At Mod Mobilian we really, really try to focus on the positive cultural aspects of Mobile Bay, Alabama, the Gulf Coast & South.
We don’t want any political or partisan bent tainting our coverage of music and art. And, to be frank, we worry about political grudges negatively impacting some of the cultural and musical activities we promote.
Plus politics bores us. It’s usually a bunch of petty simpletons and phonies playing pre-adolescent games. However – at times it seems unavoidable to discuss it – as political decisions can have implications for the viability of our city.
This generally means we address clear “right-or-wrong” issues – such as a scumbag county commissioner who breaks federal drug laws and cheats on his wife (regardless of whether he killed his girlfriend or not). Or budgetary issues like the Maritime Museum – which ate up a ton of money which probably could have been better used to grow Downtown.
Anyone who has read Mod Mobilian should be aware that we have disagreed with Sam Jones on many, if not most, issues – the Maritime Museum and the “penny” sales tax being but two.
And with the recent stories in the Lagniappe and Press-Register we were this close (two fingers) to writing a diatribe entitled “Sam Jones Needs To Go.” When Jones reportedly told Lagniappe “I’m through talking…Why don’t you just make it up like you do? Shit, you don’t have no news. You make up shit all the time,” it didn’t help his case.
We – like most normal people – don’t spend our time reading campaign finance reports, so the talk of investigations and missing lunch meat had us convinced he was crooked too. It was the nail in the coffin.
So we were taken aback by Eddie Curran’s blog post noting that District Attorney Ashley Rich had expenditures that were at least as questionable as any of Jones’: Books-a-Million, Claude Moore Jewelers, herself, her mom. And the fact that the Press-Register’s Robbie McClendon thought it was significant enough to write about a “blog post” also struck us.
Something else was new as well – Lagniappe’s Twitter accused the Press-Register of “blundering” and “eating crow” on the story that the Press-Register tried to “discredit” Lagniappe. This, of course, came just before the Press-Register announced it was going to 3-days-a-week print schedule and Lagniappe said on Facebook that it was considering going to a weekly schedule.
Never before had we seen such chaos in the Mobile media. So why did we jump in?
First – let us point out that we are glad that Lagniappe is investigating the Mayor. They should.
And we are not saying that there was definitely no wrongdoing by Jones. The investigation should continue.
But there are several points from Eddie Curran’s blog and Mod Mobilian posts that we felt were important for people to know.
First, context is important. Without context – a prosecutor, trial lawyer, or (in this case) writer can make anyone look guilty of anything.
When deciding guilt – especially in abstract areas like campaign finance laws – you have to take into account intent, motivation, norms among peers, etc. Laws like these are designed to be refined in the courts – see the Siegelman / Scrushy trial, McGregor trial and many others.
It is this grey area that leaves these laws open to use for political prosecution and hatchet jobs.
SO when reporting this case in an objective fashion it would be critical to mention context – what is the norm and history among politicans’ campaign spending in these accounts.
This was not done by Lagniappe. And we have a hard time believing that they were either ignorant of those norms or so incompetent as not take five minutes to compare Jones’ spending to that of other local politicians.
So Curran’s posts gave this context – noting at least equally questionable spending by Ashley Rich, Democratic Sen. Roger Bedford, Rep. Jim Barton and others.
NO – this does not excuse Jones’ spending. But it gives context and raises the question – at what point do we prosecute the violations? Are we really going to prosecute Jones when numerous other politicians have more frank violations? And not call it politically motivated selective prosecution?
If we want to prosecute him fine – but then let’s prosecute everybody including the D.A. Rich herself.
Second – Curran points out that much of the Lagniappe story is “filler.” The whole BBQ meat and one loaf of bread stuff is clearly ridiculous.
But we have to say – we did not catch that. We read the story like so many other people and thought – “Wow – look at all this stuff. This sounds really bad.” Just because we really didn’t read those articles closely enough. Until Curran pointed out how clearly ludicrous it is.
There were other things he didn’t mention – like the fact that Jon Gray of Strategy Inc. was quoted on the ethics of Jones’ expenditures in the Lagniappe story. Gray is a political “consultant” / operative who has run campaigns against Jones in the past – and we would be surprised if he didn’t do so in the future. Why would you use him as an expert on ethics – against one of his former opponents – and not an ethicist or legal scholar?
The animosity of Lagniappe towards Jones is no secret. Referring to him as “Sammie” (as Curran pointed out) has always struck us as unprofessional and bad taste.
And that’s fine. In Lower Alabama portraying yourself as the conservative alternative to the local mainstream paper is sure to please potential advertisers.
But we don’t like political hatchet jobs. Even on politicians we don’t agree with.
That is what led us to jump in the fray.
If you want to publish these stories with no context and questionable details fine – but make your bias explicit.
And, believe it or not, this has nothing to do with Mod Mobilian versus Lagniappe. We have done some good-natured ribbing in the past of the Nappies and so forth – but we appreciate that they have “Kept Mobile Funky.” We also thought of ourselves as focusing on online media – video and audio – and letting them handle the political stuff in print. As Robbie McClendon tweeted to us “Media diversity is a good thing” (just kidding about that “Sorry – we are in it to win it” reply Robbie). The contention that the Press-Register is Jones’ “lapdog” is petty. In our opinion they are the actual journalists.
And we love some of the writers in Lagniappe – Kevin Lee (obviously) and Steve Centanni for two. (Of course there is one writer who is a member of the “Justice for Stephen Nodine” facebook group (yes, it exists) – but you can’t win them all. I mean come on – we know Nodine is a Republican and all but regardless of whether he killed his girlfriend or not he is still a complete scumbag. That is why we created the “Morons for Nodine” group.)
And some have implied that we are “liberal” for defending Jones – but that is nonsense. If we go after anybody it is Democrat Bedford. Our only liberal-ish writer is also a writer for Lagniappe. The rest of us are apolitical, libertarian or conservative. Again – we generally stay out of politics on purpose.
Same with Curran. Lest we forget he is the one who helped take down Democrat Siegelman – and hopefully now Bedford. So any implications by his political enemies – of which there are many – that he is politically motivated is “horse hockey.” Curran is well-known for his intelligence, integrity and tenaciousness. His enemies have been quick to use ad hominem attacks but those do not change the facts that he presents. That is why we stand behind him.
We agree that at times Jones is an “absentee mayor.” There is a lack of clear vision to move ahead and make Mobile grow. It seems we are just getting by – and more taxing and spending is not the answer. Mobile needs more proactive leadership.
In the last two elections no viable alternative presented itself. We had a bunch of sub-standard politicos but no clear leaders or statesmen / stateswomen. We hope someone with intelligence and common-sense runs for Mayor.
A message to potential challengers – just stay away from Jon Gray and Strategy Inc. You don’t need them. Their campaign for Peavy backfired – and we would be suspicious of any candidate that used them. If you have the intelligence and capabilities you don’t need the help of tricksters.
In short, Jones may still need to go – but for the right reasons. Not because of political maneuvering. Until his campaign finance snafus are reported in a serious and objective fashion you just have to take it with a grain of salt.
SO having said all this hopefully we will be able to jump out of the fray now and get back to the good stuff.