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.

9 hours ago

Guest opinion: ‘For the People Act’ was always a bad idea

(Wes Allen/Contributed, Wikicommons, YHN)

For months, we have been inundated with stories of a federal proposal named by the Democrat Party as the “For the People Act.” Upon closer examination of this mammoth piece of legislation, it should be renamed the “From the People Act” because this legislation clearly seeks to take the election process out of the hands of the American people. As a former probate judge, I see this for what it is – a federal attempt to take over our elections in violation of the United States Constitution.

The number of things wrong with this “Act” could fill a novel, but the most troubling aspects of this historical attempt to alter our elections and change the fabric of our nation include:

294

Automatic voter registration — The bill mandates that individuals who have interaction with certain government offices would be automatically registered to vote, but there is no mandate in the bill to only limit that registration to American citizens with the right to vote. Therefore, an individual who goes to the DMV for a driver’s license is automatically registered to vote, even if a felony has eliminated their right to vote or if they are not a citizen of the United States. The same holds true for those interacting with other government offices for assistance with a variety of services. Democrats argue that is not the intent of the provision but still refuse to establish any voter eligibility verification requirements in their proposal.

Funding of political campaigns — This act would divert money collected from fines of corporations from the nation’s general budget to a fund that would be specifically earmarked for the funding of political campaigns. This newly created “Freedom From Influence Fund” will serve as the exclusive source of funds for all federal public financing programs of political candidates. The idea that this bill increases funding for political campaigns from our government’s coffers is sickening. Our government has a gargantuan debt but this bill seeks to collect fines and, rather, than devote them to paying down that debt, diverts them to the accounts of political candidates. Absolutely mindboggling.

The list of problems with this proposal goes on and on and, although the proposal appears to be at a dead end now, it will rear its ugly head again. “We the People” must remain aware of attempts, such as these, to undermine our Democracy and we must oppose such measures at every turn.

Wes Allen currently represents Pike and Dale Counties in the State House of Representatives.

Carl: It’s time to get tough on Russia

(Wikicommons, President Joe Biden/Facebook, YHN)

Last week, the world watched as President Biden traveled to the G7 Summit. While overseas, he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss several important issues. I had high hopes for the meeting because there was much on the agenda for the two presidents to discuss, and it was President Biden’s first time as President to meet with Putin.

Putin is well known for testing other world leaders to see how far they will allow themselves to be pushed, and he’s doing just that with President Biden. Recently, we’ve seen the hacking of the Colonial Pipeline and the hacking of JBS SA, which is the largest meat producer in the world and supplies over a quarter of American supplies. While we still don’t know all the details behind these two attacks, we know they were carried out by Russian-backed hackers.

119

These attacks on critical American infrastructure can’t be ignored or allowed to continue. Last week’s summit with Putin was the perfect time to make it clear the United States will not tolerate any attacks from Russian-backed interests. Instead, President Biden did nothing to hold Putin accountable and even gave him a list of infrastructure targets that should be off-limits to attacks. My list to Putin would have been much shorter: everything is off-limits.

I strongly urge President Biden to get tough on Russia and any other foreign adversary who wishes us harm, because we can’t allow attacks on American infrastructure to continue and go unanswered.

Jerry Carl represents Alabama’s First Congressional District. He lives in Mobile with his wife Tina.

3 days ago

Steve Flowers: Prison issue unresolved

(Alabama Department of Corrections/Facebook)

There were two major issues not resolved during the just completed regular legislative session. Gambling and prisons were left on the table and up in the air.

It is foolish to not address a resolution to get some revenues for the state from gambling which currently exists in Alabama. However, it is not imperative that the problem be solved.

The prison problem is another question. It has to be addressed. The federal courts will take over Alabama’s prisons and tell the governor and legislature what to do to alleviate the crisis. The federal courts will win that fight every day of the week. They will act and give the legislature the bill for the expenses.

626

It is happening now in California, and the same scenario happened in Alabama five decades ago during the George Wallace versus Frank Johnson era. Judge Johnson prevailed and told Alabama what to do with prisons and sent them the bill.

The legislature, governor and U.S. Justice Department are all in agreement that Alabama has to have three new prisons to alleviate unconstitutional overcrowding.

The governor proposed privatizing leasing three new men’s prisons. Governor Ivey and the Alabama Department of Corrections proposed a lease project as the solution to replace many of Alabama’s aging overcrowded and understaffed prisons. In February, Ivey signed a 30-year lease agreement for two of the three new prisons, unilaterally, without legislative authority or input. The national firm, Core Civic, was chosen to receive the lease agreement and to build new prisons in Elmore and Escambia Counties.

However, the privatization plan has been thwarted by the Private Prison Firm’s inability to garner financing. In May, Bloomberg News reported that all three banks that were to finance the venture were backing out completely.

The lease plan expired on June 1. Therefore, the route that legislative leaders prefer is that the state own the prisons and pass a bond issue to pay for them.

Legislative leaders primarily and importantly Finance Committee chairmen, Steve Clouse of Ozark and Arthur Orr of Decatur, believe that there needs to be a special session called by Governor Ivey to address the building of three new men’s prisons and floating a bond issue to pay for them with the state owning the prisons.

Representative Clouse has brought up another valid reason for there to be a Special Session regarding prisons. The state received guidelines in the waning hours of the session from the Treasury Department on using the four billion dollars Alabama is expected to receive for state and local governments under the American Rescue Plan passed by Congress. The legislature will be the appropriator of that money. It may well could be used by the state for prisons.

Another factor that will be on the table is the locations of the prisons. A change from the lease plan to a prison bond issue would probably alter the locations to land already owned by the Department of Corrections. This land is available and was actually purchased adjacent to the current prisons at the time new prisons were last built over three decades ago during the last Wallace administration.

This land around the prisons was purchased for future expansions. During the planning, a blue ribbon study commission was hired to determine the best locations for the prisons. The commission suggested that they should be near the metropolitan areas of the state. Wallace looked at the proposal and said that looks good, but I think we will probably put those prisons in Barbour County. Gov. Wallace’s home county was Barbour.

The bottom line is that the prison lease plan proposed by the governor is dead. The other given is that new prisons have to be built to address a myriad of problems that have been outlined in the Justice Department suit.

This issue has to be addressed. Therefore, it looks imminent that at least two special sessions are in store for this year – one on reapportionment of legislative and congressional districts and one on prisons.

We lost our oldest past governor, Gov. John Patterson, on June 5. Gov. Patterson passed away at his ancestral home at age 99 surrounded by his family. Patterson was governor from 1959-1963. He defeated Gov. Wallace in the 1958 governor’s race, which featured a field of 14 candidates. Patterson was attorney general of Alabama prior to being elected governor.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His column appears in over 60 Alabama Newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

4 days ago

Dr. Daniel Sutter: The homeschooling surge

(Michał Parzuchowski/Unsplash)

After schools throughout the country closed in spring 2020 due to COVID-19, homeschooling increased significantly in the 2020-21 school year. The surge has been accompanied by some calls to ban homeschooling.

According to the Census Bureau, 11% of households with school aged children homeschooled this year, double the level in April 2020. Alaska had the highest percentage of homeschooling families, at 28%, followed by Oklahoma at 20%; Alabama was middle of the pack at 12%.

Homeschooling has long been associated with red state conservatives. Yet blue states have seen large increases. For instance, homeschooling increased from 1% to 9% in Boston and by 12 percentage points in Detroit. 16% and 12% of black and Hispanic households were homeschooling, demonstrating the breadth of the surge.

572

These figures are from the Census’ Household Pulse Survey. The questions tried to distinguish virtual schooling from homeschooling, but mistakes may inflate the homeschool percentage some. Still, many school systems suffered enrollment declines, so homeschooling has definitely surged.

Whether the surge outlives the pandemic remains to be seen. That homeschooling could go mainstream so quickly is not surprising. Homeschooling is now legal in every state, with more resources available for interested parents than ever. Co-ops help organize extracurricular activities and advanced lessons.

From an economic perspective, however, homeschooling offers a puzzle. The division of labor and knowledge drives our economy. Specialization increases productivity enormously, enabling our high standard of living. Homeschooling reverses the division of labor.

Economists’ interest in aggregate statistics impairs our understanding the attraction of homeschooling. Every good and service has numerous quality dimensions, which we ignore in tabulating aggregate production of cars, watches or sunglasses. Grouping and counting to produce economic statistics makes us ignore differences in products.

Education also has many dimensions of quality. An hour of instruction is not the same in different settings. A school classroom may not suit some kids’ learning style. Some folks favor “unschooling,” or allowing children to learn as they become interested in things. Education tailored to personal preferences is valuable enough to make parents turn down “free” public schools.

And yet Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Bartholet argued in the Arizona Law Journal that homeschooling’s “real dangers to children and society” justify a nationwide ban. Professor Bartholet’s concerns include academic quality and the potential for child abuse. While teachers frequently observe and report abuse to authorities, Professor Bartholet’s paper offers only anecdotes here; absent systematic evidence, it is insulting to disparage homeschoolers as child abusers.

On educational attainment, a review of the evidence by the Heritage Foundation’s Lindsey Burke suggests that homeschoolers outperform schooled children. Such comparative analysis faces some significant statistical challenges. We further know that parental involvement improves learning; controlling for the extreme parental involvement of homeschooling may be difficult. Still there is no evidence of a problem.

Any attempt to compare performance must take seriously a criticism raised by homeschooling advocate Kerry McDonald, namely, whose standards get applied? Standardized tests reflect the values of the education establishment. Many parents would not homeschool if they wanted their children to learn exactly what they would be taught in a school.

Yet Professor Bartholet’s argument is not ultimately about learning the three R’s. She objects to parents “isolating their children from the majority culture and indoctrinating them in views and values that are in serious conflict with that culture.” The professor continues, “Many don’t believe in the scientific method, looking to the Bible instead as their source for understanding the world.”

The case against homeschooling comes down to the same argument used to start public schools, values education (or indoctrination). In 1800s America the concern was teaching Protestant as opposed to Catholic values. Government schools allow those setting education policy (e.g., Harvard professors) to shape the values other peoples’ children learn.

Parents love their children and want them to succeed. Homeschooling parents believe they are improving their children’s lives. To preserve a free society, people must tolerate differences in values, not force their values on others.

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.

1 week ago

Guest: Leaders of Birmingham should use stimulus funds to make the city ‘magic’ again for all citizens

(City of Birmingham Government/Facebook, API/Contributed, YHN)

The City of Birmingham will use nearly a quarter of its first round of federal stimulus payments from the American Rescue Act to provide one time bonuses to all full and part-time city employees. The bonus payments received final approval from the Jefferson County Personnel Board last week. Full-time employees are set to receive $5,000 each while part-time workers will get $2,500. In total, the bonuses will cost the city nearly $17 million in fiscal year 2022, which begins July 1st.

But with the myriad of issues facing Birmingham, providing bonuses to city employees raises numerous questions.

First, is it an appropriate use of federal stimulus funding aimed to help alleviate the economic and health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic? The City’s 2021 budget faced a $63 million revenue shortfall, with about one-third of that being made up for through the use of surplus funding. However, only 7% of Birmingham’s full and part-time employees were furloughed as a means to save money. The other 93% of the city’s workforce did not see their salaries impacted by the pandemic, yet they will all receive bonuses.

Beyond the question of whether or not it is a permissible use of federal stimulus funds, is it the best use of those funds?

534

The proposed fiscal year 2022 budget is $455.5 million, the largest in Birmingham’s history. That doesn’t include the more than $148 million, made in two separate payments, that the city will receive from the American Rescue Act. The proposed city budget already provides a 1.5% cost of living raise for all employees, as well as merit and longevity pay increases. While Birmingham did experience a budget shortfall in fiscal year 2021, Mayor Randall Woodfin projects a full recovery over the next year.

With Birmingham’s projected recovery, as well as the fact that state government actually saw increased revenues in 2020, the argument could be made that state and local governments didn’t need the additional $350 billion bailout from the federal government. But the money is coming regardless, and it’s up to elected officials to ensure that it is used in a way that will benefit all citizens.

Birmingham has a number of serious issues that it could be using American Rescue Act funding to address. One is a shrinking population. Preliminary 2020 Census projections show that Birmingham is number eight on the list of Alabama’s fastest shrinking cities. Providing a one-time bonus to citizens already employed by the city, and who may or may not actually live within its limits, will do nothing to attract new residents.

As Mayor Woodfin has acknowledged himself, Birmingham has also continued to see an increase in homicides over the past several years. From 2017-2020 the city recorded 446 murders. Through June 7, 2021 the city has already added another 51. According to Federal Bureau of Investigation statistics, Birmingham’s murder rate outpaced Chicago, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, and Detroit, among others, in 2019. In 2020, the city saw the highest number of murders in a quarter century.

While these problems can’t be laid solely on the mayor and other officials, leadership and the priorities identified by those leaders certainly play a role. And this isn’t the first time we’ve seen leadership failures in Birmingham. Last year, API Chief Policy Officer and General Counsel Phil Williams wrote about how Birmingham may be on its way to being known as the “Tragic City” rather than the Magic City. Leadership decisions have not only impacted the economic well being of Birmingham, but also the safety and civil liberties of its citizens.

Birmingham has received a $148 million gift from the federal government, but that doesn’t mean it should be free money. Mayor Woodfin and other elected city leaders owe it to taxpayers to use that money in a way that will improve the lives of all citizens, not just those that happen to work for the city. The money could be used to transform Birmingham, creating a safer city and attracting new businesses that will give people a reason to want to stay or move to Birmingham, rather than fleeing.

Federal stimulus funds could go a long way toward achieving that goal and making this great city “magic” again, but that will only happen if citizens demand real leadership from Birmingham’s elected officials.

Justin Bogie serves as the Alabama Policy Institute’s Senior Director of Fiscal Policy. API is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to free markets, limited government, and strong families, learn more at alabamapolicy.org.

1 week ago

Guest: Tuberville backs military justice reform bill — Will it pass?

(Tommy Tuberville/Facebook, @USMarineCorps /Twitter, YHN)

In late April, U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) announced he would cosponsor the Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act. The bill would reform how sexual assault crimes are prosecuted within the military. At a press conference at Dannelly Field in Montgomery on June 3, Tuberville said the bill would make positive changes to how the military prosecutes sexual assault cases but also said the bill maintained the authority of commanders to maintain law and order.

As he has been well known to do, Tuberville related the changes to football, saying it paralleled the needs of a head coach to discipline players. Football references aside, the bill is a historic opportunity for Congress to assert its authority over rampant sexual assault cases in the military. While a popular measure, it faces grounded opposition from key Senate leaders that could stall its momentum in the red zone (OK, that was the last one).

887

As background, the effort to reform the military justice system began long before Tuberville took office this year. For eight years, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has fought to remove prosecutorial decisions on sexual assault cases from the military chain of command and place those decisions with civilian attorneys. However, many of her colleagues, military commanders and Department of Defense leaders have opposed such moves as they believe doing so would weaken commanders’ ability to maintain good order and discipline among their forces.
The debate came to a head this year when U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), who had fiercely opposed the legislation, reached a compromise with Gillibrand to keep major prosecutorial decisions within the military but outside the immediate chain of command. Ernst is the first female combat veteran to serve in the U.S. Senate and is a survivor of sexual assault. She is seen as highly influential on military issues in Congress, and her support for the bill has propelled it to a filibuster-proof 64 Senate cosponsors.

Under the new bill, court martial decisions involving major crimes within the military — including sexual assault, manslaughter, murder and other serious offenses — would be made by independent professional military prosecutors. Misdemeanor-level decisions would still be decided by the commanding officer.

Ernst and other supporters of the bill, including Tuberville, say that the legislation balances good order and discipline concerns with necessary action to curb the devastating level of sexual assault cases in the military. A 2020 Department of Defense study found that around 20,000 sexual assaults occur in the military each year.

Following the announcement of the bipartisan compromise, General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announced he no longer opposed reforms to the military justice system. Milley is the most senior U.S. military commander and previously opposed legislation that would have moved sexual assault prosecutorial decisions out of the armed forces entirely.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, an Alabama native, is yet to announce his position on the bill. However, a panel he commissioned to study the issue recently endorsed the legislation. Austin is expected to announce his final position on the issue in the coming days or weeks.

Despite the momentum and 64 cosponsors, the bill still faces major hurdles to become law. U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), the chairman of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee, believes the bill should be vetted by his committee prior to receiving a vote on the floor. Reed is not opposed to removing sexual assault cases from the immediate chain of command, but he has questioned removing other serious crimes, such as murder, from commanders’ purview.

In the Senate, expedited approval of legislation requires unanimous consent of the entire legislative body. To date, Reed and others have objected to Gillibrand’s efforts to obtain the expedition. And, with Washington bitterly divided and many critical funding and authorization bills taking up committee business and floor time, the military justice reform bill faces an uncertain future.

One possible way forward is for Gillibrand, Ernst, Tuberville and other members, all of whom serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee, to push for the legislation to be considered as part of this year’s National Defense Authorization Act, known as NDAA. The NDAA is considered a must-pass measure and serves as the vehicle for most major Congressionally mandated military policy measures. It authorizes, but does not appropriate, funding for the Department of Defense and the nuclear weapons programs of the Department of Energy. The NDAA has been approved by Congress and signed into law for 60 consecutive years.

Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee can amend and strike measures for the NDAA during a closed-door process known as “mark-up.” While the NDAA process is delayed due to the late rollout of President Biden’s proposed budget, mark-up is expected to occur in the fall with floor consideration coming closer to the end of the year.

The bill could also be added as a policy rider to any of the approaching appropriations or infrastructure packages that will likely consume Congress in the coming months. However, doing so would likely require the Senate to approve an amendment on the floor, which Reed and others would attempt to disqualify as out of the jurisdiction of non-defense legislation.

Regardless of the legislative vehicle, the bill’s eventual consideration will be a defining moment in a nearly 10-year effort to reform the military justice system. If passed and signed into law, it will mark the culmination of a truly bipartisan compromise by Ernst and Gillibrand, enabled by those newer to the debate such Tuberville and many others. If it fails, proponents and detractors can be expected to pick up the fight again next year, and the years to follow, given the momentous problem at stake.

Jake Proctor is a former intelligence officer at the Defense Intelligence Agency and previously held staff and defense policy positions for U.S. Senators Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Luther Strange (R-AL), and Joni Ernst (R-IA). He currently works in business development at software company in Washington, D.C., focusing on the company’s intelligence community and defense work. He is a Birmingham native and graduate of the University of Alabama and the U.S. Air Command and Staff College.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.

1 week ago

Justice Will Sellers: Magna Carta’s peer review

(Pixabay, Tingey Injury Law Firm/Unsplash, YHN)

If the 4th of July has a pre-game, it is June 15.

On that date in 1215, the Magna Carta was signed, beginning a gradual process of defined individual rights and limiting the power and authority of the British crown. The Declaration of Independence which outlined the colonists’ desire for freedom from the edicts of King George, is a direct descendant of the Magna Carta.

It would be foolish to argue that the Magna Carta anticipated all the rights and freedoms we enjoy today, but it certainly planted those seeds 806 years ago. Those seeds sprouted in the form of the development of common law and fully germinated in the U.S. Constitution.

859

Perhaps one of the most unusual rights secured by the Magna Carta is the right to a jury trial; such an integral part of the court system but those who live in common law countries fail to recognize its uniqueness. Modern countries have limited the use of juries as most governments prefer having only a judge make decisions. Juries can be unpredictable and messy with uncertain results at times contrary to desires of the powerful; regardless, English-speaking countries recognize the importance of having individual citizens decide factual disputes and mete out punishment.

Judges were typically appointed by the King, and, while learned in the law, were often unfamiliar with the standards of the community they judged. Juries were developed to provide a commonsense approach to the law, to provide a check on the crown’s power expressed through judges and to achieve a sense of factual fairness.

The international community discusses the rule of law and debates fundamental human rights, yet most countries restrict the jury system. Inasmuch as individual rights are touted and basic freedoms extolled, juries are given short shrift. Fair trials are demanded in a host of international legal agreements, but in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention of Human Rights, there is no right to a trial by jury.

The Magna Carta set in motion a concept that in order for the law to be fair, community leaders needed to be a part of the process. Demanding fairness is easy to mandate but assuring fairness and acceptability of decisions requires a jury. The signatories to Magna Carta understood what moderns seem to forget.

The populism reflected in the jury system is simply not something the legal process of other countries tolerate; most are afraid of the common sense of their average citizens.

The language in the Magna Carta provided that punishments, proceedings and prosecutions required “… the lawful judgment of peers and by the law of the land.” This idea was cultivated by the English legal system until it expanded to include not only criminal cases, but civil cases, as well.

And the decision of a jury was respected to the point that any factual finding by a jury could not be altered by a judge. This served to limit judicial power and balance the interest of the crown with the community.

Before the American Revolution, various taxes imposed on the colonists were enforced in courts with appointed judges but no juries. Omitting juries outraged colonial lawyers, who realized the crown’s end run was the denial of fundamental rights they previously enjoyed.

These rights were further limited when royal governors attempted to override jury verdicts when the results were unfavorable to the crown. Just like dictators today, autocrats throughout history were afraid of a commonsense citizenry integrally involved with the legal system.

One argument against allowing any review of a jury’s decision was that to do so, substituted the royal governor for a “jury of peers.” When the King limited the use of juries, the colonists were so antagonized that many leading citizens begin to contemplate a separation from England. But, in any separation, the system of common law and the right to a trial by jury would remain, albeit unrestrained by a monarch. In a sense, diminishing jury trials started the move toward independence.

When the U.S. Constitution was drafted following the hard-fought revolution, there was no guarantee to a trial by jury. To remedy this omission, and not wanting to rely on custom alone, an enumerated bill of rights was proposed to guarantee a right to a trial by jury in criminal matters in the Sixth Amendment. But the Bill of Rights went one step further; and, with the Seventh Amendment, provided that the right to a trial by jury would also apply in civil cases:

In suits at common law … the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise re-examined in any court of the United States, according to the rules of common law.

Under the English legal system, juries were used in civil cases, but in an abundance of caution, the founders wanted to make certain this fundamental right could not be eliminated by a later government; a written bill of rights guaranteed this.

Thus, a legal system impaneling a jury is so accepted that we find it odd when other countries have only a judge. Former U. S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist acknowledged, “The right to trial by jury in civil cases at common law is fundamental to our history and jurisprudence.”

The jury system we rely on to resolve disputes assigns average citizens an important role in our legal system. Beginning with the Magna Carta, the right to a trial by jury, though limited, was initiated as part of the common law that grew into the system we accept wholeheartedly today.

Some 806 years ago, the concept began as a test of strength between the monarchy and nobles, spawning a fundamental right unique in the world.

Our Declaration of Independence and Constitution owe much to their ancestor, the Magna Carta.

Will Sellers was appointed as an Associated Justice on the Supreme Court of Alabama by Gov. Kay Ivey in 2017.

Carl: Inflation is killing the working class

(U.S. Representative Jerry Carl/Facebook)

I’m old enough to remember the horrible inflation during the 1970s, and I hope we never live through something like that again. I will never forget driving to work one Friday in 1979 when I was hoping I had enough gas to make it to work that day and get my paycheck. I scrambled for every penny I could find and bought as much gas as I could afford that day, but it still wasn’t enough to carry me through. Luckily for me, I picked up a hitchhiker on the way to work. If it wasn’t for his $2, neither of us would have made it to work and back home that day.

During my travels all over Alabama in the last few years, I have sat down with countless people to learn what matters to them and what they care about. So many folks I’ve talked to are in very similar situations to the one I found myself in back in 1979. Each week, they carefully budget out what they can afford, and many have little to no room to spare by the end of the week. This is why inflation, which is simply an increase in the price of goods and services, directly impacts working-class Americans the most.

306

With the lifting of pandemic restrictions and increasing rates of vaccinations, the vast majority of Americans are getting back to their normal routines. Finally, most folks are back to dining out, traveling and enjoying social activities. While this is great news, nearly every American is going to notice the sharp increase in the price of nearly everything because of unprecedented inflation in recent months.

I’m sure many of you have noticed the increase in prices recently. When I filled my truck up with gas a few days ago, I realized I was paying over $1 more per gallon than I was six months ago. The price of gas has increased 56.2% during the same time frame, and it continues to go through the roof. Even worse, when gas prices go up, the cost of nearly everything else increases with it.

Runaway government spending (including the trillions of dollars President Biden has pushed through on socialist programs), a labor shortage caused by Democrats’ willingness to pay people more to sit at home rather than work, and a constantly increasing federal deficit are driving inflation through the roof. A recent consumer price index report shows goods – including food, energy, groceries and housing costs – increased by 5% in the last year. For perspective, this is the fastest rate of inflation since just before the 2008 economic crisis, which was the worst recession since the Great Depression.

As inflation continues to increase, I’m reminded of the days when I was younger and found myself struggling to make ends meet because of rising costs for basic goods. The working class is the backbone of our nation, so it’s time we get serious about addressing this crisis and get to work building an economy that benefits all Americans.

Jerry Carl represents Alabama’s First Congressional District. He lives in Mobile with his wife Tina.

2 weeks ago

The economics of paying ransom

(Pixabay)

The cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline by the hacker group DarkSide disrupted gasoline supplies across the Southeast. The company caused a stir by paying a 75 Bitcoin ransom to DarkSide. America historically has been opposed to paying evildoers, as reflected in the slogan, “Millions for defense, but not one cent in tribute,” and President Jefferson sending the Navy and Marines to fight the Barbary Pirates.

Ransomware raises many economic issues. A first question is, do hackers ever give the data back if paid? DarkSide provided Colonial Pipeline a key to decrypt their data. According to Proofpoint, this is the norm: 70% of ransom payers got their data back, 20% never got their data back and 10% received a second ransom demand.

585

From an economic perspective, this is not surprising. About two dozen groups, identifying themselves by name and known to insurance companies, carry out most of the sophisticated attacks. Insurers would never recommend payment in the future to a group which has reneged. The hackers must deliver as promised to make money.

Some have suggested making payment of ransom for cyberattacks illegal. If no one ever paid ransom, the hackers could not make money. Refusing to pay ransom though faces two significant economic challenges.

The first is time consistency. Kidnapping illustrates this concept. Before an event, the incentive exists to say, “We will never pay ransom.” If the bad guys believe this, they will never invest the time, effort and expense to stage a kidnapping. Once they hold hostages, however, our incentive changes; negotiating just this one time now makes sense. Our policy to never pay ransom is not credible.

Collective action poses the second challenge. Businesses collectively have an interest in not rewarding cybercrime, yet individual businesses suffer these attacks. A business which does not pay ransom benefits other businesses, creating the challenge. Why should Continental Pipeline suffer losses to make other businesses less likely to be attacked?

Why do businesses pay ransom? Reports mention several factors. A business may face a closure of unknown length and cost. Customers’ personal information will be sold if ransom is not paid, leading to fines and bad publicity. And the hackers might sell proprietary information to competitors.

Good economists know better than to second guess business managers’ decisions. Decisions to pay ransom often involve the business’ executives, its insurance carrier and tech security experts. They know the options and likely costs and should make a good decision, despite the pressure of a crisis.

Insurance companies and government regulations reduce organizations’ vulnerability to hackers, which is good. But what about channeling President Jefferson and going after the hackers? Most of the hacker groups operate in Russia, which provides Safe Haven as long as the hackers do not target Russian companies. Some law enforcement options may exist. Federal prosecutors apparently recovered most of the Bitcoins paid to DarkSide.

Crime is a very costly way to transfer wealth. Stolen merchandise typically sells for one-third (or less) of market value. A criminal might have to steal thousands in property to net $1,000. Ransomware appears much more wasteful than traditional theft. Consider just the value of the time Americans spent searching for gas during the disruption. Remember then that the ransom was about $4.4 million.

Cybercrime makes us poorer. The hackers and defenders at tech security companies are highly skilled computer programmers. But instead of making new apps or games, they are hacking or defending existing computer systems. Add to this the service disruption during cyberattacks, the reduced use of technology for fear of being hacked and the time spent on security training. The costs may be $1 trillion annually, or one percent of global GDP.

We must guard here against comparing the real world to an imagined utopia. We cannot costlessly protect our property from thieves or our computers from malware, or make people no longer willing to steal from others. Economics teaches that there are no perfect solutions in life, only tradeoffs. Vigilance, antivirus programs and backup are the tradeoffs we face with cybercrime.

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

Carl: It’s time to hold Dr. Fauci accountable

(NIAID/Flickr, U.S. Representative Jerry Carl/Facebook, YHN)

As our country continues to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, I am reminded of the American resilience that has guided us for the past year. Nevertheless, we must reflect on lessons learned during the pandemic and seek answers to those questions that remain unanswered.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) became a well-known government official as a member of the Trump administration’s Coronavirus Task Force. During the Task Force’s weekly press briefings, Americans across the country paused to listen whenever Dr. Fauci offered his opinion on the pandemic and our country’s response to it. Dr. Fauci became incredibly powerful in his position during this time, and the American public originally was confident in his ability to lead our nation through the pandemic.

306

Unfortunately, Dr. Fauci’s statements became incredibly confusing and contradictory over time. The American public, as well as our nation’s financial system, have been directly impacted by each of Dr. Fauci’s statements. Despite all of this, President Biden mistakenly appointed Dr. Fauci as his chief medical advisor and even retained him as director of the NIAID.

On June 1, 2021, more than 3,000 of Dr. Fauci’s emails were released to the public because of a Freedom of Information Act request. The contents of his emails have disturbed me greatly, and I think the American people deserve answers to some of Dr. Fauci’s statements and actions for the past year and a half. Many of my colleagues and I have urged the Democrats to thoroughly investigate the origins of COVID-19, but it is now time for Congress to expand its investigation by looking into Dr. Fauci’s emails and public statements.

Too often, public officials betray the public’s trust, and Dr. Fauci’s emails have already indicated he prefers being in the spotlight instead of honestly and faithfully carrying out his duties. As your congressman, I have a sworn duty to ensure officials in the executive branch are held accountable for their actions.

This week, I’m sending a letter to Speaker Pelosi urging her to direct Congress to investigate the contradictions between Dr. Fauci’s emails and his public statements so we can determine if Dr. Fauci financially benefitted from any part of this pandemic. As one of the highest-paid government employees, Dr. Fauci’s actions directly affect Americans, and the American people have every right to know the answers to these questions.

I will continue fighting to ensure Dr. Fauci, and any other government bureaucrat, is held accountable to the American people, and I hope Speaker Pelosi will take immediate action.

Jerry Carl represents Alabama’s First Congressional District. He lives in Mobile with his wife Tina.

3 weeks ago

Is inflation finally here?

(YHN/Pixabay)

The 12-month change in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) exceeded 4% in April for the first time since 2008. Many economists have been predicting inflation following a 25% increase in the money supply in spring 2020. Has inflation finally arrived?

Inflation was a major issue in the 1970s and early 1980s. We experienced double-digit inflation between 1974 and 1981, hitting 14% in 1980. The U.S. has dramatically reduced inflation since then.

Economists distinguish between inflation, an increase in the prices of most goods and services, and changes in relative prices, where selected goods become more expensive. A “pure” inflation would be a nearly simultaneous equal percentage increase in all prices (including wages).

559

Inflation is costly and avoidable while relative price changes signal changes in demand or supply. Consider lumber, which has experienced a significant price increase. Lumber production capacity fell after the housing boom ended in 2007 and the pandemic temporarily disrupted production. Demand increased due to DIY projects during the shutdown and new housing construction.

Lumber’s high price is painful but useful. The market is telling people to use less lumber until production increases. Efficient markets require changes in relative prices.

COVID-19 and government responses have produced numerous economic dislocations. For example, online school instruction increased demand for computer chips for laptops. Meat packing plants were virus hotspots. And tariffs from the trade war with China have boosted some prices.

Inflation is very different; as economist Milton Friedman observed: “Inflation is everywhere and always a monetary phenomenon.” In the U.S., the Federal Reserve generates inflation.

The Quantity Theory of Money holds that under certain conditions, the money supply and the price level change proportionally. A doubling of the money supply doubles prices. This explains why many economists think 2020’s money supply increase must portend inflation.

Except the Federal Reserve doubled the monetary base, which ends up determining the money supply, during the Financial Crisis in 2008 (the monetary base increased 50% in 2020). Free market and Austrian economists predicted significant inflation. Austrian economist Robert Murphy of the Contra Krugman podcast bet economist David Henderson in 2008 that inflation would top 10% in 2013 (and lost). An enormous monetary supply increase never produced inflation.

Why? For one, banks began holding excess reserves instead of loaning out all available funds. The Federal Reserve started paying interest on banks’ reserves in 2008, which coincides with banks holding excess reserves. Yet the interest paid on reserves has been very low, so other factors may be driving excess reserves.

Personally, I think the bigger story than inflation over the past year is the emergence of a shortage economy. From cars to chlorine to dog food, many things are not available for purchase.

We are suffering shortages instead of price hikes. General Motors could raise the prices of new Blazers and Corvettes, two models on significant backorder, to bring the number of buyers in line with this year’s reduced production, or “clear” such markets. Price increases to clear markets would have driven the CPI much higher.

When economist refer to prices, we mean market-clearing prices. Market-clearing prices ensure the availability of goods for purchase today if needed, albeit at high prices. Prices which do not clear markets are not meaningful, as an old debating trick illustrates.

In the 1980s, socialists argued that essential consumer goods were more affordable in the Soviet Union than the U.S. But the comparison was bogus. The Soviets had government-set prices, with goods frequently not available at official prices. U.S. stores were brimming with goods for purchase at market-clearing prices.

The current hike in the CPI may be due to COVID-19 economic dislocations and not a general inflation. Yet the price increases we have not experienced are a bigger story. The CPI is misleading when the items you want to buy are always “temporarily out of stock.”

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

Kimberly Guilfoyle: Only a sick society would tolerate legalized abuse of vulnerable citizens

(Gage Skidmore/Flickr, Pixabay, YHN)

I’ve seen plenty of disturbing things happen during the time I’ve spent in and around politics and the legal system. Few are as disturbing or heartbreaking as the rampant scourge of guardianship and conservatorship abuse.

It’s not a red state or a blue state problem. Nor is it unique to any one region of the country. From coast to coast, elderly, infirm, and otherwise vulnerable Americans are effectively being imprisoned, isolated, and swindled by people who are supposed to be looking out for their best interests. Worst of all, it’s happening under the direct auspices of the legal system, which is supposedly set up with the express purpose of protecting the vulnerable.

The people who are victimized by this process typically lack the ability to defend themselves, either because of advanced age or mental deficiency. In some cases, the mere perception that someone suffers from a mental deficiency is enough for the courts to deny them control over their own lives and disregard their most fervent wishes.

427

In theory, guardianship is a compassionate process designed to make sure that a responsible person is looking after people who are incapable of looking after themselves. In practice, however, guardianship is often exploited by unscrupulous characters who go to great lengths to take advantage of their wards. In some of the most heart wrenching instances, guardians severely restrict access to friends and loved ones, depriving their wards of their greatest joys in life for no apparent reason other than to prevent friends and family from interfering in the guardian’s decision making.

In my home state of Florida, Jan Garwood described being “kidnapped and forced into a locked facility” by a “fraudulent guardian.” She only managed to escape after being trapped in an assisted living facility for three years thanks to a smuggled cell phone and a secret Facebook page.

In neighboring Alabama, the family of deceased heiress and philanthropist Joann Bashinsky is still fighting a legal battle with her court-appointed guardian over five months after her death. It’s difficult to fathom why Judge Lee Tucker, who has jurisdiction in the case, hasn’t dismissed it by now – after all, the person supposedly in need of the court’s “protection” is no longer alive. In this case and so many others, based on my years as a prosecutor, something certainly doesn’t smell right.

Fortunately, increased public awareness of guardianship abuse seems to be making a difference. The issue is receiving attention from popular culture in the form of the “Free Brittany” movement and the popular Netflix movie “I Care A Lot,” and as more people are becoming aware of the problem, politicians are taking notice.

In my former home state of California, lawmakers are considering reforms designed to enhance scrutiny and oversight of guardians, as well as create guardrails to protect people from being unfairly deemed mentally unfit to manage their own health and finances.

The guardianship process is supposed to help and protect vulnerable people who lack the ability to care for themselves. All too often, it is abused as a legalized way to pillage their estates while cutting them off from the outside world – including their own friends and family.

No human institution can ever be perfect, but a compassionate society cannot allow the legal system to be used for such abominable ends. Guardianship abuse must be stopped so that the process can be returned to its original compassionate purpose.

Kimberly Guilfoyle is a national political and media strategist who served as the National Chair of Trump Victory Finance Committee and Senior Advisor to Donald J Trump for President, Inc. Prior to joining the Trump campaign in 2019, she was a television host on Fox News Channel.

Attorney General Steve Marshall: When criminal justice policy meets reality

(Tonya Terry WSFA 12 News, Attorney General Steve Marshall/Facebook, YHN)

Late last month, the people of Alabama were repulsed to learn that former pastor and serial rapist, Mack Charles Andrews, Jr., was released from prison after serving only half of his 15-year sentence. What most Alabamians might not know is that Andrews was not released by mistake, not through error or misapplication of law, not by an especially lenient judge or parole board — Andrews was freed by broken policies adopted into law by the State of Alabama.

Coincidentally, a law enacted by the Alabama Legislature just a few short weeks ago could have given Andrews the chance to get out even earlier. The Education Incentive Time Act aimed to provide inmates with the prospect of earning a sentence reduction upon the completion of certain education programs while incarcerated. As passed by the Senate, the only prisoners not eligible to pursue a sentence reduction were those sentenced to life imprisonment or death, and those serving time for committing a sex offense against a child. Because our laws define a “child” as one who is under the age of 12, and because Andrews’ charges involved victims over the age of 12, the bill would have made him eligible for early parole consideration, on top of the near-automatic “good time” sentence reduction that he already received.

My office fought to ensure that this legislation did not become law and succeeded in getting all sex offenders and most violent offenders excluded from the significant double benefit of free education and the possibility of early release. Incredibly, we were met with fierce opposition in doing so. In recent weeks, lazy journalists and criminal-justice warriors have lamented the fact that more prisoners were not included in the new law, while conspicuously failing to mention that the now-excluded offenders were rapists, murderers, armed robbers, and the like.

330

A look back at the bills filed over the last two quadrenniums signals both a disturbing trend and a cognitive dissonance in Alabama’s criminal justice policy. The trend: there is far more time and energy spent on legislation that benefits the criminal rather than crime victims and society at large. And the dissonance? While our state’s policymaking reflects a belief that we live in a low- crime utopia, FBI data reminds us that we live in the seventh-most violent state in the country. You don’t dig yourself out of that hole by repeating fictional rhetoric, blindly slashing sentences, and ignoring the voices of victims.

What do you do? You start by building prisons that are adequate to house the increasingly violent criminal population in Alabama. Then you address the revolving door-problem and impose penalties that change the mindset of individuals who feel that they can rob people at gun point or break into their homes, again and again and again, with little recourse. Then you figure out whether our law enforcement officials and prosecutors have the tools — legally and materially — to keep our streets safe. Perhaps, most importantly, you elect leaders who care about your safety.

While Alabamians living in any of our major cities can tell you that violent crime is on the rise — take it from me, I live in Montgomery — the policies being enacted suggest a completely different story, a false reality, and a dangerous delusion. Crime victims are a forgotten class, law enforcement is dejected, and violent crime continues to rise while lawmakers congratulate themselves on the enactment of progressive criminal justice policies.

Prioritizing public safety should not have to be hard-fought, but I will continue to fight to ensure that the people of Alabama can live free from the fear of violence. It has been my privilege to do so for the last five years and would be my great honor to continue this fight on your behalf.

Steve Marshall is Alabama’s 48th Attorney General

3 weeks ago

Guest: Critical race transparency

(S. McEachin Otts/Facebook, YHN)

I have found that the most traumatic experiences we endure generally must see the light of day, or we are bound by them and to them one way or another. This principle applies to families, but also to cultures. Healthy relationships cannot happen without healthy communication. As individuals and groups of people, we should be able to talk about race and race relations, personally and in the context of our histories and those of the cultures we inhabit—past influences and present, without fear and restrictions, regardless of political affiliation or popularity.

The simple truth is that when real-world experience and concerns are automatically ruled out, we are not addressing race and race relations on the realistic level of people’s lives and relationships. When people with real-world experiences and concerns relevant to them are excluded or exclude themselves, they become roadblocks to progress. This applies in family dynamics if one member is excluded from or refused to address problems the family shares—or never uses the first-person pronoun in addressing them.

353

As a society, the more people’s stories and perceptions are excluded or downgraded, the less likely we are to make progress. Does not the struggle over the Confederate flag tell us we missed something or somebody? A crisis response is a poor substitute for meaningful conversation that leads to proactive plans. In fact, a crisis response may accomplish something good but, in the process, increase barriers to reaching the heart of the issue or affecting people’s hearts. Not that we should withdraw from addressing the issues illustrated by crisis, but the more effective process is a proactive one that addresses those issues deliberatively and not in the heat of crisis.

Sure, it is much easier to let the politicians and activists do the talking and not express our personal views and feelings, but will our children and grandchildren find the society they live in to be more free of racial division and bitterness if people like us avoid talking about it now? Some believe it will just automatically change as generations change. I see nothing supporting that as a valid assumption. Much indicates otherwise.

I encourage people to tell their personal stories about race and race relations now, and to ask others for the same. Open it up and keep it up. Don’t hesitate to talk about the subject when it’s on your TV, computer or mind. Do not allow it to be the proverbial elephant in the room. Talk about it in church when it applies. Honor the light principle of the Bible. Don’t keep quiet. Talk intra-racially and interracially. Speak the truth in love. Don’t count on “them” to do it—same old, same old.

While it may have its place, trying to find relationship answers on a political or activist level is complicated by dynamics that have nothing to do with relationships. Half a century after the Voting Rights Act was passed, it is time for our country to grow out of its adolescence and into adulthood on the matter of race relations. That means having adult conversations.

S. McEachin “Mac” Otts is the author of ‘Better Than Them, The Unmaking of an Alabama Racist’

3 weeks ago

Guest: Praying that Christian conservative Katie Britt will run for the U.S. Senate

America is at a crossroads, and Alabama is under the gun.

Since Joe Biden was sworn into office in January, we’ve seen Washington, D.C. kick common sense to the curb and return to putting America last. Across our country, Democrats and much of the media look down on states like ours and openly attack our values and way of life.

This coming election cycle will be pivotal to our nation’s future, with Republican control of the House and the Senate needed to help get America back on track.

However, Alabamians need not look outside our state to grasp the importance of the 2022 election. Right here at home, we have a U.S. Senate contest on the ballot that carries generational significance.

336

Unfortunately, that race has not started out well for the GOP. The two Republican candidates currently in this race have already started viciously attacking each other in public. Not only does this ignore President Reagan’s 11th Commandment, but by tearing each other down, they’re playing right into Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer’s hands.

We deserve a senator that will put Alabama first, delivering results for our great state and fighting tirelessly for Alabama’s hardworking families. And we deserve candidates that are talking about how they’re going to do just that. However, our U.S. Senate race is currently lacking that candidate – and that avid champion for Alabama.

Fortunately, hope is not lost.

While she has not yet announced her intentions regarding the U.S. Senate race, my longtime friend Katie Britt is just the Alabama first fighter we need in this contest, and as our next senator.

I’ve been blessed to know Katie and her family for a long time, since she was Katie Boyd. They’re from the Wiregrass, as am I, and I know firsthand of the strong Christian values, like her devotion to the pro-life cause, with which Katie was raised – and with which she faithfully lives her life to this day.

Her Christian conservative values, work ethic, experience and proven record of accomplishments are just what Alabama needs in Washington. Most recently, Katie has returned to her Enterprise roots, fighting for small and rural businesses as head of the state’s business council. As the daughter of two small business owners, she truly understands what it takes to help small businesses succeed. She has previously served as chief of staff to U.S. Senator Richard Shelby, where she worked tirelessly to better the lives of people across Alabama.

Today, I’m praying that Katie enters the upcoming Senate race, and I hope you all will join me. Because we deserve – and need – a senator who will fight for Alabama above all. This election is too important to accept anything less.

Melanie Hill is a lifelong resident of Houston County

3 weeks ago

Guest: The Chinese Communist Party’s influence in Alabama education

(Troy University CSSA/Facebook)

The Communist Chinese Party’s (CCP) influence is alive and well in Alabama.

This past session, HB9, carried by Representative Tommy Hanes, and SB280, carried by Senator Shay Shelnutt, both failed to make it to their respective floors. These bills would have shuttered the two CCP-funded and backed Confucius Institutes in Alabama.

Confucius Institutes have been flagged for concern by several members of Congress including Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, and the Trump State Department under Secretary Mike Pompeo forced these Institutes to label as foreign missions. Troy University and Alabama A&M University both housed Confucius Institutes at the start of the legislative session. Thankfully, the Confucius Institute at Alabama A&M is slated to be closed, but Troy University is dug in. Emails obtained after a Freedom of Information Act request was filed by the College Republican Federation of Alabama to the Alabama Commission on Higher Education (ACHE) between Troy University Chancellor Jack Hawkins and ACHE Executive Director Jim Purcell showed that the chancellor would back the Confucius Institute until the benefits were no longer there.

418

(Clint Reid/Contributed)

These emails also showed why HB9 was held in the House Education Policy Committee by Representative Terri Collins. Correspondence between Representative Collins and ACHE Executive Director Purcell showed concern about a reduction in Chinese students enrolling in Alabama universities and Chinese factories closing in retaliation.

(Clint Reid/Contributed)

This shows the passive influence the CCP has in Alabama as we are actively deciding education policy based on Chinese economic incentives. The Confucius Institute at Troy University even treated Alabama lawmakers to a lavish trip to China in 2015. Senator Jim McClendon who was one of the lawmakers who went to China on this trip was a no vote in the Senate Education Policy Committee for SB280. These legislators are being wined and dined by the CCP, and they are not aware of the threat that exists. The CCP under President Xi Jinping seeks to overtake America as the global superpower which would be detrimental to our national security. The CCP has moved towards targeting state level and upcoming and coming officials as they are softer targets not often aware of the threat. This was showcased in the recent case of Congressman Eric Swalwell being targeted by a Chinese spy. The CCP will do whatever is necessary to gain a foothold in the United States.

Confucius Institutes put on a front of being a way to exchange culture, but we must realize how sinister the CCP is. The propaganda they push is outrageous and goes as far as raising the Chinese flag on Troy University’s campus, but it didn’t stop on college campuses.

(Clint Reid/Contributed)

These Confucius Institutes even infiltrated K-12 classrooms in Alabama with the Confucius Classroom program. This led State Superintendent Eric Mackey to push a memo asking schools to end the program.

The CCP’s influence is wide-reaching, and we must act where we can to stop it. The CCP is actively committing genocide in China all while we glady accept funding from the communist regime. The moral dilemma is glaring, and as a recent college student, I would not want my university tied to such a cold, calculating and evil entity. Next session, the closure of these CCP espionage and propaganda outlets masked as cultural exchanges needs to be priority one.

Clint Reid is the two term State Chairman of the College Republican Federation of Alabama.

3 weeks ago

Congressman Jerry Carl: Honoring those who gave the ultimate sacrifice

(Congressman Jerry Carl/Facebook, YHN)

As I spent time this Memorial Day Weekend relaxing on the farm with Tina, our kids, and our grandkids, I couldn’t help but think of how grateful I am to live in this country. Although we Americans have our disagreements and have been through some tough times together, we would not be here today without the sacrifice of so many men and women who have died in defense of our great nation. Over the course of our nation’s nearly 250-year history, more than one million men and women have made the ultimate sacrifice and have paid the cost of freedom for my family and yours.

A few days ago, I had the opportunity to have lunch with some World War II and Korea veterans. I sat around the table listening to countless stories they recall from both wars, and I was especially struck by the stories of the bravery and courage shown by their fellow men and women in uniform who gave their life defending a nation they loved.

Conversations like the ones I had this past week with these veterans remind me just how fragile freedom is and why so many have willingly sacrificed their lives in defense of it. As President Reagan famously said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. The only way they can inherit the freedom we have known is if we fight for it, protect it, defend it and then hand it to them….”

110

Although it can be easy to take this 3-day weekend for granted and simply enjoy a day off from work to have a backyard barbecue with friends and family, we owe it to the men and women who gave the last full measure of devotion to continue defending freedom and working together to continue creating a nation worthy of their sacrifice.

I hope you will join me not just this week, but every week, in honoring the fallen by living lives worthy of the sacrifices they made and by continuing to protect freedom for generations to come.

Jerry Carl represents Alabama’s First Congressional District. He lives in Mobile with his wife Tina.

3 weeks ago

Discovery, COVID and policy

(Markus Winkler, engin akyurt, Brian McGowan, Hakan Nural/Unsplash, YHN)

In early April the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) changed its guidance on surface transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. After more than a year of cleaning and disinfecting, the CDC now believes surface transmission is relatively infrequent. This case illustrates the role of discovery in public policy.

The CDC says, “surface transmission is not the main route by which SARS-CoV-2 spreads, and the risk is considered low.” Most transmission occurs through respiratory droplets in poorly ventilated, indoor spaces. (Outdoor transmission is also rare.) Contact with a surface contaminated with the virus has “less than a 1 in 10,000 chance of causing an infection.”

We normally think of discovery as something which occurs in science, but all human knowledge must be discovered. The emergence of SARS-CoV-2 highlights the role of discovery in public policy. As a new virus, experts initially knew nothing about it with certainty. Such a position of complete ignorance is rare but illustrating.

523

The fields of virology and epidemiology provided most discoveries about SARS-CoV-2. But economic knowledge must also be discovered and is more problematic than scientific knowledge. Economic knowledge generally depends on consumer preferences. The best car or computer can only be judged by users. Economists refer to this type of knowledge as subjective.

Economic knowledge also depends on time and place, as economist Friedrich Hayek noted. The best, meaning here most profitable, way to produce things varies over time and at different places today. Auto factories used to employ thousands on assembly lines. Now robots do most of the work. Grocery stores pay workers to bag customers’ groceries where wages are low but use only self-checkout lanes in high wage cities.

Any society hoping to progress must discover new knowledge. Yet, discovery provides a special challenge for a system where government experts’ recommendations get codified into binding rules. The argument for such paternalism is that the experts’ rules will lead us to make better decisions than we would ourselves. Government paternalism is controversial but ultimately only justified if it makes us the citizens better off.

Let’s now consider details of COVID-19 and surface transmission. SARS-CoV-2 was novel, but virologists began with knowledge acquired from studying other viruses, including coronaviruses. Viruses and bacteria can survive on surfaces and “fomite” transmission does occur. Scientists discovered that SARS-CoV-2 does not persist on surfaces as well as other viruses. Discovery did occur.

Yet, the rarity of surface transmission was discovered well before April; the new guidance cites research published in 2020. The CDC took months to change its message. Businesses have spent billions of dollars on cleaning supplies, employees’ time spent cleaning and disinfecting, and reduced hours of operation to allow cleaning. Paternalistic guidance needs to change as we learn, but government is frequently slow to change its rules.

Discovery undermines the rationale for a system of paternalistic experts. Depending on the volume and frequency of discovery, the experts may not know much more than the rest of us. Of course, experts naturally downplay this and contend that they know enough to tell us what we should do.

Trial-and-error is our most effective means of learning. Yet experiments generally require freedom, specifically permissionless and decentralized decision-making. Because countries like Sweden never closed their elementary and middle schools and states like Alabama reopened schools last fall, we learned that schools could reopen safely. We would not have learned if all schools stayed closed.

In principle paternalistic government expert systems can experiment, but in practice little experimentation occurs. In part this is due to experts’ overestimating how much they know. And many successful experiments in science and business were dismissed as hopeless. Nobody gives permission to conduct crazy experiments.

We have repeatedly heard the refrain, “Follow the science!” Good scientists know that the discovery of new knowledge is imperative. And science requires freedom to experiment and question everything we think we know.

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.

4 weeks ago

Alabama Workforce Council chairman praises Governor Ivey’s veto of SB 94

(Hal Yeager/Governor's Office)

When Governor Kay Ivey vetoed SB 94 on Thursday, May 27, she sent a clear signal of her commitment to our children’s long-term success. If SB94 became law, it would have prematurely stalled the momentum Governor Ivey and Superintendent Mackey have achieved in implementing the Alabama Literacy Act.

The third grade promotion policy is only one aspect of the Alabama Literacy Act, which includes a focus on professional learning for teachers, intensive supports for struggling readers, and clear guidance to parents on whether their children are learning to read proficiently. However, the third grade promotion policy is key to providing the motivation needed to implement the Alabama Literacy Act to fidelity.

311

Delaying the promotion policy by two years would have unnecessarily caused more of our children to be “socially promoted” to the next grade. “Social promotion” has resulted in many Alabamians not being able to reach their full potential in the workforce, since literacy is a requirement for success in nearly every occupation.

As a former schoolteacher and an innovative education and workforce leader, Governor Ivey understands the importance of children being able to read proficiently by the end of third grade. One in six children who are not reading proficiently in third grade do not graduate from high school on time, a rate four times greater than that for proficient readers. In 2019, 53% of Alabama’s fourth graders failed to reach proficiency on the state’s summative reading assessment. Our neighbor, Mississippi, passed a law similar to the Alabama Literacy Act in 2013. In 2019, Mississippi led the nation in reading growth on the nation’s report card, the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP). In contrast, Alabama has declined from the national average in fourth grade reading in 2011 (when Mississippi was 49th in fourth grade reading) to 49th place in 2019.

Never have Alabama’s public schools had such a large investment of state and federal funding to invest in closing reading proficiency gaps. Alabama’s K-12 schools have received billions in additional federal funding over the past year. Furthermore, Governor Ivey signed the largest K-12 education budget in Alabama’s history in 2021.

As Alabama’s education governor and chief champion for our children, Governor Ivey’s veto sent a message to the children, teachers, and parents of Alabama that we are not going to stand idly by for two years. Thank you, Governor Ivey, for believing in our state, our teachers, and our children.

Tim McCartney, formerly of McCartney Construction in Gadsden, is the Chairman of the Alabama Workforce Council. To learn more about the Council, visit www.alabamaworks.com.

4 weeks ago

Casey Wardynski: President Biden, stand with Israel — not Iran

(President Joe Biden/Facebook, PIxabay, YHN)

The Biden administration is emboldening Iran! Iranian proxies and militants who benefit from unending attacks on Israel once again launched a campaign of indiscriminate rocket and missile attacks on Israeli cities. These attacks are aimed not at the Israeli military, but rather seek to terrorize Israeli civilians including children and the infirm, and it’s no coincidence that they occurred around the 73rd anniversary of Israel declaring independence. The renewal of these attacks has corresponded with the arrival of the Biden administration and their revival of failed Obama administration policies. Biden and his administration again seek to appease Iran while applying moral equivalence to terrorist attacks on Israel with Israeli efforts to defeat and deter these terrorist attacks.

During my time in the Trump administration, we witnessed the United States broker peace deals that strengthened Israel’s security while also continuing to provide for their right to a strong national defense. If I am elected to Congress, I will stand firmly with our ally in Israel. As a nation, we must continue to support Israel’s Arrow, David Sling and Iron Dome programs. Congress must renew our annual security assistance – with no cuts!

308

In recent weeks, by entertaining calls to impose a ceasefire on Israel, the Biden administration’s approach invites continued attacks on Israel and it emboldens Iran and its proxies. The Israelis have been attacked by swarms of rockets and missiles from caches cynically located in Gaza and West Bank schools, hospitals and apartment buildings. The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) has used precision air and artillery strikes where possible to destroy sites from which these attacks originate. However, to root out attacks coming from schools, hospitals and apartment buildings, the Israelis must be free to use ground forces to destroy rocket and missile sites without killing countless Palestinians behind which militants hide.

What we just witnessed was without a doubt an attempt by the Iranian-backed Hamas to overwhelm and deplete the Iron Dome. Thousands of missiles were fired from Gaza in an attempt to saturate the defense system and create mass-casualty events. We need leaders in Washington that understand the threat, have been in the briefings, and won’t wait to speak up until a foreign nation like Egypt does.

Israel stands between terrorists and its citizens, Hamas hides behind their citizens, and the United States must stand with Israel and against Iran and its militant proxies. The Biden administration must not impose solutions on Israel that preclude Israel from mounting effective self-defense actions. Such a tried and failed approach will invite more attacks on Israel, undermine Israel’s defense capacity, and embolden Iran.

When I was at the Pentagon we were on the right track: with peace through strength, yet with no new wars. It’s time we elect leaders that will get us back to that effective strategy.

Casey Wardynski was President Trump’s Assistant Secretary of the Army. A graduate of West Point, he served in the military for 30 years – beginning at Redstone Arsenal. He is running for Congress in Alabama’s 5th district.

4 weeks ago

Guest: Believe it or not, America’s health care system is the best in the world

(API/Contributed, YHN)

We have the best health care system in the world. That is a statement you won’t often hear, but it’s true. For years we have listened to calls for Medicare for all and that the federal government should scrap our broken system. The list goes on and on. Yet these calls have been strangely silent of recent. We are better at treating chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes, but we don’t hear that very often. One glaring example against socialized medicine is the vaccine production and rollout efforts. Because of Operation Warp Speed, the United States successfully facilitated and accelerated the development and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine and other diagnostics and therapeutics.

Operation Warp Speed was the simultaneous development with large clinical trials and manufacturing ramp-up of the COVID-19 vaccine. The United States produced and distributed the vaccine precisely because of our highly fragmented, highly customizable health care system. While not perfect, it can hold its own on the world stage.

386

The European Union cannot boast the same successes. The EU’s vaccination rollout efforts have failed. Only five countries have met their first vaccination threshold of having 80% of people over the age of 80 vaccinated. Even fewer countries have vaccinated 80% of their health care workers. The EU is still working out how to roll out vaccines for the entirety of their adult population months after the United States began to offer vaccines for anyone who wanted one. The EU vaccine rollout has been a massive failure.

The EU has failed because their system sets them up for failure. While the United States still values a limited government approach, the EU relies on a centralized government. Because of our fragmentation and customizability, the American health care system succeeds in a large disparate country with high variability throughout, which ultimately allows it to be customizable to any situation. Thus, the success of Operation Warp Speed.

A centralized system will set up our system to fail, just like the failures within the EU. Rising costs and delays in care are a natural consequence of a centralized system.  The stagnation of care will become the norm as questions will always have to be referred back to a bureau in Washington for the answer in this system. It will always require more funding to tinker a little bit more to make it better, “if we could only …”  will always be the answer. Operation Warp Speed has proven that the American approach to health care is what works for such a large nation.

It is good to be back home in Birmingham. Last year, the opportunity to serve our country during this difficult time as a Senior Policy Advisor at Health and Human Services was a blessing. It was the honor of a lifetime to go to our nation’s capital and aid in the work to combat COVID-19.

I look forward to writing about and advocating for policies that preserve free markets, limited government, and strong families both here in the state of Alabama and nationally. These values have proven to work repeatedly, and Alabamians must continue to advocate for these kinds of policies.

Dr. Mathis is a former senior policy advisor in the Trump Administration, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon, and a distinguished fellow at the Alabama Policy Institute. 

4 weeks ago

Guest: Putting Israel-Gaza violence in context and perspective

(Zachi Evenor/Wikimedia Commons)

Over the last two weeks, violence between Israel and Palestinian terror factions in Gaza spiked following disturbances in the Old City of Jerusalem. With congruent Israeli and Islamic holidays underway, clashes and riots broke out culminating with Israeli security services conducting a raid at al Aqsa Mosque. In response, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad launched rockets into Israel from the Gaza Strip, leading Israel to conduct retaliatory strikes. The cycle of violence continued to escalate with militants launching more than 4000 rockets and Israel conducting targeted killings of senior Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad commanders. Israel undertook a campaign against Palestinian military and intelligence infrastructure in the Gaza strip, including destroying 60 miles underground tunnel networks and hundreds of rocket launchers and rocket manufacturing and storage facilities. By the time Israel and Hamas reached a ceasefire on Thursday, 230 Palestinians and 12 Israelis had been killed.

This article seeks, at a high level, to explain the context, drivers and actors involved in the violent escalation as well as the outlook for continued Israel-Gaza conflict.

Who is Hamas, and how did they come to power in the Gaza Strip?

Hamas is a Sunni Islamist U.S.-designated terror organization that seeks the destruction of Israel and the establishment of an Islamic Palestinian state. The group, based in the Gaza Strip, was founded by Muslim Brotherhood members in 1987 during the first Palestinian uprising, known as the First Intifada.

1994

In 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip as part of an effort restart the Peace Process. Following the withdrawal, the internationally recognized Palestinian governing body, the Palestinian Authority, held elections in which its ruling Fatah party was defeated by Hamas. After Fatah, and most of the international community, refused to recognize the results of the election, Hamas violently expelled the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority from the Gaza Strip, where it has remained the de facto governing body and has fought several wars and dozens of violent escalations with Israel.

Hamas receives military support from Iran, Israel’s preeminent adversary, including the rockets the group fired into Israel during the most recent escalation. Iran’s military support and Hamas’ long history of terror attacks have led Israel to implement a blockade on the coastal enclave, limiting the amount of dual-use (military and civilian) items that can enter Gaza. The blockade has had a detrimental impact on the economy and humanitarian situation in Gaza. However, as long as Hamas continues its support for terrorism and seeks weapons from Iran, the Israeli embargo will continue.

Are there other terror groups in the Gaza Strip?

Hamas is the strongest, but not the only, terror faction in the Gaza Strip. There are several other armed groups in Gaza that seek the destruction of Israel, namely Palestinian Islamic Jihad, known as PIJ, which is also a U.S.-designated terror organization. PIJ, founded in 1979 by exiled Muslim Brotherhood members in Gaza, is viewed as more extremist than Hamas and is reportedly solely funded and supplied by Iran. Israel has singled out PIJ in recent years as an instigator of Israeli-Gaza violence. In 2019, Israel assassinated Baha Abu al Atta, a senior PIJ military commander in Gaza which Israel says was responsible for a number of rocket and sniper attacks against Israel aimed at stoking Israel-Gaza tensions. In response to the killing, PIJ launched hundreds of rockets and Israel conducted strikes on PIJ military infrastructure before a ceasefire was reached. The series of events highlighted the prominent role of PIJ in the Gaza Strip and that terror organizations other than Hamas, while smaller, can still have a large impact on the overall conflict.

What are the root causes of Israel-Palestinian escalations violence?

An explanation of the core disagreements and history of violence between Israelis and Palestinians would require hundreds if not thousands of pages. At the risk of oversimplifying, this article will touch on a few of the triggers of escalation rather than the underlying root causes. This is not an all-encompassing list and omits some of the more complex triggers such as Israeli settlement policy and post-Arab-Israeli war housing disputes between Israelis and Palestinians, which would require an extended format for proper analysis. The triggers below were chosen due to their prominence in recent Israel-Gaza escalations of violence.

Religious Sites

The recent escalation stemmed, at least in part, from Israeli security measures at Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem. There have been previous escalations over similar Israeli action in Jerusalem. For example, in 2017, following attacks on Israeli security forces in Jerusalem, Israel installed metal detectors near the Temple Mount (known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary), which prompted an escalation of violence. Jerusalem, the West Bank, and modern-day Israel are home to some of the most sensitive religious sites on the planet. Jews, Muslims and Christians all believe some of their most important religious events transpired occurred within a small geographic area.

The main site of contention is the Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary, where Jews and Christians believe Solomon’s Temple stood and where Muslims believe the Prophet Muhammed ascended into heaven from atop the mountain. Jews, Christians and Muslims flock in troves to pray at their respective holy sites, bringing them in close proximity, which at times results in clashes. Further intensifying the situation is that Jerusalem is in Israel, a declared Jewish state. While Israel allows Palestinians and Muslims access to Islamic holy sites, the presence of Israeli security personnel near these locations often leads to conflicts between the security forces and Muslim worshipers.

Humanitarian Conditions in Gaza

Since Hamas’ takeover of the Gaza Strip, the group has been forced to take ownership of governance of one of the world’s most populous areas (more than 2 million Palestinians live in the roughly 150 square-mile-Gaza Strip). Israel’s blockade on the Gaza Strip to prevent weapons smuggling, along with international and U.S. sanctions on Hamas due to its terrorist activity, make it difficult for Hamas to maintain an economy and an acceptable quality of life for residents in Gaza.

When the humanitarian situation in Gaza becomes particularly dire, Hamas seeks to ratchet up the pressure on Israel to allow resources into Gaza by stoking violent escalations. Israel usually negotiates, via Egypt or Qatar, to allow resources into Gaza and achieve ceasefires with Hamas and other Gaza-based militant factions. These escalations normally stay below a certain threshold of violence but can spiral out of control if either side inflicts casualties or sensitive locations are targeted. For this reason, there is an unwritten understanding that during most escalations between Hamas and Israel, Hamas will only launch short-range rockets into Israel. These rockets are usually intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome rocket and missile defense system, and Israel normally limits retaliatory airstrikes to empty outposts and facilities.

When rocket volleys increase in size and scope and target Israeli population centers, Israel takes the glove off and strikes more sensitive targets and sometimes conducts targeted killings of militant leaders or operatives. This was seen during the last two weeks with the targeting of senior Hamas and PIJ commanders, but this is not a new phenomenon and Israel has a well-documented history of assassinating key adversary leaders (see Ronen Bergman’s Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations).

During the recent escalation, Israel faced international backlash for striking targets in urban area. However, Israel struck these locations because Hamas was using them to coordinate and launch rocket attacks indiscriminately against Israeli population centers. While Israel’s Iron Dome rocket defense system performed well and limited Israeli civilian casualties, it is not perfect, and Israel still needed to target Hamas and PIJ terror sites which it attempts to shield behind civilian infrastructure. Interestingly, to ensure more urban targets are vacant prior to an airstrike, Israel conducts “roof knocking” operations in which inert munitions are dropped on targets to warn any occupants of follow-on missile attacks.

Spoilers

As Hamas carries the weight of governing authority, which gets much heavier during military confrontation with Israel, it generally seeks to avoid prolonged violence with Israel to avoid public backlash. However, other groups in Gaza, such as PIJ, are not constrained by governing responsibility and are able to act on their violent ideology more freely. While Hamas tries to stamp out such activities, the sheer number of militants and weapons in the Gaza Strip make enforcement difficult. As was the case of Abu al Atta, the PIJ commander assassinated by Israel in 2019, Israel recognizes that Hamas is not in full control of all rocket and cross border attacks from Gaza. While Israel consistently states that Hamas, as the de facto governing power in Gaza, ultimately has responsibility for preventing attacks on Israel, actions like the killing of Abu al Atta show Israel’s recognition that spoilers like PIJ seek to pit Israel and Hamas against and takes targeted action against those spoiler actors.

That said, at times Hamas likely uses the plausible deniability of other militant faction attacks against Israel to gain economic and humanitarian concessions from Israel without having to conduct direct attacks themselves. So, while not every rocket from Gaza has Hamas fingerprints on it, there are still times where Hamas is aware of and sanctions the attacks. This complicates attribution for Israel and is the predominant reason why Israel sometimes still strikes Hamas targets even when it knows other groups launched the attacks.

So, what is next?

Unfortunately, as long as Hamas, an internationally recognized terror group, retains control over the Gaza Strip, Israel and Gaza militants will continue their cycles of escalations, negotiations and ceasefires. And Hamas is not going anywhere anytime soon given their grip on Gaza and relative popularity amongst Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. This is evidenced by the fact that Palestinian legislative and presidential elections scheduled for this year, which were set to include Hamas candidates, were indefinitely suspended because the Palestinian Authority’s leading Fatah party feared another defeat like the 2006 election.

That said, and for the sake of this article, there are a few highly unlikely scenarios in which a relative peace could take hold between Israel and Gaza, similar to that that exists between Israel and Palestinians in the West Bank.

First, and most unlikely in the near term, is a final status peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, which includes the buy-in of Hamas. As things sit today, even a peace agreement with the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority would only apply to the West Bank areas it controls, as Hamas almost certainly would oppose any peace agreement with Israel. Only if Israel were to offer major concessions and allow a Palestinian state that includes major portions of Jerusalem would Hamas even consider the deal, and that a near impossibility.

Second, and most costly, is an extended Israel-Gaza war where Israel unseats Hamas from power by force. This would be a devastating scenario for Israel and the Palestinians as the death toll, cost and international backlash of such a conflict are far beyond what either party is willing to stomach. Each side would much prefer the status quo of intermittent low intensity conflict, with extended escalations very few years, to continue for the foreseeable future before entering a full-scale war.

The final far-fetched possibility is the popular expulsion of Hamas from power by the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority. Given Hamas’ grip on power, military and security capabilities, and political popularity among Palestinians, this is also highly unlikely. Outside of more extreme factions within Gaza, such as PIJ, Hamas has almost no competition within Gaza. Unless Gazans overtime align with Fatah or more moderate Palestinian elements, Hamas will continue to govern the strip for the foreseeable future.

While the three scenarios above represent the most obvious resolutions to the conflict, history tells us that anything is possible. Just as Hamas’ rise to power in Gaza surprised the international community, so could their fall.

As long as Hamas controls Gaza Strip and seeks the destruction of Israel, the Israeli government (right, moderate and left) will continue its blockade of the coastal enclave. If divisions between the more moderate Palestinian Authority and the hardline Hamas leadership continue, a peace agreement that extends to Gaza is impossible as the Palestinians cannot come to an agreement amongst themselves, much less with the Israelis. And, most assuredly, if Iran continues to fund and provide military training and resources to Palestinian terror and militant groups, rockets will continue to be launched into Israel from Gaza and escalations of violence will continue. Israel will not, and should not, compromise its security and will continue to respond to attacks from Hamas and PIJ. As a result, the Palestinian Gaza public and Israelis living within range of rocket salvos will continue to be the victims of the endless cycle. Their safety, economic security, and humanitarian conditions will always be negatively impacted by terrorist activity and violence against Israel.

Jake Proctor is a former intelligence officer at the Defense Intelligence Agency and previously held staff and defense policy positions for U.S. Senators Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Luther Strange (R-AL), and Joni Ernst (R-IA). He currently works in business development at software company in Washington, D.C., focusing on the company’s intelligence community and defense work. He is a Birmingham native and graduate of the University of Alabama and the U.S. Air Command and Staff College.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.

1 month ago

Carl: Woke leftism is a threat to our military strength

(Congressman Jerry Carl/Facebook)

In Congress, I sit on the House Armed Services Committee. I’m proud to support our men and women in uniform, while working to further strengthen our military and defense footprint in Alabama. Our military is the strongest and most capable in the world because of our unmatched technology and the unwavering dedication of our service members.

The primary mission of our military is to defend America and keep our enemies at bay. For more than two centuries, our military has been the toughest and most effective on the face of the planet, and we owe these brave men and women for keeping us free. Unfortunately, the woke leftism infiltrating our military’s civilian leadership in recent months poses a direct threat to the strength and capabilities of our fighting forces.

282

While countries like Russia are running military recruiting ads highlighting the toughness required to be in their ranks, the U.S. military and CIA are running recruiting ads celebrating the diversity of the race, gender and sexuality of their recruits, rather than recruiting people based on their physical and mental ability to serve. Any person – regardless of race, gender or sexuality – who wants to sign up to defend our great nation should be allowed to do so, but their race, gender or sexuality should not be the primary reason they are hired.

People join the military because they want to serve their country by keeping it safe, being a force for good in the world, and fighting terrorism. This is why my son joined the Marines, and it’s why so many of our fellow Americans have answered the call to serve voluntarily. Our leaders should be focused on training and equipping our soldiers, airmen and sailors to carry out their primary mission rather than wasting time and money on distractions like diversity and inclusion training, which do nothing more than weaken and divide us.

Whether it’s Russian or Chinese aggression, or Iran’s continual build-out of its nuclear program, we have serious threats across the globe. Now, more than ever, it’s absolutely critical for the United States to maintain the strongest and most effective fighting force in the world. Rather than using our military to engage in a destructive and dangerous woke cultural crusade, we should be focused on recruiting the very best qualified men and women to protect and defend the United States of America for generations to come.

Jerry Carl represents Alabama’s First Congressional District. He lives in Mobile with his wife Tina.

1 month ago

Justice Will Sellers: Loyalty still matters

(Wikicommons, Pixabay, YHN)

Always the catch-all political crime, an accusation of treason is used to punish rivals and remove them from civic engagement. Autocrats use the insinuation of treason with brutal efficiency to banish, if not execute, a political problem or inconvenient idea.

While treason is bandied about to characterize someone with whose political beliefs we disagree, our founders made treason a particularly difficult crime to prove. As with so much of the Constitution, the terms were specifically written to prevent abuses witnessed by colonials. Article III, Section 3 not only provides safeguards that treason not be used to silence political opponents, but it also limits the extent of any punishment.

Because of these strictures, we often forget what real treason looks like and fail to fully appreciate loyalty to country or creed. While national ties are not unlike family bonds, this intrinsic loyalty to place or relations is often weakened by opportunity or ideology. Few people today really know a traitor to their country. There may be disagreements on any number of levels, but seldom do acts fully rise to the level of treason within the Constitutional definition. Treason in the United States is more than a lazy term of derision occasioned by mere policy disagreements.

847

Seventy years ago, when highly placed British diplomats surreptitiously defected to the Soviet Union treason was made manifest.

In May 1951, the Cold War was escalating between the capitalist West and the communist East. The United States had witnessed hearings before the House Un-American Activities Committee, and citizens were rocked by allegations of Soviet agents operating within our nation’s government.

Alger Hiss had been convicted of perjury, which fanned the flames that other government employees had divided loyalties and worked for the Russians. But many of the accused denied any involvement in espionage; for every accusation, there was denial and not always crystal-clear evidence of treason.

In a sensational trial held in March 1951, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were convicted of espionage, but there was hardly uniform consensus that they were significantly guilty, and there was enough evidence to question the appropriateness of the death penalty. In similar cases, the accused were defiant and vociferously expressed innocence. Thus, the county was divided about whether the treason was actual and if those accused were more political dissenters than disloyal Americans.

The actions of the British diplomats and the subsequent revelations after their defection left no doubt that our former allies, the Russians, had for years spied on us and penetrated both British and American governments at a very high level.

At Cambridge University in the 1930s, several undergraduates, including Guy Burgess and Donald MacLean, were recruited by the Soviets to provide information about Great Britain. They were from privileged families and considered among the elite attending a premier university. Nothing in their background gave the slightest hint that their loyalties had shifted from King and Country to Stalin and the Bolsheviks.

MacLean joined the British foreign office in 1934 and almost immediately began supplying information to the Russians. Until his defection in 1951, he delivered more than 4,500 documents to his Soviet handlers.

Burgess was initially employed by the BBC but also British Secret Service and, later, with the foreign office. While working as a spy he supplied the Soviets with more than 4.600 confidential or top-secret documents.

Using information obtained from MacLean, the Russians leaked a copy of a letter from Churchill to President Truman which included an embarrassing assessment of Stalin. The FBI believed the leak had come from the British Embassy and suspected MacLean, but they were unable to confirm their suspicions.

Later, as Western intelligence services began decrypting old Soviet traffic between Washington and Moscow, MacLean emerged as a leading suspect given his access to a host of sensitive documents about the U.S., British and Canadian committee on the development of atomic weaponry. Recalled to London, MacLean was tipped off by fellow Cambridge spy Kim Philby (who was stationed in DC with knowledge of the investigation) that he was under suspicion.

Given the stress of his dual identity, MacLean started drinking heavily and was viewed as so unstable that, once accused, he would confess and implicate others. Not wanting to risk exposure, Burgess and Philby explained to Moscow that MacLean must leave Britain, and Burgess began making plans for MacLean to defect.

At this same time, Burgess was dismissed from the foreign service based on conduct unrelated to his espionage. With his career at an end, he decided to accompany MacLean. Moscow felt a dual defection with mutual support could be successful. Others disagreed and argued that 2 defections would prompt counterintelligence to begin connecting dots to uncover seemingly loyal British citizens who served Stalin’s workers’ paradise.

By a series of feints and head fakes, Burgess and MacLean successfully defected and were noticeably absent prompting the secret service and other agencies to assess the situation. They soon realized their slow response to American inquiries had given the spies time to depart without exposing their accomplices.

The situation quickly began to unravel as guilt by association caused suspicion to fall on others who had served with Burgess and MacLean. Most importantly, trust between the U.S. and British intelligence agencies deteriorated, which may have been even more significant than the disclosure of state secrets. The instability caused by these defections led both the CIA and MI-6 into a frenzied self-examination, placing former colleagues under suspicion and disrupting normal operations in search of disloyalty. An inordinate amount of time was consumed by Western allies chasing spies who either did not exist or were not in positions to supply actionable intelligence.

Burgess, MacLean and their ilk committed treason by being unambiguously disloyal to their country. There remains no question that their actions lead to deaths and seriously compromised military and diplomatic secrets. They also sowed seeds of discord among Western security agencies.

While many in the United States questioned accusations against American citizens, the defection of Burgess and MacLean laid bear with absolute certainty that the Russians were creating an atmosphere of distrust, destruction and deception aimed solely at achieving Soviet hegemony. In 1951, this reality shocked the world into confronting communist deception forcefully and directly.

The survival of the Western democracies depended upon blunting communist expansion; in 1989, the appropriateness of their actions was confirmed.

Will Sellers is a 1985 graduate of Hillsdale College and an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of Alabama.