate.” Speaking before public service clubs or organizations isn’t an option because of the plague.

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“Sometimes it’s like screaming into the wind,” Casey said.

But Casey agreed: Cavanaugh is really using the PSC as a place to rest until she finds the next political job to run for.

“That’s what I’ve been able to observe,” Casey said. “She’s able to give all the powerful interests in Alabama whatever they want. She’s just the consummate gatekeeper to keep them happy. She’s the perfect gatekeeper, too. Net power rates have gone up 20 percent since she’s been on the commission.”

Cavanaugh first joined the PSC in 2010. In 2012, she unseated PSC President Lucy Baxley for president. All the time, at each big election, she looks for something else, but that something else hasn’t been there for her yet.

So Cavanaugh continues to run for PSC and continues to cover for Alabama Power Co. and other Big Mules in Alabama. Cavanaugh has no trouble charging Alabamians extra for Alabama Power if they install solar panels on their homes. She has no problem keeping the public away from the back-room deals the PSC makes with the corporations they are supposed to regulate.

Plainly put, Casey said the Public Service Commission “is a rubber stamp. It’s the definition of a rubber stamp.”

Until Alabama voters stop their straight-ticket voting or begin to listen to other voices and ideas, it’ll be difficult for a Democrat to change that rubber-stamp culture we find throughout government in Alabama.

Meanwhile, Alabama Power Co. is guaranteed a profit, no matter how much money they spend to generate power. It’s built into the system. Alabama Power doesn’t “own the sun, and they don’t own the (solar) panels,” Casey said. But, “they get to recoup all the money they’ve lost for not being able to sell you power.”

Meanwhile, Cavanaugh remains opposed to public hearings, Casey said. “We have not had one in 40 years. But nobody challenges her. The three Republican commissioners just want to keep it all behind closed doors.”

If you care about your energy bills, you should look closely at who is running the Public Service Commission. Find out more about Laura Casey at her campaign website: caseyforal.com.

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Opinion | GOP control of U.S. Senate critical for Alabama

If the U.S. Senate flips from Republican to Democratic, our iconic senior Sen. Richard Shelby loses the chairmanship of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee and Alabama loses our power in Washington.

Steve Flowers

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(STOCK PHOTO)

The 2020 race for the White House will culminate in less than three weeks on Nov. 3.  However, some experts are predicting the outcome will not be determined that night and there will be a protracted result due to the massive number of mail-in votes.

In fact, state officials in Pennsylvania are expecting controversy. The Keystone state is looking like ground zero for the presidential contest. It is one of the largest key battleground states, and it has obviously been the focus of former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign.

Under the Electoral College system, there are six pivotal battleground states to watch on election night. The election will be decided in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and to a lesser degree in Michigan, Wisconsin and Arizona.

The proverbial October surprise in the presidential race occurred in late September. The passing of legendary liberal Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg changed the entire dynamics of the 2020 Election. The opportunity for President Donald Trump to appoint an outstanding accomplished, conservative, federal jurist to the high tribunal is significant to say the least.

Trump’s appointment of Judge Amy Coney Barrett is truly historical. If Barrett is confirmed, this will change the entire ideology of the high court to a solid six-to-three conservative majority. Trump’s appointment of Barrett is even more pivotal than his previous Gorsuch and Kavanaugh appointments.

In these two cases he replaced conservatives with conservatives. With Barrett, he is replacing a woman with a woman but, more importantly, one of the most liberal judges in history with potentially one of the most conservative.

From a political standpoint, this Supreme Court surprise is like manna from Heaven for Trump and the Republicans.

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The pandemic was the issue prior to the Ginsburg/Barrett surprise. Trump was not going to win on that issue as the person in the White House. While he may not have caused the problem, voters must blame someone. The campaign focus briefly changed from COVID to the Supreme Court battle.

However, Trump’s contraction of COVID redirected the campaign focus back to the pandemic.

Things are changing so rapidly the Supreme Court hearings and ultimate vote for confirmation scheduled for the last week of October may refocus the campaign theme back to a partisan divide between the socially liberal Democrats and the conservative Republicans.

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It will illuminate the differences in the two parties. The philosophical chasm is deep and wide.

Which brings me to this point: the battle over control of the U.S. Senate is just as important as the presidential contest in this year’s election. Trump could not have garnered three Supreme Court appointees without the confirmation by the majority Republican Senate.

Currently, Republicans have a slim 53 to 47 majority in the U.S. Senate. There are three Republican incumbent senators behind in polling and fundraising. The GOP is in serious jeopardy of losing seats in Colorado, Arizona and Maine. In addition, Iowa and North Carolina are toss-ups.

Your vote may not count for much in the presidential race. Trump wins in Alabama probably by a 60-40 margin. However, folks, I am here to tell you that your vote in Alabama’s U.S. Senate race is paramount for the state of Alabama.

If the U.S. Senate flips from Republican to Democratic, our iconic senior Sen. Richard Shelby loses the chairmanship of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee and Alabama loses our power in Washington.

Therefore, a vote for liberal Democratic Sen. Doug Jones is a vote against Shelby and the state of Alabama.

The amount of federal money Shelby brings home to Alabama as chairman of the Appropriations Committee is unimaginable. He is Alabama’s No. 1 economic engine. Our seven congressmen combined do not have 10 percent of the influence as Shelby.

Whereas Jones is totally irrelevant when it comes to Alabama. His only relevance in the Senate is to be a pawn for the New York and California liberal Democrats.

He has voted reliably with Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and along with Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris. Indeed, Jones has voted so much like a Californian, most of his campaign money has come from the California Democrats. Actually, Jones is referred to in Washington as California’s third U.S. senator.

Regardless of the fact philosophically Jones is the most liberal senator to sit in an Alabama senate seat in recent times, economically a vote for a Democrat could cost Alabama millions of federal dollars.

Therefore, not only is a vote for Jones a vote against Shelby and the state of Alabama, if you work or benefit from UAB or Redstone Arsenal or any military facility in our state, you may be voting to cut your own throat.

See you next week.

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Opinion | A rubber stamp or a thinker? Pick the thinker

Tuberville is nothing but a rubber stamp for Republicans. And rubber stamps are not thinkers.

Joey Kennedy

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Sen. Doug Jones, left, and Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville, right.

Time and time again, Congress has tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, without success. One reason the efforts in Congress have failed is that unlike Jeff Sessions, U.S. Sen. Doug Jones refuses to support a repeal. Even so, Donald Trump has taken the case to the U.S. Supreme Court in an attempt to get the court to declare the health care act unconstitutional.

“If the Trump administration, Mitch McConnell and Tommy Tuberville have their way, it would all go away,” Jones said in a story published Thursday by Alabama Political Reporter. “I am very concerned about the loss of the Affordable Care Act as it faces a Supreme Court test in a few weeks.”

That’s another reason we need to re-elect Jones. Many Alabamians depend on the ACA for their health care. If the act is repealed or overturned in the Supreme Court, millions of Americans, and more than a few of them in Alabama, will lose their health insurance.

Not only that, they’ll also lose protections from pre-existing illnesses.

Then there is the question of Alabama never expanding Medicaid under the ACA, as Jones and other Alabama leaders have urged.

“Alabama lost out on billions of dollars, and it would have helped people in this state so much had they put their politics aside, had they put the Republican power politics aside down in Montgomery, and expanded Medicaid and given good health care coverage to so many people in the state — over 300,000 people,” Jones said. “14.8 million people across this country have benefited through expanded Medicaid. Alabama is not one of them. And it’s a shame.

There is a good chance the U.S. Senate will swing to Democrats in November’s election. Should Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court not be confirmed before the election, Jones’ vote will carry extra power.

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But we know what former Coach Tommy Tuberville would do: Anything Trump tells him to do. Problem is, it’s even more likely that Trump is going to lose the presidential election. As badly as he has handled the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy, and had federal law enforcement agencies attack peaceful protesters, he’s a long shot to get re-elected.

Alabama will need a strong voice in the Senate, and Tuberville has clearly demonstrated he hardly has any voice at all. He has refused to debate Jones. He has offered few ideas on what hewould support, other than what Trump wants him to support. Coach Tubby is just looking for a cushy position, and has decided Alabama voters are the suckers to give it to him.

There are plenty of Republicans who support Jones. In that case, they must make sure they don’t vote straight Republican ticket without also voting for Jones.

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In 2018, about 60 percent of Republicans voted lazy; that is, they just blacked in the Republican bubble, not thinking at all who they were actually voting for. Republicans who want to vote against Trump (and there are many) and who also want to support Jones (there are many) shouldn’t fall for the straight-ticket scam.

Few states even offer voters a straight-ticket choice anymore, but of course Alabama is one of the states that does. That’s what helps keep Republicans in power.

But with Joe Biden as president, a Democratic Party Senate and House, Jones’ clout will increase substantially.

Even now, it’s Jones who is most likely to cross the aisle and find Republicans to help him pass legislation. He’s shown many times since being elected in 2017 that he can do that.

Tuberville is nothing but a rubber stamp for Republicans. And rubber stamps are not thinkers.

If Alabama wants an independent U.S. Senator who does what’s best for the state, Doug Jones is really the only choice.

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