The Wire

  • Black Bear Sightings Continue to Increase in Alabama

    Excerpt from an Outdoor Alabama news release:

    Add Jackson, Limestone, Marshall, Morgan and St. Clair counties to the growing list of black bear sightings in Alabama in 2018. In recent years, bears have also been recorded in Chambers, Elmore, Jefferson, Lee, Macon and Tallapoosa counties. These recent sightings are more evidence of the state’s expanding black bear population.

    Biologists from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources say the increase in sightings may be due to a combination of factors including changes in bear distribution, habitat fragmentation, seasonal movement and the summer mating season. However, most spring and summer bear sightings are of juvenile males being pushed out of their previous ranges by their mothers and other adult males.

    Historically, a small population of black bears have remained rooted in Mobile and Washington counties. Baldwin, Covington and Escambia counties on the Florida border host yet another population of bears. In northeast Alabama, bears migrating from northwest Georgia have established a small but viable population.

    “While seeing a black bear in Alabama is uncommon and exciting, it is no cause for alarm,” said Marianne Hudson, Conservation Outreach Specialist for the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF). “There has never been a black bear attack on a human in Alabama.”

    Black bears are typically secretive, shy animals that will avoid human interaction. Occasionally, a curious bear will explore a human-populated area in search of food.

    “If you are lucky enough to see a bear, simply leave it alone,” Hudson said.

  • Rep. Byrne Releases Statement on Russia

    From a Bradley Byrne news release:

    Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL) issued the following statement regarding President Donald Trump’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, this morning in Helsinki.

    Congressman Byrne said: “I applaud President Trump’s decision to start a dialogue with President Putin and I’m glad he is making it a priority. However, we must remember that Russia is not an ally – economically or militarily. They are an adversary. The United States should not tolerate actions by the Russians that intervene in our domestic affairs or pose a threat to our national security.”

  • Alabama Recreational Red Snapper Season Closes July 22

    Excerpt from an Outdoor Alabama news release:

    The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Marine Resources Division (MRD) announces the closure of Alabama state waters to the harvest of red snapper by private anglers and state-licensed commercial party boats at 11:59 p.m. Sunday, July 22, 2018. The quota of 984,291 pounds issued under NOAA Fisheries’ Alabama Recreational Red Snapper Exempted Fishing Permit (EFP) is expected to be met by the closure date.

    “Alabama anglers fished extremely hard on the good weather days during the season,” said Marine Resources Director Scott Bannon. “That level of effort, coupled with larger average-sized fish harvested this year as compared to last year, resulted in a daily harvest rate two times higher than 2017, which prompted an earlier than anticipated closure.

    “The purpose of the EFP was to demonstrate Alabama’s ability to establish a season and monitor landings within a fixed quota and I think we have shown we can do that,” said Bannon.

    Anglers are reminded of the following:

    — Possession of red snapper in Alabama waters while state waters are closed is prohibited regardless of where the fish were harvested.
    — Alabama anglers may fish in federal waters off the coast of Alabama (outside of 9 nm) and land in a state that is open to the landing of red snapper, but they must adhere to the open state’s rules and not transit in Alabama state waters with red snapper on board.
    — The season for federally-permitted charter for-hire vessels will close at 12:01 a.m. July 22.

1 year ago

Yellowhammer’s Cliff Sims accepts senior communications job in Trump White House

Yellowhammer Multimedia CEO Cliff Sims speaks at the Inaugural Alabama Economic Growth Summit (Photo: Yellowhammer)
Yellowhammer Multimedia CEO Cliff Sims speaks at the Inaugural Alabama Economic Growth Summit (Photo: Yellowhammer)
Yellowhammer Multimedia CEO Cliff Sims speaks at the Inaugural Alabama Economic Growth Summit (Photo: Yellowhammer)

WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald J. Trump on Friday announced that Yellowhammer Founder and CEO Cliff Sims will be taking a senior role in his incoming administration as Special Assistant to the President and Director of White House Message Strategy.

Sims founded Yellowhammer as his personal blog roughly five years ago and grew it into the state’s most influential media brand, with millions of monthly readers and listeners online and on the radio. He took a leave of absence last year to join the Trump campaign as communications advisor.

In his new job, Sims will take the lead in crafting the messaging coming out of the West Wing.

“It is an incredible honor to be asked to work in the White House and I look forward to serving the President and the country in this role,” Sims said.

Incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said Sims will “play a key role in supporting President-elect Trump’s America-first agenda.”

Sims will resign as Yellowhammer’s chief executive officer effective on inauguration day. Yellowhammer’s chief business development officer, Brian Ellis, has been named acting CEO.

“Cliff’s vision and leadership have been an indispensable part of Yellowhammer’s growth to this point,” said Ellis.
“He will be missed, but his passion for the state of Alabama and Yellowhammer’s mission to be the go-to source of news and commentary for the entire state are deeply engrained in our company’s DNA. We have an incredible team in place and look forward to building on the foundation that has been laid.”

Sims joins several other Alabamians in taking high profile positions in the Trump administration. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) appears on track to be confirmed as US Attorney General, Sessions’ former chief of staff Rick Dearborn will be Deputy White House Chief of Staff and Sessions’ former communications director, Stephen Miller, will be Senior Advisor to the President for Policy.

2 years ago

Rick Dearborn, longtime Sessions chief of staff, lands powerful post in Trump White House

Rick Dearborn, seated on the couch with his left hand raised, will serve as Deputy Chief of Staff in President-elect Donald Trump's White House.
Rick Dearborn, seated on the couch with his left hand raised, will serve as Deputy Chief of Staff in President-elect Donald Trump's White House.
Rick Dearborn, seated on the couch with his left hand raised, will serve as Deputy Chief of Staff in President-elect Donald Trump’s White House.

WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team announced Wednesday that Rick Dearborn, longtime chief of staff to Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), will serve as Deputy Chief of Staff in the Trump White House, one of the administration’s most senior positions.

In his new role, Dearborn, who is currently executive director of the Presidential Transition Team, will lead the White House Office of Legislative Affairs, Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and Cabinet affairs.

Dearborn has worked for six U.S. Senators, including two members of Senate leadership, and spent more than 25 years working on Capitol Hill. He was nominated by President George W. Bush and confirmed by the Senate to become the Assistant Secretary of Energy for Congressional Affairs, where he worked with the Senate, House and Tribal Governments on the President’s Energy agenda.

Incoming White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon said Dearborn has “been instrumental in our victory and transition efforts,” and added that he will be relied upon to “guide critical White House operations as we aggressively follow through on President-elect Trump’s promise to put America First.”

Dearborn is the second top Sessions staffer to land a senior role in the Trump White House.

Sessions’ former communications director, Stephen Miller, was previously announced as Trump’s senior policy advisor.

“Stephen played a central and wide-ranging role in our primary and general election campaign,” President-Elect Trump said. “He is deeply committed to the America First agenda, and understands the policies and actions necessary to put that agenda into effect. He is a strong advocate for protecting American workers, and will fulfill a crucial role in my Administration as my senior advisor on matters of policy.”

Miller has been Trump National Policy Director since January of 2016. In addition to that role, he also served as Trump’s top speechwriter before filling the same roles on the President-Elect’s transition team.

Other Alabamians are expected to land senior roles in the Trump administration in the coming days.

2 years ago

Democrats plan all-out assault on Sessions in attempt to block AG nomination

President-elect Donald Trump has nominated Sen. Jeff Sessions to serve as Attorney General in his administration.
President-elect Donald Trump has nominated Sen. Jeff Sessions to serve as Attorney General in his administration.

WASHINGTON — Incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has informed Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that senate Democrats plan an all-out assault on Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and seven other Trump cabinet nominees in an attempt to block — or at least stall — them from being confirmed.

The Democrats’ plan, which the Washington Post called “an unprecedented break with Senate tradition,” threatens to derail the typically seamless transition of power in some of the government’s most important agencies.

In addition to Sessions, who was tapped to head the Justice Department, Democrats will target Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson, HHS Secretary nominee Tom Price, Labor Secretary nominee Andrew Puzder, Treasury Secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin, Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos, EPA administrator nominee Scott Pruitt and Office of Management and Budget nominee Mick Mulvaney.

Carl Cannon, the Washington Bureau Chief of Real Clear Politics, called Democrats efforts against Sessions “a case study in character assassination” and conservative columnist Erick Erickson called it a “desperate attempt to get a scalp.”

But Democrats argue they are simply seeking thorough public hearings.

“President-elect Trump is attempting to fill his rigged cabinet with nominees that would break key campaign promises and have made billions off the industries they’d be tasked with regulating,” Schumer said in a statement. “Any attempt by Republicans to have a series of rushed, truncated hearings before Inauguration Day and before the Congress and public have adequate information on all of them is something Democrats will vehemently resist. If Republicans think they can quickly jam through a whole slate of nominees without a fair hearing process, they’re sorely mistaken.”

Historically, the Senate has shown a great deal of deference to incoming presidents under the premise that they should be given the latitude to surround themselves with the people they want, within reason.

Schumer’s plan, which calls for multiple, lengthy hearings for each of the aforementioned eight nominees, would slow the confirmation process to a crawl. It would also directly contradict what took place after President Obama took office in 2009 when the Senate unanimously confirmed seven of his nominees on Inauguration Day and five more within the week.

“It’s curious that they’d object to treating the incoming president’s nominees with the same courtesy and seriousness with which the Senate acted on President Obama’s nominees,” said Antonia Ferrier, a spokeswoman for Sen. McConnell. “Our committees and chairmen are fully capable of reviewing the incoming Cabinet nominations with the same rules and procedures as the same committees did with President Obama’s nominations.”

Sessions’ confirmation hearings are first on the docket and scheduled to begin Jan. 10th.

2 years ago

Powerful senator won’t allow attacks on Sessions’ character during confirmation process

Senator Chuck Grassley speaks to a Republican audience in downtown Des Moines after winning his 7th election to the U.S. senate. (Photo: John Pemble)
Senator Chuck Grassley speaks to a Republican audience in downtown Des Moines after winning his 7th election to the U.S. senate. (Photo: John Pemble)
Senator Chuck Grassley speaks to a Republican audience in downtown Des Moines after winning his 7th election to the U.S. senate. (Photo: John Pemble)

WASHINGTON — A senator who will wield significant influence in Sen. Jeff Sessions’ upcoming attorney general confirmation process is pledging to keep Democrats from engaging in the type of character assassination that doomed Sessions’ confirmation to a federal judgeship 30 years ago.

“Democratic members of the committee have pledged a fair process,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) told reporters after meeting with Sessions Tuesday morning. “Based on those commitments, I trust the other side will resist what some liberal interest groups are clearly hoping for — an attack on his character. That will not happen here.”

Senate Democrats have hinted at a protracted confirmation battle, based largely on hearsay from 30 years ago that claimed Sen. Sessions had made racially insensitive comments.

Prominent African American and civil rights leaders have rushed to Sessions’ defense this year, arguing that his record shows he will ensure equal justice for all Americans as the country’s top law enforcement officer.

“I worked closely with Senator Sessions while he was US Attorney and I was in the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department,” said legendary civil rights attorney Barry Kowalski. “This was during the 1980s when many southern US attorneys were not always welcoming to the Civil Rights Division working in their districts. However, Senator Sessions could not have been more supportive of our investigations, and in the Michael Donald case specifically, he personally contributed to making sure his killers were brought to justice.”

“I am a 71-year-old African-American man, and I think I know a racist when I see one,” added Larry Thompson, who served as Deputy Attorney General during the Bush administration. “Jeff Sessions is simply a good and decent man. As a former federal prosecutor, Jeff knows the workings of the Justice Department inside and out. He is thoroughly familiar with the legal issues the department will face. He will carry out his duties in a professional, thoughtful and balanced manner.”

In spite of Democrats’ desire for a fight, Sen. Grassley, who provides over the Judiciary Committee, pointed to other recent confirmations as a blueprint for how he will oversee Sessions’ confirmation process.

“The hearings for the four most recent Attorneys General lasted one to two days each. And at each of those hearings, three to nine outside witnesses testified,” he said. “Nine witnesses testified at the hearing for Attorney General Lynch, seven witnesses testified at the hearings for Attorneys General Holder and Mukasey, and three witnesses testified at the hearing for Attorney General Gonzales.”

“Senator Sessions will receive the fair and thorough vetting process he deserves, as have the last four nominees to be Attorney General,” Grassley concluded.

2 years ago

Sessions broke the back of the KKK in Alabama. Now the media wants you to think he’s racist.

Sen. Jeff Sessions at the 50th anniversary of the march at Selma. (Photo: Todd Stacy)
Sen. Jeff Sessions at the 50th anniversary of the march at Selma. (Photo: Todd Stacy)
Sen. Jeff Sessions at the 50th anniversary of the march at Selma. (Photo: Todd Stacy)

President-elect Donald J. Trump over the weekend nominated Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) to serve as United States Attorney General, signaling that he is serious about returning the Justice Department to its core of mission of “ensuring fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans.”

Sen. Sessions’ credentials are impeccable.

Assistant United States Attorney. United States Attorney. Alabama Attorney General. United States Senator. A combined 35 years of public service and a lifelong commitment to the rule of law.

And yet if you read the New York Times and Washington Post, or watch MSNBC and CNN, you would think President-elect Trump brought segregation-era George Wallace back from the dead and appointed him to be the nation’s chief law enforcement officer. (In reality, Sessions campaigned against Wallace as a college Republican, but that’s a story for another time.)

The media constantly point back to Sen. Sessions’ failed confirmation after then-President Ronald Reagan nominated him to a federal judgeship as evidence that he is, as CNN puts it, “dogged by allegations of racism.” During Senate confirmation hearings in 1986, Sessions was accused of making racially insensitive comments.

When a former Justice Department colleague came forward with the accusation, Sessions did the unthinkable in Washington: he told the truth. He conceded that he had made a joke that was being taken out of context.

And his actions clearly backed that up, because at the moment Sessions made the unfortunate joke, he was tenaciously leading a fight to deliver justice for the family of an African American man who had been viciously murdered by the KKK.

And this is the part of the story the media never tell.

Michael Donald, a 19-year-old African-American man, was walking home when he was kidnapped by two Klan members, who drove him to a secluded area, nearly beat him to death with a tree limb, tied a noose around his neck, strangle him, then slit his throat and hung him from a tree.

KKK member Henry Francis Hays was responsible for the vicious murder, and did so at the order of his father, Klan leader Bennie Hays, who ordered the killing “to show Klan strength in Alabama.”

Sessions was so disgusted by what had happened that he allowed the State of Alabama to try the case, rather than making it a federal case, because Alabama had the death penalty.

Years later, when Sessions was Alabama Attorney General, the story came full circle as he oversaw the execution of Mr. Hays.

Barry Kowalski, the now-legendary civil rights attorney and former Special Counsel in the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, recalls Sessions’ involvement with the case.

“Senator Sessions could not have been more supportive of our investigations, and in the Michael Donald case specifically, he personally contributed to making sure his killers were brought to justice.”

In short, Jeff Sessions made Henry Hays the first white person to be executed in Alabama for the murder of a black citizen since 1913. Additionally, Mr. Hays is the only known member of the KKK to be executed in the United States in the 20th century for murdering an African American.

The successful prosecution of Hays also led to a $7 million civil judgment against the Klan,” which the Associated Press in 1997 noted bankrupted the KKK in Alabama.

And yet these days the AP is busy cranking out stories about Sessions’ “racial issues” and claiming that he’s facing “a tough senate confirmation,” even though he has already garnered bi-partisan support and Republicans clearly have the votes to confirm him.

If you want to know the truth, listen to what the people who actually know Jeff Sessions have to say.

Larry Thompson, who worked closely with Sessions at the Justice Department and went on to serve as Deputy Attorney General of the United States, said this week that Sessions “does not have a racist bone in his body.”

“I have been an African American for 71 years and I think I know a racist when I experience one,” he added. “Jeff Sessions is simply a good and decent man.”

William Smith, who Sessions tapped to be the first African American to ever serve as Chief Counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee, called Sessions “a man of high character and great integrity” who always “treated me like family.”

U.S. Civil Rights Commissioner Peter Kirsanow said Sessions “has done more to protect the jobs and enhance the wages of black workers than anyone in either house of Congress over the last 10 years.”

Civil rights attorney and founder of the Black American Leadership Alliance Leah Durant said Sessions “has been a leader in the fight for preserving American jobs and ensuring opportunities for African American workers.”

And Kenyen Brown, the Obama appointee who now fills the very same US Attorney seat that Sessions once sat in, called Sessions “a man of outstanding character with an impeccable reputation for integrity.”

Jeff Sessions is a brilliant legal mind with a titanium spine, but most importantly, he is a good man. And that, in short, is why liberals and their allies in the media are resorting to 30-year-old, trumped-up lies to try to take him down — because that’s all they have.

2 years ago

Jeff Sessions likely to be tapped for US Attorney General

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) at the Republican National Convention (Photo: Matt Rourke)
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) at the Republican National Convention (Photo: Matt Rourke)
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) at the Republican National Convention (Photo: Matt Rourke)

WASHINGTON — Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) is likely to be announced soon as President-elect Donald J. Trump’s nominee to serve as Attorney General, according to multiple reports.

Sessions has served in the United States Senate since 1997, and prior to that was a US Attorney and Alabama Attorney General.

“While nothing has been finalized and he is still talking with others as he forms his cabinet, the President-elect has been unbelievably impressed with Senator Sessions and his phenomenal record as Alabama’s Attorney General and U.S. Attorney,” the Trump Transition Team said in a statement. “It is no wonder the people of Alabama re-elected him without opposition.”

Sessions’ name has consistently been included in media speculation regarding potential Trump Cabinet members. He was the first U.S. Senator to endorse the billionaire businessman and was a staple on the campaign trail.

On Thursday evening, USA Today published a story citing a source inside the Trump campaign who signaled that President-elect Trump had made up his mind on Sessions.

“Trump and Sessions met Thursday in New York, after which Trump decided that Sessions had separated himself from the other contenders for the post, according to a senior staffer on the transition team,” USA Today’s Mary Troyan wrote.

The New York Times, Associated Press and other left-leaning media outlets quickly pounced with stories accusing Senator Sessions of racism.

In 1986, the U.S. Senate did not confirm then-U.S. Attorney Sessions for a federal judgeship appointment by President Ronald Reagan after accusations surfaced that Senator Sessions had made racially insensitive remarks.

Numerous Sessions colleagues came forward to debunk the accusations, but the damage had already been done. Sessions’ nomination was pulled.

Senator Arlen Spector, who opposed Sessions’ nomination at the time, later said he regretted it.

“My vote against candidate Sessions for the federal court was a mistake because I have since found that Sen. Sessions is egalitarian,” Specter said.

William Smith, the former Chief Counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee and current Chief of Staff for Congressman Gary Palmer also dismisses the attacks.

“I had the opportunity to work with Senators Sessions for close to 10 years,” he said. “Throughout that time, he was more a friend and confidant than the boss. I believe he hired me as the first ever Republican African American Chief Counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee and I’m not sure there has been another one since me. After I moved to Alabama to practice law and then returned to Washington, Senator Sessions offered me the position of Chief Counsel on the full Judiciary Committee and then basically created a position for me on his Senate Budget Committee, where I continued as his Chief.

“Jeff Sessions is a man of high character and great integrity,” he continued. “He would make an outstanding Attorney General and I’m excited to support him 100%. Although I pushed the envelope a number of times, not once did Senator Sessions ever say anything to offend me. Instead, time after time, he stood by me and the conservative causes I was out to support. I remember spending several late nights in the office, not talking about working, but talking about life and family. Senator Sessions was always concerned for my well being. Because he is such a great man, one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made was leaving his employment. In his kindness, he told me if I wanted to come back, I could. He, Mary and his children have treated me like family and I’ll always be grateful for that.”

Sessions’ confirmation hearings are expected to be much more amicable this time.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, praised Sen. Sessions on Thursday after hearing his name was being floated publicly.

“Senator Sessions is a respected member and former Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee who has worked across the aisle on major legislation,” said Grassley. “He knows the Justice Department as a former U.S. attorney, which would serve him very well in this position. With this background, and if he’s fortunate enough to be nominated, I’m confident he would be reported favorably out of the committee.”

It is unclear how imminent Sen. Sessions’ appointment may be, but it appears that it could come any day.

2 years ago

Meet the Alabamians who are helping shape the emerging Trump administration

Anne-Allen Welden, Rick Dearborn, Jeff Sessions and Cliff Sims are all playing key roles on the Trump Transition Team.
Anne-Allen Welden, Rick Dearborn, Jeff Sessions and Cliff Sims are all playing key roles on the Trump Transition Team.
Anne-Allen Welden, Rick Dearborn, Jeff Sessions and Cliff Sims are all playing key roles on the Trump Transition Team.

As President-elect Donald J. Trump’s administration begins to take shape, several Alabamians have become very influential behind-the-scenes of the Transition effort.

Here are four to watch:

Jeff Sessions, United States Senator and longtime Trump confidant

Sessions was the first United States senator to back Trump in the primary, and his policy positions ultimately formed the foundation of Trump’s populist platform.

Sessions will almost certainly garner a Cabinet post in the Trump administration. His name has been mentioned in conversations about Attorney General, Secretary of Defense and Secretary of Homeland Security.

In the mean time, he is Vice Chairman of the Trump Transition Team and has been a fixture in Trump Tower since Election Day. In addition to his own influence in shaping the Trump administration, he also has a small but influential team of loyalists — several of which are mentioned below — who have also filled important posts in the transition effort.

Washington Post reporter Robert Costa tweeted Tuesday that “the Sessions bloc is rising. Influential in transition.”

Rick Dearborn, Executive Director, Trump Transition Team

Dearborn has been Sen. Jeff Sessions’ chief of staff for over a decade. During the campaign, he also led Trump’s policy operation in Washington, D.C., and was the billionaire businessman’s top liaison to members of congress and key Capitol Hill staffers.

President-elect Trump recently tapped Dearborn to be the top staffer on the Transition Team, which has the monumental task of filling roughly 4,000 jobs within the Trump administration.

Dearborn’s fingerprints will be on every nook and cranny of the federal government after Inauguration Day.

Ann-Allen Welden, Trump Transition Team

Welden’s background includes stints as the scheduler for Congressman Gary Palmer (R-AL6), governmental affairs coordinator for powerhouse law firm Maynard, Cooper & Gale and Deputy Director of Logistics at the 2016 Republican National Convention.

She handled logistics for the Trump campaign, and after Election Day she was tapped by Dearborn to be one of his key lieutenants in the transition effort.

Welden is on the front lines of the vetting process as requests flow into Trump Tower for executive branch appointments.

Cliff Sims, Trump Communications Advisor

Sims built Yellowhammer into an Alabama media juggernaut that reaches millions of people each month online and on the airwaves.

He took a leave of absence as Yellowhammer CEO in September to join the Trump campaign as communications advisor, and stayed on in the same role on the Transition Team. Sims will be very involved in the rollout of Cabinet officials and other high-level appointments in the coming days.

2 years ago

Alabama Rep. Mike Rogers quietly pushing to bring ‘earmarking’ back to Congress

Rep. Mike Rogers, R-AL03 (Photo: Facebook)
Rep. Mike Rogers, R-AL03 (Photo: Facebook)

WASHINGTON — One week after Donald J. Trump won the presidency on a promise to “Drain the Swamp,” one Alabama congressman is working to revive the practice of earmarking, which Robert Bluey of the conservative Heritage Foundation on Tuesday decried as “synonymous with government waste and pork-barrel spending.”

The Congressional Research Service defines earmarks as spending attached to “bills that apply to a very limited number of individuals or entities.” The practice was banned in 2010 when Republicans re-took control of the House.

But Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL3) has joined with Reps. John Culberson of Texas and Tom Rooney of Florida to sponsor an amendment to House rules that would revive earmarks going forward.

“The amendment would bring back legislative earmarks for some government agencies, including the Department of Defense, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Bureau of Reclamation,” explained Bluey. “It also would allow lawmakers to provide earmarks for state and local governments, except for recreational facilities, museums, or parks.”

Republicans are set to meet Wednesday to vote on the rules for the next session of Congress, which begins in January.

“If the (Rogers) amendment is adopted by a secret-ballot vote Wednesday, lawmakers would be able to request earmarks once again as long as the sponsoring member is identified, the earmarks initiate in committee, and they don’t increase spending,” said Bluey.

Earmarks have long sparked outrage among many conservatives and taxpayer watchdog groups. Perhaps most famously, Rep. Don Young (R-AK) attached a $398 million earmark to a spending bill to build a bridge that would be have been used by a total of about 50 residents in his district. The backlash was so severe that “Bridge to Nowhere” became a household phrase.

But some people continue to believe that while earmarks have been abused in the past, they can be useful in helping to keep the gears of Congress turning.

This is not the first time Rogers has sought to end the ban.

During a closed-door meeting in 2014, House Republicans voted 145-67 against another Rogers proposal, which would not have lifted the ban entirely, but would have allowed the use of earmarks for “state, locality (including county and city governments), or a public utility or other public entity.”

Rogers explained the proposal by saying he believed the President had too much power over Congress’s spending priorities when they do not have the ability to attach earmarks to legislation.

“I do not believe most people trust how President Obama spends our tax dollars,” Rogers told The Daily Caller at the time. “This proposal would allow the conservative, Republican-controlled House to reassert its Constitutional authority over the Obama Administration and the spending decisions it is currently making.”

In spite of Rogers’ efforts in 2014, the Republican-controlled House continued its prohibition on earmarks. We will find out tomorrow whether or not that will continue for another two years.

Rogers’ office did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

2 years ago

Alabama lawmaker: It’s time to bring back the firing squad for death row inmates

Alabama Senator Trip Pittman is advocating for the state to bring back firing squads as a method of execution.
Alabama Senator Trip Pittman is advocating for the state to bring back firing squads as a method of execution.
Alabama Senator Trip Pittman is advocating for the state to bring back firing squads as a method of execution.

MONTROSE, Ala. — With Alabama’s protocol for executing death row inmates mired in controversy and legal challenges, one state senator is proposing bringing back the firing squad and adding the ability for condemned criminals to choose to be gassed to death with nitrogen. Firing squads have not been used as a method of execution in Alabama since at least the 1920s.

State Senator Trip Pittman (R-Montrose) has introduced Senate Bill 12, which “would allow a capital defendant to elect to be executed by firing squad.” He says he plans to add the gassing option to the bill as well before it comes before the legislature early next year.

For three-quarters of a century (1927-2002), executions in Alabama were carried out using an electric chair dubbed “Yellow Mama,” a nickname it was given after being covered in the same paint used to stripe Alabama’s highways. “Mama” has been in storage since 2002 when legislation was passed giving prisoners the ability to opt for lethal injection. Some lawmakers have pushed to take Yellow Mama out of storage, particularly after various legal challenges to the state’s lethal injection protocol caused a backlog of death row inmates, costing the state additional housing expenses.

Thomas Arthur, a 74-year-old death row inmate who was convicted for a murder-for-hire in the 1980s, recently received a stay of execution after he spoke out against the lethal injection process, arguing that the three-drug cocktail does not sufficiently dull the pain prior to death. Mr. Arthur has argued that death by firing squad would be more humane.

“I knew we needed to provide some other options, and since he suggested the firing squad, that was on my mind,” Sen. Pittman recently told the Anniston Star. “The main thing is that we come up with some alternatives to get out of the bind we’re in.”

The legislature will reconvene for the 2017 Regular Legislative Session in February.

2 years ago

How pollsters with close Alabama ties helped propel Trump into the White House

(Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
Donald J. Trump waves to a crowd of tens of thousands in Mobile, Alabama. (Photo: Julie Dermansky)
Donald J. Trump waves to a crowd of tens of thousands in Mobile, Alabama. (Photo: Julie Dermansky)

Pollsters make a living being public opinion experts. But 2016 has been a tough year for the polling industry after the overwhelming majority of the “experts” were flat out wrong on two of the world’s most significant events — Brexit in the U.K. and the presidential election in the U.S. However, a polling firm with close ties to Alabama correctly called President-elect Donald J. Trump’s improbable victory, and their insight helped propel him to the White House.

McLaughlin & Associates is a public opinion research firm based in New Jersey, but the brothers who lead the company — John and Jim McLaughlin — have been the most influential Republican pollsters in Alabama for years.

“Back in the last century, I worked for Gov. Fob James when we had a 20-point come-from-behind win for governor in 1994,” John told Yellowhammer. “Then I worked for Jeff Sessions in his first race for senate and subsequently Senator Shelby. Since then Jim has carried on the work for Senator Shelby with a big win in the primary this year. He also works for Congressmen (Mike) Rogers and (Robert) Aderholt, among others.”

A closer look at the firm’s client list reveals a who’s who of Alabama politics:

Governor Bob Riley, Attorney General Bill Pryor (who is now on Trump’s short list for the Supreme Court,), Senate President Pro Ten Del Marsh, Attorney General Luther Strange, Lt. Governor Steve Windom, the Business Council of Alabama, and dozens of state house and senate members. Perhaps most notably, Jim McLaughlin was the pollster behind Republicans’ successful effort to take control of the Alabama legislature for the first time since Reconstruction.

During this election cycle, both McLaughlin brothers were involved in different aspects of the Trump effort.

John was the internal pollster for the campaign and Jim worked for a pro-Trump Super PAC. This gave their firm the opportunity to play an outsized role in the ultimate victory, but also presented some challenges. Because FEC rules ban coordination between campaigns and outside groups, the brothers were strictly prohibited from talking to each other about strategy.

“We took the firewall very seriously. But I’m sure it drove our family crazy sometimes. When you’re involved in politics but can’t talk about the biggest election of the year, that can get awkward,” Jim laughed.

John’s work for the campaign extended back to the primary, when most pundits assumed Trump did not have a real chance of winning.

“Basically in my work for the Trump campaign, I helped him recover from losing Wisconsin, to win New York and the Northeast handily,” John explained. “Then we made sure we beat Ted Cruz in Indiana to seal he nomination.”

Even after winning the nomination, Trump was considered a long-shot candidate against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and the entire Washington, D.C., establishment. But John saw something in his polling that suggested Trump had a better chance than most people thought.

“Going all the way back to last September, we’ve known Americans wanted to change directions and move away from the policies of President Obama, 56% to 34%,” said John. “I urged Mr. Trump to press his message of change as his most important theme.”

Jim saw the same thing in his polling as well, and noticed that working class voters — many of whom either voted Democrat or didn’t vote at all in recent past election — were attracted to Trump’s message on trade and immigration. As a result, the vast majority of the super PAC’s closing budget was spent in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, two states that Republicans had not won since 1988.

As Mr. Trump would say, it worked BIG LEAGUE.

By the last week of the campaign, Trump had won over roughly 90% of the voters who were looking for change, and winning traditionally blue states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin helped propel him to a runaway Electoral College win.

“That was our pathway to victory,” said John. “It also allowed us to win in the Sunbelt states and expand into a majority of the Rust Belt states. Mr. Trump was able to energize working middle class men and women in the heartland to vote for him to send a message to the DC political establishment.”

It’s safe to say the establishment got the message loud and clear.

2 years ago

Cliff Sims joins Trump campaign as advisor, takes leave of absence as Yellowhammer CEO

Yellowhammer Multimedia CEO Cliff Sims speaks at the Inaugural Alabama Economic Growth Summit (Photo: Yellowhammer)
Yellowhammer Multimedia CEO Cliff Sims speaks at the Inaugural Alabama Economic Growth Summit (Photo: Yellowhammer)
Yellowhammer Multimedia CEO Cliff Sims speaks at the Inaugural Alabama Economic Growth Summit (Photo: Yellowhammer)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Yellowhammer Multimedia Chief Executive Officer Cliff Sims is taking a temporary leave of absence from the company he founded to join Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign as a Communications Advisor.

Sims will be based in Trump campaign headquarters in Manhattan and will return to his duties at Yellowhammer after Election Day. No interim replacement will be made.

In his absence, day-to-day company operations will be helmed by Chief Business Development Officer Brian J. Ellis and the daily Yellowhammer Radio program will be hosted by former state senator Scott Beason.

“Cliff is a world-class communicator and the Yellowhammer family is confident he will be an asset to the Trump campaign,” said Ellis. “Our team will continue producing the top-notch news and commentary that have made Yellowhammer Alabama’s most trusted media brand. We look forward to Cliff’s return after the election.”

Initially launched as Sims’ personal blog, the Yellowhammer brand has expanded to include, which attracts millions of monthly visitors; Yellowhammer Radio, a daily two-hour terrestrial radio program airing across central and north Alabama on its flagship station, Superstation 101 WYDE; and the Yellowhammer News Radio Network, which provides top and bottom of the hour news on both talk and music stations all over the state.

In addition to the Yellowhammer platforms, Sims’ articles and opinions have been featured in national publications including The Washington Post, Fox News, Politico, The Huffington Post, The Daily Caller and TheBlaze. He has appeared on cable news as a political commentator and guest-­hosted the nationally syndicated Laura Ingraham Show.

Sims previously founded Yellowhammer Strategies, a communications and digital media consulting firm.

All campaign-related inquiries should be directed to the Trump campaign.

2 years ago

Alabamian Bill Pryor named to Trump’s final list of potential Supreme Court nominees

Judge William H. Pryor (Photo: Screenshot)
Judge William H. Pryor (Photo: Screenshot)
Judge William H. Pryor (Photo: Screenshot)

NEW YORK — Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump has released a list of the twenty-one individuals he will consider nominating to the United States Supreme Court should he be elected president. Among the names on the list is Judge William “Bill” Pryor, Jr., a native of Mobile.

Pryor is an icon in conservative legal circles and has already enjoyed a distinguished legal career, including stints as Alabama’s deputy attorney general and attorney general (succeeding now-U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions) before being nominated to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals by President George W. Bush in 2003.

Senate Democrats initially filibustered Pryor’s nomination and criticized him for being an “extremist” after he referred to the Supreme Court as “nine octogenarian lawyers” and called Roe v. Wade the “worst abomination in the history of constitutional law” and “a constitutional right to murder an unborn child.”

President Bush went on to install Pryor as a federal judge through a recess appointment. He was eventually confirmed by a vote of 53-45.

As a federal judge, Pryor has upheld voter ID laws (Common Cause/Georgia v. Billups) and argued against ObamaCare’s contraceptive mandate.

The Trump campaign said the individuals named on the list were chosen “first and foremost, based on constitutional principles, with infput from respected conservative leaders.”

“We have a very clear choice in this election,” said Mr. Trump. “The freedoms we cherish and the constitutional values and principles our country was founded on are in jeopardy. The responsibility is greater than ever to protect and uphold these freedoms and I will appoint justices, who like Justice Scalia, will protect our liberty with the highest regard for the Constitution. This list is definitive and I will choose only from it in picking future Justices of the United States Supreme Court. I would like to thank the Federalist Society, The Heritage Foundation and the many other individuals who helped in composing this list of twenty-one highly respected people who are the kind of scholars that we need to preserve the very core of our country, and make it greater than ever before.”

Joining Judge prior on the list is Justice Don Willett of the Texas Supreme Court. Justice Willett will be the keynote speaker at the Alabama Policy Institute’s annual dinner in Birmingham Oct. 27th at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex.

The full list of the twenty-one individuals Mr. Trump will consider for the High Court is below:

1. Keith Blackwell
2. Charles Canady
3. Steven Colloton
4. Allison Eid
5. Neil Gorsuch
6. Raymond Gruender
7. Thomas Hardiman
8. Raymond Kethledge
9. Joan Larsen
10. Mike Lee
11. Thomas Lee
12. Edward Mansfield
13. Federico Moreno
14. William Pryor
15. Margaret A. Ryan
16. Amul Thapar
17. Timothy Tymkovich
18. David Stras
19. Diane Sykes
20. Don Willett
21. Robert Young

2 years ago

Sessions: Bush family should rally behind Trump, remember conservatives got them elected

George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush (Photo: Flickr)
George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush (Photo: Flickr)
George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush (Photo: Flickr)

WASHINGTON — Responding to the Bush family’s unwillingness to openly support Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) told the Washington Examiner he believes the Bushes should remember that conservatives rallied behind them, even though they were usually not their first choice.

George P. Bush, Jeb Bush’s son and the current Texas Land Commissioner, is the only member of the Bush family who has publicly endorsed Mr. Trump, and Politico recently published the unconfirmed assertion by a member of the Kennedy family that George H. W. Bush is planning to vote for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Responding to the report, Sen. Sessions recalled that “millions of Americans, including this one, worked their hearts out for the Bushes in 1988, 1992, 2000, and 2004. And it wasn’t Bill Clinton that helped the Bushes get elected. It was the same voters, in large part, that elected Ronald Reagan and stand to elect Donald Trump.

“I think they’re not thinking clearly enough about this,” Sen. Sessions continued. “They’re not … appreciating half the American people, virtually, that have been supportive of Republicans. A lot of them preferred somebody other than Bush candidates, but they rallied around them when it came to Nov. 1 So I would hope that we see more rallying.”

Sen. Sessions also noted that the unconfirmed Politico report was “just a Democrat reporting what Mr. Bush said. I haven’t heard him say anything.”

A spokesperson for George W. Bush said the former president does not plan on commenting on the race.

When asked for her take on the elder Bush’s supposed comment about voting for Clinton, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said she “respect(s) the 92-year-old former president very much,” but added that it would be odd for him to vote for “the wife of the man who knocked him out of the race” in 1992.

2 years ago

The newly launched Congressional Football Caucus is led by an Alabamian, of course

Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-AL7)
Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-AL7)
Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-AL7)

WASHINGTON — A group of United States congressmen has tossed aside partisan politics and announced the formation of the first ever Congressional Football Caucus. Fittingly, the group will be led by a representative from the state that has taken home five of the last seven college football national championships.

U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, a Democrat from Alabama’s 7th Congressional District, will co-chair the caucus alongside Rep. Roger Williams, a Republican from Texas whose home state has a rich college football history as well.

According to The Hill, the caucus’s primary goal is to “protect the $5 billion scholarship market for college football players, many of whom do not go onto play professionally and rely on their education to build a successful career.” breaks down the $5 billion in football scholarships available at the NCAA Division I, IAA, and II levels:

“At the Division 1A level, 237 universities have football teams. There are 85 scholarships available per team to be divided among the players. A total of 20,145 scholarships are offered in Division 1A football.

“At the Division 1AA level, 120 universities have football teams. There are 63 scholarships available per team to be divided among the players. A total of 7,560 scholarships are offered in Division 1AA football.

“At the Division II level, 164 universities have football teams. There are 36 scholarships available per team to be divided among the players. A total of 5,904 scholarships are offered in Division 2 football.”

The football crazed state of Alabama is home to nine Division 1 football programs (counting UAB’s resurgent program) and eight Division II programs.

The Congressional Football Caucus held its first event in Washington, D.C., last week featuring appearances by Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey, Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby and Hall of Fame Coach Barry Switzer.

(h/t The Hill)

2 years ago

Trump, Sessions meet with Egyptian president, a key US ally in the fight against Islamic terrorism

Republican Presidential nominee Donald J. Trump and Sen. Jeff Sessions met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
Republican Presidential nominee Donald J. Trump and Sen. Jeff Sessions met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

NEW YORK — Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) accompanied Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump to his meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on Monday, evidencing the Alabama senator’s role as one of Mr. Trump’s most trusted confidants on foreign policy. Sen. Sessions serves as Chairman of Mr. Trump’s National Security Advisory Committee.

According to a readout of the meeting, “Mr. Trump expressed to President el-Sisi his strong support for Egypt’s war on terrorism, and how under a Trump Administration, the United States of America will be a loyal friend, not simply an ally, that Egypt can count on in the days and years ahead.”

Egypt has experienced two revolutions in recent years.

In 2011, Egyptians demanded the overthrow of then-President Hosni Mubarak, who had ruled for 30 years with support from the United States as a result of his suppression of extremist elements and his willingness to maintain peace with Israel. He was succeeded by Islamist Mohamed Morsi, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. Then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “provided Morsi with verbal support in the critical days leading up to [the presidential election],” noted National Review. Egyptians took to the streets again in 2013, pushing Morsi out and ultimately electing el-Sisi, a former military general, to the presidency.

Mr. Trump has pointed to Mrs. Clinton’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood-backed Morsi as evidence that her foreign policy credentials are far from the strong suit her campaign touts them to be.

In a release titled “Hillary’s Foreign Policy: A Before And After Look At The World,” the Trump campaign highlighted Egypt as a stable U.S. ally prior to Mrs. Clinton’s tenure atop the State Department.

The Egypt section of the release reads as follows:

Prior To Clinton Becoming Secretary Of State, The U.S. Had Normal Relations With Egypt. Between 1948 and 2011, the United States has given Egypt about $71.6 billion in bilateral military and economic aid. That’s more than we’ve given to any other country over that time frame save for Israel. A recent report from the Congressional Research Service lays out the details. The biggest chunk is military aid, averaging about $1.3 billion per year since 1987, with much of that military equipment. (Brad Plumer, “The U.S. gives Egypt $1.5 billion a year in aid. Here’s what it does,” The Washington Post , 7/9/13)

Egypt Wanted To Expand Bilateral Relations With The U.S. Prior To The Arab Spring. “Now, with Mubarak in Washington for the first time in five years, Egyptian media are hailing a new era of bilateral harmony between the world’s sole superpower and the country struggling to remain the Middle East’s political linchpin. He is expected to meet President Barack Obama on Tuesday morning. Mubarak’s pitch? A continuation of America’s hands-off policy and the US aid that has helped keep this impoverished nation afloat since the 1978 Camp David Accords in exchange for assisting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Egypt receives $2 billion in direct US aid annually, second only to Israel.” (Ashraf Khalil, “Mubarak Meets Obama To Patch Up US-Egypt Relationship,” The Christian Science Monitor, 8/18/2009)

With Sen. Sessions at his side on Monday, Mr. Trump “highlighted how Egypt and the U.S. share a common enemy and the importance of working together in defeating radical Islamic terrorism, not only politically and militarily, but also addressing the ideology.”

He also said he plans to extend an official invitation for President el-Sisi to visit the United States if he wins the presidency.

As for Sen. Sessions’ role in helping to develop Mr. Trump’s foreign policy, former Sessions staffer and current Trump senior advisor Stephen Miller said earlier this year that his decades of experience have proven to be invaluable.

“Sessions has been for twenty years on the Armed Service Committee” and “is one of the most respected members of the Senate,” he said. “Anyone who knows Jeff Sessions will tell you that he is the most straight-shooting, sincere, honest, and frankly apolitical person that you will ever meet in Washington.”

2 years ago

College Democrats leader calls for UA to ‘disinvite’ controversial gay conservative speaker

Milo Yannopoulos is scheduled to speak at the University of Alabama Oct. 10. (Photo: Screenshot)
Milo Yannopoulos is scheduled to speak at the University of Alabama Oct. 10. (Photo: Screenshot)
Milo Yannopoulos is scheduled to speak at the University of Alabama Oct. 10. (Photo: Screenshot)

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — A University of Alabama College Democrats leader is calling for the school to disinvite controversial gay conservative Milo Yiannopoulos, who the College Republicans are hosting for a speech on campus October 10th.

UA student Kyle Campbell, the immediate past president of the Alabama College Democrats and the current National Membership Director for the College Democrats of America, penned an op-ed in the school newspaper saying Mr. Yiannopoulos does not represent the university’s values.

“(T)he movement Milo represents is comprised of nothing more than Klansmen who have decided to forego their hoods,” wrote Mr. Campbell. “To use a recently popularized term, Milo Yiannopoulos is deplorable. He’s the kind of person the University used to name buildings after, but with none of the accomplishments.”

“(U)niversities exist primarily to educate, and nothing about Milo’s writings are educational,” he continued. “Inviting a sixth grader to make ‘your mom’ and ‘women belong in the kitchen’ jokes would be equally valuable to our academic community. We don’t allow our professors to teach homeopathy or astrology in the name of ‘free speech,’ because it is the role of an institution of higher learning to ensure students graduate with a worldview compatible with reality. Milo’s pseudoscientific views on race and gender are historically even more dangerous than the anti-vaccine movement is today, as we have seen with the consequences of the teachings of Josiah Nott. Milo exercises his First Amendment rights the way mass shooters exercise their Second Amendment rights, with a blatant disregard for the well being of those around him.”

Yiannopoulos, an openly gay conservative provocateur who has dubbed himself “the supervillain of the internet,” was banned from Twitter earlier this year for “participating in or inciting targeted abuse of individuals,” and he continues to gain notoriety online for his aggressive style of journalism and commentary.

Yiannopoulos’s speaking tour, which will hit 26 college campuses, is named “The Dangerous Faggot Tour.”

When the tour stopped in at DePaul University earlier this year, two Black Lives Matter activists “stormed the stage, forcibly seized the microphone, and threatened to assault” Yiannopoulos, according to Breitbart News. He was later banned from ever returning to the campus. At Rutgers University, feminists and Black Lives Matter supporters “smeared themselves with fake blood and tried to shut down the event in protest.”

A video (see below) promoting the upcoming fall tour is titled “The Faggot Returns” and features clips from the incidents mentioned above.

Yiannopoulos’s impending visit to Tuscaloosa comes at a time when a national debate is raging over freedom of speech on college campuses.

Some universities have seen fit to create “safe spaces” where students can be protected from “micro aggressions” and have also encouraged professors and speakers to issue “trigger warnings” to students before discussing controversial topics.

The University of Chicago’s dean of students recently made headlines by sending a letter to every member of their incoming freshman class blasting the culture of political correctness that he believes is spreading.

“Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called trigger warnings, we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own,” John Ellison, dean of students, wrote.

An Auburn University professor even used his fall semester syllabus to poke fun at trigger warnings.

“TRIGGER WARNING,” Prof. Peter Schwartz wrote in bold red letters atop his fall semester syllabus, before alerting his students that they should expect his class to include “physics, trigonometry, sine, cosine, tangent, vector, force, work, energy, stress, quiz, grade.”

Prof. Schwartz later told Yellowhammer he believes “this PC business is making American universities, and their faculties and administrators, the laughingstocks of Western Civilization. But, since the proponents of this stuff think Western Civ is corrupt anyhow, they don’t seem to notice that the rest of the world thinks they’re fools.”

Yiannopoulos promises to push the limits of even the most ardent free speech supporters, but not everyone at UA believes he should be disinvited.

UA student Sarah Howard responded to Mr. Campbell’s op-ed with an article of her own titled “Milo Yiannopoulos should be allowed to speak.”

“If you supported Bill Nye’s presence on campus, then you would have to be a hypocrite to speak against Milo Yiannopoulos’ upcoming event,” she wrote. “Bill Nye came to campus last year to give his opinions on teaching evolution in schools, an idea some Alabama residents heavily oppose.”

“The Constitution lays out the rights of the people in which the government cannot take away, and in this case the University is an extension of the government and must abide by the First Amendment,” she continued. “Effectively, campus should be a place where all opinions (even incendiary ones) can be expressed. I am proud that Alabama has allowed hot-topic speakers from both political poles to speak on campus; it should never be expected that public institutions will limit opinions they do not agree with but it happens over and over again.”

For a taste of the type of remarks Mr. Yiannopoulos is known for, check out the video below.

2 years ago

Three Alabama lawmakers to participate in simulated Convention of States

United States Capitol (Photo: Eric B. Walker)
United States Capitol (Photo: Eric B. Walker)
United States Capitol (Photo: Eric B. Walker)

MONTGOMERY, Al. — Three Alabama state legislators will form the Yellowhammer State’s delegation to a simulated Convention of States designed to highlight needed amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

State Sens. Clay Scofield (R – Guntersville) and Greg Albritton (R – Bay Minette) and State Rep. Jack Williams (R-Vestavia) will join lawmakers from around the country in performing a test run of an actual Article V convention called to consider amendments to “impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and set term limits for its officials and for Members of Congress.”

Proposed constitutional amendments affecting issues like federal term limits, a balanced budget requirement, and limits on executive orders and rule making are among those that delegates will debate, discuss, and consider.

“The only way to rein in the ever-encroaching federal government is by adding constitutional amendments that limit its power and set strict boundary lines that officials cannot cross,” said Rep. Williams. “The most used and best known manner to amend the U.S. Constitution is for the Congress to initiate the process, but its members have proven unwilling or unable to take the necessary first steps.

“But Article V outlines that our Constitution may also be amended by having representatives from the individual states gather in convention and propose the needed changes. Our Alabama delegation will participate in a simulated convention designed to demonstrate exactly how that process would work.”

The event is being sponsored by Citizens for Self-Governance.

The idea of a Convention of States gained steam in 2013 after conservative talk show host Mark Levin advocated for a states-led convention in his book The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic.

Article V of the U.S. Constitution says that a convention of the states can be convened if two-thirds of the state legislatures (34) approve an application for the convention to occur.

By design, that’s a high bar to clear. And the bar gets even higher when it comes to actually passing a constitutional amendment.

Each state would then choose delegates to represent them at the convention, but each state would only get one vote on proposed amendments. It takes an affirmative vote from three-fourths (38) of the states to actually amend the constitution.

In short, the convention of the states is widely viewed as a last-ditch effort to push back against an overreaching federal government. 27 states have so far passed resolutions calling for a convention to pass a federal balanced budget amendment.

The Alabama Legislature passed a resolution in 2015 strictly limiting the purpose of a proposed convention to three areas:

1) Imposing fiscal restraints on the federal government through a balanced budget amendment;
2) limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government; and
3) implementing term limits on federal elected officials.

Members of the Alabama House and Senate who supported the effort say it was necessary because “the federal government has created a crushing national debt” and “invaded the legitimate roles of the states through the manipulative power of federal mandates.”

A resolution proposed by State Sen. Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa) earlier this year was even more narrowly defined. It would limit the convention to only addressing the question of a balanced budget amendment.

“Even if we don’t get enough states behind it, we’ll send a clear message to Congress,” Allen told the Anniston Star. “Get your house in order.”

The possibility of a “runaway convention” is the most often cited concern with convening such a meeting of the states.

“In the course of our work advising state and federal lawmakers and conservative allies across the country, we have been giving this issue close attention and study,” said Dr. Matthew Spalding of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. “The lack of precedent, extensive unknowns, and considerable risks of an Article V amendments convention should bring sober pause to advocates of legitimate constitutional reform contemplating this avenue.”

But Rep. Ken Johnson (R-Moulton), who has sponsored a resolution calling for a Convention of States during the last couple of legislative sessions, said those concerns are overblown.

“Because we’ve never done it, the idea that there could be a ‘runaway convention’ is always brought up as a concern,” Johnson told Yellowhammer last year. “The convention would be limited to a small set of issues. But on top of that, the safeguard is that it only takes 13 states to kill any runaway convention. If there aren’t 13 conservatives states left, we’re in trouble, period. And Washington is a runaway train right now anyway. How much more damage could be done?”

Alabama’s two Senate Budget Chairmen have also been actively involved in the rule-making process for a possible convention. Sen. Trip Pittman (R-Montrose) and Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) traveled to Mt. Vernon, Virginia to discuss the ground rules of a potential convention.

“We discussed the reality that the biggest threat to America is an irresponsible Federal Government,” said Pittman. “Checks that need to be put on the Federal Government have not been accomplished and based on current activity appear not to be likely… 32 (states) participated in the Mount Vernon Assembly, to prepare rules and form committees within a strict framework… to discuss and build support for a possible amendment convention of the States.”

Sen. Allen’s latest bill called for a 24-hour, one-issue convention to convene in Dallas, Texas, the Wednesday after Congress receives the petition from the required number of states.

2 years ago

After Obama sent cash to Iran, Alabama rep. pushes bill to ‘prohibit future ransom payments’

Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks (R-AL5) speaks with Sen. Ted Cruz at his side. (Photo: Facebook)
Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks (R-AL5) speaks with Sen. Ted Cruz at his side. (Photo: Facebook)
Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks (R-AL5) speaks with Sen. Ted Cruz at his side. (Photo: Facebook)

WASHINGTON — Congressman Mo Brooks (R-AL5) this week helped pass the Prohibiting Future Ransom Payments to Iran Act out of the House Foreign Relations Committee in an effort “to ensure there are no future cash payouts to Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.”

The move comes in the wake of a Wall St. Journal report revealing the administration “secretly organized an airlift of $400 million worth of cash to Iran that coincided with the January release of four Americans detained in Tehran.”

“I applaud Chairman Royce for introducing this legislation following the Obama Administration’s violation of longstanding U.S. policy against ransom payments,” Rep. Brooks said in a statement. “We know that terrorist groups use ransom money to purchase weapons and further recruitment efforts. These payments to Iran only serve to encourage future kidnappings and finance Islamic terrorism the Administration claims it is combatting.”

The Obama administration has characterized the payment as settlement of an old debt that predated Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution.

U.S. State Department spokesperson John Kirby said Iran was “going to get this money anyway” because an international court was set to rule that the U.S. must pay it. But the timing of the payment, coinciding with the release of the American prisoners, has raised concerns that the Obama administration has abandoned the long-standing pillar of U.S. foreign policy that the country does not meet terrorists’ demands for hostages.

“We’ve gone from not negotiating with terrorists to paying a ransom to the leading state sponsor of terrorism,” Congressman Gary Palmer (R-AL6) tweeted, linking to an Associated Press report that the administration had conceded that the payment “was contingent on American prisoners’ release.”

RELATED: Palmer: We’ve gone from not negotiating with terrorists to making cash payments to Iran

Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump joined the chorus of critics, saying President Obama “lied” about the nature of the payment and subsequently “put every American traveling overseas, including our military personnel, at greater risk of being kidnapped.”

“He denied it was for the hostages, but it was,” Trump said. “He said we don’t pay ransom, but he did. He lied about the hostages — openly and blatantly — just like he lied about ObamaCare.”

The State Department’s Mr. Kirby dismissed the criticism and characterized the payment’s timing as a savvy and appropriate use of “leverage.”

“We deliberately leveraged that moment to finalize these outstanding issues nearly simultaneously,” he said. “With concerns that Iran may renege on the prisoner release, given unnecessary delays regarding persons in Iran who could not be located as well as, to be quite honest, mutual mistrust between Iran and the United States, we of course sought to retain maximum leverage until after American citizens were released. That was our top priority.”

While the nature of the payment to Iran is a point of debate, Iran’s support for terrorism is not.

Iranian-funded insurgents in Iraq have killed thousands of American troops and committed numerous acts of terrorism. Iran does not recognize Israel as a state and has provided support for Hamas, which has launched hundreds of attacks on the Jewish state, killing thousands. For over three decades the Iranians have also provided support for Hezbollah, the militant Islamist group behind dozens of attacks around the globe, including the U.S. Marine barracks bombing in Beirut that killed 241 Americans.

“The Prohibiting Future Ransom Payments to Iran Act requires greater transparency on future settlements to ensure they are not being used to pay ransom in violation of U.S. policy, for any reason,” Rep. Brooks concluded. “I’m pleased this legislation was reported favorably out of committee and I urge my colleagues to bring it to the House floor for a vote.”

2 years ago

Legend of Shorty Price: The Alabama politician who mooned Vols fans & took on George Wallace

Short Price, legend.
Short Price, legend.
Short Price, legend.

There are a lot of words that could describe the current state of Alabama politics — depressing, infuriating, exasperating — but “entertaining” hasn’t come to mind lately.

Sure, Rep. Alvin Holmes (D-Montgomery) will occasionally grab the microphone in the State House and declare that men should be able to marry mules or exclaim “What’s wrong with the beer we got?” But for the most part, it’s a generally sad state of affairs.

Unfortunately this is nothing new. Alabama has a long history of putting crooks and liars in office. But there was also a time when Alabama politics was fun — or so I’ve been told.

For example, Alabama was once home to Shorty Price.

Here’s how a Tuscaloosa News editorial described him in 2009:

Price’s given name was Ralph but no one except newspaper writers ever called him anything but Shorty. He was only four feet and 12 inches tall, as he liked to say, but he never got lost in the shuffle. He was a household name in Alabama in the 1950s and ’60s.

Nobody ever accused Shorty of political success. He ran for a myriad of offices; sometimes he would recycle his old campaign posters, crossing out ‘governor’ and scrawling ‘lieutenant governor’ in its place. But he was elected only once — as an alternate delegate to the 1952 Democratic National Convention.

Price, a former college roommate of Gov. George Wallace, was Alabama football’s unofficial “Head Cheerleader” and, in spite of his diminutive stature, was a larger-than-life personality who ran for Governor of Alabama in 1958, 1970, 1974 and 1978. He never garnered more than 2% of the vote, but he at least had a good time running.

He got so fired up at an Alabama-Tennessee football game during one election cycle that he decided to moon the entire UT fan base sitting on the other side of the stadium. He was later charged with public drunkenness and disorderly conduct. But upon hearing the story, the local judge just laughed, charged him a $125 fine and said, “See you next fall.”

His campaign slogan was “Shorty, Shorty, he’s our man! George Wallace belongs in the garbage can!”

Check him out in this short, classic television special on him by late Alabama journalist Bob Ingram.

(More after the video)

Mr. Price was tragically killed in a car crash in 1980 while on his way to Jackson, Mississippi, to see the Tide take on Mississippi State. The final score that day was 6-3 Bulldogs — an especially sad day for the Crimson Tide faithful, and a sad day for everyone in the state who wishes Alabama politics could be a little more fun and a little less depressing.

2 years ago

Alabama Medal of Honor recipient endorses Trump. Here’s his legendary story.

Command Sgt. Maj. Bennie G. Adkins participating in a press conference just after receiving the Medal of Honor at the White House, Sept. 15, 2014. (Photo: Staff Sgt. Bernardo Fuller)
Command Sgt. Maj. Bennie G. Adkins participating in a press conference just after receiving the Medal of Honor at the White House, Sept. 15, 2014. (Photo: Staff Sgt. Bernardo Fuller)

NEW YORK — Fourteen Medal of Honor recipients endorsed Donald J. Trump for president on Monday, the campaign announced, including Alabama’s own US Army Command Sergeant Major (Ret.) Bennie Adkins.

“It is a tremendous honor to have the support of these fourteen heroes who bravely fought to defend America and rid the world of tyranny,” said Mr. Trump. “These soldiers are the personification of courage under fire; they are the best of us all. Their honorable service to our country is an inspiration to every one of us and is a reminder that America has been the world’s most indispensable nation because of the great character of our people. I thank each of these Medal of Honor recipients for their faith in me to serve as our next president and commander-in-chief.”

In 1966, 32-year-old Sergeant First Class Bennie G. Adkins of the Army’s 5th Special Forces Group was already being recognized for his exemplary service during his second tour of combat. On March 9 of that year, a large North Vietnamese and Viet Cong force attacked his camp.

Over the next 48 hours, Adkins went from being a well-known and highly respected leader in his unit, to the kind of soldier that generations of U.S. Army Special Forces talk about any time that stories of extreme valor come up in conversation.

According to an official citation, “During the thirty-eight hour battle and forty-eight hours of escape and evasion, fighting with mortars, machine guns, recoilless rifles, small arms, and hand grenades, it was estimated that Adkins killed between 135 and 175 of the enemy while sustaining eighteen different wounds to his body.” (Read the full, incredible story here)

On Sept. 15, 2014, Command Sergeant Major Bennie G. Adkins was awarded the Medal of Honor, almost half a century after returning from the jungles of Vietnam to the political and social upheaval of late 1960s America.

President Barack Obama awards the Medal of Honor to Army Command Sergeant Major Bennie G. Adkins in a ceremony at the White House Sept. 15, 2014 (Photo: Cliff Sims)
President Barack Obama awards the Medal of Honor to Army Command Sergeant Major Bennie G. Adkins in a ceremony at the White House Sept. 15, 2014 (Photo: Cliff Sims)

Medal of Honor recommendations usually must be made within two years of the act of heroism and must be presented within three years.

So why did it take so long for Adkins to be recognized?

“In 2009 Command Sergeant Major Adkins’ family contacted my office and told us that they were going to try to get this wrong righted,” U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL3), Adkins’ Congressman, told Yellowhammer.

From that moment forward, Rogers made it his personal mission to make sure Adkins received the honor he was due.

Rogers immediately moved for there to be a review of Adkins’ records. Fortunately, all of the documentation the Army compiled after Adkins’ heroic efforts — including first-hand accounts from American soldiers who are still alive — had been preserved by the Pentagon.

According to the documentation, Mr. Adkins was nominated for the Medal of Honor shortly after the battle by his chain of command. In doing that, his commanding officer, who was in the battle with him, wrote a five-page narrative detailing what had happened. The Army then took statements from every soldier who was with him and documented all of the communications that took place during the battle.

But as the recommendation worked its way up the chain of command to the general officer level, they inexplicably decided Adkins’ actions merited the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second highest military honor, rather than the Medal of Honor.

When Congressman Rogers’ office started pushing for the Army to revisit Adkins’ story, there was a treasure trove of original battlefield information still intact.

“You’ve got to get the documentation that supports the review,” Rogers said, explaining the process. “Then the Secretary of Defense has to review it and decide that he would like to see it recommended to the president. After that happened, we had to go back and get an exception to the law, which says that the Medal of Honor must be awarded within three years of the event. So we had to get Congress to pass a law to say this deserves an exception.”

Rogers lobbied his colleagues incessantly.

“There was a lot of resistance, surprisingly,” he said. “But one thing that really helped was that Secretary (of Defense) Hagel was asking for this. He had reviewed it and felt like it was an injustice that needed to be remedied. It finally got passed, but it took several months.”

In addition to lobbying Congress, Rogers also had to make his case to the White House, who would not normally be receptive to the requests of a Republican congressman from Alabama.

“We spent several months pestering the president’s office,” Rogers laughed. “Fortunately they did the right thing.”

“Sometimes even the most extraordinary stories can get lost in the fog of war or the passage of time,” President Obama said. “When new evidence comes to light, certain actions can be reconsidered for this honor, and it is entirely right and proper that we have done so.”

As for the reason why Adkins and other deserving soldiers were not properly honored initially upon their return, Rogers said he was not exactly sure, but believes it could have been a combination of the post-war political climate, as well as prejudice.

“There were clearly some prejudices involved when you look at who was and wasn’t recognized after Vietnam,” he said. “Some folks were of a different race, some folks were a certain religion, and some folks were from the South. So there was some of that involved. It may have been because Bennie was a southern boy. You never know.”

In September of 2014, in the East Room of the White House, all of the efforts of Adkins’ family and Rogers’ office came to fruition. Four of the five living men whose lives were saved by Adkins between March 9 and March 12, 1966 joined him at the White House in a scene that had been a half-century in the making.

Adkins, who is now 82-years-old and walks with a cane, rose unassisted and stood at attention as the President of the United States bestowed upon him his nation’s highest military honor. Adkins’ chin quivered ever so slightly as President Obama placed the medal around his neck. His wife of 59 years, Mary, beamed with pride on the front row, smiling as she wiped tears from her eyes.

Adkins snapped off a perfectly formed salute to the crowd before exiting the stage.

“This Medal of Honor belongs to the other 16 Special Forces soldiers with me,” he would later say with genuine humility.

And as the Army Chaplain led the audience in a closing prayer, Bennie G. Adkins of Opelika, Ala., stood once more to honor the One who had always been with him, from the jungles of Vietnam to the East Room of the White House and everywhere in between.

President Barack Obama awards the Medal of Honor to Army Command Sergeant Major Bennie G. Adkins in a ceremony at the White House Sept. 15, 2014 (Photo: Cliff Sims)
President Barack Obama awards the Medal of Honor to Army Command Sergeant Major Bennie G. Adkins in a ceremony at the White House Sept. 15, 2014 (Photo: Cliff Sims)
2 years ago

DEMORALIZED: Alabama doctors are spending two-thirds of their time doing paperwork

(Connor Tarter)
A new study shows doctors are spending as much as two-thirds of their time doing paperwork. (Photo: Connor Tarter)
A new study shows doctors are spending as much as two-thirds of their time doing paperwork. (Photo: Connor Tarter)

Medical students push through a seemingly never-ending wave of classes in anatomy, biology, immunology, biochemistry and more, in hopes of graduating and having an opportunity to help people. But according to a new report, if medical school was more like the actual job of being a physician, students would be taking classes like “Advanced Form-filling,” “Intro to Government Mandates,” and “Patience 101,” in hopes of being able to endure the daily grind that includes very little time with patients.

A recent study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that “for every hour physicians were seeing patients, they were spending nearly two additional hours on paperwork.” The same study in 2005 found that paperwork only consumed one-third of a physician’s time. So, in short, the amount of time it takes for doctors to complete all of their required paperwork has basically doubled in the time President Obama has been in office.

Forbes compared it to “telling LeBron James to spend the majority of his time manning the Cleveland Cavaliers ticket windows and phone lines.”

So where is all of this paperwork coming from?

First of all, according to Forbes, “administrators, lawyers, insurance companies, etc.,” are all asking for an increasing amount of paperwork to meet their own more stringent requirements–most of which come from the government. Secondly, “doctors are not designing much of the paperwork. Therefore, whoever is designing and requiring the paperwork has little clue on how to make doctors’ lives easier.” And third, “many doctors are not getting any help to do the paperwork. Hospitals and clinics do not seem to be investing in clerical and administrative support for doctors.”

Dr. Beverly Jordan, a family doctor based in Enterprise, Alabama, told Yellowhammer that increased filing requirements mandated by The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA), Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009, and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. ObamaCare) of 2010 are crushing doctors under an avalanche of paperwork.

“These government regulations create tons of paperwork for minimal purpose, when a quick note would provide the same info,” she explained. “The regulations were not written to make sure Electronic Medical Records would ‘talk to each other,’ so tons of time is spent searching for data that should be easy to find, which is the single most clinically useful part of having Electronic Medical Records to begin with.

“As a younger physician, I don’t remember the days when a quick one-line note would suffice, but I do remember when a half page was just fine,” she continued. “Now my average daily note on a patient is five pages, and I am no exception to the rule.”

The increasing paperwork burden on physicians is have a significant impact on their business.

“Anybody with a drop of business sense would be appalled at the redundancy and chaos of the paperwork physicians deal with,” said Dr. Jordan. “I have three staff members who do nothing but fill out forms, but most of it is mandated for the physician to complete, eliminating any chance for help. So I still spend easily two-thirds of my day completing paperwork.”

Even worse, evidence suggests that some physicians are becoming so disillusioned with the reporting requirements — particularly the Electronic Medical Records mandates — that they are leaving the field all together. A column in the Washington Post last year titled “Why doctors quit” accused the reporting mandates of “degrading medicine,” not so much because of the financial hit doctors have taken, but because the job itself has become that of a glorified clerical secretary.

“At this point there is way too much meaningless government regulation in healthcare that does nothing but get in between me and my patient,” Dr. Jordan said. “It does not provide for safer care, more cost effective care, or more efficient care. It does exactly the opposite.

“All of this paperwork takes time away from my patients and family,” she concluded.

Dr. Jordan probably could have gone into even more detail, but she needed to get some rest before getting up at 5 a.m. the following morning for — surprise, surprise — a training session on “the latest method of completing a certain paperwork in my office.”

“Then I’ll start seeing patients after that.”

2 years ago

NEVER FORGET: Alabama leaders recall where they were on 9/11/2001

9.11 slider

Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, I was sitting in my high school U.S. government class when a school administrator burst through the classroom door, startling everyone and imploring the teacher to turn on the television immediately. “Everyone pay attention,” she said. “You’ll never forget this.”

She had no idea how right she’d be.

From Saddam’s ouster to the 9/11 attack in Benghazi; from the Patriot Act to the NSA scandal; from “The people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon” to “The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat Al Qaeda” — every significant crisis or achievement my generation has experienced has been viewed through the lens of 9/11.

Everyone has their own personal 9/11 story. We reached out to some of Alabama’s leaders to hear theirs.


Sen. Richard Shelby


I was walking into my office Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, when I learned that the first tower had been hit. Right away I remember thinking that it was no accident. A few minutes later, the second tower was hit. We had to evacuate the Senate office buildings immediately. They were concerned that the Capitol would be the next target. We learned after the second tower was attacked that they had also crashed into the Pentagon. Then I knew this was a serious, coordinated attack. At that time, I was Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, so I was getting all types of calls from various national security officials that morning.

It was a very sad, sobering day. I knew it was the beginning of a lot more to come. [Fifteen] years later, we’ve come a long way in our fight against terrorism, but it isn’t over. I am always concerned about another attack. We must remain vigilant.


Sen. Jeff Sessions


None of us will ever forget where we were on that day the world changed forever. I was at the Supreme Court when the Pentagon was hit. The Chief Justice received notes from staff and reluctantly, it appeared, adjourned the meeting. I walked back to my office with the Capitol building to my left. Aircraft were flying over the Capitol. Soon the Senate office buildings were evacuated.

It was one of America’s darkest hours. But in the depths of that darkness we witnessed the strength and resolve of a nation that refused to yield or bend in the face of terror.


Rep. Martha Roby


I remember turning on the television and seeing the horror unfold. I went to college in New York (NYU), and what I saw on television was just too real. I had friends who still lived in the city who I immediately called to make sure they were safe.

But I also remember how the American people responded with unity and determination to defend this land, and defend one another. How we were truly one people rallying around each other and not letting our differences get in the way of what we had to do. [Fifteen] years and two wars later, we are a weary, divided nation. But I hope one day soon we can get back to that uniquely American spirit of unity and togetherness that throughout history has helped make us the exceptional nation.


Sen. Luther Strange


I will never forget the morning of September 11, 2001. I was in Washington in a meeting on Pennsylvania Avenue between the White House and the Capitol. The Pentagon had just been hit when I joined the evacuation of the city.


State Sen. Clay Scofield


I had just begun my junior year at Auburn University when 9/11 happened. I got in my truck after class and heard that a plane had hit one of the twin towers in New York. I rushed home and turned on the television just before the second plane hit. I couldn’t believe it.

What I remember most about that day was when the first tower collapsed and Dan Rather couldn’t say a word, he just sat in silence. I think that’s how every American felt at that exact moment — utterly speechless. I personally was in disbelief that this was happening. I still remember the instant deep sadness that I felt for the victims and their families and the intense anger that I felt toward whoever had carried out that horrendous act on my fellow Americans. Over the next few days I remember being very proud of the intense patriotism that my fellow students showed and the resolve that they had in their hearts for justice.


State Sen. Cam Ward


I was flying on a US Air Flight into Washington DC during the entire attack. We were escorted by fighter jets to Parkersberg, WV. We landed and I could hear all of the cell phones in the overhead compartment start beeping with messages from our families back home. We had no idea what had happened until the captain came back in the cabin to tell us terrorists had attacked the US and we were grounded. I ended up finding one of two rental cars in the airport and driving back to Alabaster that night.

2 years ago

Scalia’s successor on Supreme Court could decide whether Alabama’s voter ID law survives

(S. Masker/Flickr)
Justice Antonin Scalia (Photo: Wiki Commons)
Justice Antonin Scalia (Photo: Wiki Commons)

Iconic conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s untimely death earlier this year has left the High Court split 4-4 on many contentious issues, increasing the stakes of this year’s presidential election because it could decide the balance of the Court for decades to come.

Among the issues that could ultimately be decided by Scalia’s successor is photo voter ID.

During the 2011 Regular Legislative Session Governor Robert Bentley (R-Ala.) signed a voter ID law that went into full effect for the 2014 primary elections. Act 2011-673 requires an Alabama voter to have a specific type of photo identification at the polls in order to vote. Since that time, Democrats across the country have decried the law as “racist” and “hateful”.

In an October 2015 visit to Hoover, Hillary Clinton slammed Alabama Republicans for requiring proof of citizenship to vote and for shuttering driver’s license offices in the wake of state budget cuts. The Democratic presidential nominee insisted that both issues were examples of Republicans trying to return Alabama to its Jim Crow past.

RELATED: Bentley and Clinton spar over whether Alabama Republicans are racists

“We have to defend the most fundamental right in our democracy, the right to vote,” she said. “No one in this state, no one, should ever forget the history that enabled generations of people left out and left behind to finally be able to vote.”

Before that, Vice President Joe Biden chided supporters of voter ID laws in light of liberal defeat in the Supreme Court case of Shelby County v. Holder which stemmed from a legal challenge in Alabama. “These guys never go away,” Biden said. “Hatred never, never goes away. The zealotry of those who wish to limit the franchise cannot be smothered by reason.”

RELATED: Biden: There’s ‘hatred’ behind Alabama’s photo voter ID law

Since 2008, Republican-controlled legislatures in 17 states have adopted new voting-related laws. Among those are Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin, which passed laws requiring a photo ID to vote. (h/t The Daily Beast)

Conservatives have long argued it is reasonable to require photo voter ID in order to protect the sanctity of elections, particularly because photo ID is also required for any number of other activities, from buying alcohol and opening a bank account, to getting on an airplane and renting a car.

But several lower courts have in recent months agreed with Democrats’ assertion that such laws are discriminatory.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled in July that North Carolina’s 2013 voting law was implemented with “discriminatory intent.” The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals also ruled in July that Texas’ photo voter ID law violates that Voting Rights Act.

Marc E. Elias, an attorney representing some of the groups challenging the photo voter ID laws, told the Washington Post this week that they plan to engage in “hand-to-hand combat” in the legal system. And because a tie vote in the U.S. Supreme Court results in the lower court ruling standing, Scalia’s absence on the bench is allowing Mr. Elias in his allies to rack up victories in the short term.

If a Democrat is elected president, Mr. Scalia’s successor could lock in such victories for the longterm.

RELATED: Democrats call Alabama’s voter ID law ‘racist’ but require DNC delegates to show ID to vote

For the time being, Alabama’s photo voter ID law is an effect, and recent voting suggests it has not suppressed turnout.

There are currently at least 10 different types of ID that are acceptable to use at the polls (including a driver’s license) and the Secretary of State’s office also offers free Alabama photo voter ID cards and free non-driver IDs for purposes of voting.

2 years ago

Auburn Prof: Political correctness making colleges ‘laughingstock of Western Civilization’

Auburn University's Samford Hall
Auburn University’s Samford Hall

AUBURN, Ala. — An Auburn University professor used his fall semester syllabus to poke fun at “trigger warnings,” a growing part of the culture of political correctness that seems to be sweeping college campuses around the country.

A trigger warning is defined as “a statement at the start of a piece of writing, video, etc., alerting the reader or viewer to the fact that it contains potentially distressing material.”

Such warnings have become standard fare on many college campuses–so much so, in fact, that Auburn engineering professor Peter Schwartz saw it as an opportunity to make a joke to his incoming students.

“TRIGGER WARNING,” Prof. Schwartz wrote in bold red letters atop his fall semester syllabus, before alerting his students that they should expect his class to include “physics, trigonometry, sine, cosine, tangent, vector, force, work, energy, stress, quiz, grade.”

Prof. Schwartz gave Yellowhammer some background on what prompted his tongue-in-cheek statement.

“During the summer I was reading (yet another) tedious article about some place (I don’t remember where) instituting trigger warnings and their geographical equivalent, safe spaces, and, on a lark, I decided to see what one might look like for my engineering mechanics course,” he explained. “It was sufficiently ludicrous that I decided to keep it on the syllabus as a tongue-in-cheek statement. I didn’t think anyone but Auburn engineering students in my class would see it and, being engineers, would shrug it off for the joke it was. Who knew?”

Asked if he is concerned about the culture of political correctness growing on college campuses, Prof. Schwartz said, “Yes, I think this PC business is making American universities, and their faculties and administrators, the laughingstocks of Western Civilization. But, since the proponents of this stuff think Western Civ is corrupt anyhow, they don’t seem to notice that the rest of the world thinks they’re fools.”

Schwartz is the latest academic to take issue with political correctness on campus.

The University of Chicago’s dean of students recently made headlines by sending a letter to every member of their incoming freshman class, asserting the school’s commitment to “academic freedom” and aversion to “trigger warnings,” “safe zones,” and other hallmarks of the campus PC movement.

“Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called trigger warnings, we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own,” John Ellison, dean of students, wrote.

The conservative The Heritage Foundation posted the letter on its Facebook page, commenting that it “will make you stand up and cheer.”

Most Auburn students probably feel the same way.

The Princeton Review named Auburn’s student body “the most conservative in the nation” in 2013, and it has ranked high on the list in subsequent years.