The Wire

  • The surprising link between Alabama seafood, timber and U.S. national security, and how Shelby is leading the way

    Excerpt:

    There are plenty of areas of debate over exactly how and where the U.S. should spend its foreign aid dollars. But for Alabamians in particular — and the entire Gulf Coast region more broadly — the international assistance that flows into cracking down on illegal wildlife trafficking is paying massive dividends, both economically and, perhaps more surprisingly, in terms of national security.

    A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation indicates Americans grossly overestimate the amount the federal government spends on foreign aid.  The average answer was foreign aid accounts for a whopping 31 percent of spending. Fifteen percent of respondents actually thought it represented over half of the U.S. budget.

    In reality, according to the Congressional Research Service, it accounts for about 1 percent total when military, economic development and humanitarian efforts are combined.  And it is paying massive dividends for Alabama.

    Here’s how:

  • Rep. Byrne to Hold 12 Town Hall Meetings

    From a Congressman Bradley Byrne news release:

    Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL) announced today that he will hold twelve town hall meetings during the August District Work Period.

    Known as the “Better Off Now” Town Hall Tour, Congressman Byrne will hold public town halls in each of the counties that make up Alabama’s First Congressional District. Byrne will discuss how the American people are better off now thanks to a booming economy, stronger military, and safer communities.

    Byrne ranks among the top of all Members of Congress for the number of town hall meetings held. Since assuming office in late 2013, Byrne has held over 100 town hall meetings, including meetings over the phone and through Facebook.

    All the town hall meetings are open to the public and free to attend. All the information can be found online below.

  • HudsonAlpha technology director to present at Google Cloud conference

    Excerpt from a HudsonAlpha news release:

    HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology Technology Director Katreena Mullican has been invited to present at the Google Next ‘18 conference in San Francisco, Calif, July 24-26.

    Google Next is an international conference where more than 10,000 developers, technology leaders, and entrepreneurs come together to have a collaborative discussion about the Google Cloud Platform.

    Mullican has more than 20 years of experience in architecting Linux, virtualization and hybrid cloud solutions. As HudsonAlpha’s Cloud Whisperer, Mullican brings her expertise in automation of on-prem composable and public cloud infrastructure for scientific applications and workflows to the Institute.

    “HudsonAlpha is one of the top sequencing centers in the world, so it’s my job to think outside the box to design hybrid platforms appropriate for our sequencing and research workloads,” said Mullican.

    Mullican will participate in a Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) Cloud Talk Tuesday at 1:00 pm in the South Hall to discuss how HudsonAlpha uses the composable HPE Synergy platform for an on-premises Kubernetes cluster that can scale to Google Cloud Platform.

2 months ago

Why I’m voting for Rusty Glover for lieutenant governor

(Glover Campaign/Facebook)

For what it’s worth, I will be voting for Rusty Glover for Lieutenant Governor of Alabama.

This is not an “endorsement.” As a journalist, it is almost never my place to make endorsements, which imply that I am asking other people to vote for somebody. And even though I write this post as a private citizen, not as a journalist, I want to make clear: I have not “covered” this race to the degree that gives me adequate expertise on all the candidates.

But I write this because people often do ask me who I’m voting for. Sometimes, when I believe strongly enough in my choice, I tell them.

This is one of those times.

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I am voting for Rusty Glover because, as I have watched him in office for the past 16 years, I have been impressed with the following characteristics of his: He is honest, earnest, and a principled conservative. For lieutenant governor, those are the three most important baseline character traits required.

On substance, I have been most impressed with Glover’s leadership in steadfast opposition to the horrid, counterproductive Common Core educational standards that have reversed the gains Alabama had been making in education. As a career educator himself, Glover understands how classrooms work, how teachers best transmit knowledge, and how students learn. Glover quickly recognized that Common Core disastrously undermines those processes, and thus disastrously undermines effective education.

On top of that, Glover seems like a truly nice individual. When I was running for Congress, he often was out at the same events I attended; even though he knew and was friendly with several of my opponents far better than he knew me, he always greeted me not just with courtesy but with warmth. He clearly recognized that campaigns need not require personal animosity, and indeed that they can instill a very friendly respect.

Glover is running a fairly low-budget, grassroots campaign. Unlike his opponents, he is not raking in the money from Goat Hill’s entrenched “big mule” interests. He is independent of their malign influence. If he wins, it will show that grassroots conservative reformers can defeat the power brokers.

I like and trust Rusty Glover. He has earned my vote.

Disclaimer (in the interest of candor, lest some people accuse me of being disingenuous): A few people know that when Tracy Roberts unexpectedly resigned from the state school board, Glover asked Governor Bentley — without me even knowing it until afterwards, much less requesting that Glover do so — to appoint me to the position, based largely on my deep journalistic dives into, and opposition to, Common Core. (Bentley already had made up his mind, though, to appoint Al Thompson, and did so within 24 hours.)

That unrequested action by Glover has nothing to do with my publishing this today. Proof: I similarly announced here that I would vote for Trip Pittman for U.S. Senator — even though Pittman had strenuously and effectively opposed my appointment to the same state school board position when it opened up again and I truly was interested in it.

Quin Hillyer, of Mobile, is a Contributing Editor for National Review Online, and is the author of Mad Jones, Heretic, a satirical literary novel published in the fall of 2017.

7 months ago

Not the final Talley

(Brett Talley/Facebook)
(Brett Talley/Facebook)

 

For young Alabama lawyer Brett Talley, his withdrawal from consideration for a federal judgeship should not be the last word on his promising career.

With the right combination of graciousness and gumption, Talley can rise above this setback — just as a then-40-year-old judicial nominee named Jeff Sessions did when his nomination was derailed in 1986.

When I wrote two weeks ago that Talley probably ought to withdraw, I was merely urging him to recognize political reality. In the year of or immediately after the Charlottesville riots, no nominee of President Trump could possibly be confirmed once it surfaced that the nominee tried to split hairs about the Ku Klux Klan. In the year of or immediately after so many national controversies involving Alabama figures (Sessions, Luther Strange, Roy Moore), no Alabama nominee with so many small strikes against him could earn Senate approval.

Talley would have been horrendously vilified in floor debate, with no chance to defend himself and no real hope of winning.

Now, though, Talley should break the senseless tradition whereby judicial nominees speak for themselves only during their confirmation hearings, including the forswearing of comment if their nominations fail. Instead, he should use the occasion to make a public statement, even hold a press conference, that helps clear the air and reintroduces himself to a broader audience.

Before I elaborate, please allow this digression. In the 1980s I watched quite closely as three of the men I admire most, including my father, all were publicly named (at different times) as the choice of President Reagan for a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals judgeship, only to see unfair, sub-rosa politics lead to their withdrawals. As I particularly witnessed in my father’s case, the experience is incredibly painful, and feels quite embarrassing even if no shame has been merited. So I get it. I get that the first reaction to one’s own withdrawal is to just crawl into one’s own shell for a while.

In this case, however, Talley can change the script — not for this particular judicial opportunity, but for his future.

Imagine if Talley conducted a press conference in which, with wistfulness rather than anger, he expressed regret for the miscues that made his confirmation infeasible. He could recount his otherwise distinguished record, describe a deep reverence for the law and for our constitutional system, and explain just how personally invasive and demanding the nomination process has become. Without whining or making excuses, he could elucidate the reality that the advent of social media has made it a monumental task to produce every scrap of public communication someone has ever engaged in.

Crucially, of course, he should explain the circumstances and thought processes — or lack of thought — that led him, under a thinly veiled pseudonym, to write an online comment defending the “original” KKK and one of its leaders, former Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest. Historically dubious at very best, the claim that even the earliest Klan had honorable intentions is toxic in almost any modern public forum.

Yet surely Talley can explain what he meant, in a way understandable by the public even if not acceptable for confirmation purposes by a majority of senators. And surely, if somehow his original distinction — no matter how ham-handed — had been intended to highlight the dangers of bad racial intentions, then he could also give examples of some efforts of his own to bridge racial divides or combat racial injustices.

Again, when combined with other small question marks in his record, none of these explanations could have secured him confirmation from a narrowly divided Senate. But they certainly could humanize him, demonstrate graciousness and judicial temperament, and make him a sympathetic (and even admirable) figure — thus aiding any of his future professional or public endeavors.

As I wrote in my column two weeks ago, Talley appears to be a brilliant attorney with plenty of “exemplary” experience. And, to repeat: “In and of itself, one truly stupid [blog] post shouldn’t ruin a man’s career. But at age 36, Talley has plenty of time to continue to build his resume, put youthful folly behind him – and reassure people that his emotions involving racial issues aren’t indicative of bias or bigotry. The withdrawal of Talley’s nomination would not say that he is a bad lawyer or bad man.”

A public statement or press conference could begin the process of driving home those points, and set Brett Talley up for a brighter future.

Yellowhammer Contributing Editor Quin Hillyer, of Mobile, also is a Contributing Editor for National Review Online, and is the author of Mad Jones, Heretic, a satirical literary novel published in the fall of 2017.

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7 months ago

BREAKING: Gulf Coast energy money remains in tax bill, could net Alabama $50 million

(Pixabay)
(Pixabay)

 

The final House-Senate tax-reform bill unveiled on Friday does indeed include extra energy-royalty payments to Gulf of Mexico states, as originally inserted into the Senate version of the bill by Alabama’s U.S. Sen. Luther Strange and Louisiana’s Bill Cassidy.

Yellowhammer reported on the battle for this extra funding earlier this week when U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne of Mobile spearheaded a letter to House leaders urging that they accept the Senate language.

The Cassidy-Strange language will allow the Gulf States (all but Florida, which allows no drilling off its shores) to collect a combined $150 million more in each of the years 2020 and 2021, to make up for a shortfall of $300 million in recent years. It is not clear exactly how much that will mean for Alabama, but the total extra revenue in those years from the Yellowhammer State should easily exceed $50 million.

The money comes under the provisions of the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) of 2006.

So important was this provision that it was included in the House Ways and Means Committee’s official summary of the bill — not just the fine print somewhere, but the announcement of the bill’s key highlights. To wit: “Provides a temporary increase in offshore revenue sharing for the Gulf Coast in 2020 and 2021, allowing those states to invest in priorities such as coastal restoration and hurricane protection.”

Word of this Gulf state policy success first came to Yellowhammer News from Seth Morrow, press aide for Rep. Byrne.

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7 months ago

Byrne, Strange lead fight for oil revenue

(Pixabay)
(Pixabay)

 

Alabama Republicans are leading a last-ditch, regional fight to secure some extra money from federal oil revenue from drilling off the coasts of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. Their attempt is both reasonable and admirable.

The Gulf Coast House and Senate members want the major tax reform bill pending in Congress to include a provision to temporarily increase payments to the states via the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA). That was the 2006 law, a huge victory for Gulf states, that governs the oil-and-gas revenue-sharing arrangement between the states and the federal government.

GOMESA sets the payments in terms of a percentage of the energy revenues, but puts a “cap” of $500 million in combined payments to the states in any one year. The problem is that low oil prices combined with Obama-era restrictions on drilling have kept payments well below that $500 million level. New drilling promoted by the Trump administration is expected in future years to solve the states’ annual shortfall – but that still would leave the states $300 million short of expectations from these lean years.

To make up for the 2017-18 shortfalls, Alabama’s U.S. Sen. Luther Strange and Louisiana’s Sen. Bill Cassidy sponsored an amendment to the tax-reform bill that would allow the cap to rise from $500 million to $650 million for each of two future years when drilling revenues are heavier. This would be entirely fair, as the “caps” on revenues weren’t good policy in the first place, but merely a necessary compromise to pass GOMESA at all against opposition from non-Gulf states.

(For some reason, states where drilling occurs on federal lands always had received a larger percentage of the royalties than states where the drilling was offshore. GOMESA rightly corrected that imbalance after many years of unfairness to Gulf states, and there’s no good reason for the Gulf states to be shortchanged again just because a liberal administration hobbled offshore leasing programs.)

The Cassidy-Strange amendment – paid for by a tiny, later-year sale from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve – was included in the Senate version of tax reform, but not in the House’s bill. As the House-Senate Conference Committee entered its final deliberations (to produce a bill acceptable to both chambers) earlier this week, House members led by Mobile Republican Bradley Byrne sent a letter to House leadership asking that the House accept the Cassidy-Strange Amendment.

“This money is critically important to our coastal communities, which provide a significant share of the infrastructure and workforce for the oil and gas industry,” they wrote. “Our states also assume much of the risk that comes with the industry.”

That last sentence, of course, was proved true during the 2010 BP oil spill.

Republicans from Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas also signed the letter, which was spearheaded by Byrne.

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Alaska Republican, who was part of the Conference Committee, was a champion of the Cassidy-Strange Amendment. No House conferees were especially known as major advocates of the amendment, but House Ways and Means Committee chairman Kevin Brady is from Texas and presumably supportive.

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Lousiana, not a part of the Conference Committee but obviously in good position to influence the final bill, also is known as a strong proponent of the amendment. He and Byrne are friends and close political allies.

Congressional leaders on Wednesday announced tentative agreement on a joint bill produced in conference, but it is not yet known if the Cassidy-Strange amendment made the cut. If so, Byrne’s late letter, along (of course) with Strange’s signal leadership in the Senate, might deserve some credit. Alabama state budgeteers a few years from now should then be quite grateful for the efforts of Strange and Byrne.

Again, the Cassidy-Strange provision isn’t some attempt at special treatment for Gulf states, but merely insistence on fair treatment well within the original spirit and intentions of GOMESA. And for a cash-strapped state like Alabama, it amounts to a big deal indeed.

We should know by sometime Thursday whether the provision made the final cut.

Yellowhammer Contributing Editor Quin Hillyer, of Mobile, also is a Contributing Editor for National Review Online, and is the author of Mad Jones, Heretic, a satirical literary novel published in the fall of 2017.

 

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7 months ago

When it comes to protests, America has lost its senses

Greensboro lunch counter from 1960 protests (National Museum of American History)
Greensboro lunch counter from 1960 protests (National Museum of American History)

 

When it comes to protests, America has lost its senses.

A previous column of mine provided a single example, from southern Alabama last week, of an overreaction to a silent, respectful protest. That one example is indicative of a larger problem, on both sides of the protest equation.

The overly broad (but accurate) description of the problem is that both protesters and responders get too hyped up about public demonstrations. The overly facile (but still appropriate) correctives to the problems are to better calibrate protest means and ends, to better calibrate responses thereto, and to remember that respectful demonstrations are far more effective at earning support for one’s causes than are abusive or violent ones.

Martin Luther King Jr. had it right when he insisted that demonstrations be non-violent. People quietly clutching their Bibles merit more sympathy than people wielding billy clubs.

The 1950s-60s civil-rights movement did something else right: They targeted their actions to the proximate cause of their distress. If they were disallowed to order from a lunch counter, they sat in at that counter. If they were told not to ride in the front of the bus, they took front-row seats.

But they didn’t otherwise inconvenience, much less threaten or harm, uninvolved innocents. They didn’t use anger at a lunch counter as an excuse to break store windows across the street. They didn’t use separate water fountains as justification for looting. Their supporters didn’t shout down speakers at public forums or try to physically block access to the venues.

In short, they acted like civilized human beings, not like wanton, cowardly, juvenile delinquents worthy of no more respect than plague-bearing sewer rats in heat.

Oh – and when they didn’t immediately get their way, they didn’t go crying for safe rooms with stuffed animals and Play-Doh.

On the flip side, those targeted by non-abusive protests must show some restraint and perhaps a little humor – and they darn well should not turn something non-violent into a physical altercation. Right now, we have a president who acts as if every protest against him is akin to a crime against humanity, and who spent his campaign repeatedly urging violent reactions – by police and private citizens as well – as the first resort even against rather mild-mannered demonstrators.

Perhaps taking cues from him, or perhaps just as part of the general zeitgeist of tribalism and societal intolerance of any opinion dissenting from one’s own, more and more crowds at public events act as if signs or symbols of opposition are illegitimate or even criminal, rather than merely expressions of disagreement.

So we have college hoodlums reacting violently to mild-mannered guest speakers. We have presidential candidates telling crowds to send protesters to the hospital. We have thugs in black masks starting riots over basically nothing. And we have innocent counter-protesters mowed down on public streets.

These are all indices of what is supposed to be “civil society” spiraling down into uncivil anarchy. All year long, we’ve seen an appalling lack of observance of the rules of Protesting 101, and a lack of tolerance (rightly understood) and temperance among protesters and responders alike.

Almost all of the examples of protesters and responders behaving badly earlier this year – and last year, too – involved far more serious abuses, on at least one and sometimes both or all sides, than the relatively mild disrespect for proper norms evidenced in Baldwin County earlier this week. The disrespect this time came entirely from one side, the responders; the protesters themselves acted well within the American tradition.

Still, it’s worth positing that if there are rules of Protesting 101, there should be rules of Handling Protests 101. The first rule is that if something is advertised as an event open to the general public, then respectful protesters among that public should be allowed to attend, too – as long as they do, indeed, behave well, making their point without unduly interfering with the experience of other attendees. The second rule is that respectful protest should be seen neither as insult nor threat, but as somewhat welcome (even if also somewhat annoying) attempt at dialogue.

The third rule is that non-abusive behavior should be met with non-abusive response, and non-violent behavior with non-violent response. Rule 3A is related: Proportionality and restraint should rule the day in general, not just in terms of the physical responses to the demonstrations, but in terms of tone of voice, diction, and body language.

And the fourth rule is the most important: This is America, fergoshsakes. We’re supposed to cherish free expression, not quash it. Whatever else we think of Thomas Jefferson (I still revere him), every one of us should be a Jeffersonian in believing that we should “tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it.”

So, come on, everybody: Chill out, and get a grip.

Yellowhammer Contributing Editor Quin Hillyer, of Mobile, also is a Contributing Editor for National Review Online, and is the author of Mad Jones, Heretic, a satirical literary novel published in the fall of 2017.

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8 months ago

Quin Hillyer: Roy Moore’s own words prove his falsehood

(Judge Roy Moore for U.S. Senate/Facebook)
(Judge Roy Moore for U.S. Senate/Facebook)

 

 

Even if we don’t know for certain whether Roy Moore had sexual contact (of a sort) with 14-year-old Leigh Corfman, we now know that Moore has made a conscious decision to lie about his onetime relationships with teenage girls.

 

We know this from a combination of his own words and of new evidence that would be accepted as probative in any American court of law. (More on the evidence, shortly.)

 

The odd thing is that Moore’s initial reaction was to tell at least a simulacrum of the truth, only later to change to a flat-out lie. Often, a liar works in the other direction, at first denying everything and then admitting little dribs and drabs as new evidence warrants. Who knows: Maybe this strange evolution from partial truth to full prevarication gives an indication that, somehow, Moore’s conscience is warring with itself.

 

Either way, his willingness to move to full-fledged dishonesty helps undermine his onetime semi-believable denials of the worst of the charges against him. One fib does not prove that his other statements are lies, of course, but it does establish that he is not entirely trustworthy.

 

Here is the obvious lie (the part before the “and”), repeated twice in recent days, from church pulpits: “Let me state once again: I do not know any of these women, did not date any of these women and have not engaged in any sexual misconduct with anyone.”

 

If he said it just once, it could be attributable to a mere lack of clarity: Maybe he meant he did not know the women he had not already admitted to knowing. But when he said it twice, and insisted he neither knew nor dated “any” of them, he was committing a bald-faced lie.

 

How do we know?

 

We know, first, because he himself told us so.

 

Here was Roy Moore talking to Fox’s Sean Hannity a few days after the disturbing allegations came out [emphases added]: “I do recognize however the names of two these young ladies, Debbie Wesson and Gloria Thacker, which they have a maiden, that’s their maiden name…. I seem to know or remember knowing [Wesson’s] parents…that they were friends. I can’t recall the specific dates because that’s been 40 years but I remember her as a good girl.”

Then:

HANNITY: But do you remember ever going on a date with her? She said that you asked around out on the first of several dates but nothing progressed beyond kissing.

MOORE: I don’t remember specific dates. I do not and I don’t remember if it was that time or later. But I do not remember that.

HANNITY: But you know hard but you never dated her ever? Is that what you’re saying?

MOORE: No but I don’t remember going out on dates. I knew her as a friend. If we did go on dates then we did. But I do not remember that.

HANNITY: What about Gloria Thacker Deason says she was an 18 year old cheerleader when you began taking her on dates that included bottles bottles rosé wine. She’s 18 at the time. The Alabama drinking age at the time is 19. Did that ever happen?

MOORE: No. Because in this county is a dry county. We would never would have had liquor. I would never… I believe this she said that she believed she was under age and as I recall she was 19 or older and that just never happened. I never provided alcohol, beer or intoxicating liquor to a minor. That’d be against the law and against anything I would have ever done. And I seem to remember her as a good girl or I seem to remember I had some sort of knowledge of her parents, her mother in particular.

HANNITY: At that time in your life…Let me ask you this you do remember these girls would it be unusual for you as a 32 year old guy to have dated a woman as young as 17? That would be a 15 year difference or a girl 18. Do you remember dating girls that young at that time?

MOORE: Not generally, no. If did, you know, I’m not going to dispute anything but I don’t remember anything like that.

HANNITY: But you don’t specifically remember having any girlfriend that was in her late teens even at that time?

MOORE: I don’t remember that and I don’t remember ever dating any girl without the permission of her mother. And I think in her statement she said that her mother actually encouraged her to go out with me.

 

So Moore remembers them both as good girls, remembers the parents of both, recalls that one was 19 or older (she says she was 18), knew one of them “as a friend,” and can’t deny having actually dated them (but said there was no sexual activity).

 

Yet now, just weeks later, he insists he neither knew nor dated “any” of these women, not even the ones whose parents’ permission for dating he acknowledged requesting (and whose surviving parents confirm that he asked).

 

This isn’t splitting hairs. This is an unequivocal contradiction not only of the stories of multiple young women, but of his own earlier account.

 

And now one of those women, Debbie Wesson Gibson, has produced absolutely compelling evidence that she and Moore were indeed friendly. A scrapbook from her high school days, easily verifiable as dating from then and as having not been altered, contains references to her having gone on dates with Moore and features a note he wrote her congratulating her for graduating high school.

 

This personal scrapbook is far more compelling than the somewhat dubious, single-entry note allegedly written by Moore in another girl’s yearbook (although a hand-writing expert confirms what untrained eyes also see, which is that the bulk of the yearbook message is written in a hand remarkably similar to the writing featured in the note to Wesson/Gibson). A court of law would accept the scrapbook as evidence of some sort of friendly association between Moore and Wesson.

 

But now Moore says he not only never went on a date with her (she had described him fondly as playing the guitar and reading poetry for her), but never even knew her.

 

It would have been so easy to say what he started to say to Hannity: Yes, he did on some occasions date older teenage girls, with their parents’ knowledge, and he acted like a gentleman and never did anything inappropriate with them. He could distinguish those instances from the worse allegations against him, and trust the public to adjudge the stories and his believability for themselves.

 

Instead, he is falsely denying even the most innocent of all the “accusations” against him. He is lying after having had weeks to think about it. He is not miss-speaking out of the haze of memory newly jarred, but rather putting forth a falsehood with deliberate intent.

 

These new untruths are counterproductive. They hurt, not help, his case that he didn’t bring to his house, partially disrobe, and fondle then-14-year-old Leigh Corfman. By usual standards, remember, Corfman’s claims are at least credible. Her mother confirms their meeting of Moore at the courthouse. Court records confirm the mother and daughter were there at the time. The mother confirms that their home phone cord was long enough to stretch into Leigh’s room and that Leigh took private calls there. Public records (despite Moore’s team’s claims to the contrary) confirm they lived where they said they did.

 

And, to quote the original summation by the Washington Post, “Two of Corfman’s childhood friends say she told them at the time that she was seeing an older man, and one says Corfman identified the man as Moore. Wells says her daughter told her about the encounter more than a decade later, as Moore was becoming more prominent as a local judge.” One of those two friends actually recalled specific details of the second Moore encounter that Corfman told her, which match Corfman’s current account.

 

Meanwhile, other contemporaneous witnesses support several of the other (non-Corfman) stories, including one mother who quite explicitly says Moore asked permission to date her daughter when the daughter was just 16 (the mother refused).

 

Instead of asserting a sort of gray area among different types of interactions with teens of various ages, Roy Moore is now insisting against all evidence and common sense that all of it, every bit, is a false smear born of a grand conspiracy.

 

This column has gone to great lengths to credit some of Moore’s stories, to give him some benefit of the doubt, and to defend him from unfair charges; and in other forums I have defended him as well against some of the accusations against him of financial improprieties.

 

But if the man wants us to believe him, he darn well should stop telling lies.

1
8 months ago

Quin Hillyer: Senator pens a truly Strange column that insults readers’ intelligence

(Luther Strange/Twitter)
(Luther Strange/Twitter)

 

 

Did you see the Sunday guest column at al.com by Alabama’s temporary U.S. Sen. Luther Strange? It would be risible if it weren’t also so insulting to readers’ intelligence.

 

Entitled “The importance of taking on corruption,” Strange’s column bragged (in effect) that “the National Association of Attorneys General asked me to deliver the keynote speech to their National Anticorruption Academy,” and then detailed all the reasons why fighting corruption supposedly is “a subject I know a lot about.”

 

To an extent, it’s true: Strange organized a task force that – often without his direct involvement – did prosecute, and win convictions of, a number of corrupt public officials.

 

The obvious reality that Strange’s column ignores is that Strange then completely undermined public confidence in the political system’s freedom from corruption. Just by allowing himself to be considered for appointment to the U.S. Senate by the same governor his own office was investigating, Strange did as much to promote public cynicism as anything in recent memory.

 

Even if there was no “deal,” no quid pro quo, or even no “wink and a nod,” between Strange and then-Gov. Robert Bentley, the appearance of a corrupt bargain was so obvious, so strong, and so toxic that Strange should have avoided it like the Ebola virus.

 

The rule is simple, indeed as simple as the rule governing sexual harassment: If you wield great authority over a person, then don’t ask, much less accept, favors from that person.

 

It’s even worse when you hold authority over someone who himself wields great power. Your ability to receive a truly significant favor, in such a case, is especially large – and the temptation for you to adjust accordingly how you exercise your authority over him grows tremendously.

 

And if it all involves public office in a republic, then the effect on public trust of any such situations should be a very large part of one’s behavioral considerations.

 

In his column, Strange completely, almost obtusely, misrepresented the nature of the issues at play in the Senate appointment. Here’s what he wrote:

 

When Jeff Sessions became United States Attorney General, I was faced with a dilemma. Governor Robert Bentley asked me to fill his seat in the Senate. I believe in serving when called and I wanted to do what was best for the people of Alabama, but Bentley was under an investigation for ethics violations. In some circumstances, I might have worried that leaving the job of Attorney General would undermine that investigation.

 

Earth to Strange: That wasn’t what the “worry” should have been. The assumption was not that the investigation would be undermined because Strange left it; the assumption was that the investigation would be undermined – or that Bentley would hope it would be undermined – because Bentley gave to Strange the plum job Strange seems to have wanted for his entire adult life.

 

People didn’t see Strange’s acceptance of the Senate job as “serving when called” but as “taking when offered.” And they certainly didn’t think it was obvious that such a problematic appointment was “what was best for the people of Alabama.”

 

That paragraph of Strange insults our intelligence.

 

Again, let’s avoid assuming there really was a corrupt bargain. Even so, for Strange to still refuse to acknowledge the serious problem of appearances here, and the importance of restoring public faith in the system at the very time when the system has been repeatedly rocked by corruption, is for him to fail to credit the essential role public trust plays in a vibrant representative democracy.

 

Rather than penning this column, Strange for now should have just faded into the political evening. We’re still dealing with the unwanted fallout from the Strange assumption of the Senate seat, and we aren’t yet ready to offer the temporary senator a benediction.

 

Yellowhammer Contributing Editor Quin Hillyer, of Mobile, also is a Contributing Editor for National Review Online, and is the author of Mad Jones, Heretic, a satirical literary novel published in the fall of 2017.

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8 months ago

Quin Hillyer: Alabama’s attorney general race may become a ‘Chess’ match

Chess Bedsole (Chess Bedsole for Attorney General)
Chess Bedsole (Chess Bedsole for Attorney General)

 

Alabama faces a barn-burner of a Republican primary for state attorney general next year, with at least four highly qualified candidates. The one perhaps the least well known to the general public is, oddly enough, the one who has almost certainly spent the most quality time with the biggest state and national Republican luminaries.

Meet Chess Bedsole, with whom I sat down for an hour-long interview on November 30.

(Note: Earlier this year I separately visited, off the record, with two other AG candidates, Alice Martin and incumbent Steve Marshall, but I was not writing for Yellowhammer then. I’ll circle back to them soon for on-the-record reports.)

First, understand that I never even attempted to ask Bedsole about policy or his campaign. That will come another time. Instead, I spent the whole hour learning his background, and listening to his remarkable political stories.

As a Mobile native just out of law school (and with a tax degree) in 1998, Bedsole found himself offered jobs by two of the all-time titans of the Senate: moderate Democrat Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York, who chaired the Senate Finance Committee, and conservative Republican stalwart Jesse Helms of North Carolina, offering (in contrast to Moynihan’s nice offer) an absurdly low starting salary. The Moynihan post was much more of a plum job, but Bedsole, a conservative, chose Helms instead.

“I found Helms was a genuine gentleman, always going at his job with sort of a servant’s heart,” Bedsole said of the senator who in his younger days had been considered a conservative firebrand. “You could tell when he had decided he liked you: He started out just calling a new staffer ‘Fella,’ but you knew he was fond of you when he eventually started referring to you as ‘Son’.”

Helms rather quickly made Bedsole a chief legislative negotiator – but that job was interrupted by the Bush vs. Gore presidential recount in 2000. Bedsole, wanting to help, took temporary leave from Helm’s office and arrived in Florida as the youngest lawyer on Bush’s recount team, but found himself overseeing operations in Broward County – which soon, by luck, became ground zero for the fight. He impressed the right people, and somehow, with no prior ties to Bush-world, ended up (once Bush had been declared the victor) reviewing outgoing president Bill Clinton’s executive orders (seeing which ones might be revoked or reworked) for the presidential transition team. He reported to Scooter Libby, who of course was incoming Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff.

Transition over, Bedsole returned to Helms’ staff – but by early 2002, returned home for family reasons, expecting to work in a Mobile law firm. Instead, he somehow found himself running Jo Bonner’s successful campaign for Congress. And then, since he was a legal recount expert, he was suddenly dispatched – at the urging of Jeff Sessions, no less – to take charge of the Republican side of the Baldwin County recount in the tight and contested governor’s race between Bob Riley and Don Siegelman.

Riley won, of course, but Bedsole – despite a meeting with just him and the Riley family, probing his interest for something more permanent – wanted to go into private practice rather than government, and moved to Birmingham to do it (and eventually to get married).

Government kept calling, though. While still in private practice doing complex business litigation, Bedsole somehow was persuaded to accept an appointment as a municipal criminal judge in Blount County. There, by his account, he started cracking down on worse offenders, rather than letting them skate – including with the help (secured via Sessions) of a federal Drug Enforcement Agency task force) – but also spearheading new programs to divert youthful non-violent offenders in to work and rehab programs.

And Sessions kept calling. At Sessions’ urging, Bedsole found himself in Trump Tower in the fall of 2015, meeting the billionaire himself – and suddenly became Alabama’s state director for the Trump campaign, and then one of Trump’s chief national delegate hunters.

And then, once the nomination was secured, he was assigned, directly by Trump Central, to be the Trump major domo assignee to V-P nominee Mike Pence’s traveling team, working directly with Pence (and usually in the seat right next to him) as they flew around the country campaigning.

Now he’s running for AG.

So, to review the employers, direct superiors, or major sponsors/mentors for Bedsole’s high-level jobs: Jesse Helms, Scooter Libby, Jo Bonner, Bob Riley, Jeff Sessions, Mike Pence, and Donald Trump. Other than that, it sounds like a pretty boring existence, eh?

This, above, is just the Cliff’s Notes version of Bedsole’s résumé. Listening to him elaborate on these political adventures is a political junkie’s dream. (Alas, this column doesn’t have room for some of the war tales.)

Clearly, Chess Bedsole is not to be taken lightly. He impresses.

Again, his competitors in the Republican primary also impress. In particular, I’ve watched the career of Alice Martin for 17 years now, and she’s a no-nonsense legal star. This is gonna be a heckuva race, one in which Alabama voters for once should be thoroughly pleased with their options.

Yellowhammer Contributing Editor Quin Hillyer, of Mobile, also is a Contributing Editor for National Review Online, and is the author of Mad Jones, Heretic, a satirical literary novel published in the fall of 2017.

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8 months ago

Quin Hillyer: Moore’s ad spreads a big lie

(Roy Moore/Vimeo)
(Roy Moore/Vimeo)

 

 

Roy Moore’s Senate campaign is running a TV commercial featuring a cheap lie that harms public faith in our constitutional system.

On a personal level, the lie isn’t as vicious as the smear-by-out-of-context-innuendo to which a recent Doug Jones ad has subjected Moore. In terms of systemic damage, though, Moore’s commercial is somewhat worse, as it adds to a long series of claims, events and trends that wrongly convince many voters our system is “rigged” by shadowy, powerful forces.

When Richard Hofstadter wrote his infamous essay “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” in 1964, it surrounded the germ of truth with a bunch of highfalutin’ claptrap used as a way to take cheap shots at conservatives. Unfortunately, though, today’s political world truly does exhibit a vast amount of outlandish paranoia all across the political spectrum; Moore’s TV spot cynically plays on, and exacerbates, that paranoia.

The Moore ad references the now-famous sexual-impropriety accusations against Moore by calling them “false allegations” (maybe) resulting from “a scheme by liberal elites and the Republican establishment to protect their big-government trough.”

That second part, about the alleged scheme, is a lie. (If it’s not, the Moore campaign should prove its contention. Put up, or shut up.) It features photos of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (with a crown on his head) along with Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, while big-dollar bills erupt out of the U.S. Capitol dome.

Before examining this further, let us be clear: The word “lie” is used here very carefully. Not every falsehood is a lie; some are just mistakes. A falsehood is a lie only if the one telling it either knows it not to be true or if he spreads the information with willful disregard for whether it is true or not – for self-serving purposes, with no real attempt to ascertain if it is indeed accurate.

The allegation that the Republican establishment and liberal elites are colluding to invent false accusations against Moore is the latter kind of lie. Not only is it untrue, but it relies on absurdist logic and/or a serious ignorance about how our government and politics actually work.

To be clear, McConnell has much for which to answer in this race. He and his team screwed things up at every step. But not only is there no evidence that McConnell or his team had anything to do with scheming to bring down Moore with these allegations, there also is not a shred of reason for them to have done so. The idea doesn’t just lack sense; it runs directly counter to all logic and all political reality.

As soon as the primary was over, Moore was the Republican candidate – and McConnell desperately needs a Republican to win. With only a two-vote Republican majority in a Senate full of GOP lone wolves, McConnell clearly was looking past his doubts about Roy Moore and starting to help Moore. That’s why the National Republican Senatorial Committee was helping support Moore’s campaign, financially and organizationally – because in a choice between Moore and the liberal Jones, of course the Republican establishment wanted Moore to be the senator.

And the very last thing they would want is an official Republican nominee to suddenly be credibly charged with teen abuse, and for the party to be faced with a damned-either-way dilemma in which a huge swath of the country would believe Republicans willingly overlook ephebophilia.

Meanwhile, here’s some news for conspiracy mongers: Roy Moore, in his self-appointed role as principled Christian conservative, represented not a single threat to the supposed “big government trough.” The DC ethos surely is flawed, but the system – especially the financial side of it – wasn’t threatened by a single junior senator in his 70s, especially one whose actual record and public advocacy on non-cultural-hot-button issues actually is rather moderate.

(Remember, too: The McConnell henchmen spent far more money and effort attacking Mo Brooks in the first primary than it did attacking Moore. Brooks, not Moore, was the one they really feared.)

There was no reason and no motive for McConnell’s minions, after Moore was the nominee, to have concocted false allegations of such a nature against Moore. Zero, zilch, nada. And there is no evidence they did so. (Indeed, through the journalistic grapevine, the story I’ve heard of how the Washington Post stumbled onto these allegations is a classic of a shoe-leather reporter being in the right place at the right time, with utterly apolitical sources.)

Mitch McConnell wants a vote for conservative judges, and a vote to replace Obamacare, and a vote to undo regulations. The last thing he wants is to be stuck with no choice other than one between a Republican colleague who is thought by many to be a sexual abuser and a liberal Democrat who will vote with Schumer 90 percent of the time.

Indeed, what’s truly insane in the Moore ad is the idea that somehow McConnell and Schumer are on the same side of anything, or that they are self-consciously protecting a system whose insider privileges are more important to them than are their vast policy, political, and personal differences.

To spread this myth, to feed this paranoia, about a political “class” whose ties supersede their partisan differences, all at the expense of their own constituents, is to undermine basic, small-‘r’ republican understandings among the populace.

There is no grand conspiracy. Period. End of story.

But there is a cottage industry of political hacks, or of tactical Leninists such as the blowhard Steve Bannon, who see either money or political power to be snatched if they somehow convince the public to believe the lie that the conspiracy exists.

 Yellowhammer Contributing Editor Quin Hillyer, of Mobile, also is a Contributing Editor for National Review Online, and is the author of Mad Jones, Heretic, a satirical literary novel published in the fall of 2017.

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8 months ago

Alabama judicial nominee should gracefully withdraw, especially if it’s true he anonymously defended the KKK

(Liberty Day Institute/YouTube)
(Liberty Day Institute/YouTube)

 

 

Conservatives rarely oppose the judicial nominations of brilliant conservative lawyers, but Alabama’s Brett Talley, under renewed assault from the usual liberals, may indeed deserve to be blocked by Republicans as well.

Talley already has been under attack because he has never actually tried a case in federal court, but his record is otherwise so impressive that it makes that argument rather irrelevant – especially considering that current Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan was a court-trial novice as well.

The other concerns about Talley, however, appear more valid – most especially one relating to, yes, the Ku Klux Klan.

Talley, who has served as deputy solicitor general for the state of Alabama, and before that as a clerk for a federal district judge, is President Trump’s nominee for a seat on the federal court of the Middle District of Alabama. The liberal hatchet men of the American Bar Association rated him “not qualified” because he hasn’t directly handled a trial, but of course his other experience is exemplary.

The real problem isn’t with that experience. It’s with the evidence – so far not formally confirmed in any source I can find, but apparently accepted as real – not just that Talley failed to disclose some 16,000 pseudonymous online posts to a University of Alabama message board, but that some of them seem nearly toxic.

The worst of those posts was one in which, quite bizarrely and with horrendous historical ignorance, the person-assumed-to-be-Talley asserted that “the first KKK… was entirely different” than the later one, and that former Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, a leader of the early Klan and a pre-war slave trader, somehow was not a horrible advocate of blatant racism and post-war violence.

(Talley also is known for having served as, literally, a professional ghost-hunter, which is rather weird but not necessarily disqualifying, considering that he wrote well-received horror fiction and may have been using his ghost-hunting for source material.)

Except for at some abstruse academic conference, it is more than disturbing that anybody serious would take time to defend the Klan at any point in its existence. This isn’t even somewhat reasonable historical argumentation, like asserting that not all Confederates were fighting consciously for slavery – which is indisputably true, even if the effect of their fight was to support that evil practice. This was a post involving an apparently outraged, and certainly huffy, defense of the Klan.

These posts weren’t written by somebody in high school. They were written when Talley already was serving as a clerk for a federal judge.

Who knows exactly what was going through Talley’s head when he wrote that post (assuming he did)? But it, combined with a lot of otherwise smallish concerns about his record, casts real doubt on his current fitness for a federal judgeship. It is more than legitimate to question whether Talley possesses the requisite good judgment to sit on a federal bench.

In and of itself, one truly stupid post shouldn’t ruin a man’s career. But at age 36, Talley has plenty of time to continue to build his resume, put youthful folly behind him – and reassure people that his emotions involving racial issues aren’t indicative of bias or bigotry.

The withdrawal of Talley’s nomination would not say that he is a bad lawyer or bad man. It would, however, say that surely other Alabama lawyers are, at this stage, more suited for a federal judgeship. Talley would gain grace points if he himself withdraws, with a classy and thoughtful statement, rather than waiting for someone else to push him aside.

Yellowhammer Contributing Editor Quin Hillyer, of Mobile, also is a Contributing Editor for National Review Online, and is the author of Mad Jones, Heretic, a satirical literary novel published in the fall of 2017.

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8 months ago

Alabama’s Judge Pryor takes conservative stand against conservative allies

Judge William H. Pryor (Photo: Screenshot)
Judge William H. Pryor (Photo: Screenshot)

 

Never one to flinch from a stand on principle no matter whose ox is gored, Alabama’s 11th U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Bill Pryor on Wednesday used a New York Times column to criticize the court-packing proposals of many of his conservative friends.

Pryor is right, and deserves points for logic and courage.

Pryor’s column was headlined, quite simply, “Conservatives Should Oppose Expanding the Federal Courts.” In it, he took aim at a proposal by distinguished law professor Steven Calabresi, a founder of the conservative-leaning Federalist Society, to more than double the number of federal appeals court judges and to expand the number of federal district judgeships by some 25 percent. Calabresi argued that court caseloads have grown far faster than the number of judges has.

Other leading conservatives, seeing the chance to ensconce conservative court majorities for years to come, have rallied to Calabresi’s call.

Pryor has been an active member and favorite of the Federalist Society since 1984, but that didn’t stop him from respectfully disagreeing this time. He noted that court-system reforms – both via congressionally passed laws and by administrative advances – have made it easier for the courts to handle cases more efficiently, especially when combined with new information technology.

“Many of Professor Calabresi’s ideas lack common sense,” Pryor wrote. “For example, he says that my court, the 11th Circuit in Atlanta, optimally should have 56 judges, even though we expeditiously administer our current caseload with 12 judges…. No appellate court could operate on that scale; judges who must decide appeals collegially would barely know one another. Jumbo appellate courts would be unmanageable.”

Another result, Pryor explained: “Expanding the number of judges as his plan calls for would leave scores of federal judges with little more than a part-time job.”

Look, if most people were constitutionally guaranteed a decent-paying job for life (or “good behavior”), and then offered a chance to have their workload cut in half while keeping the job anyway, and they were only concerned about their own comfort rather than the public good, they would jump at the chance to have others appointed to share their workloads. But Pryor isn’t like that. The man should know if he is overworked. He says his docket is manageable. There’s no reason to disbelieve him.

Calabresi may be using good logic and sound numbers, but an outdated understanding of court systems that makes the numbers and logic less relevant to current practices. Pryor, for honorably conservative reasons, thinks no branch of government should be expanded without good reason. His stance may make him temporarily less popular among some of his conservative friends who want to more rapidly take over the courts, but it shows a judiciousness as admirable as it is rare.

Yellowhammer Contributing Editor Quin Hillyer, of Mobile, also is a Contributing Editor for National Review Online, and is the author of Mad Jones, Heretic, a satirical literary novel published in the fall of 2017.

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8 months ago

Quin Hillyer: Doug Jones’ ad crosses a line

 

Roy Moore and his team are getting a taste of their own poison this week, but that doesn’t make the poisoning justified.

Democratic Senate candidate Doug Jones’ latest ad highlights three Alabama Supreme Court cases in which then-Chief Justice Moore “sided” with defendants accused of sexual crimes involving minors. The obvious implication is that Moore sympathizes with such sexual abusers because he is one.

It’s not necessarily – in fact, it’s likely not – a fair use of those cases. It is, however, the exact same sort of out-of-context (mis)use of court cases that Moore’s team engaged in earlier this year to help torpedo the possibility for Alabama’s own federal appeals court judge Bill Pryor to be nominated for the U.S. Supreme Court. It was wrong for Moore’s team to take Pryor’s cases out of context, and it is wrong for Jones’ team to do it to Moore. (Note: In one of those columns linked above, I wrote that I thought Moore’s team was behind the slams at Pryor. I later confirmed that Moore-connected lawyers indeed were helping lead the charge.)

Moore’s associates bizarrely accused Pryor of being “a strong ally of the homosexual lobby” merely because Pryor’s decisions (or dissents) in three cases happened to reach “results” favored by homosexual parties to the case. I joined some conservative legal luminaries in explaining how viciously unfair the accusation was, because in all three cases Pryor’s legal reasoning was plain for all to see, and it hewed closely to the actual facts at hand and the specific procedural issues involved.

Good judges don’t rule according to the policy results they desire, but according to how the exact language of existing law applies to the exact circumstances of the case – and, whether an observer agreed with Pryor’s conclusions or not (I disagree with one of them), it was obvious those conclusions were reached by using conservative, textualist reasoning.

Moore’s team was wrong to take the cases out of context in order to do a political hit job on Pryor.

Likewise, Jones’ team is wrong if it is taking Moore’s three cases out of context in order to do a political hit job on the judge. My preliminary analysis (not a full one yet) indicates this is likely what is happening here.

Jones’ ads highlight three cases in which Moore’s ruling favored the defendant in sexual abuse cases. Yet, just as what happened in particular with one of Pryor’s cases, all Moore did in one of the cases was argue a procedural point rather than address the merits of the defendant’s guilt or innocence.

The case involved a 37-year-old mentor at the Mobile Youth Advocate Program who had been convicted of sexual acts with two teenage girls. The case was a he-said/they-said case, without clear physical evidence. The defendant wanted to argue that the two girls’ relationship with each other, and his reporting of that relationship to their parents, led them to concoct their accusations against him. The trial judge had not allowed the defendant to mention part of those (alleged) dynamics to the jury.

The state high court split on the case. Five ruled the trial judge was right to exclude the argument; Moore and two others dissented. It obviously was a close call. To somehow insinuate that Moore’s dissent showed that he doesn’t care about child sex abuse is to also make that same insinuation against his colleagues, including the widely respected, solidly conservative Justice Glenn Murdock, who joined the dissent. That’s ludicrous.

Another case involved similar arguments about whether the accuser’s sexual history could be relevant, admissible evidence in another he-said/she-said case. Again, Moore was joined by two other justices in his dissent. In this case and the prior one, a closer parsing of the circumstances might help determine if Moore’s principles and reasoning seem correct or not, but they surely don’t, in themselves, show a weird predilection in favor of sexual criminals.

The third case looks more questionable, especially since Moore was the lone wolf arguing the technical legal point favored by the defendant while all eight of his Supreme Court colleagues ruled otherwise. The case involved a 17-year-old male with supervisory authority who sexually abused a 12-year-old boy. Moore agreed that the conviction on one count should stand, but argued that the other count should be dismissed because the particular statute used for that conviction applied only if a full adult used “force,” rather than a mere position of authority, in a case in which there was “abuse of children by other children.” In his explanation, though, Moore took care to say that such behavior is “an abhorrent crime and should be strictly punished” – but only under terms specified by the Legislature.

To use the vernacular: Ick. Yuck. This is clearly a case where Moore’s legal hair-splitting, whether legally correct or not, makes one just want to look away.

Still, all of which leaves the question open as to whether Jones is fair to insinuate that Moore’s overall record shows Moore to be strangely and uniquely sympathetic to those who commit sexual abuse. The New York Times analyzed the record and found that while “he sided with the accused in sex abuse cases more often than his colleagues did,” there also were three cases in which he did just the opposite, siding with prosecutors in sex-abuse cases while a majority of his colleagues sided with the accused.

And the Times – surely not a Moore sympathizer – noted that Moore’s concern for defendants applied not just for accused sexual abusers but also for the procedural rights of defendants in many other sorts of cases too. In addition, reported the Times, “Mr. Moore has expressed concern over the years about mandatory life sentences for nonviolent crimes, and once suggested that a death row inmate might not be getting a fair shake in the court system.”

Matthew Clark, a lawyer who worked for Moore, explained to the New York paper: “He had no love for criminals, but he believed that every defendant was entitled to due process of law. He saw many cases where the defendants, especially young black men, would be convicted solely on very weak circumstantial evidence.”

Clearly, the overall context does not support the insinuations in Jones’ ad. Even if one believes the somewhat credible allegations about Moore’s own long-ago sexual behavior, that doesn’t mean his rulings as a judge have shown bizarrely pro-abuser bias.

Considering the intellectually dishonest way that Moore’s legal henchmen attacked Judge Pryor earlier this year, it might be argued that the Jones ad is a sort of cosmic justice and that Moore is being hoisted with his own petard. This initial response is morally untenable. The kindergartener’s wisdom is also profoundly correct: Two wrongs don’t make a right.

Moore has flaws, maybe major ones. But this ad unfairly invents a flaw that probably doesn’t exist.

Yellowhammer Contributing Editor Quin Hillyer, of Mobile, also is a Contributing Editor for National Review Online, and is the author of Mad Jones, Heretic, a satirical literary novel published in the fall of 2017.

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8 months ago

Quin Hillyer: Malzahn’s odyssey shows state’s harmful tribalism and absurd football over-reactions

 

Hmmm…. So… Remember back, wow, a six-week lifetime ago, when so many Alabamans were calling for the guillotined head of Auburn football coach Gus Malzahn?

Don’t they look rather silly now that Auburn is in the SEC title game and very much alive for the national championship?

No, this isn’t a sports column, although I started my career as a sportswriter and remain an avid sports fan. And this isn’t a piece intended to show how so many people were such bad judges of coaching talent. Instead, this is a comment on a culture that puts far, far too much emphasis on football, and that over-reacts, far too quickly, to every change in football fortunes.

There’s still a “Fire Gus Malzahn” home page on Facebook. There’s still the Twitter feed of the same name. Way back in 2016 after just a few games, there already was a fan-led GoFundMe page to fire the coach. There still are the newspaper analyses available online from mid-October about how Malzahn was likely a goner and certainly a mediocrity – as in al.com’s Kevin Scarbinsky writing of Malzahn and Auburn that “There is no winner here. If, by winner, you mean a head coach capable of competing for and capturing championships on the state, conference and national levels.”

Scarbinsky continued: “Four years ago, Malzahn was right there. Now it appears that window has closed and been boarded shut.”

Boarded shut? Really?

Why the rush to judgment only part-way through a season? Why the fan uprisings to fire a coach who as recently as 2013 had brought his team within three points of a national championship, who was offensive coordinator for Auburn when it did win a national championship — and who had never had a losing season as a head coach?

And for those who thought an 8-5 season was an entirely unforgivable sin, was there any consideration of whether this was an 8-5 coach who ran a program with integrity or one who ran a sleazy program? Did a program’s integrity matter at all? How about its success, or not, of actually helping kids get educated? If Malzahn had been 8-5 but his program produced a Rhodes Scholar in three straight years and boasted a graduation rate of more than 80 percent, would his critics have been less vociferous?

Football is loads of fun to watch and debate about and even slightly obsess about. Some of us even think that winning really does matter. But as Managing Editor Rachel Byars wrote over the weekend (in a slightly different context, that of the losers’ post-game funks), there is a “type of tomfoolery that runs rampant in our state” which elevates football wins and losses to a position of outlandish importance.

People agonize over football losses, but they pay only lip service to truly important matters such as education (both at the family level and as public policy), much less macro-problems such as Black Belt poverty. I know of a single small school in New Orleans, for example, that regularly turns out more National Merit semi-finalists than the entire county of Mobile. Yet as someone who has lived in each place for years, I can guarantee that New Orleanians are not naturally smarter than Mobilians.

While it would be foolish to overstate the case — clearly, we must grant that the overall New Orleans education level still lags the national average — the higher achievement levels for at least a subset of the Crescent City is an indicator that more citizens there truly stress educational goals than the percentage who do so here.

It’s not that the obsession with football is mostly to blame for Alabama’s low educational rankings and high poverty rate. But the obsession with football is surely at least a little to blame and, more importantly, is symptomatic of a broader outlook that is largely to blame.

The larger problematic outlook is one of insularity and tribalism. Bragging rights about our tribe outscoring your tribe (whether within the state or between it and others) — or of Alabamans thumbing their noses at outsiders because, well, we kick their butts on the gridiron — take on an outsized importance in our culture.

So when a consistently winning coach oversees one or two early-season losses, well, dontcha know he should be fired and tarred and feathered? That’ll learn him, but good, now won’t it?

That attitude is absurd. We can do better than this. We can show more patience, at least until a season’s end. We can consider other factors in the mix, such as arrest records (bad) or graduation rates (good), or a host of others.

There’s nothing wrong with yelling “ROLL TIDE!” or “WAR EAGLE!” There’s nothing wrong with loving football and caring who wins the games. But there’s everything wrong with over-reacting and over-emphasizing football, to the detriment of, well, everything else.

Yellowhammer Contributing Editor Quin Hillyer, of Mobile, also is a Contributing Editor for National Review Online, and is the author of Mad Jones, Heretic, a satirical literary novel published in the fall of 2017.

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8 months ago

Quin Hillyer: Roy Moore’s controversy isn’t primarily a political one

 

 

The continuing efforts to explain away the allegations against Roy Moore as merely a new front in some national war between political factions have reached a new, utterly dishonest, and immoral low with a piece by the otherwise esteemed Angelo Codevilla in The American Spectator.

Back before enough people were making such observations, Codevilla had made waves, rightfully so, with what became a semi-famous essay at AmSpec in 2010 asserting that an arrogant “ruling class” in America regularly tramples the wishes of ordinary Americans. He lengthened his essay into a small book that sold quite well. And he had a point: Members of both parties in Washington were far more likely to answer to powerful lobbies and moneyed interests than to the clearly and repeatedly expressed viewpoints on what once was known colloquially as “Main Street.”

Seven years later, that insight is trite and hackneyed. Of course it still holds some elements of truth, but Codevilla and others are so in love with this construct that they want to shoehorn virtually every extant cultural and political issue into this model of the mean old elites versus the poor, put-upon populace. Now, like clockwork, Codevilla comes with his new essay insisting that this entire new controversy about Moore is nothing more than yet another attempt by the elites to assert control.

Poppycock.

And immoral poppycock at that.

If a man abuses an underage girl, politics doesn’t matter. In fact, any time a full adult preys on a minor, man or woman, the truth is important whether politics are implicated or not, and no matter whose politics are implicated. Whether the accused is Anthony Weiner or Dennis Hastert or Roy Moore or your next-door neighbor, sexual predation against a minor should be outed and penalized. Period.

To assume that such allegations are about nothing more than politics is to belittle the seriousness of the alleged crime or immorality. To discount the allegations as just a skirmish in a cultural attack by shadowy elites is to adopt the Left’s false theory that everything is politics and that any story involving a politician must be seen as politics first, last and always.

Yet if these women are telling the truth, then all decent people should say that the truth, and their well-being, supersedes politics. Period, end of story. It matters not whose political ox is gored; what matters is that childhood and adolescence be protected.

But that’s not what Codevilla says. Instead, he writes, “It has nothing to do with what he may have done four decades ago, and everything with the threat that his election now poses to the [elite’s] power to run the country while de-legitimizing the rest of Americans and their culture.”

This is as immoral a statement as I’ve ever seen in a reputable conservative journal. “Nothing to do with what he may have done four decades ago?” Really? If we were talking about whether Moore slept around with his own contemporaries four decades ago, that would be one thing. It would receive bored yawns and a change of the channel.

But we’re talking about allegations that he made somewhat of a habit of asking girls as young as 16 out on dates, that he forcefully groped and threatened one such 16-year-old, and that he partially disrobed and fondled a 14-year-old.

Today’s controversy has not “nothing,” but rather absolutely everything, to do with whether the allegations are true. To look at them any other way is to park one’s morals in Ted Kennedyland.

Worse, Codevilla utterly misrepresents the nature of the reports. He described the allegations first reported by the Washington Post as “wholly unsubstantiated.” Again, the mind boggles. This story isn’t Dan Rather slinging obviously mendacious nonsense about George W. Bush’s military service, and it’s not Donald Trump insanely trying to tie Ted Cruz’ father to JFK’s assassination.

This was a carefully reported news investigation with more than 30 sources, a fair number of them named. The dates of courthouse appearances check out. The employment records of the girls check out. Multiple friends of the various girls say they were told of Moore’s actions contemporaneously. Mothers of the girls confirm that Moore did indeed ask them out. Later reports quote former colleagues of Moore as saying he did generally pursue at least older teens.

Martha Brackett “says she refused to grant Moore permission to date her 16-year-old daughter.” Betsy Davis “says she clearly remembers Corfman talking about seeing an older man named Roy Moore when they were teenagers.”  Gena Richardson’s account, including apparently that of being called out of her classroom via intercom to accept a phone call from Moore, “was corroborated by classmate and Sears co-worker Kayla McLaughlin.”

Not even all these on-the-record corroborations (plus dozens on background) necessarily prove that Moore did the worst of the things alleged. But they are the very definition of significant “substantiation.” The difference between Codevilla’s “wholly unsubstantiated” and the actual Post’s careful and impressive, journalistically sound substantiations (at least in large part), is the difference between willful mendacity (Codevilla) and objective presentation of evidence (the Post).

Even with all of this careful reporting, there is reason to give – and even more reason to want to give – Moore the benefit of the doubt. (In numerous columns and TV appearances I have refrained from offering a firm judgment of the stories’ veracity.) But to dismiss it as all politics, and to spread the sheer falsehood that the allegations are wholly unsubstantiated, is to multiply the possible sin committed against these onetime girls.

Even so, were this only Codevilla’s column at issue, it wouldn’t be worth the refutation. The problem is that all over the country, partisans and ideologues on both sides are treating these stories first and foremost as a political dispute, rather than as an important moral question regarding long-delayed potential justice for innocent victims.

If the allegations are false, Moore has been smeared beyond imagining, and the wrongful accusers will need to answer to their Maker while Moore gets his innocence shouted from the rooftops. But if the worst of the allegations are true, then the sunlight now shining on Moore’s alleged behavior can help the victims move on. It is that very human consideration, not any political one, which should be paramount.

Yellowhammer Contributing Editor Quin Hillyer, of Mobile, also is a Contributing Editor for National Review Online, and is the author of Mad Jones, Heretic, a satirical literary novel published in the fall of 2017.

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8 months ago

Quin Hillyer: Why Governor Ivey must prove she’s a leader

(Governor Kay Ivey/Flickr)
(Governor Kay Ivey/Flickr)

 

Once Alabama’s horrendous special election for the U.S. Senate is finally settled, it will be time for Governor Kay Ivey to earn her keep.

So far, Ivey has been able to surf on a wave of warm fuzziness, with her representing apparent stability, honesty and decency in contrast to the tawdriness of her predecessor. But she hasn’t really had to do much of anything, because she took office when most legislative business for the year had been completed, and she largely punted all leadership opportunities as the state school board beclowned itself all summer by inventing grounds to fire the superintendent it had hired less than a year earlier.

Ivey helped create the election mess we face by improperly re-setting the date of an election that already had been duly called, and she showed moral blindness by saying she will vote for Roy Moore for senator even though she believes Moore’s accusers. (It may be reasonable to disbelieve some or all of the accusers, but if a governor truly believes the story of the then-14-year-old girl is true, then there is no decent moral universe where that governor should publicly say the perpetrator should be elected to the Senate.)

Yet Ivey’s missteps, or lack of steps, can be forgiven if she shows effective leadership in the next six months. Alabama faces numerous challenges, but a fractious Legislature shows little proclivity on its own to do anything more for the next year than to try to muddle through it all. A governor can, and in this case darn well ought to, step in and forcefully set an agenda of problem-solving and reform.

Alabama’s prisons are almost criminally overcrowded and its mental health care almost criminally underfunded. The state keeps losing rural hospitals, with yet another announcing a week ago that it will be closing. State budgets remain balanced only by extravagant use of financial duct tape and bailing wire. State courts and law enforcement, particularly for juvenile offenders, are woefully shorthanded.

And Alabama’s national reputation is in the outhouse, with the series of scandals in all three branches of state government now joined by the allegations against Judge Roy Moore.

For all these reasons and more — and because Ivey has now had more than seven months to get her ducks in a row — the governor should be ready, immediately after this Senate race is finished, to start laying out an ambitious, reformist agenda for the legislative sessions that begins January 9.

Yes, January 9. That’s early. And considering the Legislature’s habit of futzing away its early legislative calendar with organizational housekeeping (necessary) and significant amounts of mere gamesmanship and power-jockeying (inexcusable), it will take a forceful governor to crack the whip early enough to ensure the chance for important reforms or solutions to wend their way into law.

In effect, Gov. Ivey must grab the agenda and the legislators by their proverbial lapels and shake them into seriousness.

If she doesn’t, she will have failed as a leader — and she certainly won’t merit re-election.

Yellowhammer Contributing Editor Quin Hillyer, of Mobile, also is a Contributing Editor for National Review Online, and is the author of Mad Jones, Heretic, a satirical literary novel published in the fall of 2017.

1
8 months ago

Quin Hillyer: On Moore mess, both sides bloviate

 

 

An unbecoming hysteria continues on both sides of the Roy Moore debate, and our civic life is made worse by it.

Witness a recent column against Moore by the liberal but usually thoughtful Kyle Whitmire of al.com, and witness the outlandish conspiracy-mongering in defense of Moore by Alabama Senate President Pro-Tem Del Marsh. Both of them detract from, rather than adding to, reasonable discourse about the allegations against Moore. Indeed, both are virtually poisonous.

Rather than summarize Whitmire, I’ll quote the key set-up in his column, at length:

First, read his book. In it, Moore describes how he met his wife at a Christmas party hosted by friends. He would have been 37. She was 23.

“Many years before, I had attended a dance recital at Gadsden State Junior College,” Moore wrote. “I remembered one of the special dances performed by a young woman whose first and last names began with the letter ‘K.’ It was something I had never forgotten. Could that young woman have been Kayla Kisor?”

Moore later determined that it was.

“Long afterward, I would learn that Kayla had, in fact, performed a special dance routine at Gadsden State years before,” he wrote.

Take a second to think about what’s being said here. Moore first took notice of Kayla at a dance recital?

And Whitmire’s point is – exactly what?

Whitmire notes that Moore later said the recital in question had been nearly eight years earlier, meaning he had been 29 and Kayla 16. From there, he makes the bizarre leap of logic, accompanied by outrageous innuendo, that somehow this shows Moore had been lusting after the 16 old dancer – or something creepy like that.

This innuendo is utterly without foundation, and should never have been published in a legitimate news outlet.

If one takes Moore’s account at face value, entirely apart from the allegations of the past two weeks, then the immediate and ordinary interpretation of it would be entirely innocent. Moore was at a high school dance recital, was impressed by one of the dancers, and realized eight years later that the woman he had just met was that dancer from all those years ago. So what?

Has Whitmire, as an adult, never attended a dance recital by high schoolers, or some other such event? Does he not have nieces? Or has he never had a friend who had nieces, or much younger sisters, who had to make an appearance at the niece’s or sister’s event before the two young men dashed off to the football game or their buddy’s barbeque party?

The potential number of perfectly innocent explanations for attending an event featuring high school girls is large. And one can be completely impressed with one of the dancers, or the actresses in a school play – “wow, that girl is lovely, and she is truly talented!” – without any sexual implications. If a performer really “steals the show,” it wouldn’t even be unusual to vaguely remember it seven or eight years later, or to remember that the terrific performer’s first and last names began with the same letter.

And there are approximately gazillions of stories out there about couples with semi-significant age differences, such as Roy Moore’s 37 to Kayla’s 23, who fell in love and created wonderful marriages. Last I checked, there isn’t a single thing immoral about such relationships. Nor is there anything wrong with marrying a girl you first saw in a different context when she was 16 and then met in person only years later when she was a fully mature, poised and self-reliant adult. And last I checked, the Moores appear to have created a happy, loving marriage for something like 32 years, and seem utterly devoted to each other. To cast aspersions on the beginnings of that marriage, based on a tendentious interpretation of a fond reminiscence relayed by the judge years later, is inexcusable.

It’s potential evidence of Anti-Moore Derangement Syndrome.

On the other hand, there is also the Circle the Wagons Derangement Syndrome, or maybe the Hate the Media Derangement Syndrome. This is the idea that if allegations against “one of us” are reported by “one of them” – one of the dreaded outlets of the Elite Media, surely put up to it by that dastardly Mitch McConnell or maybe even the Trilateral Commission or the Illuminati – then the subject of the allegations must be defended at all costs while the charges themselves are ascribed to a massive and evil conspiracy.

Yes, it’s the reverse-mirror image of Hillary Clinton’s supposed Vast Right Wing Conspiracy. And it’s just as fanciful, just as false, and just as paranoid as Clinton’s was.

The last person who should be feeding such paranoid conspiracy theories is the President of the state Senate. But that’s what Del Marsh has been doing.

“I think there are question marks as to is this part of a, I hate to say, Washington conspiracy,” Marsh told the excellent Jeff Poor of Breitbart News.

Why not stop at Washington? Why not call it an international conspiracy? Surely all the usual suspects are all involved: Jeff Bezos, George Soros, Ted Cruz’ father, Barack Obama’s birth-certificate forger, a Pulitzer-Prize-quality team of reporters from the Washington Post, the real killer of Nicole Brown Simpson, and no doubt Keyser Söze himself, who after all was portrayed by the now-disgraced Kevin Spacey.

The conspiracy has such power that it invented 30 independent sources for the first Post story, many recalling specific factoids from 38 years ago whose accuracy could be checked, and then convinced numerous other sources to tell similar tales independently to a significant array of other independent news organs. No doubt it was the same conspiracy that really shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and sent the iceberg into the path of the Titanic….

Marsh is peddling pure paranoia. As I, a confirmed basher of the liberal media for 40 years, explained in an earlier column, this is not how journalism works – not even from self-appointed elite, East Coast outlets. The Post, I wrote, employs “many stages of review,” and even if its reporters “may make errors on details, as humans often do…, they don’t just make things up, nor do they publish things they don’t fully believe are true.”

We do not know if the allegations, or even some of the allegations, against Judge Moore are true. But by every reasonable measure, many of them are credible – a different standard than “true” – upon first and second review. Some of them involve gray areas of sexual or romantic ethics, and thus are of lesser import; but a few of them, if true, are extremely serious charges that merit sober and serious assessment.

The state Senate leader should be providing such sober leadership, calming the waters so that evidence and reason and context and fair-minded judgment can have time to assert themselves. Instead, Marsh is feeding a toxic atmosphere of unreason and hyper-cynicism, unmoored from and even dangerously contemptuous of empiricism and careful logic….

So, again, let’s all take deep breaths, stop rushing to judgment, and stop feeding the hysteria. Roy Moore isn’t guilty of pedophilia just because he first laid eyes on his now-wife when she was in high school. Nor are the Freemasons and the Yale Skull and Bones Society bribing dozens of people to smear the judge.

Reasoned restraint from opinion leaders and elected leaders, not more chum for the feeding frenzy, should be the order of the day.

 Yellowhammer Contributing Editor Quin Hillyer, of Mobile, also is a Contributing Editor for National Review Online, and is the author of Mad Jones, Heretic, a satirical literary novel published in the fall of 2017.

1
8 months ago

Quin Hillyer: Sessions puts a stop to Department of Justice’s bullish abuse of power

(US DOJ/Facebook)
(U.S. Department of Justice/Facebook)

 

 

Yes, Jeff Sessions really is making a difference at the Justice Department, as a new order curbing the department’s own power makes clear.

The other day, a friend said to me that he figured Sessions really would be better off accepting a write-in bid for his old Senate seat because “he’s not really doing anything as Attorney General anyway. I haven’t seen any big successes there.”

I beg to differ. I’ve covered the Department of Justice (DoJ) quite closely for more than 20 years, and have seen that much of what gets done there – especially the bad stuff – occurs mostly behind the scenes. Under Barack Obama, DoJ became a cesspool of radical-left politics, with all sorts of skullduggery going on not just at the top levels, but at the middle levels of the bureaucracy.

Sessions is steadily cleaning out the stables. What he is doing doesn’t always make the headlines, but it does make a difference. A big one.

Yes, occasionally he may be going in the wrong direction, as I noted in my column a few weeks back on asset forfeiture. But on the vast majority of issues Sessions is not just a breath, but a gale, of fresh air. The latest example – of many examples, which future columns will also highlight – involves the aforementioned order against the DoJ’s own prior misuses of power.

Sessions announced late last week that he is ending the practice of having DoJ achieve what he called “regulation by guidance.” This was a pernicious practice by which DoJ, under the guise of supposedly explaining existing law, would send a “guidance” letter “advising” various entities of what amounted to new policies or legal theories the department would pursue, even if no law or regulation had actually changed.

For one controversial example, former Attorney General Loretta Lynch in May 2016 issued a guidance letter that effectively required public schools to permit transgender students to use the bathrooms that correspond with their newly chosen “gender identity,” not the actual sex organs with which they were born. Her letter carried the implicit threat that schools failing to comply with the “guidance” could lose federal funding.

Eliminating this “guidance” practice is a big deal. It was a way for DoJ to bully large institutions or segments of society into adopting leftist cultural policies without Congress or even official bureaucratic rule-makers having changed a single word of applicable federal law. When DoJ effectively threatens to sue an entity if it doesn’t accept the new “guidance,” that’s enough of a threat to force compliance in most cases – without a single democratic/representative process having been undertaken.

Sessions’ new memo explicitly re-limits guidance memos to standard attempts to explain existing interpretations of law into plain English, while specifically saying that “guidance documents should not be used for the purpose of coercing persons or entities” into actions favored by some ideological cabal at DoJ.

“Guidance documents should not use mandatory language such as ‘shall,’ ‘must,’ ‘required’ or ‘requirement’ to direct parties outside government to take or refrain from taking action,” Sessions wrote – except, of course, for merely restating already existing, clear statutory language.

This new order, effectively withdrawing one of his department’s own (improper) powers, is an example of the kind of careful and, frankly, humble approaches that Sessions is taking. Just like judges, prosecutors and DoJ should be applying laws that actually exist through republican processes, not deciding on their own what they want the laws to be.

Good for Sessions. He’s limiting Justice for the broader cause of justice. Good for all of us. This returns power to the people and our elected representatives – exactly where it belongs.

Yellowhammer Contributing Editor Quin Hillyer, of Mobile, also is a Contributing Editor for National Review Online, and is the author of Mad Jones, Heretic, a satirical literary novel published in the fall of 2017.

1
8 months ago

Quin Hillyer: ‘If Jones and Moore are true statesmen, they’ll both withdraw’

 

 

The people of Alabama would be well served if both Roy Moore and Doug Jones withdraw from the December 12 election, with both major parties formally acquiescing, effectively forcing the election to be postponed until November of next year.

Both candidates, or either, could run again next year, but without the circus atmosphere, confusion, and doubts engendered by post-primary allegations of super-serious moral transgressions by Moore.

Elections are meant to serve the public interest, not the ambitions of candidates.

Yet if the election is held in three weeks, almost any result will be seen as at least a somewhat illegitimate reflection of the actual will of the Alabama majority.

For purposes of this thought experiment, let’s assume that the two worst allegations against Moore – the disrobing and sexual touching of a 14-year-old, and the forceful groping and threatening of a 16-year-old – are not true. What remains is the likelihood, not even directly denied by Moore, that when he was in his late 20s and early 30s he regularly trolled the mall at least for older teens, whom he persisted in pursuing even after some of the girls/young women initially demurred. So many sources have independently described these habits of Moore’s that the odds they are untrue are very low.

If so, several considerations apply. First, even apart from what some describe as “creepiness” (a subjective standard indeed), behavior can be seriously wrong, and perhaps disqualifyingly immoral, without being illegal. It is one thing for a 32-year-old to happen to be impressed with a single 18-year-old who seems emotionally and intellectually mature, and to ask her out with her parents’ permission, and treat her like a gentleman treats a lady. (Such was one of the stories told about Moore.)

It is another thing entirely to regularly target girls or young women in that age range, including perhaps those under 18 even if technically over the legal “age of consent.” The latter behavior, if true, is quite arguably categorizable as predatory.

These highly credible stories (again, making no judgment on the two worst allegations) were completely unknown to almost every Alabama Republican voter during the two primary elections. They are of a nature disturbing enough that a sizable percentage of such voters might have voted differently if they had known. Back then, they did not have a full picture of Roy Moore. If indeed the new picture is true, it is not fair to those voters to present them with an entirely different choice than the one they thought they were giving themselves when they cast primary votes.

(And, of course, if the story involving the 14-year-old is true, then that alone should be utterly disqualifying of Moore. If it and some of the other more serious allegations are false, though, they are collectively one of the most horrid smears in American political memory.)

The only way to be sure voters have a fair choice is for Moore to run again in a new primary under his own power (or to choose not to do so), after having plenty of time to clear his name, and with voters having the chance to weigh all the information over a significant period of time.

Otherwise, Republican voters will have been unfairly treated, with their choices limited under less-than-fully-true pretenses. And they now face a choice between a nominee they now may believe is morally disqualified and a Democratic nominee whose beliefs they find utterly untenable.

That’s why it would be fair and reasonable for Moore to pull out of this election.

By logical extension, Jones would be right to do the same.

In considering this second assertion, let’s stipulate that if the election were only about what’s fair to Jones, the assertion isn’t entirely valid. It is decidedly not Jones’ fault that his opponent’s campaign may be imploding. Jones has run a marvelously astute political campaign with a brilliant series of TV ads, and he does seem to have an admirable record of public service. Serious candidates considered long shots enter races like this one hoping and knowing that their only likelihood of success will come from extraordinary luck joining their own competent campaigns – so of course they shouldn’t be punished when such luck does break their way.

On the other hand, this isn’t just ordinary luck, and his opponent isn’t facing just the ordinary sort of political allegations. No possible issue is more fraught with moral revulsion than the sexual abuse of a minor. If you’re Doug Jones, how could you live with yourself in knowing that a primary factor in your election is that a substantial portion of voters who otherwise would never vote for you are doing so because they believe (accurately or not) that your opponent is… well, a child molester?

And if you are Jones and you truly mean the election to be not about what is fair for you, but instead about doing right by the voters, then how can you countenance making Alabamans vote under such duress, without having a straight-up choice between two men and governmental philosophies hindered by accusations of ephebophilia?

If Jones really is who Alabamans want for their senator, he should be able to win in a “normal” election in 2018, not just in a morally compromised special election on December 12 of this year.

The only people who really ought to matter here are the ordinary citizens of Alabama. The “win-win” call is for both current nominees to pull out; for the election to thus be cancelled by mutual consent; for current appointee Luther Strange to serve through 2018 but promise that he won’t himself run next year (because he already has been rejected by the voters); for Jones to run again in 2018; and for Moore and state Republicans to decide what is best for themselves once the immediate smoke has cleared.

Is this practical? In today’s political world, not really. But would it be the best scenario for Alabama? Most certainly.

If Jones and Moore are true statesmen, they’ll both withdraw.

Yellowhammer Contributing Editor Quin Hillyer, of Mobile, also is a Contributing Editor for National Review Online, and is the author of Mad Jones, Heretic, a satirical literary novel published in the fall of 2017.

1
8 months ago

Mobile nabs important $7 million eco-grant from BP oil spill money

(The City of Mobile)
(City of Mobile)

 

From the “This is Actually Rather Important Good News” Department….

The City of Mobile this week secured a nearly $7 million grant for coastline/marshland protection and restoration. Quoting the press release from the office of Mayor Sandy Stimpson:

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) awarded the City of Mobile a $6,923,800 grant to conserve and protect the City’s coastline.

 Phase II of the Mobile Bay Shore Habitat Conservation and Acquisition Initiative will acquire, restore and preserve habitats that are used by a variety of fish and wildlife species injured by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.  The grant application concerns three specific project areas in the Perch Creek / Garrows Bend Watershed and the lower Three Mile Creek Watershed. Projects include:

  • Land acquisition in the Three Mile Creek, Perch Creek and Garrows Bend Watersheds
  • Shoreline restoration along the Mobile Bay shore
  • Marsh restoration, water quality improvements and invasive species management in all three project areas

 Former vice president Joe Biden might rightly call this “a big deal” with an expletive approvingly inserted in the middle – and conservatives this time should agree.

What this is

This is money from the BP oil spill, funneled (for quality control) through the respected, non-profit, corporate-funded National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. One way or another, Alabama would have been able to use this money for good eco-projects.

 Why it’s important

Getting the money to the right projects, in a timely fashion, isn’t always a guarantee, even if we know the money is effectively sitting in a pot ready to be used. As a purely local matter, shoreline protection and steps against invasive species are crucial for both ecological and economic reasons. So much of the area economy is predicated on being a sportsman’s paradise and a scenic delight – and also in finding ways to optimize both those benefits of the bay and the uses of Mobile’s busy port at the same time – that getting these projects approved and actually begun can make a huge difference to the region’s quality of life.

Example of why timeliness is crucial

Casi Callaway, executive director of Mobile Baykeeper – one of the more moderate, business-friendly “environmentalist” groups around – gives the example of the “apple snail” as a hugely destructive invasive species that this grant will help contain. Right now, the softball-sized critter remains (they think) contained in Mobile’s Three Mile Creek watershed, but if it gets into the bay and Delta, it could be devastating.

“If they enter the Delta, they won’t be manageable,” she explained, then, in layman’s language, put it this way: “Basically, they eat all vegetation they come across, and they have babies – one snail can lay millions of eggs a year! Imagine how much damage they could do.”

Just a few weeks ago, Baykeeper led 266 volunteers in collecting more than 4,400 snails from the watershed – but more serious resources are needed, and this new grant will help provide them.

And, of course, this is just one example of how this grant will be used.

“We are excited to see NFWF funding moving ahead NOW, when we so desperately need it,” said Callaway, with heavy emphasis on the “now.” She continued: “This also lines up with needs we have for the port, with the deepening and widening of the ship channel. All of these things are time-sensitive.”

The broader picture

Conservatives have good reason to oppose the regulation-heavy, expensive, intrusive, punitive, and even borderline authoritarian approaches of many self-proclaimed environmentalists, and good reason to question the level of hysteria and policy overreactions of those warning against climate change.

On the other hand, the state of our marshlands, coastlines, seas and oceans is quite perilous. One can quite reasonably conclude that the dangers to our water habitat (completely apart from effects on them of “climate”) are both more dire and more directly threats to important eco-systems and to human health and life than any existent dangers to our skies or climate.

And the cradles of life for aquatic species and migratory birds (among many other species) are those areas at the border between land and sea – again, coasts, estuaries, marshes – and they also happen to be the watery areas most at risk. Any time, in any way, that money, especially private money, can be leveraged to protect these border areas without trampling property rights, it is terrific news.

“We need a resilient coastline to support our growing economy,” said Mayor Stimpson. “This project is a strong step in the right direction.”

 Yellowhammer Contributing Editor Quin Hillyer, of Mobile, also is a Contributing Editor for National Review Online, and is the author of Mad Jones, Heretic, a satirical literary novel published in the fall of 2017.

1
8 months ago

Quin Hillyer: GOP should try weird ‘Shelby Strategem’ to resolve Roy Moore mess

 

Weird messes sometimes require weird remedies.

The Republican Party, state and national, is in a huge, weird mess because of the ongoing situation involving Judge Roy Moore. Because of the nature of the allegations, the timing of the allegations, and the complicated interplay between state law, state party rules, and Senate rules, there is absolutely no good solution for Republicans or, frankly, for Moore.

It’s like a Rubik’s Cube with a manufacturing mistake that put the wrong colors on the wrong squares so that it’s impossible to “solve.”

But after puzzling out numerous options, I think the least bad idea is an ingenious bit of political jiu-jitsu I saw on Twitter. (Alas, it was a ReTweet of a ReTweet, or something like that, and I don’t remember whose idea it was originally, or I would credit him/her.) The short version is that a write-in campaign should be organized… for current U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby.

What? Come again? The immediate response is to ask how it would help to write in a current senator’s name for an open Senate seat.

Well, I said it was jiu-jitsu.

But, without explaining in detail the rules/law interplay mentioned above, or explaining why all sorts of other suggested options seem to be even worse ideas than this one (please do follow the links to understand at least a bit more about it all), here’s how and why the Shelby idea, at least theoretically, could work in practical application.

The assumption underlying the idea is that it will be nearly impossible for any write-in effort to succeed, but that the only way it can is if there is a consensus write-in candidate who enjoys near-universal name-identification and widespread approval. Frankly, only two people in Alabama fit that bill – and there is no way that one of them, Jeff Sessions, would or should take a demotion back to his old Senate seat from his perch as Attorney General.

That leaves Shelby. And even Shelby couldn’t possibly win a write-in if Moore refuses to suspend his own campaign.

Moore isn’t likely to do so. But let’s just hypothesize that he would. The play could be this: Sessions and President Trump, along maybe with somebody Moore might admire (Franklin Graham, maybe?) could together call Moore and say that even if Moore wins – which is now at least slightly unlikely, and with his odds still dropping rather than rising – he faces so much antipathy in the Senate and such a damaged reputation nationally that his presence in the Senate would absolutely do more harm than good to the cause of a godly republic to which he has devoted his career. The best way to advance his cause is to temporarily disassociate himself from it, and the best way to recover his reputation is if he does so while not in the context of a political campaign or office.

The trio of interlocutors would of course promise to publicly thank Moore for his years of service and remind the public that not just law but simple fairness requires that an accused man with a years-long reputation for personal probity enjoy at least some original benefit of the doubt.

If Moore, miracle of miracles, agrees to publicly withdraw and asks Alabamans not to vote for him despite seeing his name on the ballot, and instead asks voters to write in Shelby’s name, then that would be the only way to avoid splitting the right-leaning vote enough so that Democrat Doug Jones isn’t elected.

Wait!, you say. This still doesn’t explain the Shelby part of it!

 How can Alabamans elect somebody to the Senate who already holds the state’s other Senate seat? And why would Shelby do so?

Well, of course he couldn’t hold both seats. The deal would be this: Shelby would publicly announce that if he wins a plurality of the votes in a write-in campaign, he would resign his current Senate seat one minute before the election results are certified, and instead serve out the remainder of the term to which Sessions originally was elected.

That would in turn open up the remainder of Shelby’s current term – which runs through 2022. Governor Kay Ivey could then appoint somebody (other than Luther Strange) to fill the Shelby seat through 2018. The remaining four years of the term would be filled by election during the regularly scheduled federal elections of 2018…for which, if Moore wants, he himself could run.

But Moore would do so only after having time to clear his name, and without in effect holding the state party hostage to the nomination he won before the allegations surfaced. The state party has stood by him, institutionally, for many years, and is doing so still, while under pressure; he could show reciprocity, and earn some sympathy, if he took the party off the hook in this 2017 race and left open his own options for 2018.

(Frankly, it would be better for all if Moore doesn’t run in 2018, but he would be free to do so.)

The person making the biggest sacrifice, of a sort, would be Shelby. In effect, he would be trading away the final two years of the term to which he was elected in 2016.

But how important are those last two years to a man who already is 83 years old and whose decision is merely whether to retire (or run for sure re-election) at age 86 instead of 88? Are those two years’ worth the damage he thinks it will do to his state and nation for either a damaged Moore or a liberal Jones to take what was the Sessions seat? He already has been in Congress since 1978, and on the public payroll in one role or another since 1963. He has served his state and country well – and could serve it even better by trading two last guaranteed years in office, in his late 80s, for the good of his state, party, and country.

So, to recap: 1) Moore withdraws, and endorses Shelby. 2) Shelby says he will accept write-in results if he wins. 3) If write-in is successful, Shelby resigns current seat and assumes the “Sessions” seat. 4) Ivey appoints someone eminently respectable to serve a single year in what was Shelby’s seat. 5) The election for the final four years of what had been Shelby’s term would occur during an already-scheduled November slot, so it would cost the state no more money. 6) The reputation of absolutely everybody involved would rise, because all would be seen as making magnanimous moves for the good of the state.

But nobody, absolutely nobody, could say it is a “dirty trick” (like delaying the current election would be) or of questionable legality (like pretending that if Luther Strange resigns right now, it would allow cancellation of the already-called special election). Instead, it would leave the final choices, at every step, up to the voters of Alabama.

The Shelby Stratagem would be a weird solution, to be sure. But it might just work. It’s worth a try.

Yellowhammer Contributing Editor Quin Hillyer, of Mobile, also is a Contributing Editor for National Review Online, and is the author of Mad Jones, Heretic, a satirical literary novel published in the fall of 2017.

1
8 months ago

Juvenile offenders find NEST in Mobile, turn lives around

(Pexels)
(Pexels)

 

 

A remarkable program to help juvenile offenders held its annual luncheon in Mobile yesterday, and the rest of the state should emulate it.

The program is called n.e.s.t., for the first words in the group’s goals to “nurture children, equip parents, strengthen families, and transform communities.” (Henceforth, I’ll call it NEST for the sake of simplicity.)

Founded in 2012 by Mobile County juvenile court judge Edmond G. Naman and acclaimed scholar/minister Norman McCrummen III, NEST uses a volunteer-heavy approach to befriending juvenile offenders and helping them – and often their families – turn their lives around. Rather than trying to stretch itself thin to serve as many youthful lawbreakers as possible, NEST uses multiple volunteers as a team for each offender, providing in-depth assistance at helping offenders do better in school, apply for jobs, and stay out of trouble.

The apparent idea is that it is better to succeed with a relative few, and then grow from there, rather than try a less-focused approach for many offenders and fail to break through. NEST’s results are remarkable.

NEST asked local psychology and clinical mental health professor Tres Stefurak to analyze the progress of offenders with whom NEST worked. Stefurak said the average recidivism rate (within a year) for youth offenders in Alabama is a horrid 66 percent, and nationwide it is around 52 percent. Of NEST-helped offenders, though, the recidivism rate is just 26 percent — and most of those are single recidivists, not multiple re-transgressors.

These are early results, to be sure, and Stefurak says he will continue to track NEST’s progress as it takes on more and more cases. Still, the success rate, even those suffering some very difficult family situations, is quite encouraging.

In his concluding remarks at the luncheon, Naman explained the challenges facing juvenile court. He said its probation officers, whom he called “heroic,” are significantly underpaid. Moreover, just since 2010, the court has lost 50 percent of its staff and 70 percent of its funding. (Please see my piece on Alabama government being underfunded.) He cited the numbers: 91 percent of youthful offenders in his court come from single parent homes. Some 6,000 school-age children in Mobile County are officially homeless.

Of one offender, a brawny 6-foot-4, Naman said he looked down from the judicial bench and “I was scared” because of “a deadness in his eyes.” But NEST took on his case. He made it through school and even to college (on a football scholarship), and has stayed on the “straight and narrow.” He even sent a home-made video to the luncheon, thanking NEST for helping turn his life around.

“You saw the video,” Naman said. “There’s no longer deadness in his eyes; instead, you see hope and joy.”

Naman said NEST is successful because it understands the following truth: “A kid can walk around [and thus avoid] trouble if he has someone to walk with and somewhere to walk to.”

Perhaps NEST is a model the rest of Alabama can copy.

Yellowhammer Contributing Editor Quin Hillyer, of Mobile, also is a Contributing Editor for National Review Online, and is the author of Mad Jones, Heretic, a satirical literary novel published in the fall of 2017.

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8 months ago

Quin Hillyer: It’s nonsense on steroids to assume the WashPo’s Moore story is false

(Judge Roy Moore for U.S. Senate/Facebook)
(Judge Roy Moore for U.S. Senate/Facebook)

 

Yes, there are good reasons to believe Roy Moore misbehaved with teenage girls 40 years ago.

My previous column explained why it’s not obviously absurd for many Alabamans to disbelieve the allegations against the former chief justice. A man’s longtime public reputation does merit at least some benefit of the doubt.

On the other hand, some of the emotional, reflexive, and conspiracy-minded assertions put forth by many of Moore’s backers – not to mention absurd comparisons to Saints Mary and Joseph, or calls to criminally charge Moore’s accusers – are examples of extreme ignorance, sheer stupidity, or both.

As my earlier column handled the arguments in list fashion, let me use a parallel format here.

First, many Moore defenders say that just because the story ran in the “liberal” Washington Post, it therefore cannot be believed. This is nonsense on steroids and amphetamines at the same time. Many news outlets may have a liberal bias, but ones as prestigious as the Post also have very high professional standards, and many stages of review. Post reporters and editors may (or may not, and often don’t) have biases that subtly affect their stories, and they may make errors on details, as humans often do. But they don’t just make things up, nor do they publish things they don’t fully believe are true.

In this case, by professional journalistic standards, the original story on Moore was quite well sourced and very tightly reported. While anybody can pick nits with just about any significant news story, this one is far more likely to land in college journalism classes as a legitimate example of a story done right than of one done sloppily (or worse).

Second, the idea that this is a “last minute” smear is absurd. Publishing a story like this a full five weeks before an election is hardly a last-minute bombshell. Instead, it allows plenty of time for follow-up investigation, for Moore to defend himself, and for the voters to weigh it all accordingly. Indeed, the Post has acted with relative dispatch, publishing the story as soon as it considered the article to be airtight, rather than when it would politically do the most damage to Moore.

Third, it is fallacious to assume that these allegations cannot be true just because they didn’t surface during more than 30 years of Moore’s prior political activity. Not only do true sex abuse allegations quite often arise only decades later, even for the most public of men – see former House Speaker Dennis Hastert – but there is copious evidence, historical and psychological, with peer-reviewed studies, to the effect that real victims of such abuse often do take years and even decades to come forward.

But in this case, there are two parts to the “why didn’t it come up earlier” question. Moore’s defenders say they are suspicious of the charges not just because it took so long for the victims to speak up, but also because they think journalists or opposing campaigns surely would have dug up these charges before now due to the longtime, controversial notoriety of Moore. This might seem a reasonable premise, but it’s not. The fact is that Moore’s career did not lend itself to thorough, research-heavy vetting until now.

First, Moore hasn’t been a nominee for a federal office before. National news orgs may not have liked him, but they didn’t really care because he was Alabama’s problem. Now that he may go national, though, the Washington Post has a lot more resources to put into research than do the local papers, and the state Democratic Party for years has been so denuded that it may as well not exist. (For that matter, state newspapers began cutting way back on “investigative” work as early as about 2005.)

Moore’s trajectory as a statewide candidate did not begin until 2000, when he ran for state Supreme Court. That was the year of the hotly contested Bush-Gore race; a state court race wasn’t receiving many resources then. I think I’m right that I was the only journalist to do a major-research feature story on his race – and I focused entirely on judicial/legal background and philosophy, not on personal (non-professional) history.

Then, Moore was ejected from office in 2003 and thought to be politically dead. Then he ran a very weak primary campaign for governor in 2006. No need for anybody to expend major resources investigating him; he was no real threat to win. Then he ran another weak campaign for governor in 2010. Of four major candidates, he came in fourth. Again, no need to expend resources against him. His comeback in 2012 caught everybody by surprise. And in the general election, it was a presidential year, so nobody paid much attention, again, to Alabama’s state Supreme Court race.

Fourth, at least in the Post story (this excludes Monday’s charges from the client of drama-queen-lawyer Gloria Allred), all the descriptions of the alleged incidents, from all 30 sources – all told independently without the sources being able to compare notes with each other – were remarkably similar in their descriptions of Moore’s behavior. And for an alleged sexual deviant, Moore showed quite idiosyncratic tendencies (according to the sources). Yes, they said, he was interested in teenagers, but he did not (unlike most sex abusers) use force; he did take “no” for an answer, and he drove the girls home, almost in gentlemanly fashion, when they asked him to do so. These idiosyncrasies fit into Moore’s public persona of old-fashioned courtliness, which makes them even more believable. Yes, they make the allegations at least somewhat less serious than forcible assault (although any sexual contact with a 14-year-old, with or without physical force, is inexcusable and rightly called “assault”), but the consistency of the stories also lends credence to the idea that these were, indeed, Moore’s habits.

In courts of law, such apparent patterns of behavior are often admissible evidence for the jury to consider.

—-

In sum, then, it is perfectly logical for objective observers, at this point, to tend to believe the allegations against Moore – as long as they don’t yet say their conclusions are hard and fast. To recap, it is logical because the Post story met good journalistic standards, because it does not have the attributes of a last-minute smear, because it is a fallacy that Moore’s background has been thoroughly vetted by press and opponents before now, and because of the commonality of the sources’ reports about the idiosyncrasies of Moore’s alleged behavior four decades ago.

As my previous column explained why there are good reasons not to assume that Moore is guilty, these considerations show why it is eminently reasonable to take the allegations very seriously indeed.

A man in his 30s should never even be alone with a girl 16 or younger (other than a relative, or with the possible exception of a man driving home a babysitter in a pinch and in tightly controlled circumstances), much less in any remotely sexual atmosphere. If the 14 year-old’s story about Moore is true, then, yes, even 38 years later, it makes him unfit for public office.

Yellowhammer Contributing Editor Quin Hillyer, of Mobile, also is a Contributing Editor for National Review Online, and is the author of Mad Jones, Heretic, a satirical literary novel published in the fall of 2017.

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8 months ago

Quin Hillyer: The reasonable case for Roy Moore’s defenders

(Judge Roy Moore for U.S. Senate/Facebook)
(Judge Roy Moore for U.S. Senate/Facebook)

 

 

Without taking a position on whether to believe Roy Moore or to believe his accusers, a fair-minded observer can see a rational basis for the beliefs of each.

This column will explain to Moore haters why many (not all, but many) Moore defenders aren’t foolish, ignorant, or hypocritical for believing the allegations false.

My next column will explain to Moore defenders why it’s not illogical, dishonest or anti-Christian to believe that the case against Moore looks strong.

Honest people can see the same set of facts and analyze them differently. This doesn’t mean that every half-baked reaction, pro or con, is intellectually or morally defensible; it does mean that the automatic assumption that the other side has bad motives (or is plagued with utter stupidity) is unfair and unwise.

This defense of Moore supporters is not to say, for example, that over-emotionalized, choose-your-side-and-then-choose-the-facts-that-support-it outlooks are intellectually acceptable. For example, while my editor Pepper Bryars is absolutely right that Alabamians have reason to believe the Washington Post and other establishment-media outlets are biased against the state and against conservatives, that absolutely, positively does not excuse the truly asinine assumption that nothing the Post prints is true, or that objectively well-reported stories should automatically be dismissed as “fake news.”

That’s the sort of willful, obstinate ignorance that leads to the national media’s bad stereotypes of Alabama in the first place.

With those caveats out of the way, though, here’s why a rational, non-hyped-up Alabaman could legitimately doubt that the Post’s story relates events that truly happened.

First, while it is ignorance personified to believe that professional reporters just make things up or encourage accusers to make things up, it is an incontrovertible fact that the vast majority of national reporters hold cultural and political beliefs different from the majority of Alabamans. Is the Post putting resources into digging for dirt on Doug Jones the way it is dirt-digging against Roy Moore? I seriously doubt it. What can happen, then, is that reporters using reasonable journalistic standards might still, in subtle ways, be inclined to accept as legitimate some “corroborating” accounts that in other circumstances they would dismiss as hearsay. Or they might subconsciously refuse to credit some pro-Moore evidence they would otherwise find exculpatory.

In other words, when the trail of institutional bias is strong, it might be logical to demand a little higher burden of proof from a particular journalistic outlet. In sum, it would be wrong to immediately categorize reports as “fake news,” but not unreasonable to be skeptical of subtle, non-deliberate biases.

Second, while the timing of all these allegations may not be as suspicious as many in Alabama are instinctively claiming, it is indeed a bit hard to believe. If nothing like these stories has arisen in some 30 years of Moore running for public office, then people can reasonably theorize that dirty tricks are involved when a story finally comes out only after the man is the party nominee for federal office. As reported at Yellowhammer on Sunday, Alabamans have witnessed spectacularly false allegations before, including the reprehensibly dishonest claim in 1998 that Republican candidate Steve Windom raped a prostitute. And, nationally, the outrageously mendacious rape allegations at both Duke and the University of Virginia in the past decade remind us that one reason some stories are hard to believe is because they are, indeed, not true.

Third, even as strange as Moore may seem to national media, everything known about his character is that he behaves, personally, in a gentlemanly manner. Despite his intensity on some matters, there is a courtliness about him that has usually extended to his campaigns, too, where he usually refrains from mud-slinging. And while some students of human nature may see aspects of some of these new stories to show a pattern of Moore’s questionable behavior around teens, others can just as easily find just the opposite.

The man they have watched for 20 or 30 years act in a courtly manner is, they think, the same man who didn’t even pursue a (perfectly legal) 18-year-old without asking her mother’s permission, and then who did nothing more than kiss the girl. This is hardly the sort of man, they think, who would go so far as to illicitly take a 14-year-old alone to his house and then do the things of which he is accused.

Little more than a century ago, a 32-year-old asking parents if he could “court” their 18-year-old daughter would have been almost ordinary. Even 40 years ago, when the events happened, it would have been seen as maybe a bit strange, but not borderline criminal – and hardly the mark of the sort of predator who would ask a 14-year-old to disrobe.

In short, Moore fans already suspicious of the 14-year-old’s story for the first two reasons above could look at the details of two of the three other “allegations” and see them as making the 14-year-old’s story less, not more, believable.

Fourth, if (and only if) the story about the 14-year-old was false, but the stories involving the older teens are true, then voters could reasonably conclude that nearly 40 years of subsequently upstanding behavior overrides any “weirdness” about the allegations involving the older, non-illegal teens.

The cultural Left has been hyper-sexualizing young people for 50 years, they say, and nobody yelled bloody murder about plenty of other age-gap romances involving late teens – including when then-late-30s Jerry Seinfeld started dating then-17-year-old Shoshanna Lonstein in 1993. So why should Moore going on a “date” and “kissing” an 18-year-old disqualify him 38 years later?

Fifth, some people believe (mistakenly) the myth that if somebody ever misbehaves sexually around a minor, that means the person will do it again and again because the person “can’t help himself” – and that, therefore, the absolute lack of any stories of such behavior from Moore in the past 30 years makes the earlier stories not believable. So widespread is this misunderstanding, indeed, that it is therefore not illogical for somebody to think the lack of such subsequent activity by Moore makes it unlikely he ever behaved in such fashion.

Put all these five factors together, and one can honestly believe, even with no emotional attachment to Roy Moore’s cause, that the most serious allegation against Moore is likely untrue.

This is why nobody should rush to judgment against Roy Moore. In the next column, we’ll see why it’s equally wrong to rush to defend him. If he deliberately, sexually disrobed a 14-year-old when he was 32, of course he should never hold office. What’s needed, therefore, is the patience to see what other evidence emerges, and then a sober and unemotional weighing thereof.

Yellowhammer Contributing Editor Quin Hillyer, of Mobile, also is a Contributing Editor for National Review Online, and is the author of Mad Jones, Heretic, a satirical literary novel published in the fall of 2017.

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8 months ago

Quin Hillyer: Alabama needs ‘local option’ government

Huntsville City Hall (Wikimedia Commons)
Huntsville City Hall (Wikimedia Commons)

 

In my opening column for the new and improved Yellowhammer News, one of my paragraphs made this assertion:

Alabama’s government is far too centralized rather than open to local innovations, which makes it both ossified and much more easily corruptible. It also allows a small number of groups – often known as the “Big Mules” – to wield inordinate power. Now, sometimes they happen to wield it for good purposes. But if they don’t, they should be taken down a peg or two hundred.

Here’s a thumbnail version of what I mean:

A primary foundation of American political theory and, in a parallel fashion, of Christian (especially but far from exclusively Catholic) social thought, is the principle that most matters of public import ought to be handled at the most local practicable level. In political theory, that’s the assumption underlying the principle of “federalism,” and the parallel religious principle is known as “subsidiarity.”

Yet in Alabama, we turn that principle on its head. Here, we concentrate power at the state level while denying small jurisdictions much of the authority of local decision-making.

For just one example, Alabama’s Constitution denies to local governments the power to adjust the balance of their local tax systems without permission from the state government. Local councils can do just about anything they want with sales taxes, for example, but they can’t touch property taxes without going through an absurdly burdensome process.

So if a city such as Mobile, where I live and where I served on a citizens’ advisory commission on local taxation, wants to reduce its sales tax and replace it with slightly higher property taxes (for revenue neutral reform, not even a net tax increase), it must ask permission from Montgomery – and then, even more absurdly, from voters in the rest of the state!

The process (partly constitutional and partly legislative rules and or unwritten courtesies) is this: First the City Council would have to pass a resolution asking for permission to adjust its tax system. Then the state legislators from that county would, by a supermajority agreement among them, need to recommend to the full legislature that it approve a constitutional amendment/ballot proposition allowing Mobile to adjust its own tax system. Then the full legislature would need to approve it by a three-fifths majority in both chambers.

Wait – we’re still not done! If both House and Senate agree by 60 percent vote to put it on the ballot, then it goes on the ballot for the entire state. And if and only if the entire state by majority vote allows Mobile to adjust its own taxes, then Mobile’s Council in turn could allow the voters within the city of Mobile to approve or disapprove the new tax plan.

This is insane.

In addition to being incredibly inefficient, it also lets big lobbies/interest groups (in Alabama, the so-called “Big Mules”) active in Montgomery control what localities do with local laws. That, in turn, means that if the Big Mules want to bully legislators on some issue of importance to the Mules, the Mules can hold the local ordinance hostage to whatever is on the Mules’ agenda – even if the local issue has absolutely nothing to do with the Mules’ agenda item(s).

This system hurts the abilities of local governments to compete, to innovate, or to adjust to unique local conditions. And it makes it very hard for local citizens to reform the governments of their own towns or counties.

There will be plenty more to say on this subject in the coming months (or years!), but the short version is this: Unless the state Constitution is amended to eliminate the multi-tiered system, Alabama will continue to trail neighboring states in its ability to act nimbly in a changing economy.

Alabama can do better than this. And it must.

Yellowhammer Contributing Editor Quin Hillyer, of Mobile, also is a Contributing Editor for National Review Online, and is the author of Mad Jones, Heretic, a satirical literary novel published in the fall of 2017.

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