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.

10 hours ago

Justice Will Sellers: The enduring legacy of Margaret Thatcher

(Wikicommons, YHN)

Thirty years ago, this week, the longest serving British prime minister of the 20th-century resigned. Margaret Thatcher, having governed since 1979, saw her leadership challenged, but rather than continue to fight, she was gaslighted into believing she was losing her grip on her party and would lose her office in an embarrassing vote.

None of that was true.

In fact, the very men who rode to leadership positions on her coattails and hid behind her skirts during controversy allowed their greed for power to debase their loyalty to the Iron Lady. Dejected, she resigned and thus, quietly exited British politics.

Prior to Thatcher’s leadership, Britain was in decline and, by all economic measures, sliding into second rate status. Rather than control its financial destiny, the International Monetary Fund was needed to help the Empire shore up her accounts. Socialism dominated with anti-capitalist trade unions and nationalized industries weighing down any real economic growth.

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But in the winter of British discontent, Thatcher emerged to lead the minority Conservative Party into the majority. For more than a decade thereafter, she was the face of the party, and even when she left the scene, the imprint of “Thatcherism” would remain a dominant political ideology.

Thatcher’s political program relied upon a simple appeal to the British sensibilities. She believed in limited government, liberty of the individual, and the rule of law. But rather than relying solely on rhetoric, she acted on her beliefs and ushered in a golden age that changed not only Britain but the entire world. Indeed, the world she inherited in 1979 stood in stark contrast to the world in 1990. She caused the contrast.

Unlike many political leaders who espouse high minded principles, she pursued hers with what some considered reckless abandon. Thatcher took significant steps to push back the suffocating hand of state control and return the economy to a true free market. Government intervention was replaced with individual responsibility and human action.

There are five significant events revealing what Thatcher believed by how she acted. And the impact of her actions had ramifications that still affect both British and international politics.

Thatcher organized her government to firmly oppose state-sponsored terrorism and declined to allow the cloak of diplomatic immunity to cover subversive activities. When the Libyan Embassy in London was used to harbor snipers to shoot protestors and ended up killing British policewoman Yvonne Fletcher, the prime minister terminated diplomatic relations and used special forces to clear the embassy and send the terrorists masquerading as diplomats packing.

She would similarly send a large contingent of Russians home when it was clear their embassy was a cover for supporting domestic terrorists and spying on military and industrial targets. These actions rankled some in the diplomatic community who wanted her to be more deferential, but by sending a message of British resolve, she earned the respect of the world community.

Perhaps the one thing cementing Britain‘s return to power was the Falkland Island campaign. While it was only a small British outpost near Argentina, Thatcher recognized that the Argentine invasion was not simply a threat to the islanders but also a challenge to international British interests. Unwilling to concede anything, she ordered the unequivocal liberation of the islands and effectively threw down a marker that she would defend and protect British subjects and interests anywhere at any cost.

Accepting the Argentine invasion would have been the easy course, but while some in Britain were embarrassed at her saber-rattling and projection of military power, the vast majority saw her actions as patriotic and a reminder of the former greatness of empire. After the Falkland’s victory, Thatcher’s popularity soared, and when a general election was called, she achieved a landslide victory establishing a conservative majority that lasted until 1997.

On the domestic front, Thatcher knew from the beginning of her administration that she had a dead reckoning with trade unionism, whose power had grown so strong and influential that strikes could paralyze the country. But rather than take them on directly, the wily strategist first worked to pass laws that prevented union corruption and inappropriate strikes.

Once those laws were in place, she realized that the first challenge would be with the coal miners’ union. At that time, coal miners in Britain were a larger part of a socialist network that had grown in influence because coal was so critical to energy and the economy. But a minority of the unions were not part of this network and Thatcher allied herself with them, stockpiling coal to outlast the socialists.

So, when the coal miners decided to strike, she was prepared. First with lawsuits that prevented sympathy strikes from other unions by exacting fines and then with resources to close unprofitable mines and wait until the unions were unable to hold out. The coal miners were the first step, but gradually she reduced the unions’ economic stranglehold and began to privatize state-owned industries, which made the British economy more dynamic and competitive.

With an established Church, the parameters for separation of church and state are not debated in Parliament. In fact, the prime minister was involved in approving ecclesiastical promotion. Unlike other politicians who rarely addressed religious issues directly, Thatcher had no such reticence. When she became alarmed at the liberal bent of the established Church, she found an opportunity to explain to the professional clergy exactly how she viewed their role in society.

Addressing the General Assembly of Scotland, she boldly stated, “Christianity is about spiritual redemption, not social reform.” She chastised church leaders for failing to appreciate capitalism and the spiritual benefits it provided. It is hard to imagine a political leader who would have the intestinal fortitude to attend a denominational gathering, articulate a theology and take ministers to task for in essence failing in their mission.

Her speech, known derisively as “The Epistle to the Caledonians” is readily available on the internet. Some Sunday when virtual church is off, watch Thatcher explain her version of Christianity and see her sense of faith boldly defended and publicly exhibited.

Perhaps the one thing that both defined Thatcher and also led to her resignation was her idea of Britain’s place in the European community. Her view of Europe was with an eye toward free trade and removing regulations and restrictions on the free flow of goods and services. She saw Europe not as a melting pot where states and people lose their currency and cultural identity, but, rather, as a mosaic where nations and people maintained their unique culture within a framework of collaboration centered on trade.

As the idea of a united Europe moved toward a common currency, democratic socialism and a heightened regulatory environment, Thatcher stood her ground and refused to participate. Her speech to the College of Europe at Bruges explained succinctly her concerns and her vision of developing a strong capitalist Europe. Like her speech to the Church of Scotland, this speech, too, is worth a listen as it is prescient considering the current status of Europe, Brexit and NATO.

Lady Thatcher’s political demise was ushered in by disloyal cabinet members who were willing to subjugate British hegemony to an amalgamated Europe. Nothing they would say or do could detract from her legacy. In her retirement as she traveled to the former Warsaw Pact countries, throngs of people venerated her as the force that helped liberate them from Soviet domination.

If Thatcher was not honored in her own country, the voices of the children freed from totalitarianism offered honor enough to the Iron Lady who held to her principles, saved her country from irrelevance, and ushered in a new world order based on liberty of the individual and the rule of law.

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

Aderholt: 400 years later, the Pilgrim story is more relevant than ever

(Wikicommons, Robert Aderholt for Congress/Facebook, YHN)

This Thanksgiving will be different from any other we have had in our lifetimes. This past year has been a struggle, as every single one of us has had their normal lives disrupted. Many of us have also lost friends and family as the coronavirus has swept through our communities. To say 2020 has been a trying time would be an understatement.

This year has not been unlike that first year the Pilgrims spent after landing at Plymouth Rock; their crossing of the Atlantic, their year of loss and struggle and their ultimate triumph.

Four hundred years ago, a group of 102 passengers set sail from England on a ship known as the Mayflower. They left their homeland with eyes set on the New World, where hopes of religious freedom and entrepreneurial opportunities awaited. Today, four centuries later, the New World that these pilgrims found is now the greatest country in the world, the United States of America.

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As we look forward to celebrating Thanksgiving in a few days with our loved ones, (as best we can under the current situation) I think that giving thanks for the land that we call home is especially important this year. With the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower landing, we can look back and admire those brave men and women who embarked on a dangerous journey across the Atlantic Ocean. Many of the passengers aboard that ship sought religious freedom that would only be possible here in the New World. That religious freedom they risked their lives for remains a value we treasure and must continue to defend today. Sadly, it’s a freedom we too often take for granted each and every day.

And when rough weather forced the Mayflower to land in Massachusetts rather than Virginia, the seeds of democracy were sewn. It was the Mayflower Compact that gave way to the Pilgrims establishing a colony that created its own laws and abided by them. This incredible feat of getting consensus among a diverse group is what led to the first self-governing document in the New World. The Mayflower Compact established something that had never been done before but was soon to be replicated on a larger scale when the nation’s Founding Fathers put pen to parchment and drafted the Constitution.

It was the brave passengers of the Mayflower who started the tradition of a day of giving thanks in the year 1621. That first year, especially the winter of 1620-21 was harsh and deadly. Of the 102 original passengers, 45 died the first year. Many died from exposure to the cold, from diseases and from malnutrition. Four entire Mayflower families also died that first winter in Massachusetts.

But those who survived persevered. While it wasn’t called Thanksgiving back then, it was a joyous celebration of the Pilgrims’ first corn harvest that they invited nearby Native Americans to join. Some two hundred and forty years later, President Abraham Lincoln established Thanksgiving as a national holiday to be observed on the final Thursday of each November.

While we are still struggling through the season of COVID, we can look to those 102 brave souls from four centuries ago who also struggled. But they trusted that brighter days and the prospect of freedom were on the horizon. Not only that, but they looked to God for their guidance and thank him for bringing them to the place we are today.

So, on this Thanksgiving, while we still struggle, we can take comfort from those who came before us. We owe so much to the Pilgrims, as God put it in their hearts to travel to the New World. Furthermore, they set before us a spirit of Thanksgiving to the all-knowing God. And that is an example for us today, perhaps even more so than ever.

U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt (AL-04) is a Republican from Haleyville.

Martha Roby: Giving thanks and staying safe

(Representative Martha Roby/Facebook, YHN)

Thanksgiving is a special holiday because it provides us an entire day each year to pause and give thanks for the many blessings we have received. Particularly amid a global pandemic, the stress and craziness of life often make it easy to lose sight of just how much we have to be thankful for. Although this holiday season will look different for us all due to the current health pandemic, we must remember the countless ways in which we are blessed. Whether you are gathering with loved ones or remaining in the comfort of your own home, I hope we all take time to celebrate gratitude – something we may not do enough of these days.

This year, it is especially important we remember those who have been impacted by the coronavirus. This horrific virus we continue to battle has stolen the lives of over 250,000 Americans and 3,400 Alabamians. During this season of Thanksgiving, I hope you will join me in prayerfully remembering those who have lost a loved one to this virus as well as those who are suffering from it. My prayers are with those who are missing a family member or friend this holiday season.

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As we’ve learned to adjust our daily routines and activities throughout the course of this pandemic, we know this Thanksgiving will not look like those of the past. Please be mindful of any safety measures and precautions that have been put in place to help protect your family and those around you. The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) released guidance that includes a list of low, moderate, and high-risk activities in order to help Alabamians have a safer holiday season. ADPH suggests a few lower-risk activities such as having a small dinner with members of your household, preparing and safely delivering meals to family and neighbors who are at high-risk or hosting a virtual dinner with friends. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends hosting an outdoor gathering and limiting the number of guests.

While the road to recovery is not always easy, I am confident that we will get through this health crisis together, and we will be better because of it. The American people are resilient, and we will not let this virus knock us down. In the spirit of the holiday, I want to take this opportunity to tell you that I am thankful for the responsibility to serve our state and country in the United States Congress. I am honored to be in a position to make a difference on behalf of Alabama’s Second District, so thank you for allowing me to serve you. From the Roby family to yours, we hope you have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving.

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

6 days ago

How dare we defend our rights

(Wikicommons, API/Contributed, YHN)

Emblazoned above the doors of the Alabama State House is a Latin phrase that is translated “We Dare Defend Our Rights.” It is a symbol of the determination to ensure that the government does not forget that its people are imbued with certain inalienable rights. Not mere privileges – but rights. In this age of pandemic shutdowns, however, America is being conditioned to believe that any attempt to exercise fundamental freedoms is actually fundamentally selfish. It is not so.

In April of this year, the Alabama Policy Institute published a report at the request of the senate pro tempore that addressed the impacts of government actions on citizens in the early days of the shutdown. The report was presented to the Office of the Governor and the members of the Governor’s Coronavirus Task Force. Specific research laid out the growing sense that civil liberties could be infringed if an otherwise legitimate use of government powers to declare a state of emergency went on too long. Heck, back then it was just “14 days to flatten the curve” – who knew. That report, which garnered national attention, was issued seven months and 19 proclamations-of-the-governor ago.

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Before the mask police get jumpy,  let me reaffirm here that the Alabama Policy Institute recognizes that the coronavirus is real. I wear my mask when I go into public buildings. I have friends and family that have been impacted. That said, there is a fine line between appropriate action and inappropriate infringement.

Here is what needs to be considered under a glow cast by the lantern of liberty. When a government enforces the closure of businesses past a “reasonable” point, it can become a legitimate claim for an unjust taking of private property by the public entity. When a government declares a business to be essential while others are not, it can become a claim for unequal treatment under the law. When a government closes a school without ensuring resources to continue the child’s education, it can create a claim of disparate treatment. And when a government declares that gatherings may not occur, it poses a risk to the freedoms of assembly, speech, and religion.

As the world waits and watches for the vote of the Electoral College, the putative incoming Biden administration has already intoned national mask mandates, sweeping shutdowns of society, and remained silent while state and local leaders elsewhere have begun issuing draconian orders that reach into family gatherings and actions taken in one’s personal home. This was unthinkable … until now.

Those of us outside the halls of power need to raise our voices to new levels. And this week that hue and cry went up a notch. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Alito issued atypical public statements recently and decried the fact that “the pandemic has resulted in previously unimaginable restrictions on individual liberty.” A consortium of Alabama business interests have pooled their resources and initiated the “Keep Alabama Open” campaign. Alabama state leaders have begun expressing more public sentiment against the idea of new shutdowns in recent days. The fact is that they can feel the heat of their constituency and they recognize that if they do not speak out, take appropriate action, and stand for fundamental rights, they will be recorded in history as having gone willingly and softly down a dark road.

But I don’t believe they will. If we have to become Fortress Alabama, so be it. I would much rather be among those who stood for something bigger than ourselves – a state that on the whole views the acquiescence of other states to restrictions of liberty with pity and disdain. But a fortress is not just a bulwark against outside forces; it is also a place where people may go to seek refuge. If other states choose the dark road of compromise, their citizens need to know that they are welcome here, in a state with a governor, lawmakers, and public officials who purposefully protect civil liberties.

How dare we defend our rights? How dare we not?

We must keep Alabama open.

Phil Williams, Alabama Policy Institute’s Chief Policy Officer and General Counsel, is a former Alabama State Senator and is a practicing attorney. You can follow Sen. Williams at twitter.com/SenPhilWilliams and learn more about API at alabamapolicy.org.

Byrne: Much to do

(Bradley Byrne/Facebook, Pixabay, YHN)

Congress returns to Washington this week after a six-week hiatus for the election. Since the end of July, we have only met for a few weeks, and the work we need to complete has piled up. This Congress ends at noon on Sunday, January 3 when the new Congress will be sworn in and start all over again as any bills pending from the old Congress die. Let’s look at what needs to be done between now and then.

Every year since the Kennedy administration, Congress passes a National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, which authorizes the operations of the U.S. military and our national defense, an obligation of Congress under Article One of the Constitution. This year’s bill passed out of the House Armed Services Committee on which I sit by a unanimous vote and out of the full House by a huge bipartisan vote. A Conference Committee will iron out our differences with the Senate bill, and I hope we will vote on the Committee’s report in the next few weeks. The NDAA is one of the few examples this Congress when we have come together to meet our constitutional duties.

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I also anticipate that we will vote on the Water Resources Development Act, another bill we regularly pass and which authorizes much of what the Corps of Engineers does for navigation, flood protection and the like.

But the big two are the funding of the government and a new COVID bill.

Back in September, Congress passed a bill continuing government spending for the fiscal year that began on October 1 but using the numbers from the previous year. I wasn’t present for the vote on the bill as I was in the district working on our response to Hurricane Sally. Had I been there, I would have voted against it because these continuing resolutions are punts as we fail to meet our constitutional requirement to fund the government. That bill only runs through December 11, however, and there will be substantial pressure to pass something funding the government beyond that date.

This has been a source of failure in the past. You may remember it happened at the end of 2017. Will we produce an actual appropriations bill or will we pass another continuing resolution taking us into 2021 and the new Congress? Or, will we have a shutdown? The appropriations process, like virtually every other legislative endeavor this Congress, is badly broken because Speaker Pelosi refuses to let it work. There is little effort to work across the aisle or the Capitol, despite good people on both sides and both houses being involved, as the speaker insists on calling the shots and bypassing the capable leadership on the Appropriations Committee.

I am pessimistic that we can get a true appropriations bill this Congress and anticipate another continuing resolution will be proposed on or shortly before December 11. The question is whether that will pass and whether President Trump would sign it if it does. It’s likely to go down to the wire that week.

And the outlook for another COVID response bill this Congress looks even worse. You would think that with the elections out of the way, and having suffered significant election losses among her membership, the speaker would settle into serious negotiations. Not so. In fact, after pushing a $2 trillion bill this summer and fall even as the Senate told her that figure was far too high, she has now come back post-election with a bill for spending over $3 trillion. She is effectively expecting Senator McConnell and the Republican Senate, which seems to be retaining their majority, to bid against themselves. I don’t know what about Senator McConnell’s leadership of the Senate these last six years would give anyone the thought he would cave into that.

Indeed, the speaker’s COVID proposal is really just her way of postponing the discussion until after Inauguration Day when she expects to have a President Biden to help her instead of President Trump. Once again, her goal is less about helping the American people and more about her own power. Here we are at the beginning of the worst part of the year for viral diseases and she is punting the passage of a much-needed bill for at least two more months.

I hope I’m wrong about the speaker’s posture on these bills, but her performance as speaker so far has been depressingly consistent. When the choice is between the needs of the country and her own power, she always chooses the latter.

We have much to do this Congress and not much time to do it. I wish we’d break the mold of this Congress, learn from the election results and actually do the jobs we are required to do under the Constitution. It just doesn’t look like the speaker wants us to fulfill our responsibilities under the Constitution.

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

1 week ago

Why Small Business Saturday really matters in 2020

(Alabama Retail Association/Facebook, YHN)

Without a doubt, the coronavirus is taking a toll on Alabama’s small businesses.

Governor Ivey has gradually eased many of the restrictions put in place to keep customers and employees safe, but small business owners say it may be months or even years before the local economy fully recovers from the pandemic.

That’s why it’s important this holiday season to make a point of shopping small.

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Small Business Saturday is the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and that’s a great reason to bypass the chain stores and support locally-owned shops and restaurants, but small businesses need our support every day.

Small business is the backbone of our economy, making up 99.4% of all employers in the state. And while it makes headlines whenever a big corporation adds a few hundred jobs here or there, small businesses are responsible for a net increase of 23,841 jobs statewide in 2019, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Small businesses were doing well at the beginning of the year. Since spring, however, many people have lost their jobs or had their hours reduced, while employers have had to learn new safety procedures and invest in additional equipment from hand sanitizer stations and face masks to plastic shields at the checkout. Some small businesses intended to close temporarily and wound up closing for good.

When my association, the National Federation of Independent Business, surveyed its members nationwide last month, most thought the local economy would rebound to pre-COVID levels in 2021, but nearly one-third didn’t think things would get back to normal until 2022 or later. And when we asked how long they thought they could stay in business under current conditions, 19% said seven months to a year, while 15% said three to six months and 3% thought only a month or two.

We can’t afford to lose our small businesses.

NFIB is asking Congress to approve additional financial assistance to help local businesses avoid layoffs and keep the lights on until the pandemic is past, but there are simple steps everyone can take to help small businesses get through this:

  • We can shop local and shop small – not just on Small Business Saturday and the holiday season but year-round. National brands make a big deal out of their holiday sales, but local shops and restaurants offer deals – and exceptional personal and friendly service – that you won’t find at the chains.
  • If you can’t shop in person or want to avoid crowds, shop small businesses online or order by phone and take advantage of local delivery or curbside pickup. Or buy gift cards and gift certificates you can redeem once things get back to normal.
  • Remember that all kinds of eateries – from pizza places to fancy sit-down restaurants – offer take-out and, increasingly, delivery. If you want to sit down with your family and friends at your favorite restaurant after the pandemic is over, you must support them now – and don’t forget to tip your server or delivery driver.

This is a trying time for Alabama’s small businesses, but they’re working every day to deliver the goods and services to their customers, provide jobs for employees and support their local community.  Small businesses are implementing the safety protocols issued by federal and state officials and they are showing a real determination to get through this.  Please join me and shop local and show your support for locally-owned businesses.

Rosemary Elebash is the Alabama director of the National Federation of Independent Business.

1 week ago

Alabama must continue to strengthen, not weaken, state election laws

(Paul DeMarco/Facebook, Wikicommons, Pixabay, YHN)

As the nation watches the news unfold about allegations of fraud and irregularities in some battleground states, Election Day in Alabama appeared to generally run smoothly.

Yet, while Alabama has better election laws than most of the states embroiled in controversy now, there is still room to improve the current rules on the books.

The state’s absentee ballot laws do not allow for the transparency that is needed to ensure there are not deliberate attempts to defraud the system. In addition, we need to make sure the state enforces all of the current laws regarding those absentee ballots.

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But instead, some Democrats in the state have pushed for more liberal election laws including mail-in ballots with less stringent identification requirements that would make it even harder to verify identity. Those proponents are willing to sacrifice security of the ballot box because they perceive a political benefit to their party with lax rules.

Voter identification is of paramount importance in discouraging fraud and giving confidence to the voters in the integrity and accuracy of our electoral system.

Alabama voters should demand that the state’s election laws instill certainty at the ballot box rather than create suspicion. And when the Alabama Legislature is back in session, they should listen to those voters.

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

1 week ago

The future of the American project

(Pixabay, YHN)

Former Vice President Joe Biden has won a narrow victory in the presidential election. President Trump, however, claims the election was stolen through fraud. In 2016, Hillary Clinton blamed her loss on Russian interference. The lack of legitimacy accorded to these election winners raises a question: Do Americans still want to be part of the same nation?

To answer, let’s consider what constitutes a nation. A nation is a set of institutions or rules, like the just completed election campaign. The rules also spell out the fundamental rights of citizens.

Citizens agree to live by a nation’s rules. Yoram Hazony writes in The Virtue of Nationalism, “Each institution teaches, persuades or coerces its members to act according to these fixed purposes and forms, abiding by accepted general rules and procedures, so that they can reliably act as a body, without each time having to be persuaded or coerced anew.”

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An institution or nation is strong when “the individuals identify the interests and aims of the institution as their own.” People will feel loyalty toward other citizens who embrace the rules. This means, as Mr. Hazony continues, experiencing the hardship and happiness of fellow citizens “as if it were [our] own.”

Today, liberals and conservatives view each other as “ignorant” and “evil.” Many supporters of Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden believe that election of the other would permanently harm America. The bonds of loyalty Mr. Hazony describes are dissolving, if they have not already dissolved.

Perhaps this should not surprise us.

Liberalism (or classical liberalism), as embraced by America’s founders, holds that government exists to serve citizens. America’s great contribution to the liberal experiment was founding a nation on the idea of freedom. Other nations had enjoyed freedom – England and the Netherlands during the 1700s and Athens, Rome and Venice previously – but were not founded on freedom.

The American idea was powerful enough to overcome our founding’s contradictions. The words Thomas Jefferson wrote – while owning slaves – were so profound that freedom was eventually extended to all.

The idea of freedom was relatively new in 1776. America’s founders carefully studied history and liberalism. They knew that freedom involved throwing off King George’s yoke and strictly limiting government power.

Over the past 250 years, at least two distinct visions of human freedom have emerged. One sees people as capable of self-governance. With rights of property, contract, association and speech – what are now termed “negative rights” – people, communities, and commerce will flourish.

A second vision views negative rights as insufficient. True human freedom requires liberation from the economic need, because otherwise, market forces dominate peoples’ lives. Positive or economic rights to healthcare, education, or a high paying job as fundamental.

Asking “Which vision is correct?” is unhelpful. For decades thinkers have detailed the arguments for these visions. Yet significant disagreement still exists and is likely to persist for the foreseeable future.

Without agreement on one vision, our government produces compromise. Democrats expand government marginally and Republicans trim back a little. But compromise produces a muddle, and I think a lack of progress toward their preferred vision drives much of today’s bitter polarization.

Ramming the policies to achieve one vision through provides one alternative to compromise. Yet without genuine consensus, this just fuels conflict. And it violates our liberal values. Liberalism began by recognizing that all lives matter, not just rulers’ lives. Forcing a vision of freedom on someone is absurd.

Religious freedom embodies the liberal ideal. Separation of church and state allows Americans to worship as they choose. We recognize that forcing someone to renounce or not practice their religion denies them their dignity.

Yet the rules necessary to achieve different visions of freedom are incompatible. People cannot have a right to own guns or to healthcare only when Congress assents. We either have rights or we do not.

When political theorists had one vision of freedom, one nation founded on the principle of liberty was enough. Fulfilling the American project with multiple visions require multiple sets of rules.

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.

Roby: Coronavirus cases continue to rise

(Representative Martha Roby, Alabama Public Health/Facebook, YHN)

Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away, which means the Christmas holiday season will be here before we know it. The holidays bring many exciting opportunities to gather and celebrate with family and friends, and this holiday season, it’s important to remember that the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to progress across our communities.

The United States surpassed 1 million new confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the first 10 days of November, and several states broke their record for the daily number of new COVID-19 cases reported. Health officials earlier this year warned Americans of the probability of a second wave as winter approached, and it is evident that we are entering this predicted phase of the pandemic.

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Governor Kay Ivey and State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris recently announced an extension to the current Safer at Home order which is now set to expire on Friday, December 11. The updated order keeps the statewide mask mandate in place, and I encourage you to become familiar with the rest of the current guidelines. Public health orders are only as successful as the public’s awareness and adherence to them. This is a time for everyone to recognize the ongoing changes from the climb in cases to updated health and safety measures in place.

The number of coronavirus-related hospitalizations and daily deaths across the state is on the rise. Although it may not be as sharp an increase in Alabama as we are seeing in other areas of the country, it is still imperative Alabamians take this virus seriously and adhere to all guidelines implemented by our public officials.

I know we are all desperate to get back to our normal routines, but as the holidays approach, please be mindful of your health and the health of those around you. We have already lost over 3,200 precious lives across Alabama throughout the course of this pandemic, and we must remain responsible and diligent to ensure this virus does not continue to rapidly claim the lives of Alabamians.

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

2 weeks ago

Roby: God bless our veterans

(M. Roby/Facebook, PIxabay, YHN)

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year 1918, the armistice ending World War I was signed. Originally known as Armistice Day, Congress later passed a resolution signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower which officially designated November 11 as Veterans Day. Americans now pause on this special day each year to recognize all those, young and old, who have served our country in uniform.

My highest honor as a member of Congress is representing and fighting for the men and women who serve us all. One of my top priorities is working on behalf of our servicemembers and veterans. Alabama’s Second Congressional District is home to a notable amount of veterans and thousands of active duty and reserve personnel.

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My office consistently provides our veterans with assistance because they deserve the utmost care and attention, and I recognize our local VA facilities have not always provided this to them. There is certainly much more work to do, but I am encouraged by the progress that has been made throughout my time in Congress and am hopeful our leaders will continue to fight for our veteran population.

While we should honor the service and sacrifice of our veterans every day, Veterans Day provides a unique opportunity for us to come together as a nation and pay tribute to the men and women who put their lives on the line for our freedom. There are typically several parades and celebrations across the Second District to praise our veterans, but due to the current health pandemic, this year’s activities look a little different. If you are interested in finding an opportunity to show your appreciation for our men and women who have served in uniform, I encourage you to look into these virtual COVID-friendly recommendations from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

There are 17.4 million veterans living in the United States and nearly 400,000 in Alabama. I want to extend my most sincere gratitude to everyone who has served this country and to their families. Our country is great because of the men and women who were willing to sacrifice on our behalf. Please join me in saying thank you to all those who have served our nation.

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

Byrne: What America said

(Bradley Byrne/Facebook, YHN)

Election Day has come and gone. Despite the fact that multiple national news sites have “called” the presidential election, court cases and recounts are going forward in several states where the margin is less than 1%, and we don’t yet “know” who was elected president. By federal law, all election disputes must be resolved by December 8 and presidential electors must meet and cast their votes for president on December 14. The ballots will be counted in Congress on January 6. These are the key dates when we will “know” who will become president on Inauguration Day, January 20. So, let’s not jump to a conclusion about who won this very close presidential election just yet.

But, we already know some important things about America from the votes last week.

Perhaps the most important thing we witnessed was a free and open democracy working. We take for granted our system for choosing our leaders, but if you look around the world, we shouldn’t. Even in a very politically divided nation, we held peaceful elections, and even where there are election disputes, we have legal processes for resolving them. For the most part, things have been handled peacefully, except in a few places like Oregon where they apparently don’t need an excuse to riot.

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And, while we are divided for sure, there are some things we have agreement on. Despite the now predictable assurances from media “analysts” and other so-called “experts,” there was no blue wave, no generational realignment of our body politic. The media discovered what the rest of us knew: America is not a left-leaning nation. And demographics aren’t destiny. That’s why an increasing proportion of blacks and Hispanics are voting their relatively conservative beliefs. As a nation, we don’t want a Green New Deal, Medicare for All or defunded law enforcement agencies. We aren’t socialists or even socialist leaning.

The elections for the two houses of Congress showed a narrowing majority in each. With two special elections for Senate pending in Georgia on January 5, it looks likely that Republicans will hold a very narrow majority in the upper body. That alone guarantees that tax increases, court packing, climate change, government ordered health care, and other far left proposals of a potential Biden-Harris administration would go nowhere, an accurate reflection of the national mood.

In the House, the Democrats apparently held their majority, but it will be much reduced as Republicans flipped as many as 15 seats and have net gains of 8 to 12. During a post-election conference call last week with her members, Speaker Nancy Pelosi proclaimed that the shrunken Democrat conference had a “mandate” even as Democrats on the call excoriated their party’s policies and messages of the last two years. Don’t let the national media fool you. This isn’t a struggle between moderate Democrats and liberals because there aren’t any moderate Democrats left in Congress after this year’s primaries. This is a fight between liberals and socialists, the two groups that now make up congressional Democrats.

The Republican side is a very different story. Though disappointed that we didn’t retake the majority, we are heartened by our gains and believe we will succeed in the 2022 midterms. Many governorships and state houses were also elected last week, and they will reapportion their states next year with the census numbers from this year, thus determining the makeup of House districts for a decade. Even though President Obama’s attorney general, Eric Holder, spent enormous amounts of money to get Democrat control of these state houses nationally, his effort failed and Republicans will be in control of states with far more House seats than the Democrats will. By Election Day 2022, the map for House elections will be more favorable to Republican candidates than was the case last week. That blue wave is actually a firmly rising red sea in the House.

I woke up the day after the election both pleased and disappointed. I wish Republicans had taken the House and had a larger majority in the Senate. And I truly wish we had a clear victory for President Trump, who may still win in the states with recounts and lawsuits. But, America once again proved the experts wrong by saying loudly who we are and who we aren’t.

We aren’t socialists or even liberals. We don’t want massive change to our Republic. We won’t let gender, race, religion or any other demographic category define us, because we are a people free to decide for ourselves what we believe and who we will vote for. We have spoken as a people and we don’t need the news media and entertainment industry to act as if they speak for us.

And it’s the job of those who are elected to listen to the people of this country and not the out of touch elites on TV and the internet. Once again, they were wrong. By their votes the people of America said so.

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

2 weeks ago

The Supreme Court will not pick the president, but it could have a role

(API/Contributed, Wikicommons, YHN)

The specter of dimpled chads has emerged to haunt American politics. Twenty years after the contested presidential election of George W. Bush against Al Gore made punch lines out of certain ambiguous ballots in Florida, allegations of election irregularities again are causing worry that the Supreme Court of the United States might select the next President of the United States. Those fears are unwarranted.

Part of the blame for those fears rests with politicians and pundits who trade on notions of federal judicial supremacy with phrases such as “all the way to the Supreme Court.” If the U.S. Supreme Court gets involved at all, its role will be limited to ensuring that the states have complied with the minimal requirements of the Constitution of the United States and federal election laws. The Court does not exercise a general supervision over federal elections.

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The U.S. Constitution does not tell states how to run elections, not even elections for offices in the United States government. State legislatures are responsible for promulgating election rules. State election officials are responsible for administering elections in compliance with those rules, usually under the supervision of a secretary of state or some other official who is accountable to the people.

State courts are responsible for adjudicating any legal disputes arising out of the administration of state election laws. But their decisions mostly concern whether officials adhered to lawful procedures. Election lawsuits seldom concern whose votes count.

If a candidate were to produce evidence of fraud or illegal conduct, that evidence would be considered and assessed by state election officials and, if necessary, state courts. And even if polling officials have violated some election rules, there remains the question what remedies are appropriate. Like the rules themselves, the remedies and sanctions for violating the rules are usually matters of state, not federal, law.

Where the law allows judicial discretion, reasonable judges will tailor the remedy to the nature of the wrong. Judges are rightly loath to throw out ballots cast legally and in good faith by qualified voters, even if officials behaved badly. For example, assuming that poll watchers have been illegally excluded from rooms where ballots are being interpreted and counted, as some allege, that does not entail that the ballots themselves should be discounted.

If someone has committed a state or federal crime then the evidence should be delivered to prosecutors. But any prosecutions for election fraud are unlikely to change the outcomes of any elections.

One legal dispute that might reach the U.S. Supreme Court concerns a decision by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania to extend the time for counting certain ballots. Republicans alleged in a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court that the Pennsylvania court’s decision “rewrote the state’s law governing federal elections and violated the United States Constitution, sowing chaos into the electoral process mere weeks before the already intricate November General Election.”

If that allegation is true then the Pennsylvania high court violated Article I, section 4 of the Constitution of the United States, which provides, “The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof.” Notice that the power to change election rules belongs to state legislatures, rather than state courts.

The U.S. Supreme Court has twice declined to hear the case in recent days. And the controversy might become moot. So, it is far from certain that Court will hear the case at all.

If the Court decides to hear the case, the issues will be confined to technical legal questions, such as the meaning of the word “prescribed,” and interesting (for law geeks like me) jurisprudential questions concerning separation of powers. The case will not be about who should be declared President.

In any event, this is all speculative at present. Lawyers might help decide the election, but they might not. If they do, their role will properly be limited to ensuring that rules governing the election process are clear, constitutional, and consistent.

Adam J. MacLeod is Professorial Fellow of the Alabama Policy Institute and Professor of Law at Faulkner University, Jones School of Law. He is a prolific writer and his latest book, The Age of Selfies: Reasoning About Rights When the Stakes Are Personal, is available on Amazon.

2 weeks ago

High-speed broadband internet emerges as critical quality of life issue in Alabama

(Hu Meena/Contributed, Pixabay, YHN)

After wrestling with a public health emergency over the past months, Alabama consumers and businesses have learned that good, high quality and fast broadband internet is a necessity, not a luxury.

The need for a comprehensive statewide plan to provide high-speed, fiber-fed broadband internet connectivity to every Alabamian has never been more evident.

As hundreds of thousands of the state’s schoolchildren and their parents grapple with adapting to online learning during the current COVID-19 pandemic, many struggle with limited choices or slow and non-existent service. Some rural Alabama school systems have even been forced to deploy school buses to provide mobile wi-fi hotspots for students.

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Business owners and employees have encountered similar frustrations as they transition to remote work at home. Slow speeds or non-existent connectivity cause diminished productivity.

Alabama’s economic future depends on solving this digital divide and making sure all Alabamians have access to all-fiber broadband access, which offers the fastest upload and download speeds, best reliability and accurate, quick transfer of data.

Quickly downloading a video or streaming a movie is no longer good enough. Success now increasingly depends on how quickly and smoothly you can upload to the internet your work, your presentations, even yourself as you engage and participate in online classes and video meetings.

Unfortunately, Alabama has already fallen behind when it comes to needed broadband infrastructure. That’s why only 21% of Alabamians have access to all-fiber home services. Compare that to Mississippi, where more than 40% of residents have access to all-fiber home services, and to Tennessee, Florida and Georgia, where approximately 35% of residents have access.

Fortunately, many Alabama leaders understand the urgency of this critical infrastructure and public policy issue and are working together to make needed changes.

At the national level, Congressman Robert Aderholt spearheaded the creation of the national ReConnect Program, which helps deliver broadband infrastructure to rural America.

Gov. Kay Ivey has awarded $18.5 million from the Alabama Broadband Accessibility Fund – which was created by the Alabama Legislature – to extend high-speed internet access to unserved and underserved areas. The Alabama Rural Broadband Coalition, which is comprised of community, business and government leaders, is also making access to fast and reliable internet a priority.

But there’s only so much broadband grants can do. Alabama still ranks 38th nationally in broadband access, so clearly more needs to be done.

C Spire is here to do its part by investing in Alabama and its communities. We’re committed to building the highly reliable fiber optic network that will provide Alabama’s homes, hospitals, schools and businesses with the very best broadband service.

For more than 30 years, C Spire has been investing in communities to deliver unmatched internet capacity. We are the 11th-largest residential fiber-optic provider in the U.S. and have built the nation’s largest fiber-to-home network in neighboring Mississippi. This year, we are deploying our ultra-fast, next-generation Gigabit speed broadband internet services to homes and businesses in Jasper and Trussville, and we’re investing in more Alabama communities next year and beyond.

At C Spire, we believe this technology is truly a game changer. It not only propels communities forward, it transforms them, bringing advancements in education, health care and economic expansion.

Especially in this time of the continuing pandemic, deploying these new advancements as quickly as possible is essential.

When employees log on for virtual meetings and video conferences from home or students must go online to learn, a high-quality all-fiber connection guarantees reliability.

When patients need to speak with their doctors remotely, enhanced internet connectivity provides sometimes life-saving telemedicine services, especially to those in rural areas.

When local communities work to recruit new businesses and the jobs they bring, good, reliable and fast internet is essential.

This is why Alabama leaders must work together to create a comprehensive plan that enables access to an all-fiber connection in every home – from Dothan to Double Springs and Fort Payne to Foley. Piecemeal efforts that target one underserved area over another underserved area are not getting the job done. Every Alabamian, regardless of the size of the town they live in, needs access to a reliable and fast internet connection that is always on and always available.

The COVID-19 pandemic has helped expose the deep and growing rift between the broadband haves and the have-nots. We ended up in this untenable situation because we’ve allowed broadband access to become a patchwork of infrastructure and services. There has been no strategic, comprehensive plan to ensure every Alabamian can access a reliable and swift internet connection.

Alabama’s policymakers should be commended for the steps they have already taken to increase broadband access. Now is the time, however, for elected leaders on both sides of the aisle to create a plan that delivers high-speed broadband – and its vast array of benefits – to every community in Alabama.

Hu Meena is CEO of C Spire, a privately-held telecommunications and technology company driven to deliver the best experiences in wireless, fiber internet, and business IT solutions such as internet, VoIP, cloud and managed services. For more information, visit cspire.com or find us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

2 weeks ago

Georgia Senate run-off races important to the nation and the state of Alabama

(Paul Demarco/Facebook, YHN)

As the nation watches the aftermath of the presidential election unfold, the other unfinished business is what happens in the United States Senate.

Based on the latest ballot tabulations, it looks like the Republicans are on track to keep the majority in the upper body of Congress, however, two more races in Alabama’s neighboring state could change that.

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Georgia is set to have two highly contested run-off elections on January 5, 2021, to fill their seats in the United States Senate. The implications for the country are seismic in that if the Democrats win these two races, it would shift the power in the Senate to the Democrats and potentially give the party control of both chambers of Congress. The changes in policy and power would have a detrimental effect on Alabama, including putting the state’s two senators in the minority party next year.

What this also means for Alabama is that if Democrats take control of the Senate, Alabama Senator Richard Shelby could lose his chairmanship over the Senate Committee on Appropriations, which is one of the most powerful positions in Washington, D.C.

There is talk that Shelby could retire in two years and losing his chairmanship could guarantee that happens, which would have a huge impact on the federal dollars the senator brings to Alabama. Shelby has been one of the most influential senators in the state’s history, so the consequences of his losing his chairmanship and potential retirement are not understated.

Thus, what happens on January 5 will not only impact Georgia and the Senate but Alabama as well.

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

3 weeks ago

The best way to fight COVID?

(The Great Barrington Declaration/Facebook, Pixabay, YHN)

Governments have used nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPI), or lockdowns, to contain COVID-19. But do NPI protect public health overall? A group of medical experts recently put forth “The Great Barrington Declaration” (named for the town where they met) advocating an end to society-wide lockdowns. Over 40,000 public health and medical professionals have signed onto the Declaration.

Lockdowns have enormous economic costs. The Declaration contends further that the net effect of lockdowns on public health is negative, as harms exceed COVID-19 illnesses avoided. The adverse health effects include “lower childhood vaccination rates, worsening cardiovascular disease outcomes, fewer cancer screenings and deteriorating mental health – leading to greater excess mortality in years to come.” Extending or reimposing lockdowns until a vaccine or cure is available “will cause irreparable damage, with the underprivileged disproportionately harmed.”

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The Declaration instead calls for “focused protection” for persons most vulnerable to COVID-19: “We know that vulnerability to death from COVID-19 is more than a thousand-fold higher in the old and infirm than the young.” Focused protection could limit COVID deaths while avoiding the lockdowns’ harms: “Those who are not vulnerable should immediately be allowed to resume life as normal.”

The effectiveness of NPI for COVID-19 is a question for medical doctors and epidemiologists. How can we make sense of experts’ disagreements?

We should first check the dissidents’ expertise. The economic and personal freedom costs of lockdowns make me predisposed to agree with anyone saying we can avoid a second lockdown, even a quack. The Great Barrington Declaration’s three authors credentials are as follows. Jay Bhattacharya is a professor at Stanford Medical School with an M.D. and a Ph.D. in economics from Stanford and research expertise on aging and vulnerable populations. Sunetra Gupta is a professor of theoretical epidemiology at Oxford with a Ph.D. from Imperial College whose research examines transmission of infectious diseases. Martin Kulldorff is a Harvard Medical School professor with a Ph.D. in operations research who works on monitoring disease outbreaks and the effectiveness of drugs and vaccines.

Citations also measure the quality of a scientist’s research. Important papers will influence subsequent research and be frequently cited. The Declaration’s authors’ Google Scholar citation counts are 9,600, 19,200 and 24,400 respectively. How do these totals stack up? They all outpace my 2,700 citations, a minimum qualification I would apply for expertise. Neil Ferguson, the lead author of numerous influential studies on COVID-19, has 33,600.

Credentials and citations are never a substitute for arguments, data, and analysis. But opponents of lockdowns have been dismissed as anti-science. The Great Barrington authors are very good scientists with relevant expertise.

Other health professionals have expressed skepticism about lockdowns. Sweden’s top public health officials doubted the value of NPI and never ordered a lockdown. Dr. Michael Ryan, director of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Health Emergencies Programme, has praised Sweden’s handing of COVID. WHO COVID-19 special envoy Andrew Nabarro stated that lockdowns should not be the “primary means of control of this virus,” and were only justified as a temporary measure. A 2019 review of the effectiveness of NPI for the WHO concluded that “the overall quality of evidence was very low for most interventions.”

Expert disagreement is not a counsel for inaction. We often must act in the face of conflicting recommendations. Regardless of the policies ultimately decided on, we should respect disagreements over the desirability of using NPI for COVID-19.

We should be suspicious of anyone arguing that “science” tells us what we must do. As physicist Richard Feynman once said, “When someone says, ‘Science teaches such and such,’ he is using the word incorrectly.” Good scientists never seek to muzzle debate. As Professor Feynman said, “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.”

Economics counsels consider all the dimensions of life’s tradeoffs. Medical science should inform but not dictate our choices. We should vigorously debate whether lockdowns represent our most preferred course for dealing with COVID-19.

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

Will Sellers: In defense of the Electoral College

(YHN)

I came of age politically with the 1968 presidential election. Alabama Governor George Wallace was running as an independent against Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey. My parents were Nixon supporters, and I, their five-year-old son, hopped on the Nixon bandwagon with gusto. The dinnertime conversations in the month preceding the election were all about whether Wallace’s third-party candidacy could work.

This all fascinated me, so I asked my mother to let me watch her vote on Election Day. She agreed, but to my dismay, when I joined her in the voting booth, I did not see Nixon, Humphrey or Wallace listed on the ballot. This made no sense to me; I thought we were here to vote for Richard Nixon? My mother then explained that we didn’t vote for the presidential candidate directly. Instead, we voted for men and women called presidential electors. These people were well-regarded and appointed for the special privilege of casting the deciding votes in presidential elections. This system seemed out of place to me, because in every other election the candidates were listed by name on the ballot. Why not for president? Why should my mother vote for nine people, who would then vote later for president, instead of voting directly for the president? This was my first encounter with the Electoral College. It would not be my last.

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The first electoral college was a medieval construct dating back at least to the 12th century, when specific princes were chosen to elect the Holy Roman Emperor. They were influential noblemen, who, because of the importance of their respective kingdoms, were given the hereditary title of “elector.” After the death of the emperor, they met, much like the College of Cardinals, to choose a successor. Whether this idea influenced the deliberations of the Constitutional Convention is speculation, but, like most of the other aspects of the Constitution, the mechanics of the new government were based on historical facets of self-government. The new American nation was built on traditions of representative government expressed in the English parliamentary system, the organization of Protestant church government, and the colonial experience with various local governments in the New World.

Important questions necessarily arose during the Constitutional Convention concerning the process of electing the president. How exactly would a president be chosen, and to whom or what would he owe allegiance? Some advocated for election to take place in the House of Representatives, or in the Senate, or even in the several states. The obvious problem with these proposals is that they would create an axis between the president and the electing body. If the states elected the president, then the larger, wealthier, and more populous states would receive greater attention and more favorable treatment by the executive branch than would the smaller, less populous states. A similar imbalance of power would occur were the president chosen by the House or the Senate. Thus, the mechanics of electing the chief executive required balancing various interests to give the executive branch the requisite independence from other political bodies, while maintaining co-equality.

According to the chosen scheme, each state would appoint “electors” based on the number of House and Senate members comprising the state’s congressional delegation. These electors were appointed for the sole purpose of electing the president, and a simple majority of their votes would decide the election. This created another means by which the spheres of Congress and the federal government were balanced and divided from that of the states. The Constitutional Convention viewed electors as not necessarily aligned with a faction, but as citizens of honesty, integrity, and political acumen.

Originally, electors voted for two people; the person with the most electoral votes became president, and the runner-up became vice-president. Flaws in this system became evident with the presidential election of 1796, when John Adams was elected as president and his archrival, if not nemesis, Thomas Jefferson, was elected vice president. Four years later, Jefferson and Aaron Burr received the same number of electoral votes— neither had the required majority. This unworkable situation was remedied by the 12th Amendment to the Constitution, which prescribed that electors would separately vote for a president and vice president on the same ballot. Later, state legislatures, as they were constitutionally permitted and as the two-party system grew, allowed electors to run as proxies for the presidential and vice presidential party nominee.

For at least the first 100 years, the system worked well, and, other than the 12th Amendment, no major attempts were made to alter the process of electing the president and vice president. Several times, the election was submitted to the House of Representatives after the electors failed to achieve a majority vote for president. For example, in 1824, the election was submitted to the House, where power plays resulted in the election of John Quincy Adams, though Andrew Jackson won significantly more of the popular and the electoral vote. Rutherford B. Hayes, a Republican, lost the 1876 popular vote to Samuel Tilden, a Democrat, but became president because he had prevailed in the electoral vote, though voter fraud in some jurisdictions seemed certain.

Many Democratic candidates running for federal office embraced the idea of abolishing the Electoral College, not least Sam Rayburn, who, in his first congressional election in 1912, advocated electing the president by popular vote. If there was any momentum for this aspect of the Progressive movement, it lost steam as other, more critical issues advanced.

Today, the constitutional method for electing the president is under siege. The result of the 2016 election — with Donald Trump winning the presidency despite losing the popular vote — led pundits and politicians to call for the presidential election to be based on the popular, not electoral, vote. But lamenting results that saw two presidents in recent memory fail to win the popular vote obscures the effect that abolishing the Electoral College would have on a national campaign. A presidential campaign aimed at achieving a popular vote majority would completely ignore most states and focus, instead, on a few populous states containing the nation’s largest cities. This urban-centric strategy would silence the political voice of most regions of the country.

The Electoral College guarantees that successful presidential candidates will appeal to large swaths of the American landscape, and that the president himself will reflect the diversity of various regional ideas. It orchestrates the American chorus so that every section of the country will be heard by a serious presidential candidate. We might not always like the outcome; it is always frustrating when your candidate loses, especially if he or she won the popular vote. Nevertheless, the remedy is not to change the rules, but rather to master the nuances of the rules in order to organize a presidential campaign so that it attracts supporters — and votes — from all portions of the country.

My personal quest to understand the Electoral College better led to my service as an alternate elector in 2000 for George W. Bush. The controversial nature of that election focused national attention on each state’s canvas of presidential electors. The practice of scrutinizing each elector and the attempts made to shake loose a few electors in order to change the outcome caused the question to be asked again: Is the Electoral College the right system for modern America?

I served as a presidential elector in 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016. My initial experience as an elector was that no one, certainly not the media, cared about the Electoral College. Perhaps some cub reporter was sent to cover the meeting of the electors, but that was about all the publicity we garnered.

That changed dramatically in 2016. Starting about two weeks before the electors met, I received thousands of letters from people across the country asking me, if not begging me, to change my vote. It did not matter to them that I had pledged to support my party’s nominee. I was even lectured by legal scholars about how my pledge was not actually binding. Several people sent me copies of the Federalist Papers, the Constitution, and even local petitions. Others left voicemails that, looking back, I wish I had saved. Few, if any, of these communications expressed any mature understanding of the American electoral system. But, in a way, the volume of communication, at least as compared with other years, showed that the role of an elector now seemed to matter again to the American people.

In 2020, if there was one issue each of the initial contenders for the Democratic nomination agreed upon, it was the necessity of abolishing the Electoral College and replacing it with election by popular vote. But the consequences of this change are largely ignored. Candidates calling for the end of the Electoral College, to be consistent, ought also to call for the end of primary elections, too. Since the election of president is the only national election, eliminating the Electoral College would change each party’s strategy for victory. It is akin to amending the rules of football so that a score is obtained not by touchdowns or field goals but by first downs.

Again, a popular election of the president would reduce the need for a diversified platform; the candidates would favor metropolises and ignore the heartland of America. Minority voters would get pushed aside, since the votes of the majority are all that matter. The executive branch would be weakened as the center of federal political power shifted toward Congress. While the president’s agenda would reflect only the interests of the 51% who elected him, Congress would continue to appeal, at least in theory, to the entire nation. And who’s to say that the president would need to win a majority of the popular vote? Would we have runoffs, ranked-choice voting, or just “first past the post,” where the top vote-getter in a crowded field takes the prize?

While the Electoral College can sometimes appear to achieve a skewed result, we must remember that it has served America well by providing a political balance to the three branches of government. Directly electing a president by popular vote sounds great, but a deeper examination reveals the toll that it would exact upon American republicanism. Instead of the “winner take all” system that most states use, perhaps adopting the Maine and Nebraska models would be an effective compromise. Two electoral votes reflect the majority vote of the state’s presidential ballots, but the rest of the electors are chosen by congressional district preference. This method diffuses power and is perhaps something the Framers might applaud, though the change would have to be accomplished one state at a time, as the selection of electors is still very much a state and not a federal function.

The Electoral College has weathered many storms, but the nation is still together and is still debating the limits of self-government. All told, it’s a pretty good track record.

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

Editor’s note: This piece originally appeared in City Journal.

3 weeks ago

As citizens, we must expect less from government and more from ourselves

(API/Contributed, YHN)

I have the honor of leading the Alabama Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit educational and research institution which has championed free markets, limited government and strong families for over 30 years.

When you look back at our state’s major policy discussions, you will most likely find that API was right there in the midst of the battle. We do not take lightly the task we have been given to work for good government which leads to flourishing and opportunity for all Alabamians.

Today, we find our state at a crossroads.

We must decide whether we are going to govern and live by the principles we say we believe in, or whether we are going to say one thing and do another.

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The word “conservative” gets tossed around freely these days and it is difficult to land on a definition that everyone can agree on.

Often times it is used in terms of culture.

How you dress or get your hair cut, whether you have a beard or are clean-shaven. If you take your coffee black or order a latte, drive a truck or Prius.

Other times it is used to define a candidate in a race with criteria that has been set by the political elite.

Regardless of the outcome of the election, whether we know it quickly or in a month, we are going to have to come together as conservatives and agree that government is not the answer. Government cannot and should not be the default solution for the problems we face.

Having spent eight years in Washington, D.C. working at the highest levels of government, I can assure you that government is not the answer.

So, what is the answer? What does conservative mean? Faith and church, family, civic institutions and community are the answer. Personal responsibility is the answer.

Men and women, families, working to make this state, our nation and our world a better place through hard work and ingenuity is the answer, not government dictates.

That’s conservatism.

I often hear the refrain that government should mandate certain things or make laws because people cannot be trusted with that responsibility, nor can individuals be trusted to do the “right thing.”

Yet, the role of government in this nation was intentionally limited from the start.

With this view of conservatism, then, what we should expect from our elected officials is less, not more.

When we, as individuals and communities, ignore the problems of society and leave them to the government to address, we take the responsibility to offer solutions off of ourselves. At best, that’s lazy, and at worst it’s an act of cowardice.

When we constantly defer to the government, as if it is the great healer of all that ails us, society is then missing out on the individual and communal ingenuity that is necessary to tackle all forms of challenges. As a result, we are left with a one-size-fits-all approach forced on us by government bureaucrats and out of touch, and often disingenuous, politicians.

Government solutions will always be centralized, monolithic, and conforming. We need decentralized, diverse and dynamic solutions that can only come outside of the public option.

I was shaped by this truth at an early age when my mom started the first Save-A-Life center in Jackson, Alabama, the small town that I grew up in. She saw a need and stepped up. And I saw firsthand what happens when neighbors help neighbors by offering a local solution to a local problem.

We live in a broken world with broken people. So allowing free people to order society and choose outcomes for themselves will always be risky, and it is not without faults.

But we can’t medicate ourselves with government.

As a society we have lost our sense that life is full of risk and reward.

The temporary risk is worth the growth that comes from the process and is realized in the final result. You can’t have the ups without the downs.

This is where API is headed and where we hope to help lead our state toward. To help and hold accountable our government. To not have government do more, but less. To call all Alabamians to expect less from their government, while giving more of themselves to tackle the challenges that face our state and country.

We must be willing to take the risk that comes with self-reliance and limited government, as that is where the beauty and solutions will be found.

Caleb Crosby, a veteran of the George W. Bush administration, including a stint at the White House, has been president of Alabama Policy Institute since 2013. API is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to free markets, limited government, and strong families, learn more at www.alabamapolicy.org.

Byrne: After the election — One nation under God

(Wikicommons, Pixabay, YHN)

I’ll never forget sitting in the U.S. House Chamber in January of 2017 watching the counting of the Electoral College votes from the 2016 presidential election. Under the 12th Amendment to the Constitution, the sitting vice president opens and counts the votes as submitted and certified by the electors chosen from each state, and the vice president must do so “in the presence of the Senate and the House of Representatives.” Because Inauguration Day was still several days away, the sitting vice president was Joe Biden, and as a member of the House, I was entitled to be there.

Procedurally, any representative or senator can object to any state’s electoral college votes but at least one member from the other house must agree with the objection before it can be considered. Alabama was the first state up, and Jim McGovern, a very liberal Democrat member from Massachusetts who served on the Rules Committee with me, stood up and objected because the Russians supposedly interfered with our vote for Donald Trump. He also made a blatantly false allegation that our state violated the Voting Rights Act and suppressed thousands of votes. No senator agreed with him and Vice President Biden ruled the objections out of order, which kept me from having to argue against McGovern’s silly and frankly slanderous objections.

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The count went on and as every Trump state’s votes came up, a Democrat House member would stand up and object but because no senator agreed with the objections, Biden would rule them out of order. Finally, after several of these, Biden leaned into the microphone and said firmly to his fellow Democrats, “it’s over.” Though they hated the result, he was saying, the Constitution calls for the person with the most electoral votes to be president. And that person was Donald Trump, not Hillary Clinton.

This has been an extraordinary year, with the pandemic, a record economic downturn and recovery, riots and violence, and an unprecedented number of hurricanes. It will be an extraordinary election too, as record numbers of people have already voted in many states, but their votes can’t be counted until election day and many of those states’ election processes require days to count all those votes. There will also be challenges to the counting of some, perhaps many, ballots because they weren’t filled in or submitted properly. So, we aren’t likely to know the result on Election Day.

We didn’t know the result of the 2000 election until December, weeks after the election, and that took an extraordinary decision by the Supreme Court to resolve it in favor of George W. Bush. The 12th Amendment was passed and ratified because the 1800 presidential election resulted in an electoral college tie between Thomas Jefferson and his supposed running mate Aaron Burr. That threw the election into the House of Representatives which took 36 ballots to finally make Jefferson the president, three months after the election. In both cases, the nation moved on and accomplished great things.

Though this year’s election isn’t likely to be over as quickly as we are used to, all of us should be patient and trust in our Constitution and the institutions which have served us so well for over 230 years. There will be plenty of eyes on the process and nothing inappropriate is going to go unnoticed. Our intelligence and law enforcement communities have been closely monitoring foreign actors and will continue to do so after the election. Be careful of the information you receive during and after the election because we know there’s a lot of truly fake “news” out there, designed to divide us as a nation.

And when we have a result, if your candidate doesn’t win, let’s not have a replay of 2016 when Democrats refused to accept the result, who wouldn’t let it be “over” and shamefully called themselves the “resistance,” a slap in the face of the Constitution and our tradition of peaceful transfer of power. We’ve wasted too much time in Washington over the Mueller report and a failed impeachment effort, attempting to reverse the 2016 election. And we’ve had too much violence this year – we don’t need more due to the election.

If your candidate loses, the appropriate response is to be the loyal opposition – loyal to our nation and its Constitution but opposed to the policies of the victorious party. Remember, in American politics, today’s loser is often tomorrow’s winner.

Our greatest enemy isn’t a foreign nation but our internal division, driven by a hyper-partisan news media and entertainment industry ready to exploit every fault line in our country and craven before the far worse fault lines of countries where that industry makes a lot of money. Let’s ignore the media and entertainment industry and return to what we learned in school about the traditional values which make us great.

As a unified nation, there is nothing we can’t do, no problem or issue we can’t solve. We are one nation under God. Let’s keep it that way.

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

3 weeks ago

The ride of a lifetime

(University of South Alabama/Contributed)

Growing up off Dauphin Island Parkway in Mobile, love and support were in large supply for Jaysum Hunter even if money was not. But at age 6, he received a bicycle as a surprise gift, and it was memorable.

“That bike gave me a sense of freedom and purpose,” Hunter said.

His grandmother played a major role in Hunter’s life, emphasizing a strong work ethic and willingness to help people. After graduating from B.C. Rain High School, he spent one year away before his desire to be closer to home took over and he transferred to South and the Mitchell College Business.

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“I always admired and respected business leaders, so it was only fitting to study business administration, plus I wanted to understand the stock market,” Hunter explained.

He also decided he need a bike to get around campus. Shocked by the high prices of quality bicycles, Hunter bit the bullet and decided if he was going to spend that much money, it was going to be a commitment — he rode it everywhere during his time at South.

Following graduation in 2009, he started his career and eventually landed a job in Chicago as a financial analyst for a large healthcare company. The job was fine, but Hunter wanted more—knew he should be doing more—to inspire and motivate others.

“In May, after a long and exhausting fast, the Huntertale idea was born. I knew this idea was given by God as a test and testimony,” he said. “I wanted to do something cool that I could share with my kids and grandkids.”

That something needed to be epic, something inspiring. That’s when he went back to his bike. Hunter had been riding some but was spending most of his time sitting at his desk. He decided to quit his job, get into shape, and make the 1,000-mile trek from his home in Chicago to his hometown of Mobile.

“My family and friends were worried because they thought I would be a victim of racism due to our current political climate,” Hunter said. “Someone almost persuaded me to not take the trip, but as soon as I laid my head on the pillow, I remembered my motivation.”

Hunter wanted to use his social media savvy to promote, not only his ride but also the businesses he visited along the route and share ideas with others. But first, there were plenty of details to iron out. He thought he might be able to make it in 10 to 14 days before thinking better of it and decided to extend the trip to 21 days.

His business partner insisted he map out a detailed route and she would update his progress on his website jaysumhunter.com.

“Doing this and putting it out to the world made it real and at that point I was all in,” he said.

After 45 days of hard training and preparation, he felt confident about the trip. On Aug. 3, he set off on his journey, making his way south but the road took its toll.

“The toughest part was being exposed to the sun all day and becoming mentally and physically fatigued after seven days, knowing you have two more weeks to go,” he said.

It wasn’t all hardship, Hunter experienced many memorable moments including crossing the Ohio River from Illinois into Kentucky, seeing wildlife along the route and the amazement of people when they learned what he was doing. He allowed himself the comfort of a hotel bed each night and savored every moment he was able to coast downhill giving his aching legs a much-needed break.

Finally, on Day 21 Hunter pedaled into Mobile and into the teeth of Tropical Storm Marco that was lashing the area. Perhaps a fitting end to a difficult endeavor.

“I was planning a grand celebration of me taking a photo with the bike over my head, but after biking in the tropical storm I just wanted a hot shower and to see my grandma,” he said.

Back in Chicago, Hunter is looking to restart his career, confident of his future knowing he can step far outside of his comfort zone and succeed. He also has a great story to tell.

(Courtesy of the University of South Alabama)

3 weeks ago

Roby: COVID-19 will not shake our democracy

(Representative Martha Roby/Facebook, Pixabay, YHN)

Election Day is here, and it’s safe to say that this year’s election looks quite different than those of the past. As we continue to navigate the ongoing Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, several protocols have been put in place nationwide to create cautious and healthy environments for in-person voting. A record-breaking number of Americans have already voted or plan to vote in the 2020 General Election, with over 75 million individuals having cast their ballots.

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An estimated 4.9 million people live in the state of Alabama. In the 2020 March Primary Election, there was a total of 3,576,107 Alabamians registered to vote. Of those registered to vote, approximately 1,176,315 individuals – or 33 percent – actually exercised their right to vote in this year’s primary. On Thursday, the Alabama Secretary of State’s office announcedthat more than 259,200 Alabamians had voted by absentee, and Secretary of State John Merrill stated that 316,130 ballots had been requested.

While the final statewide voter turnout will not be known until after Tuesday’s election, it is vital we each take the time to exercise our right to vote as afforded to us by the U.S. Constitution. If you plan to vote in-person, please be sure to follow all local and statewide COVID-19 guidelines. Your participation is especially crucial as the number of daily new Coronavirus cases across the state are on the rise. For COVID-19 voting resources and information, visit sos.alabama.gov/covid-19-voting-resources.

The United States was founded on a strong set of principles that have shaped our nation and guided the American people for nearly 250 years. We will not allow a health pandemic to shake our democracy. We have been given the right to freely and openly express our beliefs and opinions, participate in civil public discourse, and vote to elect the individuals who lead our nation. If you have not already, I encourage you to exercise your right to vote and participate in the democratic process.

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

Setting the record straight on Baldwin County’s toll fallacies

(Rep. Steve McMillan/Contributed, Wikicommons, Pixabay, YHN)

Baldwin County voters will head to the polls in just a matter of days to cast their vote on a full ballot, including several local amendments which will influence various aspects of residents’ everyday living. Of the four local amendments on this year’s ballot is Local Amendment 2, which I co-authored, and which proposes the creation of the Baldwin Beach Express II (BBEII), extending the northern end of the current Baldwin Beach Express to link I-10 with I-65 (the project).

If approved by the voters of Baldwin County, a toll authority would be established on this new stretch of road to pay for the construction and continual maintenance of the roadway. The toll authority would only be granted jurisdiction over the BBEII, and no other road, leaving drivers the choice to take this new roadway or continue using their everyday roadways just as they have been doing for years, still free of charge. We anticipate the new road will be available for use in five to eight years.

Due to the four-letter word “toll,” opposition has taken to various platforms urging Baldwin County voters to reject Local Amendment 2. However, these opposing voices misrepresent crucial aspects and facts of Local Amendment 2 that make the BBEII a safe and sound move for Baldwin County. While similar initiatives have appeared on ballots in years past, this year elected officials are asking Baldwin County voters to vote yes on this new roadway. The proposed BBEII is a totally different, locally controlled toll authority.

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This amendment is appearing on this year’s ballot in a timely manner. If not voted on this year, it is likely the amendment would not be presented to the public for at least another two years. Moreover, construction of the approved roadway would not finish until five to eight years after the initial vote. This is time we simply do not have when dealing with matters of infrastructure, county growth, safety, and economic opportunity.

Since 2014, our county’s population has grown nearly 50%. The time to invest in our future infrastructure is now and doing so will assure that we are able to support and sustain Baldwin County’s potential growth for years to come.

Recently, it has been suggested that Baldwin County voters will be giving lawmakers a blank check to construct this new roadway. The blank spaces found in the legislation are put in place due to the introduction of contingent acts. In other words, this amendment cannot be considered an act until final passage, and until Baldwin County votes “yes” on Local Amendment 2.

False assertions have also been made regarding the makeup of the toll authority members and their powers. The proposed act clearly requires that the Toll Authority Directors be appointed by the Baldwin County Commission and will serve a maximum six-year term limit. Toll Authority Directors will be held accountable by the Baldwin County Commission and may be subject to impeachment by the County Grand Jury, District Attorney or the Alabama Attorney General. The legislation also includes a provision of law (page 23, line 17) that prohibits nepotism, ensuring the Toll Authority Directors are acting on behalf of the common good for Baldwin County.

A yes vote on Local Amendment 2 will only improve our way of life in Baldwin County. We may continue using the existing free routes as we have been doing, free of charge, and will never have to be concerned with any toll. Your tax dollars are not going toward this project. Rather, the roadway extension will be 100% paid for by the toll itself, if and only if you choose to drive on the BBEII. Drivers who opt to take their regular free routes will never have to pay the toll fee.

This local amendment offers strengthened infrastructure to keep up with our rapidly growing population, secures an additional north-bound evacuation route, and will bring new job and economic development opportunities to our region.

Please, join me in voting yes on Local Amendment 2.

Alabama State Representative Steve McMillan represents District 95 and serves as Chairman of the Baldwin County Legislative Delegation.

4 weeks ago

Rejecting the Joe Biden energy plan and the Green New Deal

(Jeremy Oden, Joe Biden/Facebook, YHN)

Energy is a resource that we cannot ignore. It is a crucial part of our everyday lives in America. When we flip the lights on in our homes, we do not worry about them working, we expect them to work. That is called “Reliability” in the utility world. Well, that is no longer the case in some parts of America. The reason for that is radical left policies that have been the groundwork for the Green New Deal – a move to unreliable, uncontrollable and expensive energy production.

And as your Public Service Commissioner, I am very worried about it! Look at California. Between 2011-2018, electricity prices rose 27% more in California than they did the rest of the country. During that time, California’s carbon emissions rose 3.7%. As California has all but phased out nuclear energy, they are on the verge of phasing out gas-powered energy as well. Due to an over-reliance on renewable energy sources that could not sustain the stress to their power grid, California has announced multiple rolling blackouts in 2020. The radical environmental activists continue to push for more and more renewable resources that can not yet sustain the demand Californians have for power. With regard to the climate crisis, Governor Gavin Newsom said that “California is America fast-forward.” I hope we are not. The unreliability of their power supply, the high cost of energy, and highly regulated industry has all but destroyed their economic growth. California has been a test case for the Green New Deal, and it has failed that test emphatically.

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We all know that Joe Biden supports the Green New Deal. He denies it publicly when questioned about energy reforms he supports, but his own website calls it a “crucial framework.” We know Kamala Harris supports the Green New Deal because she was an original co-sponsor of the bill. Harris is so adamant about getting the Green New Deal passed that she stated during a 2019 town hall that she would support abolishing the legislative filibuster to get the deal done. At last week’s presidential debate, Joe Biden said that he wanted to “transition from the oil industry.” Joe Biden’s team has spent a lot of time performing damage control on that comment, stating that the oil industry would remain by “branching out beyond oil.” Biden and Kamala Harris have been walking back comments on fracking as well. During the debate, Joe Biden denied saying he was going to end fracking and tried to clarify that his position was no new fracking on public land. This is patently false. Biden and Harris spent their entire time during the Democratic primary speaking about how both would end fracking in the United States. Biden and Harris have repeatedly stated that they want to ban fracking, with Alexandria Ocasio-Ortez calling fracking “unnecessary.”

So which is it? Do we take them at their word when they play damage control, or do we take them at the word when they were on the campaign trail, and hold them to the language of Green New Deal proponents? A Biden administration simply cannot be trusted to do what is right for Alabamians when it comes to energy and utilities.

My job is to represent the best interests of every single Alabamian. Businesses flock to Alabama because of our affordable and reliable utilities and I want to keep it that way. I want Alabamians to be able to use their hot water when they need to; to be able to use their electricity when they need to; and I want energy-producing companies to have the empowerment to continue serving Alabama while making advances in cleaner and renewable technologies, available at the cheapest rates possible. I am working to ensure that we as Alabamians respect the environment and continue to make advances in clean energy, while utilizing our backbone energy sources, such as clean coal and natural gas, that have proven to be reliable.

The decision is straightforward for me: what is best for Alabama is a federal government that allows Alabama to continue prospering in the manner it has been. I oppose Joe Biden’s radical progressive plans that undermine the sovereignty of the state, kill jobs and end the fossil fuel industry that produces efficient and affordable energy and is ever-expanding the way that it becomes cleaner and better for the environment. Joe Biden’s climate and energy plan will make the people of Alabama’s lives worse, not better.

I hope you all keep these things in mind when you go to the poll on Tuesday. I encourage everyone to vote because it is a privilege and an honor to live in a country that supports free and fair elections, and energy that is reliable and affordable like it has been the past four years under the Trump administration. Let your voices be heard and let’s keep Alabama great.

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

4 weeks ago

Alabama can help stop Democrats’ radical immigration agenda

(Doug Jones for Senate, The Scott Beason Show, Tommy Tuberville/Facebook, YHN)

The Democrats’ radical immigration agenda poses an existential threat to the United States.

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris support amnesty, citizenship, and public benefits for illegal aliens. They want a big increase in the number of green card allotments for the relatives of naturalized citizens and current green card holders. They want to keep the so-called diversity visa lottery, which favors low-skilled foreigners, and they want more visas for non-agricultural guest-workers. On top of all that they want to increase the number of refugee admissions by fivefold.

If President Trump loses in November, the U.S. Senate will become the only check on these catastrophic ideas. Just that should be a compelling reason for Alabamians to vote for Republican Tommy Tuberville over Democrat Doug Jones.

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Some folks see “illegal” immigration as the problem and leave it at that. Many people on the conservative side see the need to control our borders and believe we should send those here illegally home, but the immigration problem is bigger than that.

Liberal pieties to the contrary notwithstanding, and conservative efforts to sound “understanding and welcoming” also not withstanding, a library of research shows that excessive legal immigration has harmful economic and social consequences. Excessive immigration pushes down wages and puts a strain on social services. Excessive immigration does not allow sufficient time or pressure to bring about assimilation into American culture.

Consider just a few examples.

Wages and job opportunities for citizens decline when large numbers of foreign workers move into an area. The toll on low-skilled workers is particularly heavy. An analysis published in American Affairs on employer labor preferences found that businesses have a strong bias for immigrants when filling low-skilled positions. Regardless of the reasons for that bias, American citizens deserves those opportunities to be employed and flourish.

Meanwhile, a study for the National Bureau of Economic Research found that younger, lower-skilled native workers suffer significant income loss as immigrants enter the workforce — so much so they often have to leave friends and family behind to find work.

A paper published in the journal, Labour Economics, concluded that immigrants depress employment levels and wages for native-born citizens, especially in states like Alabama where the wages are sometimes relatively low.

Not only does unrestricted legal immigration have dire economic effects for native-born citizens, it also strains the social fabric: A study by researchers at the University of Oslo found that immigration from low-income regions stifles social mobility, which in turn can leave native-born workers poor and demoralized. It is difficult to climb the ladder of success if a young person can’t get on the first step because the jobs are taken by people who just recently entered the country.

As for assimilation to their new environment, an article in the American Economic Journal notes that descendants of immigrants tend to remain in economically depressed and culturally isolated enclaves for generations, effectively outside the American mainstream. The United States has pushed the pause button on legal immigration before in order for the ingredients of the melting pot to meld together. It is not a new or harsh idea. It is the smart thing to do for the nation’s health.

There is no issue more critical to a country’s identity and security than sovereignty. Border security and rigorous immigration standards are foundational to national sovereignty. Under the Trump administration, we have finally regained some control over the unrestricted flow of immigrants, both illegal and legal, into the United States. Let’s not turn back the clock.

Tommy Tuberville has stated his support for President Trump’s immigration policies, while Doug Jones seems to care more about the interest of foreign nationals than he does about our fellow Alabamians. Doug Jones is against building a border wall. Doug Jones wants to declare the clear and ongoing emergency on the southern border over, and he wants to expand visa quotas when so many Americans are still unemployed.

The difference between these two positions is profound, and the correct choice for Alabamans is obvious. Alabamans must work to elect Tommy Tuberville and keep the Senate red. The patriots living in less conservative states and the country as a whole are depending on us.

Scott Beason is a former Alabama state senator and representative. He hosts the Scott Beason Show on FM 92.5, AM 1260, FM 95.3 and online at ScottBeason.com.

4 weeks ago

Air superiority then, space superiority now — The Battle of Britain 80 years hence

(Wikicommons, U.S. Space Force/Contributed, YHN)

Eighty years ago this week, hurricane season ended when the Royal Air Force won the Battle of Britain by stopping the Nazi war machine at the edge of the English Channel. Before the summer of 1940, Hitler had derided Great Britain as a nation of shopkeepers. Göring’s seemingly superior Luftwaffe pilots were outdone by the young British RAF, aided by friendly forces — not the least of which was a squadron of Polish pilots. They had shown the world that the Nazi juggernaut could be countered through perseverance, aided by the novel design of quick and lethal airplanes: the spitfire and hurricane.

Churchill named this battle when he declared after Dunkirk that with the conclusion of the Battle of France, the Battle of Britain would begin. Unlike past battles, the critical objective was as amorphous as it was strategic: the achievement of air superiority. It was a testament to the fact that warfare had changed forever, tilting the scales in favor of technology over brute strength.

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Even Hitler and his retinue of yes-men knew that subjugating Britain would require a risky and complex invasion. The English Channel, though relatively narrow at some points, served as a giant moat that required amphibious landings on slow-moving vessels, which would be vulnerable to attack from above. Nazi control of the air would be the key to a successful invasion. With proper preparations for a seaborne invasion many months out, Göring pushed for an air campaign, and Hitler approved.

The Luftwaffe’s first objective was to destroy RAF airfields, but Luftwaffe planes were not designed for this mission, and their pilots — though experienced — were no match for the RAF’s pilots in spitfires and hurricanes. These planes had unmatched maneuverability, and home-field advantage played an equally important role. The British had a superior early warning radar system that enabled them to plot the likely flight path of incoming enemies and to scramble their gassed and fully loaded planes efficiently. Over Britain, each downed German represented not only a lost airplane but also a lost pilot. Maintaining air superiority was a fight for survival, and the British pilots knew that the fate of freedom for their island, and perhaps for civilization, rested on their shoulders. They turned the tide of the war in fighting, as Churchill noted, “undaunted by the odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger.”

While the concept of air superiority was initially academic, the Battle of Britain proved it critical to modern military success. Since then, the need for air superiority has remained unquestioned. A country might not win with air superiority, but failure was guaranteed without it. The use of airpower to master the skies has been the first order of business in every major conflict since World War II. Even today, with the development of defensive missile shields and the capability of intercepting incoming aircraft and missiles, air superiority is and will remain a critical objective in any conflict. But air superiority is starting to give way to space superiority.

As we become more and more dependent on satellites, and as human activity in space becomes less of a novelty, controlling space will be critical not only for commercial and economic success, but also for global stability and the defense of our nation. The nation that controls space will control the destiny of the entire world. To be dominant in space is to be dominant period, and the dominating nation will have the final say over many aspects of our lives.

Those who would object to the militarization of space do not understand, or refuse to see, today’s reality. The activities of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in space are similar to those of the nations who sought to control the sea in the 19th century and the air in the 20th century. At present, these activities are largely unchecked by other nations and international organizations.

There was a time when the United Nations was capable of limiting space to peaceful means. Similar to the control of nuclear weapons, the United Nations provided a means of achieving an international consensus that limiting weapons in space was beneficial for all nations. But, as with any large organization attempting to achieve consensus among diverse groups, the only real agreement among nations became the lowest common denominator. Thus, UN limits on the militarization of space are limited, weak, and ineffective.

This void of international leadership is being filled by a resurgent communist China, intent on achieving world domination — a long-term national goal. With few international limitations, the CCP is seeking space superiority to impose its ideas on the world and thereby supplant civilization’s shared liberal principles. The UN has been aggressively helpless or simply unable to check China’s dreams of space superiority. While the CCP has yet to obtain the domination it seeks, it is clearly on track with covert military missions, like developing its own GPS system that would aid in obtaining space superiority.

The United States cannot let this happen. Students of history know that many of the great and terrible military conflicts could have been prevented or mitigated with proper foresight and preparation. Unless the United States acts soon to check CCP aggression in space, we may have extremely limited choices in the future.

Our new Space Force must explain the seriousness of this threat and develop strategic plans to protect space from the domination of any one country. This grand effort will require allies who not only understand the threat, but who are financially able to join with the United States to dominate space for peaceful purposes. The free world’s shared cultural and civic traditions could form the basis for ensuring that space can never be dominated by one country.

During World War I and in the following decades, Churchill stressed the importance of developing radar, the tank and the airplane. Without these developments, the Battle of Britain would have ended much differently. As we celebrate the 80th anniversary of victory at the Battle of Britain, and as we understand the strategic necessity of air superiority in protecting the island nation from foreign invasion, we should recognize the strategic necessity of space superiority today.

The United States and her friends cannot allow a country that is utterly opposed to freedom to control space and, in turn, Earth. The free world must develop space first and create enforceable laws to allow space to be an extension of the liberty we currently enjoy. In order to do that, we must overhaul our outdated legal regime concerning the development and deployment of space technologies, support the private development of space properly, and remove the bureaucratic barriers hindering important breakthroughs. We must not surrender space to totalitarians who would use it to subjugate free peoples around the globe. If we heed the call to action and engage in this new endeavor, we can ensure that the limitless possibilities of space are secured for future generations.

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