Forget the importance of constitutional law, soon Alabama car owners will be able to declare the supremacy of "moral law" via their license plates. The Alabama Department of Revenue has announced that the "Foundation For Moral Law" received at least 250 pre-orders of a "TEA Party inspired" tag & all motorists will soon be able to purchase one.
The foundation's president, Kayla Moore is the wife of Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, a former president of the organization. It's a 501(c)(3) organization, so when someone purchases the $50 speciality plate, the Foundation receives $41.25 of the purchase price.
That money will support efforts to stop marriage equality, support Hobby Lobby, encourage public sectarian prayer at government meetings, and fight the Affordable Care Act. Don't everybody line up at once, now!
On the bright side, it's kind of like having a warning label attached to a vehicle. The "Choose Life" tags perform the same function. The new option will take its place in the Alabama generic specialty tag lineup, along with the "Kappa Alpha Psi," the Freemasons, "Friends of Coal."
While we're on the topic of specialty tags, keep in mind that the "Spay & Neuter" tag is not exactly what it seems to be.
Huntsville's only women's clinic is closed temporarily, so what's a bored abortion opponent to do? Why, protest at the previous location of course. The fact that it's occupied by a female OB-GYN who is pro-choice just puts the cherry on top. For months, we've been following the saga of Huntsville's Alabama Women's Center as it struggles to comply with the TRAP (Targeted Regulations Against Abortion Providers) bill passed by the GOP supermajority. (Part of the bill was struck down by a federal judge. Read coverage of the hearings here.)
As of now, the clinic remains closed, pending final inspection and approval from state & local government. Not surprisingly, the state is taking its time sending someone up here and the city is now embroiled in a lawsuit over the zoning.
That's right campers! The supermajority's TRAP law is costing taxpayers money at the state and local levels. That's quite the twist on their pledge of "fiscal responsibility."
So, with the actual clinic closed, what's a dedicated anti-choice protester to do with his/her time? Maybe they could volunteer to help with the many humanitarian needs in our community: the hungry, the homeless, the kids needing mentors, sick people without medical care, elderly & homebound residents who need a helping hand.....
NOPE. This Huntsville group has decided to go "back to the future" and protest at the old clinic location. You know: the one where abortions are no longer performed and the place where a private physician has set up an OB/GYN practice.
This isn't the first time protesters have tried to disrupt this doctor's private practice. They picketed her old office as well - directly across from a middle school school. Why their intense interest and determination to disrupt a private medical practice?
She used to be a physician at the clinic, but folded under the pressure & threats from the anti-choice zealots. It's understandable: many doctors have to make the same choice to protect themselves, their families, and employees. But here's the thing: the protesters won. They forced her to stop working at the clinic - but they're still harrassing her and her patients.
It seems that these goons just can't stop yelling at pregnant women - even women who are hoping to carry their pregnancies to term.
The word "bully" just doesn't seem to cover it.
The photos accompanying this post were taken yesterday outside the doctor's office. If you're confused by the "White Abortionist" sign, just understand that the doctor's last name is hyphenated and the protesters apparently have problems with proper punctuation.
Well, here's one way that Rep. Mo Brooks is a better candidate than Governor Robert Bentley: he's not afraid to debate his opponent. WAAY-TV in Huntsville announced that it will be sponsoring "an exclusive, televised debate" between Congressman Brooks & challenger Mark Bray on Thursday, October 30 from 6-7pm.
It gets better, campers!
The live debate will follow a "Lincoln-Douglas" format, allowing both candidates to interact directly with each other and discuss the issues they believe are most important in Alabama's Fifth Congressional District. Rep. Brooks (R-Huntsville) and Bray (I-Huntsville) are both guaranteed equal speaking time per the rules agreed upon by both campaigns. The debate will take place in the WAAY 31 studios, and will be moderated by longtime station anchor Erin Dacy. The event will be the only televised debate in this year's congressional cycle.
I did debate in high school & college and NOTHING keeps you on your toes more than what we called "LD Cross-ex."
That's a real debate where the participants ask each other questions and respond. No canned speeches allowed. Will the participants follow the rules? Let's hope so. This should be one of the best hours of the fall campaign.
Titled "Veterinary Profession Is Under Attack," Pitman's column is a study in both paranoia and misinformation. It also shines a bright light on the reason he's in business: money, money, and more money.
Think about it. Walk into a Wal-Mart or other department store right now and you see a Wal-Mart pharmacy on the left and a Wal-Mart optical on the right. If the current trends continue, there will be a Wal-Mart Veterinary Services managed and operated by a store manager with no training in veterinary medicine or the proper care and treatment of animals.
Did you see the problem here? The doctors at the optical "stores" within Wal-Mart, Costo, Sears, etc. are not "managed" by the retail store manager. It's made quite clear that the doctors are working independently of the retail store & patients pay the doctor directly, not Wal-Mart.
So what would be the problem with a Wal-Mart veterinary clinic with an independent veterinarian working there? How is that different from the Banfield Pet Hospitals located inside PetSmart stores? If there's a problem with them, the ASBVME has so far failed to take action.
Another "we're all about the money" tidbit is located on page 8 of the 16-page newsletter. It warns veterinarians about holding off-site rabies clinics: (the strange grammar & punctuation is from the newsletter, not LIA)
"The ASBVME has received numerous calls and complaints from Veterinarians conducting Rabies Clinics and Microchip Clinics off premise of a duly licensed veterinary premise. We must remind you the Rabies Clinics must be conducted only by the appointed Rabies Officer in each county. Clinics can only administer one (1) year Rabies Vaccines (no 3-year vaccines)."
Also on page 8 we find an ugly attack on the Alabama Veterinary Medical Association (ALVMA) and Dr. Margaret Ferrell. Remember, this is the largest group of veterinarians in the state and it supported the low-cost spay/neuter clinics until Dr. Pitman sued the organization and formed his own Greedy Vets Club - the Alabama Veterinary Practice Owners Association (AVPOA).
He writes: "The ALVMA is doing nothing to help veterinarians out. They have not been a voice to help veterinarians with the bad publicity we receive from the press."
I certainly hope he's not this clueless in his veterinary practice! The ALVMA hasn't "helped veterinarians" with the bad press because it has nothing to do with the bad press. That is all coming from Dr. Robert Pitman, the other ASBVME members, and their DJ lawyer.
Page 10 of the newsletter contains an article from the Athens News-Courier about the Affordable Care Act & walk-in clinics. Apparently, the only reason for inclusion in the ASBVME newsletter is that it feeds Dr. Pitman's Wal-Mart vet clinic paranoid fantasy.
But the most fun part for us here at Left In Alabama is Dr. Pitman's defensive remark on page 3 regarding "those who label veterinarians the 'Greedy Vets Club'...." Thanks for helping us publicize that label, Dr. Pitman!
But, ahem... Perhaps Dr. Pitman has some reading comprehension problems. We have never labeled all veterinarians as the "Greedy Vets Club," just Dr. Pitman, his ASBVME cronies, and his new group, the AVPOA.
If you don't like being called out on greedy behavior that helps increase the number of homeless animals, the suffering that comes from that, AND the increased costs to taxpayers to handle the problem, well... there's a simple solution.
Mike Curtis, Democratic candidate for SD-01, has some very definite ideas about education and economic development. He served as a county commissioner & understands how these two issues complement each other.
Left in Alabama interviewed him at a recent event (see Part 1 of the interview). In this clip, Curtis is answering our question about Alabama's policy of handing out industrial "incentives" but never doing the follow-up work to see if the state got its money's worth.
I'll have to give a shout to our Shoals Economic Development Authority because for some industries that have come in, they have given incentives. But on their (the industries') part, they had to provide "x" number of jobs by this date. They had to meet "x" amount of payroll. And if they didn't, the incentives were brought back.
If we do it that way, I don't have any problem with it. But really, times have changed. Used to, industry came in because they liked the work force - and that's where education comes in.
David Bronner has been our number one industrial recruiter in Alabama, and what did this supermajority do? They make him report to a 3-member political board.
But he'll tell you that, when a business comes in, the first thing they want to know is: "What kind of education system do you have for my workers and their families?"
Curtis mentioned Alabama's prison overcrowding problem also, noting education could be a powerful way to divert young people from a life of crime.
He also wants the state - and country - to focus on reviving our industrial base. That is one way we can begin rebuilding and strengthening the middle class:
I am so fed up with everything I pick up saying "Made in China" or "Made in Mexico." It's the big corporate world. If you can have child labor over here working for 50 cents an hour, 24/7 and still charge the same for the products....
We have to get our workers back to work here in American and here in Alabama. We have to work together, but there's no working together right now.
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."
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.
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
(from high tech to low)
Arizona State University
Butte College Police Department
Saddleback College Police Department
Mine Resistant Vehicle
Eastern Connecticut State University Police Department
University of Delaware Police Department
100 Gauze Bandages (think that's enough?)
Purdue at West Lafayette University
University of Maryland at College Park Police Department
1 Armored Truck
16 12 Gauge Riot-type Shotguns
Lincoln University (MO) Police - is kind of old-school
Hinds Community College - well... isn't
1 M-79 grenade launcher
University of Akron - tends toward practicality
34 pairs of "extreme cold weather drawers." ie... long underwear
72 pairs of cold weather overalls
2 pressure washers
University of Cincinnati Police Department - things get grimmer farther South
Mid-America Christian University - um... Onward Christian Soliders?
5 .45 handguns
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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
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.
This is a cartoon just begging for a caption, but I've had a long, busy weekend. Y'all offer your suggestions!
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.
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.
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%.
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?
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.
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.