Editor’s note: Kyle Whitmire is a longtime columnist for AL.com. He has just been awarded the MOLLY award presented annually by The Texas Observer. It is named in honor of the legendary Molly Ivins, a Texas journalist of many years who was known for her willingness to expose politicians.
She was once described by National Public Radio for her unflinching coverage of Texas’ “good-old boy politics,” which she covered “like a flamethrower through a cactus patch.”
Whitmire’s award was given for Excellence in Political Commentary,. He was judged on four columns, one of which was about Mo Brooks, the Huntsville Congressman now running for the U.S. Senate. Here is the column. I added the boldface.
“Rep. Mo Brooks thinks he knows better than you.
And if you have a background in a particular field of study or credentials such as a Ph.D., none of that will deter him one bit. Far from it, if you have any sort of training or expertise.
Take for example the time when, in a congressional hearing, Alabama’s most embarrassing congressman argued that rising sea levels were due to rocks falling in the ocean.
“And every time you have that soil or rock whatever it is that is deposited into the seas, that forces the sea levels to rise,” Brooks said. “Because now you’ve got less space in those oceans because the bottom is moving up.”
Brooks, like the Greek philosopher Archimedes, must have taken a bath and had his displacement epiphany — it was rocks tumbling from the white cliffs of Dover (something he actually argued in the hearing) and not our icecaps melting that was pushing the water higher.
It would be one thing if Brooks were blathering on talk radio or talking to himself in an empty chamber, as those congressmen you see on CSPAN often are, but not this time. No, Brooks was having a debate with a man named Philip Duffy, who holds a Ph.D. in applied physics from Stanford University and who has dedicated his life to studying climate change. Duffy told Brooks that sediment has a negligible effect on sea levels and the cause was melting ice caps, but Brooks would have none of it.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t know where you’re getting your information, but the data I have seen suggests — ” Brooks said.
Duffy, under the impression Brooks cared where his information came from — or for that matter that he cared about information at all — interrupted him.
“The National Snow and Ice Data Center and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration,” Duffy said.
Brooks replied that he has NASA people in his district and they told him something different.
This sort of thing might be amusing if it didn’t affect people’s lives. Earlier this year, Brooks attacked Gov. Kay Ivey for issuing a statewide mask order and he promoted the drug hydroxychloroquine, which by that point had been discredited as an effective treatment for the disease.
“We must fight ‘Flat Earthers’ who suppress scientific debate,” he said on Twitter.
But what Brooks wants is not debate. Rather, he wants to believe whatever the heck he might imagine — in spite of experts, research, facts or historical photographs of glaciers that once existed but now don’t.
But this merely isn’t a matter of alternative facts, anti-intellectualism or science-denial. Brooks’ broken reasoning has escalated into full-blown tautological narcissism. He believes the things he believes are true because he believes them. Anything that contradicts his beliefs must be fake.
Which now includes the votes of more than 81 million people.
On Tuesday, Brooks told Politico that he intends to challenge the results of the Electoral College, no matter that both the electoral and popular votes in the presidential election are, to most Americans, a settled matter. Brooks says the election was stolen by his favorite scapegoats — socialists and undocumented immigrants.
“In my judgment, if only lawful votes by eligible American citizens were cast, Donald Trump won the Electoral College by a significant margin, and Congress’s certification should reflect that,” Brooks said. “This election was stolen by the socialists engaging in extraordinary voter fraud and election theft measures.”
Brooks claims, without a shred of evidence, that undocumented immigrants registered to vote and participated in the presidential election — which if true would really be something since president-elect Joe Biden now has 7 million more votes than Brooks’s favored Donald Trump. Benjamin Franklin said three people could keep a secret only if two of them were dead, but we are to believe millions of foreigners voted illegally and have escaped the notice of the United States Justice Department.
Earlier this week, Attorney Gen. William Barr said there is no evidence of any election fraud that would have changed the outcome of the election, but Brooks has an explanation for that, too. He says the courts and the Justice Department are not equipped to uncover fraud or determine whether any fraud exists.
“A lot of time is being wasted in court … the Supreme Court does not have the lawful authority to determine whether to accept or reject a state’s Electoral College submissions,” Brooks told Politico. “Under the United States Constitution and U.S. law, that is the job and duty of elected officials … And so it’s the United States Congress that is the final judge and jury of whether to accept or reject Electoral College submissions by states and to elect who the president and vice president of the United States might be.”
Or in fewer words, Brooks is perfectly willing to subordinate the will of millions of Americans to his own — democracy be damned — because he thinks he knows better.
Better than you.
Better than everyone.
There’s a clinical term for that, I’m sure, but unlike Brooks, I’ll defer to the experts.
Brook’s antipathy toward evidence and expertise is nothing new in America and especially in Alabama. He’s channeling a populist resentment of professionals and hostility toward facts and established knowledge that has become the fashion of his tribe.
But his actions leave just one question: Is he doing this deliberately, understanding full well that he’s exploiting a hazardous current coursing through American politics?
Or does he just not know any better?
Editor’s note II: And Mo Brooks wants to represent Alabama in the Senate?.
Editor’s note: The following is an article from The Washington Post about the dedication of a teacher in Pennsylvania to one of her students. It is a remarkable demonstration of a teacher’s devotion to her profession, a profession that is too often not given the credit it deserves.
“It’s 3:30 p.m., and though Barbara Heim’s first-grade class is dismissed for the day, she is not done teaching. One student still awaits. Since September, nearly every day after school, Heim, 59, has visited that student: Harrison Conner, who is battling cancer. After a full day of teaching, Heim drives to Harrison’s home for an hour-long, one-on-one lesson — which she does on her own time.
“I wanted to do it,” said Heim, who has taught at Conneaut Valley Elementary School in Conneautville, Pa., for 35 years. “I’ve loved teaching since I was a little girl, and it just extended my day of teaching. There was no burden.”
Plus, she explained, “I knew he wanted to learn.”
Barbara Heim, 59, with her student, Harrison Conner, who was diagnosed with leukemia in early 2020. Since the start of the school year, Heim has gone to Harrison’s house to teach him for an hour every day after school. (Courtesy of Barbara Heim)
Harrison, 8, was diagnosed with leukemia in January 2020.
Heim was one of the first to notice that something wasn’t quite right with her then-first grade student. “At recess, he would get really tired and have to sit down,” she said, adding that he started to appear pale whenever he was active. Heim notified the school’s principal and nurse about her concerns, and they contacted Harrison’s parents.
That was just before Christmas break. On the first day back at school in early January, Harrison was not there. One of her students immediately approached the teacher’s desk and said, “Mrs. Heim, Harrison went on a helicopter to the hospital last night.”
By the end of the day, Heim learned that Harrison was diagnosed with leukemia. “I was totally gutted,” she said.
The news hit especially hard, since her mother had passed away from leukemia in 2015.
“No child should ever have to go through this horrible disease,” Heim said.
Upon hearing about the diagnosis, Heim reached out to Harrison’s parents and offered her support. Then, she and her students mobilized to bring Harrison as much joy as possible during a scary and difficult time.
“We as a class banded together and started writing him and making cards for him,” Heim said.
They delivered treats, sent notes and organized regular Zoom check-ins to make sure Harrison continued to feel included in the class.
“It was amazing. The kids were all yelling, ‘Hey Harrison,’ and telling him little things like ‘I lost my tooth,’ ” Heim said. “You know, things that are important to 6-year-olds.”
But sometimes, Harrison felt too weak to join the video call. His chemotherapy treatments were mentally and physically draining, and eventually, “He lost his ability to walk; he lost all his strength,” said Harrison’s mother, Suzanne Conner.
Despite the challenges, Harrison has been “so brave and so amazing, and just rolls with the punches,” Conner, 37, continued.
She just graduated from college. She said her Uber passenger made it possible.
As a parent of a child with cancer, though, “you are taking it day by day, sometimes hour by hour. It was really touch and go,” Conner said. In rare moments of calm, “all of the emotion hits you like a Mack truck.”
It’s a feeling Heim is familiar with. Although her mother’s illness was terminal and more acute than Harrison’s, “I knew all too well what they were going through.”
For the remainder of the year, Harrison was unable to participate in school, even as classes shifted to remote-only in the pandemic. While Harrison was absent, Heim regularly checked in with the family, including during the summer.
“Mrs. Heim has been a constant pillar,” Conner said. In addition to supporting her son, “she has been this shoulder to cry on; this ear that I could vent to. And she understands because she watched her family go through it.”
In many ways, Heim said, “I believe that I was meant to be his teacher, especially considering what I experienced with my mother.” But in Harrison’s case, there was more hope: “He could survive this,” she added.
Indeed, Harrison’s condition steadily improved over the summer months, and that’s when an idea arose: homebound learning.
Harrison was still receiving treatment and wasn’t ready to go back to school — which, as of September, was running in-person classes — and Heim worried he might slip too far behind if he missed another year.
Adam Jardina, the principal of Conneaut Valley Elementary School — located in the northwest corner of Pennsylvania — asked Heim what she thought about teaching Harrison the second-grade curriculum from home, and she was immediately on board.
“She didn’t even hesitate,” Jardina said.
While they also considered facilitating remote lessons with Harrison, “the pandemic showed us that face-to-face instruction beats remote or online instruction any day of the week,” Jardina said. “Especially in a case like this, where his parents are so exhausted from all the traveling and everything else.”
He consulted with the Conners and let them know the option was available to them, as long as they were comfortable, and Harrison’s doctor deemed it safe. “We kept the door open, and said, ‘Whatever you need, we got you,’ ” Jardina said.
Although Conner and her husband had pandemic-related safety concerns, “I felt like it was the right thing to do, all things considered,” she said, adding that they implemented a strict coronavirus protocol whenever Heim would visit. “It was fantastic to see him,” Heim said. “We had a lot of laughter going on. It was just like what we would have in the classroom, really.”
During their sessions, both Harrison and Heim were masked and separated by a plexiglass divider. They’d sit across from one another at the family’s dining room table, as Heim went over the lesson of the day, which typically included a combination of reading, writing, science, math and social studies.
Whenever Heim visited Harrison for a lesson, a strict coronavirus protocol was in place. Heim wore a mask and used a plexiglass divider to separate them. Beyond hauling books and lesson plans to Harrison’s home, Heim never showed up without one of her student’s favorite snacks, and occasionally, a small present for him.
“She is simply amazing,” Conner said of Heim. Heim quickly caught Harrison up on all of the curriculum he missed when he was too sick to learn. While “it’s not perfect every day,” and sometimes Harrison’s energy is low, Heim said, “he is an excellent student. He loves to learn.”
As of last week, Harrison’s home room second-grade teacher, Debbie Piper, has started taking over the one-on-one lessons, as Heim is retiring at the end of the school year and wanted to ensure there is another teacher with whom Harrison feels comfortable, should he continue with homebound learning next year.
Since Heim is retiring this year, Debbie Piper, Harrison’s second-grade home room teacher, has transitioned to take over the daily tutoring sessions.
Harrison’s cancer is now in remission, and while he still has another year of maintenance treatment, the goal is to get him back in the classroom — at least part-time — by the fall. The staff at the school are all working together with his parents to devise a plan going forward.
“It’s truly been a team effort,” said Heim, who said she regularly leaned on other teachers at the school to help her manage her first-grade class. When it came to Harrison, Heim shouldered most of the load.
“She certainly went above and beyond, especially with it being her last year and during a pandemic,” Jardina said. “After teaching first-graders all day, she found the energy at the end of a long day to go out and see him.”
She did it, Jardina believes, “out of her love for Harrison.”
The love is mutual, Conner said. In fact, “she’s Aunt B now.” “Through this entire journey, she’s been so much more than a teacher,” she said. “The support she has given our family far exceeds anything I ever expected.”
A few days ago we asked if Katie Boyd Britt would be a candidate in 2022 for Richard Shelby’s U.S. Senate seat. She has now filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission that she will be a candidate, though she has not made a public announcement.
She became president and CEO of the Business Council of Alabama in January, 2019. She is the first female to ever hold this position. Prior to this she was Shelby’s chief of staff.
It has been a very open rumor for months that Shelby was encouraging her to run.
A native of Enterprise, Britt was president of the Student Government Association at the University of Alabama. She also earned a law degree from the university.
She is now the third candidate for this seat. Congressman Mo Brooks of Huntsville is a candidate and has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump. The other is Montgomery businesswoman Lynda Blanchard who was appointed by Trump as ambassador to Slovenia. She and her husband were major financial contributors to Trump.
The primary will be May 24, 2022.
This promises to be a very interesting race given Shelby’s longtime clout in the state. He will be a powerful ally of Britt’s, especially when it comes to fund-raising.
I know nothing about Blanchard. But given the fact that Brooks is prone to stick his foot in his mouth and seems more intent on calling attention to himself than anything else, my choice at this point is definitely Britt.
So she went to the University of Alabama and is married to a former football player there, while I am a diehard Auburn grad, some things are far more important than a football rivalry Like having a U.S. Senator who will not constantly embarrass the state of Alabama..
Editor’s note: J. L. Strickland is a retired textile mill employee in Valley, AL who refers to himself as a “Linthead Emeritus.” He is also quite a good story teller and from time to time shares one of his tales with us. They always make me smile, just as this one will do the same for you no doubt:
“To escape being removed from their traditional home, the Alabama band of MOWA Choctaw fled into forests and swamps over a century and a half ago. They existed, largely unseen, for lo, many years. However, later rulings and events led to their revealing their presence. While these benighted humans have made some gains, they have been frustrated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs refusal to recognize MOWA Choctaw as a legitimate tribe.
While an original 1830s treaty signed by all parties acknowledged the Choctaw Band as a self-governing entity, there was a sneaky snag in the fine print, as usual. In the flowery language of that era, this document clearly recognized the Native Americans’ autonomy and guaranteed the Band would keep control of their lands for “as long as the grass grows, the winds blow, and the rivers flow.”
Or, ninety days, whichever came first.
Another fast one pulled by the White Eyes. My heart goes out to the MOWA Band and other put-upon Native Americans. For a fleeting moment in my life, I was a mistreated Native American, too. And believe me, I still harbor painful memories of that brief, but mortifying experience.
My transformation from an 11-year-old Scots-Irish paleface into a noble savage came during the first week of summer vacation, circa 1950. Regular school was over, but my mother immediately signed me up for Bible School at the Fairfax (Alabama) mill-village Methodist church.
Thankfully, Bible School lasted only until noon. After that first morning’s dismissal, I trotted out of the church and headed to the drugstore up the street, seeking ice cream.
There was a barbershop beside the drugstore. Another kid, who often visited his Alabama mill-village relatives, was coming through the barbershop door that fateful day. While I immediately recognized the older boy, I had never seen him in the majestic form he had assumed. I was stunned, awestruck. It was an epiphany.
This glorious lad had just received a fresh Mohawk Indian haircut. The shaved sides of his head seemed to be radiating some sort of mesmerizing, celestial light. While I had often admired the Mohawk braves sporting their distinctive hairstyle in movies at the village picture show, I had never actually seen a real human being wearing such hirsute adornment. It was more than my B-movie loving soul could stand.
I had to have a Mohawk haircut and I had to have it right then! An irresistible craving had been flung upon me. Seizing the moment, I ran into the barbershop and asked the barber, Mr. Siggers, to cut my hair just like the older boy’s. Being well aware of my red-haired mother’s fiery temper, Mr. Siggers refused.
The hesitant barber said that before he would cut my hair in such a drastic fashion, my mother would have to come with me and give her permission. No way would that ever happen, and we both knew it.
Later, I sat on the curb in front of the barbershop, sad and dejected. I had even lost my appetite for ice cream. Then I suddenly remembered another mill-village barber, Knotty Borders, just a few streets away. I quickly headed in his direction.
When I barged into his shop, Knotty was asleep in his barber’s chair. He was a small, wiry man, with a reputation as a drinker. As I explained what I wanted, he blinked and yawned and looked at me like I was crazy. But, when I pulled out three wadded up dollar bills from my Hopalong Cassidy billfold, my total life savings, Knotty motioned for me to climb up on the chair.
In no time at all, he had shaved the sides of my head, leaving only a two-inch-wide strip of hair from the back of my head, across the top of my lumpy skull, to my forehead.
There, staring back at me in the cloudy barbershop mirror was my new awesome incarnation. I had taken on the fearsome visage of a Mighty Mohawk Warrior. It was all I could do to stifle a terrifying war-whoop.
Other kids I passed on the way home stared at me with their mouths gaped open, rendered senseless by my overpowering magic.
I was Big Medicine now. My power was growing with each panther-like step. I walked a mile or so out of my way, just to practice my crouching, stalking, and glowering.
As the time grew near for my mother to come home from the cotton mill, I crept from tree to tree down the mill-village streets until I reached our back yard. There, I hid in the coal shed, planning a big surprise for her.
A real redskin’s ambush. Little did I know the true nature of surprises – a surprise can work both ways.
Shortly, I heard Mother banging about in our three-room mill house. She was busy at the sink when I snuck into the kitchen. Even though still a brand new Indian, she didn’t hear me creeping up from behind. I was a natural!
Shouting a loud battle cry, I pounced on my mother, who was washing a big cumbersome metal pot in the sink. Startled, she flinched in terror, dropping the pot, and splashing hot, soapy, greasy water all over both of us.
Since my mother was only slightly over five feet tall, and about 90 pounds, we were almost the same size. But she had that incredible ligament strength and quickness that is commonly seen in red-headed people. It must be something to do with the freckles.
Angry and dripping wet, she grabbed my neck and the seat of my pants and body slammed me to the worn linoleum-covered floor. “What have you done to your head?” she shrieked. I tried to explain about the older boy and his Mohawk hairdo; and how I really liked the look, and always wanted a haircut like this, but I was talking so fast I’m not sure she heard all of it.
I might as well have been jabbering in Mohawk.
Holding me in a tight headlock, Mother dragged me into the bedroom. Totally outraged by the haircut, now it was she who was spouting gibberish. As I vainly struggled to get away, she removed one of Daddy’s belts from the nail inside the bedroom closet.
Quickly using only one practiced hand, she expertly folded the belt into operational mode and proceeded to whip the living daylights out of my hind end.
(In fact, it was weeks before my daylights reached a normal level again. About the same time my hair grew out.)
Therefore, I get a tear in my eye every time I see or hear where Indians have been trifled with or abused or disrespected.
How well I understand the plight of the Native Americans. Been there, done that.
I was a proud Mohawk brave for fewer than two hours before I started hating white people myself. Especially those with a bad temper, a mean streak, red hair, and freckles.”
This was proven beyond a shadow of a doubt at a three-day Memorial Day event in Dallas, TX billed as “For God & Country Patriot Roundup.” The gathering was basically for those who are Qanon believers. This is a cult spreading wild-eyed conspiracy theories such as the world is being controlled by pedophiles involved in sex trafficking of children and human sacrifices.
One of those who spoke was Texas congressman Louie Gohmert. He downplayed the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol saying, It wasn’t just right-wing extremists” involved. Gohmert was one of 17 Republicans who voted against a resolution in the House condemning Qanon last October.
Afterwards one of the congressman’s staff told a reporter than Gohment didn’t attend the meeting, though videos showed him speaking to a $500 a head banquet. Gohmert also told reporters that he was not aware of Qanon’s association with the event.
Sydney Powell, a former attorney for Donald Trump, told the audience that Trump could be “reinstated” as president. This is impossible under our constitution. She (Powell) filed a number of unsuccessful lawsuits attempting to overturn 2020 election results.
She is being sued for defamation for $1.3 billion by Dominion Voting Systems, a company that provides election assistance throughout the country. Unbelievably, her attorney in this court case said that since every thing she says is so absurd that it can’t be believed, she should not be charged.
General Michael Flynn, who served briefly as Trump’s national security adviser, also spoke. He resigned from his position after admitting that he lied to Vice-President Pence about his involvement with Russia during the Trump campaign. He testified before the Robert Mueller investigation team and became very caught up in legal maneuvering. At one point he hired Sydney Powell as his attorney.
While awaiting sentencing for perjury, he was pardoned by Trump in late November 2020.
During a question and answer session after his speech in Dallas, an audience member asked Flynn why a recent military coup in Myanmar could not happen in this country.
(Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is a country of 50 million in Asia. It has been troubled by civil unrest and civil wars for generations. It’s military seized power on Feb. 1, 2021)
Flynn replied, “No reason. I mean, it should happen here.”
He later tried to walk back his answer, claiming it was taken out of context by the media. But again, as with Gohmert, Flynn was videoed as he replied to the question and anyone who listens to it knows he was not taken out of context.
He has been assailed by former military leaders. One of them being former Lt. General Mark Hertling, a veteran of 37 years, who said, …unfortunately, he has, in my view, gone off the deep end and he shouldn’t says those kinds of things because it runs contrary to what we vow an oath to defend and what we serve as soldiers and former soldiers in the Army.”..
Sedition is conduct or speech inciting people to rebel against the authority of a state. Some have suggested that this is what Flynn engaged in in Dallas. I certainly don’t disagree.
No. All the nuts don’t grow on trees. But when their bogus claims seem to be gaining more traction and our former President continues to undercut one of the bedrocks of our democracy–free and fair elections–this country has major challenges on its hands.
Challenges that can only be repelled when sane citizens speak out for truth and reason.