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The Blue Wall, The Electoral College, and The NPV Bill

by: felicia531

Sun Nov 23, 2014 at 03:43:31 AM CST

( - promoted by countrycat)

A recent DailyKos article points out that the electoral college map looks very bad for Republicans in 2016 and beyond. Just as interesting are the comments and the mention of what's called the National Popular Vote bill and the impact it could have AND how Republicans may already be working to nullify the bill and it's impact on them, should it pass.

In a careful analysis, Ladd builds a case: The Midterms of 2014 demonstrate the continuation of a 20 year old trend. Republicans are disappearing from the competitive landscape at the national level where the population is the largest utilizing a declining electoral base of aging, white, and rural voters. As a result no GOP candidate on the horizon has a chance at the White House in 2016 and the chance of holding the Senate beyond 2016 is vanishingly small.

Here's the link to the entire article.

I look forward to LIA readers thoughts on this.

The comments are long, but the discussion is worth the read.

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HSV Clinic Protesters Still Can't Figure Out Who The Doctor Is... NOT

by: countrycat

Sat Nov 22, 2014 at 14:01:11 PM CST

In the wake of Judge Mann's scathing decision that dismissed "Rev." James Henderson's zoning lawsuit against the City of Huntsville, Henderson has been MIA from clinic protests. But that hasn't stopped a small group of "regulars" from protesting at the clinic's new location and - more bizarrely - at the previous location as well.

We wrote about the activity at the closed clinic location previously here at LIA, noting the rather misleading sign that one protester was displaying:


This poor, confused woman (who doesn't like to show her face) was trying to brand the pro-choice, female OB-GYN - Dr. Robinson-White - who moved her practice into the building formerly occupied by the Alabama Women's Center, an "abortionist." Since the practice opened, the antis show up regularly to harass women patients arriving for pap smears, pre-natal care, etc.

Just. Because.

Something big happened this week though!  It was some hereto unknown physiological change that we only thought was possible in science fiction and fantasy novels - Dr. Robinson-White seems to have split in half and each half is now a practicing physician - and abortionist.  Or maybe just one doctor is, because the sign says "abortionist," (singular) not "abortionists."  Was this some sort of Jekyll & Hyde situation where the "good half" of the doctor split away from the bad half?  It's impossible to tell from this poorly-worded sign.

 

Grammar matters, people!  Who exactly are we supposed to be outraged at?

  • Dr. Robinson-White who has an OB-GYN practice.
  • Dr. Robinson, miracle of science/nature, who's an abortionist in practice with good Dr. White - also a miracle of science/nature.
  • Good Dr. Robinson, miracle of science/nature, who's in practice with Dr. White, an abortionist who's also a miracle of science/nature.
  • Dr. Robinson AND Dr. White are miracles of science/nature AND abortionists.

Inquiring minds want to know.  Except that few are curious enough to approach these products of the gene pool's shallow end and ask for clarification.

 

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Liars, Damn Liars, and Alabama Republicans

by: countrycat

Thu Nov 20, 2014 at 08:14:01 AM CST

Federal courts have protected lying by politicians as "free speech," but for Alabama Republicans it's a way of life. How else to explain Governor Bentley's sudden realization that Alabama's general fund budget shortfall is not just a whopping $265 million for next year, but a heart-stopping $700 million over "the next few years."  Meaning, we suppose, the rest of his term.Alabama Republican party

Conveniently, the Governor learned of this the day after an election that gave him another term and increased the size of the GOP supermajority in the Legislature.

The day after he won a landslide re-election victory for a second term, Gov. Robert Bentley was given an extensive briefing on the money-troubled general fund.

That is the pot of dollars which pay for prisons, Medicaid, public safety and most state needs not related to public schools.

If the timing of the Governor's briefing isn't suspicious to you, I have a nice State House for sale in Montgomery.  Oh wait... it's already been purchased by a consortium led by Alabama Power & Mike Hubbard. 

Hmmm.... so we need $700 million over the next couple of years to fill meet even the very basic levels of state services in Alabama.  Let's look at how the GOP supermajority spent money during their first term at the helm of state government:

But even those crazy expenditures pale before the amount of corporate welfare that the state has doled out seemingly to any out-of-state corporation that asked.

Of course, if the Governor has his way, the corporate welfare payments may not affect the General Fund in the future - because the Education budget will be footing the bill.  It's part of his unique "eat what you kill" funding strategy.

But don't worry campers!  There's a solution for all you people who have lost your jobs or who haven't been able to find one in Bentley's economy.  There may be a job waiting for you  in prison.

The Alabama Department of Corrections is preparing to seek federal approval to place private businesses' production facilities inside prison walls, joining 38 states that allow businesses to use inmate labor on prison grounds.

Prior to 2010, we were no fans of the Democratic majority in the legislature, but that was because they had the power to make things in the state better - tax reform, remove sales tax on food, ethics reform, constitution reform, etc. -  but each year, those proposals died as the leadership preferred the status quo.

But the frenetic activity of the GOP supermajority has, in four short years, surpassed any damage the Democrats did with their inertia. Alabama voters re-elected them - resoundingly - and we're going to quite literally be paying the bills for years to come.

 

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Have A Union-Made Thanksgiving Dinner

by: countrycat

Wed Nov 19, 2014 at 11:00:00 AM CST

Support your union brothers & sisters when shopping for your Thanksgiving day supplies. The AFL-CIO makes it easy with their annual compilation of union-made food, beer, wine, and sweet treats. Make your list now!

Have a union made Thanksgiving 

While you're shopping for your family's feast, please remember the large number of families that often go hungry.  Unfortunately, many working parents just don't make enough to feed their families.  From the Center for Budget & Policy Priorities:

Work rates are high among SNAP households that can work.  SNAP has become increasingly effective at supporting work among households that can work.  More than half of SNAP households with at least one working-age, non-disabled adult work while receiving SNAP — and more than 80 percent work in the year prior to or the year after receiving SNAP.  The rates are even higher for families with children:  more than 60 percent work while receiving SNAP, and almost 90 percent work in the prior or subsequent year. 

During this time of year, many organizations hold food drives and some grocers have promotions where you can purchase food bags at different price levels. When you donate to help the almost 1 million food insecure Alabama residents, remember to buy union-made products.

A strong labor movement helps create a strong and vibrant middle class. Living wages and benefits are the best ways to help families and our communities.

 

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Important Information About ACA Open Enrollment - Apply Even If You Think You Don't Qualify!

by: countrycat

Wed Nov 19, 2014 at 07:00:00 AM CST

Open enrollment for 2015 started Saturday at HealthCare.gov and 100,000 people completed applications for coverage. That's compared to 6 people who completed applications during the first day of open enrollment in 2013.  So yes, Virginia, the health care marketplace is open and working!

Obamacare 

Here are some important things to know about open enrollment this year.  Most of this information is courtesy of the Alabama Affordable Care Advocates FaceBook page that's administered by Joann Cummings, an ACA navigator. This page is an excellent resource for information and enrollment advice.

Here are some takeways from recent posts. Blockquoted items are taken directly from the group's FB posts:

1.  Even if you think/know that your income is below the Federal Poverty Line & you don't qualify for Medicaid in Alabama, complete an application anyway.

Ffill out an ACA application - and get the "ineligible" notification anyway. WHY? Because you never know WHAT might happen in 2015! Your fortunes may turn, and you MAY get a good-paying job (that doesn't offer insurance) that boosts your family income above poverty level for the year.

If THAT were to happen, and it is after the Open Enrollment period (after Feb 15), you would then be eligible to enter the Marketplace during a "Special Enrollment Period", and sign up for ACA insurance. BUT, without your application NOW, you won't have the proof documented that you were income ineligible during open enrollment.

This year, we DID have people that this happened to, and it was difficult to prove ineligible income before they were eligible for SEP.

IF you do get that job that boosts your income over the 100% FPL threshold, you have 30-60 days to enroll in the SEP.

https://www.healthcare.gov/gloss…/special-enrollment-period/

2.  Shop Around!  There's a new insurer in Alabama to compete with BCBS and Humana.  United Healthcare is offering plans statewide.

Be careful, though: United offers a very slim network and you're very restricted with doctors and hospitals in the network.  This isn't as big of a deal in larger cities, but could really hurt people in small towns & rural areas with few provider options.

Also, even if your doctor is in the United Health Care network, the hospital where he/she has admitting privileges may not be.  I'm not saying don't use United, but do your homework before signing up!

3.  Don't just "re-up" your current coverage based on the letter from your current insurer.

If you got a tax credit for this year, you may need to update your projected 2015 income information to recalculate the credit amount. Also, prices/deductibles/coverage, etc. have changed somewhat on the exchange.

For instance, the plan we have currently is going up $20/month, but BCBS is offering a new HSA-eligible (Health Savings Account) plan this year.  An HSA allows you to buy a high-deductible policy and pay your out-of-pocket costs (OOP) with pre-tax money.  With an HSA, I could have paid for my new contact lens out of my HSA account and used before-tax dollars.

The HSA plan is $300 less a month (for our family - your results can and will vary!), but we've never met our current, lower deductible so we're going to give it a try.  Once you meet the deductible, everything is covered at 100%.

4.  Yes, lower premium prices mean higher deductibles. But that's how insurance works.

There's a lot of angst online with people griping about a "$6,000 deductible!" And that is a lot to people with low incomes (although many low income applicants are eligible for cost sharing, meaning that your deductible may be as low as $1750 - you'll know for sure when you complete your application).

Some disgruntled shoppers vow to go without coverage because of high deductibles.  Here's why that's a bad idea.

  • You lose access to no-cost preventative coverage like annual physicals, mammograms, colonoscopies, and other procedures.  You don't think that adds up? The cash price for a colonscopy can range from $2,000 to $5,000.  There's your deductible. 
  • When you do visit the doctor or hospital, you're charged the "rack rate."  If they'll see you at all. With insurance, your out of pocket costs paid before the deductible are less than what uninsured patients pay. So the doctor may chage $75 for an office visit, but BCBS pays $39.  When you visit the doctor, you pay the BCBS rate of $39.  An uninsured patient gets billed the full $75. 

    It's the same with lab tests.  At my last physical, the "rack rate" bill for bloodwork was $238.  BCBS negotiated rate was $43.78.  That's what I paid, NOT the $238.

Even if you have to take the lowest priced policy available, get insured.  It costs you short-term, but the risks to your physical health and financial health are huge!

Chargemaster

5.  Check tax credit prices & policies off-site at ValuePenguin to get a quick estimate of your costs and coverage options.

I've always liked to use the Value Penguin website for the fastest way to evaluate the ACA premiums, without going into the Federal website. For one thing, it easily separates the policies by "metal level", and for another, if you want to change a variable- like your estimated income level- you can do it on the SAME page without backtracking and re-inputting the other variables.

Well - they already have the new 2015 tables incorporated into their database, so I am recommending that you look at them. In fact, if you want to do a price comparison with last year, they actually have the 2014 data STILL available. So if you are curious, I would look (before the data disappears).

http://www.valuepenguin.com/ppaca/exchanges/al

6.  Your premium increase may simply due to your age.

If you are older than 45, the actuary tables allow insurers to increase your rates ~4.5% per year (it is FLATTER for those younger than 45). So your premium should go up JUST because you are ONE YEAR OLDER than last year.

And here's ammo to combat the misconceptions of people who think that the tax credits are "free stuff" to "takers."  Chances are, those same people have been "taking" for years without realizing it:

Good luck to you all, happy shopping, & here's to a great, healthy 2015! 

 

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AL-07 Rep. Terri Sewell To Host Congressman Chris Van Hollen Dec. 4

by: countrycat

Tue Nov 18, 2014 at 11:00:00 AM CST

This is an excellent opportunity to meet & hear from members of the House Democratic leadership. Alabama's Congresswoman Terri Sewell is hosting Chris Van Hollen, ranking member of the House Budget Committee & former chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.Terri Sewell

The event is billed as a "Dinner & Congressional Conversation," and will be held at the Harbert Center in Birmingham on December 4th.  Tickets start at $100 - get more ticket information here.

Rep. Sewell is Alabama's lone Democratic House member.  She's an important voice for Alabama and isn't afraid of controversy.  Sewell was a leading critic of the infamous HB-56 immigraion law and brought a star-studded lineup of leaders to Birmingham to fight it.  She also recently called for the impeachment of federal Judge Mark Fuller.

All the details:
Thursday, December 4, 2014
6:30pm Reception
7:00pm Dinner
The Harbert Center
2019 Fourth Avenue North
Birmingham, Alabama


For more information, contact Emma Tolbert at emma@terrisewellforcongress.com or 205-739-9233

 

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Don Siegelman Back In Court & On The Big Screen

by: countrycat

Tue Nov 18, 2014 at 08:05:22 AM CST

Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman got some good news last week. His case was removed from Judge Mark Fuller's court and given to US District Judge Clay Land of Georgia. The judge has ordered Siegelman to be present at the December 15 hearing, so he will be moved from his prison cell in Louisiana to Montgomery.Killing Atticus Finch

Siegelman's lawyers have asked the judge to release the former governor from prison until his appeal before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals is resolved.

Federal courts have previously refused to release Siegelman, but his defense lawyers argue his appeal has gone on much longer than anticipated.

"Release is particularly warranted given the lengthy and repeated delays that have prolonged and prevented final adjudication of Siegelman's appeal," defense lawyer Jeffery C. Duffey wrote in an Oct. 31 court filing.

Duffey said briefs to the 11th Circuit were completed in 2013, but oral arguments have been repeatedly delayed. The arguments are now scheduled for January.

The hearing will determine whether Siegelman will be released while his appeal is being heard.  The hearing begins at 10:30 December 15 in Montgomery.

All pending cases have been moved from Judge Fuller's courtroom; he's busy fighting domestic violence charges.

In other Siegelman news, an independent filmmaker, Steve Wimberley of Los Angeles, has begun a Kickstarter campaign to produce a documentary about the Siegelman case.  Titled "Killing Atticus Finch," it's an overview of Siegelman's case, his prosecution, Karl Rove's role, and how the case has been handled since Siegelman's conviction.

Watch the trailer:

Wimberley is trying to raise $125,000 for this project.  The deadline to contribute is December 14.  Learn more about the documentary and Siegelman's case at the "Killing Atticus Finch" kickstarter page.

 

 

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Alabama's Poor Have It Worse Than Most - And It's Not Getting Better

by: countrycat

Mon Nov 17, 2014 at 11:21:13 AM CST

It sucks to be poor anywhere. In Alabama though, the deck is really stacked against you from the git go and those who snarkily suggest you "pull yourself up by your own bootstraps" seem willfully blind to the fact that you're barefoot.  Let's look at how one of the most religious states in the country treats the least of those among us.

Poor in Alabama 

The only citizens that state government truly cares about, it seems, are those with open checkbooks & big bank accounts.  It's easy to mouth religious platititudes - Alabama politicians of both parties do it all the time - but that's as far as it goes.  The only "religious precepts" these clowns are willing to enact are those that restrict the civil rights of women & the GLBT community.

It's ironic that the areas of the state that suffer the most from the policies are, by and large, now the base of support for the Alabama Republican Party. The party has done that part of their job well.  But what they're doing to the state as a whole is a crime.

 

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Heck Yeah! Lawsuit Dismissed: Huntsville Clinic Stays OPEN

by: countrycat

Fri Nov 14, 2014 at 17:32:29 PM CST

Judge Alan Mann today dismissed "with prejudice" a lawsuit filed by anti-choice activists against the City of Huntsville. The suit alleged that the city was violating its own zoning ordinances when it allowed the Alabama Women's Center to open at its new location. The judge saw it differently, and the clinic (which reopened in late October) is now free to continue to provide reproductive health services to the women of Alabama - and soon, possibly women from Tennessee.

Huntsville women's clinic is open for business

It's the second bit of good news pro-choice advocates have had in the past few weeks.  One bright spot in a otherwise dismal mid-term election was the defeat of local political opportunist Chris Horn, who tried to turn the clinic's location in a majority-minority neighborhood into an election issue that would get him to the Alabama Legislature.  Voters saw through that charade though and elected Anthony Daniels instead.  Really: all you had to do was drive by the clinic and see that the "neighborhood" wasn't protesting - only this crew of regular faces of anti-choice Huntsville.

faces of anti-choice huntsville

The dismissal of this lawsuit is no small victory for the clinic owner.  Remember what he has been through.  Not just having to relocate his business due to the TRAP laws, he's had to put up with this sort of clapTRAP:

This has to be galling for head protester & pseudo-preacher James Henderson, who told the judge in this case that he was sure he was "more qualified" to interpret zoning regulations than the city's long-time zoning board administrator, James McGuffey.  Henderson was also recorded giving legal advice to a federal judge who called out the Huntsville protesters' bad behavior: "Mind your own business and stay out of ours."

Well, Mr. Henderson... take that advice to heart. Mind your own damn business and let the women who visit the clinic make their own medical decisions. 

Kudos again to the brave men and women of the Alabama Reproductive Rights Advocates who volunteer at clinics across Alabama, track legislation, lobby, and advocate for women's reproductive health issues. They're on the front lines in this battle and they're true heroes for justice.  Why not join them?

 

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Income Inequality: If Democrats Can't Make This Case, We'll All Fall Further Behind

by: countrycat

Fri Nov 14, 2014 at 09:01:59 AM CST

If Democrats have any sense at all, they'll cut themselves loose from their Wall Street wing and start talking to Main Street. People know that the average American is falling behind and they're worried abut the future. Unfortunately, the messaging from Democrats is as muddled as it comes.  They concede the debate by not engaging (Senator Elizabeth Warren excepted) & let Republicans blame immigrants, the poor, people who declare bankruptcy after losing their jobs of getting sick - anybody and anything but policies that reward the wealthy for, well, being wealthy already.

Income inequality 

It's a neat trick succinctly explained by this old joke:

A union employee, a tea party activist and a CEO are sitting at a table with a plate of a dozen cookies in the middle of it. The CEO takes 11 of the cookies, turns to the tea partier and says, “Watch out for that union guy he wants a piece of your cookie.”

The longer they can keep the 99% fighting over crumbs in the streets, the more wealth they can amass for themselves. Bill Moyers points this out in a post on his site, BillMoyers.com

The Richest 0.1 Percent Is About to Control More Wealth Than the Bottom 90 Percent

While a complex web of factors have contributed to the rise in income inequality in America, a new research paper says most of the blame can be largely placed in the immense growth experienced by the top 10th of the richest 1 percent of Americans in recent years. From the report:

The rise of wealth inequality is almost entirely due to the rise of the top 0.1 percent wealth share, from 7 percent in 1979 to 22 percent in 2012, a level almost as high as in 1929. The bottom 90 percent wealth share first increased up to the mid-1980s and then steadily declined. The increase in wealth concentration is due to the surge of top incomes combined with an increase in saving rate inequality.

Even many Republican voters "get it" on some level.  How else can you explain states like Arkansas voting to raise the state's minimum wage? Arkansas is a particular example of the failure of Democratic messaging - and candidates, as this overview of Democratic turnout problems notes:

Why, for example in Arkansas, why did 546,135 voters (65.9%) opt for the minimum wage increase, while electing Asa Hutchinson governor 468,017 (55.4%) to 350,535 (41.5%). Asa Hutchinson, not only didn't back the minimum wage increase but he doesn't back the concept of having a minimum wage at all. Arkansas voters also elected a radical right, anti-minimum wage senator, Tom Cotton 476,309 (56.5%) to 332,669 (39.5%) and 4 Republicans to its 4 House seats-- while growing the state House GOP majority from 51 Republicans to 63 Republicans?

Well, the guy who ran against Hutchinson for governor, Mike Ross, (aside from being a crook) is a Blue Dog who had amassed one of the most conservative, pro-Republican voting records in Congress and was forced to retire in 2012 rather than face certain defeat in the district he had first won over a decade earlier. Of the 4 Democrats running for the congressional seats, none were progressives; all were conservatives with Republican-lite messages for the voters. - See more at: http://downwithtyranny.blogspot.com/2014/11/yes-but-why-didnt-democrats-turn-out-on.html#sthash.IgNk0pWX.dpuf
Why, for example in Arkansas, why did 546,135 voters (65.9%) opt for the minimum wage increase, while electing Asa Hutchinson governor 468,017 (55.4%) to 350,535 (41.5%). Asa Hutchinson, not only didn't back the minimum wage increase but he doesn't back the concept of having a minimum wage at all. Arkansas voters also elected a radical right, anti-minimum wage senator, Tom Cotton 476,309 (56.5%) to 332,669 (39.5%) and 4 Republicans to its 4 House seats-- while growing the state House GOP majority from 51 Republicans to 63 Republicans?

Well, the guy who ran against Hutchinson for governor, Mike Ross, (aside from being a crook) is a Blue Dog who had amassed one of the most conservative, pro-Republican voting records in Congress and was forced to retire in 2012 rather than face certain defeat in the district he had first won over a decade earlier. Of the 4 Democrats running for the congressional seats, none were progressives; all were conservatives with Republican-lite messages for the voters. - See more at: http://downwithtyranny.blogspot.com/2014/11/yes-but-why-didnt-democrats-turn-out-on.html#sthash.IgNk0pWX.dpuf

Why, for example in Arkansas, why did 546,135 voters (65.9%) opt for the minimum wage increase, while electing Asa Hutchinson governor 468,017 (55.4%) to 350,535 (41.5%). Asa Hutchinson, not only didn't back the minimum wage increase but he doesn't back the concept of having a minimum wage at all. Arkansas voters also elected a radical right, anti-minimum wage senator, Tom Cotton 476,309 (56.5%) to 332,669 (39.5%) and 4 Republicans to its 4 House seats-- while growing the state House GOP majority from 51 Republicans to 63 Republicans?

Well, the guy who ran against Hutchinson for governor, Mike Ross, (aside from being a crook) is a Blue Dog who had amassed one of the most conservative, pro-Republican voting records in Congress and was forced to retire in 2012 rather than face certain defeat in the district he had first won over a decade earlier. Of the 4 Democrats running for the congressional seats, none were progressives; all were conservatives with Republican-lite messages for the voters.

So Arkansas voters decided to simultaneously vote for a higher minimum wage even as they elected people who are hostile to it. If that's not political malpractice on the part of the Arkansas Democratic Party, I don't know what is.

Raising the minimum wage won't immediately help the struggling middle class, but it will help the economy.  The people working for minimum wage now immediately pump their money back into the economy, paying for food, clothing, and shelter. According to the Center for Budget & Policy Priorities:

  • About 17 million workers would receive a wage boost; 8 million children live in families with an affected worker.
  • The majority of beneficiaries are women (58 percent).
  • Most are adults (84 percent are over age 20; 47 percent are over 30).
  • Some 54 percent of the benefits of the increase would flow to the bottom third of the workforce, with family income below $40,000.  Some 25 percent of the benefits would flow to the bottom 10 percent of the workforce, with family income below $20,000.
  • The average affected worker brings home half of the family earnings.

Democrats cannot afford to leave the issue of income inequality on the table. Let the Republicans bellow about "class warfare" because it gives us the opportunity to point out that there has been a war and the middle class is losing it.  If the party stays quiet, then we really deserve to lose in 2016.  "Republican Lite" isn't working, y'all.  It's time to change the party's message and the party's leadership.

We have an opportunity.  Let's not squander it.

 

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Privatizing Alabama's Prisons Would Only Help Two Groups: Legislators & Corporate Stockholders

by: countrycat

Thu Nov 13, 2014 at 10:34:19 AM CST

Here's how the Alabama Legislature looks at the world. There isn't enough money to fund essential services (stuff like crime labs, health care, education, and county jail medical care), so a possible solution is to hire for-profit companies to provide those services for less than the state was already paying. Then, the lawmakers can pat themselves on the back for "controlling costs" and move on to the next lobbyist dinner.  Alabama prison privatization

But how is it a solution to hand over an already poorly-funded operation to a company whose main interest is in wringing profit out of it?  Where's that money going to come from?

In terms of prison reform. it comes out of the hides of inmates, their families, and communities. When someone is making a profit from locking people up, there's a strong temptation to incarcerate more people for longer stretches.  Peel back the veneer of "public safety" and you'll often find that "private prisons' profit motive" is really in control.

The dominant argument for private prisons is that they will save taxpayers money, as for-profit owners have an incentive to seek efficiencies bureaucrats overseeing government institutions lack. Anyway, that's the theory. According to the Arizona Republic, the reality is that private prisons in the Grand Canyon State so far cost more on a per-prisoner basis than do public institutions. 

There's a tremendous incentive for the private prison industry to expand. We saw this last week at a "prison overcrowding forum" in Huntsville.  It's a joint venture between the Alabama Media Group and the David Matthews Center for Civc Life - which seems to be a good organization without ulterior motives.

The same cannot be said for some of the people who spoke.

John Zierdt Jr. is an advocate for privatization and suggested the state examine how similar arrangements, specifically with the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), are working in neighboring states.

"I think they offer a very good solution," Zierdt said. "It's a good solution for us because you don't have to do capital expenditures. It's something I think really needs to be looked at."

Randy Hillman, the executive director of the Office of Prosecution Services for the Alabama District Attorneys Association, noted that the overcrowding situation wouldn't be solved with the construction of just one new prison.

"You're going to move inmates into the new facility to keep others from falling in on themselves," he said.

Zierdt said that with privatization there is the possibility to temporarily move inmates to other states where space is available.

"You can pay now or you're going to pay later," he said. "You're going to play later when the fed takes over because you'll still get CCA."

Zierdt isn't just an "advocate for privatization." He has a long history in that industry, running TransCor, a prisoner transport company purchased by - surprise! - CCA - the company he's shilling for now. 

"Moving prisoners around" sounds like a good use of resources, except that it costs families dearly.  A CCA-own for-profit prison in Kentucky houses inmates from Vermont. A Vermont coalition of families, religious groups, & other advocates is asking the state to bring these inmates back to the state. Communities have an interest in reducing recidivism, and one way to do that is for inmates to have family & community support. However, for CCA, recidivism is just another profit-making opportunity.

The private prison industry is already making a killing (sometimes literally) from immigration detention centers. ICE contracts with five corporations that together spent $20 million on lobbying between 1999 & 2009. CCA is a big player:

Corrections Corporation of America by far spends the most on federal lobbying, totaling $18,002,000 from 1999 to 2009. The bulk of this was between 2003 and 2007, when CCA spent between $2,020,000 and $3,800,000 each year, averaging over $3 million per year. 

For-profit prison companies have a lot of money to throw around, but they aren't using much of it to benefit their workforce. The average wage for a private prison employee is barely above minimum wage: $8.25/hour - far less than the wages of Alabama state prison employees.

Private prison employees are often poorly trained.  For instance, at Zierdt's former company, TransCor, employees get 40 hours of in-house training. They were then considered "qualified" to transport prisoners - journeys with conditions so terrible that inmates have sued.

We've already seen how privatization of medical care in county jails has worked in Madison County. Why should we expect that privatizing the entire prison system would produce better results?

The problem in Alabama - and in many states - is that there isn't enough money available for state services and legislators are unwilling to do anything to raise revenue - except maybe hit the poor with more regressive sales taxes. 

Alabama is facing a HUGE budget shortfall - $250 million - this next year and our even stronger GOP supermajority is only interested in cutting more & handing out more corporate welfare payments. They've already had the great idea to turn prison inmates into a compliant workforce for private companies, so it won't be a big leap for them to just get the state out of the prison business altogether.

This next legislative session will be interesting on so many levels.

 

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AL-GOV Hopeful Kevin Bass Pumps Up The Volume & Dumps On His Supporters

by: countrycat

Tue Nov 11, 2014 at 18:24:55 PM CST

Dang.  This Facebook thread is pretty hard to share on a "family blog," but methinks Alabama Democratic Governor hopeful Kevin Bass needs to keep his mouth - or keyboard - or whatever - ZIPPED instead of attempting to discuss women's reproductive choices. After failing to "pump" the vote, Bass decided to "dump" on the people who supported him in the primary.

Unfortunately, this resulted in a rather "sticky" debate with his former supporters. 

Members of the Alabama Reproductive Rights Advocates(ARRA) endorsed Bass in the primary & were shocked when he went rouge this week with a strongly anti-choice post on his campaign Facebook page. Not surprisingly, many of his astonished supporters called him out on it. But what's more astonishing is the explanation that Bass pulled out to explain his new favorite position.  Was it Bass posting or a 12-year-old demon that temporarily possessed his spirit? You review these comments and decide.

In any case, it pretty much assures us that Bass has little interest in pursuing elected office in Alabama again.

Here's Bass earlier this year:

Kevin Bass pro-choice 

And here's the candidate "unleased" - or "unzipped" - or simply unaware that he's totally trashed any future political prospects.

Kevin Bass Pump & Dump 

Thanks to dismal recruiting efforts by the Alabama Democratic Party, our choice was between turncoat Parker Griffith and Kevin "pump & dump" Bass. And people wonder why Alabama Democrats weren't enthusiastic about voting last week. 

 

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America's Veterans Need More Than A Free Burger

by: countrycat

Tue Nov 11, 2014 at 09:32:21 AM CST

Today, many restaurants & retail stores offer freebies & discounts to veterans. It's a generous way to say "thank you" (& also a good way to get people out shopping on their day off). But it's certainly not an adequate response to the challenges faced by our veterans.Veterans

For too long, veterans have been used as political pawns, and programs that could help them re-enter the work force, get adequate health care, access government service, and find safe housing haven't been implemented. In some cases, the proposals didn't even get a vote.

Alabama's own Senator Jeff Sessions likes to talk about his support of veterans, but his voting record doesn't support his rhetoric. Yet, he just got re-elected without even token opposition from Democrats - in a state that has a large percentage of active-duty and retired veterans.

In fact, many members of Congress talk a good game, but their concern about veterans issues doesn't extend to actual veterans.

But many real people need real help from the country they defended:

  • One in 10 veterans is disabled, often from combat injuries.
  • 19% of Iraq veterans report a mental health problem, and more than 11% of Afghanistan veterans.
  • A large percentage of homeless males in the U.S. are veterans.
  • The number of Vietnam-era veterans who are homeless exceeds the number of American soldiers who died in that war.

Even if the veteran is healthy & has a home, good luck finding a job:

The unemployment rate for veterans who served on  active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces at any time since September 2001--a group referred to as Gulf War-era II veterans--edged down to 9.0 percent in 2013, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The jobless rate for all veterans also edged down to 6.6 percent.  Twenty-nine percent of Gulf War-era II veterans reported having a service-connected disability in August 2013, compared with 15 percent of all veterans.

Congress is back this week for their "lame duck" session. It would be great if this famous "do-nothing" Congress could do something to help the people who gave up so much for our country.  Yes, the Iraq War was senseless & stupid. But the men & women who fought in it were not.

This Veteran's Day, let's call on Congress & the White House to fulfill the promises we made to our country's soldiers.

Note: Apologies for the light blogging activity the past week.  But after the intensity of the election, real life intruded and I had to spend some time on this silly activity called "making a living." Blogging isn't paid work (at least not at LIA). But we're slowly getting back into the swing of things at the keyboard.

Remember too.... it's really easy to set up an account & write your own articles about important issues. If you know about it, & we aren't covering it, jump right on in!

 

 

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The Road Ahead For Democrats - The 2016 Election Cycle Starts Today

by: countrycat

Wed Nov 05, 2014 at 09:08:17 AM CST

The cause of Democratic losses across the country can be explained in a single sentence: Democrats didn't turn out to vote. Now, the question of "why" they didn't turn out is more complex & differs from state to state, community to community.  Starting at the top:

  • President Obama has consistently failed to engage Congressisonal Republicans on their foolishness & reckless ways.  How could he seriously have thought he'd be able to work with those people after the antics the 2008 election & 2010 is beyond me.

    Former Senator John Edwards has a LOT of flaws, but he was dead right when Obama said during a primary debate in 2008 that one of his priorities would be to work across the aisle, give everyone a seat at the table, & bring people to together & develop a consensus.  The flaw in that plan is that candidate Obama (and then President Obama) seemed to believe that the implacable opposition he faced was grounded in some sort of reality - and goodwill.

    Edwards knew better, warning Obama that "You don't understand: most of these people, you give them a seat at the table and they'll eat all the food."

    It's commendable that President Obama believed in the fundamentals and the promise of our political system: that the people who we elect to office may differ in policy objectives, but overall want to  make the country better.  And that they'll work together in times of crisis to accomplish that.

    But at some point, you have to acknowledge that it's just not true. The opposition to the President's policies, the spurious questions about his birth certificate, religion, the rejection of basic science, and hostility to factual arguments etc. have no basis in reality. 

  • Big money interests have bought & paid for the GOP and the puppetmasters realize that the way to keep their base in line is to whip up a frenzy of hysteria about... unicorns.  Abortion!  A Muslim President! ISIS! Gay Marriage!  As if any of that has anything to do with income inequality, lagging job growth, or the fact that the 10% is doing just dandy under these policies while formerly middle class people struggle to get minimum wage jobs.

    But when Democrats fail to make that case, the Koch Brothers' narrative is what carries the day.

  • Many Democratic candidates failed to articulate any of this.  Grimes, running in Kentucky, a state that has one of the most successful statewide ACA exchanges in the country, didn't want to talk about the program.  How the heck is getting health care access to 400,000 people in the state - in a single year - a liability?  NPR interviewed people in Kentucky who had gained ACA coverage & loved it, but who told the reporters with absolute certainty that they "opposed Obamacare."  DUH.

    In Alabama, AG candidate Joe Hubbard certainly failed to gin up the Democratic base (or help his fellow Democratic candidates) with his bizarre explanation of how Republican voters could vote a straight ticket & still vote for him too!  That had to warm the heart of Lt. Governor candidate James Fields, who gamely tried to make the case that one Democrat in office couldn't do much: they had to work as a team.

    Furthermore, Hubbard used the TEA Party talking point of "Common Core is a government takeover of education" against Strange.  Now, there are plenty of valid concerns about Common Core - it's more a corporate takeover of public education than a federal one - but Hubbard either thought people in the state aren't smart enough to understand that or he isn't smart enough to understand and articulate it.

  • Alabama Democratic candidates had ZERO support from the state party.  The State Democratic Executive Committee is a total disaster.  My mailbox was inundated by GOP mailers during the last week or so and most of them were for Madison County candidates.  They were paid for by the State Republican Party.

    I got one piece of mail from a Democratic state senate candidate - paid for by the candidate - and two pieces of bizarre Joe Hubbard mail, also paid for by the candidate.

    Oh, but I did get some mail from the SDEC!  The week before the election, I got two pieces of fundraising mail for the party itself, with Chairwoman Worley urging me to give so the state party could hold back the GOP in the midterms.

    Seriously?  6 days before the election?  What the heck were they going to do in a week?  This is a party that didn't even deposit the candidate qualifying checks until APRIL - 2 months after qualifying ended.

On the bright side.... The new Republican Congress & Senate is chock full of 2016 Presidential hopefuls who will be anxious to ingratiate themselves with the base voters who reliably turn out in primary contests.  If they overplay their hand (and they invariably do: look at 1994 for an example), the country will have two years to enjoy the spectacle of a Democratic president as the only bulwark of sanity against Republican excess.

This year may be awful, but 2016 could be really good for Democrats.

 

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Voters Get Their Say: The Polls Are Open In Alabama!

by: countrycat

Tue Nov 04, 2014 at 07:27:15 AM CST

Alabama voters are (hopefully) lined up to vote in droves this morning, defying Secretary of State Jim Bennett's prediction that only about 50% of eligible voters will bother.  Use this post as an election day open thread: I'll be delivering lunches to to poll watchers & working at our local Democratic headquarters all day, so this post is it for a while!Election Day in Alabama

Vote, vote, vote!  Take your friends & neighbors. This election matters, y'all.  If we can't break the GOP supermajority's stranglehold on the legislature, just imagine how much damage they can do in another four years.  

For your information, here's a recap of our election coverage:

 

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