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Alabama Democratic Reform Caucus Meets Saturday Before SDEC Meeting

by: countrycat

Mon Jul 06, 2015 at 11:20:31 AM CDT

People who say they don't get involved with state and local Democratic Party organizations because they disagree with Alabama Democratic Party's style, leadership, and party operations might want to take a look at this new organization: the Alabama Democratic Reform Caucus.

In a recent press release, they announced their formation, goals, and details about the first meeting:

With plans to continually work to restore the Alabama Democratic Party (ADP) to a position of respect and strength, the Alabama Democratic Reform Caucus (ADRC) will announce its formation at an Open House preceding the State Democratic Executive Committee (SDEC) Meeting on Saturday, July 11th in Montgomery.

As Chair of the Caucus and the Calhoun County Democrats , Sheila Gilbert stated, “2014 was a terrible election year for Democrats.  We need to begin NOW rebuilding and rebranding the ADP as the party that speaks for all citizens of our great state.  We are offering a blueprint to strengthen and move our Party forward.  We sincerely hope you’ll join us.”

The ADRC’s first order of business is proposed changes to the current Party bylaws: 

  • Include County Chairs, who locally do much of the Party’s work, on the SDEC. 
  • Increase diversity by providing a voice for all regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or religion in delegate selection and all party affairs. 
  • Require quarterly meetings that include minutes, a financial report and filling vacancies on the State Board.

 Rafael Braithwaite, a member of the SDEC and the ADRC said, “This is about the BIG “R” word - not race - but Reform.  We want to reintroduce people to the strengths inherent in the Democratic Party; how all citizens will benefit from strong Democratic leadership that adheres to our principles of fair wages for a good day’s work, quality public education and affordable healthcare.  We have different priorities than the Republicans.  We put people first.”

It is difficult to see what is “super” about the Republican supermajority.  The ADRC seeks to restore political balance in our state by returning the Democratic Party to its role as an effective and influential advocate for all.  

Membership in the ADRC is only $35 for one year.  Please mail your check to ADRC  P.O. Box 871  Gadsden, AL 35902 

Please see our website, aldemrc.org for our Mission Statement, Goals and Letter to All SDEC members.  

What: AL Dem Reform Caucus Open House
When:  8:30am - 10:30am, Saturday, July 11th
Where:  DoubleTree Hotel Ballroom 120 Madison Ave.  Montgomery 36104 across from Montgomery City Hall where SDEC meeting is at 11am.
Who: All SDEC members, concerned citizens & press

If you doubt the need for reform of the current party structure, review some of our previous coverage of SDEC meetings: 

Most of these articles have video attached, so you can see the chaos for yourself.
The SDEC's next meeting is this Saturday, July 11. They're always interesting, but rarely productive.  Hopefully, the Alabama Democratic Reform Caucus can help change that. 


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Alabama Can't Impeach Roy Moore - Here's Why

by: countrycat

Sun Jul 05, 2015 at 11:30:14 AM CDT

Multiple petitions are circulating online requesting Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore's impeachment, & there's nothing wrong with signing one. Just don't think it will lead to his ouster via impeachment.  Alabama doesn't have a mechanism that allows the Legislature to impeach state judges.  We have something better.


We have the Court of Judiciary Overview and the Judicial Inquiry Commission.   

When a state judge is accused of conduct that violates the Canons of Judicial Ethics & Discipline,  the Judicial Inquiry Commission (JIC) investigates the complaint.  The JIC serves as a sort of grand jury.  It reviews the complaint, the evidence, and decides by majority vote if the evidence merits forwarding the matter to the Court of Judiciary Overview (CJO).

The CJO then holds a public hearing on the matter:

The Court of the Judiciary is authorized to remove a judge from office, suspend a judge without pay, or censure a judge for violations of their duties. If a judge is found by the court to by physically or mentally incapable of performing the duties of the office, the court may suspend the judge with or without pay or retire the judge.
This method of removing a judge from office replaces the impeachment method. Decisions of the Court of the Judiciary may be appealed directly to the Supreme Court.

The last time Roy Moore tangled with federal court orders (2003) and refused to remove his Ten Commandments monument, this process removed him from office.

It's a good thing we have this process, because the current legislature would be more likely to make him "Chief Justice for Life" than impeach him.  

Hopefully, after his behavior during the entire marriage equality fight in Alabama this year - particularly his comments immediately after the SCOTUS ruling - someone is already drafting a complaint. 

Alabama's judicial disciplinary process is less political than a straight impeachment vote by the legislature, but some members are subject to appointment by the Governor & Lt. Governor. Read more about who appoints whom here. So there's nothing wrong with showing your support for Moore's removal via the online petitions.

It's just important that people know what the actual process is - and realize that this is one area where Alabama's Constitution does something right.


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The Jason Childs Show, Love Wins !

by: Jasonisus

Fri Jul 03, 2015 at 11:31:12 AM CDT

( - promoted by countrycat)

Join us this Sunday at 2 pm for another exciting episode. Our special guest will be Bruce Britton from HRC and Sterling Fiering from PFLAG. Both of these guys have been working so hard to bring marriage equality to Alabama. I am so proud of their efforts and I am looking forward to having them on to talk about this great victory and the battles yet to come. We will also have campaign updates and progressive news you can use, and the most important thing - You. Make plans to be with us.http://www.blogtalkradio.com/jasonisus
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Alabama Officials Line Up For The Crazytown Derby After Marriage Equality Ruling

by: countrycat

Wed Jul 01, 2015 at 17:04:02 PM CDT

SCOTUS ruled on marriage equality last Friday, causing many Alabama elected officials & state employees to lose their collective minds. The resulting spectacle of dueling press conferences, contradictory judicial orders, and stubborn refusal of many Probate Judges to comply with the ruling looks like the beginning of the Kentucky Derby.  Only in this case, we have a line of horses' rear ends lined up to race each other to Crazytown.


Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore was, as expected, in the pole position.  According to him, this ruling will lead to doom, dispair, agony, and disrespect for the Constitution - a document that Moore has a long-time uneasy relationship with.

Moore surged to an early lead right out of the gate by invoking Godwin's Law during this rant about Christian persecution and rather astonishingly equated same-sex marriage with murder:

Asked if as the state's chief justice he would follow and enforce the law, Moore snapped that judges do not enforce the law. Asked if he expected probate judges and other judges and state officials to obey the law, Moore used examples of men who were judged to have followed wrong and immoral laws and orders in Germany during World War II.

"Could I do this if I were in Nuremberg (war crimes trials after WW II) say that I was following the orders of the highest authority to kill Jews?... Could I say I was ordered to do so?

Told that trial was about killing human beings, not gay marriage, Moore asked: "Is there a difference?" 

Um... yes. There is.

He set the pace for the entire pack on Sunday when he went to church:

“Welcome to the new world. It’s just changed for you Christians. You are going to be persecuted according to the U.S Supreme Court dissents,” Moore said.

Um... are those the same dissents that also cited hippies and fortune cookies?

But suddenly, Moore's dominance had an unexpected challenger - one from his own stable! In a stunning "I'll see your Holocaust reference and raise you a Armageddon" move, Moore's lawyer and director of legal staff at Alabama's Administrative Office of Courts, Win Johnson, kicked Governor Robert Bentley where it hurts.  Johnson snorted at Bentley's notion that we have to follow they law, laid his ears back, and laid into the Governor.  He began the letter with "Jesus Christ is Lord of all."  And then it got really weird:

"Public official, what will you do?  Will you stand up for the law of Alabama, for the people, for the weak and vulnerable, for the law of God?  Or will you capitulate?  Will you become complicit in the takeover by the wicked?" 

"Don't use the Nazi war-crimes trial defense: 'My superiors (or the courts) told me to do it.' You're not standing for the rule of law when you capitulate to a law that defies God and exposes people to the wicked. You're just a coward making excuses! Or will your conscience cause you to resign? Why would you leave the people of this State, their children, your children and grandchildren to the wolves, those who would rend the society apart with their denial of what's good and evil?" 

Then, this same guy who's helping run Alabama state court system surged into the lead with the stupidest religious reference since Shadrack McGill confused public school teachers with missionaries:

"Public officials are ministers of God assigned the duty of punishing the wicked and protecting the righteous. You cannot serve two masters: you must pick -- God or Satan."  

It's true.  In Alabama elections, you really can't "Win" for losing. 

Neck and neck, the two challengers battled, only to be blinsided by a dark horse:  Alabama PSC Commissioner Chip Beeker. He left Moore and Johnson in the dust when he told a cheering audience of almost 50 people that gay marriage is is more dangerous than ISIS:

"This was not an interpretation of the Constitution. It was an assault on God, on Christian heritage and on our culture," Beeker said.

"The runaway judiciary is a bigger threat to the United States than Isis. Liberal judges have done harm to our country and our constitution than Al Qaeda." 

Sure unbelievers... laugh all you want now, but you'll be singing a different tune when those marauding gay florists come after your family jewels with the shears, won't you?

At the same event, church lobbyist Joe Godfrey stumbled out of the gate when he appeared to call for greater workplace protection for Alabama workers.  Alabama is an "employ at will" state, so you can even be fired for the bumper sticker you have on your car. 

"I predict it's going to happen when big corporations, CEOs, tell people that work as their employees, ''You know, if you keep going to that church that teaches against homosexuality, teaches what the Bible says, we're going to have to let you go.'

"So they're going to be forced to make a choice between a church that they attend and have been attending for years, and their job." 

Protect workers? In Alabama? Trot back to the stable, loser.

Bringing up the rear are the state's Probate Judges who are refusing to issue licenses.  Pike County PJ Wes Allen is going to have to pick up the pace on rhetoric if he wants to stay in the race:

"It's a deep-rooted conviction; my conscience won't allow me" to grant gay-marriage licenses, Davis told The Associated Press. "It goes against everything I hold dear, everything sacred in my life." 

Sucker.  Next to ISIS, the climactic battle between good and evil, and Nuremberg, you sound downright rational.  You should be racing at a county fair, not in the big time. 

The loser in the Crazytown Derby?  Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, who has some dim remembrance of 12-grade American Government class and federalism:

"It will be emotional for many but I want to urge everyone today to be calm. We can express our disagreements verbally as I have. But I have to uphold not only the constitution of Alabama, but I swore to uphold the Constitution of the United States and we will uphold the law of the United States. I will uphold the law of the nation and this is now the law." 

Sure, he says that now that he can't run for re-election. 

Hang on campers.  If you think this is bad, just wait until the Legislature goes back into session. 


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Accountability Act Really Is A Great Private School Giveaway

by: Larry Lee

Sun Jun 28, 2015 at 10:58:29 AM CDT

New information from the Department of Revenue shows at least $4 million that should have gone to the Education Trust Fund in 2014 went instead, to pay tuition for students already enrolled in private schools.   While the law was intended to help "failing schools" and their students, more than 1,000 students in private schools got scholarships.  This is allowable under the Alabama Accountability Act. 


Under the accountability act, scholarship granting organizations (SGOs) raise money from both individual and corporate contributors.  When donors adhere to certain guidelines, they receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit against their Alabama tax liability.  Since the diverted funds would normally go to the state Education Trust Fund, any dollar received by an SGO is a dollar that is unavailable to be used to fund education needs.

Bottom line, in 2014 we took $4 million away from the Education Trust Fund and gave it to private schools to pay tuition and fees for students who attended that school for at least one year prior to getting a scholarship

Legislative leadership who rushed AAA through the House and Senate in 2013 never told the public that this would be one of the outcomes.  Instead, we were told repeatedly that this law was only about "helping poor kids stuck in private schools by their zip codes."

Records on file at the Department of Revenue's website show what's happening:

  • The Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund, LLC, created by former Governor Bob Riley, gave 725 scholarships to private school students.
  • Scholarships for Kids, Inc. of Birmingham handed out 320 of them.
  • AAA Scholarship Foundation, Inc. of Prattville funded 21 (which was 70 percent of their scholarships).

If you multiply the number of scholarships by the average scholarship amount for each SGO you learn that as much as $4,431,897 may have gone to private schools for previously enrolled students.

We also learn that AOSF gave out more scholarships in Mobile County than any other. The primary target for Scholarship for Kids was Jefferson County, while AAA Scholarships and Beacons of Hope were most active in Montgomery County. (Beacons of Hope did not award any scholarships to students already in a private school.)
Another bit of info that catches one’s eye is the amount spent by AOSF in 2014 on “non-scholarship expenditures.”  The Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund spent $805,190 while only collecting $652,390 in donations.

An annual audit by the firm of McGladrey, of Step Up for Students, the Florida SGO that controls AOSF, shows the Alabama group spent $522,282 on salaries and wages and $387,036 on recruiting and advertising by June 30, 2014.

Even though supporters of the accountability act continue to claim it was intended to help failing schools and their students, it has long been acknowledged that a large number of scholarship recipients were not from these schools. The new info is the most specific look to date at how far this legislation has strayed from its original stated purpose.

And you can’t help but wonder if the 22 senators and 51 house members who supported AAA bill in 2013 would have changed their votes had they been told they were voting to take $4 million from public schools to give to students already attending private schools.

The 2013 version of this bill capped SGO contributions at $25 million.  However, Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh got an amendment passed in the recent session to raise the cap to $30 million.  So more money will be lost to public education and if the past is prologue, even more money will leave the education trust fund to support students who are already attending private schools.

It  should also be noted that the amendment passed by Senator Marsh actually rewrites the intent of the bill.  In 2013 bill language clearly says it is about failing schools and their students, this has now been changed to say that the bill is about "school choice."  In other words, two years after saying one thing, the sponsor finally admits all the talk about helping failing schools was really not true. 

And we are supposed to place our confidence in this kind of leadership?


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 

He blogs at LarryEducation.com

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Helen Keller Grew Up - And What A Woman She Was!

by: countrycat

Wed Oct 07, 2009 at 13:54:07 PM CDT

(Helen Keller was born 135 years ago today. It seems appropriate to bring back this post from 2009 that celebrated her life. - promoted by countrycat)

I've been disappointed in the coverage of the unveiling of Helen Keller's statue at the US Capitol.  Like the statue itself, all anyone has talked about is Keller as the little girl who was, in the parlance of the times, "deaf, dumb, and blind."

Helen Keller

Yes, it's an inspiring story about triumph over disability, but let's not forget that Helen Keller grew into an amazing woman.

If someone asked you to describe Helen Keller's life and achievements, you'd surely think to include these four facts:

Everyone knows this about her – or they should.

But unfortunately, when asked to describe Helen Keller's life and contributions, the average person's answer is basically a plot summary of "The Miracle Worker." The public's version of Keller's life stops at that breathtaking scene at the water pump where she spells w-a-t-e-r for the first time.

We tend to stop at the beginning of her life and forget the strong, independent woman she became. Keller never wanted to be defined by her disabilities and we do her a disservice when we think of her only in those terms.

If we're going to put her on a pedestal, then let's do it for the right reason – because we understand her life and support her ideals.

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SCOTUS Rules on Marriage Equality - Millions Celebrate, Others Dig In

by: countrycat

Fri Jun 26, 2015 at 09:52:45 AM CDT

In a 5-4 decision today, marriage equality became a constitutional right.  It was a long time coming and we should never forget the people who were hurt by the ban on gay marriage. They paid more in taxes, had to jump through legal hoops to create wills and adopt children, couldn't put their partners on their family health insurance policies, and were even denied the right to die with dignity, with their life partners by their side.


Lack of marriage equality imposed real financial and emotional hardship on people for no good reason whatsoever.

So today is a day to celebrate and celebrate big! Enjoy this euphoria, because it won't last long - not in Alabama anyway.

The Alabama Policy Institute (a very well-funded conservative think tank) has already issued a call for Alabama's elected officials to get moving on this:

Foundational to the Alabama Policy Institute's mission is the adherence to an originalist understanding of the Constitution, zeal for the "numerous and indefinite" powers reserved to the states, and lastly, a biblical view of matters affecting the family. Today's ruling trounces on a strict interpretation of the Constitution by creating an entirely new right and by inexplicably taking the matter out of the hands of the people of each state. 

This ruling will have far-reaching consequences, particularly for those who maintain sincere religious beliefs on marriage. We call on our state's delegation in Congress, the Governor of Alabama, and the Alabama Legislature to take proactive steps to ensure that no Alabamian will be forced to relinquish the freedom to live in accordance with their religious convictions on this matter.

The decision that everyone has the right to marry and that states must recognize those marriages is huge, but the devil is, as always, in the details.  Just look at the abortion battles we're still fighting 42 years after Roe.

Expect more "conscience" bills that basically allow state employees to get paid full salary and decide for themselves who is "worthy" of their time and effort. 

The bill to get Alabama out of the marriage business altogether died in the 2015 regular session, but we have a special session coming up. And we all know that most Alabama legislators would much rather posture on marriage equality than actually solve the state's budget crisis.

So let's celebrate, but keep in mind that the road ahead will have a number of twists and turns.

We're trying to collect information about any & all public rallies/celebrations planned around the state this afternoon or this weekend.  I'll be attending to family matters this afternoon and won't be able to update the post with the info, so please help.

If you know of rallies planned, please post the details in the comment section here and/or share the info on the LIA Facebook page.


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Not so fast, Pardner

by: piggieheart

Fri Jun 26, 2015 at 09:40:45 AM CDT

So the SCOTUS has said the all states MUST recognize same sex marriages and presumably, license them as well. So what will the crazies in Montgomery do next? There has been a lot of hot rhetoric about defying the SCOTUS, but will they actually go down that bat-poop crazy path?  Certainly, if they listen to Roy Moore, they will do just that!

In the meantime, as we watch the insanity that defines the Alabama GOP, let us take a moment to congratulate our LGBTQ friends, just as we congratulated interracial coules after "Loving v. Viginia".

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The Jason Childs Show

by: Jasonisus

Wed Jun 24, 2015 at 15:07:13 PM CDT

( - promoted by countrycat)

Join us this Sunday at 2 pm for another exciting episode. Our special guest will be Bill Britt from the Alabama Political Reporter. Mr. Britt has been covering Alabama politics better than anyone we know. This is going to be a great interview, and if you want the inside scoop on what is happening around the state you do not want to miss it. We will also have campaign updates and progressive news you can use, and the most important thing - You. Make plans to be with us


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It's Time To Look Away, Dixieland

by: countrycat

Tue Jun 23, 2015 at 17:39:46 PM CDT

As a born and bred Southerner (7th generation Alabama native), I’m told I come with a ready-made set of assumptions when I mention that fact to someone from another part of the country. Well, when you “assume” anything, you make an “ass” out of yourself surely, but leave me out of that equation. I haven’t written anything about last week’s Charleston shootings before now because it was just too horrible to talk about - walking into a church, gaining peoples’ trust, praying with them... And then gunning them down seemingly without remorse. 



But here goes.....  I was born in North Alabama in 1963, a few hours before a bomb planted by domestic terrorists blew up the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. There were no TVs in hospitals rooms then, but when my mother woke from anesthesia, the first thing she heard was about the bombing. As she held her newborn daughter, five families a hundred miles to the south were mourning the loss of their daughters.

Diane McWhorter, author of "Carry Me Home", a history of the MLK and the Civil Rights struggle in Birmingham, recounts how that bombing changed her family. Her father, up until that point had been a segregationist, although not a KKK-type. But the bombing “broke him,” she says.  (I’d include the exact quote, but I loaned my copy to a friend who hasn’t returned it). He sat at the table and wept, horrified by what had happened and his dawning realization that his city had gotten to the point that people thought it was ok to kill little girls in church on a Sunday morning.

Sure: that should have been obvious to anyone watching the events unfold before that point, but at least he finally opened his eyes and acknowledged the rot underlying the whole Southern narrative history.

Honor, Heritage, History.... In the South, we’re full of it.  Literally (in all senses of the phrase).  Author Rita Mae Brown writes novels set in the South, and said of one character “...because she was raised in the South, she understood honor. And Fannie died with honor.”  

But do we really understand “honor” when we honor the Old Confederacy? NO.

Spare me the crap about “States’ Rights.” The Civil War was about states’ rights alright, but if you’re going to say that, you have to use the entire sentence.  Repeat after me:



Truly, when you say "the war wasn't about slavery," what the rest of us hear is "I've joined the military history branch of the Flat Earth Society."


In "Gone With The Wind," Rhett Butler tells Scarlett that all wars are “money squabbles,” even though the rhetoric around each one is different. Sometimes it’s “Down with Popery” or “Save Christ’s tomb from the heathens!” or “Cotton, Slavery, and State’s Rights!” but the reality is... They’re all about money.


“All wars are sacred to those who have to fight them. If the people who started wars didn’t make them sacred, who would be foolish enough to fight? But, no matter what rallying cries the orators give to the idiots who fight, no matter what noble purposes they assign to wars, there is never but one reason for a war. And that is money. All wars are in reality money squabbles. But so few people ever realize it.”

The poor whites didn’t own slaves, but they either joined up or got conscripted to serve as foot soldiers for their corporate masters - the planter class that had a lot of money riding on a slavery-based economy. But not everybody was snowed. Many poor Southerners called the conflict “a rich man’s war and poor man’s fight.”  You have to wonder how many ardent defenders of the noble history of the Confederacy had ancestors who were more clear-eyed than their descendants.

This whole narrative of “most Southerners didn’t even own slaves; they were defending their homeland from invasion, and I honor their sacrifice with the flag etc.” is BS. What’s noble or honorable about having ancestors who got played? Why aren’t you pissed instead?  


Here’s the unsanitized, unsentimentalized story of the war: a small group of wealthy farmers - a self-described aristocracy - sweet-talked the rest of the South into starting a war, leading to an absolute disaster that killed over 600,000 Americans, decimated the South’s economy, and led to an entrenched Jim Crow system that terrorized Black Americans for generations.

And yet, the clarion call of “racial superiority” trumped everything then - and now.  


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Spend A Month On James Henderson's Facebook Page & Try To Define "Pro-Life"

by: countrycat

Fri Jun 19, 2015 at 10:19:32 AM CDT

Everyone's least favorite street preacher and member of the Alabama GOP state committee, James Henderson, says he's pro-life and that his little band of fashion- & estrogen-challenged followers are just "sidewalk counselors" who are dreadfully concerned about the safety and well-being of children exposed to clinic protests. (So much so that they bring toddlers to stand on the sidewalk that borders a busy 5-lane thoroughfare.)

People who are really concerned about children tend to take a holistic approach: supporting policies that strengthen families, fight poverty & injustice, boost education levels, and increase access to health care.  You know... all that stuff that Jesus was so interested in....

In statements to the media, Henderson pays lip service to standing up for children who are already born, but a month's worth of posts to his personal Facebook page (which is open to public view) tells a different story.

Henderson: "Jesus would have us stand everywhere for the sanctity of life in all its beautiful phases from conception to natural death."

Death comes a lot more quickly if you don't have enough money to pay for food, shelter, and other necessities, but them's the breaks, right?

HEY KID!  If Jesus wanted you to have food, He'd have thrown you a fish by now!

Buy hey... give him a break. Making food more affordable is fine. As long as it doesn't cost Henderson a dime.

Well, let's try this... wouldn't pregnancy outcomes be better, with healthier famlies and babies if everyone had access to quality medical care? 

Why, stop that "disgraceful" talk right now!

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Celebrate Juneteenth At The Scottsboro Boys Museum On Saturday

by: countrycat

Tue Jun 16, 2015 at 09:01:25 AM CDT

The Scottsboro Boys Museum in Scottsboro, AL will hold its 5th annual Juneteenth celebration on Saturday, June 20 from 10am until noon. This is the 150th anniversary of the original Juneteenth - the day that slavery was finally abolished in the United States.


The event is free and open to the public. You can tour the museum and meet local author/historian Peggy Allen Towns.

Peggy Allen Towns is a local historian of African American history. She is a native of Decatur, Alabama, and her passion is preserving the voices and legacy of African Americans in her home town. She lectures and facilitates workshops on genealogy and local people and historical places. She is dedicated to preserving historic resources, and as a result of her efforts, several sites have been listed on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage.

She has done extensive research documenting her family's history, which led to her discovery of a relative who served with the 110th United States Colored Troops (USCT). Her research revealed that he was captured by General Nathan Bedford Forrest and taken to Mobile, Alabama, to work on the enemy's fortification. She is retired from the United States House of Representatives.

We are honored to have Ms. Towns as our speaker for the Fifth Annual Juneteenth Celebration.

The museum is located at 428 West Willow Street, Scottsboro, AL (easy walking distance from Unclaimed Baggage!).

June 19th - Juneteenth - is also known as "Freedom Day" or "Emancipation Day," and it's the oldest known celebration of the end of slavery in the United States. Even though the Emancipation Proclamation became effective Jan. 1, 1863, the news didn't reach Texas until 1865.

The annual Juneteenth observance at the Scottsboro Boys museum is always a moving event. It reminds us that the past isn't really that far in the past. Furthermore, ending slavery didn't end the struggles of African Americans to attain equal rights and opportunities in this country.

Learn more about the Scottsboro Boys case and the museum.


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Alabama Near The Bottom In Upward Mobility Index - Some Kids Just Don't Stand A Chance

by: countrycat

Mon Jun 15, 2015 at 15:49:25 PM CDT

The chance that an Alabama child born into the bottom 5th of the income distribution will reach the top 5th sometime in his/her lifetime is 6% or less in many parts of the state. It's no big surprise that where you grow up and your parents' level of education and income has a huge impact on your adult life, but these numbers suggest that many poor kids just don't have much of a chance no matter how much their parents care and how hard they work. 


It's not because the kids are dumb or unmotivated or their so-called "culture" doesn't respect education: it's that the deck is stacked against them from the moment they're born - particularly in rural communities (PDF).

In 2008, 22.1% of our Alabama children lived in poverty. By 2012, that number had risen to 26%. The poverty level in 2012 was $23,283 for a family with two adults & two children. That family has $447/week to spend on food and shelter. There's no luxury in this lifestyle: it's barely subsistence living. An even bigger outrage is that only 9% of these kids lived in a family where no adult worked full or part-time during the previous 12 months. In the majority of these families, the parents are working, but at poverty jobs that offer little security, benefits, or chance for advancement.

What do these children face growing up in Alabama?

Limited Access To Prenatal Care
This is a major risk factor for premature birth, and Alabama is in the top three states for the number of premature births.  Our rate is 15.6%, just behind... wait for it... Mississippi.

Low income women are more likely to give birth prematurely, and those children can face a number of challenges into adulthood, including lower test scores in school and numerous health problems.

Inadequate Nutrition
The issue of food deserts in inner city and rural communities is a nationwide problem and particularly challenging for many families living in areas that lack affordable public transportation. SNAP payments (food stamps, they're still commonly called) average $128.82 per person in Alabama. That's a $4.29 daily supplement per person to a family's food budget. The SNAP program is meant to be a supplement to the budget, not the entire food budget but in some families, SNAP money pays for a large percentage of the family's food.

When money is tight, it's tempting to go for the cheap starchy foods that will fill up your kids' hungry stomachs: $1 for a box of mac & cheese (with powdered cheese sauce) or $1 for a fresh orange to be split between the two of them. Which do you pick?

Poor nutrition affects school performance; many educators report that "misbehaving" kids who can't concentrate, are disruptive in class, etc. are simply hungry.

Lack Of Access To Quality Health Care
Poor nutrition contributes to obesity, which in turn, causes chronic health problems like diabetes, hypertension, and can contribute to cancer. In 2013, Alabama ranked 3rd in the country for teen obesity (17.1%). Eight Alabama counties lack any hospital and only 17 counties in the entire state have hospitals with a labor & delivery unit. In 2013, 26% of mothers in rural areas lacked adequate prenatal care.

"Driving an hour or more each way for a monthly OBGYN appointment just isn't feasible for many women who work full time, who have jobs with inflexible leave policies, or those who don't have access to transportation. So they go without.

Sub-standard, Under-funded Schools
When these children reach school age, they're often funneled into under-funded schools.  Rural schools especially face serious challenges attracting qualified teachers, supporting extra-curricular activities, and keeping students engaged in school. Instead of supporting those schools, LIA contributor Larry Lee has shown that the current legislature is more interested in funneling money away from public schools.

Crumbling/Outdated Infrastructure
During the past two legislative sessions, some legislators have tried to force Alabama's school systems to drop paper textbooks in favor of digital textbooks, a scheme that State Senator Vivian Figures called "the have and have nots" bill.

Unlike a paper book, a digital textbook requires a piece of technology to access it, be it a tablet, laptop, PC, eReader, etc. Furthermore, most also require students to have broadband Internet to access homework assignments, take tests, & do additional research.

35% of Alabamians lack broadband Internet access at home, and 56% of rural residents lack access. DSL just made it to our house fewer than 5 years ago!  Local officials have called broadband Internet access as important to the state now as rural electrification was a hundred years ago.

Physical and telecommunication infrastructure affects a community's ability to attract good-paying industry (something other than coal ash pits and prisons!). Industry contributes to the tax base, which supports schools, hospitals, and other local businesses. 

Our children won't have good jobs without modern infrastructure, but Alabama can't even keep its bridges safe, must less wire schools for broadband.


There's More... :: (0 Comments, 626 words in story)

Buying Blue and Eating Well

by: countrycat

Sun Jun 14, 2015 at 11:00:15 AM CDT

For years, we've encouraged LIA folks to support local businesses, but there are often things that you just can't get locally.  In our house, one of those "must-have but hard to get locally" products is high quality spices and spice mixtures. Fortunately, I found a business that has great products, exemplary business ethics, and a strong commitment to social justice: Penzey's Spices.

NOTE: this is NOT an example of "native advertising," nor is it any sort of paid post.  We get solicitations for those a few times per month, and the answer is always NO. While LIA operates on a shoestring budget, we'll never need money bad enough to disguise paid ads as editorial content. This wasn't solicited by anyone at Penzey's or anyone associated with the company.

Their quarterly catalogs are always a treat, and I look forward to reading them. There are sidebar stories that talk about how vanilla is grown, pepper, and more exotic spices, along with first-person stories about the farmers who produce them. 

Each catalog is dedicated either to a certain part of the country or group of people (teachers, first-responders, etc.). Since Penzey's is based in Wisconsin, the owner, Bill Penzey, has a front-row seat for the Scott Walker administration.  Like many of us, he's been both angered and disheartened by what's happening in his state.  "When did teachers become he enemy?" he has asked in his signed columns in the catalog.

I've considered writing about this company for years, but the catalog that arrived this week gave me the push I needed.  It's the Summer 2015 issue, and Bill's column on page 3 contains this nugget:

"For this issue, in our search for the stories and recipes to connect us to the reality spices create, we find ourselves at the door of the Milwaukee County Transit system. The thought is, these racial tension headlines we are seeing these days may well be the kickoff to next year's campaigns. At this point in our country's history, if the plan is to get elected with only white folks, every white vote is going to be needed.  Saying those protesting today's inequality really have nothig to complain about is a key piece of this strategy, so don't be surprised to see more of it."

I was a bit confused about this month's spotlight and how it tied in with the column. The  Milwaukee County Transit system... really?  What's that about? The catalog has several profiles of current and retired transit workers and people who are working to make public transportation more affordable and available - as well as some delicious recipes from their families.

But still... transporation as a theme?  But it all became clear in Bill Penzey's closing letter at the end of each catalog. 

"On the bigger community/world level, the bus stories shine a light on the new voting restrictions enacted here in Wisconsin. The new law comes from an understanding of who already has photo IDs and who will have a harder time getting an ID. One way the segregation lays out here is in who gets the jobs that pay enough to own a car. Car owners already have a driver's license. So often, those who take the bus don't. The people behind the new voting restrictions know this division plays out along racial lines.

The new restrictions here truly are nothing more than a cynical piece of legislation designed to suppress minority voters. As people of Wisconsin, as people of America, have we actually arrived at a place where we are okay with voting for those who intentionally work to suppress minority voters? If so, it's time to ask, "How did we get here?" and maybe more importantly, "How do we get back?"

And then there is the smaller, more human scale. For those of us living in more segregated communities, it can be all too easy to get out of touch with the lives of those who live on the other side of the divide. All of us have such hectic lives these days. So often I get to feeling that, if there were three more things to get done on my plate, I would just explode.

Imagine if we all had to go grocery shopping by bus as well. Or imagine that you are a mom and your little one has had too high of a fever for too many days. What would it be like to bundle up for that trip to the pediatrician's office knowing the two of you will have to transfer while the weather is less than kind?

Right now, among so many there seems to be a notion that it is somehow noble to make the lives of those on the downside of the divisions in this country ever harder. We are better thn that notion. We really are."

Very powerful words from a business owner who chooses to use his catalog for a dual purpose: to sell (incredibly good) spices and to promote social justice. I wish we had more Bill Penzeys and I encourage you to check out Penzey's Spices.  You can buy online, through the catalog, or in person at a Penzey's store.  There's one in Homewood, and it's worth going out of your way to visit.

Taking stands like this is not without risk for a business owner. That's true no matter what the political persuasion, and Penzey's has raised a lot of ire among Wisconsin conservatives (here's one example where they take exception to being called "anti-science" LOL).

If you have a local source for great herb & spices, that's great!  But if you're looking for hard-to-find products or high-quality blends, then I suggest giving Penzey's a try. 


Discuss :: (0 Comments)

AL-06 - Gary Palmer Confuses Religious Belief With Religious Privilege

by: countrycat

Fri Jun 12, 2015 at 17:20:31 PM CDT

Totally outraged by even the faintest thought of marriage equality coming to Alabama, 1/50th of one percent of the state's population thronged the State Capitol last weekend for a "Sanctity of Marriage" rally.  The protesters in some way believe that two women getting married or two men getting married will somehow undermine their own heterosexual marriages.

One would think that the very idea would cause them to question the strength of their own relationships, but apparently that's not the case.

One counter-protester's sign seemed to particularly annoy one of Alabama's junior representatives.  Congressman Gary Palmer, pride of the 6th district, even departed from his prepared text to denounce it.

"I've seen these signs that read, 'I don't follow your religion and you can't make me,'" Palmer said. "Well that's not the point. You can't make us not believe what we believe."

The key issue here is - as it always is!!! - that religious belief should be separate from civil law. The same people who have heart palpitations at the thought of "Sharia Law" somehow being imposed in Alabama see absolutely no problem with bills that allow private businesses with state contracts or even public officials to refuse to do the jobs they're being paid for if it violates their fringe-sect Christian beliefs.

Xandi Anderson, the sign-holder and LIA community member, was both annoyed and pleased that her sign caught the eye of our new Congressman.

She replied to him in a letter submitted to the Montgomery Advertiser.  It has yet to appear in either the print edition or online, so she sent it to us.


I am glad you took the time to recognize my sign today, but I wish you had simply asked me to explain it rather than twisting it to mean something it does not. I am the proud owner of the sign that reads, “I don’t follow your religion and you can’t make me.”

What I heard the speeches today were a lot of allegations against me and the rest of the secular community as well as all of the LGBT community that are blatantly false. Nowhere in any of the speeches today was there an argument against same sex marriage that did not come from your holy book. It is for that reason I carried a sign to remind you that you cannot force me to follow your religion by writing legislation that restricts the right to marry to only those who adhere to your religious definition of the word. What I mean is that you do not have the right, per the constitution, to enforce your religious standards on all of Alabama by writing it into law.

I do not, and have never, attempted to place any restrictions on your right to practice your religion and your right to a heterosexual marriage, so please refrain from accusing me of such. Furthermore, allowing others the right to marry will not infringe upon your rights. You seem to have confused religious freedom with religious privilege. Your attempts to legislate Christianity are why I held that sign today – to remind you that it is unconstitutional to do so. Defying the constitution will fail, and I will not sit in silence as my tax dollars are so frivolously wasted defending your unconstitutional legislation.  As long as you continue to blur the line between church and state, wasting my tax dollars on attempts to strip my rights away, I will continue to remind you of my constitutional right to live outside of your belief system.

Next time you see a sign of mine and you want to challenge it, I am open to discussion. You mentioned in your comments to the media that you appreciate civility, and so do I. I am writing you now to acknowledge how incredibly immature and discourteous it was of you to make ignorant and ill-informed comments about my views when the opportunity to have a civilized discussion about it was open. Perhaps you didn’t know that I am approachable and welcome civil discourse, but now you do. So next time you see me, feel free to say hello and ask any questions you may have.

See you around,
Xandi Andersen – friendly neighborhood atheist


Discuss :: (0 Comments)
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