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"Middle Class Economics" Built On Union Membership

by: countrycat

Fri Jan 30, 2015 at 09:23:29 AM CST

The numbers from 2014 are stark: median weekly earnings for nonunion members were $763 while union members brought home $970.  According to the annual Bureau of Labor Statistics summary released this week, union membership in the US continues to fall - as wages stagnate, pensions disappear, benefits decrease, and worker benefits (like sick leave) and protections degrade. In his State of the Union address this year, President Obama outline his economic proposals to strengthen the middle class:


  • Rebuild the nation's infrastructure, which will provide jobs and build for the future.
  • Make college more affordable
  • Guarantee paid sick leave
  • Increase research and development in medicine and technology.
  • Strengthen unions & give workers a voice

That last one is possibly the most important. As Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez explained:

"The economy is resurgent, with an unemployment rate well below 6 percent and job growth we haven't experienced since the late 1990's. The challenge we face now is creating shared prosperity, ensuring that our growing economy works for everyone. To do that, we need to turn up the volume on worker voice.

"There is a direct link throughout American history between the strength of the middle class and the vitality of the labor movement. It's not a coincidence. When unions are strong, working families thrive, with wages and productivity rising in tandem. But when the percentage of people represented by unions is low, there is downward pressure on wages and the middle class takes it on the chin.

Republicans like to say that Democrats are "envious" and "jealous" of the rich.  Not surprisingly, they get that wrong too. The problem is with people who lack empathy or understanding of the struggles of middle and working class families.  The best description of these people ever came from former Texas Governor Ann Richards, who famously described George H. Bush as "born on third base and thinks he hit a triple."

They not only control most of the country's wealth; they use it to control our political system as well - thanks a LOT SCOTUS. The Koch Brothers alone plan to spend $889 million on elections in 2016. Weathy donors are getting a good return on their investment and are working hard to replace "class envy" with "worker envy."

It used to be that having a union job was a goal that people worked toward and admired. And why not? Union workers make a living wage. They have pensions, sick leave, vacation time, and job protection. And those benefits that union members fought for spread out into the entire economy, raising the standard of living and quality of life for millions of American families.  States with the strongest unions have the strongest middle class.

During the past few decades however, workers have seen these gains stripped away.  Thanks to vulture capitalism, workers have been left without jobs, without pensions, and without recourse.  Remember what happened at Hostess:

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The Jason Childs Show

by: Jasonisus

Fri Jan 30, 2015 at 08:19:52 AM CST

( - promoted by countrycat)

Join us this Saturday at 4 pm as we discuss the victory for marriage equality in Alabama. This is something that effects all of the people in our state. It will have a dramatic influence on our state being able to attract new business and tourists, as well as creating a better state for our children to live in. Our special guest will be Patrick Scarborough. He is the Vice Chair of the Equality Alabama Board. Mr. Scarborough is a native of Alabama having grown up in Dothan. He is a graduate of Auburn University earning a degree in chemical engineering, he also has a MBA from Samford University. He married his husband in a ceremony in Boston just last year, after years together they were finally able to be married. Patrick has been fighting for the rights of the LGBT community in Alabama for years, and in his role with Equality Alabama he has given the folks here in our state hope that a better day is coming. Join us for his interview. We will also have progressive news you can use, and of course the most important thing- You.

Here is a link to the showhttp://tobtr.com/s/7306813

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Give 'em hell, Patricia Todd!

by: capcityfreepress

Wed Jan 28, 2015 at 14:12:16 PM CST

(Rep. Todd backed away from her comments on FaceBook, but did she have the right idea? - promoted by countrycat)

Read the full article at the Capital City Free Press. 

   "And to be candid, I'm not the biggest fan of Todd's tactic as our politics shouldn't get this low. But with garden variety bullies, sometimes you have to mix it up in the mud to teach them a lesson. Any threat she issues will never come close to the unimaginable hurt inflicted by Alabama lawmakers who have made bashing LGBT persons, opposing basic human rights and fanning the flames of hatred a cornerstone of their political careers. And for any Alabamian who is expressing disgust for her actions and yet doesn't bat an eye over the systematic, morally bankrupt discrimination against their fellow citizens who are LGBT, you have no damn moral standing to criticize her."

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Judge Roy Moore's Car Spotted In Huntsville Parking Lot

by: countrycat

Thu Jan 29, 2015 at 09:44:24 AM CST

At least we hope it's the Alabama Chief Justice, because it's disturbing to think that there are even more people in the state who subscribe to his "All Christian" view of American history & civil liberties. This photo really cries out for a caption - any submissions?

Roy Moore's car?

In other Judge Moore news, the Southern Poverty Law Center has filed a judicial ethics complaint against him for his recent remarks about ignoring federal law.  Judge Moore obviously hasn't learned from his own personal history: he's getting ready to repeat it - hopefully with the same outcome.

To avoid confusion... this is NOT Moore's car, but we were hoping it was.  Otherwise, there's someone just like him - or worse - loose in Madison County.
The fact that a lot of people took it at face value tells you a lot about Judge Moore's reputation in Alabama, doesn't it?


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Annual Heirloom Seed Swap In Huntsville - January 30th

by: countrycat

Wed Jan 28, 2015 at 08:31:47 AM CST

North Alabama gardeners with heirloom & open-pollinated seeds to share will gather in Huntsville Friday night (1/30) for an event filled with food, drink, live music, seed exchanges, and information. This event is sponsored by the Tennessee Valley Community Garden Association.

From the Facebook event page:

3rd Annual Community Seed Celebration on Friday, January 30th at the Church of the Nativity in downtown Huntsville.

Food and drink provided by local restaurants, breweries, and wineries. Doors will open at 6pm, and the keynote speaker will begin at 7:15.

A donation of $0-$30 is requested -- in the spirit of community, no one will be turned away, but please give as much as you can. The event is a benefit for the Sand Mountain Seed Bank, based in Albertville.

Bring your saved seeds to share! Take seeds home for your 2014 garden! Seed Bank reps will be on hand to teach about heirloom seeds and seed saving techniques.

There will be live music.

This event is hosted by the Tennessee Valley Community Garden Association, in partnership with the The Greene Street Market at Nativity. More information attennesseevalleycga@gmail.com or at 256.743.0742.

Church address is 208 Eustis Ave SE, and the event will be held in Ridley Hall (on the right, if facing the church from Eustis).

It's a terrific way to network with other gardeners. Last year, people where sharing seeds for flowers, herbs, & vegetables. The only restriction is that the seeds should be open-pollinated (meaning they're not hybrids so the next generation of plants will grow true from the seeds).

The Sand Mountain Seed Bank is doing some great work:

The Sand Mountain Seed Bank is a private organization run by Charlotte Hagood and Dove Stackhouse with the assistance of Dove’s husband, Russell. Operating on a shoestring budget these women have done yeoman’s work in preserving hundreds of plant varieties on the verge of extinction.

Talking to Dove about these plants gives one a sense of the urgency of the task. Se said, "We have gone from relying on hundreds of varieties of potatoes to four." She sees this as a very disturbing trend for several reasons.

Every year seed companies reject the cornucopia of plant species available and select only a handful of plants bred to tolerate chemical fertilizers, pesticides and provide long shelf-life.  If you look into a typical seed catalog you will see only four or five varieties of beans listed while there are hundreds out there," Dove pointed out.

If these rejected varieties are not used, they eventually disappear. She noted each of these species existed because they provided some strength or advantage in a specific situation.

It's hard to imagine that something previous generations did as a matter of course - save seeds - has become somewhat of a political act.  Monsanto is a corporate "person" who takes it as seriously as bank robbery. It's a big win for genetic diversity that the giant corporation has no control over open-pollinated seeds. Do your part with your own "Victory over Monsanto" garden.


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Pro-Life Action League Sends Out Free Chinese Handcuffs - & Veiled Threats

by: countrycat

Tue Jan 27, 2015 at 17:00:00 PM CST

LOL... Nothing says "I'm opposed to abortion" more than sending money to Chinese companies, right? That's what one radical anti-choice group did with its extra cash. Certainly, they won't help struggling families feed & clothe their children. No, the Pro-Life Action League bought 500 CHINESE-made handcuffs & sent them to women's clinics across the country. The clinics in Huntsville & Montgomery report getting a set along with a note encouraging them to "get out of the abortion business." 


Look! It even includes a number to call! Although I have to note that offering counseling by mail (not to mention the free toys) is preferable to screaming at women from the sidewalk, but it's not really a good use of donors tax-deductible contributions. Do you suppose those donors realize that the organization is sending money to China - the "Great Satan" of forced abortion?

Speaking of money... the Alabama Reproductive Rights Association (ARRA) is looking for donations to its Financial Assistance Fund. The all-volunteer group of Alabama heroes & heroines helps provide emotional support, transportation, & partial payment of expenses to women who need help paying for an abortion. Remember that in Alabama, some women must travel hours each way and pay for a hotel room - not that the state thinks that's in any way burdensome.

The group recently received a moving thank you note from a young women they helped.  She had no one to turn to but strangers.  Matt Osborne did a wonderful story about this recently at Breitbart Unmasked:

An ARRA volunteer drove College Girl up to the state capital, where she arrived 14 weeks pregnant at the home of another volunteer who hosted her while she was in town. Although she’d already had the state-mandated ‘counseling’ at her local Planned Parenthood clinic, she still needed to have a state-mandated ultrasound, and there was necessary lab work to be done. Her procedure was also more expensive than most because of a medical complication, but the volunteers raised every penny needed to take care of her.
If you need help accessing your reproductive RIGHTS in Alabama, or know someone who does, do not hesitate to contact ARRA. Their website is here and their Facebook page is here. You can also find them on Twitter here.

ARRA's financial aid fund is running low; they're hoping to collect $5,000 to replenish the fund. The goal is 500 $10 contributions in honor of the handcuff stunt.

Use the donation link on the ARRA page (top left) to donate via PayPal. Every dollar is appreciated. There are so many women who need help and they feel alone and desperate:

Because I had no help nor support from any of my family or friends on my decision. - See more at: http://www.breitbartunmasked.com/2015/01/26/arra-alabamas-underground-railroad-for-reproductive-freedom/#sthash.Ei81oV0a.dpuf

Because I had no help nor support from any of my family or friends on my decision.

How would you rather your tax-deductible donations be used?  To help women who have nowhere else to turn or to subsidize the activities of the handcuff charity?.  Go figure - the handcuff folks get just 2 stars from Charity Navigator.  ARRA doesn't have a ranking yet, but none of these volunteers are in it for the money.

See a close-up of the Chinese handcuffs on the flip.

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AL Chief Justice Roy Moore Still Doesn't Understand The US Constitution

by: countrycat

Tue Jan 27, 2015 at 14:49:42 PM CST

Now that Judge Granade has ruled again that Alabama's anti-same sex marriage laws are unconstitutional, expect the whining in Montgomery to get even louder. And it was pretty bad before: on Friday, AL GOP Chair/Obama Conspiracy Theorist Bill Armistead displayed the same lack of Christian charity we've come to expect from a man whose political positions are rarely Christian or charitable.Roy Moore

Tonight’s news is a clear demonstration of how traditional values espoused by Alabamians have begun to erode even in our conservative state. The far left-wing radical agenda of Barack Obama and the Democratic Party have brought to Alabama’s front door their effort to redefine marriage."

Today, the same federal judge issued yet another ruling (in a separate case) that says Alabama's marriage laws "restrict the Plaintiffs' fundamental rights."

Indicted Speaker Mike Hubbard displayed his "conservative Christian values" with a similar broadside:

House Speaker Hubbard in a statement had called Friday's ruling "outrageous when a single unelected and unaccountable federal judge can overturn the will of millions of Alabamians who stand in firm support of the Sanctity of Marriage Act. "The Legislature will encourage a vigorous appeals process, and we will continue defending the Christian conservative values that make Alabama a special place to live."

But leave it to Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore to take the whole thing to a new level of obstinacy and legal malpractice.  He's planning to ignore the whole thing and continue the fight against marriage equality in Alabama.  What's more, he's inviting Governor Robert Bentley and the rest of the state to join him in his new windmill tilting expedition:

"As Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, I will continue to recognize the Alabama Constitution and the will of the people overwhelmingly expressed in the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment," Moore wrote.

"I ask you to continue to uphold and support the Alabama Constitution with respect to marriage, both for the welfare of this state and for our posterity," Moore continued at the end of the letter. "Be advised that I stand with you to stop judicial tyranny and any unlawful opinions issued without constitutional authority."

Roy MooreRemember, this is the guy who famously declared that the constitutional guarantee of Freedom of Religion only applies to Christians, so it's obvious that he's no constitutional scholar.  Still, how is it even possible for at a person to graduate from law school and pass the bar exam without understanding the Supremacy Clause?

Article VI, Paragraph 2 of the Constitution is commonly referred to as the Supremacy Clause.  It establishes that the federal constitution, and federal law generally, take precedence over state laws, and even state constitutions. 


What are you planning to do, Judge Moore? Stick your big Ten Commandments rock in the courthouse door?

This isn't the first time Moore has thrown in with the nullification crowd & likely won't be the last.  But each time it costs Alabama money that we don't have to go and throw a bigoted hissy fit in federal court.

It's neck and neck in the race to see what Judge Moore dislikes more: Sharia Law (any kind but Christian Sharia) or marriage equality. Gee... Alabama has enough of an image problem without our State Supreme Court Chief Justice running around sounding like the love child of Scott Beason & Fred Phelps.

Marriage equality is coming to Alabama - hopefully in just a couple of weeks. But that won't stop Alabama politicians from plotting to wage a legal & PR war in a futile effort to protect our state's right to discriminate.


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Montgomery should pass on Artur Davis

by: capcityfreepress

Mon Jan 26, 2015 at 16:56:06 PM CST

( - promoted by countrycat)

  Just when I foolishly believed I had washed the foul political aftertaste of Artur Davis out of my mouth, he's uncorking another bottle of his trademark bitterness, shameless opportunism and ego-tripping.

  Last week he announced he's running for mayor of Montgomery, challenging incumbent Todd Strange who announced his reelection bid the same day. But which version of Artur Davis this happens to be would be anyone's guess, though....

Read the rest of this article at the Capital City Free Press.  


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Probate Judges Association: "Marriage License Paperwork Is As Complicated As Running An Election"

by: countrycat

Sun Jan 25, 2015 at 15:33:33 PM CST

After listening to the media conference call held by the Probate Judges's Association today, I'm a little worried about the power these guys have. Do we really want people who can't handle simple paperwork changes running our elections, dealing with inheritance disputes, and ruling on mental competence?Marriage Equality in Alabama

I listened to this for almost an hour & now I'm more concerned about the competence of the people running this professional organization. The attorney for the PJA - Al Agricola (President of the Montgomery Federalist Society) - says that Alabama probate judges can issue licenses, but the Executive Board of the Association (acting on Agricola's legal advice) "advises against it."

The main problem, you see.. is paperwork and laws dating back to 1852.  hmmm... let's THINK about some laws that old that the state no longer follows - thanks to the federal judiciary. This is not an exact transcript, but the quick notes get most of it (fortunately, Agricola was speaking slowly!) and you'll get the gist:

"Changes brought about by the judge's order are complex. Laws regarding marriage go back to 1852 & we have no details from the judge as to how Probate Judges & clerks are supposed to uniformly & efficiently administer these changes."

Question: Wouldn't the change be issue or not issue the license? Isn't that the option?

"It's not that easy."

Question: Why?

"All the forms have "husband and wife" and there are ripple effects in issues surrounding presumption of paternity and in this case adoption.  The purpose of the adoption laws in AL - those use the term husband and wife - purpose is to ensure the fundamental right of children to have relationship with biological arents. And approximate that with an adoption.
Issuing marriage licenses is as complicated as administering an election.  Clerks have no training.  Want to avoid long lines at officers because we don't know how to administer the changes.

More notes are on the flip, along with a link to the audio file -audio link coming in an hour or so.... Audio link is active at Dropbox.


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Marriage Equality Comes To Alabama!

by: countrycat

Fri Jan 23, 2015 at 19:19:10 PM CST

A federal judge has ruled that Alabama's anti-marriage equality constitutional amendments & state laws are unconstitutional because they violate the "equal protection and due process clauses of the 14th Amendment."  Well, heck yes they do! It's about time the courts noticed that.

Alabama marriage equality 

This is a quick post due to family obligations, but let me quote from a previous post to show how much this means to Alabama couples financially.  Hey.. it's tax season and same-sex couples have gotten the shaft for years because their relationships weren't legally recognized.

If Alabama Republicans really wanted to lower taxes....

During the dark DOMA years, this was true for couples filing federal returns as well - even if their states recognized their marraiges. And the cost was high.  in 2010, for example, same sex couples paid an average of $6,000 more in taxes than other married couples:

Even as more same-sex couples are able to file jointly at the state level, they are still forced to file as single when submitting federal returns to the IRS.

This means they can't combine their income and deductions to take advantage of lower tax rates. It's also harder for them to qualify for certain tax breaks because the credits phase out sooner for single filers.

But DOMA's demise changed that.  Now, all legally married couples in Alabama can file joint federal returns, but not all couples can file joint state returns.

As of today... joint state tax returns are possible!

In other news... I'm now saving my money to buy a LOT of wedding presents for my GLBT friends and imagine the economic benefit of a lot of weddings in the state: photographers, caterers, printers, travel agents, hotels, etc.

The Republicans always talk about jobs, jobs, jobs, but the businesses that benefit from this won't be lawyers hired to defend unconstitutional bills.  They will be created locally as our fellow citizens celebrate their love and claim the privileges and rights that the rest of us take for granted.

Justice. Equality. Love.

And it's all coming to Alabama!

Is anyone planning to go and apply for a license on Monday?  Left in Alabama would love to be there to document it.  Please email countrycat@leftinalabama.com if you're willing to be interviewed.


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When Charlie was born...

by: archangelsk

Fri Jan 23, 2015 at 14:15:17 PM CST

In May of this year I will celebrate my 10 years in Alabama.  When I came here I was a still wet behind the ears 25 year old, newly married, new parent, with a new career.  I am originally from Colorado, so I get a lot of confused faces from people wondering why the hell I would have willingly moved from such a great state, to one that hs had its fair share of a history of problems.  At the time, writing was my escape. I would literally spend hours going through the multitude of progressive blogs looking for material, contributing my opinion, expertise.  This was all much to the chagrin of my wife, who thought it was an inordinate waste of time.  But it had been my outlet since before I met her and after moving here, it was my connection to a community that I had lost contact with once I moved here.  That is, until I found Left in Alabama.   10 years ago almost seems like a lifetime ago, Bush was president, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were at the forefront of all of our minds.  We all feared the re-election of George W. Bush was a harbinger of a creeping fascism which had no end.

Left in Alabama became my second family. LiA became a place where I escaped from my conservative friends and family, where I could vent my frustrations and like before, offer my informed opinions and expertise on a wide range of topics.  I made some really great friends, the Cats became the political parents that I had longed for, I looked forward to the posts from the likes of Piggieheart, Saint Satin Stain, crazy auntie RedEye and the insights from the likes of DrAbston.  I actually looked forward to the exchanges with DaleJackson to see what kind of batshit craziness he could come up with next.

This blog was my place to share my experiences as a liberal Yankee-in-Exile living in the reddest of red states.  And for a good, long time, I kept up.  I posted almost everyday, had a diary up at least 3-4 times a month.  Left in Alabama was here for me while I was unemployed in 2008 and 2009, I used that time to blog about how my time as a 99er was affecting my family and I.

But then I found a new job, with a new school district.  And Charlie was born.

In January 2010, my son Charlie came into this world.  And while I could somewhat justify how my spare time and evenings could be spent on an activity that was not going to bring me any sort of monetary reward with one kid, with two, one being a newborn, my hobby was about about to take a hit.

My posts after 2010 became fewer and farther between one another.  As Charlie got older, he started suffering from seizures.  It wasn't an everyday occurence, but even one a month is too many.  Everyday my wife and I would walk on eggshells, worried that another seizure might be on the way.  Eventually we were able to get to the bottom of the problem.  Charlie's hypothalmus was underdeveloped.  He was not able to regulate his body temperature and as a result extreme fluctuations in temperature would throw his body into seizures.  After seeing specialists and putting him through batteries of tests, we finally got to the heart of the problem.  He was not epileptic, and by his 4th birthday, he had not had a seizure in 6 months.

In this time, I had stopped writing.  I stopped turning to the place where I could vent my frustrations in a constructive manner.  But I also started to feel the heavy curtain of depression and anxiety weigh me down.  I just didnt have the desire anymore to write.  About the only things that brought me out were, now former, State Senator/Religious Prophet/Exotic Dancer Connoseur Shadrack McGill or the stupidity of the new GOP Supermajority and how they were handling teachers and education.

The 2010 elections took a toll on me.  I had gotten a DCCC Fellowship, but was offered Bobby Bright's campaign and refused because of Bright's lack of support for the ACA.  I had principles.  I was beside myself at the fact that Alabamians could be THAT stupid to vote in a majority that was not going to support their best interests.  And the hits just kept coming.  The activist in me that kept me writing vanished. I've posted here and there since 2010, but have not been a regular contributor in a long time. 

Earlier this week I reconnected with a political friend that I had lost contact with.  We had lost each others numbers, he had gotten married, started a family, we both had busy lives and we each had few lost/stolen/damaged cellphones between the two of us.  Our reconnection came as a result of some work goings-on, I needed him to look at some thing I had written and in the course of him going through it he looked up from the paper and said, "I caught myself wondering the other day why I had not seen anything you had written in a long time, why did you stop?"

I thought about that for a minute and said "I don't know, I just have been so busy, I have felt like I have been in survival mode for the last few years".  We also had been talking about how stressed I had been lately, and how I had a lack of outlets in which to let some of that steam off.  As I thought about our conversation, I asked myself, again, "Why did you stop writing?"

Then I started to think about what has changed, what has happened in the last 5 years.  And I put it all together.  It all started when Charlie was born.  

In that time, there has been a lot going on in my personal and professional life.  I changed jobs, changed schools, started and finished a graduate degree (I am now Archangelsk, EdS.), gained 50 lbs, lost 25 lbs. I turned 35. Had some marriage ups, had some marriage downs.  Lost a couple grandparents.

Today, I feel like I am at a crossroads of sorts.  I have some major life decisions to make here in the next couple of months.  I have resolved to work on myself this year and to try to be a happier, more productive person.  My conversation with my friend was sort of an ego boost.  He told me he always enjoyed my writing, whether it was stuff I had written for a newspaper, whether it was my contributions to local radio shows, he said that a voice like mine was missing from the community.

It was then that I realized that as much as the topics or individuals who were the focus of my writing caused me consternation, frustration and anger, that writing made me happy.  That getting the thoughts that were rattling around my head out, whether its on a computer screen or a pad of paper, was healthier than burying it and causing myself pain.

So here I am, on my 3rd or 4th return.  I can't guarantee that my own personal renaissance will last long, but I am going to promise myself to start getting these thoughts out, to being more constructive, finding that passion that I lost.  Because when Charlie was born, I didn't stop being Mike Duran aka archangelsk.



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Getting A CLUE About Homeowner's & Auto Credit Scoring

by: countrycat

Fri Jan 23, 2015 at 07:00:00 AM CST

Time to take a break from politics & talk about what really affects everybody: insurance costs & credit reports. By now, most people know that they can get a free annual copy of their credit reports each year, but that's consumer credit information - mortgages, credit cards, car loans, etc.  There's also a "FICO score" that can determine your interest rates and suitability for loans. Insurance rates

I knew all that, but just found out yesterday that  insurance companies are playing a different type of "credit scoring" game and it plays a key role not just in what premiums you pay, but also in how much you pay for car, homeowner's, and renter's insurance.  It's called a "CLUE report" (Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange). Your CLUE score usually doesn't affect your current policy rates, but has a big impact when you start shopping around for a new carrier.

Incidentally, shopping around is something you should do on a regular basis. Here at the cathouse, our homeowner's carrier hit us with a 27% increase in our annual premium for 2015, even though we had no claims and had just put on a new roof.  We'd had the policy for over 10 years and had initially switched because the previous carrier also suffered from gradual "policy price creep."  Of course, I started researching other carriers and found that we could get better coverage for a lot less by switching. In fact, we're saving about $1000/year on home & car insurance over 2014.  Ironically, we're going back to the previous company!

Anyway, while I was researching new policies, I found reference to the CLUE scoring.  Every person is entitled (by federal law) to one free copy each year of their CLUE reports for home & auto insurance (they're different reports). Look at them: an error in your CLUE report can raise your policy premiums or keep you from getting insurance entirely.

From Lexis/Nexis:

The C.L.U.E. Personal Property report provides a seven year history of losses associated with an individual and his/her personal property. The following data will be identified for each loss: date of loss, loss type, and amount paid along with general information such as policy number, claim number and insurance company name.

The C.L.U.E. Auto report provides a seven year history of automobile insurance losses associated with an individual. The following data will be identified for each loss: date of loss, loss type, and amount paid along with general information such as policy number, claim number and insurance company name.

Here's how to get free copies of all your credit reports:

  • Free consumer credit report information from the Federal Trade Commission. Learn more at that link or go directly to AnnualCreditReport.com to order your free reports.
  • Use the same Lexis/Nexis link to access both your personal property and auto CLUE reports. The reports are free; you can buy additional reports if you want more information, but don't have to. The Web site has information about how to dispute and correct any errors you find.

This isn't a sponsored post.  LIA doesn't make any money from any report you request.  I know it's different from our usual posts, but it's important information.  I'm pretty well-informed about current events and personal finance - or thought I was until I ran across this information.  It seemed worth sharing.

Happy informed insurance shopping!


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House Republicans Know Better Than You What Insurance Coverage You Need

by: countrycat

Thu Jan 22, 2015 at 16:48:47 PM CST

Alabama's Big Daddies in the House - Aderholdt, Brooks, Byrne, Palmer, Rogers, & Roby - are better at making health care choices than American women. At least that's how they voted today. If, by some miracle, this becomes law, thank your Republican Congressional parents when you can't buy the insurance coverage with your own money that you think is best for you and your family.

Mind your own business 

And this is the party that railed about "putting government between you and your doctor" and "government takeover of healthcare?"  You betcha.

Taking a page from the Alabama Legislature's book of "outlawing things that are already illegal," the House decided to make federal funding for abortions (the Hyde Amendment) even more illegal! In fact, they took it a bit farther. In their view, not only can the federal government decide how federal funds will be spent - they're going to decide how you can spend your own money. This isn't new. We've been fighting some version of this silliness for years.  From 2011, for example:

You know when the GOP says "it's your money?"  What they really mean is that it is your money - unless it's part of a government tax break.  If you don't have to pay taxes on the money, then Boehner and company - including Alabama co-sponsors Mo Brooks and Joe Bonner - think they get to decide how you spend it.

That's the case with HR-3: under the GOP's bill, if you pay for an abortion with your "own money" - out of your own HSA or cafeteria plan - then be prepared to provide the proof that you needed it.  Not proof that you were pregnant, but actual written proof that you meet the right-wing test: rape or incest.

They're all for state's rights, but screw your family's right to decide what insurance coverage you need.

It's disappointing, but we in Alabama aren't surprised. In Alabama, our own legislators (even Democrats!) have set themselves up as judge, jury, and gynecologist in deciding what sort of insurance coverage grown women can buy.

Remember the 2012 legislative session:

It wasn't exactly a "Profiles in Courage" moment in the Alabama State Senate on Tuesday.  Senators voted 30-2 to pass Greg (Ultrasound Salesman) Reed's bill (SB10) to prohibit elective abortion coverage from the state health insurance exchange. They know better than you what health coverage you need and how you should be spending your own money.

That's right campers - this isn't employer-sponsored insurance. This isn't Medicare or Medicaid.  This is you writing a check to a private health insurance company each month and Greg Reed and the Alabama legislature telling you what you can buy.  And what you can't.

So much for the party of personal responsibility & freedom from regulation.

What's especially shocking are the votes of Alabama's Democratic Senators - some of whom spoke at the anti-SB12 rally held in Montgomery last month.

This is happening on the national level now.  The House leadership got smacked down by some of its own Republican women members for their 20-week "almost no exceptions" anti-abortion bill.  But not because it was stupid you understand: because they didn't like how the wording "looked."  Apparently, it's ok to be extremist as long as you don't look extremist on choice.  Kind of like a "pro-choice Spanx" vote.  "I may be anti-choice, but this bill makes me look extreme, so I'll complain about it to leadership."

So what's the "Spanx alternative" vote?  The House voted to make federal funding for abortion even more illegal!  They're so set on restricting women's choices that they're willing to raise taxes on small businesses:

The House bill would also restrict small businesses from getting an Affordable Care Act tax credit if they purchase employee health plans that include abortion coverage on the Small Business Health Options Program, or SHOP exchange.

Screw "states rights" and "burdensome government regulation!" We need to penalize women and businesses if they purchase the insurance policies that House members don't like.  After all, that group of non-physicians certainly knows better than we do what sort of health coverage we need, right?


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There Must Be Something In The Water In Washington DC

by: countrycat

Thu Jan 22, 2015 at 10:49:38 AM CST

Sunday's Huntsville Times offers us the tale of two Congressmen: former Rep. Spencer Bachus & current Rep. Bradley Byrne.  It's illuminating, the difference an election makes. Bachus shed his GOP suit - complete with "No Obama, No Way!" button - and Byrne eagerly suited up.Bradley Byrne

Bachus' transformation was so startling that AL.com columnist John Archibald opined that he may have been "kidnapped by aliens and replaced with a duplicate." Read what Bachus had to say in the interview, and you'll wonder the same thing:

Bachus, in an extended interview with Madison Underwood and myself, said Gov. Robert Bentley should find a way to expand Medicaid, for the good of the people who need him. He said gerrymandering threatens the Republic, that President Obama, with all his faults, is smart and personable, and that Obamacare - while still "pretty bad'' - is not as bad as it's cracked up to be. (Because nothing is ever that bad).

It is too bad Bachus, while in office, did not speak louder about the things he now seems passionate about.

But politics, as he put it, makes that " tough, tough."

Archibald said that he wishes Bachus would have said those things while in Washington, but is "glad he's saying them now."  Well, I'm able to restrain my enthusiasm.  A 22-year veteran of Congress sat down and admitted that he'd voted for policies that he knew were bad and would hurt Alabama citizens - and he did it for political gain.  It was all politics, you see: he's really a compassionate guy worried about "people."

I can just hear the Bill Cosby bit where he tell his kids that their doting grandparents "are not the same people I grew up with! You're looking at old people trying to get into Heaven!"

Dear Mr. Bachus.... It's not "politics" to the working families struggling with medical bills because you weren't courageous enough to stand up for them.  In 2012, you ran this ad reading the text in your own voice:

"Obamacare is just the government managing and controlling health care, making choices that doctors and patients ought to make. It's a socialist policy, plain and simple. It's a bad policy for America and we need to repeal it. It's bad for health care and it's bad for individuals. I'm Spencer Bachus and I approved this message."

How did you not choke on your words? In 2013, you signed on as a House co-sponsor to Ted Cruz's effort to force a government shutdown to avoid funding the ACA. And while you're being so nice and reasonable now, do you have any comments on whether your votes on these issues were from your heart or "just politics?"

  • Voted NO on letting shareholders vote on executive compensation. (Jul 2009)
  • Voted NO on enforcing against anti-gay hate crimes. (Apr 2009)
  • Voted NO on funding for alternative sentencing instead of more prisons. (Jun 2000)
  • Voted NO on modifying bankruptcy rules to avoid mortgage foreclosures. (Mar 2009)
  • Voted NO on monitoring TARP funds to ensure more mortgage relief. (Jan 2009)
  • Voted NO on $15B bailout for GM and Chrysler. (Dec 2008) 

At the same time that Bachus is decompressing in Birmingham and hoping to be remembered as someone who "has a heart for people less fortunate," Rep. Bradley Byrne is letting his freak flag fly.  Now, this won't surprise those who watched his 2010 campaign for governor. The most memorable episode occurred in the produce aisle of the New Hope Piggly Wiggly, where Byrne recanted his previous belief in evolution and declared that "every word in the Bible is true."  And he did it with a straight face. 

More recently, a flurry of press releases and op/eds indicate that the former Democratic office holder & party contributor is vying for a prominent seat on the GOP's anti-Obama bandwagon.

  • January 15, 2015: Byrne slams Obamacare; calls for full repeal.  "I look forward to working with the Chairman and the leadership of the House to move forward with a full repeal of this failed law." Now, that would leave over 135,000 Alabama ACA policy holders without coverage.  Maybe Bachus needs to share this new "cares about people" idea with Byrne.
  • January 15, 2015: Byrne introduces a balanced budget constitutional amendment. Oddly, his statement doesn't address the economic chaos that would come with it.
  • January 8, 2015: Byrne denounces executive action on Cuba.  hmm.... it was just last year that officials with Mobile's port authority (in Byrne's district) were eying the benefits of enhanced trade with Cuba. “When things are normalized and Cuba is able to export and generate more currency reserves to buy more, it would potentially be more trade than we have today between the Dominican Republic and Haiti,” Lyons said.
  • Oh, and he hates them thar "illegal aliens" just as much as Senator Jeff Sessions does! 

Rep. Byrne: do us all a favor & get a new role model.  But don't choose former Rep. Bachus. We'd like you to show some thoughtfulness and political courage before you leave office, not after.

I wonder how all the Democrats who flooded into the GOP primary to support Byrne feel now?  His record is yet another reason that Democrats need to stay the heck OUT of GOP primary races.


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Alabama Charter School Push Kicks Off With January 28 March

by: countrycat

Wed Jan 21, 2015 at 08:31:07 AM CST

Will 2015 finally be the year that Alabama takes the charter school plunge? Supporters announced a January 28 march on Montgomery in honor of "National School Choice Week."  Billed as a "celebration of educational opportunity,"  the effort's partners include various charter school companies & public charter school astroturf groups. The names of some speak for themselves - KIPP Charter Schools, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, & National Association of Charter School Authorizers.Alabama charter schools

Other "partners" have a distinctly pro-public charter school leadership:

  • Education Reform Now. An advocacy group whose board contains a bevy of hedge fund & investment luminaries, including the "current co-chair of Success Academies network of charter schools." Other directors also have charter school ties.
  • Hispanic CREO. Board member Melissa Myers served as Director of Business Development for a for-profit charter school company & now helps schools "improve education through quality choice."
  • Excellence in Education. Their mission is to equip every student to meet his/her "God-given potential." Main funders include charter school advocates including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Walton Family Foundation, Jeb Bush & Associates, & the Triad Foundation (the non-profit arm of a charter school company).
  • American Federation for Children is led by Betsy Devos (sister of Erik Prince of Blackwater fame), the founder of a number of school voucher advocacy groups. 
  • Black Alliance for Educational Options receives substantial donations from the Alliance for School Choice, another Devos-funded group. Four of the seven members of the board of directors have charter school ties, including the CEO of the Newark Charter School Fund.
  • Choice Media, an educational news network was founded by Bob Bowden, a "champion of school choice, charter schools, & vouchers."

Still think this isn't all about charter schools?  Now that we know who the big players in this effort are, let's look at some of the statements from their press release:

  • It’s time to celebrate something that has never before been available in the state of Alabama, choice in education."
  • “We’re proud to be a part of National School Choice Week and we’re looking forward to continuing the push for choice in the New Year.” 

Alabama-based groups sponsoring the rally:

The Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund, StudentsFirst Alabama, the American Federation for Children, the Alabama Business Education Alliance, the Black Alliance for Educational Options, the Alabama Public Charter School Alliance, and the Business Council of Alabama are working together to plan the event.

The event begins at 9am at the Doubletree Hotel.  The rally will be on the south lawn of the Alabama Capitol. Looks for lots of legislators to attend.  After all, these sponsoring groups have deep pockets: the Devos family alone has been willing to give millions to groups - and candidates - who support their agenda.  One thing the Alabama Legislature never, ever does is leave campaign donation cash on the table.

But ask yourself... if we allowed public schools more freedom & autonomy (ie... operate like charters), wouldn't that be a better option than letting private charter school companies siphon off public money? There's also the question of whether charters actually achieve greater outcomes overall. The KIPP program, in particular, seems hard to replicate long term because of its reliance on inexperienced teachers & issues with educator burnout and turnover.

In February, Left in Alabama will kick off a multi-part series on charter schools.  Have you worked in one, had a child in one, or lived in a state that has experience with charters? I'd love to have your perspective to include in the series.


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