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Let's Remember Why We Have "Labor Day" In The First Place

by: countrycat

Mon Sep 01, 2014 at 08:50:27 AM CDT

We've always had labor in this country: free laborers, indentured servants, & slave labor.  But it wasn't until 1894 that Congress made the first Monday in September the official Labor Day holiday.  Although now, in most communities, it's mainly just another day off - or excuse to shop the sales - people used to take Labor Day pretty seriously and with good reason.

The form that the observance and celebration of Labor Day should take was outlined in the first proposal of the holiday — a street parade to exhibit to the public "the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations" of the community, followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families. This became the pattern for the celebrations of Labor Day. Speeches by prominent men and women were introduced later, as more emphasis was placed upon the economic and civic significance of the holiday. 

Just because we had a holiday the celebrates the contributions of workers didn't mean that workers were free to organize and advocate for their rights.  The right to unionize was a battle fought in the courts and in the streets.  It was a cause that many men & women gave their lives to - literally. 

  • The Battle of Blair Mountain: In September, 1921, 10,000 West Virginia coal miners battled 3,000 police and strikebreakers (the "Logan Defenders").  The miners rose up against the strongarm tactics of the coal mine owners who fought bitterly against unionization using paid agents who spied on organizers and even murdered union supporters.  The fighting ended when the President sent the US Army to restore order.

    It was one of the largest civil uprisings in the country's history, and I bet you never heard about it in school! 

  • Columbine Mine Massacre: On November 21, 1927 Colorado state militia and coal company guards fired on unarmed striking union workers, killing 6 and wounding dozens more.

  • Bisbee Deportation: 1300 striking mine workers, their families, & union supporters were arresed in Bisbee, Arizona, herded onto cattle cars.  Sixteen hours later, they dumped in the desert in New Mexico without food or water.  Coal company executives in Bisbee seized control of the telegraph and prevented Associated Press reports from filing news reports about the arrests & deportation until the train left Bisbee.  

    They did this with the cooperation of the county sheriff.  Even then, elected offiicals were swayed by money & power.

Union representation was at its height after WWII and propelled millions of workers into comfortable middle class lives.

Collective bargaining performed impressively after World War II, more than tripling weekly earnings in manufacturing between 1945 and 1970, gaining for union workers an unprecedented measure of security against old age, illness, and unemployment, and, through contractual protections, greatly strengthening their right to fair treatment at the workplace. 

Even though most workers weren't covered by union contracts, the benefits & protections they won rippled through the economy.  Do you like having weekends off?  Thank the labor movement.  Do you like having a safe workplace, a pension, and overtime pay?  Thank the labor movement.

It's no accident that many middle class families are struggling now and falling behind.  Although many don't realize it, their fortunes and future prospects rise and fall with the power of the labor movement.  The balance of power has shifted, with corporations calling the shots in Washington and using buckets of Citizens United cash to buy influence - and Congressmen.

And the result is devastating for working families: 

So campers, there's not much for workers to celebrate this Labor Day.  Until people realize what's at stake when they enter the voting booth, nothing will change.  We have a chance to make a difference this November.  

Vote like your life depends on it - because it does.


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President Obama's Weekly Address Focuses On Minimum Wage

by: countrycat

Sat Aug 30, 2014 at 10:09:30 AM CDT

One of the best ways to help American families is to raise the minimum wage, and President Obama highlighted that fact in this week's radio address.  The minimum wage is a particularly significant issue for women: they represent at least half the minimum wage workers in every state & two-thirds of minimum wage workers nationwide.  In Alabama, 70% of minimum wage workers are women.

The pay gap between men & women in Alabama is one of the worst in the nation:

The study said Alabama women earn an average of 25 percent less than white men compared to the national wage gap of 23 percent. In Alabama, white women earn 27 percent less, black women earn 43 percent less, and Hispanic women earn 59 percent less than white men. 

And in Alabama, the minimum wage for a full-time worker doesn't come close to meeting basic needs:

A  single worker in Alabama needs more than $13 an hour, or over $2,300 a month, just to make ends meet. A single parent with one young child needs to earn almost $20.50 an hour, or $3,500 each month. To afford just basic economic security, a parent with two young kids earning the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour would need to work more than 143 hours a week. Even the best budgeting can't stretch that minimum wage job to cover $4,500 in expenses. The math just doesn't work.

And for working families, this impossible math means making compromises every day — choosing between saving for your kid's education and paying the gas bill. It means relying on safety net programs just to keep a roof over your head and food on the table. It means working two jobs to stay afloat, leaving little time to pursue additional education or to help kids with their homework. 

A low minimum wage is yet more corporate welfare, where taxpayers subsidize profitable corporations.  Working families are forced to rely on rental vouchers, food stamps, and Medicaid to meet basic needs.  These workers aren't the "takers" that the GOP loves to excoriate - they're workers who struggle every single day but can never get ahead.  Heck, in Alabama, the legislature this session actually passed an anti-sick leave law.

Our only hope in the short term is a federal minimum wage increase. 



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Meet State Democratic Candidates & Many North Alabama Candidates In Madison - 9/4

by: countrycat

Wed Aug 27, 2014 at 08:39:24 AM CDT

It will be a crowded "meet & greet" at the "Hot Dogs & Yellow Dogs II - The Nominees" event September 4 from 5-7pm at a private home in Madison.  This Empower Alabama fundraiser will feature many state & local Democratic candidates and Independent candidate for AL-05, Mark Bray.

Hot Dogs & Yellow dogs

Confirmed candidates include: 

  • Parker Griffith – candidate Governor
  • James Fields – candidate Lt. Governor
  • Joe Hubbard - candidate Attorney General 
  • Miranda Joseph – candidate State Auditor 
  • Mike Curtis – candidate State Senate District 1
  • Angelo "Doc" Mancuso - candidate State Senate District 4
  • Bryan Bennett– candidate State Senate District 7
  • Horace Clemmons – candidate State Senate District 8
  • Darrell Turner – candidate State Senate District 13
  • Terry Jones - candidate State House of Representatives District 21
  • Anthony Daniels - candidate State House of Representatives District 53
  • Mark Craig – incumbent/candidate Madison County Licenses Director
  • Patrick Douglass – candidate Madison County Tax Assessor 
  • Lynda Hall – incumbent/candidate Madison Tax Collector
  • Tim Clardy – candidate Madison County Sheriff
  • Sheriff Mike Blakely – incumbent/candidate  Limestone County
  • Mark Bray – Independent candidate for Congress District 5 
Judge Mark Kennedy will emcee the event.
Suggested donation is $25 & the event includes a picnic supper of hot dogs (both meat & veggie), chips, apple pie, ice tea, & craft beer. 
Location is the home of Jeff & Pam Miles - 125 Bordeaux Lane Madison, AL.  RSVP to pammiles@bellsouth.net or on the event Facebook page.
Empower Alabama is a grassroots campaign that never stops, regardless of the election calendar.  We are working year-round to engage citizens, to educate voters, and to elect outstanding local leaders. 
We believe that Alabama can do better. The Alabama Legislature should reflect the people of Alabama.  As it stands now, too many Alabamians are not engaged in the political process and aren’t being represented. 
Our goal is to build a new generation of leaders, activists, volunteers, and voters and to be a catalyst for common sense solutions to Alabama’s problems. 


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SD-35 - Beau Doolittle Supports State Participation In A Tribal-State Gambling Compact

by: countrycat

Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 11:00:00 AM CDT

Budget problems in Alabama are so severe that elected officials openly discuss new gimmicks to balance the state's budget.  Real political leaders would be looking for long-term sustainable solutions, and SD-35 (Mobile area) candidate Beau Doolittle offered a proposal last week.

Beau Doolittle Alabama State Senate

Doolittle would open negotiations with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians to create a State-Tribal compact that would allow Class III gaming in Alabama.

From the campaign's press release:

“Attempts to block a Tribal-State Compact display outdated thinking and antiquated business strategy. Alabama is the only state in the country that has failed to capture any revenue from tribal gaming. This just doesn’t make good sense as our state continues to face economic hardship and the inability to provide our children with the education they deserve,” stated Doolittle. 

A Tribal-State Compact would allow the tribe to operate Class III games and a portion of the revenue would go into the General Fund, increasing the quality of education in the state and easing the economic woes Alabamians continues to face. “This is not about partisanship . . . this is about education, the economy and priorities,’” stated Doolittle. 

Well, it's certainly a better idea than Governor Bentley's suggestion that we take money from the Education Trust Fund to bribe corporations to locate in the state.  And it beats borrowing from the state's saving account to balance the budget short-term without ever addressing the state's long-term funding problems.

Doolittle called on his opponent to support his plan for Class III gambling, but doesn't doesn't appear likely since Hightower has stated that gambling leads to divorce & other family problems.

But you know what else causes family stresses & problems?  Economic uncertainity and unemployment.  A 2014 Money Magazine survey found that 70% of married couples argue about money more than any other issue.  Any politician who thinks government should focus more on private family matters like divorce, birth control, marriage equality, etc. than it does on basic economic security quite simply doesn't understand the priorities of Alabama families.  Doolittle called out his opponent on that very issue:

"Mr. Hightower what is your plan to ease the woes of the Education and General Fund Budgets?  More tax cuts for the wealthy and cuts in services to children, the elderly, disabled people and veterans? In these tough times we need real answers to the question of how do we create more revenue for our beloved state...not pontificating in an effort to pander to those who put their personal whims over the good of others. This is not about politics, it’s not about partisanship .. . it’s about doing what is right and creating a win-win scenario for all Alabamians," Doolittle stated.

Learn more about Beau Doolittle at his campaign Web site.  Follow the campaign on Facebook to get up-to-date information about campaign news & events.


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HD-27 - Governor Bentley's "Economic Development Forum" Closed To Democrats

by: countrycat

Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 07:00:00 AM CDT

When is an "economic development forum" not an open forum & chance for Governor Bentley to meet with local officials & business leaders?  When it's a thinly-disguised campaign appearance.  Here's how an August 12 stop in Arab by Governor Bentley was publicized in advance by the Governor's office:

Jeff McLaughlin

Bentley will visit Syncro Corp., a manufacturing and systems integration company that specializes in product research and development, management and post manufacturing support.


After a 2 p.m. tour of the facility, Bentley will participate in an on-site economic development forum with community and business leaders. 

So imagine the surprise when local business leader and candidate for state legislature, Jeff McLaughlin, tried to attend - but was turned away from this "Republican only" event. 

As the Arab Tribune reported:

A press release said the governor would “meet with local community and business leaders at Syncro” in Arab. “Gov. Bentley will tour the facility with company leaders then participate in an economic development forum with local community and business leaders.”

Media outlets, including al.com, reported it was an economic development forum.

It was, however, a political event for Bentley and District 27 Republican nominee Will Ainsworth.

District 27 Democratic nominee Jeff McLaughlin says he was turned away at the door when he tried to attend the forum.

McLaughlin said he contacted the governor’s office, but never got a reply. He also said he contacted Syncro president and CEO Ed Childress.

McLaughlin said that Childress told him he only provided the venue (Syncro) for the event, and he wasn’t in charge of invitations so he couldn’t invite him. 

Just to make it clear to readers who aren't familiar with Jeff McLaughlin, he was a state representative for District 27 (Marshall County area) who lost his seat in 2010.  McLaughlin was a long-time advocate of campaign finance reform & refused to accept campaign donations.  The Legislature's "last honest man" hopes to return to Montgomery. 

McLaughlin is also a local business leader: an attorney, an employer, and member of local commissions & service organizations.  He understands that economic development isn't a partisan issue.  Too bad his opponent and the state's governor appear to think differently. 

Learn more about Jeff McLaughlin's campaign at his campaign Facebook page or  

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It's Good To Be A Riley In Alabama, But Not So Great Being A Taxpayer

by: countrycat

Mon Aug 25, 2014 at 16:21:31 PM CDT

Quick! Someone asks you a simple question: "What's the median income in Alabama?"  Would you... A: Use Google to find the answer on the US Bureau of the Census Web site or B: Set up a no-bid contract suggested by Bob Riley's daughter and commission a $72,000 study with a Birmingham law firm that inquired about why they weren't getting any state business?

GOP budget clowns

If you selected B, you may be a member of the GOP supermajority, because that's exactly what happened.  Not surprisingly, a member of the Riley clan is slurping at the public pork trough.

The Alabama Personnel Department entered into a $72,000 contract with Birmingham-based Baker Donelson Bearman in June to handle legal services and determine the median household income in the state, which will determine lawmakers’ salaries in the coming year.

The contract, was negotiated in part by Minda Riley Campbell, a lobbyist who is also the daughter of former Gov. Bob Riley. It is the first Alabama government contract the law firm has received since 2009, according to state records. 

Under a constitutional amendment approved by state voters in 2012, lawmakers’ pay will be fixed to the state’s median household income starting next year. While the U.S. Census Bureau tracks household income, the amendment did not specify how that should be measured, but tasks the Personnel Department with determining it.  

Why not just turn to Google?  Why... there are a lot of hard questions to answer!

“We want some outside legal authority to tell us which one do we use,” said Alice Ann Byrne, general counsel for the department. “Are we going to use the (household income) when they are elected in November? Do we change it in January? When do we do it? We want to make sure there’s no question.”

How is it exactly that a law firm would have the answers to those questions?  Wouldn't it be a better idea to get an opinion from Alabama's attorney general (assuming he's not too busy suing the President) or ask the legislators who drafted the bill?  Hey, that might make it "political."

“We are trying to make sure we don’t put the attorney general in a position to say what a lawmaker’s salary is,” Byrne said. “We’re trying to make sure there’s nothing political about it.” 

I guess we should be thankful that the Personnel Department didn't need a Web site too: they might have hired the same outfit that charged the state's Education Trust Fund $99,000 to build a WordPress site

Here's another question for Ms. Bryne.  This is a one-year contract: will the department spend money on this every single year?   And a question for Alabama's GOP legislators.... Is it remotely possible for you guys to pass a piece of legislation that makes sense and doesn't come with a sidecar load of "unintended consequences" and costs for the state? 

Former Governor Bob Riley & his buddies are already cashing in on the "scholarship" programs authorized by the Alabama Accountability Act.  Looks like his daughter wanted a piece of that pie as well.


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Broadway Performer To Headline James Fields Fundraiser In Birmingham, 8/28

by: countrycat

Mon Aug 25, 2014 at 11:30:00 AM CDT

Broadway star Rufus Bonds, Jr. will be in Birmingham for one performance only this week, and it's to support the James Fields for Lt. Governor campaign.  Tickets are only $50, so get yours ASAP!

Rufus Bonds

Bonds is currently performing in Porgy & Bess at the Regent's Park Theater in London.  He has also appeared in numerous Broadway productons including Miss Saigon, Rent, The Lion King, & The Color Purple.  An award-winning writer/actor/director, he'll be performing at the Red Mountain Theatre Company 301 19th Street North in Birmingham.  The event begins at 6:30 pm.  A light dinner will be served and James Fields will speak.

Food, entertainment, & politics - what more could you ask of an evening?

Tickets are $50.  Purchase them online at the Fields for Lt. Governor Web site (enter the # of tickets in the comments section) or mail a check to:  

Fields for Lt. Governor
c/o Linda Verin 3535 Hampshire Rd.
Birmingham, AL 35223

Full disclosure: A close family member recently became a part-time paid staffer for the Fields campaign.


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Parker Griffith Addresses The SDEC August Meeting

by: countrycat

Mon Aug 25, 2014 at 09:08:44 AM CDT

Democratic nominee for governor Parker Griffith took the stage after a rather contentious meeting on Saturday, 8/16 to address the Alabama State Democratic Executive Committee.  By all appearances the committee members were united in support of Griffith, who drew applause when he invoked the civil rights movement, spoke in favor of ballot access, called on the state to expand Medicaid, and denounced the Republican supermajority in the legislature.


It was a good speech, but Griffith has given good speeches before - both as a Democrat and a Republican.  We can only hope he means it this time.  Medicaid expansion, in particular, is vital to the health & welfare of Alabama's citizens and also to the state's economy.


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Christian Coalition of AL Director to Federal Judge: "Mind Your Own Business & Stay Out of Ours"

by: countrycat

Thu Aug 21, 2014 at 15:18:23 PM CDT

At a meeting of the Huntsville Zoning Commission Tuesday night, James Henderson, Executive Director of the Christian Coalition of Alabama decided to take a traditional approach & blame federal judges for his problems.  Traditional, that is, for Alabama. We're the state remember, that likes to thumb our nose at Washington with one hand while we pocket federal cash with the other.

James Henderson & his trusty bullhorn

In this case, Henderson took whined about took issue with Federal Judge Myron Thompson's opinion in Alabama's TRAP law case. (Read LIA coverage of the hearings)

Judge Thompson's opinion (PDF) specifically called out Huntsville clinic protestors for creating a hostile, violent atmosphere outside the clinics (noisy too - note the bullhorn), outlined the state's "history of violence & threats againt abortion doctors," and noted that the "protests in Huntsville go beyond run-of-the-mill political protests."

Apparently, being called out on their bad behavior injured the tender feelings of Henderson & his crew because several mentioned the judge during their speeches to the board.  But only Henderson offered specific instructions:

"He should mind his own business and stay out of ours."

Except that, Jenderson's "business" is denying women their constitutional right, so who better to get involved than a federal judge?

Since the protesters are totally without any sense of irony, many of them cited the disruption caused by their own actions as a reason to keep the clinic closed. 

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Anti-Choice Demonstrators Cite Their Own Actions As Reason To Keep Huntsville Clinic Closed

by: countrycat

Wed Aug 20, 2014 at 10:50:09 AM CDT

The "faces of anti-choice Huntsville" swarmed the city zoning board hearing last night in a last ditch attempt to keep North Alabama's lone women's clinic from reopening in a new location.  In a breathtaking display of chutzpah, speaker after speaker - some of whom live more than 50 miles from the proposed location - went concern trolling.  They cited concerns about "the neighborhood" and "disruptions" caused by protests at the previous clinic location.

Why yes.... block the sidewalks, bus in scores of children, bellow at passersby through a bullhorn, and assault clinic escorts.... and then complain about the "tension & violence" associated with the clinic.

The Huntsville clinic has been closed since the end of June, forcing many women to go out of state.  The clinic owner found a new location that complies with the TRAP laws - the same laws that the demonstrators lobbied so hard to pass.  But it's still not good enough.  While some speakers  tried to pretend it was just "concern" about the neighborhood, others were pretty candid. They don't like abortion & don't want a clinic to open anywhere.

One speaker, GOP legislative candidate Chris Horn, even obliquely referred to the events in Ferguson, MO as an example of what can happen when neighborhood residents don't have a voice.  Except that residents do have a voice - and a forum where they could have exercised their rights last night.  However, of all the opposition speakers, only Horn actually lives in the neighborhood.  The next closest speaker is more than a mile from the new clinic location, and the main speaker, Rev. James Henderson, lives in Morgan County.

In spite of repeated requests to stick to the topic at hand - zoning - and avoid wading into the abortion debate or causing a disruption, many speakers just couldn't help themselves.  A favorite moment was when a monk from Cullman stressed that neighborhood residents don't want this clinic!  The next speaker?  A woman who lives .8 miles from the clinic & who spoke in favor of the location.  oops....

Another favorite moment: Rev. Henderson railing about "Wiccan witch smoke" being used against his group. 

Watch the video clip for a sample of the evening's activities.  In spite of all the Sturm und Drang, the zoning board voted against the appeal.  Reverend Henderson, unwilling to give up his time in the limelight, promises a court challenge.

Stay tuned....

Note: I'll also have video up with the remarks of clinic supporters, but have to tend to other matters today.  Coming soon! 

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Judge Mark Fuller Hearing Scheduled In Atlanta September 5

by: countrycat

Tue Aug 19, 2014 at 11:54:16 AM CDT

Friday's hearing for disgraced federal judge Mark Fuller has been rescheduled for September 5, 2014, at 9 a.m. in Courtroom 1-A in the Fulton County Courthouse. The case has been assigned to Ms. Georgee Corley, an Assistant Fulton County Solicitor who specializes in domestic abuse cases. Ms. Corley handles all domestic violence cases. 

The maximum sentence for the criminal charge against defendant Fuller is twelve months in jail. If convicted, Fuller may not receive the maximum sentence because (a) he is a first-time offender and (b) he is reported to be in a rehabilitation treatment facility.

No testimony is expected to be taken in the September 5th hearing. It is one that is typically scheduled so defendants can enter pleas. If Fuller successfully completes his rehabilitation treatment, courthouse observers expect him to either plead guilty or "no contest" to the criminal charge and get sentenced to such treatment, which he would have already completed. Despite the completion of a rehabilitation treatment program, Fuller could receive substantial jail time if the Solicitor is able to establish a pattern and practice of conduct by Fuller in physically abusing his wives and other women. The severity of the beating Fuller administered to his wife Kelli Fuller will also be a factor in his sentencing.

Members of the public who have specific information about Fuller's physical abuse of women in the past should contact Ms. Corley and provide this information as quickly as possible. Her office number is 404-612-4823. 

Meanwhile, anti-domestic violence groups in Alabama and Georgia are continuing to prepare for a mass protest movement in support of Kelli Fuller and against Mark Fuller's violent conduct. These groups are actively monitoring the Fulton County Court's handling of this case to determine whether Fuller will be extended any professional courtesy or special treatment in the Fulton County Court system because he is a sitting federal judge in Montgomery. 

Veteran human rights activist Joseph Cole is coordinating this protest movement with various advocacy groups for battered and abused women. Cole expects thousands of women to attend Mark Fuller's September 5th hearing. Cole's is also closely watching the handling of this case within the Fulton County criminal justice system. Cole expects Alabama's oligarchy to use every ounce of influence it has to save defendant Mark Fuller from serving any time in jail.

The battle lines have been drawn. Fuller drew them in Kelli's blood with his own hand. The anti-domestic violence advocacy groups and I are standing with Kelli Fuller, the alleged crime victim. Alabama's mighty oligarchy is standing with Fuller, its tried and tested puppet on the federal bench. This is a classic case of the "might" versus "right", and it will be played out in a neutral venue - the City of Atlanta. The brighter the spotlight of public attention shines on Fuller's criminal case, the greater the chances are that "right" will prevail
By Donald V. Watkins
©Copyrighted and Published (via Facebook) on August 18, 2014 
Used with permission of the author

Note:  Judge Mark Fuller is the judge who presided over former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman's trial.  Learn more about his role in the case here at Mooncat's 2007 blog post
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SD-07 Bryan Bennett To Challenge Paul Sanford. "We Need to Stop the Groupthink"

by: countrycat

Tue Aug 19, 2014 at 07:00:00 AM CDT

State Senate District 7 in the Huntsville/Madison County area has a new Democratic nominee. SDEC members heard from four candidate hopefuls (including the runner-up in the June primary, Rose Gaskin) before selecting Bryan Bennett as the party's new candidate. Mitchell Howie won the Democratic primary in June, but withdrew from the race several weeks later, citing his wife's pregnancy & family concerns.

Bryan Bennett AL SD-07

Bennett cited his experience working on Joe Sestak's winning campaign in PA-04 over a Republican incumbent.  "It was a textbook case," he told the committee.  "Where you win elections is on the ground. You have to talk to people, tell them what the issues are, ask them what their thoughts are, and then explain how you can help."

He's been a busy man:  

  • Bennett is a retired Air Force colonel & retired high school teacher
  • Past-president of the Kiwanis Club of Huntsville & past president of the division  
  • Past president of the Tennessee Valley Air Force Association.  
  • He helped found Huntsville's free dental clinic.
  • Vice-chair of the Child Protective Services Board of Madison County.
  • He worked in inner-city Philadelphia to set up two school programs to get youth excited about aviation.  

"I believe in our kids.  I believe in our families.  I believe in us working together. 

He described moving to Selma in 1966, calling it a "divisive time in our history.  I lived through that.  I started out in segregated schools in Virginia, where the Governor, Jay Lindsey, said he would shut down the high schools rather than integrate them.  And he did."

An enthusiastic supporter of the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion, Bennett also supports a higher minimum wage.

"We need to stop the groupthink that is in Montgomery.  When you get a super-majority and groupthink takes over, you've got to break that.  I believe in can beat Paul Sanford.  I would not be in this if I didn't think that.  I'm in this campaign to win."

I can't find a Web site for FB page for the campaign yet, but will post that as soon as we get it.

In the meantime, here's the video of his speech:



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GA Representative Drafting Bill To Demilitarize Local Police Forces

by: countrycat

Mon Aug 18, 2014 at 09:52:04 AM CDT

Cullman has an MRAP, Oxford has a Puma & M-16s, & Montgomery is prepared to resist invasion from, well... somebody.  In June, we wrote about Alabama police departments getting surplus military equipment and the temptation to use that equipment against citizens.

Like this police chief in Morven, GA: none of his 532 residents will get out of line:

Yates said he could “take my guys and the training they have, the equipment we have, and we could shut this town down.” 

No doubt the police in Ferguson, MO thought the same thing when they prepared to respond to protests:

Last night, as the images and stories from Ferguson, Missouri, joined the news churn, many who registered their thoughts via social media noted that what they were seeing—policemen with dogs and AR-15 assault rifles standing in a Stygian, blue-lit cloud of tear gas; crowds of protesters with their hands in the air, screaming “Hands up, don’t shoot”; members of the press being removed from the scene—did not look like America. 

Like police departments in so many other US cities and towns, the Ferguson Police Department eagerly snapped up military-grade equipment - and they're using it:

They have short-barreled 5.56-mm rifles based on the military M4 carbine, with scopes that can accurately hit a target out to 500 meters. On their side they carry pistols. On their front, over their body armor, they carry at least four to six extra magazines, loaded with 30 rounds each.

And they stand in front of a massive uparmored truck called a Bearcat, similar in look to a mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle, or as the troops who rode in them call it, the MRAP. 

Democratic Congressman from Georgia, Hank Johnson, is drafting a bill to cut back on Pentagon transfers of military equipment to local police forces.  He plans to introduce the bill in September, when Congress finally returns from its summer vacation.  

He noted in the last several months those vehicles have been given to cities in Texas, Idaho, Indiana, Minnesota, New York, South Carolina, Tennessee, Arizona, Illinois and Alabama.

"This trend is not only sweeping America's small cities, it's hitting American college campuses as well. Ohio State University recently acquired an MRAP," he said. "Apparently, college kids are getting too rowdy."

Johnson said his bill would limit the type of equipment that could be transferred and would make sure states track all equipment received.  

There won't be much time to hold hearings and pass the bill, however, because Congress is only in session for 12 days before taking almost the entire month of October off to campaign.  So contact your Senators & Representatives now to ask that they co-sponsor Johnson's bill and help move it through the legislative process. 


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CD-06 - Mark Lester Accepts Nomination & Asks For Support

by: countrycat

Mon Aug 18, 2014 at 07:15:10 AM CDT

One bright spot in Saturday's SDEC meeting was the nomination of Birmingham Southern history professor Mark Lester to run in CD-06. The previous candidate, Avery Vise, withdrew from the race due to professional obligations.  

Mark Lester

Lester briefly addressed the crowd & reminded everyone that the election was just "80 days out," so it's all hands on deck to help Lester raise money & get out the vote.  He asked Democrats to stop saying - and believing - that we can't win in the 6th district, citing another candidate who thought he was invulnerable to challenge - from a history professor.  

How'd that work out for you, Eric Cantor?

Lester promised an unapologetic progressive platform, including support for the Affordable Care Act, and an increase in the minimum wage.  

Watch him here:


Learn more about his candidacy at his campaign Web site: LesterForCongress.com.  You can donate there as well!

Lester will also appear tomorrow night with AG candidate Joe Hubbard at the Over The Mountain Democrats August meeting


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Divided in Thought, United in Laughter

by: leehedgepeth

Sat Aug 16, 2014 at 21:34:28 PM CDT

(Another, more hopeful perspective, on yesterday's SDEC meeting. - promoted by countrycat)

I, as many of you, attended August 16th's meeting of the SDEC. The following was spawned from a conversation in the popular Facebook group Wake Up Alabama, which I encourage you all to join.

I post it here in the the hopes that it sparks discussion on the part of those who voted in the minority during the meeting, of which I very may have been one had I the position.

As I express, I don't know if I'm right, but I hope you'll let me know.

I try (and sometimes don't succeed) to think of it this way: African-Americans in Alabama have been oppressed since before its inception until today, and I don't see racism leaving Dixie anytime soon.

Like Malcolm X and WEB DuBois famously argued, whites have done what they will for centuries blacks, and to some extent -- maybe now its our turn. Not in the sense of white being lynched, etc., but to the extent that if African-Americans in Alabama want a homogenously minority party, then they should get it. White Dixiecrats -- yes, Democrats (and I hate to say it, but the fore bearers of the distinctly white minority of today's SDEC meeting) -- got that political power for centuries, justified or not. Malcolm X said that after slavery, terrorism, and Jim Crow (and now stop and frisk and voter id laws), there is no reason that a so-called American Negro should want to sit next to the white man at the political table -- even Democrats, in reality especially Democrats.

What happened today was undemocratic, yes. But when Democrats actually had power in Alabama, whites were, as privileged as we are, able to still be the majority in the legislature. Now that Dems are the minority, whites in Alabama fled the party (because the GOP became the racists instead of us), and the Joe Reed faction was able to take over, colored by the shadow of Wallace in the schoolhouse door.

Does Reed see any of those who lost votes today as descendants of Wallace? I don't know, and I don't want to speak for him. But I can understand if he did. And I don't blame him, or anyone who voted with him today. They are entitled to their votes, too, and in light of the history, maybe a little more.

And whites aren't losing out on a whole lot, except the Party's debt, and a possibility of learning from people who history will see as heroes, in light of or in spite of what happened today. Joe Reed, Hank Sanders, Johnny Ford. These are not undemocratic people. These are experienced people. We just have to understand that experience, I think, and learn from it.

At one point in the SDEC meeting, a white member facetiously moved that Dr. Reed just go ahead and appoint all the executive board members. A quick witted Johnny Ford, Mayor of Tuskegee, then seconded that motion. Everyone in the room -- white or black, SDEC member or guest, politician or reporter -- laughed. Hard. Maybe we're not so divided after all. Maybe we just need some laughter. And a few more minority appointments (Reed and the Minority Caucus appointed more whites than blacks today, I believe, contrary to some beliefs.)

Edit:  Review some of the debate over seating new committee members & watch video clips here.


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