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Silicon Valley Big Shot (& Romney Supporter) Calls Senator Jeff Sessions An "Odious Hack"

by: countrycat

Mon Sep 15, 2014 at 12:09:13 PM CDT

Wow. Even some big-name Republican contributors can't stand Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, III either.  Facebook board member and prominent venture capitalist Marc Andreesen tweeted about Alabama's junior senator and slammed Sessions' statements on immigration and high-tech workers.

During a speech on the Senate floor last week, Sessions said "Why doesn't Mr. Zuckerberg call his friend (former Microsoft Chairman Bill) Gates and say, 'I have to hire a few hundred people, do you have any resumes you could send over here? Maybe I wouldn't have to bring in somebody from a foreign country to take a job that an unemployed American might take.' 

In response, Andreesen retorted:

Outright slander from an odious hack. Mark has directly & indirectly created 10s, maybe 100s, of thousands of US jobs.

And then followed up with:

Andreessen went on to describe Sessions' comments on Facebook's immigration activism as seeming "clinically insane," stressing the number of jobs created by the social media giant.

Andreessen's criticism wasn't limited to just Sessions, however. He added a parting shot, saying Sessions' comments are the "kind of thing that will guarantee that the Republican Party never wins a national election ever again." 

This is from a self-described "former Democrat" who backed Clinton & Gore, but decided it was time to "make the switch" when he turned 40. That unusual political mid-life crisis turned Andreesen into a big-time Mitt Romney supporter who donated $100k to the campaign via a super PAC. 

Although Andreesen is quite possibly correct that it will be some time before we elect another Republican president, Alabama's senator is sitting in a pretty safe seat.  The Alabama Democratic Party failed to field even a sacrificial candidate, leaving law professor Victor Sanchez to fight to get ballot access as an independent candidate.

 

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Police Militarization Trickling Down To Universities & Community Colleges

by: countrycat

Mon Sep 15, 2014 at 06:00:00 AM CDT

The frat parties must be a lot wilder now than when I was in school.  Why else would American colleges & universities need MRAPs, M-16s, & mortuary wraps?  The increasing militarization of local police forces (even in Alabama) has gotten a lot of attention lately, but the military hardware flowing to American campuses has gotten less attention.Campus Military Police

Until the Chronicle of Higher Education, pointed it out with a laser sight:

More than 100 colleges and universities have received equipment from the Department of Defense 1033 program since 1998, including office supplies, guns, vehicles, and even grenade launchers. Browse the complete list below. 

The Chronicle has requested but not yet received complete data from Alabama, Hawaii, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington D.C. 

An addendum notes that some articles may have been returned to the DOD, but you have to ask why the colleges received this stuff in the first place?  For example:

University of Alabama in Huntsville 

  • 5 M-16s
  • 1 typewriter
  • 18 Axes 
(from high tech to low)  

Arizona State University 

  • 70 M-16s 

Butte College Police Department 

  •  4 M-16s 

Saddleback College Police Department 

  • Mine Resistant Vehicle 

Eastern Connecticut State University Police Department 

  • 21 M-16s 

University of Delaware Police Department 

  • 10 M-16s
  • 100 Gauze Bandages (think that's enough?) 

Purdue at West Lafayette University 

  • 25 M-16s  

University of Maryland at College Park Police Department 

  • 1 Armored Truck
  • 4 M-14s
  • 50 M-16s
  • 16 12 Gauge Riot-type Shotguns 

Lincoln University (MO) Police - is kind of old-school 

  • 20 Bayonets  

Hinds Community College - well... isn't 

  • 1 M-79 grenade launcher 
  • 2 M-16s 

University of Akron - tends toward practicality 

  •  34 pairs of "extreme cold weather drawers."  ie... long underwear
  • 40 blankets
  • 72 pairs of cold weather overalls
  • 2 pressure washers 

University of Cincinnati Police Department - things get grimmer farther South 

  •  11 M-16s 

Mid-America Christian University - um... Onward Christian Soliders? 

  •  5 .45 handguns
  • 1 M-14
  • 5 M-16s 

And the creepiest?  James Madison University got 12 mortuary wraps.

Let's think for a minute about the kind of training US soldiers get before we turn them loose anywhere with M-16s.  Let's think how much training police officers get before they start patroling.  Now, let's think about local college and university security offices & police departments.

Are you feeling safe yet?

At Kent State,  National Guard troops fired 64 rounds at a group of unarmed students, killing 4 and wounding 9.  The volley lasted 13 seconds.  Think of the casualty count if they'd been half-trained college security guards firing M16s.

What kind of country are we becoming & how much are we willing to accept?

 

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Decatur Animal Control Director Latest Casualty In Spay/Neuter Clinic Dispute?

by: countrycat

Thu Sep 11, 2014 at 12:30:39 PM CDT

Decatur Mayor Don Kyle fired Carol Wicks, director of the Decatur animal shelter, yesterday and listed a variety of complaints against her.  But this one really stood out: Another allegation claimed she “alienated the local veterinarian community” by using a spay/neuter clinic in Huntsville rather than hiring local veterinarians.

So... a public employee who wanted to stretch every dollar she could, save taxpayer money, and treat more animals didn't play well with the local Greedy Vets Club? 

This action comes several weeks after Kyle placed Wicks on administrative leave and had her escorted from her office.  Reportedly, he was angry that the department (which recently faced staff cuts) wasn't responding to "coyote calls."

Ginger Speidel, a 16-year volunteer at the shelter, said two police officers escorted Wicks from the Beltline Road Southwest building Wednesday. She said the city also changed the locks on the shelter.

“It’s like the Spanish Inquisition,” Speidel said. 

It sounds like Mayor Kyle convened his own "Kangaroo Court" modeled on the one the ASBVME used against Dr. Weber.  The charges against Wicks sound sort of familiar - as does the conduct of the mayor:

“You have been insubordinate in your dealings with me concerning the conditions of the facility, refusing to implement my suggestions, publicizing our discussions, forwarding emails intended for you only and intentionally trying to embarrass or publicly demean me to avoid following my directives,” Kyle wrote in a letter to Wicks on Aug. 20.

Kyle and Wicks had a public dispute last October, when Wicks said she could only meet a directive from Kyle on reducing the population of the shelter by killing 100 healthy, adoptable animals. A public furor followed, with stories published internationally. 

In both Kyle’s list of allegations and his termination letter, he references minutes of a meeting of the Animal Shelter Board that he said detailed problems at the shelter.

The City Clerk’s office, the repository of minutes of city boards, on Wednesday provided the most recent minutes it had received from the Animal Shelter Board. They were from a March 20, 2013, meeting that included no criticisms of Wicks. Wicks is listed as having attended that meeting and all other meetings in 2012 and 2013. 

Oh, but there was a board meeting last November that Wicks' wasn't invited to.  It's a lot easier to demean and denigrate someone who's not physically present, after all.

Mayor Kyle seems to want to model the Decatur shelter after Dr. Robert Pitman's "Dog Pound" in Athens.  It's a kill shelter where ASBVME board member and spay/neuter clinic opponent, Pitman receives $300,000 each year in public money to house & kill unwanted animals.  A decrease in the stray population decreases his income.

While Wicks was working to create a shelter where cats & dogs have a reasonable chance of being adopted - and using volunteers as much as possible to save money - Kyle has a different vision for his city's animal control department:

“The City Council wanted a greater emphasis on adoptions,” Mays said. “From the beginning, Mayor Kyle wanted a ‘catch-and-kill’ pound. Carol tried to do what the council wanted, and the mayor couldn’t accept it.”

Wicks has an attorney & is preparing to fight her termination.  Let's hope for her sake - and for Decatur's animals - that she wins. 

 

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AL-05 - Mark Bray: Running To Serve The People & District - Not Himself

by: countrycat

Tue Sep 09, 2014 at 09:30:46 AM CDT

AL-05 Independent candidate Mark Bray stressed his "true" independence last week while speaking to a heavily Democratic crowd in Madison.  "I'm not a Republican," he told the crowd.  "In fact, some in the Republican party have been trying to label me a Democrat.  But I'm neither.  I chose Independent because that's exactly who I am." 

Mark Bray

Bray urged the crowd to move beyond partisan labels, stressing that no matter what our party, religion, background, etc. that we're all pretty much the same underneath:

"I've visited police officers, firefighters,  first responders, doctors, nurses.... and you know what we all are?  Problem solvers!  That's what we all are: we get up every day and we do our jobs & we solve the problems that are in front of us. 

But Washington is unable to do what we do every day."

Bray said that he has seen a hunger for new faces & new solutions.  People are tired of the rhetoric and the gridlock - particularly young people. 

"Something is happening in this country.  I'm not the only Independent out there.  There are 92 Independents for Congress (House & Senate) this year.

This is a movement. People are tired - I'm tired - of partisan politics.  I'm tried of good bills & good solutions  to the problems we all know we face sitting in committee because both parties at the national level want to use it to pound the other one in the next election. 

If they continue, and we don't send someone up there who can lead and put solutions on the table, you will continue to see voter apathy.  

You'll see a generation aged 40 & under - they believe we've lost already.  They don't think this country can be saved.  I wouldn't be running if I believed that."

With no Democrat in the race, Bray is the district's only hope to get "foot-in-mouth Mo" out of Congress.  This district is incredibly dependent on Federal spending, from the defense installations in Huntsville to NASA to TVA  to disaster aid after tornadoes & floods.  And yet we have a Congressman who goes out of his way to insult the administration, his colleagues, and turns his back on his fellow Americans who have also suffered national disasters - even as he represents the most tornado-prone area in the country.

Learn more about Mark Bray at his campaign Web site and find him on Facebook.  He personally answers messages: you'll never get a canned "thank you for contacting me" response from Bray.  

The entire 6-minute clip of his speech is on the flip.

 

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SD-13 - Darrell Turner: "We've Been Left Behind In East Alabama"

by: countrycat

Mon Sep 08, 2014 at 17:05:28 PM CDT

The people of State Senate District 13 haven't had adequate leadership for years, says Democratic candidate Darrell Turner.  He's stepped up to challenge incumbent Senator Gerald Dial, a man who drew the lines for his own "dream district" as chair of the legislature's redistricting committee.

Darrell Turner

Dial got a huge scare in the "Republican wave" year of 2010, when he almost lost to Democratic challenger Greg Varner by about 400 votes.  Concerned by Dial's actions in the legislature (we've covered his antics here at LIA), Turner decided to run and "bring representation back to the people."

During an interview last week with LIA, Turner discussed his priorities for District 13.  "We've been left behind in East Alabama," he explained. Turner noted that "some people" are doing great, but then described the poverty rates, high unemployment rates, and lack of infrastructure needed to attract industry.

He mocked Senator Dial's support for a bill that would have replaced all Alabama public school paper textbooks with digital textbooks on iPads & computers.  Most of those systems require students to access content online to take quizzes and do homework, so Turner wondered if Dial has actually visited the district lately:


"Cell phone service in large parts of the district is practically non-existent.  

I'm not against progress; I'm for progress.   But I don't know that rural East Alabama is ready to go 100% digital.  

Many children don't have cell phones.  They don't have phones in the homes. Many homes in the district don't even have indoor plumbing today.  We're living in another time in East Alabama."

Turner also discussed concerns that his opponent is out of touch with the district.  Dial is, after all, the Senator who announced that he was "too busy" to meet with constituents during the 2010 legislative session. 

"The people of East Alabama haven't had representation in a while.  If you're a special interest and you're connected, it's easy to get in and talk to whoever you want to see.  But let some Regular Joe go to the statehouse and ask to speak to the Senator.... he's hard to find."

Turner won't be hard to find. He pledges to stand up for the people that Dial has either forgotten about or never cared about in the first place.

Watch the video clip - and then donate at Darrell Turner's campaign Web site

 

 

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Calling Young Alabama Reproductive Justice Activists! Training in Tuscaloosa Oct. 24-26th

by: countrycat

Mon Sep 08, 2014 at 15:29:07 PM CDT

URGE - Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity - invites young (age 17-25) Alabama activists to attend the "Reproductive Justice Leadership Institute" training in Tuscaloosa next month.  The weekend-long retreat will "introduct young activists to the reproductive justice movement and basic organizing skills.

Travel & hotel expenses are covered!  The last day to apply is September 15, so please help get the word out.  Apply at http://www.urge.org/get-involved

 
About the organization:

URGE envisions a world where all people have agency over their own bodies and relationships, and the power, knowledge, and tools to exercise that agency. URGE builds this vision by engaging young people in creating and leading the way to sexual and reproductive justice for all by providing training, field mobilization, and national leadership for a youth-driven agenda 

 

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National GOP Fundraising Appeal: Get Your GHWB "Rainbow Socks" While You Can!

by: countrycat

Sun Sep 07, 2014 at 16:19:19 PM CDT

Is this a clumsy outreach to the GLBTQ community or just a bizarre new fashion trend? The GOP is offering contributors an "opportunity" to be a fashion plate:  "Bold Socks Aren't Just For Fridays, Anymore!"  Get your George H. W. Bush rainbow socks while they last, campers.  What a fashion statement to pair with your deck shoes at the Kennebunkport Yacht Club....  All for the bargain price of $35/pair.

Seriously, this is what happens when I check my spam folder - a truly bizarre, but seemingly earnest fundraising email from the national Republican Party.  Can't wait to see Pat Robertson sporting a pair on the 700 Club next week.

GHWB Rainbow Socks 

This is a cartoon just begging for a caption, but I've had a long, busy weekend.  Y'all offer your suggestions! 

 

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SD-01 - Mike Curtis: "Government Works When You Compromise."

by: countrycat

Sat Sep 06, 2014 at 14:47:59 PM CDT

During a short interview with Left in Alabama at the Hot Dogs & Yellow Dogs event 9/4, Mike Curtis outlined some of the major reasons he's running for the seat of retiring Senator Tammy Irons.  Curtis served one term in the Alabama House before losing his seat in 2010.  He's also served on the Lawrence County Commission, and his knowledge and experience would be a welcome addition to the fractious Alabama Legislature.

Mike Curtis

We started out asking him about his campaign & why he decided to step up and run again.  His first reason?  Term limits.  That sounds a bit incongruous, but Curtis explained his reasoning perfectly: 

  • He suggests a limit of 3 terms, which gives the incoming senator/representative a "learning" term: how legislation moves, how the chamber works, establish relationships, etc.
  • But after that, representatives become more interested in keeping their jobs than doing their jobs, so they don't serve their districts as well.
  • Refreshingly, Curtis noted that "it's time to get some younger people in government."

He also decried the way the GOP supermajority has run the Legislature since winning in 2010: 

As a Democrat, I never had to sign a pledge that I would support what the Democrats told me to do down in Montgomery.  If I thought the bill was good for my district & the state, it didn't matter who sponsored it, I voted for it.

That's not happening now.  We have a supermajority down there in Montgomery that is a dictatorship. There's no debate on bills.  When I was in the house from 2006 to 2010, we clotured bills maybe 3 times.  This supermajority in the House has already clotured over 400 times.

That's a dictatorship & a lot of people don't know that's happening.  

Curtis also wondered when teachers "became the enemy" in this state.  A child & grandchild of teachers, he recognizes the value of quality education in Alabama and expressed willingness to work with people of good will no matter what the party.  "Without compromise in politics," he noted, "you can't get anything done."

Well... you can if you have a supermajority and invoke cloture 400 times, but that doesn't mean that the legislation is helping the state as a whole.  Big business & wealthy contributors are doing great.  The unemployed workers & struggling small businesses?  Not so much. 

Learn more about Mike Curtis at his campaign Web site and/or connect with him on Facebook.

 

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Why Doesn't Alabama Vote? Take The Survey.

by: countrycat

Wed Sep 03, 2014 at 12:15:00 PM CDT

In Alabama, the number of people registered to vote & the number of registered voters who actually turn out both have declined.  In 1998, almost three quarters of eligible Alabama residents were registered and 51% voted in that year's election.  But in 2010, voter registration had falled to 63% and participation in the election was just 43%.

ballot box

What the heck happened?

Empower Alabama wants to know and is asking people to fill out a short voting survey.  Do you vote in midterm elections?  Why or why not?

Take the survey & let's find out what's going on. 

About the group:  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.  

 

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From Spay/Neuter Clinics To Teeth Whitening - Alabama's Professional Boards Under Scrutiny

by: countrycat

Wed Sep 03, 2014 at 10:13:28 AM CDT

In 2011, the Alabama Legislature amended the Dental Practice Act to prohibit anyone but licensed dentists from selling over-the-counter teeth whitening products & providing a space for customers to apply the products to their teeth.  The law was passed in response to pressure from licensed dentists in the state who were concerned about competition from spas, salons, & other businesses.

This isn't unique to Alabama.  The Des Moines Register reported extensively on that state's license boards, noting the same situation that we've seen in Alabama with the Alabama State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners (ASBVME):

Some licensing boards are obviously important to protect public safety by ensuring workers have certain minimum education and training. Yet the licensing boards, often composed largely of industry insiders, may limit competition and protect the economic interests of the workers they are supposed to regulate.

Worse, lawmakers have helped these boards do exactly that. Among the most egregious examples of this: In 2009, the Legislature approved an amendment to Iowa law that ensured only dentists can provide teeth-whitening services.
[...]
The Iowa Dental Board investigations into teeth-whitening businesses were not prompted by consumers who had been injured. Almost all resulted from dentists tattling on their competitors.

Limiting who can whiten teeth isn’t about protecting public health. It’s about ensuring only dentists capture revenue from the lucrative service. (Members of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry collect an average of $25,000 annually for whitening teeth, according to the Institute for Justice.) 

Sound familiar?  The Alabama Veterinary Practice Owners Association & some members of the ASBVME have regularly railed against the "unfair competition" from low-cost spay & neuter clinics in Alabama. This spring, the ASBVME forced a Birmingham-area veterinarian to sharply curtail services to be provided at an off-site vaccination clinic after another vet complained that it was "unfair competition."

Like Iowa and Alabama dental boards, the ASBVME is being run less as a health & public safety board than a profit-protection racket. 

The teeth whitening bill is even more egregious because consumers can buy teeth whitening products in stores & online and apply them at home.  However, if a non-dentist offers the service at a spa, salon, or standalone shop (at a fraction of the price many dentists charge), they can be charged with practicing dentistry without a license.  Even a dental hygienist who has received special training in the process and regularly applies the products in a dentist's office is prohibited from providing it outside the office.

That may change.  Tomorrow, attorneys from the Institute for Justice, a Libertarian-leaning public interest law firm, will be in court in Birmingham to challenge Alabama's law.  From the group's press release:

Represented by the Institute for Justice, teeth-whitening entrepreneurs Joyce Osborn Wilson and Keith Westphal filed a lawsuit last year challenging a 2011 Alabama law that makes it a crime for non-dentists to sell over-the-counter teeth-whitening products and provide a clean, comfortable place for customers to apply the products to their own teeth. Passed in response to pressure from licensed dentists, the law can subject entrepreneurs like Wilson and Westphal to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine for any violations.
[...]
Teeth-whitening products are regulated by the FDA as cosmetics, which means anyone—even a minor—can purchase them and apply them to their own teeth without a prescription and without supervision or instruction. Despite the safety of these products, at least 30 states have taken action to prohibit non-dentist from offering teeth whitening services. 

I'm really neutral on the topic of teeth whitening, but not at all unbiased on the topic of state licensing boards that use their power to protect the privilege and profits of the professionals they're supposed to be regulating.

If the teeth-whitening business people can defeat the dentists, maybe there's real hope for Alabama's spay & neuter clinics to win in court as well.

Here's the IIJ's background information on the issue.

 

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List of Alabama 2014 Democratic State & Legislative Candidates With Contact Information

by: countrycat

Tue Sep 02, 2014 at 10:58:03 AM CDT

Interested in volunteering for a campaign or just want to learn more about the Democratic candidates running?  Here's a list of 2014 Democrats running for state constitutional offices & for the legislature.  

My preferred link for the candidates was to their campaign Web sites, but not all candidates have those up yet.  If I couldn't find a campaign site, I linked to the candidate's Facebook page.  Some candidates don't have either, so there's no link for their names.

If we've left anyone out or missed a Web site/FB page, please let us know!  Once the list is complete, we'll turn this into a static reference page with a link in the sidebar. 

Congressional 1st District Burton R. LeFlore
Congressional 2nd District Erick Wright
Congressional 3rd District Jesse T. Smith
Congressional 6th District Mark Lester
Congressional 7th district Terri A. Sewell
State Representative 001 Greg Burdine
State Representative 002 Andrew  "Andy" Betterton
State Representative 003 Marcel Black
State Representative 005 Henry A. White
State Representative 007 Jody Letson
State Representative 008 Rex Cheatham
State Representative 016 Daniel H. Boman
State Representative 017 Don Barnwell
State Representative 018 Johnny Mack Morrow
State Representative 019 Laura Hall
State Representative 021 C. Terry Jones
State Representative 022 Dennis W. Stephens
State Representative 023 John Robinson
State Representative 024 David Beddingfield
State Representative 027 Jeff McLaughlin
State Representative 028 Craig Ford
State Representative 029 Michael J. Gladden
State Representative 032 Barbara Bigsby Boyd
State Representative 033 Anthony Zachero
State Representative 037 Josh Burns
State Representative 039 Richard Lindsey
State Representative 040 Ted Copland
State Representative 047 Salvatore Bambinelli
State Representative 052 John W. Rogers, Jr.
State Representative 053 Anthony Daniels
State Representative 054 Patricia Todd
State Representative 055 Roderick "Rod" Scott
State Representative 056 Louise Alexander
State Representative 057 Merika Coleman
State Representative 058 Oliver Robinson
State Representative 059 Mary Moore
State Representative 059 William A. Barnes
State Representative 060 Juandalynn "LeLe" Givan
State Representative 065 Elaine Beech
State Representative 067 Darrio Melton
State Representative 068 Thomas E "Action" Jackson
State Representative 069 Kelvin J. Lawrence
State Representative 070 Christopher John England
State Representative 071 Artis (A.J.) McCampbell
State Representative 072 Ralph A. Howard
State Representative 074 Zack Buckner
State Representative 075 Therese Ford
State Representative 076 Thad McClammy
State Representative 077 John Knight
State Representative 078 Alvin Holmes
State Representative 079 Shirley Scott-Harris
State Representative 080 Tillman Pugh
State Representative 081 Dylan V. Oliver
State Representative 082 Pebblin W. Warren
State Representative 083 George "Tootie" Bandy
State Representative 084 Berry Forte
State Representative 085 Dexter Grimsley
State Representative 089 Joel Lee Williams
State Representative 090 Walton Hickman
State Representative 093 Jennifer Marsden
State Representative 097 Adline C. Clarke
State Representative 098 Napoleon Bracy, Jr.
State Representative 099 James E. Buskey
State Representative 103 Barbara Drummond
State Senator 01 Mike Curtis
State Senator 04 Angelo "Doc" Mancuso
State Senator 06 Roger Bedford, Jr.
State Senator 07 Bryan Bennett
State Senator 08 Horace Clemmons
State Senator 10 Larry Means
State Senator 11 Ron Crumpton
State Senator 12 Taylor Stewart
State Senator 13 Darrell Turner
State Senator 16 Cindy Bell
State Senator 18 Rodger Smitherman
State Senator 19 Priscilla Dunn
State Senator 20 Linda Coleman
State Senator 21 Phil Poole
State Senator 22Susan Smith
State Senator 23 Hank Sanders
State Senator 24 Bobby Singleton
State Senator 26 Quinton T. Ross
State Senator 27 Haylee Moss
State Senator 28 Billy Beasley
State Senator 31 Larry Greenwood
State Senator 33 Vivian Davis Figures
State Senator 35 Beau Doolittle
AL School Board 4 Yvette M. Richardson
Attorney General Joe Hubbard
Commissioner of Agriculture Doug "New Blue" Smith
Governor Parker Griffith
Lt. Governor James C. Fields, Jr.
Secretary of State Lula Albert-Kaigler
State Auditor Miranda Karrine Joseph

Do you know your state House or Senate district?  Find it here at the Alabama Legislature's ZIP code search

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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 were 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 reporters 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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