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Josh Moon

Opinion | Despite having all the power, Republicans have set themselves up for failure

With their selection of no-issue candidates who hold little experience and zero aptitude for addressing real issues, Alabama Republicans will have only themselves to blame.

Josh Moon

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Sen. Doug Jones, left, and Republican challenger Tommy Tuberville, right.

Alabama Republicans on Tuesday selected as their nominee to the U.S. Senate a man who during more than a year of campaigning — much of it coming during a global pandemic, national recession and unprecedented civil unrest — never once discussed in depth his plans for doing much of anything about any of the numerous issues facing this state and country. 

And they also elected a former Mike Hubbard lackey who came within an eyelash of going to prison on ethics charges. 

It was … about what you’d expect for the Alabama GOP. 

Although, the margins were a surprise. 

In the night’s main event, Tommy Tuberville, the former football coach and guy who you really shouldn’t trust your money with, ran up the score on Jeff Sessions. With a handful of boxes still out late Tuesday, Tuberville was up by 22 points and Sessions had admitted defeat, continuing what has been a particularly rough few weeks for Confederate monuments in Alabama. 

But don’t fret if you’re concerned that Alabama is losing its sense of history. 

Because nothing screams Alabama history quite like two (alleged) crooks fighting for a U.S. House seat. 

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In the 2nd Congressional district, Barry Moore, the former legislator who a jury in 2014 found not-guilty of perjury charges despite an audio recording seeming to confirm the crimes, defeated by 20 points Jeff Coleman, who spent nearly $2 million trying to buy the seat. 

Coleman wasn’t exactly a Bible salesman himself, though. As APR reported, his moving company was at the center of a major fraud scandal, in which it paid $5 million to settle charges of fixing weights and over billing the U.S. military and service members. 

You’re welcome, the rest of America. 

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In the end, though, these races weren’t really about ethics or competency or something silly like choosing the most qualified candidate. They were about loving Donald Trump the most. 

That was Tuberville’s entire campaign. There’s literally nothing else that he even attempted to run on. 

No matter the question. No matter the issue. He always returned back to loving Trump and praising Trump as the country’s best president in his lifetime. 

In the meantime, Trump helped Tuberville by repeatedly criticizing Sessions, his own former attorney general, and encouraging people to vote for Tuberville. 

And while a clear majority favored Trump’s pick, a much larger majority — some 90 percent of registered Republican voters in the state — favored sitting at home instead. While some of the disinterest can certainly be chalked up to COVID-19 fears, that total is less than half the turnout that was expected, even factoring in the virus. 

That’s a bad omen for Trump nationally, if in even the state that loves him most he can generate only enough excitement to edge into double-digit turnout. 

But those voters who did show up were the defiant types. 

Neither Tuberville nor Moore would be considered establishment candidates, and neither had the backing of the national Republican Party. Both played up the “outsider” role, and both coveted the rural, blue collar voters. 

There were questions, particularly with Tuberville, as to whether such a shallow campaign could endure a long campaign. Not only did it endure, it gained steam. 

The question for both now, though, is if the Trump-love strategy can be successful in a general election — even one in deeply red Alabama — against opponents who will push issues and talk about plans. And as the coronavirus worsens, the economy continues to falter and social justice continues to be a hot topic — all of which worsen the president’s approval numbers — can the door open enough for either Sen. Doug Jones or Moore’s opponent, Phyllis Harvey-Hall to slip through? 

If so, with their selection of no-issue candidates who hold little experience and zero aptitude for addressing real issues, Alabama Republicans will have only themselves to blame.

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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Josh Moon

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

Josh Moon

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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. 

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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. 

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. 

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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. 

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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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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Opinion | Parents are being asked to gamble their family’s safety over reopening schools. Don’t.

The only reason we’re in this boat is because weak politicians, bowing to the ignorance of selfish people over the expertise and knowledge of doctors and scientists, refused to take hard, necessary steps for the proper lengths of time.

Josh Moon

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Alabama parents, do what you think is best. Do not apologize for it. Over the last several weeks, there has been an ongoing pressure campaign around the country, and particularly in Alabama, to get kids back into school buildings. The president has pushed it. Republicans in Congress have pushed it. Even local politicians are pushing it. 

On Wednesday, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey told parents that missing school would potentially put Alabama school kids further behind. She encouraged them to get their kids back in school as soon as possible, because “it’s really important.” 

Um, yeah. Do you think there are parents out there who don’t know that? 

Furthermore, do people think there are parents who are gleeful about keeping their kids home from school? Who are keeping them out simply to be arbitrarily defiant? Who are being flippant about this decision in any way? 

If you do, allow me to set you straight: We’re not. 

Keeping children out of school, or even out of daycare in my case, is an incredibly hard decision and an even harder life adjustment. Because it disrupts EVERYTHING. 

My wife and I are extremely fortunate to work for companies that are understanding and willing to work around our childcare situations. And even so, it has been a major adjustment. 

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We try to alternate and coordinate the best we can. We’ve hired people to help at times. And we’ve made the call to grandparents for assistance. 

And still, there are days when we cannot get things done, when we’re both frazzled and frustrated. 

We’re not doing any of that because it’s fun. Or because we’re giving Trump the middle finger. 

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We’re doing it because there is no good, safe — or even just saf-ER — option. 

And I’m not necessarily talking about the danger for only our daughter, because she’s healthy and strong and would likely be just fine even if she happened to contract COVID-19.

But when could I safely let our child see her grandparents again? Her aunts and uncles and extended family members? What about the family members and friends who have underlying conditions? 

And then there are larger questions. Like, are we helping to extend a pandemic by participating in what will inevitably lead to more virus spread? 

Because that’s going to happen. There’s no way around it. If you put millions of children and adults in enclosed buildings all over the country, you’re going to spread this virus. Just like those schools spread the flu, colds and everything else. 

Kids are going to take that virus home, just like they take home all those Fall colds and flu. And they’re going to infect others. 

And the spread will come at the height of flu season, and at a time when ICU beds are already full. 

That seems like a recipe for death and disaster. 

And it shouldn’t be on parents. This decision shouldn’t be laid at our feet. In fact, there shouldn’t even be a decision for us to make. 

The only reason we’re in this boat is because weak politicians, bowing to the ignorance of selfish people over the expertise and knowledge of doctors and scientists, refused to take hard, necessary steps for the proper lengths of time, and then compounded the problems by refusing to offer the necessary financial support to overcome those mistakes. 

We could have implemented mask orders earlier, kept bars and nightclubs closed, restricted large gatherings more stringently and been serious about fines for dangerous behaviors — all the things that have worked so well in other countries. 

At the same time, instead of forking over billions to companies that don’t need the money, we could have instead paid for a system that protected working parents’ jobs and their salaries. 

But we didn’t. It was more important to “reopen” the economy for the big Memorial Day boom and to make sure the corporate pals got fatter. 

And so now, here they are, asking parents to place the safety and health of their children, and, really, their entire families, on the line because they need to pretend that there’s some normalcy out there. 

Don’t listen to them. 

Get good, reliable facts from good, reliable sources. Do your research. Talk to your kids’ teachers and principals and superintendent. Weigh the options and the risks for yourself. And then you do what’s right for your family. 

And don’t apologize for it.

 

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