The Wire

  • 16-year-old murder suspect admits setting fire that killed mother, records state

    Excerpt from AL.com:

    Nicholas Lamons is charged in his mother’s fire death.

    A teen murder suspect admitted setting the Morgan County fire that killed his mother and sent two others to the hospital, court records state.

    Nicholas Lamons, 16, is charged in the Tuesday-morning fire death of his mother, 32-year-old Kimberly Lamons, at their Alabama 67 home in the Joppa area.

    “Nicholas was located a short time later asleep in the van in Somerville,” Investigator Jeff Reynolds wrote in an arrest affidavit. “Nicholas was questioned and admitted that he had started a fire in his bedroom prior to leaving the residence. Nicholas also stated that he came back by the house a short time later and saw the trailer burning but did not make an effort to notify anyone.”

  • Moore slams Washington Post’s Pulitzer Prize in fundraising email

    Excerpt from Associated Press:

    Former U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama is trying to raise money by pointing to the Pulitzer Prize that The Washington Post won for its investigation of him.

    In a Friday fundraising email to supporters, Moore’s legal defense fund, said The Post won for “lies and slander.” The email sent by the Moore for U.S. Senate Legal Defense Fund then asked for people to help replenish his legal fund.

    The Post won a Pulitzer for investigative reporting for its stories revealing allegations that Moore pursued teenage girls sexually decades ago while he was in his 30s. Moore denied any misconduct.

  • Birmingham considering another Democratic National Convention bid

    Excerpt from WBRC:

    Birmingham is going after another Democratic National Convention, but the city says this time the committee asked to make a pitch.

    Last month, the Democratic National Committee reached out to Mayor Randall Woodfin about the city applying to host the 2020 convention.

    In a statement to WBRC, Mayor Woodfin says he’s considering applying.

    “We are very excited that the Democratic National Committee has recognized the City of Birmingham as an attractive, possible site for the 2020 Democratic National Convention. Such recognition shows how much progress our city is making when we receive these kinds of unsolicited invitations,” Woodfin said.

1 day ago

Poly Sci 101: Gov. Ivey’s monument ad is a prime case of political framing

(YHN/Wikicommons)

“Special interests” and “politically correct nonsense” are responsible for efforts to remove Confederate monuments from public spaces, Gov. Kay Ivey says in a recent campaign ad.

At a campaign appearance earlier this week in Foley, Ivey made similar statements on the issue.

“We must learn from our history. And we don’t need folks in Washington or out of state liberals telling us what to do in Alabama,” she said, according to Fox 10 News. “I believe it’s more important that if we want to get where we want to go, we’ve got to understand where we’ve been. And I believe that the people of Alabama agree with that decision and support protecting all of our historical monuments.”

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The conversation about Confederate monuments raises some intellectually and morally stimulating questions: What is their function? Do they function as objects of praise or as objects of historical memory? Who ought to determine whether they stay or go?

I’ll leave those questions aside for now because I want to address how Gov. Ivey has articulated the monuments issue.

George Lakoff is a cognitive scientist who has done a lot of research examining how politics and language intersect, particularly how language is used by individuals and groups to present their opponents in ways that welcome easy refutation. Usually, this means the misrepresentation of those ideas or opponents or, at the very least, a simplistic representation of them.

Lakoff refers to this as the act of “framing,” calling “frames” the arguments or scenarios set up by framing.

Here are a few assumptions that Ivey’s frame makes: Monuments are not only a way to learn from our history, but they are central to learning from our history; non-Alabamians and political enemies are trying to tell us what to do in advocating for monuments’ removal; monuments are a way to ensure that Alabama gets “where it wants to go,” politically, socially, culturally; that Alabamians are opposed to monument removal.

There are obvious political benefits to framing the issue this way. Knowing our history is clearly important. Who could argue that? Alabama is a sovereign state. Nobody wants outsiders tampering with decision-making.

What the frame excludes is an argument demonstrating why monuments are central to learning from our history, and how their removal would prevent us from learning from our history. It also excludes names of individuals or groups who have come from afar to tell us what to do.

It’s undeniable that folks from all around the country want Confederate monuments removed all around the country, and some may even be funding that effort from afar, but the major weakness of Ivey’s frame is a failure to acknowledge the Alabamians who are arguing for monument removal.

Birmingham City officials have advocated their removal.

Tuskegee Mayor Tony Haygood said the city has considered the removal of a Confederate soldier monument in the middle of town.

A Tuskegee graduate wrote a petition last year to the have the same monument removed. The petition garnered more than 1,000 signatures.

City officials in Selma have shown a similar resolve over the years, if not to have a monument removed then to cease the city’s contribution to its maintenance.  

Obviously, Ivey doesn’t have time in a 30-second ad to deconstruct the monument debate’s complexity, and I understand that, but her frame doesn’t accurately articulate who is representing the monument removal view in Alabama.

@jeremywbeaman is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News

3 days ago

How many people does the IRS actually audit? Lessons from Tax Day

(YHN/Pixabay)

Income taxes were just due, and I hope that filing this year wasn’t too painful. Despite the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) fearsome reputation, our tax system relies extensively on voluntary compliance. Tax Day thus reminds us why it is important for Americans to believe that our government serves our interests, an impression which seems endangered today.

It may seem odd to think that we voluntarily pay taxes. Few Americans fill out tax forms for fun, and many pay professionals to avoid the stress. We file because the IRS makes us, right? Well, yes and no.

Filing a tax return is legally required, which is the yes part. But what are the consequences of filing a less than truthful return? An IRS audit could reveal your tax evasion or underpayment of taxes. But the likelihood of an audit is less than you probably think: half of one percent of individual income tax returns annually. Audit rates differ based on a taxpayer’s reported amount and nature of income. The IRS examines (their euphemism for audit) only one in five hundred taxpayers making less than $200,000 with no business income.

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More than just our individual income tax system relies on voluntary compliance. About one percent of corporate income tax returns are audited, and the sales tax relies on retailers accurately reporting sales. Environmental, workplace safety, and other government regulations depend on accurate reporting of information by businesses.

Voluntarily paying taxes improves our standard of living. The cost of auditing even a quarter of tax returns would be staggering: a huge increase in IRS agents, and enormous monetary, time, and emotional costs for taxpayers. Social science research suggests that treating people like lawbreakers can undermine respect for the law. If so, then having the IRS audit more taxpayers might conceivably increase tax avoidance, especially if some ways to hide or shelter income always exist.

We pay taxes voluntarily because they fund activities we want government to perform. The American Revolution established that in America, government would serve citizens. By contrast, throughout most of human history, people served kings or emperors.

Libertarians like to say that taxes are theft, and this contains a kernel of truth. Ultimately armed federal agents will seize property for unpaid taxes; armed robbers similarly take property, and injure owners if they resist. Taxes are not theft because, and only because, we approve of what government does with our money. Not each and every dollar spent, obviously, but the package as a whole.

Many Americans express a willingness to pay taxes. In 2017, 88 percent of Comprehensive Taxpayer Attitude Survey respondents agreed that cheating on taxes was not acceptable, while 95 percent agreed that paying taxes is a civic duty. Americans seemingly accept that taxes are the price we pay for civilization.

Today perhaps more than ever, however, Americans seem to view government as out of control. President Trump’s campaign promise to “Drain the Swamp” seemed to resonate with millions of Americans. (Whether the President is engaged in swamp draining is a different question.) Many young Bernie Sanders voters also seemed alienated from mainstream politicians. Such attitudes bode ill for a system based on voluntary compliance.

To be fair, perceptions of a disconnect with government are hardly new. Thomas Jefferson viewed his election victory over John Adams in 1800 as a second American revolution, which implies that President Adams was emulating Britain’s King George III. The student protests and urban riots of the 1960s left some political scientists wondering if America was ungovernable. Ronald Reagan claimed that Washington was the problem, not the solution. Conservatives’ concern today about a liberal deep state conspiracy against President Trump may just be old wine in new bottles.

Taxes are not theft because we believe that government ultimately serves us. Tax Day reminds us that if Americans stop believing that government reflects our values and interests, our tax system will no longer function as it has. And the resulting changes will almost certainly be for the worse.

Daniel Sutter is the Charles G. Koch Professor of Economics with the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University.

3 days ago

7 Things: ALGOP debate goes on without governor, State Rep. Jack Williams enters not guilty plea, President calls out Stormy Daniel’s “con”, and more …

1. AL.com’s most liberal brand “Reckon” hosted a GOP debate with an empty podium for Governor Kay Ivey

— The misunderstood ethics bill, votes for Roy Moore, and arming teachers all showed differences in the candidates who appeared at the debate.

— There is no benefit for the sitting governor to make herself available to Alabama’s liberal thought leader so they can harangue her for supporting Roy Moore.

2. State Representative Jack Williams pleads not guilty to corruption charges, continues Jefferson County campaign

— Williams, lobbyist Marty Connors, and health industry executive G. Ford Gilbert were arrested earlier this month and charged with conspiracy to commit bribery and mail fraud.

— The charges are related to payments made to to Rep. Micky Hammon to push a failed insurance bill through the Legislature.

3. President Donald Trump calls a con artist’s con job a “con“, she threatens to sue him for more money

— President Trump broke his Stormy Daniels-related silence when he responded to the release of a sketch artist’s depiction of a man Stormy Daniels says threatened her years ago with a Tweet saying, “A sketch years later about a nonexistent man. A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)!”

— Daniels responded by declaring that she could now sue the president for defamation, stating “I absolutely think we can make a defamation claim about what happened this morning.”

4. One of Trump’s mistresses is released from her non-disclosure agreement by American Media

— The parent company of the National Enquirer has released ex-Playboy playmate Karen McDougal from her agreement and she can now speak freely about her relationship with President Trump.

— A.M.I. will get the first $75,000 McDougal makes from the story, they will run a cover story on her, they will publish her fitness columns, and allow her to have the “life rights” to her story.

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5. The Trump organization wrote a check to the Treasury for profit derived from foreign governments, liberals are still mad

— One of the left’s more far-fetched attacks on President Trump has been based on a misreading of the “Emoluments clause” that implies the president’s businesses can’t make money with foreign governments, which is not what it says.

— The Trump organization wrote a check to the Treasury Department for $151,470 for profits the company made from foreign governments, which the “Citizens For Responsibility and Ethics” claim doesn’t solve the Emoluments issue.

6. Alabama gun range is the latest target of Facebook’s selective censorship program

— Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg came under fire from Senator Ted Cruz for blocking conservative content on their platform, including advertising, while allowing controversial liberal groups to operate unimpeded.

— Huntsville gun range, Bullet and Barrel, and Yellowhammer News have been blocked from boosting content Facebook has declared promoted the “sale of firearms (which it did not) and other content they said was “shocking” or disrespectful” which was laughably not.

7. Fresno State professor says she is glad Barbara Bush is dead and declared herself untouchable, the school disagrees

— A professor took to social media declaring Barbara Bush was “a generous and smart and amazing racist who, along with her husband, raised a war criminal”. When criticized she decided to give out the phone number of a different university’s counseling line.

— Fresno State sought to distance themselves from the professor by saying she could be fired, she is currently on leave, they are looking into the matter, and taking it “very seriously”.

4 days ago

7 Things: It’s still about the economy and the voters want the GOP leading it, Ivey nods to base with stance on Confederate monuments, Rep. Brooks challenged to debates, and more …

1. The economy continues to be strong and most Americans want the GOP running it, generic ballot tightens

— In a change from three months ago, two polls found that 35 percent believe the Republican party is better suited to handle the economy, compared with 28 percent who think Democrats have the better economic policies.

— Another fun poll result shows an increasing number of Americans view the FBI as biased against President Trump.

2. Governor Kay Ivey is playing the hits, touts her support of keeping Confederate monuments up

— Primary elections are all about playing to the base, Ivey has a new ad focusing on “special interests” who wanted her to tear down the Confederate monument on the grounds of the Capitol.

— Ivey isn’t the only candidate talking monuments, Attorney General Steve Marshall is still fighting the city of Birmingham over their silly obstruction of a monument

3. Like Gov. Ivey, Congressman Brooks has been challenged to debates that will probably not happen

— Clayton Hinchman sent a letter to Brooks attempting to set up debates in each of the five counties in the 5th Congressional District.

— Weeks ago, Hinchman’s campaign put out a press release talking about how they were up big. This move calls that obviously false information in to further question.

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4. President Donald Trump may solve this North Korea issue after all, or they may not meet at all

— It was reported by The Guardian that CIA Director Mike Pompeo met with the North Korean leader over Easter to lay the groundwork for a summit.

— In a joint photo event with Japanese President Abe, the president talked about how he had the blessing of South Korea to meet with Kim Jong Un but also how it may not ever happen.

5. IRS extends tax deadline as tax system fails, Trump applies for an extension

— Government bureaucracies rarely function well, so it shouldn’t shock people that as people scrambled to file their last-minute tax returns the system to accept them was knocked offline, so now you get another day.

— In a politically tone-deaf move, the President of the United States did not have his taxes ready on time which allows his opponents to point out how he still hasn’t released his tax returns.

6. Starbucks will actually close almost 8,000 stores to give all their racist employees a lecture

— After a ridiculous event in Philadelphia that led to two arrests and protests that claimed the notoriously liberal coffee chain was anti-black, the chain announced it would close stores for an afternoon for “racial bias training”.

— Former Attorney General Eric Holder, the president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, will help design the program, so of course people are complaining about it.

7. CNN’s Don Lemon is willfully putting guests on the air who are lying, other CNN hosts have to be doing the same

— In a podcast interview Lemon acknowledged they have guests on who say things they don’t believe to be true, but they keep having them.

— His larger point was that no Republicans will truly defend Trump, but all he did was point out CNN is populated with frauds and charlatans who guest all over the network even though they are known liars.

 

5 days ago

7 Things: Trump’s lawyer’s day in court brings surprises, Birmingham seeks to override state law, Pulitzer Prize-winning liberal news in Alabama and beyond, and more …

(White House/Flickr)

1. No one wins in court clash over the raid on President Trump’s lawyer’s office, home, and safe deposit box

— Trump and Michael Cohen wanted to be able to see what the Feds seized, the judge ruled against them.

— The judge also denied the prosecution’s requests to allow them to start going through the seized information, she added she views their integrity as “unimpeachable”.

2. Birmingham wants to be able to trump state law, which would have some serious consequences

— A trio of claimants made up of the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus, the NAACP, and fast-food workers, are arguing the majority-white Alabama State Legislature can not make laws that restrict majority-black Birmingham’s ability to raise their minimum wage.

— Even the lawyers are arguing that this is a tough case to make, but if they did it would set off an earthquake across the state and country for majority-black cities like Selma, Montgomery, Detroit and Atlanta.

3. The Pulitzer Prize is awarded for unproven news stories, this includes Russian collusion and Roy Moore accusations

— The New York Times and the Washington Post shared an award for “Mr. Trump’s possible ties to Russia”, while the Washington Post received one for their coverage of unproven allegations against Roy Moore.

— AL.com’s John Archibald won the award for commentary and AL.com stated it was because of how he “tends to champion common, simple Alabama values” which is, oddly enough, his main topic of derision.

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4. Sean Hannity is secret client #3, but that may not mean much

— Hannity was named after President Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen’s lawyer asserted Cohen only has had 3 clients in the last two years and a federal judge demanded to know who the 3rd client was.

— Hannity asserted on his radio program, and in a statement, that he has never paid Cohen for anything and he has never represented him in any manner.

5. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is completely fine with Alabama using the death penalty.

— Sessions said the U.S. will give Alabama custody of convicted judge murderer Walter Leroy Moody so the state can execute him.

— The lawyer for the killer argues he shouldn’t face the death penalty because the judge he killed was against it.

6. The movement to boycott Starbucks has almost completely died out, maybe the era of outrage is over

— Silly slogans like “A whole lot of racism, a whole lot of crap, Starbucks coffee is anti-black” seem to be contained to Philadelphia and social media.

— In spite of the weakness of the claims of the mob, the manager who called police “is no longer at that store”.

7. Lebron James threatened Alabama and Nick Saban; now he is being sued

— James made news when he criticized Alabama head coach Nick Saban for daring to talk to a pro football player in a barbershop. Saban eventually backed down and changed the name of his video series.

— Unfortunately for “King James”, he is now being sued by Adventure Enterprises for using the series after it was pitched to him.

 

5 days ago

Facebook is breaking a promise, and now conservatives are paying the price

(CBS News/YouTube)

When Facebook makes promises, news outlets make bets, and dozens of outlets did just that when Facebook signaled an increase in traffic for video products in 2017.

Now, Facebook seems to be reneging on its promise. Vox fired 50 video producers due to lagging Facebook traffic in February, but conservative news outlets have been on unstable ground with Facebook since 2016. The IJR had a culling of its own, and RARE went out of business entirely. In January, Facebook changed policies and cut the amount of news users will see on the site in general and also made the decision to boost “trusted” news outlets while suppressing their competitors.

According to a report from The Outline, conservative and right wing outlets are hit the hardest, while the engagement numbers of most predominantly liberal publishers remain unaffected. Liberal or left-leaning outlets made up nine of the top ten performing publishers on Facebook in March 2018, with only Fox News representing conservatives.

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When Texas Sen. Ted Cruz dug into Mark Zuckerberg on this exact topic last week, Zuckerberg floundered, insisting that the far left views of Silicon Valley don’t leak into how Facebook does business, but some former Facebook employees tell a different story. They say they “routinely” suppressed conservative news stories from the site’s “trending” news section.

“Facebook’s news section operates like a traditional newsroom, reflecting the biases of its workers and the institutional imperatives of the corporation,” Gizmodo writes.

What that translates to is every conservative outlet in the country has to get through a liberal newsroom before it gets to Facebook users.

(Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.)

6 days ago

7 Things: Comey’s media circus begins, Trump and Syria, Roy Moore still looms over GOP politics in Alabama, and more …

(ABC News)

1. Former FBI Director James Comey’s ABC interview doesn’t disappoint, everyone agrees they win

— One of Comey’s most quotable lines was about whether the president of the United States is unfit to hold the job, saying “I don’t think he’s medically unfit to be president. I think he’s morally unfit to be president.”

— In speaking about Clinton, but it could have been Trump talking about Mueller, Comey says “if you’ve been investigating something for almost a year and you don’t have a general sense of where it’s likely to end up, you should be fired because you’re incompetent.”

2. President Trump’s attack on Syria, for using chemical weapons, angers everyone

— The president’s base is upset that he is continuing interventionist policies, some Republicans are mad he didn’t seek Congressional approval.

— The left is not happy because they believe the president is trying to distract from the Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling.

3. The Ten Commandments are back as an issue in the Republican primary for governor, for no reason

— Candidate for Governor Bill Hightower was asked how he feels about a Constitutional amendment that would allow public buildings to post the Ten Commandments. He stated the legislation has “no teeth” because the state can’t defend the statue with public funds.

— Former strategist for Roy Moore, Dean Young, who led Moore to his loss to Democrat Doug Jones in 2017, slammed Hightower for not being “enthusiastic” enough about the amendment. Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle and Evangelist Scott Dawson support the amendment.

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4. Starbucks arrest causes another racial outrage; police chief defends officers

— Philadelphia police officers arrested two men after receiving a trespassing call from Starbucks where the men were asked to leave and refused.

— Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross said his officers “did absolutely nothing wrong” and pointed out that the men were asked by officers to leave, but refused and ended up being detained.

5. Women’s March endorses Backpage.com 5 days before they plead guilty to human trafficking charges

— The CEO of Backpage pled guilty to human trafficking and money laundering charges related to his operation of a website that was known to be used by prostitutes.

— The Women’s March Twitter account showed their support for Backpage earlier in the week by tweeting, “The shutting down of #Backpage is an absolute crisis for sex workers who rely on the site to safely get in touch with clients. Sex workers rights are women’s rights.”

6. Alabama’s ban on local minimum wage hikes will be challenged in court

— Attorneys have alleged a 2016 law banning cities from raising their minimum wage is racially discriminatory.

— The lawsuit claims that it takes “power” from majority-black Birmingham voters and gives it to the majority-white state electorate, a claim already knocked down by one court.

7. 92-year-old former First Lady Barbara Bush is near death

— The Bush family announced that the former First Lady will not be accepting any additional medical treatment and will now focus on comfort.

— Barbara Bush and former President Bush recently celebrated their 73rd wedding anniversary.

 

6 days ago

Last-minute tax filers take heart: Alabamians started working for themselves 11 days ago

(W.Miller/YHN)

Tuesday is the final day to pay your 2017 taxes, but if you live in Alabama, at least you have stopped working for the government for the rest of this year.

Alabama’s “Tax Freedom Day” came 11 days ago, on April 5, according to the Washington-based Tax Foundation. That is tied with Oklahoma and Tennessee for the third earliest day in the country, behind Alaska and Louisiana, which are tied at one earlier — April 4.

Last year’s Tax Freedom Day in Alabama fell on April 9, four days later than this year. But the Tax Foundation cautions that direct comparisons at the state level are not possible because of significant changes to the methodology.

Tax Freedom Day is the date on which taxpayers have earned enough money to pay their federal, state and local taxes for the year. On average, that date falls on April 19 this year — two days after the deadline to file taxes.

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It is a way to visualize the tax burden, which is roughly 30 percent of income. That includes not just federal income taxes but all taxes paid to government at all levels — state, local and federal.

This year, Americans will fork over $3.4 trillion in federal taxes, alone. State and local governments take another $1.8 trillion on top of that. The combined $5.2 trillion is 30 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product.

“Americans will collectively spend more on taxes in 2018 than they will on food, clothing, and housing combined,” tax analyst Erica York wrote in the Tax Foundation report.

But chin up, American taxpayer. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, passed by Congress last year, will make this year’s Tax Freedom Day come three days earlier.

But the Tax Freedom Day does not include the effects of borrowing, which are substantial. Since 2002, federal expenses have surpassed revenue, with the annual deficit reaching $1 trillion from 2009 to 2012. The Congressional Budget Office projects this year’s deficit will grow from 665 billion to $806 billion, with a return to trillion-dollar deficits on the horizon.

Including all that red ink pushes Tax Freedom Day back — by 17 days in 2018, to May 6.

Before big government took hold in the 20th century, Americans hardly had to work at all before achieving tax freedom. For the first two decades of the last century, Tax Freedom Day hovered around Jan. 20. The entire rest of the year’s income could be spent on food, housing and other expenses.

That date began to creep later and later starting in the 1920s, however. Spikes in debt sent the adjusted Tax Freedom Day spiraling in the 1920s and again in the 1940s. In fact, the latest deficit-inclusive Tax Freedom Day on record occurred in 1945 — on May 25.

Alabama fares better than most of its peers because its residents, on average, make less — and therefore pay less in taxes — and because the state and local tax burden is relatively light.

“The total tax burden borne by residents of different states varies considerably due to differing state tax policies and the progressivity of the federal tax system,” York wrote.

So even if Alabama and a high-income state have the same tax policies, Alabama’s net tax burden will be less because its residents will pay less in federal taxes than the residents of the state with more higher-income residents.

New York State residents — who have the latest Tax Freedom Day in the nation — will be working for the government until May 14. That is more than a full month later than their counterparts in Alabama.

Other states with a late Tax Freedom Day are New Jersey, Connecticut and the District of Columbia — all at May 3.

@BrendanKKirby is a senior political reporter at LifeZette and author of “Wicked Mobile.”

 

1 week ago

Sen. Doug Jones has proved himself — so far — to be a moderate Democrat

(YHN/PolitiFact)

A recent Morning Consult poll showing Democratic U.S. Sen. Doug Jones’s approval rating at 47 percent – four points under Shelby’s 51 percent – gives me reason to revisit my thoughts on Sen. Jones’s politics.

A few days after Doug Jones was elected as a U.S. senator, I offered four reasons why he looks like a moderate Democrat.

My reasoning was based primarily upon some of Jones’s statements and actions during his campaign, which I found peculiar and non-descriptive of a thoroughbred progressive: He used a Confederate colonel, even calling him brave, to make a point about finding common ground in politics; he rejected the idea – at least at the time – that President Trump should resign because of how badly he governs, as his party colleagues embraced it; he was genuine in his remarks about compromise and demonstrated a real desire to work with his Republican counterpart, Sen. Richard Shelby.

Now that he’s had a few months in Congress, what kind of Democrat has Doug Jones — so far — proved himself to be?

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Many of his votes have been fairly nondescript. He voted for February’s continuing appropriations resolution, for the recent spending bill, against the White House’s immigration proposal, against the banning of abortions after 20 weeks. These votes fall mostly within the party’s mainstream.

However, Jones has elsewhere demonstrated a willingness to split from his party in support of some key conservative reforms and of the president.

Chief among those cases is his vote in support of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act, which loosened financial regulations put in place by Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Progressive heavyweights – Sens. Chuck Schumer, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and 28 other Democrats – voted against the bill. Dodd-Frank is at the heart of progressive regulatory policy, and a vote in favor of reforming it is a significant split from that.

Jones has also supported several of President Trump’s nominees, voting in favor of Alex Azar’s nomination to the post of secretary of Health and Human Services and in favor of David Ryan Stras’s nomination to the Eighth Circuit. Only five other Democrats supported Azar’s nomination, and only six others supported Stras’s.

To be clear, these things make Jones a moderate Democrat, not a political moderate overall.

Most Alabamians surely like to see Jones supporting conservative reforms and supporting the president, but his extreme position on abortion remains a major hurdle.

Jones should – as Yellowhammer News Editor Pepper Bryars argued in January – sincerely consider reforming his position on abortion, not only to reflect the overwhelming majority of Alabamians’ beliefs about abortion, but because it’s the right thing to do.

@jeremywbeaman is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News

1 week ago

7 Things: Ivey passes on debate but tosses out 1st pitch, Comey’s tell-all gets “Fire and Fury” treatment, Sen. Doug Jones is more popular than Sen. Richard Shelby, and more …

(Governor Kay Ivey/Flickr)

1. 3 GOP candidates debate while the Governor threw out the first pitch at a minor league baseball game in the same city

— Governor Kay Ivey’s refusal to debate is a key talking point for Republican opponents but probably doesn’t move the needle all that much with actual voters. This won’t stop us from talking about it.

— All of this talk may be for naught, Ivey is either the 2nd or 3rd most popular Governor depending on who you ask.

2. President Donald Trump didn’t want false stories about his life in the media; former FBI Director finds this odd

— James Comey’s book is being treated just like Michael Wolff’s tell-all from earlier this year. The glowing praise and breathless reporting is being treated as gospel and agenda-free.

— Wednesday’s big takeaway was that the president was upset that people were reporting the “pee tape” story as fact and he wanted the FBI to knock it down. Comey relayed that this was especially painful for Melania Trump.

3. Alabama’s Democrat senator has a pretty solid approval rating, for now

— Sen. Doug Jones’ approval rating is a net +22 while the senior Republican Sen. Richard Shelby has a +21 rating, but Shelby is the one of the two with a raw approval number over the 50 percent mark.

— Most of this rub for Jones can probably be attributed to his defeat of Judge Roy Moore. Eventually he will have to cast votes with his party.

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4. Republicans continue to angle for the House Speaker job, even though it seems unlikely they control that position

— Representatives Steve Scalise and Kevin McCarthy are raising money for a potential shot at Speaker of the House, Ryan has tossed his support behind McCarthy.

— Not many people think Ryan would have stepped down if Republicans were expected to hang on to the House; currently Democrats are up 6.6 points on the generic Congressional ballot.

5. Alabama Democrats continue to read from the same playbook, this strategy has cost them the last 3 elections

— Democrats of the last 3 elections have argued for a lottery and increased government spending on healthcare. These ideas have not brought about any signs of actual success but that isn’t stopping them.

— The only reported dust-up came when former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Sue Bell Cobb and Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox debated who would best raise the state’s minimum wage.

6. Former QB Colin Kaepernick was reportedly denied a job opportunity because he wouldn’t stop kneeling, which he denies

— Kaepernick had a workout planned with the Seattle Seahawks that was allegedly canceled after he would not agree to end his National Anthem protests.

— The embattled QB is not the only player being questioned about his willingness to end the on-the-clock protests, free-agent safety Eric Davis was questioned by the Cincinnati Bengals about the issue when he met with them.

7. Yesterday was Holocaust Remembrance Day; Americans don’t remember

— The day was established in 1980 – at the time only the U.S. and Israel had a day of remembrance – a study released this year shows that 58 percent of respondents believe it could happen again.

— One-third of all respondents and over 40 percent of millennials believe only 2 million or fewer were killed during the Holocaust, it is more troubling that 22 percent have no idea what the Holocaust is.

1 week ago

Two Republicans express distress about the party’s fiscal direction

(W.Miller/YHN)

On Wednesday, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) responded to the Congressional Budget Office’s recent budget outlook with, what could become, regret for his role in passing tax cuts.

“If it ends up costing what has been laid out here, it could well be one of the worst votes I’ve made,” Corker told The Hill.

Corker was opposed to Republicans’ earliest tax cut proposals and in fact voted against one of the measures because of the deficits they were estimated to add, but ended up voting for the tax cuts that became law in December.

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Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) expressed similar regret but about the recently-passed appropriations bill.

“I hope it gets legs,” Kennedy said of an effort by Republican leadership to use certain provisions of the Congressional Budget Act allowing them to cancel some of the spending authorized in the recent spending bill.

“I’m embarrassed about the bill we passed,” he said.

Kennedy voted against the appropriations bill, but many of his fellow Republicans undoubtedly had the same reservations about increasing spending and still voted for it because of its military funding or for whatever other reason.

Corker’s and Kennedy’s comments demonstrate how significantly fiscal issues are contributing to intra-party tension for Republicans, as members are forced to compromise certain of their own priorities with certain of their others for the sake of getting something passed.

With the statistically high possibility of Republicans losing their House majority in November, the prospects of significant conservative reforms coming in President Trump’s last two years are looking grim.

@jeremywbeaman is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News

2 weeks ago

CBO predicts economic growth, along with spending and deficit growth

(W.Miller/YHN)

On Monday, the Congressional Budget Office published its analysis of the budget and economic outlook for 2018-2028, giving both Republicans and Democrats some more ammunition to take into the midterm elections.

For Republicans, the analysis indicates that their recent tax cuts are helping to grow the economy as they said it would.

“In our economic projections, which underlie our budget projections, inflation-adjusted GDP, or real GDP, expands by 3.3 percent this year and by 2.4 percent in 2019,” CBO Director Keith Hall said in his statement on the office’s findings.

For Democrats, the analysis shows that the tax cuts are damaging.

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“Projected deficits over the 2018–2027 period have increased markedly since we issued our last budget and economic projections in June 2017,” Hall also said in the same statement. “The increase stems primarily from tax and spending legislation enacted since then—especially the 2017 tax act, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, and the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 (emphasis mine).

For those interested in assigning bipartisan blame, CBO’s analysis offers an indictment of both parties.

“Between 2018 and 2028, real actual output and real potential output alike are projected to expand at an average annual rate of 1.9 percent,” Hall said.

By mentioning the Bipartisan Budget Act and the Consolidated Appropriations Act, Director Hall demonstrates that rising spending is resulting from bipartisan legislation. Both of those bills were passed with Republican and Democrat support.

Whatever parts of the analysis may be found problematic in particular, the CBO has reinforced the argument made by conservatives all around that tax cuts must be coupled with spending cuts, or else the country’s fiscal crisis will continue.

2 weeks ago

7 Things: FBI targets President Trump’s attorney, The U.S. comes out swinging on Syria, Nick Saban was in no mood for drama over today’s White House visit, and more …

FBI Swat Team member (Photo: Brendan Smialowski)

1. FBI agents have raided the office of Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s personal attorney

— Michael Cohen’s office was raided Monday afternoon. Agents seized emails, tax documents, and records related to his payment to Stormy Daniels which indicates this is a campaign finance issue.

— An important point in all of this is that this involves, “Issues separate from the Russia investigation,” according to USA Today.

2. UN Ambassador Nikki Haley calls out Syria AND the United Nations

— Haley stated that the position of the United States is clear: Russia’s hands “are all covered in the blood of Syrian children.” Russia has warned there will be “grave repercussions” if the U.S. acts alone.

— Trump has multiple options: limited strikes, strikes attempting to take out the Syrian regime, attacks on Syria/Iran/Russian assets, or nothing.

3. Alabama’s football coach handled players concerns before today’s trip to the White House

— Multiple sports teams have balked at visiting the Trump White House, but Nick Saban was not going to let this become an issue for Alabama’s football team.

— An Alabama lineman relayed Saban’s words to AL.com, “Hey, we’re doing this regardless of your political thoughts. We’re going, just to celebrate this team. It’s an honor. And just to be able to say that you’ve gone to the White House is something that you can cherish forever.”

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4. Israel has a friend in Auburn’s basketball coach Bruce Pearl

— On college campuses, and newsrooms around the country, Israel is maligned as a bad actor, an aggressive presence in the Middle East, and not an ally of the United States.

— Auburn’s head coach isn’t buying it, he tweeted that America would not tolerate the behavior of Israel’s enemies: “If a foreign country threatened to destroy Boston Massachusetts, where I grew up or Auburn Alabama, where I live now, within the next 25 yrs, how should our country react? Really?”

5. Alabama’s tax burden is the 8th lowest in the country

— WalletHub compared the 50 states based on the three components of state tax burden vs. personal income — property taxes, individual income taxes, and sales and excise taxes.

— Alabama is the place to be for lower taxes: The state is 43rd in overall tax burden at 7.24 percent but its highest category was total sales tax at 3.97 percent.

6. Facebook’s CEO goes to Washington wearing a tie, and he apologized. No one will accept it, and they will crush him

— Zuckerberg’s apology was wide-ranging: “That goes for fake news, foreign interference in elections, and hate speech, as well as developers and data privacy,” according to the Washington Post.

— Zuckerberg’s issues aren’t only coming from D.C. His employees are quitting and asking to be reassigned.

7. London’s mayor is working to ban knives, although it sounds like it, this is not a joke

— Mayor Sadiq Kahn has implemented stop-and-frisk policies with 300 additional officers in high-crime neighborhoods to search for knives.

— The mayor also banned home deliveries of knives and acid because Londoners are using them to attack each other. London also is seeing a higher murder rate than New York for the the first time ever.

2 weeks ago

5 must-know facts about the ‘Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act’

(Pixabay)

Last month the U.S. Senate passed the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA), legislation intended to limit online sex trafficking. (A similar bill—the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA)—was also passed by the House, and the combined legislation is known as FOSTA-SESTA.) Here are five facts you should know about this anti-trafficking legislation.

1. For more than twenty years, a loophole in a federal law has allowed sex trafficking to thrive online. In 1996 Congress passed the Communications Decency Act, which attempted to regulate the exposure of indecent and obscene material directed toward children. The effectiveness of the Decency Act, though, was undermined because the law has been interpreted to say that “operators of internet services” (such as websites) are not to be legally liable for the words of third parties who use their services.

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2. Because of this loophole, online content providers that post classified ads have been allowed to advertise prostitution with near impunity. A prime example is Backpage.com, which, according to the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, posts one million sex ads a day. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children previously testified in a Senate subcommittee that 71 percent of all suspected child sex trafficking cases have a link to Backpage. When challenged in state courts, Backpage has repeatedly prevailed based on the interpretation that the Decency Act protects them from prosecution for the criminal wrongdoing of their customers.

3. FOSTA-SESTA amends federal law to specify that the Decency Act does not prevent websites from being subjected to civil action or criminal prosecution under state or federal criminal or civil laws relating to sex trafficking of children or sex trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion. Additionally, the legislation amends the federal criminal code to specify that the violation for benefiting from “participation in a venture” engaged in sex trafficking includes knowingly assisting, supporting, or facilitating the violation.

4. FOSTA-SESTA also allows state attorneys general to bring civil actions in U.S. district courts on behalf of the state’s residents if the attorney general believes an interest of the residents has been or is threatened or adversely affected by any person who knowingly participates in sex trafficking.

5. Even though the legislation has not yet been signed into law, it is already motivating online content providers to change their policies. According to Susan Yoshihara of the Center for Family and Human Rights:

“Cityvibe shut down completely, the Erotic Review, the ‘Yelp of the sex trade’ where men rate their experiences with trafficking victims, shut down advertisement boards in the United States, NightShift shut down to review policies, VerifyHim shut down its ‘newsreel,’ Craigslist personals section was shut down, Reddit’s prostitution-related “subreddits” were marked private and the site instituted new policies banning the sale of sex acts and drugs, Google reportedly deleted its publicly shared commercial sex-related advertising, WordPress.com reportedly removed its commercial sex-related advertising sites, Paypal reportedly disabled advertised accounts for commercial sex-related payment, Rubmaps, Erotic Monkey, and USA Sex Guide had extended maintenance periods over the weekend, suggesting upcoming changes due to the new law, Microsoft is issuing new Terms of Service effective May 1st covering all of its platforms, including Skype and Xbox, to urge users not to use the services to share pornography or criminal activity.”

(Courtesy ERLC)

2 weeks ago

7 Things: The world responds to Syria, Gov. Ivey may be wise to skip a debate, AG Sessions enacts “zero tolerance” at the border, and more …

Suspected chemical attack in Syria (Fox News/Youtube)

1. Syria has once again gassed its own people; President Donald Trump and the United Nations plan to act

— Dozens are reportedly dead and hundreds are injured by what is being called a gas attack delivered by artillery, but Russia has called it a hoax.

— Syria’s latest attack on men, women and children has drawn international condemnation and Israeli action, with Trump blaming Russia because of their unwavering support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assaad.

2. Political science professors think Gov. Kay Ivey skipping the debate is a good call; they are probably right

— Political commentators, media outlets, and Gov. Ivey’s opponents have decried the governor’s refusal to debate her Republican opponents but political scientists across the state believe it may be a smart move.

— University of Alabama’s Richard Fording told AL.com, “The frontrunner has a lot more to lose and relatively little to gain by debating”, and Cal Jillson of Southern Methodist University told them, “I cannot think of examples where someone refused to debate and there was such an uproar over it which led them to lose.”

3. AG Sessions demands a “zero tolerance policy” at the border, as Alabama’s National Guard may be sent

— After calling the situation at the border “unacceptable”, Sessions warned that those illegally entering the country will face the “full prosecutorial powers” of the Justice Department.

— As President Trump continues to talk about immigration and the National Guard moving to the border, Colonel Jim Hawkins of the Alabama National Guard told WKRG,  “We can certainly support this mission if the governor approves it and if we’re asked to participate by the national guard bureau.”

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4. Just because Governor Bentley isn’t facing criminal charges, it doesn’t mean his legal problems are over

— All 9 members of the Alabama Supreme Court refused to grant immunity to Governor Robert Bentley, so the case will move forward.

— The next step for this embarrassing matter could be a deposition of the former governor and discovery in the case.

5. President Trump is not going to let liberals and the media take out the head of the Environmental Protection Agency

— Pruitt is facing multiple scandals including travel costs, a condo scandal and security concerns, but Trump feels Pruitt is a target because he has been working on deregulation.

— The president Tweeted his support, “Rent was about market rate, travel expenses OK. Scott is doing a great job!”

6. Journalism schools are worried about Sinclair’s impact on the public’s trust in the media, seriously

— Multiple journalism school deans signed a letter to the president of Sinclair taking the company to task for making local news anchors condemn “fake news”.

— These worries are misplaced. Americans don’t trust the media already, and all Sinclair did was weirdly explained why.

7. North Korea continues to signal willingness to denuclearize; not the first time they have said they’d do this

— Press reports say that the North Korean leader is willing to talk about the matter with Trump in their summit which could take place in May.

— North Korea said it would not go nuclear in 1994, Bush tried in 2005, and Obama didn’t really do anything.

2 weeks ago

Taylor’s Top Eight: End-of-session edition

(Pixabay/YHN)

It’s been just over a week since the 2018 Regular Session of the Alabama Legislature came to an end. After marinating on this year’s 26 legislative days, here are my takeaways in the final legislative review for 2018.

There were a few pieces of legislation for which our legislators deserve a round of applause.

1. Ride-sharing services, like Uber and Lyft, are now free to operate statewide, strengthening entrepreneurial capitalism for all Alabamians!

The fact that Uber and Lyft now have the framework to operate all over Alabama is a win for the entire state. In addition to the added safety that having an on-demand driver provides to individuals and communities, these companies operate in such a way that individuals who choose to work for them can practically be their own boss. Increased safety, economic growth, and giving folks the opportunity to have a job — sounds pretty ideal to me! Added bonus: this proposal got young people interested in the legislative process. Talk about a win!

2. A compromise was reached on child care facility safety standards.

During the 2017 legislative session, a bill was proposed — and debated intensely — that would license all child care facilities, whether religious or not. Religious liberty advocates weren’t big fans of the state licensing religious child care facilities. But this year, licensing advocates worked with religious liberty advocates to create a compromise bill that prioritized both the safety of children and religious liberty concerns. Now, all child care facilities in Alabama will have increased safety oversight, and we have a model for how parties on both sides of an issue can work together.

3. Military families should receive reciprocity for their occupational licenses.

It’s no secret that Alabama’s occupational licensing laws are restrictive, and according to a recent API report, these laws disproportionately affect military families. A bill before the legislature this year aimed at lessening those restrictions on military families by providing reciprocity of licenses from other states for military spouses. It passed without a single vote against, but is still waiting on the governor’s signature. There is still much more to be done to reform Alabama’s occupational licensing laws, but this was a great first step.

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4. The Legislature approved the largest tax cut for Alabamians in over a decade.

A bill that was passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Ivey will give a modest tax cut to low- and middle-income earners in Alabama by increasing the standard deduction for an estimated 180,000 Alabamians. The Legislative Fiscal Office estimates this tax cut will lower tax collections in Alabama by $4 million. The bill passed both chambers with no opposition. Anything that puts more of Alabamians’ hard-earned dollars back into their pockets and out of the hands of government is a win in my book.

There were also some actions by the legislature that raised a few eyebrows.

5. The juvenile justice system did not get much-needed reforms

API has been vocal in support of Alabama’s need for reform in the juvenile justice system. In 2017, The Alabama Juvenile Justice Task Force was established. The task force proposed several reforms leading into this year’s legislative session, with support from national organizations weighing in on proposed reforms. The juvenile justice bill passed the House, but despite attempts from Senate sponsors, it failed to pass the full Legislature in the final days of the session. Juvenile justice reform is a serious issue, and it ought to be taken seriously and prioritized by the Legislature next year.

6. Former legislators social club — what an idea that was.

Remember earlier in the session when we heard about a bill that would create a social club for former legislators? Why would legislators need a bill to create a networking association? Anyone can create a social-networking club, but this legislation included a provision for association employees to be enrolled in both the state healthcare and retirement programs. This means that taxpayer funds, that could go to education or infrastructure, would go to club support staff. Alabama tax dollars should not be spent on the expensive health and retirement benefits of an ex-legislators-only social club. Good thing this bill didn’t last long.

What are we expecting to see more of next year?

7. Occupational licensing reform is a must.

The Trump administration, Obama administration, and workers across our state and nation can agree — something needs to be done about occupational licensing restrictions. According to a study by the Institute for Justice, Alabama ranks 47th in terms of most burdensome licensing restrictions in the country. Next year, Alabama’s lawmakers should prioritize reforms that would allow Alabamians to work without having to receive a permission slip from the government.

8. Efforts to improve and expand school choice should be a priority.

There were plenty of pieces of legislation that dealt with education in Alabama this past legislative session — from a pay raise for education employees to the hiring of county superintendents. In the midst of all of this, Alabama is looking for a new state superintendent. At API, we have great hope for education in Alabama in the coming years. A great step forward would be allowing all parents the freedom to make the best choice for their child’s education, whether that is through expanding the Alabama Accountability Act, authorizing education savings accounts, or something else entirely. This is an area where Alabama can be innovative in providing options for our families and schoolchildren, and we hope they will take that opportunity!

2 weeks ago

7 Things: Calls for special session on ethics begin, Gov. Ivey officially bails on debates, Trump knows nothing about porn star payment, and more

(Governor Kay Ivey/Flickr)

1. Fixes to Alabama’s ethics laws would require a special session; a Democrat candidate for Governor wants to see one

— As part of the conclusion of the state’s Bentley/Mason grand jury, there were multiple suggestions made for improvements to Alabama’s ethics laws which would require a special session.

— Speaking to Guerrilla Politics, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox stated he would support a special session on ethics but does not expect Governor Kay Ivey to call one.

2. Governor Kay Ivey officially bails on scheduled Birmingham debates

— After a few days of speculation, and nothing but bad press, the Governor’s spokespeople wrote in an email that Ivey has official engagements on the dates of scheduled debates. They did not answer questions about future debates.

—Evangelist Scott Dawson has stated that Ivey was never elected to the position and should explain to the people her vision. Mayor Tommy Battle took to Facebook to point out that Ivey has been a politician for 36 years, a Democrat, and that she sent a telegram to an opponent who wouldn’t debate.

3. President Trump says he knows nothing about the payment to Stormy Daniels by his attorney

— Trump denied Thursday that he knew about his lawyer’s $130,000 payment 11 days before the 2016 election.

— Daniels’ attorney continues to try and keep the story in the news, this includes the president’s private parts and calling CBS a “conservative” channel

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4. Oregon’s governor will not send National Guard troops to the border, will become a punching bag for Trump

— The Department of Homeland Security is preparing to use 2,000 to 4,000 National Guard soldiers to bolster the nation’s border patrol.

— Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said she would not send her National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border, “If @realDonaldTrump asks me to deploy Oregon Guard troops to the Mexico border, I’ll say no,” Brown tweeted.

5. National Democrats see Congresswoman Martha as vulnerable after Sen. Doug Jones’ improbable win

— Democrats are looking for vulnerable Republicans and they think they have one in Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District, if she survives her 4 person primary that includes a former Congressman.

— DCCC spokesperson said, “We think that Doug Jones’ win coupled with Congresswomen Roby’s poor performance in the 2016 election could create room for a Democrat to win this seat, while still understanding the path is not easy.’’

6. Democrats in Alabama will campaign against allowing teachers to carry; former Tuscaloosa mayor calls it “idiotic”

— Maddox told a group of Democratic women, “Arming teachers may be the most idiotic idea that I’ve heard in the legislature since, well, since they didn’t expand Medicaid.”

— 58 percent of parents support allowing teachers to carry, 68 percent of Republicans support it, and this is Alabama.

7. Facebook could use this latest controversy to actually make money

— Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg says users would have to pay to opt out of all data-targeted ads.

— Users’ data is used by Facebook to deliver ads to individual users.

2 weeks ago

7 Things: Trump is not a target of the Special Counsel, Bentley/Mason get off again, Rep. Jack Williams says he’s innocent, and more

(Pixabay & Wikicommons)

1. President Donald Trump is not a target of the investigation, media declares this shows he is in big trouble now

—  Trump’s lawyers have told the president that Robert Mueller does not consider him a target, but does consider him a witness.

— In an attempt to make all news bad news, the media insists this is a brilliant Mueller trap to entice Trump to perjure himself, but the US Attorney’s manual says a target (which Trump is not) is someone the investigators have “substantial evidence” of wrongdoing.

2. Governor Bentley and his lover Rebekah Caldwell Mason walk with no charges or penalties

—  A grand jury has been impaneled for close to a year but has determined no additional charges will be filed in the Bentley/Mason case, they also want the Legislature to fix the state’s ethics laws.

— The investigators found that Bentley never personally profited, and Rebekah Caldwell Mason was never covered by ethics laws because she was just sleeping with him and was not married to him.

3. Arrested lawmaker Rep. Jack Williams insists he has done nothing wrong; he will continue to serve

— Williams’ statement reads, “I have done nothing wrong, and once the facts are presented, I expect to be found innocent.”

— It has been reported that his alleged crime may have included calling a public meeting on the bill State Rep. Micky Hammon wanted passed when Williams knew that “Trina Health had offered and given things of value”.

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4. Trump will send the national guard to the border and continue building a border wall

— Just like presidents Obama and Bush, President Trump is activating the National Guard and sending them to the border.

— This comes after Trump told reporters, “We’re going to be doing things militarily. Until we can have a wall and proper security, we’re going to be guarding our border with the military.”

5. Maybe Gov. Kay Ivey doesn’t need to be involved in debates if she keeps raising money and dishing out burns

— Governor Ivey continues to face an onslaught of negative PR for passing on a series of GOP debates, but she is crushing her opponents in fundraising,  Ivey has $3.2 million which is $1 million more than any other candidate in the June Republican primary.

— When pressed on her debate schedule, Ivey’s campaign hit back, “Is Tommy Battle applying to be governor of Alabama, or campaign scheduler for Kay Ivey?”

6. Once again, cops knew about the YouTube shooter and her problems with YouTube

— San Bruno police said in a statement Nasim Najafi Aghdam did not know the victims she shot; she was a disgruntled user.

— After police contacted the family and told them that Aghdam had been found, her brother warned them that she might be going after the company and they did nothing.

7. Cambridge Analytica had access to the public data of 87 million people, but not private data

— Facebook announced that Cambridge Analytica might have used publicly available information from about 87 million Facebook users without the users’ knowledge; it was not private info.

— Worry away about this information while you continue to post your political opinion non-stop, check in everywhere you go, tell us your relationship status, and which Gilligan’s Island cast member you are.

2 weeks ago

Four takeaways from report that Trump is a ‘subject,’ not a ‘target’ of Mueller probe

(Wikicommons, G. Skidmore/Flickr)

Both haters and defenders of President Donald Trump seized on this week’s bombshell Washington Post report that special counsel Robert Mueller’s team told the president’s lawyers he is not a “target” of the long-running Russia probe.

Trump’s supporters contend it is evidence that breathless media speculation about “collusion” is overblown.

Trump critics counter that Trump’s status as a “subject” rather than a “target” makes little difference and that the president is not in the clear.

Both sides are right.

Here are four takeaways on the big revelation:

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1. The Post’s reporting suggests strongly that Mueller does not have compelling evidence that Trump conspired with Russian agents to fix the 2016 presidential election.

If Mueller had the goods, presumably Trump already would be a target.

There almost certainly would be other tells, as well. It is hard to believe that a smoking-gun piece of evidence would remain secret for long in leak-happy Washington.

Beyond that, it seems reasonable to assume that there would be some indication of a campaign conspiracy in the prosecutions Mueller’s team already is conducting.

CNN, MSNBC and other news outlets have made much hay over the indictments brought by the special counsel’s office, often conflating the the prosecutions with the unproven collusion narrative.

The fact is, the only case brought by Mueller that has anything to do with the 2016 election is the indictment naming 13 Russian nationals and three companies. And in announcing those charges, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein made a point of telling reporters that no American was implicated in the case.

The rest of the defendants in the Mueller probe face charges for conduct unrelated to the election — conduct by advisers predating the campaign — or for lying to the FBI during the investigation.

Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz put it best Wednesday night during an appearance on “Hannity” on Fox News.

“I have to tell you, if after a year of very thorough investigation and going after all the low-hanging fruit and getting people not only to sing but some of them even, perhaps, to compose — if they couldn’t have shifted him from a subject to a target, there’s nothing there,” he said.

Much has been made of the fact the defendants ensnared in the probe have agreed to cooperate with the investigation. Many assume that means they are giving up information about a conspiracy. But such cooperation agreements are standard in federal prosecutions, and one would think that if Mueller had evidence against Trump aides who have been charged, he would have included a campaign-related count.

That would only increase pressure on a defendant to give up bigger fish.

2. Trump is not in the clear. As Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) pointed out on CNN on Wednesday, carrying the label of “target” offers no guarantee against prosecution.

“One witness can take you from being a subject to a target,” he said.

It is true that Mueller could make a late Eureka discovery that puts Trump in the crosshairs, although the chances of a new witness at this stage of the game seem low. But Trump could get into trouble the same way his aides have — perjury.

The Post reported that Mueller’s communication to the president’s lawyers that he was not a target came in the context of negotiations over taking Trump’s testimony.

Trump reportedly is eager to testify, but Mueller’s record in the investigation should make the president tread carefully. An untruthful or conflicting statement well could bring a perjury allegation.

Mueller’s threshold does not appear particularly high. Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents about a meeting with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the transition period after the 2016 election.

Mueller did not accuse Flynn of any underlying crime. The meeting was legal — there is nothing wrong with an incoming national security adviser talking with foreign diplomats. Even from a country that has become Public Enemy No. 1. According to court records, Flynn acknowledged that he spoke with Kislyak.

But Flynn told the FBI that he did not ask Kislyak to delay or defeat a vote in the United Nations on a resolution sponsored by the outgoing administration. Flynn also told agents that he did not recall Kislyak telling him about Russia’s decision to moderate its response to sanctions imposed by the outgoing administration.

Those were lies, according to prosecutors.

George Papadopoulos, a low-level volunteer adviser to the campaign, also pleaded guilty to lying about otherwise-legal conduct, misstating the date he spoke to a London professor with contacts to Russia about getting dirt on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton during the campaign.

Papadopoulos told investigators that he spoke with the professor before joining the campaign; in fact it was after. Authorities also contended that he lied when he downplayed the importance he placed on the professor’s information.

Perhaps the biggest danger to Trump is the Mueller writes a scathing report about the president’s conduct, particularly his behavior after taking office. Such a report might offer plenty of grist for articles of impeachment.

That could happen whether Trump testifies or not.

3. Mueller seems to think he could indict Trump. In the kerfuffle over whether Trump is a target or merely a subject, some people missed an important revelation.

In assigning the label, the special counsel seems to be signaling that he could indict Trump. That is noteworthy because the Justice Department’s position dating to Richard Nixon’s presidency is that a sitting president cannot be charged with a crime.

Legal scholars have debated that, and it has never been tested in the Supreme Court.

But if Mueller thinks the president could potentially be a prosecution target, that would be significant.

4. The fact that Trump is a subject is really not all that surprising. But you wouldn’t know that if you watched cable news on Wednesday.

The talking heads treated the news that Mueller told Trump’s lawyers the president was a subject as earth-shattering revelation.

To be sure, it is unusual and significant that the president of the United States is the subject of a high-profile criminal investigation.

But at this point, it hardly is a surprise.

From the time Rosenstein appointed Mueller, it’s been pretty transparent that the entire endeavor has been about trying to find out if Trump conspired with the Russians.

This is not like Watergate, which began as — in the words of Nixon press secretary Ronald Ziegler — a “third-rate burglary” and slowly escalated toward the president.

From day one, the trajectory has been clear — either Trump conspired or it didn’t.

@BrendanKKirby is a senior political reporter at LifeZette and author of “Wicked Mobile.”

3 weeks ago

Hell or no Hell? Quote or misquote? Pope Francis allegedly breaks from church teaching again in fifth conversation with Italian journalist

(Pixabay/YHN)

Last week, Pope Francis reportedly told Eugenio Scalfari, the founder of the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, that Hell does not exist.

“There is no hell, there is the disappearance of sinful souls,” Scalfari quoted the pontiff saying.

On Friday, March 30, after Scalfari published his story, The Vatican published this statement  challenging its credibility:

“The Holy Father recently received the founder of the newspaper La Repubblica in a private meeting on the occasion of Easter, without, however, granting him an interview. What is reported by the author in today’s article is the fruit of his reconstruction, in which the precise words uttered by the Pope are not cited. No quotations in the aforementioned article, then, should be considered as a faithful transcription of the words of the Holy Father.”

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This is not the first time Scalfari has published from his conversations with Pope Francis. In fact, the two’s recent conversation was their fifth since the pope’s election in 2013. Following each of their meetings, Scalfari has quoted the pope saying highly controversial things, prompting defenses from the Vatican. Central to Rome’s defenses over the years has been that Scalfari does not record his conversations with the pope but recalls them from memory.

In November 2016, Scalfari wrote that Pope Francis told him “it is the communists who think like Christians.” Luis Badilla Morales, director of what the National Catholic Register has called the “semi-official Vatican news aggregator,” Il Sismografo, said at the time that the conversation in which that was allegedly said was not recorded.

In November of 2015, Scalfari published a story quoting Pope Francis saying that “all divorced who ask will be admitted” to receive the Holy Eucharist. Those divorced who have remarried and whose previous marriages have not been annulled are living in grave sin according to church law, and are not permitted to receive the sacrament.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told the National Catholic Register at the time, “As has already occurred in the past, Scalfari refers in quotes to what the Pope supposedly told him, but many times it does not correspond to reality, since he does not record nor transcribe the exact words of the Pope, as he himself has said many times. So it is clear that what is being reported by him in the latest article about the divorced and remarried is in no way a reliable and cannot be considered as the Pope’s thinking.”

The past circumstance that Lombardi was referring to occurred in 2014, when Scalfari quoted Francis saying “even bishops and cardinals” are pedophiles and that “others, more numerous, know but keep silent.”

Father Federico responded to the news by saying that the Pope and Salfari had a cordial conversation.

“However,” Federico said, “as it happened in a previous, similar circumstance, it is important to notice that that words that Mr. Scalfari attributes to the Pope, ‘in quotations’ come from the expert journalist Scalfari’s own memory of what the Pope said and is not an exact transcription of a recording nor a review of such a transcript by the Pope himself to whom the words are attributed.”

The previous, similar circumstance to which Federico was referring occurred in 2013, when Scalfari reported that Francis told him that the Catholic doctrine of sin had been abolished.

Scalfari said that he had not used a tape recorder or taken notes during the conversation in which Pope Francis allegedly made that significant revision to Catholic theology.

Pope Francis has demonstrated a constant desire to engage those outside the faith, and Scalfari in particular, to whom he wrote an extensive letter in September of 2013 in which he evangelized Scalfari, answering spiritual reflections that the journalist published in an edition of his paper months earlier.

It’s puzzling that Pope Francis repeatedly returns to Scalfari, having been misquoted after each meeting, but it may have something to do with his strategy of evangelization.

@jeremywbeaman is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News

 

3 weeks ago

7 Things: Alabama political arrests, Gov. Ivey probably won’t do a debate, Florence mural shows Trump and dead kids, Putin gets a White House invite, and more …

(Pixabay)

1. An Alabama lawmaker, ex-GOP chief, and business executive have been arrested

— In what appears to be a never-ending stream of criminal charges against elected officials, new charges ensnare the three for allegedly engaging in a scheme to pass legislation to force Blue Cross and Blue Shield to cover treatment at a diabetes clinic.

— Another former lawmaker, former State Representative Micky Hammon has already been sentenced to three months in prison for felony mail fraud.

2. There probably won’t be a debate for Republican Gubernatorial candidates

— Gov. Kay Ivey has not agreed to take part in an April 18th debate event in Birmingham. The other candidates have all agreed to be there.

— Internal polling shows that Governor Kay Ivey is up above 50 percent with all of her rivals in the teens or below, if this is true, there will be no debates in this race.

3. Alabama mural depicts President Donald Trump and dead school children

— A mural has appeared on private property in Florence, Ala., and the city has no way to make the owner take it down. Attempts to contact the owner have been unsuccessful.

— The mural shows Trump holding a gun and throwing paper towels to murdered children and the mayor says it disgusting.

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4. Teachers across the country are going on strike, free publicity will cause these to spread

— After a successful teachers’ strike in West Virginia , other states are now seeing the strikes cause school to be cancelled in Oklahoma and Kentucky.

— Teachers in Phoenix may be next; they are demanding a 20 percent pay raise after Oklahoma teachers got 16 percent.

5. Congressman Bradley Byrne believes Democrats are targeting the 2nd Amendment and Sen. Doug Jones is too

— After two weeks of different liberal entities calling for an end to the 2nd Amendment, followed by claims that no one is calling for its repeal, Byrne called out Sen. Jones and his fellow Democrats for not being honest about their intentions.

— Byrne believes Jones supports gun control, and said, “It is becoming the mainstream Democrat position.”

6. Mayor of Geenville, Ala., feels tariffs are going to hurt his city as China’s response tariffs go into effect

— Mayor Dexter McLendon said Trump’s tariffs on imported aluminum and steel would have consequences for Butler County’s economy, which relies on a Hyundai plant.

— Chinese tariffs that were announced in March have gone into effect, they target 128 products.

7. Fox News has shown their support for embattled host Laura Ingraham

— Their statement says, “We cannot and will not allow voices to be censored by agenda-driven intimidation efforts”, as the host takes what they say is a scheduled week off.

— As the media has an aneurysm over Sinclair Broadcasting’s odd “fake news” script, they have uniformly attempted to enforce a policy that no one can criticize the Parkland students, no matter what they say.

CORRECTION: The mayor of Florence said that the mural is “disgusting”, a previous version indicated he thought it was a accurate depiction of the debate happening in the country.

3 weeks ago

Congressman Bradley Byrne believes Democrats’ goal is the repeal of the 2nd Amendment and ties them to Sen. Doug Jones

(B. Byrne, D. Jones/FB)

Last week’s non-David Hogg related gun news consisted of different entities declaring a need to repeal the 2nd Amendment, followed by savvy Democrats and the media allies declaring no one wants to end the 2nd Amendment. Alabama Senator Doug Jones was asked about the current state of the gun debate, and he said a gun ban is not “feasible right now”. I asked Congressman Bradley Byrne what he thought Democrats wanted to do with gun rights.

“I think very definitely want to repeal the 2nd Amendment,” said Byrne. “I think they understand with the 2nd Amendment in place they cannot do some of the things they keep saying they want to do because the Constitution doesn’t allow it. And I think they are going to continue to push for that. It is becoming the mainstream Democrat position.”

Why this matters: Later on, Byrne mentioned Sen. Jones in his comments saying that Jones “favors gun control over Constitutional rights”. Jones and most Alabama Democrats would not appreciate that comment because they need to convince Alabama voters that there is a massive difference between the national Democrat Party and Alabama Democrats. But the reality is quite simple, over one-third of the Democrat base wants to repeal the right to bear arms and 82 percent want to ban semi-automatic pistols and rifles, even if the betters would prefer we not notice.

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Listen to the whole interview here:

@TheDaleJackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a conservative talk show from 7-11 AM weekdays on WVNN in Huntsville.

3 weeks ago

7 Things: Trump ends DACA debate, Laura Ingraham has been bullied into submission, Sen. Doug Jones says the EPA head is out, and more …

(Wikicommons)

1. President Donald Trump signals end of the DACA debate as a “Caravan of migrant families” move towards U.S. border

— The president has declared that any DACA deal is officially dead, he also called for a “nuclear option” to work on border issues.

— This is all happening as there is a massive mob of Central American illegals streaming through Mexico with no opposition from the Mexican authorities.

2. Fox News’ Laura Ingraham is bullied in to submission by a 17-year-old kid, he refuses to accept her apology

— Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg took offense to Ingraham mocking his whining about not being able to get into college and called for an advertiser boycott; it worked.

— After Ingraham apologized and announced she will be taking a week off, Hogg declared she is still a bully and that she should spend her Easter vacation reflecting.

3. AL Sen. Doug Jones states the obvious, EPA head Scott Pruitt will be the latest from the Trump administration to go 

— Speaking to reporters, Jones feels the latest scandal involving Pruitt and a lobbyist wife providing a rental to him will do him in and he is “on his way out”.

— Former Gov. Chris Christie, who was part of the early Trump transition agrees saying, “I don’t know how you survive this one, and if he has to go, it’s because he never should have been there in the first place.”

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4. Sinclair Broadcasting is under-fire for all of the things he rightly claims the liberal media does

— A montage of Sinclair’s anchors from around the country reading the same script is making the rounds of social media and anchors and others have complained about the comments about “fake news”.

— Just for a bit of clarity, American media bias already exists and it’s isn’t about conservative oligarchs controlling the message.

5. The media was targeting Easter for some reason on Easter, this doesn’t happen with other holidays

— Am opinion piece at NBC.com told the story of a Christian who can’t celebrate Easter because of its ties to “white supremacy”.

— Another NBC News employee, Chuck Todd, decided to try to explain that there is nothing all that “good” about “Good Friday”.

6. London is trending towards a murder rate higher than New York’s; this is incredibly rare

— For all the talk we are hearing about how our society is plagued by rampant gun violence that no one else sees, we are ignoring that other countries are seeing an uptick in violence while America is seeing a decrease in crime.

— In February, London had more murders than New York with a total of 15 homicides and there were  22 murders in March, which should top New York’s numbers as well.

7. Charles Barkley donates $250k for African-American history education in Alabama

— The outspoken former NBA player and current television analysts says that money will assist kids in Mississippi and Alabama learn more about their culture.

— The program is about African-American History and will share African American stories in public service, sciences, academia, the arts, music, and sports.

3 weeks ago

VIDEO: Another Alabama special election — Economic developers get an ethics carve out — Census will include a citizenship question … and more on Guerrilla Politics!

Radio talk show host Dale Jackson and Dr. Waymon Burke take you through this week’s biggest political stories including:

— Is there a lesson for Republicans to learn from the latest Alabama special election?

— Was there a need for a change to Alabama’s ethics laws for economic development?

— Why is there such an outcry over asking people if the are American citizens on during the 2020 census?

Alabama Board of Education Member and candidate for State House Mary Scott Hunter joins Jackson and Burke to discuss allowing guns in schools, the state of Alabama’s education system, and her campaign.

Jackson closes the show with a “Parting Shot” directed at folks who demand that we stop pointing out that there are people out there who want to repeal the 2nd Amendment.

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