The Wire

  • Decatur doctor accused of sexual assault responds to lawsuit

    Excerpt from WHNT:

    A Decatur doctor accused of sexually assaulting several of his patients is disputing all claims of wrongdoing. Dr. Michael Dick of Alabama Medicine and Rheumatology Clinic responded to a lawsuit filed on behalf of six women who claim to be his former patients. The doctor also filed a protective order asking a judge to stop the victims from sharing their stories with the media.

    A Birmingham-based attorney responded on behalf of Dr. Dick saying there is “no basis to contend he preys on female patients as alleged in the complaint.” The lawsuit filed against Dr. Dick says female members of the nursing staff were present with him. He says no misconduct took place, as alleged in the lawsuit. The response also says employees who work at the medical practice deny any misconduct.

  • Bobby Bright says ‘D.C. powerbrokers’ pushed Trump to endorse Martha Roby

    Excerpt from

    Bobby Bright says ‘D.C. powerbrokers’ pushed Trump to endorse Martha Roby in Alabama’s District 2 race.

    “I understand politics and how Washington works. It appears the D.C. powerbrokers have gotten to the President on this issue. It’s truly a swamp of insiders controlled by big money special interests, the same crowd who’s bankrolling Martha Roby’s campaign to the tune of over $1 million just this year,” Bright said in a statement. “It’s a place where loyalty doesn’t exist. When you take that much money from D.C., New York and California, you lose sight of Alabama.”

    Incumbent Roby will face Bobby Bright — a former congressman she defeated in 2010 — in a runoff next month. Bright served one term in Congress as a Democrat, but switched parties to run against Roby in this year’s Republican primary.

  • Man accused of trying to run over police officer, charged with attempted murder

    Excerpt from ABC 33/40:

    A man accused of trying to run over a police officer was charged with attempted murder Friday, Shelby County authorities confirm.

    Chief Assistant District Attorney Roger Hepburn says Issai Serrano is the suspect connected with a Wednesday afternoon shooting involving an Alabaster Police officer. The shooting occurred at Morgan Road and South Shades Crest Road, said Hoover Police officers, who were the first to respond to the scene.

8 months ago

Ted Cruz Endorses Roy Moore for Senate

On Tuesday, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) announced his support for Roy Moore as Alabama’s next senator. Cruz said that he needs more principled conservative allies like Moore in Washington, and, unlike the Democrat candidate, Moore will proudly defend the rights of Alabamians and Americans alike.

“This December, the People of Alabama have a clear choice. They can choose a liberal Democrat, who will stand with Chuck Schumer to raise taxes, weaken our military, open our border, and undermine our constitutional rights. Or, they can choose to elect Judge Roy Moore, a conservative who will proudly defend Alabama values.

I strongly urge the voters to elect Judge Roy Moore. Judge Moore has a lifelong passion for the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and he has the courage of his convictions.

In the Senate, we need reinforcements; we desperately need strong conservatives who will stand up to the Washington status quo.

Please join me in supporting Judge Moore on December 12.”

In response to the endorsement, Moore remarked:

“Ted Cruz has been a stalwart defender of our constitutional rights. I appreciate his strong endorsement and I look forward to collaborating with him on proposals to strengthen the U.S. military, cut spending, and lower taxes on American families and businesses.”

Cruz’s endorsement comes as conservative leaders across the country are coming to Moore’s aid. It seems the party is doing everything it can to ensure Moore defeats Democrat Doug Jones on December 12.

8 months ago

Keselowski Survives Talladega Wreckage, Wins Alabama 500

Courtesy of Talladega Superspeedway (Facebook)
Courtesy of Talladega Superspeedway (Facebook)

Brad Keselowski escaped three major wrecks over the last 16 laps to win the Alabama 500 Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway.

Only 14 drivers crossed the finish line in the accident-filled race. Keselowski was able to pass Ryan Newman for the lead on a white flag and held on to secure the win. The victory advances Keselowski to the semi-finals of the Monster Energy Cup Series playoffs.

“This is still sinking in,” Keselowski said. “It is a special place to get to race and a special place when you win here. It was really a collaborative effort with the team and getting a real fast car and making the right moves as a driver and a lot of help from up above with staying out of those wrecks. It really takes all three and we had them all today.”

As reported by SBNATION, Newman finished second, followed by Trevor Bayne, Joey Lagano, Aric Almirola. Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished seventh in a disappointing run for the Talladega superstar. Earnhardt was seeking his seventh win at Talladega in front of the epicenter of his fan base.

“I know those folks were hoping we could put something together, and I know there’s a lot of folks came here, particularly to see this race because it’s the last one here,” Earnhardt said. “I hate to leave slightly disappointed, but hopefully they enjoyed everything else they saw. I mean, we ran as hard as we could, did the best we could.”

There were three major accidents requiring red flag stoppages that slowed the closing laps. The biggest was a 16-car pile up that began when contact between Martin Truex Jr. and David Ragan sent Kurt Busch into a spin. Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Truex Jr., and Keselowski were all involved in the pile up. All but Harvick, Keselowski, and Kenseth were eliminated from the race.

The wreck-laden race will send a shakeup throughout the playoff standings going into next week’s elimination race at Kansas Speedway. Keselowski and Truex, who won last week at Charlotte Motor Speedway, are guaranteed a spot in the semi-finals. The chaos at Talladega once again proves that the Alabama track is one of the biggest and baddest in NASCAR.

1 year ago

Intense Navy SEAL-created obstacle course is coming to Alabama

TALLADEGA, Ala. — There are obstacle courses, and then there’s Bonefrog. As the only Navy SEAL obstacle course in the country, Bonefrog boasts a unique and intense experience that will come to Alabama later this month.

“We are known as a very hard obstacle course race,” said Brian Carney, founder and CEO of Bonefrog. “We don’t share a market with the Warrior Dashes or the Spartan Sprint because we don’t have a lot of the ‘fun’ type obstacles like water slides. It’s more strict military-type stuff.”

Carney, a 13-year Navy SEAL veteran, began engineering the company back in November 2012 when he was serving in Afghanistan. After hearing about the growing popularity of obstacle course races back in the states, he thought he could do it better.

“These are businessmen that have no military background that are trying to recreate a military-style obstacle course,” he said. “They might have a business degree, but I could even the score with my background in the military.”

The Navy SEAL obstacle course is universally recognized as one of the most difficult in the world. With that in mind, Bonefrog integrates elements of that course as much as it can. “We try to bring as much of our SEAL training to the course as possible,” Carney said.

Currently, Bonefrog offers three different races at each of its events. Their bread and butter is the Challenge Race, which is eight miles long with 30 obstacles. Later, Bonefrog added the shorter three-mile, 20 obstacle Sprint Race.

However, after feedback from their athletes, Bonefrog found that it needed to add an even more intense race. Now, they offer the 11-mile, 50 obstacle Tier 1 Race that sells out at almost every event. “People don’t want easier; they want harder,” Carney said.

As a hardcore race, Bonefrog attracts hardcore athletes. “We don’t get a lot of weekend warriors,” he said. “These are people that are really training and in top physical condition.”

While some women participate, the racers are predominantly males between the ages of 24 and 46 who work out regularly.

Carney noted that the race is upper-body heavy. Because of the number and difficulty the of obstacles, he said most people prepare for the race with standard upper-body workouts.

In the past four years, Bonefrog has exploded in popularity. After only serving 300 racers in 2013, the company is on pace to serve 15,000 this year alone.

Bonefrog’s unique courses certainly set it apart from its competitors, but there are other factors that have boosted its appeal as well. “Major venues have helped our draw, too,” Carney said said. “Not only do we have the race coming up at the Talledega Superspeedway, but we have a race at the only Formula 1 racetrack in the country when we go to Austin.”

The latest Bonefrog race ended up in Talladega thanks to the lobbying of a satisfied customer.
In 2016, Bonefrog held a race in Atlanta that was attended by the daughter of Talledega Superspeedway’s owner. After hearing about his daughter’s experience, the owner reached out to Carney host one of their own. Now, people from across the state will have the opportunity to see how they measure up to SEAL standards.

Bonefrog will be in Talladega on March 25. You can learn more about the company on its website here.

2 years ago

Talladega racetruck to display Trump/Pence logo

TALLADEGA, Ala. — Alabama NASCAR fans will get a healthy dose of “Make America Great Again” on Oct. 22 when driver driver Austin Wayne Self streaks around Talledega Superspeedway in his Donald-Trump themed racetruck. Self, who will be participating in the Fred’s 250, is excited to represent the Republican Presidential nominee with his custom-designed Trump Truck.

“This will be the first presidential election I’ve been old enough to take part in. Politics has never really been that important to me until now – but now more than ever we need change,” Self wrote on his website. “Trump and his values are in line with my beliefs. I’m a big supporter of his business background and believe his experience is what this country has been waiting for. I’m really excited to show my support.”

Not only will Self’s car bear the Trump/Pence insignia, but his autograph card will promote the GOP candidates as well.

(c/o twitter account @AustinWSelf)
(c/o twitter account @AustinWSelf)

The 20 year-old driver is in the middle of his rookie season, and he has already finished as high as 15th in the Camping World Truck Series last December. He drives for AM Racing which is owned by his father, Tim Self.

Tim explained that the reason he and his son support Trump is that they believe that America needs to return to focusing on god.

“We have to get God back into our lives and rebuild our Country on a foundation of Godly values,” Tim told Breitbart News. “Trump’s actions indicate that he will push public policy in that direction. Jerry Falwell Jr, Franklin Graham and our good friend Dr. James Dobson have faith in Trump. He is our guy. Hopefully, the Trump Pence Truck will make a small difference. It represents our family and friends doing our part.”

You can watch Self’s team decorate the truck in the video below.

(h/t Breitbart News)

2 years ago

Charles Barkley backs police: ‘We’d be living in the Wild West’ without them

Charles Barkley (Photo: Screenshot)
Charles Barkley (Photo: Screenshot)
Charles Barkley (Photo: Screenshot)

Alabama native and former Auburn University and NBA basketball star Charles Barkley is doubling down on his support of police, in spite of intense criticism for his previous comments on race and policing in the African-American community.

During an interview on The Dan Le Batard Show several weeks ago, Barkley acknowledged that police “have made some mistakes,” but said “that don’t give us the right to riot and shoot cops.” Never one to shy away from controversy, Barkley went on to say that from his perspective, African-Americans “never get mad when black people kill each other,” but often rush to judgement against white police officers.

“There’s a lot of blame to go around but I’m not going to get on TV and yell like all these other idiots,” Barkley continued. “I’m not perfect. I’m not trying to be perfect. But you have to ask yourself, ‘Are you part of the problem or are you part of the solution?'”

Barkley, now an NBA analyst for TNT, followed up the Le Batard interview this week by discussing the issue again on Bleacher Report Radio.

“We in the black community, we need the cops. Cops are important,” he said. “They’re very significant. We as black people gotta do a better job of policing ourselves.”

Barkley said he has grown accustomed to enduring criticism after making such statements.

“That’s the one thing about being black, black people only like you when you say what they want you to say,” he concluded. “But I’ve been in that game for a long time, so that doesn’t faze me. I’m a big boy. I can handle the heat.”

A video of Barkley’s contentious appearance on the Dan Le Batard Show can be seen below.

(h/t Daily Mail)

2 years ago

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

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — In a twist of irony, the Democratic National Convention is requiring delegates to show photo ID to receive their official credentials. While the Democrats require an ID to get into their convention, they have consistently fought against voter ID laws requiring citizens to show one when they vote.

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”.

The 2016 Democratic Party platform declares, “we will continue to fight against discriminatory voter identification laws, which disproportionately burden young voters, diverse communities, people of color, low income families, people with disabilities, the elderly, and women.” Yet, at their own convention, it seems like a different set of rules apply.

DNC voter ID

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

Shelby County, Ala. sued the U.S. Attorney General in 2011 claiming that portions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled by a 5-to-4 vote that the formula used to determine which areas were subjected to pre-clearance was unconstitutional, effectively gutting that portion of the law.

“Alabama has made tremendous progress over the past 50 years, and this decision by the U.S. Supreme Court recognizes that progress,” Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said at the time. “We will not tolerate discrimination in Alabama.”

Despite calls of racism, Alabama’s implementation of the voter ID law does not seem to have 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

Sessions: Influx of immigrant labor is crushing poor African-Americans

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In an interview with Fox New’s Shannon Bream, Alabama Senator and Trump surrogate Jeff Sessions took to the airwaves to discuss how Trump’s plan for the economy is the best for poor African-Americans.

“[This election] is about, who can fix this economy, who can put us on the right track,” he said.

Sessions noted that an large influx of immigrants could harm low-wage workers already living here. Among those, he pointed out, are many in the African-American community.

“Does it help poor African-Americans to bring in more labor than we have and bring down wages as we’ve been seeing into this country? Does it help them to have bad trade deals so that manufacturing plants are — are closed and wages aren’t there?” he said. “We have the highest — almost double the unemployment rate among young African-Americans than we do among others. So we need to protect this economy, create — have a strong leader who can break up this log jam in Washington.”

Long before the Trump candidacy, Sessions has been one of the most outspoken federal officials on the issues of trade and immigration control. Agreement on those key issues is what brought the Alabama Senator to ultimately endorse the New York billionaire and join his team as a national security advisor.

Sessions has taken action in the Senate to control and restrict the use of the H1B visa, which allows companies to bring in high-skilled labor from foreign countries. He has also actively pushed for more border security and the defunding of sanctuary cities.

RELATED: Shelby, Sessions push to defund sanctuary cities

Late last month, the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest, headed by Sen. Sessions, determined the cost of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s refugee plan to be roughly $403 billion.

1. Sessions-led committee estimates Hillary’s refugee plan would cost a jaw-dropping $400B
2. Sessions calls for hesitant GOP leaders to get on Trump Train: ‘Look at the election returns’

Sessions’ full interview on Fox New can be viewed below.

2 years ago

Legendary Alabamian who dominated Hitler’s Nazis at the Olympics gets his own movie

Jesse Owens

A movie depicting the life of Alabama-born Jesse Owens is being released on February 19th. Focus Features’ “Race” stars Stephan James (Selma) as Owens and Jason Sudeikis (Saturday Night Live) as Ohio State track coach Larry Snyder.

Jesse Owens was an Olympic athlete who traveled to the 1936 Summer Games in Berlin, Germany, during the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. Owens, the son of sharecroppers, was born in Oakville, Alabama, in 1913.

For the first few years of his life, Owens could not walk. By the age of six, however, he was not only able to walk, but he could run — and fast.

“He liked doing it because it was something he could do by himself,” said James Pinion, director of the Jesse Owens Memorial Park in Oakville.

As Owens grew up and his legs grew stronger, he became a talented runner, which led to breaking several world track records in high school. These records received the attention of colleges, and Owens soon joined Ohio State University’s track team.

Jesse Owens poster

He continued to break records at college.

“[His Coach] timed him one time and he thought his watch was broke because he ran so fast. So he made him do it again to check,” said Pinion. This moment can be seen in the trailer for the new film.

In 1936, Owens competed in the Olympic games hosted in Berlin, Germany. During this time, Hitler was coming to power and wanted to use the games to promote his agenda of Aryan supremacy. Owens crashed Hitler’s party and dominated the games, becoming the first American to win four gold medals in track and field, a record that stood for 48 years. He also set three new world records that year.

“Race” deals with a number of historical issues, from racial tensions in the United States to the injustices against Jews in Germany. The trailer for the film includes a particularly tense moment when a reporter asks, “Mr. Owens, how can you justify taking part in Germany when there is so much discrimination here at home?”

But the film is more than a history lesson; it is a story of inspiration that showcases the American spirit, courage, determination, tolerance, and friendship. It strives to be the next in a long list of sports movies that will leave a lasting impression on the audience.

The impact of Jesse Owens is still felt today. He inspired generations of athletes, including Olympian Harrison Dillard, who still remembers seeing Owens in person during a parade after his Olympic success.

“As the car passed, he looked down and winked and said ‘hey kids, how are you,’ he recalls. “We thought that was the greatest thing in the world that our idol spoke to us. I ran back home and nearly tore the screen door off the hinges yelling to my mother that I just saw Jesse Owens, and I told her I was going to be just like him.”

Jesse Owens, a boy born in Alabama, went to Germany to face Adolf Hitler’s “master race,” and beat him. Like Stephan James says in the trailer, “Out there, there ain’t no black and white, there’s only fast and slow. Nothing matters—not color, not money, not even hate.”

“Race” opens in theaters February 19th.

2 years ago

Alabamian who was born in Syria has life-changing experience in return to his birthplace

(Video above: Karim Shamsi-Basha looks into Syria from Israel’s Golan Heights)

By Karim Shamsi-Basha

Eerie landscape laden with conflict loomed while I felt the wind on my palm through the open car window. Knowing that I couldn’t see my sister, who was 50 miles away, added to the haunting feeling.

The car drove through farms with abandoned military posts riddled with bullet holes. To the right, olive trees thousands of years old stood firm. To the left, bombed-out Israeli tanks summoned ghosts of the past. In both directions, warning signs of land mines decorated the ancient landscape. I could smell fresh-baked challah bread. The Sabbath was near.

The town of Quneitra.
The town of Quneitra.

We ascended the Golan Heights, a land conquered by Israel during the Six-Day War with Syria in 1967. During my trip to the Holy Land a month ago, I struggled to reconcile what I grew up knowing with what I know now after living in America for 32 years.

Worldviews collided as I stood on what used to be the place of my birth.


Worldview No. 1:

I grew up in Damascus in the 1970s and ‘80s, and I heard much about the injustice of Israel taking our land. On the anniversary of the war, we had to march the streets of Damascus and shout. Some sayings would praise the leadership of Syria, the military of Syria, and the might of Syria. Other shouts were about Israel and the Jews “stealing our land.”

Expressing hatred during those school demonstrations was not appealing, so I just moved my lips. I wondered why I had to abhor an entire group of people. My father taught against that. He said discriminating based on nationality, religion, race or creed was the root of all the sick war and violence. Dad was a poet who lived on a cloud way up high, full of peace and love and joy and beauty.

But the Earth is full of humans who on occasion, fall short of expressing peace and love and joy and beauty. Humans hurt each other. Humans are imperfect. Humans have agendas.

The town of Quneitra is still home to thousands of Syrians.
The town of Quneitra is still home to thousands of Syrians.

Worldview No. 2:

I came to this country in 1984 at the age of 18, and I soaked in this way of life. Over the years, I developed many friendships with Jewish- and Israeli-Americans. As my acceptance of new ideas grew, and as I started seeing the other side of the coin, those friendships occupied more of a place in my head and in my heart.

When I went to Israel with my friend Michael Duvdevani, who grew up there but lives in Birmingham, my two perspectives were challenged. I heard stories of how the were bombing Israeli farmers from atop the, and how had no choice but to conquer the land for protection.

Did Israel have the right to take the land?

Do the Syrians deserve it back?

Will they bomb the Israeli’s?

Will the Israeli’s bomb the Syrians?

Too many questions. The answers depend on what label, group of people, or nationality you belong to.


We stopped the car and came to a viewing station. I deposited a shekel in the telescope and looked at a huge fence separating Syria from Israel. I also saw the town of Quneitra, where I used to camp with the Boy Scouts – young Arabs filled with hopes and dreams. We worried not about world peace, but about how to cook the fish we caught from a lake by the Sea of Galilee.

I called my sister Mimi, who has been stuck in Damascus since the eruption of the civil war. I said, “Guess where I am.”

She said, “I know where you are.” She can’t say the word Israel on the telephone.

“Can you see me waving?” I said with a quivering voice.

She laughed … while crying.

I gazed over my homeland.

Where do I even start?

As if the current civil war was not enough, now I have to look at a fence and accept it as a good thing that keeps farmers alive, while memories of bad things fight for recognition. Yes, I live in the United States, and yes, I have many Jewish friends, and yes, I revel in the freedom this country provides; but all those yesses cling to remnants of a turbulent history.

After a couple of hours of conflicting thoughts, I came to a conclusion: It wasn’t my place to decide to whom the land belongs. As hard as it might be, and like my father always said, I should turn to the virtues that should govern our lives.


We should all acquiesce to peace, love, joy and beauty. Those intrinsic merits within all of us will lead to a beautiful life.

They will open doors of reconciliation, doors of tolerance, and doors of forgiveness. They will water the ancient olive trees with gentle rain and not with the cold blood of violence. They will render the land mines obsolete.

My father was on to something.

3 years ago

Thoughts from a UA student: There are no ‘safe zones’ in real life

University of Alabama President's Mansion (Photo: Dave Smith)
University of Alabama President's Mansion (Photo: Dave Smith)
University of Alabama President’s Mansion (Photo: Dave Smith)

College is a time of great growth; at least it is supposed to be. It’s an environment where people from all across the globe come together to share in a collective learning experience. But the learning does not just stem from professors. Students learn just as much, if not more, from each other than they do from the PhDs.

In my three years at the University of Alabama, I have met many brilliant people. The Capstone of Higher Education is rich in intellectual talent. As both a political science and history major, I have also come across brilliant students with whom I disagree. In fact, I’d say I disagree with most students in class discussions a majority of the time. And that’s okay.

I’ve heard some pretty unsettling things both in and out of the classroom. In fact, some of those things offended me very much. And that’s okay, too. Because that’s real life–the real life that college is supposed to prepare you for.

Recently, the topic some college students have been most offended about is race. Inspired by the protests taking place at the University of Missouri and other campuses around the country, a group of students at UA has organized to create a more “racially equitable environment”. Among their extensive list of demands is a call for “safe zones for students of color in the Ferguson Center.”

Unfortunately, there are a few people in society, including a handful at UA, who haven’t quite caught up to the post-Civil Rights Movement mindset. From my experience, these people are in the minority, not part of the administration, and looked down upon by most of the student body. But in regards to the select few, we as college students must not get carried away with limiting speech just because we find offensive, granted that it does not provoke a physical threat.

The institutionalized racism of Jim Crow and the cultural racism that some still ascribe to today are two totally different beasts that must be handled differently.

The easy answer to any societal problem is to have the government intervene to fix it. The government has the power of coercion; the ability to make anyone in its borders obey whether they want to or not. But government cannot change the minds of those who judge people by the color of their skin and not by the content of their character. What it can do, however, is protect the natural rights of those who are minorities from undue infringement on their personal liberties.

So called “safe zones” that one particular group on campus is calling for now are clearly unconstitutional. Excluding individuals of a certain race from an area inside a publicly-owned facility directly contradicts the 14th Amendment’s famous equal protection clause.

Whether we like it or not, America has an extensive history of protecting speech that is extremely unpopular. The Supreme Court has sided numerous times with hateful groups in order to protect the virtue of free speech. Texas v. Johnson upheld the expressive right to burn the American Flag. Snyder v. Phelps held that the Westboro Baptist Church could not be held liable for tort distress by protesting military funerals on a public sidewalk despite the speech being “outrageously offensive.” And in R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul, the court struck down an ordinance banning speech that “arouses anger, alarm or resentment in others on the basis of race, color, creed, religion or gender,” because it prohibits otherwise permitted speech solely on the basis of the subjects the speech addresses.

The First Amendment prevents government from punishing speech because it disapproves of the ideas being expressed. We cannot extend the freedom of expression only to those with whom we agree. That is a very, very dangerous determination to make.

The entire debate is misguided because participants are given a false choice between being for liberty or for racial equality. It’s entirely possible to be anti-racism and pro-free speech. Saying you have to choose one or the other is a false dichotomy.

Safe zones are also counterproductive to any type of constructive dialogue on any critical issue. Yes, racism is a problem: always has been, always will be. And yes, we need to be reasonably proactive and not just tolerate unacceptable behavior as “part of the human condition.” But we need to raise our standards without betraying our values. Taking away free speech is always an attractive argument to stymie those with whom we disagree. But it is worth remembering that the argument we make to take away someone else’s rights today, can be turned right back around on us tomorrow.

Colleges can try to hide problems, but there are no safe zones in real life. People will always disagree. They may even say something morally reprehensible. The walls of a safe zone can keep out offense for some time, but one day those problems will come knocking on the door.

The Civil Rights movement was not only successful because it had the moral high ground, but because it used incredibly successful tactics. Dr. King and others did not hide in safe zones: they went to the heart of the problem and confronted hate with love. They went to Selma, to Montgomery, to Jackson, and Memphis until the whole world saw what they were fighting for and took action.

One can’t help but see the irony of the modern offshoot of the civil rights movement — which fought so hard for integration — now asking for a special place based on race. Let’s have an open dialogue, one where people of all races and viewpoints exercise our right to expression to the fullest.

I will stand with my fellow college students against genuine racism, but only so far as the my commitment to individual liberty will allow me. Unification, dialogue, and freedom are always better than separation, echo-chambers, and repression.

To those select few who are stuck in the 1960s: they can keep their racism, I’ll keep my enlightened worldview. To those who want to restrict right of individuals to speak freely and openly: they can keep their safe zones, I’ll keep the Constitution.

4 years ago

Alabamian in the middle of one of DC’s hottest behind-the-scenes power struggles

United Stats Capitol
United Stats Capitol

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is one of the most recognizable faces in American politics. But even before being tapped to be Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate, Ryan was a powerful figure inside the Republican Party, and even more so inside the Republican conference of the U.S. House of Representatives.

As the chairman of the House Budget Committee, Ryan has for the last several years essentially crafted fiscal policy for the entire Republican Party. His “Path to Prosperity” budget proposals have been the target of liberal scorn. But Ryan’s once-shiny conservative luster has also faded in recent years as he’s found himself on the opposite side of the base on issues like immigration reform, but also because he’s been willing to compromise, which his supporters say makes him the kind of leader the GOP needs in order to govern.

And when it comes to governing, few posts are as influential as the chairmanship of the House Committee on Ways & Means, which is in charge of crafting federal tax policy. Late last year, Ryan started telling his colleagues that he was looking to take over the Ways & Means gavel in 2015. Current chairman Dave Camp was set to roll off as chairman, but he has since decided to retire, leaving what many presumed to be an easy assent for Ryan.

But last week, Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Tx.), who is currently the second-highest ranking Republican on Ways & Means (one spot ahead of Ryan), announced that he would be gunning for the top spot, too.

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Tx.) speaks at the CBP Trade Symposium in 2012 (Photo: James Tourtellotte)
Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Tx.) speaks at the CBP Trade Symposium in 2012 (Photo: James Tourtellotte)

Brady does not have anything close to the kind of profile that Ryan does nationally, and Ryan’s clout inside the Republican conference is rivaled only by the Speaker, but Brady is a serious candidate — so serious, in fact, that Ryan may have to move up the timetable on deciding whether or not to run for president in 2016.

According to the Washington Post’s Robert Costa, who tends to have the inside track on House leadership races, Ryan’s one notable vulnerability is that his colleagues are concerned he won’t “be fully committed to committee work as he simultaneously considers a bid for the White House.”

Brady has called Ryan a friend and says he expects the race to be cordial, but he has also made it clear that the Ways & Means chairmanship is his only aspiration, and that it will get his full attention.

At the center of Brady’s communications effort, both inside congress and to the press, is Shana Teehan, his press secretary. Alabamians who have spent any amount of time around Republican politics over the last decade may know her as Shana Kluck, her maiden name. She was the Alabama Republican Party’s communications director for several years, and prior to that was the co-owner of Forward Focus Media, an Alabama-based political communications firm.

Shana Teehan
Shana Teehan

Teehan moved to D.C. almost two years ago to be with her husband, Tim, who also works in politics. And now she finds herself at ground zero of the most notable power struggle on Capitol Hill since former Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s unexpected primary defeat set off a game of political musical chairs inside House leadership.

Her boss has an uphill battle ahead of him against Ryan, but after raising $1.6 million for the National Republican Congressional Committee and donating more than $285,000 directly to his Republican colleagues, the 59-year-old will continue being a major player in the House no matter where he lands. And wherever that is, he’ll have an Alabamian by his side.

Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

5 years ago

Artur Davis attacks ‘outrageous’ Harry Reid: ‘This is a guy who will say anything’

In an appearance on the Fox Business Network Tuesday night, former Alabama Democratic Rep. Artur Davis, who is considering a run for the U.S. House in northern Virginia, reacted to remarks by Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in which Reid seemed to speculate that Republican opposition to the president’s agenda may be based on race.

Davis likened Reid’s most recent comments, and others he has made in the past, to the late-1970s, early-1980s Life cereal commercials featuring “Mikey,” who will eat anything.

“You know, the first thing I thought about, Neil, when I heard Harry Reid’s comment, remember that old commercial they used to have on the air, when we were kids, where the older brothers would take the cereal they didn’t want and they give it to the younger brother, Mikey,” Davis explained. “And they’d say ‘give it to Mikey. He will eat anything.’ Well, Harry Reid is the — give it to Harry, he will say anything guy of American politics.”

Davis noted Reid’s lengthy history of making outrageous statements, including some about race. Mark Halperin and John Heilemann said in their 2010 book, “Game Change,” that Reid described Obama as a “light skinned” African-American “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.”

“Let’s not forget that last year, Harry Reid was running around the country spreading unsubstantiated rumors about Mitt Romney’s taxes, refusing to put forward any evidence for it,” Davis continued. “Let’s not forget that in 2008 Harry Reid was making unsubstantiated smears about John McCain’s character. This is what this guy does. And, of course, it’s especially outrageous when he does that in the context of what continues to be a serious subject in America… race. But this is who Harry Reid is — this is a guy who will say anything and then run from it — and, of course, let’s also not forget that seven years ago, this is the guy who said that Barack Obama was notable because he was the rare African-American politician who did not speak in Harry Reid’s words, quote unquote, ‘Negro dialect.’”

According to Davis, the opposition to Obama is much more nuanced than Reid is willing to admit, particularly with regard to the president’s 2010 health care law.

“Let’s put this in perspective — 50 percent of the country right now disapproves of the job Barack Obama is doing,” Davis explained. “And if you go to that 50 percent of Americans who represent every strand of the spectrum from conservative Democrats, who are looking at ObamaCare and realizing it is not doing anything it promised to do… to younger Americans who are having to try to find the job in this very stagnant economy, to all kinds of Americans who don’t see this administration keeping its promises in issue after issue — If you ask that 50 percent of Americans, ‘Jeez, do you think you are racist for not approving of the job the president is doing?’ Obviously, they don’t buy that.”

“So, Harry Reid doesn’t say these things to persuade people,” Davis said in conclusion. “He says these things to put Republicans on the defensive, and he says these things to make Republicans have to back paddle and have to get defensive about these things. He is not trying to persuade a single human being.”

Follow Jeff on Twitter @Jeff_Poor