The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather

    Excerpt:

    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower

    Excerpt:

    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships

    Excerpt:

    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

Byrne: A new Middle East?

(National Archives/Contributed, Wikicommons, White House/Flickr, YHN)

Last week when I wrote about some good news, I mentioned the recent peace deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates negotiated by the Trump administration. Just days after I wrote those words another Middle Eastern nation, Bahrain, reached a peace agreement with Israel, again negotiated by the Trump administration. What do these and other recent developments say about the Middle East?

First, let’s go back 11 years to the beginning of the Obama administration. President Obama gave a speech in Cairo calling for a “New Beginning” in the Middle East and undertook major efforts to reach out to the Arab world, including Iran, our major adversary in the region. But, the “New Beginning” was ultimately a series of terrible mistakes.

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Over the Obama administration’s tenure, the U.S. relationship with Israel, normally very good, grew sour as Obama pressured the Israelis over settlements in Palestinian claimed areas and issues in Gaza. He angered Saudi Arabia and its allies in the Persian Gulf, which normally lean to the U.S., by naively agreeing to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action allowing Iran to develop nuclear capability limited, for a time, to “peaceful” use only. Obama backed protesters’ demands for the removal of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, a staunch U.S. partner, which facilitated the end of Mubarak’s pro-U.S. government only to be replaced by the Muslim Brotherhood, a terrorist group. When the Egyptian military overthrew the Brotherhood and one of the generals, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, became president, Obama withheld promised military assistance and then insisted they pay cash, which only worsened a strained relationship with a key regional ally.

Obama told Syria that using chemical weapons against its people was a “red line” which would trigger a U.S. military response but then backed off the threat when they did. He prematurely drew down the U.S. military presence in Iraq only to go back in as ISIS arose and took half the country. Afghanistan was at best a stalemate. And, in Libya, he used the U.S. military to attack Muammar Ghaddafi’s regime, which was toppled, and Ghaddafi was killed; Libya plunged into an ongoing brutal civil war that led to the murder of American diplomatic personnel in Benghazi.

I personally witnessed the difficulties Obama’s policies caused when I traveled to the Middle East with other members of the House Armed Services Committee in the summer of 2014. We met with King Abdullah of Jordan, President al-Sisi, and Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel. We talked with other Middle Eastern leaders as well and received in country briefings from our diplomatic staff in each country. We were careful not to undermine U.S. policies in these meetings, but it was clear those policies constituted a terrible blunder.

In the summer of 2016, I participated in an intensive policy conference on the Middle East in London and was convinced the next president needed a better set of policies which would restore good relations with our normal allies, defeat ISIS, and push back on Iran. Most of the experts at the conference assumed that president would be Hilary Clinton. They were wrong.

What President Trump has done is reverse Obama’s failed policies in the Middle East. His first trip abroad was to Saudi Arabia to meet with our Gulf allies and repair those broken relationships. He pulled the U.S. out of the ill-advised Iran deal and took out their point man in sponsoring terrorism around the region this past January. He has healed our relationship with Israel and moved our embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. I was in Jerusalem last summer, met with Prime Minister Netanyahu, and saw the improvement firsthand. Our renewed good relationships with Muslim allies and Trump’s Israel peace initiative paved the way for the agreements with UAE and Bahrain.

And let’s not forget that ISIS as a country dominating caliphate was defeated on Trump’s watch, allowing us to reduce our troop presence in Iran to just 3,000 this fall. And his initiative with the Taliban in Afghanistan is bringing the prospects for real peace closer than they have been in decades. Our troop presence there will drop this fall by half to just 4,500.

In short, the Trump administration’s reversal of Obama’s policies in the Middle East have resulted in much better relations with our allies and friends there, growing peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors, the defeat of ISIS, reduced troop numbers, and a much weakened Iran. The Middle East is no longer Arabs versus Israel as it had been for so long, but is now the U.S., our Arab allies, and Israel versus Iran and its terrorist groups. It’s a big move towards peace and away from terrorism and war. The Trump policies made the way for the beginning of a new Middle East.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

2 days ago

How the Constitution keeps us free

(J. Mitchell/Contributed, PIxabay, YHN)

The summer of 1787 was a pivotal moment in American history. Our young nation had defeated the British in a bloody revolution but was struggling through the early years of independence. The Founding Fathers gathered in Philadelphia to determine how to put the nation on better footing, with a government that would function capably while protecting our God-given rights. On September 17, after months of debate, the Constitution emerged. Its success was far from certain. But 233 years later, it proudly endures – and it has created the greatest environment for ordered liberty the world has ever known.

What makes our Constitution exceptional? Some point to the Bill of Rights. Of course, those first ten amendments guarantee our rights to freely exercise religion, to exercise the freedom of speech, to keep and bear arms, and to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. But other constitutions around the globe have similar “guarantees.” Take for instance the constitution of North Korea, which supposedly protects its citizens’ rights to freedom of “speech, press, assembly, demonstration, and association,” and “the inviolability of the person.” We all know those promises are worthless, which explains why our Founders considered bills of rights, without more, to be mere “parchment guarantees.”

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The Constitution stands apart because it created a structure that secures liberty. Our Founding Fathers were students of history, and they knew that the concentration of power was inherently dangerous. As James Madison observed, “the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands … is the very definition of tyranny.” So instead of relying exclusively on promises made by the government, the Founders designed a constitutional framework that would provide what Madison called “a double security” for individual rights. They accomplished this by dividing power in two directions – horizontally within the federal government and vertically with the states. It certainly created a slower lawmaking process, but sacrificing speed for liberty was a trade-off the Founders were more than happy to make.

Many today criticize the sluggishness of our system of government without acknowledging the security it provides for individual rights. At the national level, if one branch of government had the power to make, execute, and interpret the law, there would be no protection for those whose rights were violated. Our Founding Fathers keenly understood this danger because they had led the revolution to overthrow the tyranny of the British crown. By separating power among three branches of the federal government – legislative, executive, and judicial – it would be harder to oppress citizens because each branch would check the others.

But the Founders didn’t stop there. To ensure liberty, they added another layer of protection: federalism. Instead of a centralized, top-down system, we would have a government of co-sovereigns with distinct spheres of power. The Constitution would constrain the federal government by limiting it to the exercise of specific, enumerated powers; the other appropriate functions of government would remain with the states. With that arrangement, power would be kept close to the people so that government could be held accountable if it dared to trample on our rights.

Let’s be grateful this Constitution Day for the wisdom of our Founders in dividing the powers of government. Our rights come from above – and the Constitution will continue to protect them, as long as we uphold the structural safeguards that allow our republic to flourish.

Jay Mitchell is an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of Alabama.

5 days ago

Alabama Court System about to resume jury trials after six month delay

(Pixabay, Paul Demarco/Facebook, YHN)

Throughout the pandemic, most of Alabama state government has continued to operate.

There are still state troopers patrolling the highways, elections held, unemployment compensation paid and the state parks have stayed open in a limited manner. Roads are still being paved and the state offices have been back up and running this summer.

Yet, one of the most important functions of any government has been on hold since the pandemic started and that is jury trials in the Alabama Court System.

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The past six months have seen the halt of jury trials to stop the spread of the coronavirus, but on September 14, the Alabama Supreme Court is allowing jury trials to proceed forward. There will be a lot of discretion given on a county by county basis on what happens at the local courthouses, including the wearing of masks, gloves, and distancing procedures.

Some counties are proceeding forward, while others will continue to delay jury trials. Criminal trials will be the priority for some circuits in the foreseeable future.

Even with the Court allowing jury trials to proceed, the question will be whether citizens will answer those summons and will they feel safe to serve on a jury. For those individuals who are summoned to serve on a jury, judges will maintain the discretion to excuse or defer an individual’s service.

For the justice system to operate fairly, it is important to return to allowing juries to convene and hear cases. However, it must be done in a manner that is safe for not only the judge and jury, but also to everyone in the courtroom from the prosecutors to the bailiffs and court reporters.

Let’s hope we can get back to the judicial branch operating as fully as it was before the pandemic, but in a safe manner for all involved.

Paul DeMarco is a former member of the Alabama House of Representatives

6 days ago

Guest Opinion: The party platforms changed my mind. They might change yours, too

(API/Contributed, YHN)

“If you never change your mind, why have one?”

A few weeks ago, I was dead set on how I would vote in the presidential election in November. More accurately, perhaps, I was dead set on how I would not vote.

Today, I’m not so sure.

Some might accuse me of being wishy-washy or uncommitted. Another millennial who can’t make a decision.

I hear that. And I agree that wildly shifting your opinions on matters of virtue, what is right and wrong, may signal a lack of mental fortitude.

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But for whom you or I vote is not a matter of moral right and wrong. It’s not black and white. In fact, it’s more like shades of gray on a gray background.

On these things, where right and wrong are not clear, changing our minds is perhaps one of the most beautiful things a human can do. It’s a gracious “wow, I didn’t know that before” vs. a harsh “no, I will not believe that.” The former is a sign of wisdom, the latter is evidence of stubborn pride.

As for how I will vote in November, the change came in part from reading the Democratic and Republican platforms. I spent the better part of a week, in fact, studying the platforms as part of a project for the Alabama Policy Institute, where I’ve worked for several years and where, despite being a conservative organization, I’ve never been told how to vote.

Now the truth is that we don’t know whether either party intends to follow their platform if given power. In what is the most realistic portrayal of Washington, D.C. I’ve ever seen on television, Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ character in “VEEP” calls her own party’s platform “a to-do list of things we’re not gonna do.”

Even so, judging politicians’ motives is not our role (only God judges the heart), so we’ve got to work with what we’ve been given. And what we’ve been given are two starkly different visions for America.

A few examples.

First is abortion. The Republican platform seeks to eliminate legal abortion through a human life amendment to the Constitution while the Democratic platform seeks to expand both federal funding for and the availability of abortion through repealing the Title X gag rule, which prohibited Title X family planning funds from going to organizations that refer women to abortion, and by repealing the federal Hyde Amendment, a long-standing legislative provision barring federal funds from paying for most abortions. If given its way, the Republican platform would ban abortion. The Democratic one would expand it.

Second is religious liberty. Both the Democratic and Republican platforms agree that religious liberty is an essential American value. The Democratic platform, however, would require Christian adoption agencies to place children in homes with same-sex parents, Muslim photographers to work at same-sex weddings, and Catholic charities to provide abortion coverage in their healthcare plans. The Republican platform opposes all of this.

Third is education. The Republican platform would allow parents to use their education tax dollars to go to the school that best fits their children’s needs. For students in urban Birmingham, programs like the Alabama Accountability Act’s tax credit scholarships are lifesavers. The Democratic platform, however, opposes any form of private school choice and would eliminate this and other programs if given the opportunity and would instead more heavily fund already-existing public schools.

On these three issues, the party platforms are on opposite ends of the spectrum. And the truth is that a lot of the issues are like that. The Democrats want to create more government programs while the Republicans want to eliminate them. The Republicans suggest international refugees should have to go through an even more stringent resettlement process while the Democrats hope to create a minimum refugee resettlement quota. The Democrats support the Paris Climate Agreement while the Republicans oppose it.

The truth is that neither of the platforms line up completely with what I would consider a biblical worldview: one that values life from conception to natural death, supports the relief of the poor, and gives credibility to the spread of the Gospel to all nations.

There are, however, certain issues where one party stands strongly in line with my worldview while the other is vehemently opposed. And I just can’t ignore that.

After hours of studying these platforms, I came out thinking differently than before.

There’s nothing wrong with that. And I think there’s value in every single voter getting a first-hand look at the positions of each party before they vote in November.

That said, I would not put yourself through reading all 158 pages of the party platforms. A lot of it is unscrupulous platitudes about the other side. There are important policy positions, however, hidden in between the attacks.

To help voters this election year, the Alabama Policy Institute has put together a side-by-side comparison of the party platforms on issues ranging from abortion to gay marriage, taxes to immigration, gun control to the environment. We’ve organized it and put it together in one package that is easy to navigate and will, hopefully, give you something to think about.

Because the truth is that none of us ever has the full picture. It is our responsibility, though, to unfold as much of it as we can. The party platforms are undoubtedly part of that bigger picture. And if they can change my mind, they might change yours, too.

To see an issue-by-issue comparison of the party platforms, click here or visit alabamapolicy.org.

Parker Snider is Director of Policy Analysis for the Alabama Policy Insitute.

Guest Opinion: Completing the Census, voting part of every Alabamian’s civic duty

(Governor's Office/Hal Yeager)

September 17 marks 233 years since the signing of the U.S. Constitution in 1787, the document that sets up our form of government. It is the most impactful government charter in the modern world and is a model for many others.

The final major battle of the Revolutionary War happened in 1781 at Yorktown, Virginia. That year, U.S. citizens officially began their post-colonial government under the Articles of Confederation. Under the Articles, the closest we had to a chief executive was the president of Congress. We had 10 of those in a seven and a half year period, none of whom were George Washington. It became the general consensus that the Articles needed revision.

In the summer of 1787, delegates from all states except Rhode Island met in Philadelphia with a mandate to revise the Articles. Instead, they produced a new document that set up a new form of government. The Constitution was ratified the following year. In early 1789, Washington was elected our first president and took office on April 30.

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The Founding Fathers knew that the Constitution needed amendments. Twelve were proposed initially and 10 of those were adopted, becoming the Bill of Rights. Interestingly, the first two proposed amendments were not ratified at that time. What we know today as the First Amendment was actually the third amendment proposed. What was the second proposed amendment was not ratified until 1992 as the 27th Amendment.

The Constitution and its amendments provide for a government “of the people, by the people, for the people,” according to President Lincoln. We have the most guarantees of freedom of any citizens in any country at any time in history. We are a blessed people. Our Founding Fathers brilliantly left us with a republic that has persevered and that can persevere. Our duty backward to them is to honor their commitment to their descendants by recognizing and implementing our common cause, a cause in common with them and with one another, to ensure Jefferson’s, and America’s, vision of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

But our duty “to make a more perfect union” is greater still at present and looking forward. We owe it to one another to have the best, most informed, most efficient government possible. We owe it to our descendants to leave our government in a better condition than it was delivered to us. In other words, we have a duty and an obligation to be involved in the government that has our collective consent. We have a duty to be active citizens.

There are several ways for us to fulfill this duty: military service and first responder service rank among the highest ways. Jury service, a subject dear to me, is a rewarding, and taxing, way to contribute. This year, we have two additional ways: responding to the Census and voting.

The Constitution provides for an “enumeration” to be made “within every subsequent Term of ten years.” In other words, we are to have a census every 10 years. We do this in order to accurately determine how to allocate members of the House of Representatives among the states. The Census is also used to determine the allocation of federal funds for grants and various appropriations. It is important, vital even, to the efficient operation of our government that each of us responds appropriately to the Census before the end of September.

Voting needs no description and to do so should require little convincing. You may see it as your duty to those who have defended our freedoms with their lives. You may see it ensuring your “right to complain” so long as you voted. I see it as my duty as an American to continue, for the present and for the future, the advancement of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The “new nation conceived in liberty” that was brought forth in the late 18th century embodied ideals citizens strived to achieve for thousands of years.

The nation did not arise as a superpower and its place in the world was not assured. We ought to consider the ambition of those who worked to create the country we have and be inspired by their commitment to advancement. Let us make that same commitment and act with that same ambition in many ways as active citizens. The first steps are to educate ourselves about candidates and issues and then, with planning and intent, to cast our vote.

I encourage you this fall, as citizens with access to resources and knowledge unparalleled in history, to answer the Census and cast your vote. And if you should receive a jury summons, help out our justice system as well.

Jeremy S. Taylor serves as Circuit Judge for the Ninth Judicial Circuit of Alabama, which includes Cherokee and DeKalb Counties

Auburn student center named for Harold Melton, first Auburn SGA president of color

(Auburn University/Contributed, YHN)

1987 was a quiet year for elections across America but not at Auburn. That was the year Harold Melton, a student in international studies and Spanish, launched and won a campaign to become the first African American president of the Auburn Student Government Association, winning with more than 65 percent of the vote.

This was just the first of many important roles Harold Melton would play at Auburn and in an extraordinarily successful legal career in his home state of Georgia, where his colleagues on the Georgia Supreme Court elected him as chief justice.

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Last week, the Auburn Board of Trustees unanimously named the Auburn student center for Justice Melton, the first building on campus that honors a person of color. The decision was reached as part of a larger effort to demonstrate Auburn’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

In June, Auburn named two task forces to study diversity and inclusion issues. We co-chair the task force for the Auburn Board with our work taking place concurrently with that of a campus-based task force organized by President Jay Gogue. Other members of the Board task force are retired Army general Lloyd Austin, bank president Bob Dumas, former principal and educator Sarah B. Newton and Alabama Power executive Quentin P. Riggins.

These groups are embarking on a process that offers all Auburn stakeholders a voice, seeking input from students, faculty, staff, alumni, elected officials and more. It will include a fact-based review of Auburn’s past and present, and we will provide specific recommendations for the future.

We are committed to making real progress based on solid facts. Unlike other universities in the state, Auburn has a presence in all 67 counties through the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. Our review has included not only our campuses in Auburn and Montgomery but all properties across our state. To date, we have found no monuments or statues recognizing the history that has divided our country. We will continue our fact-finding mission with input from the academic and research community.

Our university and leadership are committed to doing the right thing, for the right reasons, at the right time. We believe now is the right time, and we are already seeing results.

In addition to naming the student center for the Honorable Harold Melton, we have taken steps to highlight the significant role played by Harold Franklin, the student who integrated Auburn. We are working to enhance the historical marker that pays tribute to Mr. Franklin, and we are raising its visibility in campus tours as we pay homage to his contributions as our first African American student. Last month, we awarded Mr. Franklin, now 86, a long-overdue master’s degree for the studies he completed at Auburn so many years ago.

We likewise endorsed a student-led initiative creating the National Pan-Hellenic Council Legacy Plaza, which will recognize the contributions of Black Greek organizations and African American culture on our campus.

In the coming months, Auburn men and women will work together to promote inclusion to further enhance our student experience and build on our strength through diversity. The results of this work will be seen and felt throughout the institution in how we recruit our students, provide scholarships and other financial support and ensure a culture of inclusion in all walks of university life.

Our goal is to identify and implement substantive steps that will make a real difference at Auburn, impact our communities and stand the test of time.

Naming the student center for Justice Melton is but one example. In response to this decision, he said, “Auburn University has already given me everything I ever could have hoped for in a university and more. This honor is beyond my furthest imagination.”

Our job as leaders at Auburn is more than honoring the Harold Meltons and Harold Franklins who played a significant role in the history of our university. It is also to create an inclusive environment that serves our student body and to establish a lasting legacy where all members of the Auburn Family reach their fullest potential in their careers and in life.

Elizabeth Huntley and James Pratt are members of the Auburn University Board of Trustees and serve as co-chairs of the trustee task force for diversity and inclusion.

Rogers: Remembering 9/11 as we evaluate today’s emerging threats

(Congressman Mike D. Rogers/Facebook, Wikicommons, YHN)

Nineteen years ago, America awoke on a tranquil Tuesday morning only to have that peace destroyed by terrorists. We pause today to remember the nearly 3,000 Americans who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001. We rise to honor the brave first responders who ran into harm’s way. We mourn with the thousands of Americans who lost loved ones that dreadful day.

We stand with our troops who have taken the battle to our enemies. We remember those that gave the ultimate sacrifice in this fight. Every day is a reminder of the debt we owe to our service members and their families.

On 9/11, America promised to fight back against the incarnation of evil. Our military, intelligence community and law enforcement have done just that. We could not be prouder of their efforts and results, which have led to the death of Osama Bin Laden, the dismantling of ISIS, and the thwarting of numerous plots against the homeland. President Trump and his administration have continued that work and made national security a focal point of his presidency. I’m proud to work with the president and his team to secure our borders, take out terrorists, and reclaim America’s dominance on the global stage.

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But the battle is not over. Threats to our way of life come from every corner of the globe. Domestically and internationally, we’ve seen more threats to our nation in recent years than existed 19 years ago. Foreign countries, like Russia, are trying to interfere in our elections. Terrorist groups are exploiting social media to radicalize folks here at home. China is trying to steal our intellectual property — including research to curb a global pandemic. Iran and North Korea continue to pursue nuclear weapons. Malign cyber actors incessantly attack our businesses, critical infrastructure and economy. Confrontations in space are no longer science fiction but a reality we must face.

Congress must be ready to address these threats. As a senior member on the Armed Services Committee and the ranking member on the Homeland Security Committee, I sit in a unique seat to see all the threats to our nation and the strategies we are employing against them. I have dedicated my career in Congress to ensuring that we never see another 9/11.

It is vital that the men and women fighting day after day to keep us safe have the resources to win the battles of today and tomorrow. For too many years, the Appropriations bills have missed deadlines. The House won’t consider the Homeland Security Appropriations bill this year, again, because of tough political issues for the majority. Congress must do better. We are failing those that protect us.

Congressman Mike Rogers (AL-03) serves in the United States House of Representatives, where he is the ranking member of the Committee on Homeland Security and a senior member of the Armed Services Committee

Roby: We will never forget

(M. Roby/Facebook, Pixabay, YHN)

No American will ever forget where they were and what they were doing on the morning of September 11, 2001. The world changed in an instant before our own eyes, and it is hard to believe these tragic events took place nearly 20 years ago.

Like many, I remember watching the horror unfold on television. I had a feeling of helplessness knowing that people were suffering and dying right before our eyes. No one that experienced the sheer terror of this day will ever forget the feelings that came with it. Though this solemn anniversary brings many terrible emotions with it each year, we all remember the resilience of the American people when we think back to this day and the days that followed. Our people responded in unity, with determination to defend this land and one another.

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The victims of that fateful day and the heroes who emerged will live forever in the hearts of the American people. Today and every day, we remember their brave sacrifice. I hope Alabamians will join me in marking this day by remembering those we lost: the first responders who ran into flaming buildings, the soldiers who volunteered to serve in the aftermath, the bystanders, and many more. My deepest prayers remain with the families of those who lost loved ones.

Although this day brings about grievous memories, I am reminded today of the well-known photograph of three New York City firefighters raising the American flag at Ground Zero of the World Trade Center following the attacks. During the country’s darkest hours, the American flag served as a symbol of hope for a heartbroken nation. This image still stands as a reminder that our country will always persevere, no matter what may come our way.

I encourage you to take some time today to reflect on how our world has changed and to renew our commitment to work together as Americans to ensure the United States remains a nation of greatness, strength and resilience.

Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama, with her husband Riley and their two children.

2 weeks ago

Flowers: Labor Day

(Tommy Tuberville/Facebook, White House/Flickr, PSC/Contributed, YHN)

Labor Day is upcoming on Monday. In bygone days it was the benchmark day for campaign season to start. Historically, Labor Day barbeques were events where political campaigns had their roots. Camp stew and barbequed pork were devoured while folks listened to politicians promise how they were going to bring home the pork.

The most legendary political Labor Day barbeques have been held in the Northwest corner of the state. There were two monumental, legendary barbeque events in that neck of the woods that were a must-go-to event for aspiring and veteran politicians, both locally and statewide.

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The Terry Family Reunion is in the Loosier Community of Lawrence County. This is where the large Terry family originated. Actually, a good many of the folks that attend have kinship or ties to the Terry family. Many of the folks in Lawrence County are kin to each other through the large Terry family.

Every serious candidate for governor or major statewide office made the Terry barbeque. It lasted all day. Some would arrive in helicopters, which garnered attention. Legendary icons like Big Jim Folsom, George Wallace, Bill Baxley, Albert Brewer and Howell Heflin attended every year.

Another Labor Day barbeque was held in that area, which was just as important if not quite as big and wide open as the Terry Event. The legendary L. O. Bishop of Colbert County was known for having a Labor Day barbeque bash. His event was big, but more selective. L.O. was and has been for 60 years a leader in the Alabama Farmers Federation. He would only invite the Alfa-backed candidates. His barbeque is renowned as the best in the state.

Bishop and Howell Heflin were best friends. Heflin became the best friend the Alabama farmer had. Judge Heflin became chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. He did a yeoman’s job for Alabama agriculture.

Senator Heflin was from Colbert County. He was renowned for being a great lawyer, storyteller and judge. Being from Northwest Alabama, he made the event of his best friend L. O. Bishop and the Terry Family Reunion every year. He not only made the events, he stayed there all day, grazed and ate barbeque.

Judge loved to eat. He really loved barbeque. You could tell he liked to eat from his large rotund physique. He considered himself a connoisseur of barbeque. In fact, he toured the state every year and he would plan his schedule so that he could eat at his favorite barbeque places in every corner of the state. When he would get through eating a plate of pork or ribs, he would smack his lips, sigh, wipe his face with his handkerchief and say, “That’s some mighty fine barbeque, it’s almost as good as L.O.’s”

It may be hard for some of you to believe, but after World War II and throughout the 1960s organized labor was king in Alabama, unlike today where most of our large industries are not unionized. During that 20-year period (1946-1966), Alabama was the most unionized state in the South by far. In fact, every major employer in the state of Alabama was a union shop.

Beginning in Northwest Alabama, the Reynolds Aluminum Plant in Sheffield and Florence was union. The Tennessee Valley workers throughout North Alabama were all union. The paper mill and Goodrich Tire Plant in Tuscaloosa were union.

The largest employer in Gadsden, the Goodyear Tire Factory, was union.

The Lee County Tire Manufacturing Plant was union. The military base employees at Ft. Rucker in the wiregrass were union.

The largest employer in Mobile was the state docks. Guess what, Folks? All those workers belong to the union.

The largest employer in Birmingham, as well as the largest employer in the state of Alabama, were the steel mills and U.S. Steel. You guessed it – the steel workers were all unionized. In fact, the Steel Workers Union in Birmingham was the largest in the nation.

The GOP ticket that appears on the ballot in 60 days will be a powerful triumvirate. It has gone under the radar since the presidential and senate races have taken center stage, but popular PSC President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh is up for reelection. Thus, the Republican ticket will feature and illustrious alliteration of Trump/Tuberville/Twinkle, which will be hard to beat in the Heart of Dixie.

Happy Labor Day!

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 15 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

2 weeks ago

Same story, different day

(Good Morning America/YouTube, YHN)

The police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha just months after the death of George Floyd sparked new protests. The video appears to clearly show another excessive and unnecessary use of force. What can we do to enact the reforms needed to curb police misconduct?

Numerous sound reforms have been offered. Secrecy laws protecting officers’ duty records could be relaxed to stop hiding officers with multiple misconduct complaints. The ability of police unions to protect the bad apples to the membership’s detriment could be curbed.

We could also reduce the number of laws the police must enforce. An officer never knows when an encounter could become life-threatening. Consequently, officers might misinterpret erratic or nervous behavior as threatening or mistake a cell phone for a gun. Research by economists shows that likelihood of deadly violence in a police encounter does not depend on a subject’s race; the greater rate of minority deaths stems from more frequent stops and arrests. Systemic racial bias appears to be in the types of activities criminalized.

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Lawmakers could also end qualified immunity, the doctrine under which government employees cannot be sued for doing their jobs. Only where courts create exceptions do government officials face civil liability. Qualified immunity has protected a prison guard who tased an inmate in his cell and a cop who shot a child while trying to shoot a non-threatening dog.

Civil suits provide an alternative to criminal prosecution. Prosecutors are reluctant to file charges against officers and jurors often give police the benefit of the doubt. Lawsuits would make cities pay for bad cops like Derek Chauvin, who had over a dozen complaints against him before he killed George Floyd.

The bigger challenge is enacting reforms. Politicians dutifully promise change after each high-profile case. The lack of change fuels the frustration we have witnessed this summer, reflected in the slogan, “No justice, no peace.”

Ours is a government “by the people,” so what responsibility do we bear then for police misconduct? I study public choice economics, which examines how the information and incentives of votes, politicians and bureaucrats together produce policy. One important insight is how citizens individually do not decide outcomes. No one changes an election with their vote or can induce lawmakers to pass a bill by writing a letter. How exactly citizen sentiment drives government policy is complicated; there is no switch to flip to enact police reforms.

The week following Jacob Blake’s shooting offered two paths toward reform. The first is increasingly violent protests. Of course, most protesters over the past three months have not engaged in violence. A clear line can be drawn; as Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said recently, rioting, looting and setting fires is not protest.

Does a failure of politics as usual justify violent protests? This question is more philosophic than economic. I can offer two observations. Many Minneapolis businesses burned this summer were owned by recent immigrants from Ethiopia and Somalia. The owners were not part of any inner power circle, if you happen to believe that inner circles run things. And violence exacerbates the fears of crime and demands for “law and order” which lead to disregard of police misconduct.

Boycotts staged by players in the NBA, WNBA, NHL and MLB offer a second path. Several prominent NBA players reportedly favored boycotting the rest of the season. I find sports boycotts a better alternative. They send the message that normal life will not continue without meaningful reforms without destroying small businesses which families rely on for their livelihoods.

The average sports fan is not part of any inner power circle, and sports are providing emotional sustenance during the COVID-19 pandemic and recession. Are sports boycotts therefore unfair? Perhaps, but team owners and their corporate partners likely have significant political influence. And inconvenienced sports fans should remember that George Floyd will never watch another game.

The excessive use of force by the police is ultimately done on our behalf. To disown the acts of rogue police officers, we must accept that life cannot be normal until reforms occur.

Daniel Sutter is the Charles G. Koch Professor of Economics with the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University and host of Econversations on TrojanVision. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Troy University.

2 weeks ago

Take control of your energy budget during the COVID-19 pandemic

(Alabama Public Service Commission/Contributed, YHN)

Summer is peaking and so are utility bills. Historically, the July-September months are always the most expensive electric bills of the year. You’re most likely using more power in a time when so many are crunching their budget, due to COVID-19. Your utility has likely implemented measures for delayed payments and waivers for late fees, but at the end of the day, the meter keeps accruing usage.

Instead of waiting until the end of the month and being shocked by the total of the bill, I would like to make you aware of some quick tips that will put you in greater control of how you use electricity. These tools will better equip you to use power more efficiently and effectively to remain in line with your budget.

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Because Alabama Power is the largest provider of electricity in the state, I decided to use their online website’s tool as an example, but some of these tips translate to whoever your electric provider may be.

If you are an Alabama Power customer with an online profile and want to manage your bill better, start by visiting here.

If you do not have an online account, the first thing you need to do is sign up for an online profile by clicking here. Have your account number handy (it can be found on the paper copy of your power bill) and you’ll be signed up in under five minutes.

Once you’re signed into your online account you’ll be able to track your “Recent Power Usage” and be able to compare your most recent power bills. That alone will better inform you of your month-to-month usage. But that’s not the best part.

From the Menu” tab, click “Billing and Payments” and then “Usage Alerts.” This will take you to a screen where you can enter your desired monthly usage or daily usage in dollar amounts, and each day you go over that limit, Alabama Power will email you a notification. This tool puts you in greater charge of controlling your monthly bill. If you know the maximum amount in your budget for your power bill each month, take that amount, divide by the days of the month, and you’ll know the exact amount you need to set the alert for. Knowing this will allow you to make necessary changes as needed to how you use your appliances in your home.

The second important tool to take advantage of under “Menu” is “Energy Checkup.” This is a real state-of-the-art tool that everyone should use. “Energy Checkup” offers tips on different kinds of appliances to upgrade to that would potentially save you money, but more than that, it offers an “Energy Use Breakdown” of how you’re using electricity and fuel in your home. As you’ll see from the chart below, everything you use in your home is accounted for.

These tools are all about empowering you to know how you’re using electricity in your home and will give you opportunities to manage your electric bill.

If you are not an Alabama Power customer, it is possible your power provider has online tools and alerts that will be of a similar benefit. If you cannot locate these services via your online account, call your local provider and ask them what is available for you to take advantage of. And if by some chance your provider isn’t offering these resources, I encourage you to petition them to improve access to these tools.

Lastly, utilities have been working with us during the pandemic to waive disconnections and late fees, but many of those moratoriums are coming to an end. If you need further assistance, please reach out directly to your provider to find a solution that works best for you. Also, there are great opportunities via LIHEAP where you can petition for assistance. You can find info about their services here.

I hope that everyone that is reading this has been safe and making the most of your summer during this unique and challenging time. One of my main goals right now, as Public Service Commission (PSC) Place One Commissioner, is to help provide you information to help better position your business and family to navigate this very difficult season. And for all of us dealing with the challenges of COVID-19, my prayers are with you.

The above is the opinion of Jeremy H. Oden, Alabama Public Service Commissioner Place 1. Opinions expressed do not represent the position of the Public Service Commission or its other commissioners.

2 weeks ago

Labor Day is a tribute to those who manufacture, build and grow

(Manufacture Alabama/Contributed, PIxabay, YHN)

When many of us were growing up, Labor Day was the traditional end of summer, and we started back to school the next day. Back in those days, political campaigns did not really begin until Labor Day. I recall President Reagan kicking off his 1980 campaign on Labor Day with the Statue of Liberty behind him and Nancy beside him. Since then, many things have changed, including a much earlier start-to-school date and year-round campaigning.

What has not changed – although it may be forgotten – is that we observe Labor Day in honor of those who labor.

Labor Day is a tribute to American labor, to those who manufacture and build things. It is a tribute to the American factory worker, skilled craftsman, carpenter and farmer. It is a tribute to those who create wealth through their labor and to those who made the United States an economic, industrial and military powerhouse through their labor and skill.

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Wealth and value are created by manufacturing products, harvesting agriculture and extracting minerals. Without this original wealth creation, there would be no service industry nor multi-faceted economy.

Personally, I take great pride in working for a manufacturing company. Especially one that makes products contributing to public health through clean water, to public safety through fire protection, to economic strength through energy production, and to agriculture and mining through machinery. I am proud to be part of the American iron and steel industry and to be a part of manufacturing products that built and continue to build America and the world. Our roads, bridges, buildings, automobile and aerospace industries, agriculture, military and so much more depend on manufacturing and the labor behind it.

Indeed, the American iron and steelworkers who melt, cast and process iron and steel are the backbone of local, domestic and global economies. These workers make possible everything we enjoy.

There are nearly 10,000 iron and steelworkers in Alabama with manufacturing facilities across our entire state, and another 63,000 Alabama workers are supported by the industry. Alabama iron and steel employment is highly skilled, utilizing the latest manufacturing technology and innovation, and annual earnings are strong. This critical component of our economic and national security has continued to produce throughout our difficult year of pandemic.

Labor Day dates to 1887 and became a Federal holiday in 1894. It grew from the American labor movement, which is alive and well today. It is driven by those who do the work, and it has led to improvements in productivity, safety and innovation that contributes to the advancement of mankind.

While happily joining in the traditional celebrations of Labor Day, I salute the virtue of American labor and Alabama workers. Within Alabama’s iron and steel industry, every day is Labor Day.

Maury D. Gaston is Manager of Marketing Services at AMERICAN Cast Iron Pipe Company in Birmingham, Alabama, and Chairman of the Alabama Iron & Steel Council (AISC). The AISC operates as an independent industry council of Manufacture Alabama, the state’s only trade association dedicated exclusively to manufacturers and their supplier/vendor partners. AISC member companies include AM/NS Calvert, AMERICAN Cast Iron Pipe Company, CMC Steel, McWane, Inc., Nucor Steel, Outokumpu Stainless USA, SSAB Americas, U. S. Pipe & Foundry, United States Steel, Alabama Power Company, Colburn Construction, Inc., ERP Compliant Coke, OMI-Bisco Refractories, O’Neal Manufacturing Services, Reno Refractories, Southeast Gas and Southern Alloy Corporation.

2 weeks ago

Roby: Celebrating American workers

(M. Roby/Facebook, PIxabay, YHN)

America’s essential workers continue to work tirelessly and selflessly throughout the Coronavirus pandemic. Over 55 million workers in various industries are deemed “essential” at this time.

Almost half – 48.7% – of Alabama’s labor force works in essential industries. From doctors, nurses, first responders and law enforcement officers to grocery store employees, manufacturers, truckers, educators and many more, these frontline laborers continue to put forth their best efforts to keep the American economy going, and they are true American heroes.

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Labor Day recognizes and honors the contributions that American workers have made to the strength and prosperity of our country. As we celebrate Labor Day this year, I want to extend my sincere appreciation to each and every frontline worker across the Second District, the entire state, and our nation. There are no words that can adequately express my gratitude for all who have contributed generously to our communities during this difficult time. Without their hard work, our country would not be on the current path we are on right now. Many cities and towns across the country have designated a moment in the evening to collectively applaud and cheer on essential workers. I encourage you to show your appreciation to these special workers in your community.

These essential workers deserve recognition every day. They take care of us and our loved ones, and they fight continuously to keep our communities healthy and safe. Our frontline workers go to work each day with the knowledge and understanding that they are risking their lives for the sake of others. We are eternally grateful for those who are willing to sacrifice their own well-being to help move our nation forward during this health crisis. I am confident we will continue to make much progress together and see healing among our communities.

Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama, with her husband Riley and their two children.

2 weeks ago

Great expectations for Birmingham’s recovery

(Altec/Contributed, YHN)

Much has been written about the latest rankings from Business Facilities magazine, which gave Alabama overall high marks and cited Birmingham and Huntsville as having the best business climate among all metro areas their size.

That Huntsville ranked No. 1 in the small-sized metro category comes as no surprise. The northern Alabama region has been on a roll in recent years, landing economic development projects projected to bring more than 3,500 jobs to the area.

The fact that Birmingham ranked No. 1 in the mid-sized category, though, is in some ways more gratifying. It’s a testament to the energetic leadership Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin has brought to the heart of our metro area.

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To be clear, it should come as no surprise that Birmingham plays a central role in our state’s economy. As home to the University of Alabama at Birmingham – the state’s largest employer – the Magic City remains a tremendous engine for our whole state, generating nearly 20% of Alabama’s GDP.

But it’s also no secret that the city of Birmingham faces more challenges than Huntsville. As an example, Huntsville’s median household income in 2018 was $55,405, according to Census data. That’s over 50% higher than the city of Birmingham’s median household income of $36,395.

And in Huntsville, a stunning 44.6% of residents had at least a bachelor’s degree. The same figure for Birmingham was 26.4%.

These are factors that affect the success of existing businesses and impacts the prospects for creating new opportunities and recruiting new industry. Businesses succeed in areas where people are prospering. While we recognize and respect Huntsville’s success, we also know that Birmingham has to work harder and smarter to achieve the same results.

The city’s efforts have gotten a boost on both fronts under Mayor Woodfin, who works tirelessly and shrewdly to build a more prosperous Birmingham. His team has a sound approach that focuses on developing core industry clusters, supporting small and diverse businesses, and equipping residents with the skills they need to succeed.

The most recent recognition from Business Facilities magazine is a nice acknowledgment of those efforts, but the real proof can be found in the accomplishments the city was piling up before COVID.

Birmingham has seen more than $1 billion in capital investment since Mayor Woodfin took office. A penny of every dollar of that goes to city schools, so these projects have generated $10 million for the education of Birmingham’s children.

Meanwhile, employment among city residents had increased by 7%, which translated to 6,000 more people with jobs. In 2019, Forbes included Birmingham among the nation’s top 10 hottest job markets for 2020.

And in March 2020, Brookings ranked metro Birmingham as third in the country for inclusive economic growth – a score based on actual data about how much metro Birmingham had closed racial gaps related to earnings and poverty during the preceding year.

All this reflects measurable progress for Birmingham.

Of course, Birmingham’s momentum is being severely tested by COVID-19, which has created unprecedented challenges for businesses and cities across the country.

But in Birmingham’s response to COVID, the city’s approach reflects the same urgency and focus that had led to success before the pandemic.

With COVID severely impacting businesses and jobs, the city reacted quickly with the public-private Bham Strong emergency loan program to help get small businesses through the crisis. It also led the Birmingham Service Corps project to help newly unemployed residents get jobs in roles that met real community needs during the pandemic. And initiatives like Birmingham Promise and Prosper Birmingham will help create new career and college opportunities for local high school graduates while also helping to meet the workforce development needs of the city’s current and future employers.

When COVID first impacted Alabama, the City of Birmingham not only set out to address the immediate needs of the community, it also began to lay a foundation for the city’s transition to a post-pandemic economy. The city’s leadership has maintained a clear-eyed focus on current realities – many of which are still somewhat beyond their control – and has also kept a laser-like focus on solutions that work.

Mayor Woodfin led the state in pushing a face covering ordinance, arguing that masks were a necessary element not only to protect citizens but also to get the economy back up and functioning. Though perhaps controversial then, Mayor Woodfin’s logic is now accepted by everyone who understands the science around the virus.

None of us can fully predict what will happen when that science provides solutions for COVID through better treatments and eventual vaccines. When that happens, all of us hope our world will return to something more “normal.” Even now, while the virus impacts all aspects of our society, you hear talk about potential economic winners and losers as remote business opportunities and workplace environments provide companies and workers with more geographic options.

I can’t see into the future any more than you can. None of us know which cities will emerge from this crisis in the best possible position to rebuild. But when I consider the leadership we’ve seen so far from Mayor Woodfin and his team, I’m betting Birmingham will still be on top.

Lee Styslinger III is chairman and CEO of Altec, Inc.

2 weeks ago

Election of Doug Jones poses the biggest threat to the Second Amendment in Alabama history

(Doug Jones for Senate/Facebook, YHN)

Portland … Seattle … Chicago … New York City.

Scenes of rioting, looting, lawlessness and utter chaos in these once-great American cities have become commonplace on television news channels over the past several months.

Liberal Democrat mayors like Bill DeBlasio, Lori Lightfoot and Ted Wheeler have ceded control to mob rule, and Alabamians are joining millions across the country in asking when the violence will be brought to an end.

At the same time, these leftist politicians and many in the Hollywood elite are working to take away your Second Amendment gun rights while they remain safely protected behind heavily-armed security details.

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Because the violent protesters, looters and rioters have no regard for human life or property, the ability to own a firearm if you choose is more important than ever before.

But when it comes to the issue of gun control, interim U.S. Senator Doug Jones chooses to stand with his fellow liberals like Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Nancy Pelosi and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez rather than with the Alabama citizens he swore an oath to serve.

Those of us who embrace gun ownership for home protection, hunting, sport shooting and other reasons understand that Jones’ election to a full term poses perhaps the biggest threat to our rights in the history of our state, and there is ample evidence to prove that fact.

After receiving the National Rifle Association’s lowest possible rating on the group’s annual congressional scorecard, Jones attacked the NRA and accused it of holding “extreme positions” on firearms-related issues.

When members of the Alabama legislature introduced a bill to provide certain public school teachers with law enforcement firearms training and certification as a deterrent against school shootings, Jones called the proposal “the dumbest idea I have ever heard.”

And Jones has greedily raked in thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from far-left gun control groups and committed activists who are opposed to firearms possession.

At the same time, his advertisements have included photos and videos of a flannel-clad Jones awkwardly carrying a shotgun while stomping through the woods in an attempt to portray him as an outdoor enthusiast.

Ask yourself what kind of true outdoorsman receives the NRA’s lowest rating alongside the most strident, anti-gun fanatics in the U.S. Congress.

Similarly, Jones’s record of voting to confirm conservative federal judges who will interpret the Second Amendment as our founding fathers intended has fallen short time and again, and he has cast his lot, instead, with those who celebrate Ruth Bader Ginsburg as the patron saint justice who is worthy of worship.

He famously opposed the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh and supported Senate liberals like Kamala Harris as they subjected the judge and his family to unprecedented levels of falsehoods, conjecture and character assassination.

In 2017, Jones also admitted to the Washington Post that he would have voted against Justice Neil Gorsuch had he been serving in the Senate at the time.

Coach Tommy Tuberville, on the other hand, will fight tooth and nail to protect the Second Amendment, and he will stand in the breach against liberal Democrats who attempt to grab out guns.

Unlike Doug Jones, Tuberville is a true and dedicated sportsman, and guns have been a part of his life since his father, a World War II veteran who drove a tank across Europe with General George Patton, first introduced him to hunting. Since that time, he has hunted for quail in the Wiregrass, shot white-tailed deer in Jackson County, and stalked prey on the large tract of hunting land that he owns in East Alabama.

Tuberville understands that gun ownership is a time-honored tradition in Alabama, and it is one that most who live here hold dear. Whether you want to possess a firearm for hunting or to protect your family when an intruder comes kicking at your door, Tuberville will stand strong for your right

It has often been said that the 2020 election is the most important in our lifetime, and that is no overstatement.

We are not just choosing between Tommy Tuberville and Doug Jones, but also between two distinct directions our nation will take – pro-gun vs. anti-gun, pro-life vs. abortion, American excellence vs. globalism, law and order vs. mob rule, conservatism vs. liberalism, and the list goes on.

It is time for Alabamians to have a U.S. Senator who represents our conservative values, not liberal New York and California values, when it comes to gun rights and other issues.

I urge all Alabamians to join me in voting for Coach Tommy Tuberville, a proven winner and staunch defender of the Second Amendment, in the November 3 general election.

Clay Scofield is a Republican in the Alabama Senate representing District 9, which includes portions of Blount County, DeKalb County, Madison County and Marshall County.

2 weeks ago

75 years after ending World War II: Celebrating a lasting peace

(Wikicommons, Pixabay, YHN)

Seventy-five years ago today, World War II officially ended. After six years of global conflagration, the guns fell silent and the lights, a barometer of civilization, began to once again chase the darkness from the world.

The war left Europe decimated with 60 million people dead and the islands of Japan smoldering piles of rubble and ash. Although victory in Europe had been secured four months earlier in May, it took the horrific devastation of two atomic bombs to convince the Japanese that continued resistance was futile. In the years that immediately followed, the American occupiers punished Japanese war criminals while exercising restraint not to humiliate or dishonor the Japanese people. Perhaps the finest moment in the United States’ ascension to superpower status was its treatment of the vanquished Empire of Japan. The plan to occupy, restore, and rehabilitate Japan transformed the nation from fierce enemy to valuable ally.

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The occupation of Japan contrasts sharply with the experience in Europe. There, Germany and its capital, Berlin, were divided among the four major Allied powers, with France, Britain and the United States overseeing West Germany and the Soviet Union controlling East Germany. This geographic and political division immediately set the stage for the Cold War.

In Japan, there was only one occupying power – the United States – and it gave near absolute authority to General Douglas MacArthur to organize and deploy a systematic plan to bring democracy to the Japanese people. Other allied nations attempted to insert themselves so as to influence Japan’s future, but MacArthur would have none of it. In fact, the Russians, who conveniently declared war on Japan less than a month before Japan surrendered, planned to invade Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost and second-largest main island. Imprudently, Stalin notified President Truman of his intention, and Truman emphatically responded that all of mainland Japan would be placed under General MacArthur’s control. At the surrender ceremony in Tokyo Bay, MacArthur reportedly told a Soviet general that he would not tolerate a divided Japan and would use military force against any attempt to place Russian troops on Japanese soil. The Soviets backed down, and MacArthur proceeded to rebuild Japan completely free from Russian interference.

MacArthur approached his mission to win the peace in Japan with the same tenacity he exhibited when fighting the Japanese during the war. After securing for the Japanese people the basic necessities of food and shelter, he set about to secure their trust. To do so, he made the bold move of permitting Emperor Hirohito to remain the titular head of state. This did not sit well with a number of MacArthur’s contemporaries and allies, who viewed Hirohito as only a notch below Hitler on the evil-dictator scale. MacArthur understood that if the Emperor publicly approved of MacArthur’s plans, the Japanese people would acquiesce peacefully and without objection. An example of MacArthur’s keen understanding of Japanese culture, which revolved around shame and honor, took place when he allowed the Emperor, in his own time, to visit him and accord him the respect of a hereditary monarch. Such steps taken by MacArthur went a long way toward gaining trust and cooperation with the people of Japan.

MacArthur’s plan for post-war Japan stands in stark contrast to the treatment of Germany after World War I. Following the Treaty of Versailles, Germany was required to pay reparations amounting to $12.5 billion in today’s currency. The German economy was so weak that only a small percentage of reparations were ever paid, and what little was paid may have contributed to the hyperinflation Germany experienced in the 1920s. Having fought bravely in WWI, MacArthur learned many lessons from observing first-hand the failure of the Allied powers to enforce the treaty and secure lasting peace in Europe. Following Japan’s defeat in World War II, MacArthur refused to exact a crippling, retributive fine from the Japanese people to fund his plan to rebuild Japan. Instead, he tapped the United States Treasury to finance the occupation. Some 75 years hence, we can be proud that our policy was to rehabilitate and not humiliate. MacArthur wisely realized that Japan was an anchor in the Pacific and, as an ally, would be of great utility in providing stability to the region. What may have appeared as an excessively charitable approach toward conquered Japan at the time has proven incredibly prudent. The plan to forgive, rebuild, and democratize gained the United States a key ally in the Asia Pacific Rim.

MacArthur became a modern-day Moses, basically writing a constitution, encouraging collective bargaining and installing a market-driven economy to bring Japan’s industries to their pre-war production level. His Civil Liberties Directive is the clearest example of how radical his plan had to be in order to successfully transform Japan’s feudalistic society into one of democracy and liberty. This Directive lifted all restrictions on political, civil, and religious rights; political prisoners were freed and censorship of the press was abolished. MacArthur authorized free elections and not only gave women the right to vote but saw 38 women elected to the Diet, Japan’s equivalent to Congress. Up to that point in Japan, property rights were practically nonexistent. Most Japanese farmers worked under a system of virtual slavery, in which they were forbidden from purchasing their own land but were required to give a disproportionate amount of their crops to a small group of landowners. MacArthur extinguished this last vestige of feudalism by requiring the government to buy land at fair prices and then sell parcels to farmers on affordable terms. After the land reform program was fully implemented, nearly 90% of all farming land was owned by the people who lived on and cultivated it.

Seventy-five years ago, the mighty Japanese Empire, which initiated a war that killed millions of soldiers and civilians, was brought to heel and surrendered unconditionally on the deck of the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. From the ruins of total defeat began the process of total reconstruction. The United States, through the command of General MacArthur, guided the Japanese people as they beat their spears into plowshares and started down the path toward modernization and alliance with the West. Americans can be proud of the far-sighted policy of Gen. MacArthur who totally and unconditionally won the peace. When MacArthur left Japan, ordinary citizens spontaneously lined the route of his departure, most with thankful tears in their eyes for an American soldier who changed their country, secured their rights and gave them a stable constitutional government that stands today as the high mark of benevolent conquest.

Will Sellers is an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of Alabama

Military Stability Commission is protecting Alabama’s long tradition of defense presence

(Alabama Military Stability Commission/Contributed, YHN)

Alabama has a proud and storied military tradition.

Our citizens have fought, died and shed their blood in every war our nation has fought since Alabama achieved statehood, and veterans from every conflict, including the American Revolution, have been laid to rest within our soil.

The military bases located in Alabama – from Rucker to Redstone to McClellan/Anniston and Maxwell/Gunter – have served our nation dutifully in times of peace and war, and they play vital roles in the economies, culture and quality of life in the communities in which they operate.

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Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, for example, has an estimated economic impact of $2 billion annually in the River Region, and every officer in the U.S. Air Force passes through its gates to attend the Air War College at some point in their military career.

But we must be mindful that Alabama’s military tradition and defense presence did not come naturally and without much hard work and influence.

Virtually every city, county and state across the nation competes to attract military infrastructure and the jobs and investment the comes with it, and if Alabama is going to retain and build upon our current bases, we have to continually make a strong and convincing case to federal officials and the Pentagon.

That is why the Alabama Military Stability Commission was created.

The commission, which I chair by virtue of my office, came into being through state statute in 2011, and it is comprised of elected officials, cabinet members, and regional appointees from areas of Alabama with a heavy defense concentration.

Our panel is tasked with recommending and implementing the steps necessary to protect, preserve and promote, the federal military presence across the state.

One example of our work occurred earlier this year when we convinced legislators to create a redevelopment corporation designed to address, improve, and attract investment to blighted areas surrounding Maxwell AFB.

Because of the commission’s efforts, Alabama was also among the first states in the nation to pass legislation ensuring occupational licensing reciprocity for military dependents, which is a complicated way of saying a military spouse who, for example, is licensed to practice accounting in another state is also allowed to practice locally while stationed in Alabama.

We are currently working with state boards and agencies overseeing dozens of professions to ensure that they are complying with the law.

Because the transient and nomadic nature of military service can be stressful for spouses and dependents who have to join their service member in moving from one base assignment to another, the Military Stability Commission was responsible for creating and recently unveiling the “Heroes Welcome” website, which provides relocating military and veteran families a central resource for information about employment opportunities, education, and other important community information.

Providing military families and personnel with an easy-to-find clearinghouse of essential community information demonstrates Alabama’s deep commitment to their service, and it also displays just a hint of our state’s famous southern hospitality.

Alabama is already the most military-friendly state in the nation, and creating the website, which is available at HeroesWelcome.Alabama.Gov, makes us even more welcoming.

The commission’s ambitious legislative agenda was unavoidably left unfinished a few months ago when the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically shortened the Legislature’s regular session and limited the issues that could be considered.

Among the bills that we hope to revisit next year is a measure that ensures military dependents who attend colleges and universities in Alabama and pay in-state tuition while stationed here will continue paying in-state tuition even if their service member or family is transferred out-of-state.

We will also continue our efforts to extend the deadline for active service families to apply for enrollment in magnet schools to the first day of the school year. While the new law does not guarantee a military dependent will be admitted into a magnet school to which they apply, extending the deadline provides them every opportunity to attend if they meet qualifications and slots are available.

Just like our nation’s servicemen and women hold the line and protect American interests against all known threats, the Military Stability Commission is holding the line and protecting Alabama from those who would siphon our defense presence and take away the jobs and dollars that accompany it.

Will Ainsworth is the lieutenant governor of Alabama

Alabama medical practices hit hard by COVID-19

(Pixabay, YHN)

In a span of just a few months, the coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we function as a society and has fundamentally altered our healthcare delivery system. It has exacerbated weaknesses in the infrastructure of health care and exposed limitations in current policies at a time when costs are rising and access to care is dwindling.

In an effort to understand these changes and their effects, the Medical Association of the State of Alabama released a survey summary detailing the impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) on medical practices and care delivery.  The survey identified several key findings:

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  • Public Health Concerns: Survey data shows that patient volume is down considerably and there are concerns that Alabamians are not going to their physician for routine care, including childhood and adult vaccinations, which will have long term public health consequences.
  • Financial Impact: More than 70% of respondents said COVID-19 has had a severe impact on practice finances, causing layoffs and furloughs and limiting access to care
  • Patient Volume: Nearly 60% said patient volume reductions cut revenues by at least 50%, underscoring the extent to which patients are delaying or skipping necessary care
  • Telemedicine Increase: More than 71% said they’re likely to continue providing telemedicine so long as insurers continue covering the services for patients
  • Liability Concerns: More than 71% are concerned about the potential liability from lack of PPE and patients canceling or delaying procedures and other medical care

In addition, a similar study found that Alabama is ranked sixth in the country in the number of patients that are delaying care. While COVID-19 may change how you receive care, it’s still important to look after yourself by getting the time-sensitive medical care you need to stay healthy.

In light of the findings of the survey, the Medical Association recommends several public policy proposals to combat COVID-19’s effects on physician practices and care delivery:

  1. Allocate state stimulus funds to reimburse practices for COVID-19 related expenses
  2. Expansion of testing, PPE and cleaning supply availability
  3. Continued coverage of telemedicine by insurers at existing rates
  4. Enactment of “safe harbor” legislation to provide liability protections to health care providers

This pandemic has made telehealth more important than ever, enabling access to care to patients whose needs can be met remotely. Telemedicine has saved lives, helped reduce the spread of the virus, and enabled physicians to care for patients in a time when they might have otherwise been unable to. However, it is not a “silver bullet” and should not be viewed as a total replacement for in-person care.

Whether in a hospital, surgery center or in a clinic, COVID-19 has drastically changed the care we as physicians provide for our patients. We cannot allow this virus to decimate our already strained healthcare system. Supporting those who care for us is needed now more than ever.

The entirety of the survey summary is available here.

John S. Meigs, Jr., MD is the president of the Medical Association of the State of Alabama

3 weeks ago

No more ridesharing?

(Pixabay, YHN)

Ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft almost exited California last week over a dispute regarding their drivers’ legal status. In 2019, the California legislature passed Assembly Bill 5 (A.B. 5) making the companies’ drivers employees and not independent contractors. A judge stayed an August 20 compliance deadline. Politicians’ efforts to restrict contractors could arrest the development of the sharing economy, hurting us all.

All work in a market economy must be voluntary. I must induce assistance I would like from others, which usually involves paying them money. If I run a business and want a task done repeatedly, we might formalize this into employment, as governed by law.

Voluntary employment makes both parties better off. Suppose I paid someone $50 to rake leaves. (This is a hypothetical, as I live to rake leaves.) I would prefer to pay the money to doing the work myself, and the person doing the work must prefer the $50.

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Our national, state and local governments pass laws regulating employment. The laws impose payroll taxes, regulate wages (minimum wages and overtime pay), require workplace safety, and mandate benefits family leave and health insurance.

A business will only hire an employee if she generates enough value to cover the full cost of employment. Mandates and taxes make hiring employees more costly, reducing employment and potentially forcing businesses to close.

Employers would voluntarily offer many government-mandated benefits. Managerial economics recommends offering fringe benefits and improved job conditions valued by workers more than they cost to provide. If Walmart made cashiers work a six-hour shift without any breaks, hourly pay would likely have to be significantly higher. And some mandated benefits, like parental leave, will benefit some workers and not others.

The law offers independent contractors, with many fewer mandates, as an alternative to employment for businesses to hire for short term or limited positions. People can also put together “gigs” as independent contractors for several different employers to earn a living.

Not surprisingly, businesses try classifying workers as contractors instead of employees to avoid mandates and taxes. California’s A.B. 5 attempts to rein this in. In addition to Uber and Lyft drivers, A.B. 5 significantly affects free-lance writers.

Many people see greed behind classifying employees as contractors. One of sponsors of A.B. 5 wrote, “California is home to more millionaires and billionaires than anywhere else in the United States. … One contributing factor is we have allowed a great many companies … to rely on a contract workforce, which enables them to skirt labor laws [and] exploit working people.” Owners get rich while impoverishing independent contractor workers.

There’s a problem with this narrative, however, namely that Uber and Lyft lose money. Uber has set records for losing money, including $5.2 billion in the second quarter of 2020. Of course, losses for the stockholders do not mean that some executives have not been well-compensated.

I think that more frequently businesses with thin margins turn to contractors because they cannot afford employees. Analysts estimate that reclassifying drivers as employees will increase Uber’s and Lyft’s labor costs by 20 to 30 percent. This is particularly burdensome in the sharing economy, which requires innovative was to utilize idle resources. Ridesharing uses drivers’ personal vehicles and available time to provide rides when demanded. While some people drive for Uber and Lyft full-time, the companies bring thousands of cars into service for a few hours a week.

Sharing businesses benefit us all. Economic studies document declines in drunk driving after Uber and Lyft begin operating in cities. Grocery shopping and delivery services like Instacart have helped Americans stay safe during COVID-19. The cost of government mandates on employees can prevent the unlocking of this potential value.

Companies in the sharing economy are experimenting with innovative ways to create value. These experiments use labor very differently than in manufacturing or retail. Reducing government-imposed burdens may be a better way to get more Americans hired as employees than disrupting the sharing economy.

Daniel Sutter is the Charles G. Koch Professor of Economics with the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University and host of Econversations on TrojanVision. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Troy University.

3 weeks ago

Roby: Now is the time to be vigilant

(Martha Roby/Facebook, Pixabay, YHN)

Recently, the number of daily new Coronavirus cases has declined nationwide. Several experts credit an increase in mask wearing for this recent decrease. Governor Kay Ivey implemented the statewide mask order on July 16, and Alabama has seen a sharp drop in the percentage of positive tests over the past month. The number of daily confirmed cases in Alabama has gone from over 2,100 new cases a day at its peak in mid-July to an average of about 728 new cases per day this past week. These statistics display the dedication Alabamians have put forth to follow guidelines adopted by state and local officials, as well as our determination to slow the spread of Coronavirus among Alabama communities.

Although the state is currently headed in the right direction, this virus remains a significant threat to the health and well-being of many, and Alabamians must continue to heed advice from public health officials. Governor Ivey on Thursday extended the current Safer at Home order which is now set to expire on Friday, October 2, at 5:00 pm. This extension includes the statewide mask ordinance, enforcing individuals to wear a mask or facial covering in public. The order also requires students and employees at K-12 schools and colleges to wear a mask.

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Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris stated Thursday the mask mandate is the first order that has brought significant improvement statewide since the onset of the pandemic in March. Dr. Harris said the daily number of cases, Coronavirus-related deaths, and hospitalizations due to the virus have tremendously decreased since Governor Ivey’s mask order was put into effect.

With Labor Day weekend right around the corner, it is vital to the progress we’ve made that you continue to be vigilant by practicing social distancing and avoiding large gatherings. As we move forward on the road to recovery, please continue to listen and adhere to all guidance and orders given by our state leaders and public health officers. Your participation is crucial to protect your families and those around you. Every decision our state and local leaders are making throughout the course of this pandemic prioritize the health and safety of all Alabamians, and they will continue to always put the people of Alabama first.

Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama, with her husband Riley and their two children.

3 weeks ago

Advisory board approves snapper extension, tables turkey changes

(David Rainer/Outdoor Alabama, YHN)

The Alabama Conservation Advisory Board approved a three-day extension of the red snapper season and tabled a motion to change the season dates and bag limit for wild turkeys at its recent meeting in Mobile.

Chris Blankenship, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR), recommended a three-day extension of the red snapper season, which the Board approved unanimously. The extra red snapper days are set for October 10-12. The Board also voted to give the Commissioner leeway to adjust those dates should inclement weather interfere with the planned extension.

“We saw an increased participation in red snapper season,” Commissioner Blankenship said. “People couldn’t play travel ball. They weren’t going to Disney World or going on family vacations. Consequently, we saw increased participation on all weekends of the red snapper season. Because of that, we closed the season on July 3 as we were approaching the quota on red snapper. After checking the data and seeing the final landings, we have about 128,000 pounds of red snapper quota left.”

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The Commissioner said the approved extension is the Saturday, Sunday and Monday of Columbus Day weekend.

The Board heard a presentation from Mike Chamberlain, the Terrell Professor of Wildlife Ecology and Management at the University of Georgia, about the decline of wild turkey populations in the South. Chamberlain’s presentation was the same one given to Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, which wanted to see data on how harvest impacts the population dynamics.

“Arkansas’ turkey population has been declining for a number of years,” Chamberlain said. “The trajectory of the population in Arkansas is almost identical to the trajectory of the population in Alabama, except that Alabama is about seven or eight years behind.”

Chamberlain, who is studying wild turkeys in numerous states from Arizona to North Carolina, said gobbling activity begins about 45 days before the peak of nesting.

“Gobblers become receptive well before the hens do,” he said. “We know two things drive gobbling activity. One is hen availability. As hens become less available, gobbling increases. The other is competition amongst themselves. If your buddy is gobbling, you gobble.

“What we see is that a lot of gobbling in March corresponds to no breeding activity. We also see that gobbling really picks up when hens start to nest.”

Chamberlain said what we’re dealing with in the South is an increased harvest of gobblers and a survival rate of hatchlings that is not high enough to sustain the population.

“What we see is a slow, gradual decline across all the states in the Southeast,” he said. “The survival rate of a clutch is 1 to 1½ poults per hen. That is not sustainable. So, it makes sense that the populations have slowly declined.”

Chamberlain also said his studies indicate that about 80 percent of the harvest occurs before the peak of incubation.

“If you remove four toms from 2,400 acres, gobbling decreases four-fold,” he said.

Chamberlain pointed out that the reported harvest on the opening weekend of Alabama’s 2020 season was 43 percent higher than the harvest from 2019, a trend that held true throughout the Southeast.

“We know that early in the season, the dominant birds are the ones being shot,” he said. “So that 43 percent disproportionately affects the older, dominant birds.”

Chamberlain said the result of taking the dominant birds out of the population is an increase in the length of nesting activity. Instead of most of the egg-laying occurring within a few weeks, he said the hatching of the eggs is now stretched out over as much as 100 days.

“If all of these hens drop their clutches within a couple of weeks, they will hatch about the same time,” he said. “By scattering them across the landscape across 100 days, you give predators the advantage. With all the eggs hatching at one time, predators can’t possibly find all of them. If you stretch it across three months – rat snakes, raccoons, horned owls – you’re giving them an advantage.

“The science suggests the activity we’re doing is contributing to this prolonged nesting effort.”

Board Chairman Joey Dobbs asked Chamberlain if he had suggestions on how to stop the decline of the turkey population in Alabama and the Southeast.

“There are some things we can control and some things we can’t,” Chamberlain said. “This bird, uniformly across the Southeast, is dealing with habitat issues – declining quality, fragmentation, urbanization. We have diseases that are popping up that are affecting the birds. We have predator communities that are much more diverse than they were. We can’t control any of that because most turkeys live on private land.

“What we can control is what we know impacts this bird. That is harvest. We’ve known this since the mid-’90s.”

After Chamberlain’s presentation, a motion was made to change the dates and bag limit for Alabama’s turkey season with a starting date of April 1 through the first Saturday in May with a season bag limit of three birds. The current regulations open the spring turkey season in most of the state on the third Saturday in March with a season bag limit of five birds.

Before the vote, Board Member Patrick Cagle offered an amendment to table that motion until the February 2021 Board meeting to ensure hunters in Alabama would not run afoul of a new regulation with the current regulation already printed in the Alabama Hunting & Fishing Digest. The Board unanimously approved the amendment to table the motion.

When asked for a recommendation on turkey season by Chairman Dobbs, Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Director Chuck Sykes said the decline in Arkansas’ turkey numbers is an ominous indication of where Alabama is headed without change.

“I would ask the Board to move the season starting date to as late as possible with a three-bird bag limit,” Sykes said. “I think Dr. Chamberlain showed that Arkansas is in a bad way right now. We’re headed in that direction. The sooner we can take proactive solutions, the better. I don’t want to kick this can down the road any farther. Thank y’all for saying you will take this up at the first meeting of 2021 and make a decision. It’s time.”

During the meeting, Commissioner Blankenship provided an update on the effects of COVID-19 on the ADCNR’s operations.

“I think our people are doing their best at social distancing and maintaining the safety guidelines,” Commissioner Blankenship said. “Our State Parks stayed open the entire time, dealing with the public every day, as well as our officers and staff in the field. I really appreciate their work during this time. It’s been a testament to our employees and their passion for what we do. Governor (Kay) Ivey and State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris felt like outdoors recreation was essential. I think it has been essential for people being able to get out and enjoy the outdoors when so many other things were closed. We’ve seen increased occupancy at our State Parks campgrounds and day-use facilities, our waterways and fishing lakes, our Forever Wild trails, and our WMAs (wildlife management areas). They were highly used.

“I think it shows the beautiful resources we have in our state, the wildlife and the diversity of the areas. I think people realized how fortunate we are and what a great state this is to live in. I think people got out and went to places they’ve never gone before. I think that has been good for not only physical health but mental health as well.”

Commissioner Blankenship also reported an increase in license sales, which is the main source of income for the ADCNR.

“Our hunting, fishing and Wildlife Heritage licenses were up a good bit,” he said. “Our non-resident licenses were down, as you can imagine with the travel restrictions.”

Commissioner Blankenship said a marketing campaign was initiated to target those individuals who may not hunt or fish but appreciate the diversity of wildlife and natural wonders Alabama offers.

“We are trying to increase participation in license sales for people who utilize areas of the state that don’t require a license,” he said. “They don’t hunt or fish, but they birdwatch or hike or take advantage of the recreational opportunities on the property managed by the ADCNR. We marketed our Wildlife Heritage License to the birdwatching community. We increased that license’s sales by more than 33 percent last year.

“Our new licenses are on sale now. One of the things we added this year was packages. If you want to hunt deer, you can select a hunt package. If you want to fish freshwater, you can select that package. If you want to fish saltwater, you can select that package. We wanted to make it easier for the public to go online and purchase licenses.”

Visit www.outdooralabama.com/license-packages for the license packages available.

David Rainer is an award-winning writer who has covered Alabama’s great outdoors for 25 years. The former outdoors editor at the Mobile Press-Register, he writes for Outdoor Alabama, the website of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

3 weeks ago

Jim Hill: Motion to dismiss Democrat Doug Jones for opposing conservative judges

(Senator Doug Jones/Twitter, YHN)

It is time for the people of Alabama to file a “motion to dismiss” Democrat Senator Doug Jones from office.

Time and time again, Jones has consistently opposed conservative judges that have been nominated to the bench by President Donald Trump, and with each vote he has failed to represent the wishes of Alabamians from Muscle Shoals to Mobile Bay while siding, instead, with Democrats in liberal locales like New York and California.

Four powerful words helped elect President Trump in 2016: “United States Supreme Court,” because Americans dedicated to the honest and strict interpretation of the Constitution as it was written recognized the importance of appointing and confirming conservative justices.

And when considering the president’s most significant and lasting accomplishments during this tenure in the White House, the two that stand tallest are his appointments of Justices Neil Gorsuch and Justice Brett Kavanaugh, two reliably conservative jurists will have the opportunity to serve on the court for decades to come.

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Jones, to his indelible dishonor, cast his vote against Kavanaugh’s nomination and joined with his fellow democrats in the coordinated character attack against the nominee and his family.

It is reported that Jones told the Washington Post in 2017 that he would have voted against Gorsuch had he been serving in the Senate when the vote was taken.

But Jones’ opposition to Gorsuch and Kavanaugh are just two examples in his record of opposition to President Trump’s conservative nominees to the Federal bench.

Often claiming that he is a “moderate” who works toward bipartisanship in the Senate, Jones even voted against the nomination of a fellow Alabamian, Federal District Judge Andrew Brasher, so, apparently, his “One Alabama” campaign slogan does not apply to qualified jurists who happen to be conservative.

The time has come for us to elect a senator who will reflect the conservative beliefs, values and principles that most of us in Alabama hold dear.

The next four years could provide the opportunity to appoint Supreme Court Justices and there will be other Federal Judges appointed. Those individuals will play a large role in determining the course of our country far into the future.

Unlike Doug Jones, Coach Tuberville will be a committed and conservative ally for President Trump and Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s efforts to confirm strict constructionists, and in the unfortunate case of a Biden presidency, he will stand in the breach against the confirmation of activist judges who attempt to invent new laws from the bench rather than merely interpreting the ones that exist.

Several challenges to the Roe v. Wade abortion ruling are making their way to the U.S. Supreme Court along with cases involving gun control, religious liberty, Obamacare and numerous other issues that are important to the conservative cause.

The difference between the candidates could not be more stark.

Seemingly, Doug Jones will support only so-called “progressive” judicial nominees who adhere to the agenda of the 21st Century Democrat Party while Coach Tuberville will stand with judicial nominees who support the traditional conservative position on constitutional matters.

If you desire a conservative court in the mold of Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas, your choice is Coach Tommy Tuberville, but if ultra-liberal justices like Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor are more to your liking, Democrat Doug Jones is your man.

I have made my choice and will proudly case my vote for Coach Tommy Tuberville on November 3. If issues like protecting unborn life, preserving the Second Amendment and preventing the erosion of religious freedoms are important to you, then I encourage you to join me in doing the same.

Jim Hill retired after a distinguished legal career that included service as a district judge in St. Clair County and then as a circuit judge for the Alabama 30th Judicial Circuit. He currently serves as chairman of the Judiciary Committee in the Alabama House of Representatives.

Byrne: Democrat gridlock shouldn’t be our fate

(CNN/YouTube, YHN)

“We will never accept political gridlock as our fate.” — 2020 Democratic Party Platform

Last Saturday, the House of Representatives met to pass a bill blocking the reform of our troubled Postal Service, reform which is desperately needed for a failing agency hemorrhaging billions of dollars each year. It was just a political show as the Democrats knew it was going nowhere, although I don’t know who in America wasted their Saturday afternoon to bother watching another display of blathering hypocrisy.

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Mark Meadows, President Trump’s chief of staff and until recently a member of the House, came over to do something positive. He had conversations with various members in an effort to kickstart the talks on the next coronavirus bill which Speaker Nancy Pelosi stalled three weeks ago before sending the House home for what would be six weeks. A group of House Democrats has circulated a letter to Pelosi and other House leaders calling for the talks to resume, so Mark wasn’t coming for show but to make an honest effort to get back to the bargaining table.

The problem is, Pelosi’s not having it. When Mark tried to see her on Saturday, she wouldn’t meet with him, claiming she was busy with others. Now, let’s consider all this: we’re in the middle of a pandemic, people are hurting, the economy still needs help as it recovers, rank and file Democrats want negotiations on a new bill addressing all this to resume, the president’s chief of staff personally goes to the speaker’s office – and she won’t make room in her Saturday schedule to see him? Instead, she presses on with the vote on a silly, unserious bill and ignores the elephant in the room.

I’ve said this before. Pelosi has cynically calculated that not passing a bill hurts President Trump’s chances in November and she’s willing to put the nation through months of unnecessary pain to get the political result, and the political power, she wants. Gridlock is her strategy, and she’s willing to ignore the president’s chief of staff, and her own Democrat members, to follow it. There we were, all together, and could have spent the otherwise wasted day on something of great importance to the American people. But we didn’t, and then she sent us all home for another three weeks.

That’s why when I read the preamble to the Democrats’ 2020 platform, I had to laugh: “We will never accept political gridlock as our fate.” They use gridlock as a political tool repeatedly. We started this Congress with the government shut down. We spent last year passing political messaging bills which went absolutely nowhere in the Senate and then burned the fall in impeachment proceedings which of course failed in the Senate. She literally tore up her hard copy of the president’s State of the Union Address while still on the podium and on national television. She’s caused the House to abandon Washington and our jobs as legislators. And she won’t talk to the president’s key aides.

Gridlock shouldn’t be our fate. As the legislative branch of the government of the most powerful country in the world we can and should be working together for the best interests of the American people. If you want gridlock to stop and for us to get to work, don’t turn power over to the party with the platform which says one thing while its leaders literally do the opposite. It’s called hypocrisy, a poor and bankrupt way to govern.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

4 weeks ago

Telemedicine advances & broadband are keys to Alabamians’ long-term health

(Curtis Cannon/Contributed, Pixabay, YHN)

COVID-19 cases have spiked across Alabama, hitting our state’s low-income and African American counties with a vengeance. Perry County now has per-capita infection rates exceeding peak levels in New York City, while Lowndes County – with its long, storied history of civil rights’ struggles – has also suffered enormously.

Throughout the country, telemedicine grew astronomically during the pandemic; patients and practitioners have turned to virtual video “visits” to avoid the risks of face-to-face discussions. But those without home computers are effectively shut out of these services.

Both our values and our concern for public health demand we close this divide. Closing the digital divide should be part of the long-overdue national reckoning on social justice.

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Meeting this challenge is going to take cooperation and creativity, not finger-pointing and political posturing. Elected officials need to get skin in the game if we are going to bring broadband to those who need it for critical services such as telehealth.

First, we need to get broadband infrastructure into rural communities. Nationwide, 95% of all communities are wired for broadband. But big infrastructure gaps still exist across swaths of rural America, where longer distances and fewer potential customers make network infrastructure a lot more expensive to build. Twenty-seven percent of rural Alabamans currently don’t have fixed broadband deployed in their neighborhoods.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will soon start distributing $20 billion in new funding for rural broadband projects, which is a good start. Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC), the majority whip and highest-ranking African American in Congress, is leading a bipartisan effort in both Houses to speed up that FCC program, while getting rid of outdated eligibility restrictions that limit competition, steer buildout projects to favored contractors, and keep many capable providers on the sidelines.

More competition and better oversight should help avoid the poor performance seen in earlier federal broadband programs, when too many dollars were spent non-competitively and went to areas that already had broadband infrastructure rather than unserved rural communities with the greatest needs.

Second, we need to get more people online in the communities where high-speed service is already available. Twenty-seven percent of Americans still don’t subscribe to home broadband service even though broadband providers have stepped up with heavily discounted or even free service for low-income customers. In federal surveys, 60% of non-subscribers say they just don’t have any need or interest in-home broadband.

It will take a sustained, united effort to change these misguided views on the importance of broadband. Community groups, health advocates, local governments, and tech and broadband companies all need to join together in a public-private partnership to accomplish universal digital literacy by a date certain.

We need to do a much better job evangelizing broadband connectivity to those who don’t think the internet is important to them. Broadband opens lots of doors – educational, economic, health care and much more. Telemedicine can literally save lives, and broadband can vastly expand the quality of life in many other ways. We need to tell this story more compellingly to get everyone signed up.

Third, we need to permanently dismantle obsolete public policies that discriminate against telemedicine. When the pandemic hit, federal agencies quickly (if belatedly) relaxed restrictions on telemedicine and expanded reimbursements for telehealth services under Medicare and other federal health programs. Alabama followed suit with new, temporary licensing rules and Medicaid reimbursements. Instead of letting these reforms expire when conditions return to “normal,” federal and state governments should make these temporary policies permanent.

Healthcare providers across Alabama recognize the potential for remote, broadband-connected telemedicine services to revolutionize health care delivery and close access gaps.

I teamed with several local doctors to start the Telemedicine Hub of Alabama – an online service through which patients can access low-cost primary care, mental health care, and pharmacy services. Remote services like these are particularly critical to reach patients in areas impacted by hospital closures; 17 hospitals across Alabama have closed in the last decade.

We need public policies and public-private partnerships that encourage innovation and investment. And we need better rural broadband infrastructure and higher broadband adoption rates to ensure every Alabamian can access telemedicine apps and services.

This will take an investment of time, resources, and leadership – but we can crack this code if all the stakeholders work together. The long-term health of Alabamians depends on it.

Curtis Cannon is Managing Partner of Axis Recovery, a Birmingham based strategic healthcare consultancy firm