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Let's Hope Mobile Doesn't Become The Next Santa Barbara

by: countrycat

Wed May 27, 2015 at 10:30:14 AM CDT

How many times can a pipeline company ignore safety regulations & maintenance protocols and still keep operating? 176 times apparently. In the nine years prior to the massive Santa Barbara oil spill, Plains All American was cited 175 times for "safety and maintenance infractions." Only after this recent spill, did the government take action and order the company to cease operations while an investigation is ongoing.


This spill shouldn't surprise anyone. The company has a terrible record.

The underground oil pipeline was carrying 1,300 barrels an hour, below its maximum capacity of 2,000 barrels an hour, said Rick McMichael of Plains All American Pipeline.
Plains All American is among the worst violators listed by the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration.

It surpassed all but four of more than 1,700 operators in safety and maintenance infractions, the federal agency said.

Hodgins suggested the comparison wasn't fair because "we're also much larger than those companies that we were compared to."

Plains All American Pipeline violated federal environmental violations 10 times between 2004 and 2007, when about 273,420 gallons of crude oil were discharged into waters or shorelines in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Kansas, the Environmental Protection Agency said.

Most of the spills were caused by pipe corrosion, the EPA said.

The oil company agreed to pay a $3.25 million civil penalty and spend $41 million to upgrade 10,420 miles (16,770 kilometers) of crude oil pipeline operated in the United States, the EPA said in 2010.

Santa Barbara residents are dealing with oiled beaches, dead fish, oil soaked birds and marine mammals, and toxic chemicals. The state's governor has declared a state of emergency.

Is Mobile next?

Plains Southcorp is a subsidiary of Plains All American, and it holds the fate of the city's drinking water supply in its pipeline.  Michele Harmon reported on this situation for LIA last year when she described how the route had been decided:

Here's the kicker: Plains did have an alternate route, which would have spared the risk to the drinking water supply.... Unfortunately, it went through the "Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail" in Mobile. They chose not to use this route because they feared community push back! The Pipeline company chose to risk the drinking water of thousands to keep from tearing up a golf course, and interrupting peoples golf games.  Pretty pathetic, isn't it? 

This plan was approved by our totally misnamed "Public Service Commission" after a 15 minute presentation and Q&A session held in Montgomery - far from the people who will be affected by a spill.

Why the lack of interest and oversight?  Possibly because our PSC officials think that "Service" refers to "serving industry" instead of the public. It appears to exist only to serve the industries that it's charged with regulating, bow before Alabama Power, fight abortion & environmentalists, and worship the Great Coal God.

The Tar Sands Mobile Coalition is working to get get word out about the dangers of these pipelines as well as the above-ground storage tanks located in the city. Unfortunately, the State of Alabama can't see past the potential dollar signs (campaign contributions) that come from these industries.  

Good luck to the people of Mobile.  With the corrupt and incompetent state government that Alabama voters have turned loose in Montgomery, luck may be the only thing that saves us all.


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SB-502 Wins Senate Committee Approval - Bill Combines Education & General Fund Budgets

by: countrycat

Wed May 27, 2015 at 08:38:11 AM CDT

The Florence Times-Daily calls it "giving the fox control of the henhouse," & citizens concerned about public education use more unprintable descriptions. Nevertheless, Senator Gerald Dial's constitutional amendment (SB-502) to unearmark education money passed out of the Senate Committee on Finance & Taxation yesterday on a 9 to 4 vote.


The Times-Daily editorial puts the issue in perspective:

An ideal Legislature could be entrusted with such decisions, and could better serve the people if it was working from a unified budget. It makes little sense for an ideal Legislature to be constrained in 2015 by constitutional earmarks passed in 1936 and 1947 limiting the bulk of sales and income taxes to educational purposes.

Sadly, this is where reality intrudes. It turns out Alabama is not blessed with an ideal Legislature.

The voters knew that when they voted to earmark the funds. Even the bill's sponsor, Gerald Dial, understood that several years ago, when he scoffed at Governor Robert Bentley's suggestion to have a single, unified budget. Here's what Dial said then:

But Dial said voters prefer locking in some taxes for certain purposes, such as using most income-tax collections to pay teachers' salaries. ''They don't trust the Legislature to just give us ... money to spend wherever we want to," Dial said. 

But today's Gerald Dial is taunting his fellow legislators to "stop worrying about re-election" and show some courage.  Yeah, it takes real courage to steal public education money because you don't have enough spine to deal with Alabama's systemic taxation and budgeting problems.

The Legislature is already siphoning public education money for other purposes.

For starters, the Legislature has routinely ignored the constitutional restrictions that limit some taxes to the Education Trust Fund. The Legislature has directed $50 million a year in ETF funds to the Commerce Department. Another $650,000 goes to the Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau. The Alabama Civil Air Patrol gets $75,000 a year in ETF money. The National Computer Forensic Institute and the Alabama Supreme Court Library each get $250,000.

Even Gov. Robert Bentley, who has not been shy about raiding the ETF, figures $187 million a year is siphoned from the fund for purposes unrelated to education.

What does this tell Alabamians? That the Legislature is so determined to reduce funding for public schools that it will do so even when that means ignoring the Constitution. Imagine the result if the General Fund and Education Trust Fund are unified, giving the Legislature unfettered access to funds now used for schools.

Yes, just imagine it. The bill is now headed to the Senate floor. It still needs to get through a House committee vote and vote of the full House.  That's a tall order with just 4 days left in the session, but never underestimate the Alabama Legislature's ability to fast-track a bad idea.

And if Governor Bentley makes good his threat to call a special session to deal with budget issues, hang on you your hat. This will be quite the tempting target: the Education Trust Fund has a $250 million surplus, while the General Fund has an almost identical deficit.

That's math that even the dumbest legislator can understand.

Find your legislator and contact him/her about this bill!


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HB-527 On Tuesday's Legislative Calendar - Budget? No. Abortion? Yes.

by: countrycat

Sun May 24, 2015 at 09:33:15 AM CDT

With just 5 legislative days left in one of the Worst Sessions Ever, the Alabama House has a PSA bill on the Special Order calendar.  It's HB-257, the "close the Huntsville clinic because protesters are too violent and dangerous to be allowed near schools" bill.


Alabama Reproductive Rights Advocates posted this request:

HB 527, the "2000 foot rule" to shut down the Huntsville clinic (and potentially every clinic in the state if a charter school moves near an existing clinic), is on the special order calendar in the House of Representatives on Tuesday at 1PM. It is #7 on the calendar.

We need people to get to Montgomery if you can. ARRA needs to have a good group of people sitting right in the front row of the House gallery with ARRA shirts, the yellow clinic shirts, Planned Parenthood shirts, basically ANY pro-choice shirts and buttons you can wear. They DO look up there & see you if you are in the front row. Please remember, no signs, just your bodies & all the pro-choice/pro woman gear you can wear on your body.

The House Gallery is located on the 6th floor of the Alabama State House at 11 South Union Street in Montgomery. Try to get there early to get a seat in the front row(s). I expect a lot of arguing on the floor since it's 5 days until Sine Die (last day of the legislature) and they STILL haven't passed a budget.

If the floor debate is anything like the public hearing testimony in committee, hang on to your hat. At the hearing, veteran clinic protesters explained that their own activities make them a danger to schoolchildren.  Some choice tidbits:

  • It's just a bad idea to have an abortion clinic, with all that goes on there, across the street in front of a public school.

  • One of the providers said that they worried for their own children because they're abortion providers. So my question is if these abortion providers fear for their safety and safety of their own children, should we not also fear for the safety of our public school children?

  • In the previous location, I drove by the clinic on my way to and from work, every day and I've seen the signs that are held up - the pictures of aborted fetuses and I've seen the confrontations.

  • There have been bombings, as Judge Myron Thompson has said; there have been shootings, mayhem around the clinic - violent protests.  Our children should not be exposed to that.

But this journey into anti-choice bizarro world really took the cake. Somehow, the clinic (which is not affiliated with Planned Parenthood in any way) will benefit from a public school health clinic funded by the ACA, which will become a revolving door funneling young women to the Huntsville clinic and Planned Parenthood will profit... somehow?

There's also the issue of the Affordable Care Act and wanting to place health clinics in public schools, and to have a revolving door from a clinic in a public school as a referral system to a private business who makes not only financial profit as a private business from the ending of human life but also huge - Planned Parenthood has received $587 million a year annually in federal tax dollars - our money and yet they're still claiming to be non-profit in that regard of getting that money, but they claim to be for profit when it comes to this type of action.

So I strongly support this legislation ask you to protect our children from this could-be predatory business.

In spite of this nonsense, the House committee tripped over each other to give it a favorable report, and now it's going to the House floor.  Yes, there are just 5 legislative days remaining, but that's plenty of time to get it through the house and the Senate.

These jokers will do anything to appease the base and avoid having to make hard choices on the budget.

Tuesday is a big day in Montgomery. The full House session begins at 1pm - as does the committee hearing on SB-502. That's Gerald Dial's bill to use education money to bail out the General Fund.


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A Former Hyatt Hotel Housekeeper Explains What's At Stake For All American Workers

by: countrycat

Thu Apr 25, 2013 at 15:44:39 PM CDT

(This is an April 2013 diary, but I remembered it after reading another blog post about California Hyatt workers protesting for decent wages and representation.  It's really worth watching the video of Charlotte Knox.

- promoted by countrycat)

UPDATE: This is the blog post from The Left Hook in California that prompted this article promotion.
Hyatt Workers March for Justice


I just spent 4 days in Washington DC listening to politicians bloviate and obfuscate.  But one speaker at the conference laid it all out in plain English.  Ms. Charlotte Knox worked as a housekeeper at Hyatt Hotels for 29 years.  But when the 62 year old employee needed a hip replacement, she was on her own.  Hyatt Boycott

"I had to use my mortgage money to pay the co-pay and the hotel didn't even send me a get well card.  Now I rely on Social Security."  Knox was forced to retire because the hotel couldn't come up with an easier job to help a long-time, loyal employee make it long enough that she could receive full Social Security retirement benefits.  Because, of course, the non-unionized Hyatt Hotels don't provide pensions for housekeepers.

In fact, the hotel chain is busy firing housekeepers and replacing them with contract workers for temp agencies:

When the housekeepers at the three Hyatt hotels in the Boston area were asked to train some new workers, they said they were told the trainees would be filling in during vacations.

On Aug. 31, staffers learned the full story: None of them would be making the beds and cleaning the showers any longer. All of them were losing their jobs. The trainees, it turns out, were employees of a Georgia company, Hospitality Staffing Solutions, who were replacing them that day.
“It’s unbelievable,’’ said Lucine Williams, 41, who has worked at the Hyatt Regency Boston for nearly 22 years and was making $15.32 an hour plus health, dental, and 401(k) benefits when she lost her job. “I don’t know how they can treat people like that.’’

After hearing the news at meetings last month, employees cried and screamed, said Drupattie Jungra, 55, who had worked at the Cambridge Hyatt for more than 21 years and made $15.69 an hour, plus benefits.
Loux said the new workers will make $8 an hour and receive no benefits, based on information from a Hospitality Staffing Solutions employee. Staffing firm president Rick Holliday sent out an e-mail stating his employees made competitive wages but didn’t answer further questions.

Knox is speaking out, she said because:

I don't want my children and our children's children to go through what I did.  I have no pension, all I'm living on is Social Security.  We know what that's all about... when you're on a fixed income. 

But our sisters and brothers left at the hotel, they're going through even more than I did.  But the people who have it even worse are the temps. The don't have nothing.  And if they say something, point out something... you know that they do?  Out the door and the two temp agencies will bring in somebody to take their place.

It's immoral. It's not right.  So I said something about it and you know what they said to me, right?   They'll get you because you done spoke out.  They do not like right.

And the worst thing is when you see a young person that's sick, that can't be with their families.  They have to work and they work while they're sick. Then they get cast out like they're nothing.  

It's sad, y'all and it hurts me to my heart.  I have one problem, but they have more problems.

The whole video is on the flip and if you've ever wondered about the wisdom and quiet courage of ordinary people, well, just watch Charlotte Knox tell her story.

Learn more about the Hyatt Hotel boycott (HyattHurts.com) and learn how to choose a worker-friendly hotel at Hotel Workers Rising.


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SB-502 Will Use Education Money To Bail Out The General Fund

by: countrycat

Sat May 23, 2015 at 12:43:53 PM CDT

Let's call it this bill what it really is: "Leave Every Child Behind." Don't like the Draconian budget cuts that the House passed? Senator Gerald Dial has the solution: raid the Education budget to prop up the General Fund budget. It's just one more desperate attempt to fund state government by draining the state's resources and savings accounts.


How far do you trust the Alabama Legislature?  The text of this bill asks for quite a bit of trust on the part of voters, while giving all the power to the Legislature. Sound familiar?

This bill specifically states that "all appropriations for the ordinary expenses of the executive, legislative, and judicial departments of the state, for interest on the public debt and for public education may be made in the general appropriations bill". They want us to trust the people who pushed through the Great Private School Giveaway Plan in the middle of the night to do what's best for public education. Right.

Gerald Dial, the guy who once told constituents that he was too busy to meet with them during the legislative session, is now presenting himself as a paragon of political courage, calling on fellow legislators to "stop worrying about reelection." Note that it's easy for Dial to say that. As chief architect of the last redistricting plan, he gerrymandered his 2010 opponent out the district by running the district line through the opponent's back yard.

It's interesting to note that Dial had this to say about the Governor's 2012 proposal to merge the budgets:

But Dial said voters prefer locking in some taxes for certain purposes, such as using most income-tax collections to pay teachers' salaries. ''They don't trust the Legislature to just give us ... money to spend wherever we want to," Dial said.

Does he actually think voters trust the Legislature more after the antics of the past few years?

Let's not even pretend that this is a serious attempt to reform Alabama's budget process.  Call it for what it is:  proof positive that Republicans can't govern. Their claim of "fiscal responsibility" is complete and total fiction. Let's look at how "fiscally responsible" they've been since taking power in 2010:

Now, once again, we're faced with the possibility of prisoners in our basements and our options are limited.

They'll do anything but admit that there simply isn't enough revenue coming in to fund their corporate welfare projects and provide for the general welfare of the poor schmucks paying the bills.

The committee hearing on this bill is scheduled for Tuesday, May 26 at 1pm in Room 727.

Note: that's pretty quick action, given that Dial just dropped the bill at the end of last week.  But Senator Del Marsh has signed on as a co-sponsor, so you safely assume the leadership plans to fast track it.

If the legislature passes the bill, the plan then goes to the voters as yet another constitutional amendment. We could have another expensive "special election," where the voters will be asked to once again bail out a legislature incapable of doing its job.


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With No Budget In Sight, Legislature Rushes To Pass More Unconstitutional Bills

by: countrycat

Fri May 22, 2015 at 09:57:10 AM CDT

"Damn the legal bills!  Full speed ahead!" seems to be the guiding principle of the 2015 legislative session, and multiple speakers at Wednesday's Rally for Women's Lives touched on that topic. It's amazing really: the legislature's chief responsibility is to pass state budgets, but with just five meeting days left in the session, there's no consensus in sight.


This is in spite of the constitutional amendment  approved overwhelmingly by voters in 1984. It requires the Legislature to pass budgets before indulging in stupid stuff like taking the state out of the marriage business, making things that are already legal even more legal, and passing legislation that we know is illegal and will cost the state hundreds of thousands of dollars that we don't have.

Mobile attorney Amy Andrews addressed this very issue when she listed the legal bills that other states have run up while defending their own anti-abortion bills:

  •  In 2011, Kansas spent nearly $400k in six months.  Since 2011, Kansas has spent $1.2 million to defend anti-abortion legislation. A law signed last month is expected to cost an additional $350-450k.  You think it's a coincidence that Kansas public schools are closing early this year due to lack of money?
  • As of January 2014, North Dakota has spent $200k defending anti-abortion laws.
  • Arizona spent $297k.
  • South Dakota spent $378k.
  • Texas spent $650k.
  • Idaho has spent over $1 million.

"Alabama does not have that kind of money to be throwing around," Andrews noted.

But throw it around we will if the pending package of anti-choice bills passes, promised Randall Marshall. He's the Legal Director of the ACLU of Alabama and has quite the track record of facing off in court (successfully!) against our Attorney General's office.  (Refer to our coverage of the TRAP lawsuit for some delicious tidbits.)

Marshall wrapped up the rally with a warning for state legislators. Referring to the huge legal bills taxpayers in other states are stuck paying, he promised:

It's going to be the same for Alabama. We are not yet done with previous lawsuits with the State of Alabama, but it will cost the state hundreds of thousands of dollars - and it will continue to cost the state that kind of money if they pass more unconstitutional restrictions on women's right to choose.

Here's more information about the package of pending legislation:

Video of both speeches in their entirety is below.


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"Vote Like Your Life Depends On It - Because In Alabama It Does!"

by: countrycat

Fri May 22, 2015 at 08:32:16 AM CDT

As we watch this dreadful session of the Alabama Legislature stagger to a merciful end, many people are shaking their heads and asking: "how did we get to this point?" At Wednesday's Rally for Women's Lives, Jeni Tanner-Jordan provided one answer: too few of us turned out to vote.

Pointing to the Statehouse, she said:

"The men in that building have made it obvious that they don't care about us. You've heard about the bills; you've listened to the stories. Our current representatives are shouting from the rooftops that, as long as they're in charge, women don't stand a chance."

Rallying, walking the halls, talking to legislators, making phone calls, etc. are all important and empowering, she continued, but the most important thing the people of Alabama can do is VOTE. "But we're kidding ourselves if we think the majority of our current legislators will suddenly change their misogynistic views."

Here's where real change will come from:

"If they refuse to represent our views, we'll elect people who will.   Today, I'm standing here to remind you to cast your vote in all elections and at all levels. Our representatives might ignore a phone call or an email, but they can't ignore our votes.  They have to listen.
Speak out about why voting matters. If someone you know isn't registered to vote, help them get registered. Voting is the most powerful statement you can make.

Vote like your life depends on it, because in Alabama it does!"

Tanner-Jordan is the president of Greater Birmingham NOW, and she's right - up to a point.

During last year's primary, the Democratic primary ballot for most races was empty. The general election ballot wasn't much better: it was filled with Republican candidates running unopposed at all levels of government.

How can we call on people to vote the GOP supermajority out of office if our state and county Democratic parties aren't able to field candidates?  It's a problem at all levels: at the August 2014 meeting, SDEC leadership even shut down efforts to fill the more than 50 vacancies on the committee.

Want to know more? Review our five-part series from February: Alabama Democratic Party - Dead or Just Resting?

If this legislative session hasn't taught us a lesson, nothing will. Democrats have to start fielding candidates for every office, at every level. There's not much time either. The 2016 primary elections are in March 2016 and candidates have to qualify to run this November.

I applaud the work that Ms. Tanner-Jordan is doing to remind everyone of the importance of voting and the power it gives us to change the state. But we need candidates.

Unlike many party regulars, I'm not afraid of contested primaries.  Indeed, I welcome them because they bring attention to the candidates, the party, and stimulate discussion of the issues. A primary campaign doesn't have to be a mud-fight - leave that to the GOP presidential candidates

Without contested races in the primary, we don't give Democrats any reason to turn out and vote.  Those who do go to the polls and see a virtually empty Democratic ballot instead vote in the Republican primary.  It makes the Democratic Party look weak, discourages great candidates from spending the time and money to run, and helps Republicans nominate more mainstream candidates.

Remember when Bradley Byrne was in a runoff with Dean Young for 1st Congressional seat? We had a people here on the blog trying to drum up votes for Byrne because he "didn't really mean" all the right-wing stuff he was spouting. Oh really?  The first bill he introduced was to repeal the ACA

So yes, voting is incredibly important. We need to be registering voters as fast as we can and making sure that they have a real choice when they do show up at the polls.

Here's the video of Tanner-Jordan's entire speech.


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Physicians Call On Alabama Legislators To Stay Out Of Doctor/Patient Relationship

by: countrycat

Thu May 21, 2015 at 12:53:20 PM CDT

One major theme of yesterday's Rally For Women's Lives was that politicians have no business legislating medical decisions. Two OB/GYNs hit that issue hard yesterday in Montgomery. Dr. Didi St. Louis, the Medical Director of Planned Parenthood Southeast, was specific on that point: "politicians need to step out of the exam room!" Dr. St. Louis is also an Assistant Professor of OB/GYN at Morehouse School of Medicine.


Dr. Willie Parker gave a moving speech about the importance of conscience and serving others. He described the personal ethical and philosophical journey that made him willing to begin performing abortions. In short, he realized that he needed to return home to Alabama because "it's my job to take care of my sisters." Women can count on him, he says,  but "can they count on you?"

Left in Alabama was there for the rally, and we be posting video from all the speakers.  But, in light of the three anti-choice bills pending in the legislature, it seemed best to lead off with the words of actual medical personnel as they refute the mis-statements and outright lies of the politicians who think their place is between a woman and her doctor.

Here's more information about the package of pending legislation:

Video of both speeches is on the flip.


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2015 Legislative Actions "Betray the Goodness of the People" of Alabama

by: countrycat

Thu May 21, 2015 at 09:00:14 AM CDT

Slowly but surely our legislative leadership is nibbling away at the very foundation of how Alabama government has worked for nearly 200 years. Like this great country itself, Alabama is a democracy. By definition democracy is “a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them.” Abraham Lincoln stated it well in his 272 word Gettysburg Address when he ended his remarks with “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”


However, apparently some of our “leaders” prefer an oligarchy where power is held by a small number of individuals.

The latest example of this mindset is the statement made this week by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh about his interest in a bill to move from an elected State Board of Education to an appointed board. Marsh’s remarks came in response to the failure of the state board to select members for a charter school commission at the meeting May 13. (For background, see previous posts at LarryEducation.com - State School Board Split over Charter Appointments of 5-13-15 and Anyone Seen My Ball? of 5-14-25.)

According to the Decatur Daily, Marsh said, “The board acted in an irresponsible manner not appointing those to the charter commission. I’m told that they are going to convene next week to do that, and I would advise them to so.”

Irresponsible? Four members of the presently seven member board said that they did not feel they had enough information about nominees to make informed decisions and that they had not had adequate time to do due diligence. Irresponsible? That the majority of this body want to be more deliberative in the process and still meet the legislatively-mandated deadline of June 1.

Or is irresponsibility threatening a duly-elected body with “I would advise them to do so?”

The Legislature has already trampled on democracy this session when they created an appointed board to govern the two-year college system, stripping this duty from the elected board. And Senator Marsh might do some homework before issuing threats. He needs to ask his high-priced chief of staff (the one he gave a 38 percent raise to last year) to dig out a copy of Alabama Constitutional Amendment 284, ratified Dec. 16, 1969. The amendment voted on by the people of Alabama to discontinue having an appointed state board and replace it with one “which shall be elected.”

The good senator might even go back to 2014 and look at some numbers. There are eight elected state school board members (one seat is currently waiting to be filled by an appointment by the governor). Obviously one of these seats has far more constituents that a senator does since there are 35 senators.  Last year a new state board member was elected from Calhoun County, which is also Senator Mash’s home county. Cynthia McCarty got 35,505 votes in the Republican primary. (Primary turnout is always substantially less than in general elections.) Still, she got more than twice as many votes as Marsh did in his general election (17,646).

Translation–Senator Marsh wants to disenfranchise the 35,505 voters who chose Dr. McCarty. (As well as the 29,933 who voted for board member Betty Peters and the 25,188 who voted for member Mary Scott Hunter.) He apparently thinks he and a handful of his cronies know more about running the state than the folks who pave our roads, till our crops, teach our children and care for our sick.

There is a story about an old woman who baked a pie and stuck it on the window sill to cool. When she came by later she saw that someone had taken a bite of the pie. “Well, it was only one bite,” she shrugged and went on her way. She returned later and noticed there were now two bites of pie missing. Again she shrugged, “Well it was only two bites.” And you know the rest of the story, by the end of the day the entire pie had been eaten by passersby.

What is going on in Montgomery is much, much bigger than the state school board. It is all about a mindset that believes the public will not care about how many bites are gone. It’s about a mindset that thinks Abraham Lincoln was wrong about “of the people, by the people, for the people.” It’s about a mindset that believes in intimidation instead of compromise.

Long ago, as a young deacon in a Baptist church in Birmingham, I sat in meetings when passions flared and faces turned red as the matter of allowing blacks to worship in our all-white congregation was debated. The standard refrain from most in the room was “If THEY were coming here for the right reason, it would be OK.” I was bewildered that one human had the capacity to look into another’s heart and determine the “right reason.”

Yet, this is the same logic we’ve seen this legislative session as bills have been proposed that allow a business owner to deny service to someone they feel may worships the wrong god, or love the wrong person or part their hair on the wrong side or whatever trumped up reason they find to mask discrimination. It is a logic that reeks of elitism, of looking for ways to judge others of being unworthy of being their equal and of being unworthy of going into a voting booth and being part of “of the people, by the people and for the people.”

No, this is not so much about the state school board and how it behaves as it is about a broadening mindset that categorizes the people of Alabama into categories of “worthy” and “unworthy.” The angst of some with the state board of education is merely a means to a greater end.

It is about once again going down a path we’ve trod too long and too often. A path that echoes with “segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever.”

It’s about a mindset that betrays the goodness of the people of this state.


Larry Lee led the study, "Lessons Learned from Rural Schools," and is a long-time advocate for public education and frequently writes about education issues.  larrylee33@knology.net 

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"If We Want Better Government, We Must Be Prepared To Pay For It."

by: countrycat

Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 06:00:00 AM CDT

(Yesterday, the Alabama House committee passed an "austerity budget" for next year.  If only they'd learned Civics in 1963, we might not be in this mess. - promoted by countrycat)

William Faulkner famously wrote: "The past isn't dead. It isn't even past." Well, it certainly isn't in Alabama.  We have a population proud of its low taxes and annoyed by its meager services.  It's a citizenry that seems mired in infancy, where everything is given and little is expected in return.

Alabama Civics BookThis is nothing new, but I was shocked to open up an Alabama Civics book from 1963 and find the authors making just this same point.  I was also amazed to find that this is an altogether excellent book that clearly explained how Alabama's state government worked, the Federal government, and how state and federal governments work together.

It's really sad to think that the generation in power in Montgomery probably studied this book - but learned so little from it.

Take this excerpt from pp 381-382:

Many of the cities and towns of Alabama are in very difficult financial circumstances at the present time.  They are faced with the problem of matching a very limited income to an almost unlimited demand for services.  In this situation, wither the income must be increased or the services must be curtailed.  Since Alabama citizens do not seem to want the cities to reduce their services, but rather to increase them the only answer seems to be to increase the cities' income.

... Since the state itself is hard pressed for funds, the most logical answer seems to be to increase local taxes.  Tax increases are never popular with the citizens of a city, but we must remember that if we want better government, we must be prepared to pay for better government. 

This is from Unit 7 in the book titled "Financing our Governments."  The section introduction ends this way:

"Perhaps the most important lesson that we can learn from this unit is that "we, the people of the united States," are responsible for providing the money which is necessary if governments are to perform services."

So in Alabama - and in most of the country - we seem to have a major disconnect on this issue.  I think the growing income disparities (the top 1% takes home 24% of income) and falling standard of living are making it worse.

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Alabama Young Democrats' Annual Convention May 30

by: countrycat

Wed May 13, 2015 at 07:48:41 AM CDT

Alabama Young Democrats hold their statewide convention at the end of the month and there's still time to register. This year's convention theme is "Ready to Lead."


Join Young Democrats from across Alabama for READY TO LEAD as we focus on building up young people to take the reins and lead Alabama boldly into the 21st century.

Registration includes continental breakfast and lunch. $10 if you pre-register and $20 at the door. Be sure to pre-register here: http://goo.gl/forms/oOFVtjZmeh

According to the event Facebook page, there are only a few slots still available, so don't wait to register. Advance registration fees are just $10, but double that at the door (assuming there's still room).

The convention is a one-day event in Birmingham on May 30th, 8:30-2:30 at 2013 Morris Ave. (third floor).


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HB-495 - Another Legislative Power Grab. Who Needs "Local Control?"

by: countrycat

Mon May 11, 2015 at 16:53:12 PM CDT

As Mel Brooks' famously noted, "it's good to be the King," & don't Alabama legislators know it. Our oudated Constitution unfortunately turns every legislator into a king and local governments into petitioning serfs. Nowhere is this relationship clearer than the legislative saga of HB-495.Alabama sick leave minimum wage

Several weeks ago the Birmingham City Council unanimously passed a resolution to support raising the minimum wage for all workers in Alabama to $10/hour.  Unwilling to wait for statewide action, they're waiting for an attorney from the Alabama Appleseed Foundation to prepare a brief that supports their authority to raise the wages of Birmingham workers. An increase in the minimum wage is an action that has widespread support across the country - even in red states.  Remember that last fall, even Arkansas voters approved a state-wide minimum wage increase at the same time they elected a ruby red cadre of legislators totally opposed to it.

But "popular opinion" only matters to the Alabama Legislature when it validates actions they want to take anyway: anti-GLBT legislation, anti-immigration bills, anti-abortion/birth control bills, anti-Sharia laws, or any other PSA bill that some lobbyist presents along with a fat contribution check.

So naturally, the GOP supermajority is shocked, yes shocked that Birmingham elected officials might presume to know better than some random House member from Slocomb, Fairhope, or Athens what constitutionally-permitted activity is best for their local community.

Enter HB-495, a re-worked version of last year's "Give Your Boss the Flu Act" that now includes minimum wage prohibitions.  Yes campers, our GOP supermajority has never seen a bad idea that they can't make even worseHB-495 removes the ability of cities, counties and municipalities to raise the minimum wage or give other benefits to workers like paid sick leave.  Opponents say they were told this bill wouldn't get out of committee, but last week the Senate passed SB 403 which is basically the same as the house bill. This reactivated the interest in HB495. If this passes, raising the minimum wage in Alabama is dead.

Progressive groups in Alabama are mobilizing to get people to Montgomery this Wednesday - May 13 - to attend the House State Government Committee hearing on the bill at 3pm.  Here's a list of committee members.

  • Mark Tuggle, Chair - Dist. 81, Tallapoosa, Coosa, & Chilton Counties, 234-242-7219, tughd81@gmail.com
  • Chris Pringle, Vice-Chair - Dist. 101, Mobile County, 334-242-7600, chrispringle@southerntimberlands.com
  • Alan Boothe - Pike & Dale Counties, 334-242-7710, no email
  • Mack Butler - St. Clair & Etowah Counties, 334-242-7446, mack.butler@alhouse.gov
  • Ed Henry - Morgan, Cullman, & Marshall Counties, 334-242-7736, ed.henry@alhouse.gov
  • Becky Nordgren - Etowah, DeKalb, & Calhoun Counties, 334-353-9032, rebeccasnordgren@gmail.com
  • Harry Shiver - Monroe & Baldwin Counties, 334-242-7745, harryshiver@aol.com
  • Kyle South - Tuscaloosa, Lamar, Fayette, & Jefferson Counties, 334-242-7600, ksouth@watvc.com
  • April Weaver – Shelby, Bibb, & Chilton Counties, 334-242-7731, aprilweaver@alhouse.gov
  • Randy Wood – St. Clair, Calhoun, & Talladega Counties, 334-242-7700, no email

Democratic committee members expected to vote against HB 495 are Barbara Boyd, George Bandy, Ralph Howard, Darrio Melton, & John Rogers.

Forward Alabama leaders are organizing carpools from Birmingham and have offered talking points (download PDF) for citizens to use when contacting legislators.  They're on Facebook!

Many thanks to Over The Mountain Democrats for their involvement in getting the word out & putting us in touch with Forward Alabama!


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Grassroots organizing for Bernie: Free "Bernie Sanders" Homemade Clip Art

by: janed

Sun May 10, 2015 at 15:20:14 PM CDT

(Wow! While we've been focused here at LIA on the 2015 legislative session, here's a reminder that 2016 is just around the corner. - promoted by countrycat)

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders recently announced that he'll run for President as a Democrat and raised $1.5 million in the first 24 hours, from 35,000 donors who gave an average of $43.54 each.  The campaign also said that over 100,000 people had registered at the site.  

As soon as  Sanders announced his candidacy for President, I knew I wanted a T-shirt with a handmade, Woody Guthrie, populist vibe.  Since I couldn’t find one, I started designing my own hand-drawn “Bernie Sanders” clip art and ironing it on to shirts and tote bags I already had. Friends in Alabama and Vermont are responding well to the designs, which are cheap to produce in small, family-sized batches, and which evoke a downhome, do-it-yourself aesthetic.  So I put them on Facebook at a page titled "Free Original Clip Art for Bernie Sanders Supporters."

I wanted something with a homemade, folk art feel that every day people could use to make their own posters, shirts and tote bags. This way, people who don’t feel they have $25 to spend on a T-shirt can still participate in promoting Bernie Sanders as a candidate for President.  These simple black and white images are easy to find and download.  Since do-it-yourself transfer materials vary, it is important to read the directions before you start


Since you do it yourself, elements can be cut apart and arranged according to each person’s preference. These images are designed to be shrunken or enlarged within reason, downloaded, printed onto regular paper (for posters or handbills) or transfer paper (available at places with office, craft or sewing supplies,and online), cut apart, rearranged and ironed-on in customized designs. They include the web address to send donations to Bernie’s national campaign.

See how versatile the mix-and-match elements can be?


Friends from Left in Alabama came over Saturday night and we made several T shirts and tote bags. Let our efforts inspire you to make your own!  Watch for new designs that are on the way.  Go through your old clothes to see what you might refresh into wearable campaign art. If you would like to make your own iron-on transfers, check out the Facebook page Free Original Clip Art for Bernie Sanders Supporters.  You can  buy t-shirt transfer material online.  Most local craft/department stores have them too.




Jane DeNeefe of Huntsville, Alabama, an avid supporter of Bernie Sanders for President, is  author of Rocket City Rock and Soul: Huntsville Musicians Remember the 1960s and an occasional contributor to Left in Alabama. 

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Rally For Womens Lives - Wednesday May 20th At Alabama Statehouse

by: countrycat

Fri May 08, 2015 at 11:24:24 AM CDT

Planned Parenthood Southeast hopes to pack the Alabama Statehouse with pro-choice citizen lobbyists on Wednesday, May 20.  Not up to the long drive to Montgomery by yourself?  No problem! Meet new friends and travel in style on a bus provided by Planned Parenthood.  You'll even get a t-shirt!

Rally for Womens Lives Alabama 

More information from the Facebook event page:

Join Alabamians from across the state for Planned Parenthood Southeast's Rally for Women's Lives! If you're sick and tired of politicians sticking their noses where they don't belong, then you need to be here on May 20th and bring your friends.

There are three pieces of bad legislation for women being bandied about in our legislature and we're here to fight every one of them! There's The Abortion Ban Bill that would ban abortions as early as 4-6 weeks into a pregnancy before a woman may even know she's pregnant, The Abortion Clinic Closure Bill which would close every abortion clinic in the state with one exception because of their distance from public schools, and The Health Care Discrimination Bill which would make it legal for health care professionals to deny care to individuals whose morals they disagree with.

Following the rally, our citizen lobbying program, Women in The Halls, will go inside the State House building to speak with legislators. Our lives are too important to sit this one out!

Please RSVP for the rally at:
Sign up for the rally buses at these links:

A bus, a t-shirt, and good company.  Lobbying doesn't get any easier than this.

Traveling on your own?  Here are the details:

Rally outside at the Alabama State House (11 South Union St. Montgomery, AL 36140) then lobbying inside the Statehouse. Wear track shoes in case you need to give chase to reluctant legislators (just kidding).


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First Lady Michelle Obama At Tuskegee University On Saturday

by: countrycat

Fri May 08, 2015 at 09:04:14 AM CDT

Alabama gets another visit for an Obama family member this weekend when the First Lady delivers the commencement address at Tuskegee University on Saturday. The class of 2015 will have plenty to celebrate!


The President and First Lady are always in high demand as commencement speakers, and it's a tremendous honor for a school to be chosen.  According to the White House, Mrs. Obama will deliver just 3 commencement speeches this year:

...First Lady Michelle Obama announced that she will deliver commencement addresses at Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Alabama, Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio, and the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Preparatory High School (King College Prep) in Chicago, Illinois. 

All three schools are doing their part to answer the President’s call to ensure that America has the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.

Founded by Booker T. Washington, Tuskegee University has a long history of public service and is the only university in the US that's a national historic site.

Other notable visitors to Tuskegee include:

  • Eleanor Roosevelt (who took a short flight with one of the Tuskegee Airmen during her visit)
  • President George W. Bush
  • President Gerald Ford
  • President George HW Bush

The event is closed to the public, but you can watch livestream video coverage here at 11am Saturday, May, 9.


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