The Wire

  • Nation of Islam Birmingham chapter leading Hoover boycott efforts

    Excerpt:

    The Birmingham chapter of the Nation of Islam – which is deemed an “extremist,” “deeply racist, antisemitic” “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and led nationally by the infamous Louis Farrakhan – is heading up the boycott effort in Hoover in the aftermath of Emantic “E.J.” Bradford, Jr.’s death in an officer-involved shooting at the Riverchase Galleria on Thanksgiving night.

    In a recent Facebook live video posted by Iva Williams, a spokesperson and the vice president for the activist organization led by self-proclaimed Hoover protest leader Carlos Chaverst, Jr., Williams confirmed that Tremon Muhammad, the student minister (pastor) for the Nation of Islam’s Muhammad Mosque No. 69 in Birmingham, is leading the boycott.

    He also detailed that the boycott is specifically meant to harm businesses owned by white people, with the activists planning on finding ways to help black-owned businesses in Hoover until their leases are up, at which time the businesses will be expected to move into majority-black areas of Birmingham.

  • AG Marshall: Prosecution of corruption remains a priority after Matt Hart’s departure

    Excerpt:

    On Friday’s episode of Alabama Public Television’s “Capitol Journal,” Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall downplayed the departure of now-former Deputy Attorney General Matt Hart.

    Hart formerly led the AG’s Special Prosecutions Division and was perhaps best known for his prosecution of former Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard.

    In the interim, Hart had become somewhat of a media darling, and Marshall’s critics had charged politics was a motivation in Hart’s resignation. Marshall dismissed those claims and touted Hart’s successor, Clark Morris.

  • Women’s clothier raises $4,500 for police, others with ‘#HooverStrong’ T-shirts sales

    Excerpt:

    There’s no question that the last two weeks have been trying for Hoover retailers in the wake of the tragic shooting at the Riverchase Galleria on Thanksgiving night.

    With protests flaring up over dissatisfaction with law enforcement’s handling of the incident’s investigation, the circumstances have been trying for local retailers that were already dealing with the busy shopping season.

    However, one Hoover retailer is making the most of the situation.

2 months ago

2018 POWER & INFLUENCE: Who’s next?

The Yellowhammer Power & Influence 50 is an annual list of the 50 most powerful and influential players in Alabama politics, business and state government – the men and women who shape the state.

Today, we’re taking a look at a new group of Alabama leaders poised to be part of the next generation of power and influencers.

Don’t miss Yellowhammer’s 4th Annual Power of Service reception honoring the men and women on the Power & Influence 50 list who have utilized their stature to make a positive impact on the state. The event is set to take place Thursday, October 25 at Ross Bridge Resort in Birmingham. Past events attracted a who’s who of Alabama politics and business, including the governor, lieutenant governor, speaker of the house, pro tem of the Senate, members of Congress, dozens of state legislators and many of the state’s top executives, lobbyists, opinion leaders and political activists.

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For more information on the event and to purchase tickets please click here.

Christian Becraft, director of governmental affairs, Auburn University

As director of Governmental Affairs, Christian Becraft has significant responsibility in the university’s approach to its interactions within state government. This is a position for which she is well-qualified given her previous experience as Governor Ivey’s education policy advisor and her service on the Education Commission for the States.

Chris Beeker, III, state director for rural development, U.S. Department of Agriculture

Agriculture is a $55 billion industry in Alabama. Chris Beeker is the main point of contact between that industry and the critically important U.S. Department of Agriculture. Beeker was appointed to his position by President Trump and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. Having grown up as part of a family-owned catfish farm and cattle business, Beeker was ready for this important job on day one.

Molly Cagle, director of external affairs, Manufacture Alabama

As the chief lobbyist for Manufacture Alabama, Molly Cagle boasts power and influence well beyond her age already. Besides her sway in policy matters affecting industrial giants in the Yellowhammer State, she is also the go-to staff member for candidates and elected officials wanting the support of JOBS PAC. This former Senate Liaison for Pro Tem Del Marsh will continue rising on the governmental affairs scene for decades to come.

Patrick Cagle, president, Alabama Coal Association

The former director of the JobKeeper Alliance, Patrick Cagle is now standing up for jobs in the state as head of the important Alabama Coal Association. After taking the reins this past spring, he is already making his mark on this vital industry, growing his power and influence along with the association. He is also a mover as a member of the Conservation Advisory Board, the 10-member group appointed by the governor to oversee hunting and fishing policies in the state. Patrick and Molly Cagle are a true power couple on Goat Hill.

Will Dismukes, Republican nominee, House District 88

Will Dismukes is poised to fill an open seat in the Alabama House of Representatives, and he did so by managing his way through a field that included the handpicked Business Council of Alabama candidate and an Autauga County political legend. Dismukes was a two-time All-American pitcher at Faulkner University, and he gained considerable political experience in the Alabama Farmers Federation governmental affairs shop. He is now a small business owner looking to make his mark in Montgomery.

Chris Elliott, Republican nominee, Senate District 32

Chris Elliott is likely the next state senator from the overwhelmingly Republican district 32. Elliott has a diverse business background and has already served a term on the Baldwin County Commission. The gulf coast region is a big part of Alabama’s economy. Elliott’s background and experience should come in handy navigating the treacherous waters of the Alabama Senate.

Garlan Gudger, Jr., Republican nominee, Senate District 4

Garlan Gudger, Jr. is a successful small businessman from Cullman who demonstrated some pretty strong popularity in defeating a two-term incumbent in his Republican primary for the Alabama Senate. That type of mandate from his district and strength of personality should allow him to carve out space for himself in the state senate.

Lance Hyche, owner, Greystone Public Affairs, LLC

Lance Hyche has been able to pull off the difficult challenge of maintaining a lobbying practice and being a campaign consultant. After all, there are only so many hours in a day. Yet, Hyche has an impressive client list in both practices and the wins to match. His years of experience in grassroots campaign and issue outreach have served his clients well and set him up for continued success.

Greg Keeley, managing partner, Dreadnaught

Greg Keeley is a highly sought-after expert on politics, international affairs and cyber-security. He is a frequent contributor on Fox News, Daily Caller and The Hill. During the last year, though, he has been in the unique position of localizing his national profile to Alabama politics. A veteran of combat theaters in Afghanistan and Iraq – with commissions from the U.S. Navy and the Australian Navy – Keeley is able to call on uncommon background and experiences as he grows his new firm Dreadnaught.

Wes Kitchens, Republican nominee, House District 27

Wes Kitchens will likely be representing a north Alabama district in the Alabama House of Representatives. Considering that the last person who held that seat launched themselves toward the lieutenant governor’s office, Kitchens has some pretty big shoes to fill. Kitchens has served as president of his chamber of commerce so his ability to focus on jobs and the economy should help him achieve that end.

Parker Duncan Moore, state representative, House District 4

State Representative Parker Duncan Moore has not even stepped foot onto the house floor yet, but this 29-year-old is already poised to be a player in Montgomery. After winning a special election in May to replace former House Majority Leader Micky Hammon, Moore is set to win a term of his own come November 6. From there, this Decatur-area conservative will look to acquire power and influence over the next four years.

Edward O’Neal, associate, Maynard, Cooper & Gale

Edward O’Neal has become a consistent presence at the Alabama statehouse. As an associate at the high-end law firm of Maynard, Cooper & Gale, O’Neal holds a prominent place in MCG’s governmental affairs practice. He has also been a legal advisor to numerous political campaigns. O’Neal has transitioned well from a decorated academic career into the governmental affairs arena.

Tim Parker, III, president, Parker Towing

Parker Towing has a long, storied history moving freight up and down Alabama’s river system. Tim Parker, III is now a director and president for the company which continues to play a vital role in keeping the state’s economy moving. Also a member of the board of the Alabama State Port Authority, Parker’s involvement in lasting public policy decisions will only increase.

John Rogers, communications director, Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed

After successfully managing a hotly contested race during the 2014 election cycle, John Rogers headed to work in the Alabama legislature where he now serves as communications director for Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed. Rogers is responsible for much of the messaging and materials for members of the Republican caucus in the upper chamber. He is a student of politics and has the profile of someone who will continue to stay in the mix.

Paul Shashy, public affairs specialist, Big Communications

Communications guru, campaign specialist and government affairs consultant, Paul Shashy is a political jack-of-all-trades. His mastery of getting pro-growth, common sense conservatives elected is evidenced by the trust placed in him by the Alabama Civil Justice Reform Committee (ACJRC), the state’s biggest businesses and top-tier Republican candidates from Senator Richard Shelby to former Senator Luther Strange. Shashy is going to be shaping Alabama elections and influencing the entire political scene for the next half-century.

 

Charlie Taylor, director of government relations, the University of Alabama System

A 2017 graduate of the University of Alabama School of Law, Charlie Taylor has a professional and political resume that would make people twice his age jealous. As the director of Government Relations for the mighty University of Alabama System, he is set to become a household name in Montgomery. With his deep connections to the Birmingham business community and as a Senator Shelby alumnus, Taylor’s star is unquestionably on the rise.

Elizabeth Bloom Williams, owner, EBW Development

In Alabama politics, fundraising is the niche of all niches. Elizabeth Williams has mastered her craft, raising money for the state’s most cash-flush campaigns in recent cycles. Simply put, if you want someone with impeccable organizational skills, unsurpassed know-how and a rolodex only beat by the governor, Williams is the go-to federal and state fundraiser. Look for her power and influence to continue climbing.

 

2 months ago

2018 POWER & INFLUENCE 50: Alabama’s most powerful & influential lobbyists, consultants and economic developers

Today, we introduce the third segment of the 2018 Power & Influence 50 on Yellowhammer News.

Our team has spent weeks talking with key operatives and analyzing recent developments in public policy and politics. The intersection between business and politics in our state is undeniable, and our list is meant to provide you with an inside look at who wields the most power and influence in Alabama state politics.

The list is being released in three segments: business leadersgovernment officials and today’s segment, lobbyists, consultants and economic developers.

Don’t miss Yellowhammer’s 4th Annual Power of Service reception honoring the men and women on the Power & Influence 50 list who have utilized their stature to make a positive impact on the state. The event is set to take place Thursday, October 25 at Ross Bridge Resort in Birmingham. Past events attracted a who’s who of Alabama politics and business, including the governor, lieutenant governor, speaker of the house, pro tem of the Senate, members of Congress, dozens of state legislators and many of the state’s top executives, lobbyists, opinion leaders and political activists.

For more information on the event and to purchase tickets please click here.

Thank you for being a loyal reader of Yellowhammer News.

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Ginger Avery-Buckner, executive director, Alabama Association for Justice

With quiet efficiency, the Alabama Association for Justice is close to scoring one of its biggest political coups in recent history. With trial lawyer-backed Associate Justice Tom Parker on the cusp of being the state’s Chief Justice, Ginger Avery-Buckner has not only masterfully handled the legislature’s flip from blue to red, but she has reset the table on the traditional “Republican business” vs. “Democrat trial lawyers” judicial battle in the state.

To fully understand how remarkable that is, one must remember that the trial lawyers association not too long ago donated over 90 percent of its campaign contributions to Democrats.

While long-time Democrat groups like AEA were left on the outside looking in after 2010, Avery-Buckner’s stalwart leadership has kept the Association for Justice on the front lines of electoral and statehouse battles alike. They have not just survived, but as Parker’s imminent victory portends, they have thrived in the new Montgomery climate.

Josh Blades, lobbyist, Bradley Arant Boult Cummings

Alabama through-and-through, Sylacauga-born Josh Blades was named the city’s youngest entrepreneur after starting a full-service archery shop at the age of 15. Ever since then, his political star has been on the rise. After running for city council at age 19, being elected student body president in college and earning his political science degree, Blades began to leave his indelible mark on the Yellowhammer State’s political world.

Having served as communications director for a successful Alabama gubernatorial campaign, campaign manager for a successful race for Alabama Republican Party chairman, deputy chief of staff to the governor and chief of staff to the state’s speaker of the house, Blades has already built a resume at his young age that most would envy over a lifetime.

Blades now occupies a position in the private sector with the national law firm Bradley Arant Boult Cummings, where he is a key member of the firm’s formidable lobbying team. Whether it’s in the executive or legislative branches or a campaign, Blades has the know-how to get the job done right. His place on the power and influence list could easily become permanent for decades to come.

Philip Bryan, partner, Swatek Howe & Ross

Philip Bryan has anchored himself to any list of the most powerful and influential people in Alabama politics. This is a result of the strength of the relationships he has built with those at the summit of power in Alabama, as well as his extraordinary political savviness and boundless energy.

Bryan has now moved into private practice where he is set to become an elite lobbyist. The transition should be seamless for him. Few can match wits with Bryan when it comes to navigating the critical Alabama State Senate. He knows the senators, staff and process possibly better than anyone else in Alabama politics.

Every lobbyist does their best to forge relationships with members of the legislature. However, Bryan’s are next level. In his former position as chief of staff to the Senate president pro tem, Bryan communicated with members in a way and with a frequency that sets him apart from others in his new world.

Based on his pure political talent and meaningful experience, Philip Bryan is among the most powerful and influential.

Brent Buchanan, president, Cygnal

In any industry or profession, you know someone has reached elevated status when references are made to them using only their first name. For pollster Brent Buchanan, that is now the case.

Alabama politicos and insiders can often be heard saying, “Brent has the polling.” Or, upon receiving some polling information, asking, “Is this a Brent poll?”

Buchanan saw an opening in the market for homegrown Alabama polling and took it. He has an impressive client list of candidates, trade associations and corporations, and his company has now expanded beyond Alabama. By the end of 2017, Cygnal had done work in more than 36 states for 170 clients.

In addition, Buchanan has developed a strong relationship with Governor Ivey and her team.

Some have called him Alabama’s Nate Silver, a reference to the renowned statistician. However, Buchanan’s place on this list is a result of all of the data and information he holds. Because, in politics, those in possession of information wield power and influence.

Greg Butrus, partner, Balch & Bingham

Greg Butrus and his place on this list are also a testament to the fundamental principle that information translates to value in politics. For insiders and corporate clients there is tremendous value in being able to consult with Butrus on a myriad of subjects they encounter in the political, regulatory or legislative process.

Butrus has vast knowledge in the areas of campaign finance laws, energy policy, ethics laws, executive branch rulemaking and regulatory affairs. His ability to file away information, opinions, events and random occurrences for later counsel and application is remarkable.

His experience in the Alabama political arena goes all the way back to his days as a staffer for Senator Howell Heflin in Washington, D.C. A conversation with Butrus is as enjoyable as it is edifying.

Butrus may not maintain the type of visibility for which others in Alabama politics work, but his power and influence is understood by those in the know.

Greg Canfield, secretary, Alabama Department of Commerce

As President Trump – and before him, Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh – loves to say, jobs, jobs, jobs. In Alabama, where the economy is booming like never before, it has been Canfield working day in, day out for the last seven years to make this success possible. Now, with Governor Kay Ivey’s pro-growth leadership, Canfield and the Department of Commerce are churning out jobs left and right.

Now, as evidence of his profound success, the biggest challenge for the state’s economy is producing more skilled and qualified workers. Alabama has gone from having a severe jobs shortage to not being able to nearly fill all of the quality jobs currently available. This is a good problem to have, and the governor, supported by trade associations and economic development partners across the state, has a plan to boost the state’s skilled workforce by 500,000 by 2025.

While more cabinet shakeups are expected in the coming months, people around the state will hope that Canfield remains in the position that has become synonymous with his name and his “Made in Alabama” branding campaign. If not, expect Canfield to continue to flex his power and influence in a new arena.

 

Mike Cole, principal, P. Michael Cole, LLC

Mike Cole is the type of behind-the-scenes power player about whom we enjoy informing our readers through the publication of this list. Cole has a client list that includes several of the largest employers in the state of Alabama. Their trust in him to get the job done speaks volumes about his influence and effectiveness in the realm of politics and policy-making.

A lawyer by trade, Cole has an uncommonly diverse governmental affairs practice. He moves about with ease in executive agency matters, regulatory affairs and legislative lobbying. To have the relationships and knowledge in those areas to the extent Cole does makes him a legitimate power player.

Cole has also capitalized on the growth and increased activity of the politically surging north Alabama region. As the area has seen its native sons rise to prominence in offices such as speaker of the house, lieutenant governor and attorney general, Cole’s influence has increased accordingly. And this is why he counts some of north Alabama’s most important entities as his clients and why Mike Cole remains powerful and influential in Alabama politics.

 

Joe Fine, partner, Fine Geddie & Associates

Joe Fine is a perfect exemplar of his alma mater’s “Where Legends Are Made” advertising campaign. A graduate of the University of Alabama both in undergraduate studies and law, the iconic, would-be “Lobbyist Hall of Fame” member perhaps perfected the modern governmental affairs profession in Montgomery.

Since Fine was elected to the first of his two terms in the state senate 48 years ago, governors have come and gone. Powerful associations and alliances have grown and crumbled. The state completely flipped from Democrat-controlled to Republican. However, Fine was through it all, and still is, at the forefront of policy making and political battles that shape the state’s success.

Along with his longtime lobbying partner Bob Geddie (see below), the gentlemanly Fine will be the state’s who’s who of lobbyists until the second he decides he is ready to pass the baton.

 

Bob Geddie, partner, Fine Geddie & Associates

Geddie is not only a top-tier lobbyist and the state House of Representatives specialist for his firm, but he is also a trusted adviser to some of Alabama’s titans of industry and other political power brokers as well.

Corporate executives from across the state have empowered Fine Geddie to doll out their political money through a network of Geddie-controlled political action committees. This includes some of the state’s largest, most successful businesses, in addition to individuals like prominent Power and Influence member Jimmy Rane. Geddie has just this past year added another powerful PAC to his arsenal, with the Auburn Board of Trustees’ Tiger PAW PAC under his chairmanship.

When it comes to the lobbying side of things, legislators of both parties will tell you, “It’s hard to say no to Bob Geddie.” That power of persuasion is a useful tool in the statehouse, which is only aided by Geddie’s meticulous knowledge of the process and the players. He knows every member, every rule and every tactic necessary to pass legislation through the lower chamber.

Geddie is most often seen quietly observing from a small hallway off the main lobby on the fifth floor. From there he can see everyone who comes and goes, and he has ready access to members as they walk to and from the House chamber. Many have tried to emulate Geddie’s tried-and-true formula, but few even compare.

C.J. Hincy, executive director of governmental affairs, Auburn University

A newcomer to the Power and Influence list after being a Who’s Next member previously, Hincy has Auburn’s governmental affairs and political operation humming like perhaps never before. Along with Geddie, Hincy’s counsel has been integral to Tiger PAW PAC’s emergence as a political kingmaker, and the university’s sway in Montgomery is closing in on a peak level, with Governor Kay Ivey as an alumna along with soon-to-be Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth.

Hincy, while relatively young for a lobbyist of such power, carries himself like a seasoned veteran. He has been working hard throughout this campaign cycle to make friends and stockpile influence, with his status in the capitol poised to reach an unquestioned top-tier level in 2019. Look for this star to keep rising as Hincy and Auburn plays a major political role in the years ahead.

 

Robbie McGhee, vice chairman, Poarch Band of Creek Indians

The rise of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians in Alabama politics has reached new heights in recent years, and much of that is because of the work done by Robbie McGhee.

McGhee has built sustainable relationships across the political and ideological spectrum. He has shown a knack for staying above the fray, but also a willingness to engage more forcefully when absolutely necessary.

McGhee has also been instrumental in highlighting the tribe’s commitment to good corporate citizenship with key influential leaders at all levels of state and local government.

His background and experience provide him with the type of authority that catches the attention of policy-makers. McGhee worked in Washington, D.C. at the U.S. Department of Interior-Bureau of Indian Affairs, the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and Troutman Sanders LLP-Indian Law Practice Group.

Robbie McGhee has left no doubt that he is among the most powerful and influential people in Alabama politics.

 

Paul Pinyan, executive director, Alabama Farmers Federation

ALFA, ALFA, ALFA. Need we say more?

While Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell steers the ship, Pinyan, a newcomer to the Power and Influence ranks, is the individual making this political juggernaut fire on all cylinders day-to-day. Coming off of an uber-successful campaign season for ALFA, many are murmuring of the increased role Pinyan took in the organization’s endorsement process and, later, the campaign season.

With a stacked governmental affairs and political team around him – highlighted by former Secretary of State Beth Chapman – Pinyan holds the keys to Alabama’s premier trade association and grassroots network. If you want to win a contested elected in Alabama, whether it is a statewide race or a legislative seat, you need ALFA’s support. And, to get this, you very well might first need Pinyan’s covert backing.

With all of their success this cycle, ALFA’s role in Montgomery, if possible, will be growing even more. At the forefront of this immensely powerful apparatus is Pinyan, and he does not appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.

 

Steve Raby, lobbyist and political consultant

The king of north Alabama, Raby wields power and influence beyond his fiefdom now, serving as his friend and Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon’s political guru and chief advisor.

Like Avery-Buckner on this list, Raby’s guile and vision are affording him a resounding second act in Alabama politics. As a longtime Democratic activist and consultant, he was the Democratic nominee for Congress against Mo Brooks in 2010. A decent first act for sure, but after the GOP sweep, many pronounced Raby’s rise as dead on arrival.

Fast forward six years to when McCutcheon gets elected to serve as speaker. Seemingly out of nowhere, Raby was back on the scene playing a crucial role as a close confidant to one of the most powerful people in the state. Raby is a political animal and, as much as anything, an extra set of eyes that watches the speaker’s back.

Raby also runs the mighty political operation for the House Republican Caucus. This role sees him play a key part in incumbent Republican House members’ campaigns, which just grows Raby’s influence every year.

Clay Ryan, vice president for governmental affairs and special counsel, University of Alabama System

There are some people who walk into a room and you can tell they are in a position of power and influence by sheer presence alone. Clay Ryan is one of those people.

Ryan is a deft communicator who operates among elected officials and corporate executives with equal amounts of ease. And Ryan has put in the requisite work to become a select power player.

He is known for keeping a laser-sharp focus on the issues impacting the University of Alabama System. In representing a large entity like the UA System, a significant amount of time and effort goes into coordinating the work of staff, lobbyists and others protecting his employer’s interests.

When it is time to engage with decision-makers, Ryan has proven to be a determined advocate. His relationships extend to the highest levels of state government. When Ryan calls, they answer the phone, and they listen.

The increased political activity of the UA System in recent years has served to increase successful outcomes and only enhanced Ryan’s power and influence.

Houston Smith, vice president for governmental affairs, Alabama Power Company

Running point on governmental affairs in Montgomery for Alabama Power can be an overwhelming task. That person must be responsible for every piece of the company’s political and public policy agenda at the state level.

Houston Smith has met the challenge.

His ability to call on his years of experience dealing with a wide range of issues inside the company has been key. After several years practicing law, Smith joined the company as director of public relations. Soon, he was promoted to director of corporate affairs with responsibility over federal affairs, corporate relations and other public policy issues.

A difficult hurdle for many corporate lobbyists is being able to effectively communicate the more detailed aspects of their company’s business and how those aspects are affected by public policy decisions. Smith’s knowledge base and uncanny grasp of larger public policy issues, such as trade and economic development, serve him well in this role. As the company’s primary contact with state elected officials and cabinet members, communicating on these types of issues is essential to success.

Houston Smith has firmly secured a place among Alabama’s powerful and influential.

Dave Stewart, senior adviser for government affairs and economic development, Bradley Arant Boult Cummings

Another wunderkind working for Bradley Arant, Dave Stewart has an impeccable resume of his own. After an eye-catching performance as policy director for then-Governor Bob Riley, he was called up to serve as the administration’s Chief of Staff.  This key experience in the state’s executive branch left him with rarified perspective and knowledge, which Stewart has parlayed into his influential role in the private sector.

Stewart has one of the heaviest hitting client lists in the state, built off of not only his first-hand, in-the-trenches experience, but also expansive knowledge of policy and his lasting relationships within the legislature and state agencies big and small.

Stewart is also in the select club of lobbyists who understand both policy and politics. Far too many understand one but scoff at the other. Not Stewart – his elite ability to blend wonkish policy arguments and effective political messaging builds the best strategic approach possible for his clients.

Look for Bradley Arant’s dynamic duo of Blades and Stewart to continue appearing on this list for the foreseeable future.

Sommer Vaughn, partner, Swatek Howe & Ross

Sommer Vaughn is a person with the talent and drive which would have allowed her to choose any profession. Lawyer, doctor, engineer and banker are all well within her capabilities. Instead, she chose to be a lobbyist.

She chose wisely.

If you were forced to pick one person to shepherd your issue or piece of legislation through the Alabama House of Representatives – and you could only pick one – Vaughn would be an astute choice.

The depth and breadth of her relationships in the Alabama House are difficult to match. From the speaker of the house to incoming members who have yet to get sworn in, Vaughn knows the people and the strategies required for success. There are no partisan obstacles for her, either. Vaughn is able to leverage her relationships into influence on both sides of the aisle.

Vaughn is able to bring to bear years of experience working in the legislature and the governor’s office. There is not much that goes on in state government of which she is not aware.

Look for Sommer Vaughn to expand her power and influence in the years to come.

R.B. Walker, director of legislative affairs, Alabama Power Company

Rochester Butler Walker has the kind of name that was custom-made for the Alabama political arena. And, ever since he was a child, he has displayed the type of ambition, confidence and craft that it takes to get to the top.

A former SGA President at the University of Alabama, Walker has already thrived working for two of the state’s most powerful institutions: the Alabama Power Company and the University of Alabama System. Now in his second stint at the Company after leaving his beloved university this past year, at a young age he is not close to reaching the zenith of his political ascent.

With an infectious personality and the cunning intellect to grasp the nuances of any issue, it is really Walker’s unceasing drive that separates him from the pack. He has worked hard his entire life, essentially, to reach the top of the political ladder, and this lobbying machine is still climbing.

Look for Walker to keep building power and influence year-by-year. Who knows? It could land him in the governor’s seat one day.

Steve Windom, partner, Windom Galliher & Associates

If you’re running for high-office in Alabama, there is no better lobbyist to have on your team than former Lieutenant Governor Steve Windom. A fundraising savant, Windom knows which buttons to press and when. His unique, preeminent status as a Montgomery powerbroker stems from the fact that he has done it all himself – whether it is campaign work or being in the legislative trenches, Windom has the first-hand experience that you cannot replicate.

There is also not a craftier operator in Alabama politics than Windom. He is shrewd, charismatic and owns a room when he walks in. But what keeps Windom at the very highest level of power and influence is his unrivaled work ethic. Whether on a weekend, a family vacation or a holiday, Windom never rests.

He is always working, always on. Windom has taken the time to cultivate relationships in every nook and cranny of state government. He knows everyone from the maintenance man at an obscure state agency to the governor of Alabama – and each person in between. Steve Windom forgot more Alabama political secrets this morning than everyone else in the whole state knew to begin with. And he’s not showing any signs of letting up anytime soon.

2 months ago

2018 POWER and INFLUENCE 50: Alabama’s most powerful & influential business leaders

(J. Willamor/Flickr)

Today, we introduce the first segment of the 2018 Power & Influence 50 on Yellowhammer News.

Our team has spent weeks talking with key operatives and analyzing recent developments in public policy and politics. The intersection between business and politics in our state is undeniable, and our list is meant to provide you with an inside look at who wields the most power and influence in Alabama state politics.

The list is being released in three segments: elected officials, lobbyists and consultants and today’s segment, business leaders.

Don’t miss Yellowhammer’s 4th Annual Power of Service reception honoring the men and women on the Power & Influence 50 list who have utilized their stature to make a positive impact on the state. The event is set to take place Thursday, October 25 at Ross Bridge Resort in Birmingham. Past events attracted a who’s who of Alabama politics and business, including the governor, lieutenant governor, speaker of the house, pro tem of the Senate, members of Congress, dozens of state legislators and many of the state’s top executives, lobbyists, opinion leaders and political activists.

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For more information on the event and to purchase tickets please click here.

Thank you for being a loyal reader of Yellowhammer News.

 

Alexia Borden, senior vice president and general counsel, Alabama Power Company

As a key member of the Alabama Power executive team, Alexia Borden oversees all legal matters for the company. Considering the vast reach of the state’s largest utility, this is a heavy responsibility.

Issues such as regulatory compliance, economic development and ongoing and potential litigation all end up in Borden’s office at some point in time and all require a keen understanding of both the legal and the political environment.

Borden’s experience has prepared her well for the general counsel role. She previously served as vice president with responsibility for Governmental Affairs and prior to that was a partner at the prestigious Balch & Bingham law firm.

Relationship-building is a critical trait for corporate general counsels and one that comes easily for Borden. Whether through her relationships with Alabama political figures or the company’s own board of directors, Borden has put herself in a position of significant influence in Alabama politics.

 

Stephanie Bryan, tribal chair and CEO, Poarch Band of Creek Indians

In 2014, Bryan became the first female political leader elected to the position of tribal chair and CEO for the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. Raised by a single mother, her self-made rise as one of the state’s preeminent leaders is a made-for-movie script of hard-work, grit, determination and faith in God.

Today, Bryan oversees all tribal operations, including government, Creek Indian Enterprises Development Authority and the PCI Gaming Authority. The tribe’s economy has grown a stunning 1,000 percent since Bryan began serving as vice-chair in 2006, which is a testament to her savvy and leadership acumen.

Bryan’s portfolio is highlighted by the tribe’s gaming facilities and its $250 million OWA (pronounced oh-wah) complex in Foley, which includes an amusement park and was named by the Alabama Tourism Department as its 2018 attraction of the year.

With a lottery bill on the horizon, look for Bryan to wield ever-increasing influence over the 2019 legislative session and remain an absolute must-visit for candidates on the campaign trail in the years to come.

 

Paul Bryant, Jr.

Paul Bryant, Jr. bears a name that needs little introduction in Alabama lore. Bryant and his legendary family legacy are staples in the Yellowhammer State. Sixty years after his father came to coach in Tuscaloosa, Bryant’s unquestioned power and influence extend into more realms, perhaps, than any individual in the state.

He is one of the state’s most successful businessmen, and his support is a must-have for aspiring political campaigns. His holdings include, or have included, banking, insurance, construction and agriculture. Bryant also possesses the type of well-oiled influence one might expect – and then some – at his alma mater, the University of Alabama. Essential to all of his activity has been a quietly efficient engagement in the state political process.

Observers in every nook and cranny across Alabama admit that Bryant’s influence is as unique as it is mighty. He might wear many hats, but his key to ever-multiplying success is modeled after President Theodore Roosevelt’s famous saying: “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”

 

Rick Burgess and Bubba Bussey, radio and TV entrepreneurs

During the last 25 years, few Alabama entrepreneurs have enjoyed as much success as have Rick Burgess and Bill “Bubba” Bussey. The pair began with a small radio show in northeast Alabama and have since grown it into a media and marketing empire.

They are now heard on 14 stations from the top to the bottom of the state, as well as through their recent venture on CRTV.

Their business moves have been savvy. But their growth has been built on the trust they have built up with their listeners. For anyone in media, parlaying that trust into advertising is key. And that’s how they have grown their brand.

That same trust also has an impact on their ability to influence the political debate. When Rick and Bubba speak on an issue, their listeners afford them great credibility. When Rick and Bubba endorse a candidate for office, their listeners pay attention.

Rick and Bubba have reached a point of consistent power and influence in Alabama politics.

 

Mark Crosswhite, chairman, president and CEO, Alabama Power Company

There is a quote from Mark Crosswhite on the Alabama Power website that demonstrates why he has been so successful leading his company and also why he is a past recipient of the Yellowhammer News Power of Service Award.

Crosswhite says, “I believe in this company and I believe in this state. We will continue our long tradition of service to the people of Alabama.”

This expressed loyalty to his company and its people and the confidence in the many good things in Alabama, combined with a recognition of the importance of service, provides the bearings that should guide all corporate leaders.

These are the type of values Yellowhammer News seeks to highlight in compiling this list.

That same belief in his state compelled Crosswhite to serve as the driving force in the business community’s successful overhaul of the Business Council of Alabama (BCA). The decisiveness with which Crosswhite handled the changes brought the controversy to a conclusion from which the state’s economy will benefit for years to come.

Running a company that serves 1.4 million customers and employs 7,000 people brings with it significant power and influence. Yet, it is the expression of these traits through action that makes Mark Crosswhite quite possibly the most powerful and influential man in Alabama politics.

 

Johnny Johns, executive chairman, Protective Life Corporation

You simply cannot compile a list of the state’s influential leaders without including this icon of the Alabama business community. Currently serving as executive chairman of Protective Life Corporation, Johns, even while edging towards retirement, still towers at the top of every politician’s wish list of would-be supporters.

Johns first joined Protective as executive vice president and chief financial officer in 1993, when the company’s value was $580 million. By the conclusion of his tenure as president and chief executive officer, Johns had led the company through its $5.7 billion sale to Dai-ichi Life of Tokyo, Japan. The company is one of Alabama’s most historic success stories and continues to operate in Birmingham as the world’s 13th largest insurance company.

While Johns and Protective Life wield nearly omnipotent political power in the Yellowhammer State, their incredible philanthropic and civic accomplishments speak even louder. This is perfectly exemplified by the company’s pledge of more than $23 million in donations to Alabama entities through 2020.

 

Mike Kemp, president and CEO, Kemp Management Solutions

A newcomer to Yellowhammer’s Power and Influence List, Kemp is the type of crafty behind-the-scenes operator that prefers to keep his name out of the limelight. However, this Birmingham business leader has become known in Alabama political circles as a top-notch statesman, peacemaker and leader whose impact can no longer be kept secret.

As president & CEO of Kemp Management Solutions, Kemp is active in the booming construction industry. Having planned and managed more than 1,500 projects valued at more than $6.8 billion, he knows a thing or two about getting the job done. Kemp has been an integral contributor to the crucial Alabama Workforce Council, but his true influence extends beyond construction.

As the second-highest ranking officer in the Business Council of Alabama’s leadership this past year, Kemp is widely recognized as the individual on the executive board who put his foot down and put an end to the dispute between then-BCA CEO Billy Canary and some of the state’s largest companies. Simply put, without Kemp, the state’s business community might not have been able to put the pieces back together.

 

Terry Lathan, chairman, Alabama Republican Party

The effervescent and omnipresent chair of the Alabama Republican Party, Terry Lathan has led a tremendously successful conservative movement in the state. In three years as chairwoman of the Alabama Republican Party, Lathan has presided over a party that dominates state politics.

Under her supervision in 2016, the party delivered a landslide victory for President Donald Trump in the Heart of Dixie. Now, she stands at the center of midterm efforts to quash the attempted “Blue Wave” in Alabama and, looking ahead, is already revving up the party’s machinery to defeat Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) in 2020.

Despite the many challenges that have been thrown at Lathan, the ALGOP is at its highest electoral standing in state history. Just this year, the party adopted its first-ever state platform, ensuring Lathan will be at the forefront of policy discussions as the legislature begins a new quadrennium.

 

Jimmy Parnell, chairman, president and CEO, ALFA Insurance Companies and Alabama Farmers Federation

Words cannot do justice to ALFA’s unparalleled influence on Alabama’s elections. From state House races to the Governor’s Mansion, the Alabama Farmers Federation has a quiet chokehold on elections big and small. While they pick and choose which candidates to get behind, ALFA is the bellwether trade group – if you get ALFA’s support, it’s your race to lose.

At the helm of this dominance is Parnell, a fifth-generation Chilton County farmer with a degree in agricultural business and economics. He is a partner in his family’s beef cattle and timber business and his long history within the Federation spans more than 20 years. The state’s farmers are his extended family, and he is a tireless advocate when it comes to the interests of those he serves. There is no greater friend, and no mightier adversary, to have in Alabama politics than Parnell.

 

Joe Perkins, founder and principal, Matrix, LLC

A man, a myth and a political legend –  where can you even begin with Joe Perkins? The visionary founder and leader of the nerve-inducing consulting firm, Matrix, LLC, Perkins has done and seen it all in his storied career.

While most Democratic consultants have changed skins since Republicans took control in 2010, Perkins has survived, and even thrived, by sheer force of will and maintaining a political operation unrivaled in organization, guile and influence.

While the AEA’s demise has shrunk one of his former calling cards, Perkins efficiently remains one of Alabama Power’s most trusted strategists. With the state party’s incompetence, Perkins is the only real Democratic power structure left in the state worth talking about. As his recent work to get Doug Jones elected and now piloting Walt Maddox’s gubernatorial bid shows, Perkins displays no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

 

Jimmy Rane, chairman and CEO, Great Southern Wood Preserving

What can you say about a man who has it all? Besides being Alabama’s richest man, Rane may have the most widely known nickname around – the “Yella Fella.” It comes as little surprise that Rane’s power and influence commands the type of respect normally reserved for dignitaries of the highest order, with politicians near and far wanting an audience with the venerable business leader and philanthropist.

Called the Sam Walton of the small, southeastern Alabama town of Abbeville, Rane has not only sustained his community in the Wiregrass, but his support of his cherished alma mater Auburn University has been crucial to growth on the Plains. He has served as president pro-tem of the Board of Trustees and the Jimmy Rane Foundation has given over 250 college scholarships. Now, he is a vital part of Auburn’s ramped up governmental affairs efforts, with the emerging Tiger Paw PAC ready to roar.

 

Quentin Riggins, senior vice president for Governmental and Corporate Affairs, Alabama Power Company

The reforms and leadership changes enacted at the Business Council of Alabama (BCA) amounted to the most significant political move of the previous 12 months. And if Mark Crosswhite was the driving force behind the business community’s overhaul of the BCA, then Quentin Riggins was the mastermind behind the effort.

The BCA controversy presented a unique dilemma for the business community and those seeking reform because it was an insider’s game but with a far-reaching impact. What may have involved a relatively small amount of people would have a tremendous effect on creating and maintaining a climate for job retention and growth, economic development and industrial recruitment.

Under those conditions, Riggins proved to be the only person who could put together the type of effective strategy to bring about the necessary reforms.

Riggins leveraged his background in state government, prior experience at the BCA, superior political relationships and extensive business community knowledge to put together a workable plan that would not only bring about leadership changes but also reform the organization’s entire structure.

To chart the course for such a major shift at the state’s largest business organization shows why Riggins sits on any list of Alabama’s most powerful and influential.

 

Britt Sexton, CEO Sexton, Inc., CEO of FS Financial, Inc., managing member of Sexton Investments, LLC

Any politico worth their salt knows that Sexton is in the very upper echelon of Alabama power players. As a member of the University of Alabama Board of Trustees, Sexton has carved out a lofty role that many aspire to, yet only dozens reach.

Behind the scenes, Sexton has methodically played a key part in waking the sleeping political giant that is the UA System. Due in large part to his leadership, now there are only a handful of political apparatuses in the Yellowhammer State that breath the same rarified air of influence as the boys in Tuscaloosa.

As one of the state’s most successful investors, with business interests ranging from financial services and private equity to software and real estate, the Decatur-based Sexton has also become one of north Alabama’s most notable philanthropists and civic leaders.

His drive to make Alabama a better place for future generations burns bright, and while many other power players of his stature are in the twilight of their careers, Sexton still has decades ahead of him.

 

Gary Smith, president and CEO, PowerSouth

If there are jobs being created in south Alabama, it is highly likely that Gary Smith and his PowerSouth team are playing an integral role. And because of this, Smith maintains an important part of the policy-making process in Montgomery.

PowerSouth is an ambitious energy cooperative with its headquarters in the Wiregrass. It was formed in 1941 and provides energy for members who serve 39 Alabama counties. The amount of communities to which PowerSouth connects in those counties puts it in touch with elected officials and political players at every level of government.

With that comes measurable influence. And it all funnels to Smith.

Now that Alabama’s economy is picking up speed, expect to see Smith and PowerSouth an even larger part of the conversation.

 

Zeke Smith, executive vice president of External Affairs, Alabama Power Company

It seems as if there are some people that are natural born leaders. Zeke Smith is one of those people. As the leader of Alabama Power’s vast external affairs division, Smith must lead a team comprised of too many people to count and dealing with so many different issues there is not space to list them.

Whether it is legislative policy-making, state agency rulemaking, regulatory issues, economic development or public relations, all fall within Smith’s responsibility. And his unequivocal success in these areas has created a wide base of power and influence.

None of this would be possible without Smith possessing the traits of executive leadership that he does.

His demeanor, unmatched knowledge of the business and sharp communications skills are evident to those who meet him. Like other successful executive leaders, these are a product of that careful balance between confidence and humility, focus and vision, knowledge and delegation and firmness and understanding.

Smith’s leadership skills, and the results it has produced, have given him heightened credibility across the political spectrum and in different business sectors. Power and influence have followed.

 

Finis St. John, IV, interim chancellor, the University of Alabama System

From his downtown office in Cullman, attorney “Fess” St. John wields power that extends far and wide.  For years, he has been perhaps the most influential member of the University of Alabama Board of Trustees. His know-how and vision were affirmed just months ago when he was named as interim chancellor to replace the retiring chancellor Ray Hayes. His passion for the UA System and its multi-campus setup is also evidenced by his newfound position of trust, as St. John is serving as chancellor in an unpaid capacity.

While his fierce advocacy for the system and his visionary leadership work wonders behind the scenes, St. John’s humility looms even larger than his considerable influence. His humble nature might stem from his long family history in Alabama politics, as St. John’s father served as president pro tem of the senate in the late 1970s. Under Fess’ watchful eye, his family legacy and his beloved UA System could not be in better hands.

 

John Turner, president and CEO, Regions Bank

Only one Fortune 500 company is headquartered in Alabama: Regions Bank. As president and CEO, John Turner leads a company that has $125 billion in assets. This looks like a daunting task for anyone. However, Turner has prepared for this his entire career.

Turner has experience in the Alabama banking community going all the way back to his days at AmSouth Bank where he held senior consumer, commercial and business positions. He also served as president of Whitney National Bank in 2008. Turner joined Regions in 2011 when he became president of the critically important south region of Alabama, Mississippi, south Louisiana and Florida Panhandle.

Turner now oversees the massive multi-state operation of Regions, including more than 200 branches in Alabama. With that connection to so many communities around the state, Turner and his company have seats at the table in Montgomery and beyond. As a result, Turner’s power and influence will remain formidable.

 

Tim Vines, president and CEO, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama

Few industries are forced to engage so closely in the political and policy-making process to the extent of the health insurance industry. Under the leadership of Tim Vines, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama has successfully continued that engagement.

Vines took over this year as President and CEO after 24 years with the company. His knowledge of the business, its mission and its operation are fully ingrained in his leadership approach.

However, Vines also knows Alabama. Originally from LaFayette, Alabama, and a graduate of Auburn University, Vines serves on boards for the American Red Cross Alabama Region, the Better Business Bureau of Alabama and Samford University.

In addition, Blue Cross and Blue Shield is one of Alabama’s largest job-creators, employing thousands of people throughout the state and providing insurance to nearly 3 million. It is one of the few companies in the state that operates in all 67 Alabama counties.

That type of reach across Alabama, and a strong understanding of its people, places Tim Vines squarely on any list of the most powerful and influential in Alabama politics.

 

7 months ago

Southern Girl Coffee is an Alabama Maker percolated in Oxford

(Michael Tomberlin / Alabama NewsCenter)

Leah Cleghorn’s love for coffee began by sipping java with her Paw Paw in Calhoun County when she was growing up.

It’s a bond between coffee, family and community that led to Southern Girl Coffee Co.

It also solidified Cleghorn’s belief that every cup of coffee has a story.

For her, the story began with that cup of coffee with her grandfather but got serious when she returned home after college five years ago with a dream of starting a coffee shop in her hometown of Oxford.

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But Cleghorn didn’t want to open a coffee shop just to sell other coffees, she wanted to roast and brew her own.

That meant having to master the art of roasting. So her stepfather, Bobby Jones, helped her build a roaster out of an old gas grill and they began learning to roast coffee one pound at a time.

“The first few batches, I have to say, probably weren’t our best coffee, but to us it was the best cup of coffee we ever tasted,” Cleghorn said.

The rudimentary roasting really helped Cleghorn focus on roasting cues like listening for bean cracking and other indicators the roast was right.

“We almost had to go in blind,” she said. “We couldn’t take a look at the color changes.”

Jones and Cleghorn would monitor temperatures and pull beans early to learn about the different levels of the roast. They even charted the temperatures, times and roasts to master the coffee bean roasting process.

“Once we decided our cup of coffee was pretty good, we were like, ‘We need to share it with our community. This is good stuff,’” Cleghorn said.

They started by setting up at farmers markets in Oxford and selling beans and ground coffee in vintage Mason jars. But her clientele wasn’t what Cleghorn, who has a degree in marketing, was expecting.

Her targeted demographic – those between the ages of 25 and 50 who appreciate good coffee – were not the ones buying up her product.

“All of these old women were buying my coffee, little old women,” she said. “I thought, ‘This is not who I thought would buy my coffee.’”

She soon discovered they were buying it for the vintage Mason jars and not the coffee. She switched to bags and tried to build a following for the coffee, not the packaging.

“It took a little while, as any company, to kind of tap into the market,” she said.

Cleghorn saved her money from the farmers market sales and purchased a used coffee roaster in Atlanta. She also began buying her coffee beans in large burlap sacks, a personal goal that convinced her she was truly in the coffee business.

Southern Girl Coffee started with its Colombian Supremo coffee in two roasts because many casual coffee drinkers in Alabama are most familiar with Colombian coffee. Southern Girl later added Sumatra Mandheling, Mexican Alturo, Mayan Royal Select Water Decaf, Ethiopian Harrar and Costa Rican Tarrazu.

Southern Girl has created blends such as the Early Riser breakfast roast, the Coffee Breath dark roast, the Blondie light roast and the Southern Gentleman, which the website describes as, “Like a Southern Gentleman, our blend has great taste. Is strong but sweet. Knows its place but takes charge. And, of course, is Southern born and bred in Oxford, Alabama.”

Cleghorn said they played around with different blends before arriving at the ones they now sell.

“There were a lot of cups of coffee consumed in the last five years,” she said.

As Cleghorn educated herself about coffee, she would spend time educating others at the farmers markets. That led to people not only wanting to buy bags of coffee, but also wanting a cup of coffee brewed by someone who is so passionate about it.

So Cleghorn bought a row of buildings in downtown Oxford and renovated one of them for her coffee roasting operation. She converted an old Shasta camping trailer that she uses to travel and brew and serve coffee at events.

When not at an event, the trailer is parked on Choccolocco Street beside the buildings in downtown Oxford.

“The first few months I would sit in there and wait for customers to come,” Cleghorn said. “I would post on Instagram and Facebook and I was just kind of sitting and waiting. Now we have our regulars and we have a steady pace of customers.”

Growing at a manageable pace has been key, Cleghorn said.

“It’s really neat to see where we started five years ago, which isn’t that long from where we are now. And we even have plans for the future,” she said. “We want to have a sit-down coffee shop soon. Our ultimate goal is to grow slow and strong rather than jump in over our head.”

That coffee shop, Cleghorn hopes, will be a place to slow down and connect.

“We want people to come and congregate,” she said. “Relationships are built around coffee. Communities are built around friendships.

“We really want people to just come and just kind of put down their devices,” she added. “We are going to probably offer Wi-Fi because people want it at a coffee shop. But our ultimate goal is for people to put down their devices and really connect with each other.”

In addition to a coffee shop, Cleghorn would like to convert part of her space to helping startup companies test their concept with the public before going out on their own.

“Lending a hand to other people who want to chase their dreams, like I did, I think would be so cool,” she said.

Cleghorn said she always wanted to return to Oxford after graduating college and would love for others to see that as an option.

“I just wanted to give back to the community that helped me grow,” she said. “A lot of times, especially in our community, we’ve seen people, they’ll graduate, they’ll go to a university and then they’ll move away. I think it’s important for young people who have dreams and have goals to come back and plant it somewhere where you’re from.”

Cleghorn said she loves to see local businesses helping each other. She carries products from three area bakeries and her coffees have been used in beers at Cheaha Brewing Company in Anniston and Back Forty Brewing Company in Gadsden.

“We love our community and I couldn’t pick a better place to have a coffee shop,” Cleghorn said.

Cleghorn is looking to get Southern Girl Coffee into more retail outlets. For now, it’s available at the trailer in downtown Oxford or online. It can be purchased by the cup at Hubbard’s Off Main in Oxford and Artisanal Baked Goods in Anniston.

Cleghorn met her future husband by serving him a cup of coffee at a festival.

“Coffee’s just brought so much joy to me, I just want to spread that joy even more in our community,” she said.

And the Paw Paw who introduced her to that magical elixir? He spent his final years learning to roast coffee with Cleghorn. She said it brought him pleasure and purpose in the last days of his life. She learned many things from him.

“I think patience and determination and just keeping your focus on the end goal is really what pushed me through, and support from the community and my family.”

Southern Girl Coffee Co.

The Product: Single source and blended coffee beans and ground coffee.

Take Home: A bag of Southern Gentleman blend ($15).

31 East Choccolocco Street, Oxford

Follow on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

9 months ago

Alabama ministry offers opportunities for families to host Ukrainian orphans

(Bridges of Faith/Facebook)

In the 20 years that Tom Benz has been doing orphan ministry in Ukraine, he has built a “bridge of faith” between the Eastern European country and his home in Alabama.

Bridges of Faith, Benz’s Clanton-based ministry, works with orphaned Ukrainian children, helping to facilitate adoptions and cultural exchange programs throughout the year.

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The organization is currently looking for families to participate in its Private Hosting program, which will begin June 10. The program offers some of the orphaned children a chance taste Southern culture, faith, and life in a kind and loving home.

Many of the children are social orphans, which means their parents are still living but are unfit to care for them due to addiction, abuse, and other reasons.

“They don’t see how a husband and wife, mother and father are supposed to treat children,” Nancy Hendrix, Bridges of Faith’s Hosting Coordinator, told Yellowhammer News.

Families from Atlanta to Alabama, Iowa, and Tennessee have hosted children in the past.

“A lot of people worry about the language but they understand love. They understand safety,” Hendrix said. “They pick up our English in a couple of weeks.”

Apart from the Private Hosting program, Bridges of Faith also operates a 140-acre retreat center in Billingsley, to which it brings 3o orphans each year.

During their visits, the children experience life in Alabama as host families take them camping and to various educational sites such as the USS Alabama. They also go to Atlanta Braves games and participate in the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, along with both English and Bible lessons.

If you are interested in hosting a child, contact Nancy Hendrix at 205-586-1281

Why pornography is far from ‘victimless’ and how to quit using it

(W.Miller/YHN)

Listen to the 10 min audio

Read the transcript:

HOW PORNOGRAPHY AFFECTS CHRISTIAN LIFE

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, I would like to take you to an interview today that Evangelical Focus did on pornography and sexual distortion. It was done with Glen Harrison. Dr. Harrison is a British psychiatrist and he’s also a Christian author. He says that pornography creates an illusion of control because it offers access to sexual stimulation so quickly and easily. He talks about the number of young people — I mean young, young people — who are now getting caught up in pornography and how it is distorting their whole view of sexuality.

DR. REEDER: This epidemic of pornography has produced not only distortion of God’s precious gift of sexuality, it has also produced anarchy. People will say that pornography is a “victimless crime.” Well, I would just have you go back to the month of December in 2017 when six of these porn stars took their lives in depression. There they were in their early 20s.

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Also, look at what happens in marriages as, particularly, men are affected by this and what they then demand, and what they call for and how they begin to view their spouse. In the whole pornography industry, the person observed for stimulation then becomes objectified. They aren’t real people — they’re just something for one’s own pleasure. Then the objectivization of the spouse takes place after people get addicted to these activities.

Another dynamic is you’re a victim because these things that are viewed are then cemented into one’s life through the most powerful experience that is known to humanity, reaching far beyond cocaine and heroin.

And then, these things, they are actually designed to take you from sexual distortion to sexual depravity into sexual anarchy and the victimless crimes? Oh, no, not by any means. All you have to do is observe the #MeToo movement. Those who have made these assaults upon women, you will find a life of pornography.

You will also see something else that is documented and that is #ThemToo, referring to the fact that there is a significant number of those who are caught up in the addiction of pornography that then carry out their distortions of sexuality upon the mentally incapable, upon those who are disabled — disabled physically, disabled mentally and those who are dissipated toward the end of their life — and that story that is not covered by the media has proportions that are absolutely staggering.

No, this is not a victimless crime and this is not a matter of just personal pleasure that one does in the privacy of their life. And, of course, the greatest victims of all are those whose lives are destroyed to provide this “adult entertainment.” There is probably no term that is more inaccurate than to call pornography “adult entertainment.” There’s nothing adult about it.

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, we have literally thousands of individuals that listen to this podcast. No doubt, there are some believers that are caught up in pornography and they’re saying to themselves, “Pastor Reeder, I hear you. I can’t get out of it.” Harry, what would you say to that individual?

DR. REEDER: Oh, yes you can. Oh, yes you can. Believe me, I know you can. How do you do it? Well, first of all, name it for what it is: it’s sin. It is adultery in the heart and it is even worse than that because of its objectivization of the other gender.

HOW TO REPENT FOR THE SIN

Name it and ask God to forgive you from it. He will. He can remove the shame and the guilt and erase it away and Jesus died to pay for that sin.

Then, secondly, ask God for the grace to turn from that sin. Don’t try to go into the, “Well, I’m just going to kind of wean myself off of it.” Oh, no, no. Just pluck out right eyes and cut off right hands. We’re ready to walk away from this. We are absolutely ready to do it and the Bible tells us that, the addictions of life, God can set us free from.

Then you believe to build in your life a new way of life. Get rid of your secret life — everyone in pornography has a secret life of places they go, computers they visit, sites they go to. Get rid of all of that.

ACCOUNTABILITY MATTERS

Next, get accountability in your life, starting with your spouse if you’re married. Get accountability. If you’re not married, get your parents involved or get some close friends involved in your life. Take the steps that you need to bring accountability in your life.

You say, “Well, Pastor, I’m accountable to the Lord in God’s grace.” Great, but it’s fine to be accountable to other people. The Bible tells us to confess our sins to one another. The Bible says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.”

I’ve got three guys that have helped me through all of my issues of life. We have been holding each other accountable and praying for each other for 34 years. I need that band of brothers and so do you need them.

Men and women need to get some other men and women in their life. Men, get some men in your life. Women, get some women in your life that are mature and spiritual and can hold you accountable while they pray for you.

HOW TO BREAK THE CHAINS OF PORNOGRAPHY

And then what do you do? You create something bigger in your life. Ultimately, pornography is idolatry. It is saying to God, “You’re not enough.” It is making a god of sexual gratification and stimulation. You’re willing to put this ahead of God, before God, and eradicate God: idolatry.

You are willing to even destroy other people’s lives — and you do. You’re willing to destroy the blessing of sexual courtship, intimacy and romance within the context of marriage. You’ve got to say no to that. “This is idolatry.”

That means get a big God in your life. Know who God is. Know what Jesus has done in your life. Then, get big relationships in your life. The enemy of pornography is meaningful relationships. I asked God to not only give me a nausea for pornography, but I ask God to give me a love for my wife that was so filling there was no room anywhere else in my life. And, when you falter — notice what I said “when you falter” because, to some degree, you’re going to falter — then immediately, right then, go to that accountability person, go to the Lord in prayer, ask God to forgive you.

BUILDING UP A FULFILLING RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD AND SPOUSE

Rebuild the fences in your life, rebuild the stepping stones in your life and get your heart and your mind back fixed on Jesus because that’s the issue. The issue was idolatry — for that moment, you decided that idol was going to bring meaning to your life and you found out it didn’t, here comes the shame and the guilt but now we’re back to Jesus and forgiveness.

Now we’re back to the Spirit of God, fill me. Back to the Word of God, fill me. Back to meaningful relationships, fill me. And then, if you’re married, begin to develop the blessings to true sexuality.

That is a glorious, regular, giving — not taking, giving — relationship between a man and a woman in a marriage bed that is honorable as you enter into sexuality, not to take, but to give and that the body of the husband belongs to his wife and the body of the wife belongs to her husband and you do not defraud one another except for spiritual times of prayer and fasting.

When the blessing of intimacy occurs, there is no turning away of the face and you’re able to look at one another in the eyes because God gave you a heart that gave your body to that person instead of taking the body of that person for yourself.

And, if you’re not yet married, you begin to prepare yourself, “God, prepare me to be someone who understands the right role of Biblical sexuality within marriage and not to allow idolatry of sexuality. Sexual gratification outside of marriage brings destruction and brings despair and nothing gratifying.

Idolatry never works, but what does work is the love of God and the love of God that is filling to overflowing. And, in the overflowing, it matures you so that you’re ready for a true intimacy within the boundaries of a marriage and the covenantal blessings of sexuality.

(Resource for help overcoming pornography: Harvest Ministries.)

Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.

This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin, editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News. Jessica has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and her work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.

(Image: File)

9 months ago

Martha Roby is a 2018 Yellowhammer Woman of Impact

When Martha Roby launched her first campaign for Congress in 2010, the complete list of women who had represented Alabama in the U.S. House of Representatives comprised Elizabeth Andrews and … that’s it.

In 93 years since the first American woman took office in Congress, the Heart of Dixie had produced just one female representative — Andrews, who served the final nine months of her husband’s term following his death in December 1971. With the backing of then-Gov. George Wallace, Andrews ran opposed in the special election to fill the vacancy but did not seek re-election.

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So, Roby did not exactly have history on her side when she announced her bid in 2010. That year, Alabama elected two women to the House, the other being Rep. Terri Sewell in the 7th District. But Roby remains the only woman to defeat an incumbent representative in Alabama, edging out Democrat Bobby Bright.

Roby has a pedigree for public service. Her father, Joel Dubina, was a federal judge in Montgomery and later served 13 years on the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

But Roby did not make a beeline for politics. Once, she dreamed of making music.

A music major at New York University, Roby worked for Columbia Records during her junior year. The experience led her to shift focus from the creative side of the profession to the business side. And that led her to her father’s alma mater, Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham.

Roby, at age 26, was working for the law firm of Copeland, Franco, Screws & Gill when she saw that her city councilman was retiring after 20 years in office, according to a 2012 profile in The Hill newspaper. She said that she told her husband that “if we’re going to be here and live here and, God willing, have children some day, I want to be engaged. I want to be involved.”

Roby told The Hill that she won the seat by out-working her opponents.

“If I (wanted) people to take me seriously, then I (had) to get out there and work harder than everybody,” she said.

After two terms on the City Council, Roby signed up to run in the 2nd Congressional District against Bright, who had been mayor of Montgomery during her tenure in city government. First, she beat a field of Republicans that included Tea Party favorite Rick Barber. Then, she narrowly defeated Bright in the general election in one of the closest congressional races in the country that cycle.

Roby won in landslides in 2012 and 2014 before a relatively tight contest in 2016 when she failed to clear 50 percent against Democrat Nathan Mathis and write-in votes.

Much of Roby’s difficulties came from disaffected Republicans angry at her decision to abandon President Donald Trump after the release of the famous “Access Hollywood” video in which the then-reality TV star talked off air about grabbing women.

But Roby has persevered, making a name for herself among her colleagues in Congress. She has built a largely conservative voting record, supporting last year’s tax cut bill, backing the GOP-led effort to repeal Obamacare and voting for bills to roll back regulations imposed at the end of President Barack Obama’s administration.

This year, Roby’s congressional career will come full circle. To win re-election, she must again defeat Bright — but this time in the GOP primary. Bright now is a Republican.

Roby and Gov. Kay Ivey will be among 20 Alabama women honored in a March 29 awards event in Birmingham. Event details and registration may be found here.

Brendan Kirby is senior political reporter at LifeZette.com and a Yellowhammer contributor. He also is the author of “Wicked Mobile.” Follow him on Twitter

 

11 months ago

Judge Debra Jones running for Alabama Supreme Court, Place 1

(Judge Debra Jones Campaign)

(Judge Debra Jones Campaign)

 
 
Circuit Judge Debra Jones has qualified as a candidate for the Alabama Supreme Court, Place 1. She has been a Circuit Judge in Calhoun and Cleburne counties since 2010. Judge Jones, a Republican, is running for the open seat created by the resignation of Justice Glenn Murdock. The Republican primary is June 5, 2018.

“My judicial philosophy is that judges should follow their oath of office by respecting the rule of law, by strictly interpreting the law according to the constitutions as they are written, and by applying the law without fear and without favor.  As Circuit Judge with years of criminal and civil jury trial experience, I have served with integrity, discernment, and honesty.  I have consistently and fairly applied the law equally to everyone according to the constitutions of Alabama and of the United States.  As an attorney, I have practiced in many areas of the law, particularly in criminal, civil, probate, juvenile, and family law. This invaluable experience will be an asset to the Alabama Supreme Court and the people of Alabama.”

Judge Jones has a distinguished 28 year legal career.  Before her election to the bench, Jones served the citizens by advocating for the rights of abused women and children.  She began her legal career as a prosecutor in the District Attorney’s office where she founded the Calhoun Cleburne Children’s Advocacy Center.  The children’s center is a professional residential place for children to be interviewed by trained counselors when they have been victims of abuse or neglect. Jones wrote the Sexual Torture Act, which criminalized the sexual abuse of any person with an inanimate object as a class A felony and she wrote the Felony DUI Act.  After forming her own practice, Judge Jones co-founded Daybreak Rape Crisis Center, a free counseling center for rape victims.  She also founded and operated Mercy House, a faith-based domestic violence shelter for women and children.

Judge Jones is a graduate of the University of Alabama and of Cumberland Law School.  Jones and her husband, William, have been married 26 years and have five children.  Three children attended Alabama colleges with two having recently graduated and one completing a degree.  Two children are in public high school.  “Alabama is our home.  We were born, raised, and educated in Alabama.  We have lived, worked, and worshipped here our entire lives.  I want to give back to this great State by serving on the State’s Highest Court.”

(News Release/Jones Campaign)

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11 months ago

Lee County public fishing lake will reopen Feb. 1

(Outdoor Alabama)

(Outdoor Alabama)

 
 

Lee County Public Fishing Lake will reopen on February 1, 2018, under the operation of new lake managers Chris and Tina Wright. The lake had been temporarily closed during the transition of operations to the new lake managers. Lee County Public Fishing Lake is located 6 miles southeast of Opelika (or 9 miles east of Auburn, Ala.).

The lake offers public restrooms, a covered fishing pier, and a boat ramp. Bait, fishing tackle and snacks may be purchased at the concession. In addition to a valid fishing license, a daily $3 fishing permit is required for anglers 12 years old and older to fish. Boats may be rented for $5 and privately owned boats may be launched for $3. State public fishing lake licenses are available for purchase at the lake.

For more information about Lee County Public Fishing Lake, call the lake managers at 334-745-6563; the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, Fisheries Section at 334-242-3471; or visit here.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit this link.

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11 months ago

Be sure your (Twitter) sins will find you out

 

 

 

 

 

Listen to the 10 min audio

Read the transcript:

MODERN HEADLINES MIRROR BIBLICAL LESSONS, BOTH GOOD AND BAD

TOM LAMPRECHT:  Harry, I want to take you to a couple of stories, one out of The Daily Wire, the other out of Fox News.

The Daily Wire is reporting that, apparently, Twitter employees are paid to view private sex messages. All those people that have been doing things on their Twitter accounts who thought that nobody else would notice – well, apparently, at Twitter, there’s a whole group of engineers who monitor what you think are your private messages.

One Twitter employee was quoted as saying, “All your illegitimate wives and, like, all the girls you’ve been doing things with, they’re now on my server. I’m going to send it to your wife and she’s going to get you in a divorce.”

Then the second story, out of Fox News, three brothers – Ned, Roger and Steven Landau – their mom inherited some things from their grandparents and they, in turn, when their mom passed away, inherited it from her – things like a silver tea set, a couple of old paintings, perhaps, were worth a few hundred dollars.

As it turns out, one piece that was inherited, a painting, turned out to be a Rembrandt painting. What they thought they were going to get a few hundred dollars for, they got over $1 million.

DR. REEDER: Tom, when you brought these stories, first of all, they were interesting, but they were interesting beyond just a personal interest story or a human-interest story. They were interesting in that there are a couple of Biblical principles that are embedded in this.

YOU REAP WHAT YOU SOW, EVEN ELECTRONICALLY

Let’s take up the first one and that is this fact that, here, people are gathering all of these messages that you think are private, and they’re together and, as one employee said, “You’re just a moment away from financial ruin as I collect all this data and send it in a package to your wife.”

I couldn’t help but think of the Book of Numbers that contains an amazing statement – and it’s supported, of course, in the book of Galatians – in Numbers, it says, “Be sure your sins will find you out,” and in Galatians, “What a man sows, he’ll also reap.”

And then the warnings of the apostle Paul that, “We must all appear before the judgment seat and we will give an account for all that we have said and done.” And the reality that the Lord says to us that, “The things that you think are done in secret will yet be revealed in the light of day and from the housetop, itself.”

Here are these warnings that what you think is done in private and what you think is done in secret actually will also see the light of day – if nothing else, the light of day at the judgment where we all give an account.

SIN IS NOT VICTIMLESS OR SECRET

I was absolutely convinced that my mother had some omniscient gift in that I could not get away with anything in my life. The reality is it not only comes out in knowledge; it comes out in effect, as well. When we sin, there’s no such thing as victimless sins.

What your sins do is they destroy something in you and when they destroy it in you, they destroy it in the relationships you have with other people. Secret moments of pornography, those are victimless? Well, no, it’s not victimless. Just think of what’s happening in the lives of the people that you are purveying and think of what’s going to happen in the way you now look at other people, including your spouse. They have consequences in life and they certainly have consequences in eternity.

JESUS MAKES US RIGHTEOUS DESPITE TRANSGRESSIONS

If anyone’s listening to me and you believe that there is a God who is holy, who will by no means leave the guilty unpunished and that we must all appear before the judgment seat to give an account, then you have got to be thinking, “Oh my goodness, every sin is worthy of the judgment of God – the wages of sin, singular – is death and here I will stand before the Lord with thousands upon thousands upon thousands of capital crimes. Is there any hope?” I want you to know today there is a glorious hope for you and that hope is to come to Jesus Christ.

The Bible said, “In Christ, He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us. He paid for all of the sins of all of His people.” The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5 that, “He did not count our trespasses against us.”

Now, by the way, it doesn’t say He didn’t count our transgressions – our trespasses, our sins – it doesn’t say that. He counts them. They are legally and experientially attached to us, but for all who are in Christ, He doesn’t count them against us. He did count them against His son and, when He counted them against His son, something else happened: He counted the righteousness of Christ for you.

Tom, there’s a wonderful moment when Jacob – and you can see the echo – Jacob knows what he did in deceiving his father Isaac, so when it came time for him to bless the children of Joseph, you remember how Joseph directed his hands to the younger and to the older. And now, so he reverses his hands and, by purpose, the blessings that goes to the older goes to the younger and the blessing to go to the younger went to the older.

If you’re a Christian, that’s exactly what happened to you. Jacob is a type of the glory and grace of God toward us. He took His hand and the consequences of our sin that ought to be placed on us, He switches and crosses His arms and it is placed upon the one who did not deserve it and that is Jesus. And the blessings upon his son are now put upon those sons of wrath so that we can have eternal life in Jesus Christ.

UNKNOWN TREASURE REVEALED TO FAMILY

Now let me go to the other story in the few moments that we have left and that’s this. You’ve got these paintings and, “Oh, this is just throw away stuff – went down to Woolworth’s and picked up a few paintings, here,” and then they find out, “Here’s a Rembrandt. You think it’s worth a couple hundred dollars and it’s worth a million.”

I’m reminded of the story of Randolph Hearst, who hired a guy to go find a particular Rembrandt and the guy searched and searched and he came one day and said, “Well, Mr. Hearst, I’ve got bad news and I’ve got good news.” And he said, “What’s the bad news?” He said, “The bad news is I have searched every art gallery, every treasure trove in all of Europe and everywhere for that Rembrandt and I cannot find it in any of those places.”

He said, “Well, then what’s the good news?” He said, “The good news is you already own it.” He finally came back and he went through the warehouse to look for something else and, as he came to the warehouse to look for something else, he found out that Randolph Hearst had already purchased this Rembrandt years ago or one of his agents had purchased it for him. He already owns it.

OUR TREASURE IN HEAVEN WAITS FOR US

I’m reminded of arriving in Heaven. One guy said, “You look at these boxes and you say, ‘Peter, what are these boxes over here for?’ and he says, ‘You don’t want to know.’ He said, ‘Yeah, I do want to know.’ He said, ‘Okay, they’re unclaimed blessings for believers.’ And he said, ‘Oh, Peter do I have any boxes over there?’ He said, ‘You don’t want to know.’ ‘Yeah, I do, Peter.’ He said, ‘Well, come here, let me show you,’ and here are these hundreds of boxes labeled ‘Unclaimed Blessings for Harry Reeder.’”

People say to me, “Have you gotten the second blessing?” I said, “Second blessing? I got the third, the fourth, the fifth.” Listen, I’ve been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. The riches I have in Christ are untold. The problem isn’t do I have them already – the problem is am I using them now?

BELIEVERS MUST SEEK KNOWLEDGE OF GOD’S MAJESTIC BLESSINGS

And that’s what that story reminds me of. You and I have in our possession untold blessings. “Harry, how can I find out about these untold blessings?” Get in a Bible-believing church that preaches the riches and responsibilities of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

What you are and who you are in Christ is unbelievably majestic. You think your walk and blessings in Christ are worth a pittance – actually, they are majestic in worth and value. And that’s what you need to know: the blessings that have been given to you and purchased for you in Jesus Christ. Not these unbiblically defined blessings of the riches of this world, but the gloriously defined blessings of the riches of eternity.

Remember, your sins will find you out, but what you need to do is find Jesus, who finds you and, when He finds you, God switches hands. The blessings due to Christ He places upon all those who are in Christ but don’t deserve it. Those things that you deserve, those things came from God’s hand to punish Son, that you could have eternal life when He went to the cross. Now you have riches untold that are yours in Christ Jesus, the Lord of Glory.

TOMORROW’S TOPIC: NEW DISCOVERY OUT OF HOLYLAND

TOM LAMPRECHT:  Harry, we are out of time for today. On Wednesday’s edition of Today in Perspective, once again, a little digging in the Holy Land has unearthed a major find and a confirmation of the accuracy of the Bible.

DR. REEDER: And why is that important? Well, let’s talk about archaeology, the Bible and the Gospel of Jesus Christ and what does it mean in your life.

Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.

This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin, editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News. Jessica has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and her work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.

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11 months ago

President Trump is wrong — our nation does not need stronger libel laws

(White House/Flickr)

(White House/Flickr)

 
 



President Donald Trump said, “We are going to take a strong look at our country’s libel laws so that when somebody says something that is false and defamatory about someone, that person will have meaningful recourse in our courts.” The president was responding to statements made in Michael Wolff’s new book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.”

Our nation does not need stronger laws against libel. To the contrary, libel and slander laws should be repealed. Let’s say exactly what libel and slander are. The legal profession defines libel as a published false statement that is damaging to a person’s reputation. Slander is making a false spoken statement that is damaging to a person’s reputation.

There’s a question about reputation that never crosses even the sharpest legal minds. Does one’s reputation belong to him? In other words, if one’s reputation is what others think about him, whose property are other people’s thoughts? The thoughts I have in my mind about others, and hence their reputations, belong to me.

One major benefit from decriminalizing libel and slander would be that it would reduce the value of gossip. It would reduce the value of false statements made by others. Here’s a Gallup Poll survey question: “In general, how much trust and confidence do you have in the mass media — such as newspapers, TV and radio — when it comes to reporting the news fully, accurately and fairly — a great deal, a fair amount, not very much or none at all?” In 1976, 72 percent of Americans trusted the media, and today the percentage has fallen to 32. The mainstream media are so biased and dishonest that more and more Americans are using alternative news sources, which have become increasingly available electronically.

While we’re talking about bad laws dealing with libel and slander, let’s raise some questions about other laws involving speech — namely, blackmail laws. The legal profession defines blackmail as occurring when someone demands money from a person in return for not revealing compromising or injurious information. I believe that people should not be prosecuted for blackmail. Let’s examine it with the following scenario. It’s 5 o’clock in the morning. You see me leaving a motel with a sweet young thing who’s obviously not Mrs. Williams. You say to me, “Professor Williams, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees me the right to broadcast to the entire world your conduct that I observed.” I believe that most would agree that you have that right. You then proposition me, “If you pay me $10,000, I will not exercise my right to tell the world about your behavior.”

Now the ball is in my court. I have a right to turn down your proposition and let you tell the world about my infidelity and live with the consequences of that decision. Or I can pay you the $10,000 for your silence and live with the consequences of that decision. In other words, blackmail fits into the category of peaceable, noncoercive voluntary exchange, just like most other transactions. If I’m seen voluntarily giving up $10,000, the only conclusion a third party could reach is that I must have viewed myself as being better off as a result. That’s just like an instance when you see me voluntarily give up money for some other good or service — be it food, clothing, housing or transportation. You come to the same conclusion.

What constitutes a crime can be divided into two classes — mala in se and mala prohibita. Homicide and robbery are inherently wrong (mala in se). They involve the initiation of force against another. By contrast, blackmail (mala prohibita) offenses are considered criminal not because they violate the property or person of another but because society seeks to regulate such behavior. By the way, married people would tend to find blackmail in their interest. Extra eyes on their spouse’s behavior, in pursuit of money, would help to ensure greater marital fidelity.

Those who would like to dig deeper into blackmail can go to this link.

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University.

COPYRIGHT 2018 CREATORS.COM

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11 months ago

Craig Lipscomb qualifies as Republican candidate for Gadsden-area State House district

Craig Lipscomb (Lipscomb Campaign)
Craig Lipscomb (Lipscomb Campaign)

 

Craig Lipscomb, a Gadsden architect, filed paperwork with the Alabama Republican Party to qualify as a candidate for the Alabama House of Representatives in District 30. That seat is being vacated by Mack Butler, who is running for the Alabama State Senate.

“I am honored to run for the Republican nomination for House District 30,” Lipscomb said. “This decision is the result of much time and prayer with friends, family and respected members of our community. It was not taken lightly, and I am certain that this is both a wise and appropriate decision for myself and our community.”

Lipscomb plans to travel throughout the district during his campaign to meet with constituents from Saint Clair and Etowah counties. His campaign will focus on fiscal responsibility, ethics, economic development and job growth. During the course of his campaign, he will also announce his plans to offer affordable trade-specific educational opportunities for children and adults. Lipscomb also plans to release a strategy to comprehensively treat the mentally ill and chemically dependent, decreasing the burden on Alabama’s criminal justice system.

Senator Phil Williams, Chairman of the Etowah County Republican Party, made special note of Craig Lipscomb’s candidacy for the State House of Representatives, saying, “As Etowah County Party Chairman, I am excited to have someone of the caliber of Craig Lipscomb to step up to the plate and offer his service to the community as an elected official. Craig brings a great deal to the table and will definitely show the strength of the Republican ticket in the coming election season.”

Craig and his wife, Angela, have two children, Clark and Carleigh. The family attends Harvestfield Church in Rainbow City, where Craig serves as an on-call bass player. Craig has worked in his hometown of Gadsden for over 17 years, and has since opened a successful architecture firm which has received numerous design awards.

Lipscomb is the past-President of the Gadsden Symphony Orchestra, serves on the boards of the Gadsden Museum of Art, the Etowah County Chamber of Commerce, and the United Way of Etowah County. He is also a member of the Gadsden Kiwanis Club, Greater Gadsden Homebuilders Association and American Institute of Architects.

“Having devoted my life to my Family, Faith, Profession and Community Service, I feel that it is time to serve my community as their State Representative for District 30,” Lipscomb said.

Connect with Craig Lipscomb on Facebook or on his website: The Republican primary election will take place on June 5th, 2018. District 30 contains parts of Etowah and St. Clair counties.

(News Release/Lipscomb Campaign)

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11 months ago

Alabama leads the nation in political corruption, new study shows

 

Alabama tops the country in public corruption, according to a new study examining perceptions of wrongdoing across the country.

The report by Illinois State University’s Institute for Corruption Studies ranks Alabama as the most corrupt state in the union for 2017 when it comes to what researchers call “legal corruption” — conduct by public officials that is technically legal but unethical. The state comes in second, behind Kentucky, in “illegal corruption,” conduct that is out-and-out against the law.

Oguzhan Dincer, director of the institute, said the findings have been mostly consistent since he and research partner Michael Johnston conducted their first annual study in 2014.

“Quite frankly, it’s been pretty sticky, especially states like Alabama,” he said. “Once a state becomes corrupt, it stays corrupt for a while.”

Dincer and Johnston, an emeritus professor at Colgate University, started the project when they were fellows at Harvard Law School’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics.

Dincer said other studies have tried to quantify corruption by examining conviction data. But he said that method has some drawbacks. For instance, he said, prosecutors in one state may be more aggressive than prosecutors in another. He also pointed to research indicating a partisan bias — Democratic prosecutors are more eager to pursue Republican wrongdoing, and vice versa.

What’s more, Dincer said, the Department of Justice’s definition of corruption is broad. He said it counts a postal worker who steals mail and an assistant district attorney who snorts cocaine, for example. He said neither would seem to fall into the same category as a politician on the take.

So Dincer and Johnston sought to solve those problems by turning to the people who should know the most — journalists who cover state government. He said it is modeled after groups like Transparency International, which ranks country-by-country corruption by polling citizens.

Dincer said asking journalists has the advantage of zeroing in on the men and women who spend their careers watching government up close.

“Instead of randomly selecting thousands of individuals in every state, we decided to ask reporters,” he said. “We thought they would know better.”

Dincer’s team surveyed 1,000 journalists covering state politics, getting responses from 48 states. They rated their perception of corruption on a scale of 1 to 5 for the executive, legislative and judicial branches.

Alabama’s composite score for all three branches was 11 points for “illegal corruption” and 13 for “legal corruption.” It was not significantly different from 2014, when Alabama was tied for sixth in legal corruption with 11 points and tied for fourth for illegal corruption with 9 points.

Dincer said the difference between one place in the rankings and the spot just below or above it is not large enough to be significant. He said it is more useful to group states. And Alabama consistently ranks in that top tier in the corruption index. The 2017 ranking put Alabama in the top group when it comes to both kinds of corruption for all three branches.

Perhaps that is not a surprise considering the heads of all three branches have left office involuntarily in the last few years. Robert Bentley resigned as governor last year after pleading guilty to criminal charges related to misuse of state resources to conceal an affair with an adviser. A 2016 criminal conviction cost Mike Hubbard his job as speaker of the state House of Representatives. And a state judicial committee suspended Roy Moore as chief justice of the state Supreme Court for his conduct following a federal judge’s ruling striking down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage in 2015.

Dincer acknowledged that relying on journalists has drawbacks, too. He said it is inherently subjective and prone to swings depending on high-profile cases. But he said he is convinced that the advantages outweigh the shortcomings compared to other methods and hopes to build 10 years’ worth of data to track changes in perception and policy.

“None of them is perfect,” he said. “And all are telling you different stories.”

Brendan Kirby is senior political reporter at LifeZette.com and a Yellowhammer contributor. He also is the author of “Wicked Mobile.” Follow him on Twitter.

 

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11 months ago

Opelika mother turns baking hobby into serious business

(Brittany Faush / Alabama NewsCenter)
(Brittany Faush / Alabama NewsCenter)

 

A cake-decorating hobby gone awry.

Mandi Buckalew said that’s how her studio, Cakeapotamus LLC, got its start. She creates custom cakes for weddings, birthday parties and corporate and community events, specializing in odd, unusual and often geeky designs.

Buckalew, who was a certified special-education teacher at a middle school in those days, said baking started as an outlet for her.

“I would come home and bake at night to relieve stress,” Buckalew recalls. “Then, I began baking for other people, and it just exploded.”

Buckalew began dreaming of opening a bakery after retirement. When she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer several years ago, she thought, “Why wait?”

After beating cancer, Buckalew opened her brick-and-mortar bakery in Opelika in 2013, whimsically calling it Cakeapotamus as a nod to her first career as an animal behaviorist. Because her custom-designed cakes have become so popular, she closed her store earlier this year and now focuses solely on special orders. Buckalew bakes cakes and decorates them in her fully equipped private studio.

Buckalew will take on almost any challenge. She said her favorite cake was one she designed for a groom who wanted it to look exactly like his old lucky Auburn hat.

“I was so proud of that cake,” said Buckalew, who used the actual hat as her guide. “It had the scuffs in the right places, and the tears in the right places.”

Another of Buckalew’s favorites was the first cake she designed for Icing Smiles, a nonprofit organization that provides birthday cakes for critically ill children and their siblings. The organization planned to surprise a little boy who was a huge fan of “Star Wars” and Legos.

With that in mind, Buckalew sculpted a Lego Millennium Falcon cake with working lights. She brought Darth Vader and a Storm Trooper to the bakery to present the cake to the boy to make his “big day” even more special.

Since then, volunteering her talents to help bring happiness to kids has become a passion for Buckalew. In addition to providing cakes for Icing Smiles, her creations have helped make dreams come true for children through Make a Wish Alabama.

“Having my own business allows me time to do these volunteer things,” said Buckalew. “I appreciate how lucky I am that I have the opportunity to set up a wish reveal, or take birthday cake to children.”

Buckalew has been a “serious” baker for eight years. When she was in the second grade, she made a Coca-Cola cake for a Girl Scouts competition and then didn’t bake again until her daughter’s first birthday.

Not long afterward, Buckalew became interested in the art of cake decorating, with the idea of creating “cool” birthday cakes for her children (now ages 9 and 11).

Since then, Buckalew has attended classes led by experts from around the world and has traveled as far as New Mexico for training. She often visits cake shows to promote her business, teach cake decorating classes and learn the latest tips and tricks of the trade. She is helping plan the Ultimate Sugar Show, the Southeast’s largest cake and sugar art show, next fall.

“In the (19)70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, there was only the Wilton Cake Decorating classes,” Buckalew said. “But since the Food Network and The Learning Channel started airing cake shows, the industry has evolved. People have become more educated and are asking for more fun things they can do with their cakes.”

Although Buckalew has created some intricately designed cakes since opening her business, that’s not the hardest part of the job. The biggest challenge, she said, is delivering wedding cakes.

“It’s terrifying,” said Buckalew. “It can be very stressful because a couple only gets one wedding cake. It’s not like a birthday cake in that if something goes wrong, you will get another one next year. The wedding cake is the one sweet bite with which everyone at the wedding toasts the new couple.”

Buckalew said the types of requests she receives vary, but her most popular cakes are those centered on movies and college football.

“My favorite thing is when I get a really strange or weird request that has never been done before, and I figure out how to do it so it’s food-safe and edible,” said Buckalew. She has spent up to 30 hours perfecting detailed decorations on a cake.

Buckalew said the best part of owning a home business is that it allows her to spend more time with her son and daughter.

“I opened my home business because it was getting too big, and I was starting to miss important events,” said Buckalew. “I still miss having a storefront and plan to re-open the shop when the kids are older. Meanwhile, I work with several businesses, so my products are still available to the public at places around town.”

For more information or to place a request, visit this link.

(By Carla Davis, courtesy of Alabama News Center)

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11 months ago

Why won’t anyone admit that we have no idea what the Democrats’ illegal immigration ‘fix” looks like?

(U.S. Customs and Border Protection/Flickr)
(U.S. Customs and Border Protection/Flickr)

 

(Opinion) Senate Democrats shutdown the federal government over illegal immigration. We can debate the particulars of their motivations until we are blue in the face, but it was about 800,000 or 3.6 million illegal “children” aged 12 to 35. What exactly do Democrats want to do about this, that can actually pass? I have no idea, but they are sure they have the votes which, according to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s spokesman, isn’t true:

“We have made no decisions or announcements on floor consideration of border security/DACA, and the Leader remains committed to the ongoing, bipartisan, bicameral negotiations.”

Why this matters: A narrative has been in place for a while that argued if they placed a bill for DACA on the House floor it would pass. Missing from those comments is what exactly is agreed to. Sure, there are different pieces of legislation that different numbers of legislators will support. Some will support work permits, but not citizenship, while others would consider that insufficient and wouldn’t vote for anything less than full voting rights. And what about the wall and some Republicans desires to limit legal immigration? These issues are hardly resolved, so let’s stop pretending the end of this government shutdown clears the way for a “comprehensive” immigration bill.

The details:

— President Obama created this crisis by declaring that young illegal aliens were eligible to stay in the country, without fear of deportation, without getting any legislation passed.

— President Trump, attempting to partially keep his campaign promise, declared an artificial deadline of March 5th for Congress to find a solution to this issue or he would end the program.

— Polling indicates that 70 percent of Americans support a DACA deal but the details, like requiring a border wall, divide that support.

— More recent polling shows that Americans do not agree with shutting down the government to force a deal on immigration.

Dale Jackson hosts a daily radio show from 7-11 a.m. on NewsTalk 770 AM/92.5 FM WVNN and a weekly television show, “Guerrilla Politics,” on WAAY-TV, both in North Alabama. Follow him @TheDaleJackson.

1
11 months ago

Need a vacay? Here are some discounts going on at Alabama State Parks

(Alabama State Parks)

(Alabama State Parks)

 
 

After the stress of the holidays, you deserve a few days away from work and home. An Alabama state park is the perfect place to help you recharge and get ready for the new year without draining your bank account. Select parks are currently offering winter specials on overnight accommodations now through February 2018. Check out the current specials listed below and begin planning your winter getaway.

Current Winter Specials at Alabama State Parks

Chewacla State Park
Camping and cabins: Discounted rates. Some restrictions apply.
For more details, call 334-887-5621.
www.alapark.com/chewacla-state-park

DeSoto State Park
Discover DeSoto Package: Motel rooms only $79 per couple.
For more details, call 800-568-8840.
www.alapark.com/desoto-state-park

Frank Jackson State Park
Camping: Now through February 28, stay three nights for the price of two.
Campsites only, cabins not included.
For reservations, call 334-493-6988.
www.alapark.com/frank-jackson-state-park

Gulf State Park
Cabins and cottages: 15 percent off new reservations for stays before January 30.
For reservations, call 251-948-7275.
www.alapark.com/gulf-state-park

Joe Wheeler State Park
Camping: Three nights for just $50.
Lodge rooms: Stay for two nights Sunday through Thursday for just $99.
Cabins: 25 percent off any cabin. No minimum night requirement.
Offers valid through January 31.
For reservations, call 256-247-5461.
www.alapark.com/joe-wheeler-state-park

Lakepoint Resort State Park
January only: $59.95 double queen lodge room, or stay two nights at the regular rate and get a third night free on any cabin, lakeside cottage, lodge room, or campsite. Use discount code “DQ59” when making reservations online.
February only: $69.95 double queen lodge room, if you make your reservation before January 31. You will also receive a coupon at check-in for one free boat ramp pass that’s good for your entire stay. Use discount code “FISH” when making reservations online.
For more details, call 800-544-5253.
www.alapark.com/lakepoint-state-park

Lake Guntersville State Park
Camping: $15 per night Sunday through Thursday.
Offers valid through February 28.
For reservations, call 256-571-5455.
www.alapark.com/lake-guntersville-state-park

Monte Sano State Park
Cabins: Now through February 28, stay three nights and get the fourth night free.
Offer valid for Sunday through Thursday nights only.
For reservations, call 256-534-3757.
www.alapark.com/monte-sano-state-park

Only available at DeSoto, Cheaha, Joe Wheeler, Lakepoint, and Lake Guntersville state parks
Hunter’s Special: $49.95 special lodge room rate.
Hunters must show hunting license and WMA permit upon check-in.
Now through February 28.

For more information about these and other Alabama State Parks specials, visit this link. These deals are highlighted each month in the Parks newsletter. To receive the newsletter, you can sign up here. You can also stay informed about your favorite state park via social media. For a complete list of Alabama State Parks social media accounts, visit this link.

The Alabama State Parks Division relies on visitor fees and the support of other partners like local communities to fund the majority of their operations. To learn more about Alabama State Parks, visit this link.

Press Release/Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

1
11 months ago

Reasons for pro-lifers to rejoice — and double-down — on abortion issues

(Lorie Shaull/Flickr & Anna Levinzon/Flickr)
(Lorie Shaull/Flickr & Anna Levinzon/Flickr)

 

 

 

 

 

Listen to the 10 min audio

Read the transcript:

ROE V. WADE ANNIVERSARY — WHERE ARE WE NOW?

TOM LAMPRECHT:  Harry, it’s been 45 years since the United States Supreme Court made its decision on Roe v. Wade. There have been literally millions of unborn children who have gone into eternity.

Harry, as we look back on this case and what has happened to the United States and what has happened to our culture and our morals; give us some reflection and, here, in 2018, are you optimistic, perhaps, the tide has turned on this issue?

DR. REEDER: Well, I am in one sense and I’m not on another. For instance, there was a recent survey that was just done and they acknowledged that at least two-thirds of the people in the United States believe that some form of restrictions ought to be placed upon abortion. I would say to all of my pro-life friends and fellow activists on this issue, there’s nothing wrong with finding common ground with people who are, basically, pro-abortion but believe in restrictions – just realize that, if you get a law passed based on a restriction but it is not fully honoring the sanctity of life from conception on, just realize that you haven’t won the final victory, but there’s nothing wrong in saving some lives in order to move to saving all of the lives and to, again, reaffirm the virtue of the sanctity of live, ultimately, in society.

I’m also positive, Tom, because the maturing response of this among believers, believers are learning how to enter into this issue in a winsome way, but a bold way, a courageous way and a pointedly effective way. And we have learned a maturing on this issue in dealing with it, the breadth of responses.

Whenever you have a heinous foundational sin that is attempted to be embraced by a culture as a way of life so that the unthinkable is thinkable, that is, the destruction of the most innocent and defenseless of all, and that is those in the womb, who ought to be in the safest place of all but now has become a place in which a full-out assault upon them has been made to the point that it is estimated that well over 20 percent of those babies conceived are aborted today.

By the way, the cultural elite pinpoint the African-American community in the promotion of abortion, consistent with its roots in the eugenics movement of Margaret Sanger, the patron saint of Planned Parenthood. When this is embraced, there are multiple consequences and, thankfully, the Christian community is seeing this.

PROGRESS IN CLINICS CLOSING

Tom, one time in the height of the pro-abortion movement, there were approximately 5,000 clinics promoting and doing abortion. We are now down to less than 2,000 – around 1,800 – and I praise the Lord for that. A number of states only have one or two of these clinics. Some states are now free from any abortuaries at all. The crisis pregnancy centers now number almost 3,000. The women pay nothing to participate in them and there is no taxpayer support of them. Pro-life people have provided twice as many women’s health centers available to women than the tax-supported, fee-based Planned Parenthood clinics that are only disguised abortuaries and, in some cases, body part-selling industries.

BE AWARE OF WHAT PRO-LIFERS FACE IN CANADA

I am grateful for the progress that is there. I am grateful for the maturity of how believers are able to deal with this issue in the public square. Praise the Lord, at least we’re able to save these children, one by one, and we have made significant progress, but we need to be in a society that affirms the sanctity of life.

Our neighbor to the north, Canada, the prime minister is doing town hall meetings and this is what he says: “Oh, I will protect the right for you to believe in a pro-life position in your home and in your heart, but you are not allowed to bring to bear what you believe in the public square to try to affect public policy. I am going to protect the ‘right of women’ to abort their children. I am going to protect that by not allowing anyone who believes in a pro-life position to speak in public. You will be guilty of hate speech and you will be fined and it will be criminalized.” Now that’s our neighbor to the north.

PROGRESS IN JUDICIAL PROSPECTS

My last point of thankfulness, at least at this point, courageous and thoughtful and prayerful believers can now be engaged in the sanctity of life and there is some hope that the recent significant number of appointed Federal Courts of Appeals judges by the current administration and the Supreme Court may finally be tilted toward affirming the right to life in our society and the full embrace of our Declaration of Independence that declares the God-given inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

PROGRESS IN TRULY PRO-LIFE ADMINISTRATION

Tom, finally, while people know I have been and will continue to be appropriately critical of the current administration from a Christian world and life view, I cannot help but affirm the reality that this president has done more in one year for the pro-life movement than “pro-life” presidents did in eight years of office.

He has removed the mandated abortion support in Obamacare. He has removed the threat of financial penalties upon states who defund Planned Parenthood and has given permission to states to defund Planned Parenthood. He has affirmed justices and appointed justices that are originalists in the interpretation of the Constitution and, therefore, affirming life. He has authorized the investigation of the Justice Department of Planned Parenthood and, in that investigation, he has, particularly, affirmed the search for the evidence of Planned Parenthood trafficking body parts through the abortion industry.

Finally, Tom – and this is no small matter – the vice president, Michael Pence, has arrived and has spoken at the pro-life rallies. Even pro-life presidents would not appear, nor members of their cabinet and vice-presidents, at these pro-life rallies, but Michael Pence does under the approval of President Trump so I’m grateful for all of that.

MORE EVANGELISM NEEDED TO CHANGE HEARTS

Those are the things that encourage me. What discourages me is the assault upon unborn life and what it does to the coarsening of the heart and soul of a nation. Tom, I have an offer to anyone who listens to this program.

The legal affirmation of the assault upon an unwanted category of human beings in this world, the state-affirmed legal assault upon a category of human beings for a genocidal destruction of their life – all of you who thought that was horrendous in Nazi Germany, please tell me what is different from what is done in this horrific assault upon 6 million Jews; please tell me what is different upon the same state-supported, culturally-affirmed assault upon the unwanted, deemed-undesirable category of human beings called unborn life – not 6 million, but over 60 million now.

As long as we as a nation countenance this, we are in desperate need of the delivering power of our God. If God came down to judge the slaying of one man and his innocent blood when Cain slew Abel and it said, “God came down because the blood cried up to heaven to be avenged with justice,” what does it look like for 60 million statements of destroyed life and their blood crying up to heaven from our nation?

I am pleading with God, do not bring judgment upon us. I am pleading with God, please bring a Gospel awakening so that, through evangelism and discipleship, we will again embrace life – life – to the glory of God, life made in the image of God.

COMING UP TOMORROW: BIBLICAL PASSAGES IN ACTION NOW

TOM LAMPRECHT:  Harry, we are out of time for today. On Tuesday’s edition of Today in Perspective, I want to take you to two real-life stories that paint incredible pictures for Biblical truth: one dealing with “untold riches that are ours,” the other dealing with “be sure your sins will find you out.”

DR. REEDER: Yeah, that’ll be tomorrow. I’ll look forward to being with you, Tom.

Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.

This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin. Jessica is editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News. Jessica has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and her work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.

1
11 months ago

Alabama ranks 10th most affected state by the partial federal government shutdown

(YHN)

Alabama ranks the 10th most affected state as a result of the current partial federal government shutdown, according to an analysis by Wallethub.

Note to limited government conservatives: The shutdown’s effects serve as a stark reminder of Alabama’s economic reliance upon the federal government.

The details:

— Wallethub used six key metrics to determine which states are being most affected, including each’s share of federal jobs and contracts, access to federal lending programs, and percentages of children reliant upon the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

— Congress is still looking for a long-term solution for CHIP, putting those who rely on the program at risk as it remains unfunded.

— Huntsville’s Redstone Arsenal is being affected with furloughs and other disruptions to operations, Leada Gore of AL.com has reported.

— When the government shutdown in 2013, the arsenal’s 12,000 federal employees were furloughed, as well as the many civilian contractors who were affected.

— The Alabama Policy Institute released a study last fall that showed while Alabama relies on the federal government for 42 percent of its budget, a large majority of Republican primary voters surveyed considered it important for the state to become less dependent on federal dollars.

(Do you think Alabama should become more self-reliant? Take this article over to social media and start a conversation with your family and friends).

1
11 months ago

A US-Turkish clash in Syria?

President Donald J. Trump and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey at the United Nations General Assembly (White House)

President Donald J. Trump and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey at the United Nations General Assembly (White House)

 
 
The war for dominance in the Middle East, following the crushing of ISIS, appears about to commence in Syria — with NATO allies America and Turkey on opposing sides.

Turkey is moving armor and troops south to Syria’s border enclave of Afrin, occupied by Kurds, to drive them out, and then drive the Syrian Kurds out of Manbij further south as well.

Says President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, “We will destroy all terror nests, one by one, in Syria, starting from Afrin and Manbij.”

For Erdogan, the Kurdish YPG, the major U.S. ally in Syria, is an arm of the Kurdish PKK in Turkey, which we and the Turks have designated as a terrorist organization.

While the Kurds were our most effective allies against ISIS in Syria, Turkey views them as a mortal peril and intends to deal with that threat.

If Erdogan is serious, a clash with the U.S. is coming, as our Kurdish allies occupy most of Syria’s border with Turkey.

Moreover, the U.S. has announced plans to create a 30,000-man Border Security Force of Kurds and Arabs to keep ISIS out of Syria.

Erdogan has branded this BSF a “terror army,” and President Bashar Assad of Syria has called BSF members “traitors.”

This U.S. plan to create a BSF inside Syria, Damascus declared, “represents a blatant attack on the sovereignty and territorial integrity and unity of Syria, and a flagrant violation of international law.”

Does not the Syrian government have a point?

Now that ISIS has been driven out of Raqqa and Syria, by what authority do U.S. forces remain to arm troops to keep the Damascus government from reimposing its authority on its own territory?

Secretary of State Tillerson gave Syria the news Wednesday.

The U.S. troop commitment to Syria, he said, is now open-ended.

Our goals: Guarantee al-Qaida and ISIS do not return and set up sanctuary; cope with rising Iranian influence in Damascus; and pursue the removal of Bashar Assad’s ruthless regime.

But who authorized this strategic commitment, of indefinite duration, in Syria, when near two decades in Afghanistan have failed to secure that nation against the return of al-Qaida and ISIS?

Again and again, the American people have said they do not want to be dragged into Syria’s civil war. Donald Trump won the presidency on a promise of no more unnecessary wars.

Have the American people been had again?

Will they support a clash with NATO ally Turkey, to keep armed Kurds on Turkey’s border, when the Turks regard them as terrorists?

Are we prepared for a shooting war with a Syrian army, backed by Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and Shiite militias from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, to hold onto a fourth of Syria’s territory in alliance with Kurds?

The U.S. coalition in Syria said this week the BSF will be built up “over the next several years” and “be stationed along the borders … to include portions of the Euphrates river valley and international borders to the east and north.”

Remarkable: A U.S.-created border army is going to occupy and control long stretches of Syria’s borders with Turkey and Iraq, over Syria’s objections. And the U.S. military will stand behind the BSF.

Are the 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria really up to that task, should the Turks decide to cleanse the Syrian border of Kurds, or should the Syrian regime decide to take back territory occupied by the Kurds?

Who sanctioned this commitment to a new army, which, if Syria and its Russian and Iranian allies, and the Turks, do not all back down, risks a major U.S. war with no allies but the Kurds?

As for Syria’s Kurds casting their lot with the Americans, one wonders: Did they not observe what happened when their Iraqi cousins, after helping us drive ISIS out of Mosul, were themselves driven out of Kirkuk by the Iraqi army, as their U.S. allies watched?

In the six-year Syrian civil war, which may be about to enter a new phase, America faces a familiar situation.

While our “allies” and adversaries have vital interests there, we do not. The Assads have been in power for the lifetime of most Americans. And we Americans have never shown a desire to fight there.

Assad has a vital interest: preservation of his family regime and the reunification of his country. The Turks have a vital interest in keeping armed Kurds out of their border regions adjacent to their own Kurdish minority, which seeks greater independence.

The Israelis and Saudi royals want the U.S. to keep Iran from securing a land bridge from Tehran to Damascus to Lebanon.

The U.S. War Party wants us to smash Iran and remain in the Middle East forever to assure the hegemony of its favorites.

Have the generals taking us into Syria told the president how and when, if ever, they plan to get us out?

Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of a new book, “Nixon’s White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever.” 

COPYRIGHT 2018 CREATORS.COM

 

1
11 months ago

Dale Jackson’s 7 Things: Your government is still shutdown, Alabama senator Doug Jones votes with Republicans, Legislators want you to pay for an ex-legislator association, and more …

(Speaker Paul Ryan)
(Speaker Paul Ryan)

 

The 7 Things You Should Be Talking About Today

1. The United States of America’s government is still closed

— Trump, Ryan, and McConnell have made it clear they will not include the DACA/DREAMer issue in the deal to end the shutdown, but they appear ready to negotiate on the issue by February 8th.

— A vote will take place today at noon EST and it appears some who voted for the shutdown, like Jeff Flake, Lindsey Graham, and more, have come around to ending the shutdown.

— House Speaker Paul Ryan says the House has agreed to a deal that would keep the government open.

2. Alabama Democrat Doug Jones bucks his own party, sides with Senate Republicans

— As the nation moved toward a shutdown, people asked where Alabama’s newest senator stood on keeping the government open; his office was mum.

— When the vote took place in the Senate, Doug Jones was 1 of 5 Democrats to vote with the Republicans to pass a continuing resolution.

— Senators Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Claire McCaskill of Missouri all voted with Jones and against Democrats.

3. Democrats have made this all about “DREAMers

— Most in the media and in Congress say there are 800,000 that could be affected by a deal giving legal status to illegal immigrants.

— The real number is apparently much higher, with the Migration Policy Institute placing the number at 3.6 million.

— No one can be clear what type of bill can actually pass both chambers — if one can — in spite of all the certainty with which all sides speak.

4. The real world impact of the tax cuts could have a huge impact on the midterms

— Most of the media coverage leading up to the massive tax cut vote early this month centered around how the average Americans were going to get screwed by the tax cuts.

— Since the signing of the bill, hundreds of corporations have announced huge re-investment programs and cited the tax cuts as the reason for these moves.

— As Americans see these stories, their attitude towards Congressional Republicans has become more favorable; Democrats have lost 7 points and Republicans have gained 6 points.

5. Some of Alabama’s heavy-hitters want to start a taxpayer-supported ex-legislators association

— A bill to create “The Association of Former Members of the Alabama Legislature” has been proposed in both chambers of the Alabama legislature.

— The group’s employees will not be paid by the state, but their employees would get state retirement benefits.

— According to the bill, the association will “work in cooperation with incumbent members of the Alabama Legislature, through the offices of the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, to create a better understanding of the legislative process throughout the state.”

6. With #ReleaseTheMemo gaining steam, FBI loses 5 months of text messages from an agent removed for being political

— Lost in all of the government shutdown talk is the controversy surrounding a memo that allegedly lays out malfeasance in the Obama DOJ and the Comey FBI regarding President Trump’s campaign and transition.

— Muddying the waters further is news that an FBI agent removed from Robert Mueller’s team for inappropriate text messages had 5 months of his text messages lost because they “failed to preserve” them.

— Peter Strzok and his mistress exchanged anti-Trump and pro-Clinton texts while Strzok worked on the investigation into Hillary Clinton; messages included revelations that some in the FBI were discussing an “insurance policy” in the event Trump got elected.

7. Governor Kay Ivey appoints Circuit Judge Brad Mendheim to Alabama Supreme Court

— Judge Mendheim has served 17 years as a judge at a district court and county circuit level.

— Ivey tweeted, “I’m pleased to appoint Circuit Judge Brad Mendheim to serve on the Alabama Supreme Court. With more than 17 years of judicial experience, he will bring the valuable knowledge of a trial judge to the highest court in AL.”

— This is the last time you will think about this position.

1
11 months ago

Gov’t shutdown forces cancellation of Alabama congressional town halls (Update: Mo Brooks town hall canceled as well)

(U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne/Facebook)

[tps_footer][/tps_footer]

(U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne/Facebook)

[Second update added, see below]

The federal government shutdown had perhaps its first noticeable impact on Alabama on Sunday. According to a tweet from Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) and later confirmed to Yellowhammer News by Byrne’s office, Byrne has canceled two town hall meetings scheduled for Monday.

One was to be held in Monroe County’s Frisco City and the other in Baldwin County’s Bay Minette.

At the other end of the state, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) had a town hall meeting scheduled for Monday as well. As of 10 p.m. local time, Brooks’ office had not responded to Yellowhammer News’ query about the status of the meeting scheduled to be held at Oak Park Middle School in Decatur for 6:30 p.m.

UPDATE, 10 a.m. CT: A spokesman for Brooks’ office told Yellowhammer News Monday morning the plan was for Brooks 6:30 p.m. CT town hall to go on as scheduled.

UPDATE, 4 p.m. CT: Per Mo Brooks’ office, the meeting is now canceled.

Jeff Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and works as the editor of Breitbart TV. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeff_poor.

1
11 months ago

Should Alabama be next? Florida State Reps voting on whether porn is a health risk

(Pixabay)
(Pixabay)

 

Florida lawmakers are voting on whether the state should declare pornography a public health risk, according to a resolution which passed a House committee Thursday.

The resolution, sponsored by Republican Rep. Ross Spano, would require education, research and policy changes in order to keep Floridians away from the potential risks of pornography, Fox 13 reported. The House Health & Human Services Committee passed the resolution by an overwhelming 18-1 vote.

“Research has found a correlation between pornography use and mental and physical illnesses, difficulty forming and maintaining intimate relationships, unhealthy brain development and cognitive function, and deviant, problematic or dangerous sexual behavior,” Spano said before the committee.

The resolution says there is an increase in demand for prostitution due to pornography and also states children continue to get exposed to pornography at younger ages because of new technology. The resolution also states that children are more likely to develop an eating disorder.

Republican Rep. Cary Pigman, was the only representative who voted against the resolution. Pigman is a doctor and said there are more serious diseases on which the state should focus.

“We have problems with hypertension, with obesity, with diabetes, with Zika. We have a whole list of things that are important medically. I’m not so sure that we need to spend legislative time annunciating a specific complaint when we have others that are far more pressing,” Pigman said.

A similar Senate resolution also reportedly exists, but it has yet to be heard in a committee.

(Henry Rodgers/Daily Caller News Foundation)

 Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.
Yellowhammer Note: A similar bill was introduced in the Alabama House of Representatives by Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison (D-Birmingham). Read the bill here
1
11 months ago

House Dems force vote on Bradley Byrne’s ‘Schumer Shutdown’ sign display on House floor

(Screenshot / CSPAN)

 

(Screenshot / CSPAN)

 

On Saturday Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) had a floor speech about the government shutdown interrupted because Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) claimed a poster he had on display was “disparaging to a member of the Senate.”

Byrne had a red poster featuring a 2013 quote from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) describing a shutdown as the “politics of idiocy, of confrontation, of paralysis.”

Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.), who was presiding over the House ruled the poster was allowed, to which Perlmutter appealed and insisted on a vote.

The House voted 224-173 to find Byrne’s poster was in order.

After the vote and Byrne resumed, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) interrupted and alleged Byrne was out of order upon referencing comments from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who had described the previous House continuing resolution as “doggy doo.”

After some commotion on the floor, Lewis said, “We all need to be a little more human, a little more patient, and in order to have civility among all of us, I withdraw my objection.”

After that nearly 40-minute ordeal, Byrne completed his speech and yielded the floor.

Jeff Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and works as the editor of Breitbart TV. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeff_poor.

1
11 months ago

Yellowhammer Presents: Guerrilla Politics … Shutdown blame, Luther Strange and Alabama Supreme Court, Toyota-Mazda credit, and more!

 

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

— Discussing who is to blame for the government shutdown

— How there’s no way for Luther Strange to get an Alabama Supreme Court seat

— the debate on who really gets credit for Toyota-Mazda bringing jobs to Alabama, and more.

Dale closes the show with a “Parting Shot” directed to Apple CEO Tim Cook asking him to bring Apple jobs to Alabama.

1