Haney and the nuclear plant



By Josh Moon

Maybe Franklin Haney really can get the Bellefonte Nuclear Plant up and running, putting thousands to work in one of Alabama’s poorest counties and creating a success story out of a perpetual failure.


   Or maybe he can’t.

   Maybe the facility continues to sit like an eyesore along Hwy 72 in Hollywood — just the way it’s been sitting for more than 40 years now. A great big power plant that so far has produced less energy than the Kay Ivey campaign.

   I honestly have no idea. And let’s be real here, neither do you.

   But that sure hasn’t stopped any of you from saying that there’s just no way that Haney can pull this off, that it’s a lost cause, that the facility is too old, that it’s all a dream that will eventually turn into a nightmare.

   Just stop it.

   I live amongst you people. You’re like me. Which is to say, we’re not a bunch of nuclear experts.

   A bunch of real-life nuclear experts — and a room full of people who manufacture and sell the tools needed to produce nuclear energy — were at Bellefonte on Monday, as Haney and a management group provided a status update on the plant, and they all seemed fairly certain that they could get the plant up and going.

    In fact, many of them provided detailed answers for how they planned to do this, discussing a variety of components that would go into the rebuild of the plant. Most of the conversation went over my head, but I’m pretty sure I heard something about steam and a flux capacitor.

    Anyway, they seemed confident that they could get the plant running, and that producing and selling energy was very doable.  

The general public, on the other hand, is overwhelmingly skeptical. Social media mentions of the plant are not kind, and it seems most people are confident that Bellefonte will remain dead.

   As I read those comments, I started to wonder when we all became so damned pessimistic. When did skepticism become America’s default setting?

    I wonder what the country would be if this 2018 attitude had been prevalent throughout our existence.

   “The moon? Oh stop. It’s way too high.”

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Franklin Haney, Tennessee billionaire, is a benevolent dreamer who only wants to make the world a better place one nuclear reactor at a time. He’s a businessman. He wants to make money.

   That’s why Haney — who made his fortune in real estate — wants to get the Bellefonte plant up and going. He believes it can generate power that he can produce cheaper than he can sell it, thereby making himself and his investors a lot of money.

   There’s nothing wrong with that.

   And there’s nothing wrong with him giving it a shot.

   The rub for most people, from what I can gather, is that Haney is asking the government — and that means taxpayers — to foot at least some of the bill — by way of loans and grants and tax incentives — for the rebuilding of Bellefonte. And some of those taxpayers, after decades of missteps and false starts with Bellefonte, and with more than $5 billion of taxpayer money in the plant, don’t really want to toss more money down this money pit.

   That’s a fair position.

   But here’s the thing: In order to get that government assistance, and the clearance necessary to get the plant up and running, Haney and his teams will have to provide specific projections on production, safety and sales potential.

    On top of that, if the project fails, Haney stands to lose a hefty chunk of change. Not to mention, he’ll lose all of the money he’s spent greasing the wheels of government — through donations and other deals with President Trump, former Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley and others.

    Haney’s tactics in getting this project off the ground have come under scrutiny. But a grand jury in Montgomery determined them to be legal.

   And with that being the case, here’s the most important question remaining: What if Haney doesn’t fail?

    What if, with today’s technology advancements and broader markets, Bellefonte can produce power, and produce much-needed jobs in a poor county? What if it can have the $12 billion economic impact on the area?

   Look, I get that it’s a longshot. I understand the odds against Haney.

And that’s why I like it. This guy who could’ve taken his billions and went and sat on a beach until he croaked decided one day that he wanted to make a failed nuclear plant that’s been dormant for 40-plus years work again.

   After Haney secured the deal for Bellefonte, a reporter called his real estate office. The woman who handles his real estate transactions replied to the first question, flatly, “He bought a what?”

   You see? Man, that’s the start of one helluva story.  

   Of course, the most important part of a story like that — the thing that makes anyone care about it at all — is the ending.

   Maybe it’ll be a good one.

Ivey claims she’s strengthened ethics laws. She’s done the opposite



By Josh Moon

There’s a trick that’s often used in Alabama politics — one that Kay Ivey seems to know well. This trick comes in many different forms, and is disguised under many different names, but it is always essentially the same.

   It’s pretending to do something while in reality doing nothing.

   While that basically sums up Ivey’s entire tenure in politics — can anyone tell me anything of true importance that she’s ever done? — it is especially true when it comes to her alleged “clean up” of Montgomery politics.

   Ivey was back at it again on Wednesday, claiming in a statement through one PAC-funded spokesperson or another that she has been cleaning up the corruption in state government. A claim that was made laughable by the indictment later in the day of the fifth state lawmaker in the last year.

   But in the post-fact world created by Trump and wallowed in by desperate Republicans, the reality didn’t slow Ivey. She went right ahead proclaiming that she’s “cleaned up” Montgomery.

   How has she allegedly accomplished this?

    According to her campaign, by banning lobbyists from serving in the executive branch, replacing half of Bentley’s cabinet and disbanding several task forces. Her camp also told al.com that executive orders signed by Ivey would prevent nepotism in state contracts and force more accountability for companies receiving economic incentive deals.

   All of that is utter nonsense.

   It’s worthless, toothless, meaningless nonsense that wouldn’t have prevented a single one of the crimes for which any of the recently indicted or convicted state lawmakers were accused.

    Not one.

   And one of those executive orders, Ivey violated herself.

   That one about banning lobbyists from serving in the executive branch? Ivey cast the deciding vote for Eric Mackey, a registered lobbyist, to serve as the state superintendent of education — a position that makes him part of the executive branch.

And another — requiring accountability for economic incentive deals — is so laughable, it’s hard to imagine anyone typing it on purpose.

   The fact is Ivey helped strip away some of the most important ethics laws that govern those economic incentive packages — those deals that are worth hundreds of millions of dollars that our lawmakers hand out in secret — and made them even more secretive.

   By signing HB317 a few months ago, Ivey ignored the advice of prosecutors — some of whom played pivotal roles in the convictions of state lawmakers on ethics charges — and instead made it easier for lawmakers to steal your tax dollars.

But don’t take my word for that, take the word of the numerous Republicans. The not-exactly-liberal voices of Dick Brewbaker and Trip Pittman who took serious issue with the bill.

   Brewbaker said it carved out a “broad exception” to the ethics laws for “a large group of people.” Pittman said the bill would harm transparency of the economic incentive deals and said it created “an opportunity for mischief.”

   What it actually did was further muddy the waters that former House speaker Mike Hubbard was swimming in. And it made that whole line between bribery and recruiting industry a bit more blurry.

   Which should come as a shock to no one, since the day Hubbard was convicted of 12 felonies, Ivey issued a statement saying she was praying for Hubbard and his family “through the uncertainties of this difficult time.”

   Which makes it sound like Hubbard was diagnosed with an illness instead of being convicted for being a crook.

   Maybe Ivey doesn’t know the difference.   Maybe she’s been in Alabama politics and the state’s Republican Party for so long that corruption is just a way of life.

    Maybe that explains why she’s accepted well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Jimmy Rane, one of the men from whom Hubbard was convicted of receiving a bribe. Maybe it explains why she’s also been flying all over the state on a plane owned by Rane.

    Maybe Ivey genuinely doesn’t see the problems. Maybe she thinks this is all normal and that Alabama voters have become so accustomed to being robbed blind by the Alabama GOP that they’ll just go along with it. Maybe she thinks you’re all too stupid to understand that she’s helped facilitate the political graft instead of stop it.

   Or maybe she spent so much time on that plane, we can chalk it all up to altitude sickness.

Alabama: The confused state



By Josh Moon

Alabama is a confusing state. A state that prides itself on its hardworking, blue-collar image but somehow turned out overwhelmingly to vote for the (alleged) billionaire, reality TV star for president was just as bi-polar during Tuesday’s primary runoff election.

    On one hand, voters seemed to want to rid themselves of long-serving, stagnant politicians, rejecting Democrats Alvin Holmes, John Knight and Johnny Ford and Republicans Twinkle Cavanaugh and Gerald Dial. They seemed to be saying that they wanted ethics and term limits and candidates that were more responsive and energetic.

   But on the other hand, still standing at the end of the night were Steve Marshall, Martha Roby and Larry Stutts. So, voters were also saying they were cool with a complete lack of ethics, a complete disregard for constituents and a completely awful human.

   Maybe this is why pre-election polling in Alabama is always so screwed up. How can a pollster figure out what you people want when even you don’t know?

   So, let’s try to dissect this a bit and come up with a few answers.

   Let’s start with the Democrats, because they’re easier to understand.

   Holmes and Knight, with a combined 70 years of experience serving in the Alabama House, lost to two dudes who have combined to serve for exactly zero years in any state office. David Burkette, who beat Knight for what seemed like the 50th time in the past year, has served as a city councilman in Montgomery, but that’s the extent of their political experience. Kirk Hatcher, who I couldn’t pick out of a lineup with The Beatles, has zero political experience.

All of this fits with a recent trend in the Democratic Party to push for candidates who relate better to real, everyday people. They believe the old-school guys, particularly the multi-term lawmakers, are out of touch with the real people they serve and are selling them out.

   And those voters are right.

  For example, while I’ll happily vote for Chuck Schumer over pretty much any dollar-seeking, Bible-thumping Republican, I’d sure like to have an option that isn’t sitting right in the middle of the big banks’ pockets.

   And so, the Dems have decided to clean house wherever it’s possible.

   It was possible in Montgomery.

   Republicans, however, are a different story, which is usually the case. Because while certain factions of the GOP love to play up this alleged independent streak they claim to have, at the end of the day, it’s hard for them to turn their backs on the guy they came in with.

   They get trapped by the lights and sparkle of the incumbent’s deep pockets.

   Or at least they used to.

   Before Twinkle turned dull and Dial time ran out.

   In those races, Republicans voted against the lifelong politicians, putting Will Ainsworth and Rick Pate, respectively, into office.

   Ainsworth’s win was particularly satisfying, yet also so confusing. He’s a pro-ethics, pro-term limits guy who once stood up to Mike Hubbard and told him he needed to go.

   How do you vote for a guy like Ainsworth and then also vote for Steve Marshall? Or Larry Stutts?

   Marshall, in particular, has governed pretty much the opposite of Ainsworth and former AG candidate Alice Martin, who picked up nearly a third of the votes in the primary. Marshall’s not chasing crime and corruption. His major accomplishments have been weakening the state’s ethics laws  — a move the business community rewarded him for — and pushing back against the law that outlaws political action committee (PAC)-to-PAC transfers.

   Marshall is OK with such transfers now that he’s raking in millions from PACs doing exactly what is outlawed.

    Speaking of outlaws, I’m not sure how Stutts is even on the ballot, much less still winning GOP elections. He has been nothing but an embarrassment, selling out women and children and selling out everyone else fairly routinely.

   And yet, he won.

   I just don’t get it. At the end of these elections, there’s supposed to be a pattern. We’re supposed to be able to look at who won and who lost and tell people what it all means. That voters were tired of this, or happy about that, or that they want a certain type of candidate.

   Not in Alabama.

   We apparently do things a bit different here.