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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13 hours ago

Data: Doug Jones closer to Chuck Schumer, Mazie Hirono than to Joe Manchin on supporting Trump

Only four full days away from the November 3 general election, U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) continues to claim to be a moderate on the campaign trail. However, the data paints a much different picture.

The highly respected, non-partisan data and analytics site FiveThirtyEight.com hosts a comprehensive database tracking each member of Congress’ voting history. This includes a tally of how often representatives and senators vote with or against President Donald Trump’s position; this data is formulated into a percentage, comprising each legislator’s “Trump Score.”

The dataset also takes Trump’s margin of victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016 (in each state for senators and each district for representatives) and calculates a predicted Trump Score that hypothesizes how often a member is expected to vote with Trump based on that margin.

FiveThirtyEight then compares each legislator’s actual Trump Score to the predicted score to effectively see the approximate difference between the sentiment of a legislator’s constituents and that individual’s congressional votes.

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Examining Jones, the data showed Alabama’s junior senator has a Trump Score of only 34.8% since he took office in January 2018. The data is up-to-date, with Jones’ latest vote against Justice Amy Coney Barrett factored in.

In contrast, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) has a score of 51.6% and U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) came in at 51.5%; both are perceived-moderate Democrats.

Other Democrats who have been recently ousted from office by voters in red states also scored significantly higher than Jones, including U.S. Senators Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota (54.8%), Joe Donnelly of Indiana (54.2%), Claire McCaskill of Missouri (45.8%) and Bill Nelson of Florida (43.4%). Even current blue- and purple-state Democratic Caucus members had higher Trump Scores than Jones, including U.S. Senators Angus King of Maine (37.9%), Mark Werner of Virginia (35.5%) and Jacky Rosen of Nevada (35.1%).

In fact, Jones’ Trump Score is closer to the far-left wing in his party than the more-moderate senators. The Democrat from Alabama scored closer to the likes of U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) than to Sinema and Manchin; Jones scored closer to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and U.S. Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA), Ed Markey (D-MA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) than to Heitkamp.

Overall, Jones also scored closer to the extreme left of his party than he did to the left-most Republican, U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME).

Based on Trump’s 2016 margin, Jones’ predicted Trump Score was 85.5%. This means his actual Trump Score was 50.7 percentage points lower than expected. That massive margin was second-largest nationally, with only U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) having a higher negative differential.

The more recent data paints an even worse picture for Jones. Looking at only the 116th Congress, which began in January 2019 and is still in session, Jones’ Trump Score dropped to 23.1%. Simply put, the more time he spent in D.C., the further to the left Jones went.

The Yellowhammer State’s senior senator is a much different story; U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) has an overall Trump Score of 93.5%.

Jones will face Republican U.S. Senatorial nominee Tommy Tuberville at the ballot box on Tuesday.

RELATED: Tuberville: Jones’ vote against Barrett ‘represented the liberal beliefs of his high-dollar campaign donors in California and New York’

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

13 hours ago

Alabama rocket CEO and former Air Force leader: Military threat from China now extends to space

When an Alabama-built rocket powers another critical national security satellite into space next week, it will be the latest such satellite in the ever-increasing use of space to gain military advantage on the ground.

The satellite, operated by the National Reconnaissance Office, will enhance communication for America’s warfighters across the globe.

However, the United States’ ability to operate in space and leverage its potential for national security purposes could be made more difficult, according to two experts who participated in the AscendxSummit conference last week.

Tory Bruno, president and CEO of Alabama rocket builder United Launch Alliance (ULA), and former Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson both concluded that foreign governments are challenging America’s space superiority, with China being at the forefront of the effort.

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“The threat has changed,” explained Wilson. “The United States is heavily dependent on space for national security, and we need to respond to that emerging threat.”

That dependence on space comes from satellites which assist U.S. military operations around the world.

By the end of last year, the Air Force had 80 satellites in use, the Navy had 13, and the National Reconnaissance Office was utilizing 40. The smallest satellite being the size of a toaster and the biggest the size of a school bus.

Some serve important communications functions, while others serve as mechanisms for intelligence gathering, including the ability to provide missile warnings. These satellites are trained at the Earth and employ infrared technology to identify the hot plumes of gas that come from the end of rockets and then calculate the trajectory and warn the national command authority.

These capabilities have naturally drawn the attention of America’s adversaries.

Wilson has previously drawn attention to the threat from China with its launch of a missile the size of a telephone pole to destroy a dead weather satellite.

She said China and Russia have been developing the means to interfere with or destroy American military satellites in order to influence military operations on the ground.

Bruno expressed his belief that we stand at a pivotal moment in human history. He cited an “unprecedented set of decades that stretch out in front of us in space” with the potential to tap into near limitless resources which would allow for a self-sustaining economy on Earth.

At the same time, Bruno warned of a need for a national security space strategy which takes into account threats in orbit.

“We are heading back immediately today into an environment of pure competition,” he elaborated. “With a resurgent Russia, a rising China, countries that have ambitions around the world that not only potentially limit America’s influence but potentially limit the growth and expansion of democracy and freedom to be curtailed by totalitarian regimes and governments.”

Bruno sees access to space as essential for America to maintain its position of strength, saying that while the U.S. military is not the largest in the world, it is the most capable because it is enabled by space.

“For the first time in history, space, the previously historically peaceful domain is now being weaponized as we speak by these adversaries,” Bruno remarked. “That brings with it the potential to limit our unrivaled use of space to keep the peace around the globe.”

He said other nations seeking to weaken the U.S. military are attempting to take space away because that is a far easier approach than conventional warfare.

Wilson believes it is the space prowess of the United States which has made it a target of China and other countries.

“One of the reasons why this subject continues to interest me is that America is the best in the world at space, and our adversaries are seeking to develop the capability to deny us the use of space in crisis or at war,” she observed.

The White House earlier this month released a “National Strategy for Critical and Emerging Technologies.” The document outlines how the United States will promote and protect its competitive advantage in fields which include space and military technologies.

A statement from the White House addressed the need to develop such a national strategy:

As our competitors and adversaries mobilize vast resources in these fields, American dominance in science and technology is more important now than ever, and is vital to our long-term economic and national security. The United States will not turn a blind eye to the tactics of countries like China and Russia, which steal technology, coerce companies into handing over intellectual property, undercut free and fair markets, and surreptitiously divert emerging civilian technologies to build up their militaries.

When asked about the White House’s national strategy, Bruno acknowledged the country’s innovation chain is now susceptible to foreign interference in a way it never has been before.

“At least one of our adversaries has figured out, why spy when you can buy?” he remarked.

China’s ability to absorb U.S. technology and innovation is something which will demand significant attention, according to Bruno.

“There are a lot of elements to that innovation chain, and most of them are actually pretty open,” he concluded. “As a Chinese company, you can come and buy key elements of the supply chain where technologies reside. You can sponsor members of your intelligence community, or your armed forces, to go to America and receive the best STEM education on the planet and bring all of that home. You can even invest to influence companies through venture capital and even do that through shell companies so that your presence, influence and access is not as obvious. All of that is right now an open door to both of our adversaries.”

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

14 hours ago

Alabama coronavirus cases and hospitalizations have risen in the last week

Alabama’s coronavirus caseload continued to increase in the last week, and the number of citizens hospitalized with the virus has gone up as well.

The state has averaged 942 new cases of COVID-19 per day over the last week, a 5% increase from the 848 cases per day the state was averaging on October 22.

From early September to mid-October, Alabama was averaging around 700 cases per day.

Hospitals in the state admitted 114 coronavirus patients per day over the last seven days, up from a 102 per day average a week ago, an 11% increase.

Just over 1,000 Alabamians are currently in the hospital with a case of COVID-19.

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Both new cases and hospitalizations remain far below the peaks they hit in July.

The scientific consensus on the coronavirus is that a surge in new cases is followed by a surge in hospitalizations around two weeks later, with a resultant increase in deaths two to four weeks after the uptick in hospitalizations.

Clicking image opens interactive chart in new tab. (BamaTracker)
Clicking image opens interactive chart in new tab. (BamaTracker)

Yellowhammer News used numbers from BamaTracker for the data in this report. BamaTracker collects statistics generated by the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) to provide graphs and information on the coronavirus in Alabama.

In the last 14 days, 21.23% of all coronavirus tests administered in Alabama have come back positive, which infectious disease experts say is incredibly worrying.

According to doctors at Johns Hopkins University, the ideal range rate of positive tests is 1% to 5% for a disease to be considered contained.

Sixty-one of 67 counties in the Yellowhammer State reported a new coronavirus case on Thursday, a lower number than last week, but still a figure that shows the disease is being transmitted in nearly all areas of the state.

Bigger counties like Mobile and Houston have generated especially concerning COVID-19 numbers in recent days, along with smaller counties like Lamar, Washington, Henry and Dekalb.

In more positive news, the seven-day average of deaths due to the coronavirus has gone down in the last week. Alabama is currently averaging eight COVID-19 deaths per day, down from 10 at this time last week.

Clicking image opens interactive chart in new tab. (BamaTracker)

The total number of Alabamians who have died with a confirmed case of the coronavirus is now at 2,718, with another 196 that ADPH thinks are “probable” COVID-19 deaths but have not been officially confirmed.

The slowdown in deaths is likely attributable to an increase in doctors’ knowledge of the virus, and the use of therapeutic treatments like remdesivir, which was discovered and tested at UAB hospital.

National Public Radio recently reported on scientific studies that confirm the slowing of COVID-19 death rates across the United States.

One study featured in the article showed the death rate among hospitalized patients dropped from 25.6% at the start of the pandemic to 7.6% currently.

A big date in the minds of Alabamians closely observing COVID-19 numbers is November 8, when the state’s mask order is set to expire.

November 8 is also around the time when statistics should begin to indicate whether a surge in new cases has resulted from gatherings on Halloween.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey has typically called a press conference around 48 hours before the mask order is about to expire, where she announces whether or not she will extend it.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

15 hours ago

This weekend’s college football TV schedule

For a printable version, click here. Pro tip: Save the image below to your phone for quick and easy access all weekend.

(Note: All times are Central)

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Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers. You can contact him by email: zack@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @z_m_shaw

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @hayden_crigler.

15 hours ago

Even Joe Scarborough admits the Trump economy is booming — ‘It’s a historic number’

Look out for flying pigs.

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, a frequent critic of President Donald J. Trump, on Thursday reacted to the morning’s quarterly GDP numbers with rare objective honesty.

The newly released numbers showed that the GDP grew at an annualized rate of 33.1% in the third quarter of this year, shattering the all-time growth record and beating already-rosy expectations.

In comparison, the previous post-World War II record was a 16.7% jump in the first quarter of 1950.

The new GDP data also shows a “V-shaped recovery,” which had been predicted by Trump but ridiculed by the likes of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. Additionally, initial unemployment claims hit a seven-month national low on Thursday.

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(CNBC)

Scarborough is an alumnus of the University of Alabama and was named to Yellowhammer News’ inaugural “Power and Influence: Alabamians in D.C.” list earlier this year.

Reacting to Thursday’s news, he admitted, “The number (growth) looks great. It’s a historic number. … Donald Trump is going to be able to run around and say this last quarter the economy grew at a record rate. The highest rate ever. Period. End of sentence.”

The unprecedented recovery under the Trump economy also received praise Thursday from Alabama Republicans.

In a statement, Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05) said, “The American economy grew at an astounding 33.1% rate in the 3rd quarter, the best ever! That’s huge! 33.1% is nearly twice America’s 1950 quarterly economic growth record. Per the White House Council of Economic Advisors, America has recovered two-thirds of the economic decline caused by dangerous city and state government shutdowns. It certainly has helped that the federal government has stopped paying people $600/week to NOT work!”

“President Trump said last month that the economic recovery from government-imposed economic shutdowns would be ‘V-shaped.’ He’s right! After a 31.4% GDP decrease in the 2nd quarter caused by the economic depressant effects of Mayor and Governor shutdowns, coupled with paying people more to stay home than work, the American economy took off like a rocket,” he concluded. “It’s encouraging to see such resilience in the American economy and the American people. But it’s frightening that there are so many candidates across America who want to return to even more draconian government shutdowns and want to pay even more people more money not to work. Quite clearly, America’s economic future is on the ballot this Tuesday. Prosperity or poverty. The voters will soon decide.”

Additionally, Congressmen Robert Aderholt (AL-04) and Gary Palmer (AL-06) celebrated the news in respective tweets. Congressman Mike Rogers’ (AL-03) campaign account also tweeted its plaudits.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn