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Opinion | We can, if we will, but will we?

Joey Kennedy

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Some of my detractors swear I hate Alabama. I don’t. I love Alabama.

Because I criticize our state, week in and week out, I know, that doesn’t mean I don’t love our state. Maybe I just believe in tough love.

I came to Alabama in 1977. I was born in Texas, grew up in deep south Louisiana, but made my home in Alabama in 1977, coming to the state as a reporter for the Cullman Times. After the Times, and over a few short years, I worked at the St. Clair News-Aegis, The Anniston Star, and then The Birmingham News.

When I first got to The News, I couldn’t believe my luck. As a 25-year-old, I’d made the big time. I was working at Alabama’s largest newspaper. Shortly after, my wife joined me, and we both had long careers at The News, before it no longer was a newspaper. Before its owners destroyed its name. Destroyed its loyal readers. Destroyed its best employees.

I had a great career at The News, that included a Pulitzer Prize in 1991, shared with Harold Jackson and one of my mentors, Ron Casey. The News editorial board was a finalist for two more Pulitzer Prizes. I was the only common denominator on the editorial board in those top 3 finals. It was not a fluke.

But I’m a liberal. I don’t apologize for that. I’m not intimidated by those who threaten me or those who vandalize my home or car or who confront me in public. It comes with the territory, and I say, “bring it on.”

What those folks, and so many others, don’t seem to understand is that I love Alabama. I want to be here. I want to see us improve. To do better by our school children and our poor children. I want to see us help those who need health care and homes and food. I want those who have health care and homes and food to help those who don’t.

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Alabama people are about the best anywhere. They are giving and forgiving. They will hug you, invite you in for a drink, debate Tide and Tiger football, share a wonderful story about the buck they killed last week, and give you the shirt off their back.

But as a group, they’re dysfunctional. They respond to the hot buttons: immigrants and queers and independent women and uppity blacks. They are smarter than that, but they don’t have the confidence to BE smarter than that.

We’re easy, laid-back in Alabama. And we often take the easy way out.

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Why go down a whole list of candidates on a ballot when we can just fill in one oval and vote for everybody at once? Rather they be Republicans. Or Democrats.

We want to hunt a boar or throw a party on the Gulf or quilt with our circle. That one-party oval we find at the top of the ballot gives us more time to do what we want to do. That is, if we even vote. We might be a little lazy, sure, but not when it matters, right? Well, no. If we’re not voting for the person instead of the party, we’re worse than lazy. We’re complicit. We are the conspiracy.

We are not just part of the problem. We are THE problem.

I love Alabama. It’s a beautiful state, with mountains and rivers and beautiful, untamed forests. We have roaring rivers and the best hiking trails and state parks. We have a short Gulf coast, yes, but one of the best Gulf coasts. Our beaches are the best. Our white sand is the best. Turn purple with envy, Destin.

We have history. Native American history and Civil War history and Civil Rights history. The best Civil Rights history. The Civil Rights history that not only changed our country, but changed the world.

I’ll continue to criticize our self-serving politicians. I’ll put up with the threats, the vandalism, the misguided hate.

I’ll do it because I love. Because when I talk to individuals, I hear they want us to move forward, to not be last in everything, to just be damned good at something.

We can be good, and we should be good.

Better than good, even. Great.

We have the potential. What we need is the will.

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

 

Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column each week for Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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Opinion | Election less than two weeks away

If the Republicans lose these three and one more, then Sen. Shelby loses the chairmanship of appropriations and Alabama loses all of its power in Washington.

Steve Flowers

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Our 2020 presidential election is less than two weeks away. We Americans will either elect Republican Donald Trump for another four-year term or Democrat Joe Biden.

In Alabama, we will either elect Republican Tommy Tuberville or Democratic incumbent Doug Jones for six years to serve with our iconic Senior Sen. Richard Shelby. The winner will be elected to a six-year term in this august body.

Several of you took issue with my statement last week that a vote for the liberal Democrat Doug Jones is a vote against Richard Shelby and the state of Alabama. Allow me to clarify and explain to you as simply as I can why that is true and why I reiterate that declaration.

The United States Senate is steeped in and governed by time honored rules and traditions. The most revered and sacred shrine is the vestige of seniority. The rule of seniority is paramount. The longer you serve in the Senate the more powerful you become. Some become more powerful than others. Richard Shelby has become the most powerful and consequential U.S. Senator to have represented our state in Alabama history.

In my 2015 book, Of Goats and Governors: Six Decades of Colorful Alabama Political Stories, I have a chapter titled, “Alabama’s Three Greatest Senators.” They are Lister Hill, John Sparkman and Richard Shelby.

Sen. Lister Hill was an austere, aristocratic gentleman who was renowned for health care. He was the author of the famous Hill-Burton Act and the father of the renowned UAB Medical Center. He served 30-years in the U.S. Senate.

Sen. John Sparkman served in the U.S. Senate for 32-years. He was from Huntsville and is credited with being the father of Redstone Arsenal.

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If I were writing that chapter today, Sen. Richard Shelby would be alone as Alabama’s most consequential, powerful senator in our state’s history. He is in a league of his own. During his 34-year career in the Senate, Shelby has become renowned as the bearer of good tidings and federal dollars to the Heart of Dixie. If Lister Hill was the father of UAB and John Sparkman the father of Redstone Arsenal, then Richard Shelby can very aptly be referred to as the grandfather as well as great uncle to these two premier Alabama institutions. Richard Shelby is the reason UAB and Huntsville’s Space and Rocket Center are Alabama’s most prestigious as well as Alabama’s two largest employers.

Huntsville has become Alabama’s fastest growing and most prosperous city and one of America’s brightest high-tech destination locations. The City of Huntsville is soon to become the second home of the FBI. The state-of-the-art Huntsville FBI cybersecurity headquarters will employ over 2,000 very highly paid individuals. This coup for Alabama is due to one person – our senior Sen. Richard Shelby.

It is not just Huntsville and Birmingham that have benefited from Shelby’s prowess and power, it is the entire state. Every corner of the state can point to a Shelby generated road, building, industry, or military installation.

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You might be asking, how has Shelby accomplished so much for our state? It is simple. It is federal dollars. Then you might ask, how does Shelby bring so many federal dollars to Alabama? It is simple. He is Chairman of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee. He appropriates the United States budget, or in other words, he controls the federal checkbook.

In addition to being Chairman of Appropriations, Sen. Shelby is Chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. If you do not think that is invaluable to Alabama, you best think again. There is no state in the nation that benefits more through defense preparedness and dollars in the United States than the good ole Heart of Dixie.

Under the Rules of the Senate, the political party that has the majority of members presides and makes the rules. More importantly, for Alabama, the majority party gets all the committee chairmanships. Our Senior Sen. Richard Shelby is a Republican. Currently, Republicans have a slim 53-to-47 majority in the Senate. There are three Republican incumbent senators in Arizona, Colorado, and Maine, who are in serious jeopardy of losing. If the Republicans lose these three and one more, then Sen. Shelby loses the chairmanship of appropriations and Alabama loses all of its power in Washington. Suppose your vote for Doug Jones, a liberal, national, California Democrat, is the deciding vote that puts the Democrats in control of the U.S. Senate and puts Richard Shelby and Alabama out to pasture.

See you next week.

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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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