Tag: Politics

Boldness in Alabama: The desperation of low expectations.

I witnessed something a few days ago that in over 30 years of reporting in this state I have rarely seen from politicians – boldness.

That came from Charles J. Dean last week in an opinion piece titled, “Gov. Robert Bentley and the sound of boldness“. You might be asking yourself what the Governor did to deserve such praise. Did he resolve to stay out of the campaign to unionize workers at Mercedes-Benz here in Tuscaloosa County? Did he decide that the private affairs of consenting adults was no longer his business? Did he come out and state unequivocally that, hey, maybe this Mike Hubbard guy is kinda unfit for public service? No, no, wait: he decided that the multi-billion dollar tax giveaway to private schools in the form of the Alabama Accountability Act had to come to an end?

No. None of that. Here’s the phrase from Robert Julian Bentley’s fifth State of the State address as Alabama’s 53rd governor that inspired such florid language:

“…Folks I am not going to be a governor who pushes problems aside. We’re going to solve problems as long as I am governor of this state. …I am telling you all this to say this — and to come out of a Republican governor’s mouth – after four years of saying we are not going to raise taxes, and we said that and we have not, I’m telling you the next four years we are going to raise taxes…We have to face the problems and we have to do it with boldness. You have to lead with boldness. Somebody has to take the lead and I am going to take the lead.”

Wow! He is going to have to raise taxes in order to solve a $700 million-plus long-term deficit! While that might be called “common-sense thinking” or elicit a “duh” in, say, Minnesota, it is revolutionary talk in the Heart of Dixie. So where will these taxes come from? Will the former dermatologist and state representative from Tuscaloosa suggest raising the top tax rate to make wealthier Alabamans pay more? Perhaps he planned to end tax giveaways to multinational corporations who afford to pay their taxes to do business in Alabama?

Nope.

The Past Isn’t Even The Past: Modern Fascism and Hatred of Muslims

Fascism did not die in 1945.

I sit here writing this less than a day after three people were brutally murdered. The slain, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, her husband of one month Deah Barakat, and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha were all under the age of 26. Barakat was studying at UNC to be a dentist, but he was also busy raising money to provide much-needed dental care for Syrian refugees. His wife Yusor was finishing her studies at NC State before joining him at UNC to become a dentist herself, and her sister Rezan was also studying at NCSU in the School of Design. If you are listening to the media, they were murdered in cold blood over a parking dispute. Nothing to see here, move along, this is just one of those things that happen. This is bullshit, a comforting lie draped over the shoulders of people who have perpetuated hatred against the Muslim community.

The murderer is a man by the name of Craig Stephens Hicks. A ‘militant’ atheist and libertarian, Hicks had a history of harassing his neighbors for their religion. According to the slain sisters’ father, Dr. Mohammad Abu-Salha, Yusor said, “He hates us for what we are and how we look,” and that he had a history of picking on the newlyweds. He came to their door at least once clutching his rifle. Some might say that this isn’t enough to prove that he had an animus against these three people for their religion. This is an attempt to deflect guilt by those who have profited off of churning up hatred and contempt against Muslims since September 2001. The fact is that Hicks was able to murder these three people because he did not see them as human beings because of their faith.

Fascism did not die in 1945.

This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: Why anywhere is better than Birmingham for DNC 2016.

When one thinks of Alabama, what comes to mind first? Is it the Civil Rights Movement, which made the state ground zero for its organizing efforts? Is it that movement’s most recognizable leader, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? Is it The University of Alabama or Auburn, which holds a combined 17 national championships in Division I-A football? Is it the steel mills that once served as the backbone of the state’s industrial power, or the space and rocket research that we are known for now? Maybe it is the musical tradition of this state, with natives like Lionel Richie, Percy Sledge, and Hank Williams, Sr.?

Nah. If you are a liberal or some other sort of left-leaning individual, Alabama is probably known first and foremost as one of the most conservative states in the Union. After electing Republican governors for most of the previous two decades, Alabamans helped House Minority Leader Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn), along with Senate counterpart Del Marsh (R-Anniston), storm the statehouse in 2010. That election gave the Republicans near total control of state government, with a supermajority in both houses and nearly all the statewide constitutional offices. In 2012, the defeat of former Lieutenant Governor and then-President of the Public Service Commission Lucy Baxley meant that there were no longer any Democrats holding statewide office in Alabama. And while there has not been any polling on the gubernatorial race here, it is safe to say that Gov. Robert Bentley (R) has this pretty well locked up. He will likely be assisted by the fact that, for the first time in Alabama history, there will be no Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate. That’s right: Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, who became one of only two nominees for the federal bench since the Depression to be blocked by the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1986, will sail into his fourth term without even so much as a campaign.

The situation is pretty damn ugly for Alabamans on the Left. But news came through today that put smiles on many a Democrat’s face today: Birmingham is one of the six finalists to host the Democratic National Convention in 2016. This would seem to be great news. As the mayor’s chief of staff put it, “You have to look at Denver pre and post-convention, Charlotte, pre and post-convention, and then you’ll get a sense of what it means to a city in terms of economic impact and pride to those who live, work and play in those cities. And then there’s the impact that you can’t measure. It has both short-term and long-term effect.”

Who could pass up an opportunity to go after something like that? Positive economic benefits in the short- and long-term! A shot in the arm to Democrats across the Yellowhammer State! A commitment to make a play for the South!

This sounds fantastic! And yet here I am, proceeding to write about why Birmingham would be, in the words of Alabama native and never-was candidate for governor Charles Barkley, a TURRRRRRIBLE decision to host the DNC in 2016.