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European Refugee Crisis Goes From Bad To Worse. How You Can Help.

by: countrycat

Fri Sep 04, 2015 at 16:30:54 PM CDT

We don't usually comment on any international events at LIA because plenty of news outlets have far more resources to do the job right. And also, few Alabama media outlets "do the job right" with Alabama news, so we try to fill in some of the holes.

 

But how could anyone fail to be moved by the plight of the refugees trapped along European borders? The sight of entire families loaded into rail cars with no real idea of where they're going... that's hitting just too close to home this close to the Jewish High Holidays and just days after the anniversary of 1939's invasion of Poland

In Alabama, we've flinched as we heard our friends, family, and political leaders spew xenophobic rhetoric that labels innocent people as "terrorist wannabes," disease carriers, lazy bums seeking "Happy Meals", job stealers (I'll leave you to reconcile that with the "lazy" comments), and lawbreakers no better than animals needing "correction." Their crime? Wanting a better safer life for themselves and their children. Hello... isn't that why most of our ancestors turned up in North America?

Now we're hearing the same sort of ugly rhetoric from some European leaders.

“Is it not worrying in itself that European Christianity is now barely able to keep Europe Christian? There is no alternative, and we have no option but to defend our borders.” 

As it happens in so many cases, individual people are are more understanding and compassionate than the governments they elect: 

Why are these people leaving their homes and taking their families on terribly perilous journeys across land and open water, exposing children to danger from drowning, and vulnerable to fraud and extortion from those low enough to prey on the desperate?
 
As Somali poet Warsan Shire eloquently explains, they're desperate and anything is better than the situation they're leaving.
 
"HOME" by Warsan Shire 
 
no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well

your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.

no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
pitied

no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough

the
go home blacks
refugees
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
savage
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off

or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
drown
save
be hunger
beg
forget pride
your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
saying-
leave,
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
 
is safer than here 

 

We all want to do something, and in the US, that means donating money for relief. The only charity that I can recommend with confidence that the money will be spent helping people, not paying bloated administrative salaries, telemarketers, etc. is "Doctors Without Borders." They have established field hospitals and medical programs in affected areas to help anyone who needs care.

 
They have a very high rating with Charity Navigator: 87% of donations directly support programming and their CEO makes $143k (a far cry from the millions that some non-profit CEOs pull in).  Our household has donated; if you have the resources, we encourage you to consider doing the same.
 
 

 

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An Inside Look At Glenn Beck's Birmingham Theatrics

by: T Michal

Fri Sep 04, 2015 at 08:44:26 AM CDT

You can’t have community without unity, but as Glenn Beck taught us this weekend, I guess you CAN have unity without community. Well, you can appear to anyway.  
 
With carefully placed camera angles, t-shirts quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, an abundance of posters displaying the words justice and unity on them along with pictures of Abraham Lincoln, and, finally, the premiere of a movie about the desegregation of our public schools, Mr. Beck managed to fabricate a ‘unity’ march smack dab in the middle of Birmingham, Alabama.  Yes, Birmingham, Alabama, the democratic cradle of the least blue state in the country. 
 
While operating in ‘stealth mode’ Glenn Beck managed to pull off a march with upwards of 20,000 people, of which a huge majority were white, in a city that is 73% black, leaving the city scratching its head wondering “What the he** just happened?”
 
Now is the time I’d normally stand and shout ‘Bravo…BRAVO!’ while clapping wildly for such a well-executed piece of theatre, but not this time.   This time I just feel sick to my stomach.  
 
Not because the crowd was almost entirely white, certainly not because he’s a republican, and not even because it appears a majority of them were from out of state. (Remember, Dr. King was considered an ‘outside agitator’ himself here in Alabama.) 
 
What has me sick to my stomach is the fact that they USED issues of race relations, both past and present, as a FUNDRAISER to help Christians in the Middle East. Now, don’t get me wrong, if anyone wants to raise money for that then by all means please do, but don't come to the heart of the civil rights movement and hijack the narrative about race relations to make money for a totally different cause. A person has to wonder why Bishop Lowe from Guiding Light Church went along with this plan.
 
I imagine the conversation went something like this: 
Beck to Bishop Lowe: “We know your city suffered badly during the civil rights struggle but it’s over now so let us show this movie about one of your last all white schools to desegregate, you know, Woodlawn, the one that was next door to the Eastview 13 Klavern where the Klan met.  Aren’t they the ones that bombed the church? Anyway…..the movie fades to black after the newly desegregated football team wins and everyone is cheering. We will ignore the fact that all 44 of your schools are now high poverty schools and are 95% students of color. I heard you have some schools with mold problems, lead paint, damaged roofs and no new books in the libraries since 2008, that’s too bad!  We'll bring 20,000 of our white friends, you provide a couple of hundred people of color and we'll raise money to help Christians that are being persecuted the Middle East. Cool?" 
 
Bishop Lowe: “Ok.”
 
Beck: "We are going to say it’s about Unity, people really eat that stuff up. We’ll be using the Republican presidential candidates to mobilize the white folks. Which reminds me…DON'T TELL any other people of color in Birmingham about this, just bring your church members.  We want it to be a surprise!”
 
Oh, and speaking of surprises, it seems former President George W. Bush recently performed his own stealth theatrics on the people of Birmingham.  He popped up at an event for the Lakeshore Foundation on Thursday. No media, cell phones or cameras were allowed. I wonder if he had brunch with Mr. Beck while he was here. Republican Presidential Candidate Ted Cruz was recently here, too.  Makes a person wonder what all this interest in Birmingham from the Republican Party is all about, doesn’t it.  
 
Obviously, this event wasn’t about unity and race issues.  They only tied it to those issues to get a buy in from the Guiding Light Church.  It wasn’t even about the screening of Woodlawn. The two men that created the movie live right here in Birmingham and they never even advertised it on their Woodlawn FB page, or anywhere else I could find. If it were about the fundraiser, well, they could have done that anywhere, why go to all of the trouble to mask it as a ‘unity’ march? The only thing we have left to draw from this is that Glenn Beck was hell bent on flexing his republican muscle here in Birmingham Alabama. 
 
But why???
 
Could it be they are worried about the republican grip loosening in Alabama? Between the daily drama at the Governor’s mansion, the ethics trial of Rep. Mike Hubbard, the failure of our Republican led House and Senate to pass a budget, and with the growing strength of the Tea Party dividing the conservative vote, could they actually be concerned that the citizens of Alabama are going to finally say ENOUGH and begin to rally around candidates that TRULY represent THEM and maybe, actually, begin to get democrats elected back into office?
 
The Democrats shouldn’t allow this fake unity march to disenfranchise them any further, instead it should be used as a wakeup call alerting them to the fact that the status quo is changing and NOW IS THE TIME TO ACT. Every attempt should be made to be proactive in this changing climate, not reactive.
 
Along those lines I’d like to officially invite Sen. Bernie Sanders to join the citizens of Alabama during the upcoming special called session to rally against ALEC, and other corporate interests, and against the legislators that have been bought off by them.  The way I look at it, getting Sen. Bernie Sanders to attend a rally here should be easier than Glenn Beck pulling off a fake unity rally!!
 
Follow the Storming the Statehouse event on FB to stay up to date on all of the events during this second special called session or call 256-679-7135 or 334-549-5864 for more info.
 
                             ----------------------------------------------- 

Terri Michal has been a resident of Alabama for 27 years. She is the state admin for the Alabama BATs, a National Admin for the Badass Teacher Association, and Co-Chairs Moral Monday Alabama.  She advocates for students and teachers by fighting against the ‘reform’ movement that seeks the privatization of our public schools. Find her Facebook page, Support Our Students, to learn more.
 
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TN County Says NO To State Prison Privatization

by: countrycat

Tue Sep 01, 2015 at 09:40:31 AM CDT

The battle over privatizing state services may soon be one we have to fight in Alabama, and we can learn from Johnson County, TN. In response to the state's interest in turning over some operations of prisons, hospitals, and the University of Tennessee to for-profit businesses, Johnson County Commissioners said "thanks, but no thanks."

 

WHEREAS in and for support of families and staff employed at Northeast Correctional Complex, we as citizens and full commission of Johnson County, TN strongly oppose any privatization of Northeast Correctional Complex.

THEREFORE on the date of August 20, 2015, we as full commission and Mayor of Johnson County strongly oppose any privatization of Northeast Correctional Complex.

 

 


Interested vendors are circling, but TN Governor Haslam is drawing fire from state workers and from privatization opponents. They point to some rather shady-sounding outsourcing deals the state is already involved in: 

The state outsources facilities management at several government buildings, including the Tennessee Towers. Chicago-based company JLL, previously known as Jones Lang LaSalle, drew considerable ire at the time it was announced. A 2013 audit noted JLL stood to benefit from recommending closure of some state buildings and questioned the state's expansion of a $1 million contract to $10.7 million without any rebidding process. 

 JLL stands to make a lot more from this latest plan:

Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration is quietly moving to privatize the management and operations of the buildings and facilities of virtually all state government buildings not already outsourced to the multinational property management giant Jones Lang LaSalle, including state colleges and universities, prisons, state parks and National Guard armories.

The administration was criticized two years ago for turning a $1 million contract with JLL to assess the condition of six state office buildings into a multimillion contract outsourcing the operation of several buildings housing the central offices of several state agencies to the same company. By comparison, the proposal now under consideration would dwarf the existing contract. 

In spite of a previous failure to outsource some state park operations, Tennessee is planning to try it again, but officials refuse to discuss the plan with the workers or the public. The public doesn't even know who's interested in the state contracts because the state is keeping the names a secret:

Large private out-of-state vendors are touring some of Tennessee’s most beloved and visited state parks this week to gather information about their operations and potential for profit as part of the Haslam administration’s sweeping plan to privatize management and operations of virtually every state-owned facility, including state parks, prisons and college and university buildings.

Despite months of planning and working with vendors, neither Gov. Bill Haslam nor his top lieutenants have led any public discussion of what would be the most comprehensive change in the operation of state government in decades, potentially throwing thousands of state employees out of work and shifting others into jobs with private companies. 

If this is such a great idea, why the secrecy? Looks like the only people who really know what's going on are government officials & their industry buddies.

In a move that should astonish Alabama Democrats who wait in vain for state party leaders to even issue a press release protesting the excesses of the GOP supermajority, the Tennessee Democratic Party went on the offensive. Party leaders strongly challenge the GOP orthodoxy that outsourcing provides cost savings and better service:

"Tennessee is not for sale. Tennessee jobs are not for sale to Governor Haslam's buddies," said Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini.
[...]
Stewart said, "Right now until somebody identifies a state agency, a state activity, that is being performed improperly, the question is: why are we even going down this road?"

The Nashville Democrat pointed to our NewsChannel 5 investigation of a contract that outsourced the maintenance of state vehicles to Bridgestone-Firestone. We found a headlight bulb that the state could have bought for $1.74 from a parts company on an existing state contract. Bridgestone's charge: $12.34, plus another $23 for installation.

There was also a no-bid contract with Enterprise Rent-A-Car. We went online looking for discount codes and found a mid-size car for $148 a week. The state's price: $184.

"What we see from this administration," Mancini said, "clearly is a lack of transparency, a lack of accountability and cronyism." 

Lack of transparency, lack of accountability, and cronyism. Wow. She could be talking about the Alabama Legislature! Just wait for the second special session to begin on Sept. 14.

Chances are some of those companies now touring Tennessee also have the state's southern neighbor in their sights. State parks, driver's license offices, and other state services could soon be run by out-of-state corporations more beholden to stockholders than stakeholders.

In other states, some communities have even privatized their public libraries.  

Tennessee State Representative John Ray Clemmons laid it out:

"So you are going to cut corners," Clemmons said. "You are not going to provide the same level of services because you are always looking for a way to make your investors and your stockholders happy." 

Just wait. 

 

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Qualifying For The March 1, 2016 Democratic Primary Opens Sept. 14

by: countrycat

Mon Aug 31, 2015 at 11:46:00 AM CDT

Anyone planning to run for office or convention delegate in 2016 needs to mark these dates on their calendars. Qualifying opens Sept. 14, 2015 and closes November 6, 2015. All paperwork and qualifying fees must be received (not postmarked!) by the Alabama Democratic Party office by 5pm on November 6.

undefinedAll the required forms should be available on the ADP Web site by Sept. 2. 

LIA community members are usually most interested in two things: 

  1. Getting a candidate on the presidential primary ballot.
  2. Running as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention. 

 The ADP has posted its "Delegate Selection Plan" that's been approved by the national Democratic Party, and you can review it here. It's incredibly long, detailed, and complex.

I put together two quick reference documents that may help: 

  1. Alabama Ballot Access Guidelines: this focuses on what volunteers can do to help their presidential candidate get on the ballot - signature requirements, etc.
  2. Alabama Convention Delegate Selection Information: You can read the whole 44-page document or quickly peruse this one. It focuses on the process for qualifying to run and how delegates are awarded in each Congressional district. It doesn't discuss how to get appointed as an at-large or alternate delegate by the SDEC. 

Both documents are in Microsoft Word format.  We can also upload PDF versions if needed. 

Anyone is welcome to make copies and share with their local Democratic groups.  If you see that I've left out something important or got something completely wrong, let me know!

 

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Are DMV Office Closings A Backdoor Effort At Privatization & Voter Suppression?

by: countrycat

Sun Aug 30, 2015 at 09:50:05 AM CDT

Art is about to become life in Alabama unless the Legislature gets its act together. In the old TV series, "Reaper," the DMV office was the "portal to Hell." If budget cuts force the closure of all but 4 four offices in the state, "portal to Hell" may be the best thing you can say about the experience of visiting one.

 

This is just one of the many hellish experiences awaiting state residents, courtesy of our GOP supermajority - those same guys who promised transparency and financial stability (even as they borrowed hundreds of millions to balance the state's budget). 

People who already have a driver's license can now renew them online, so that takes some of the pressure off, but it in no way mitigates the scope of the problem. Not everything can be done online! 

  • Learner's Permits: Before you get to renew a license, you have to have one.  The permit test is the first step. When our daughter was 15, we tried the Madison County office and waited over 2 hours to be called. At the Jackson County office, there was one person there when we arrived; it took less than 20 minutes.
  • Replacement licenses: if you lose your license or it's stolen, you have to present yourself and your documents in person to get a new one.
  • Name changes: Got married? Got divorced? A name change on your license requires you to present yourself and your documents in person.
  • License renewals: you can only renew online once. After that, back to the office for a new photo!
  • STAR ID: want to swap your regular license for the STAR ID? You'll need to present yourself and your documents in person.
If these cuts go through, some people will have to travel hours for the privilege of standing in line even longer. The costs include lost time and lost wages - and loss of respect for state government.
 
This situation will, no doubt, lead to calls to turn this function over to private business. Republicans assure us that "government doesn't work," get elected to office and make sure it doesn't, then hand state contracts and services over to the private interests that funded their campaigns.  
 
It's a neat little circle of public corruption, but it's a trap for ordinary people.  Think private industry does everything better? Have you tried to get customer service from Comcast lately?
 
So before Alabama answers the siren call of privatization, remember that states have tried it before. New Jersey privatized their system in 1995 and the results were so dismal the state took the system back in 2003. 
 
The administration of Gov. Christine Todd Whitman switched the Wayne agency and 22 other motor vehicle offices in New Jersey from state to private operation today in the name of efficiency and economy. But the campaign's start was hectic and bumpy across the state, with new clerks working after only a weekend of training on recognizing and processing the multitude of forms and documents for titles, licenses and registration plates.
[...]
The new private offices will have 238 clerks, 54 fewer than the 292 who staffed the agencies during state operation, officials said. The new salaries range from $14,800 to $24,200. Clerks had earned from $18,400 to $38,200 during state operation. The position of agency supervisor, which carried a maximum salary of $53,600, has been eliminated.

Of the 334 clerks laid off under privatization, 74 have been hired to the lower-paying jobs by the new private agents, Mr. Thompson said.  
 
Yep. Lay off employees and then hire them back to do the same job at lower wages and fewer benefits. That's worked so well for the private prison industry, hasn't it? 
 
There's potentially an even greater cost as well: the right to vote.
 
Alabama's voter id law requires a photo id by a government entity, university, military, etc.  The state issues a free voter id card to people who lack a driver's license or other type of photo id. The catch? You get it at the driver's license office.
 
The by-products of the GOP's fiscal incompetence could well be voter suppression and the opportunity to auction another state service off for private profit. Are these features or bugs? You decide.
 
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Alabama: The Sad Tale Of A State Betrayed By Its Leaders

by: countrycat

Sun Aug 30, 2015 at 08:16:27 AM CDT

Note: This piece was written by Larry Lee & is cross-posted from his blog. 
 
It has been 49 years since I got my degree at Auburn University.  I've spent 47 of those years in Alabama.  Considering my roots, this does not seem odd or unusual to me.  My ancestors have been here for nearly 200 years.  Three great-grandfathers served in the Civil War.  One never came home, another was discharged at Appomattox, VA.  My kin were Lees, Stuarts, Rogers and Paulks.
 
 
They survived by plowing and planting the sandy soil of Covington and Butler counties and by pulling one end of a crosscut saw until sweat puddled in their boots.  They lived in dog trot houses with a dug well out back and went to Primitive Baptist churches.  They were neither landed or learned.  One of my grandmothers could neither read or write.  They dipped snuff and had an occasional drink of something besides water and when the weather was right, they listened to their dogs tree possums and coons.  They butchered hogs when mornings were frosty and hung slabs of bacon in their smokehouse.
 
And today they rest in plots of earth called Bushfield and Elizabeth and Moriah and Fairmont.  Their blood also runs through my brother and sister, both of whom live in North Carolina.  A team of oxen couldn't drag either back to Alabama.
 
But being just plain stubborn or hard-headed I've stayed.  Always with the hope that the day might come when the people of Alabama might be wise enough to elect the political leaders they deserve.  But for reasons I have never been able to comprehend we've allowed ourselves to listen to the wrong voices.  Voices that played to our most basic fears and insecurities and turned us one against another.  White against black.  Rich against poor.  Region against region.  Country against city.
 
There are good people in Alabama.  I meet them every day.  Many of them work in schools, spending their own money so a less fortunate child will have a snack when their classmates do.  Principals who are at school to greet children getting off buses and who lock their office door after the sun has set.   People who still believe it is better to give than receive. People who sing in a church choir and work with Cub Scouts and Pee Wee football teams.
 
The cold, hard truth is that we've come to a juncture in the life of Alabama where our "leadership" is anything but.  Montgomery is in shambles.  The quest for greed, the thirst for power, the personal agendas far overshadow any pretense of doing what is right and honorable and in the best interest of the majority.  Recently a veteran of the legislature told me they are embarrassed that people know what they do.
 
Our governance now seems more reality show than anything else.  Honey Boo Boo may show up at the Statehouse any day now.
 
We will soon try for the third time this year to cobble together a General Fund budget.  One of the most prominent ideas floating around is to take millions from the education Trust Fund to prop up the General Fund-- even though education has not been adequately funded since 2008.  And irony of irony, the cost for the special session will be paid for with education dollars.
 
But not once have I heard any of our "leadership" say, "What do we need to do to come up with long term solutions?"  Who has shown the fortitude to assemble all the "players" in the same room and have a, as we say, "come to Jesus" meeting?"
 
I have no doubt that were these Biblical times, we would now be organizing a march of six days around the Alabama Statehouse as the people of Israel did when Jericho stood in their way.
 
And today I think of my ancestors and their struggles.  I think of daddy helping grandpa clear ground with mules and axes.  I think of grandma picking cotton till she had to go prepare lunch on a wood-burning stove before returning to the field.
 
My family ate fried chicken on Sunday and went to work on Monday building houses, cutting meat at a grocery store, laying ceramic tile and stacking peanuts.
 
I think of how our "leadership" is betraying them and their work.  And I weep for Alabama.
 

                     -------------------------------------------------------------

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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Look What's Happening To "Traditional Marriage" In Alabama!

by: countrycat

Sat Aug 29, 2015 at 16:19:29 PM CDT

Marriage equality opponents have long argued that allowing same-sex couples to marry would "undermine traditional marriage," and now they have a high-profile divorce case in Alabama to use as a case in point. Dianne Bentley, wife of Alabama's governor Robert Bentley, has filed for divorce after 50 years of marriage.

 

The Internet is wild with speculation about the cause, whether an extramarital affair was involved, etc.  We at LIA have no concrete information to provide on that and will not speculate in any way that undermines anyone's reputation. We're fact-based, and right now, have no verifiable facts to report on.  

But let's go back to the issue of "traditional" marriage, which has different definitions depending on who is answering the question. 

  • Biblical Marriage? Marriage was between a man and as many women as he could purchase from their families or capture in battle. King Solomon was the ultimate horndog, and you have to wonder about the "wisdom" of all those wives and concubines. Working as a female servant was also dangers; remember that unplesantness between Sarah and Hagar.
  • Christian Bible Marriage? This is an "until death do you part" kind of thing, and one reason that so many divorced Catholics fell away from the Church. Fundamentalist Christians also take divorce quite seriously - even though they are frequent practioners.
In fact, Alabama, one of the most "religious" states in the country also has one of the highest divorce rates. So perhaps it's not surprising that the state's Governor, who made some rather  controversial remarks about religion immediately after his inaugural ceremony in 2011, has joined the parade.
 
The Governor was vocal about opposing both the federal court judge's ruling legalizing same sex marriage in the state and criticized the SCOTUS ruling several months later. However, he also said that the state would follow the law. That statement should NOT have deserved headlines, but it was news coming from an Alabama governor.
 
So why are the Bentleys splitting?  Right now, there is speculation, but no facts.  There is a family involved though, including adult children. As a child, I watched both parents go through multiple divorces, and none of this gives me any pleasure.
 
The only reason that it's even newsworthy is because Governor Bentley has been a vocal champion of "family and conservative values." He and his fellow political leaders have eagerly used their legislative power to punish people for personal bad judgments and mistakes in their personal lives. When you do that, it's a good idea to make sure that your glass house is bulletproof.
 
Ideally, this will be a learning experience for our Governor and for those who support his social agenda that seeks to "turn sinners into criminals."** People make mistakes in their relationships. They hurt the people they love the most, sometimes through thoughtlessness and sometimes with outright betrayal.  That's a result of personal failing, not a political agenda, and it happens whether you love someone of the opposite sex or the same sex.
 
                         ---------------------------------------- 
 
** Thanks to author Rita Mae Brown for that phrase. I couldn't find a link to credit her.
 
  
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Second Special Session: Welcome To The "Days Of Awful"

by: countrycat

Thu Aug 27, 2015 at 09:21:40 AM CDT

UPDATE: 9/2/2014 -  Gov. Bentley has now called the special session to begin on 9/8/2015. The Days of Awful will begin earlier than expected!

Sept. 14, 2015 is the start of many things.  It's Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year, and the beginning of what Jews call the "Days of Awe," a 10-day period of prayer and reflection the culminates in Yom Kippur.  Sept. 14 is also the first day of the second special session of the Alabama legislature. During this session, legislators will attempt to patch the holes in the General Fund budget. If they fail - which they have done twice before, during the regular session and the first special session - the outcome of their incompetence will be the "Days of Awful" for all of Alabama. 

 

State agencies warn of the dire consequences. 

Driver's License Offices
All but 4 offices in the state will close, meaning long drives and even longer waits for residents. 33 offices will close on October 1 and only 4 will remain by March of 2016.  The four offices that remain will be in Huntsville, Birmingham, Montgomery, and Mobile.   

Pity the people who live far from the I-65 corridor: 

  • Dothan, AL, in the Southeast corner of the state, is 3 hours from Mobile and 2 hours from Montgomery.
  • Red Bay, AL is on the Mississippi line. It's a 2-hour drive to either Huntsville or Birmingham. 

Have business to conduct at the driver's license office?  Better have a vacation day saved up, because you'll have to pack a lunch a make a day of it. Oh... no paid time off because the Alabama legislature restricted the rights of local governments to address that problem?  Too damn bad. 

State Parks 
In April, officials warned that 15 state parks would close under the budget being considered. Public outcry was huge, but they passed the budget anyway.  Governor Bentley vetoed it and the supermajority spent the first special session squabbling. 

Two days ago, we learned that the situation is even worse. We may lose every single state park.  

In the regular session that ended in June, Lein said the budget legislators passed and sent to Bentley included more than $9 million in cuts to the state parks budget. 

"That $9.2 million budget (cut) that the governor vetoed, that was a parks killer," Lein told AL.com. "That would have shut down the parks system. We know that now." 

It's a startling revelation after an outcry across the state when Lein first said 15 of the 22 parks were set for closure as a result of the legislature's proposed budget at the time. 

While parks like Joe Wheeler, Lake Guntersville and Lake Lurleen were among those targeted for closure, the list could grow to include every park – including original survivors such as Gulf State Park, Wind Creek, Oak Mountain and Monte Sano. 

Public Safety
Think you can do without parks and it's no big deal to hit the roads for a driver's license?  Pray you don't have an accident on the way. These cuts could also lead to almost 100 fewer state troopers and most of the state trooper posts would be closed:  

“We would no longer be able to assist rural counties in homicide investigations ...,” Collier said. “It’s the uniformed troopers and officer of ALEA that gets 100,000 people in and out of Talladega. It’s the troopers that get people in and out of Tuscaloosa and Auburn every Saturday during the fall. It’s the special operations unit of the Department of Public Safety of ALEA that assist at Mardi Gras. That would all come to an end.”

All this is happening at a time when the tone-deaf leaders of the supermajority are whining that they don't make enough for part-time work and giving top employees huge (38%) raises.

Remember 2012, when the supermajority held a gun to the state's head with a special election? We either had to vote to borrow from the state savings account to pay the bills or see Grandma thrown out of the nursing home and prisoners running loose in the streets. The first payments didn't come due until conveniently after the 2014 midterm election, but even that was too much for the gang that promised to "fix" Alabama's budget woes.  

We're in quite a fix because there's no federal stimulus money to bail us out, we stubbornly refuse Medicaid expansion (and the improvements in public health and economic activity), Governor Bentley pretended that there was no budget problem (until he got an important report on it the day after his re-election), and the GOP supermajority has been far more interested in handing out corporate welfare and selling the public education system to Bob Riley & company than in fixing the systemic problems with state budgets. 

For decades, the Democratic majority patched it together, but never addressed the critical need for constitution reform and tax reform. But they kept it going; their problem was satisfaction with the status quo. The Democratic majority didn't use their power for good. 

The Republican supermajority rolled into town with a lot of promises of good government, transparency, and fiscal responsibility. We now have indicted Speaker Mike Hubbard challenging the constitutionality of the ethics law he sponsored, the legislature seriously considering giving a hand-picked committee absolute power over every state agency budget - including those that investigate and prosecute ethics violations - no state budget and no way to repay the money we've already borrowed. 

The Republicans changed things in Alabama all right: it's exponentially worse.  Meanwhile, the state Democratic Party is either unwilling or unable to even issue a press release on the subject and state Democratic legislators have virtually no power to influence legislation. 

Where do we go from here?

 

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

Huntsville Anti-Choice Protesters Get Something Wrong. Again.

by: countrycat

Sat Aug 22, 2015 at 15:57:52 PM CDT

About 75 anti-choice protesters swarmed the Huntsville clinic today to protest Planned Parenthood. Apparently, many of them have failed to notice that the HSV clinic is privately owned and NOT affiliated with Planned Parenthood. Which is odd considering that they've met the owner in court and at city zoning board hearings multiple times." 

They're also unaware of the Alabama state law that prohibits the donation of fetal tissue. Under the Alabama Code:

"All medical waste, except such tissue as is sent to a pathologist and not returned to the facility, shall be disposed of in accordance with procedures set forth in the Rules of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management governing medical waste."  

This is nothing new. These people aren't exactly on the leading edge of the intelligence bell curve. Among other things, they have: 

Bless their dark little hearts.....

----------------------------------------------------------------- 

Photo credit: Alabama Reproductive Rights Advocates. A sign created by a clinic defender in Huntsville. Follow ARRA on Facebook!

 

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

North Alabama School Dress Codes Under Fire As "Sexist" & "Promoting Rape Culture"

by: countrycat

Sat Aug 22, 2015 at 13:06:44 PM CDT

If you've ever looked at a young woman wearing a sloppy, oversized sweatshirt and leggings & labeled the outfit as "too revealing," well, you may work for the Huntsville City School system! Indignant students (and parents) have been protesting the system's updated dress code that seems to focus like a laser beam on the fashion choices of young women - while leaving young men alone.

"The way the dress code is set up is it's angled more toward girls and it's a ‘don't distract the boys’ kind of thing,” student Abby Wilson said. “It's basically telling them that their education is more important than ours."
[...]
The dress code states that "students may only wear yoga pants, tights, leggings or jeggings as long as they are used as undergarments covered by shorts, skirts or dresses."

Thompson says school officials told her the outfit was too distracting for the boys.

"I think our education is more important than what we wear,” student Elizabeth Campos said.

Other female students want to know why the district is not worried about girls being distracted by the boys.

"The boys are wearing [shorts] higher than the girls wear and to be honest, when they sit down you can see everything that they have under their boxers,”

student Haley Konecny said.

"I've not seen a boy get dress coded since school started,” Abby Wilson added. 

Read the whole dress code and you find a rather creepy focus on undergarments, tight shirts, shoulders, dress length, and the width of the strap on sleeveless blouses (must be at least 3 inches). 

School officials protest that the dress code doesn't mention "gender" specifically, so it's (they say) a non-issue.  Still, you have to wonder what the reaction would be if a number of boys started showing up in drag.  Would that be considered "distracting" or "disruptive?"

No matter what school officials say to the media however, female students report being upbraided personally by school officials who told them that they can't wear clothing that would "distract" boys.

That's where the "promoting rape culture" charge comes into play. Across the country, school systems enforce dress codes in ways that penalize young women and make them responsible for the reactions and behavior of young men.

In the past month alone a Canadian teen says she was given detention for wearing a full length maxi dress because it violated her school dress code by showing her shoulders and back and a UK school announced plans to ban skirts altogether.

These are just the most recent cases in an ever-growing list that has seen shoulders and knees become a battleground, leggings and yoga pants banned and girls in some cases reportedly told to flap their arms up and down while their attire was inspected, or asked to leave their proms because chaperones considered their dresses too ‘sexual’ or ‘provocative’. 

Follow the links in the blockquoted article above, and you'll find that school administrators are up front about the reason for bans on leggings, tight jeans, yoga pants, tank tops, etc.  They don't want the boys distracted.

The school amended its dress code to ban leggings in the classroom, saying that it causes distraction amongst the school’s boys. 

Girls at a North Dakota high school have been banned from wearing yoga pants and other tight legware to school because officials claim they are “too distracting,” 

Give HCS officials credit for not being overtly sexist, but the end result is the same

While the dress code is left behind in high school, the implication is not. Dress codes have become a part of rape culture. High schools are teaching girls that they are the distractions for men, therefore implying that the men must be protected because of their lack of control. When schools do this, they are teaching students their place in rape culture: girls are at fault, while men are out of control and must act on their natural instincts.

Students (both male & female) at Grissom High School in Huntsville are fighting back. They've staged protests, posted signs around the school, and have received both local and national media attention. 

One proposed chant made me laugh out loud:

Boys are not animals.
Girls are not prey.

You go girls and boys! Kudos for calling attention to the unfair and sexist way the school system is handling this issue.  It's NOT just about "leggings;" the stakes are far higher than that:

When a girl is taken out of class on a hot day for wearing a strappy top, because she is ‘distracting’ her male classmates, his education is prioritized over hers. When a school takes the decision to police female students’ bodies while turning a blind eye to boys’ behavior, it sets up a lifelong assumption that sexual violence is inevitable and victims are partially responsible. Students are being groomed to perpetuate the rape culture narrative that sits at the very heart of our society’s sexual violence crisis. It matters very much indeed.

More photos below. 

There's More... :: (0 Comments, 162 words in story)

One More Crack In Alabama's "Family Values" Facade

by: countrycat

Fri Aug 21, 2015 at 09:26:44 AM CDT

Alabama regularly appears at the bottom (just above Mississippi, you know) of the good lists, but we're a stand-out state on some less-than-admirable lists. Many Alabamians, it seems, are publicly pious and privately porn-obsessed. undefined

For example: 

  • Alabama football fans took consolation in online porn after this years championship loss.  The state is comfortably in the middle - #23 - in the number of online porn subscriptions.
  • Montgomery has the nation's highest rate of STDs.
  • Alabama is #15 for our high teen pregnancy rate of 62 per 1,000. Guess there are a few flaws in that "abstinence only" education.
  • We're #7 on the list of states with the highest divorce rates.
  • Perhaps because we're the very top state in Ashley Madison subscriptions. It's a recently-hacked Web site where married people who want to have affairs can connect with each other. This revelation is the latest hit to our "family values" fallacy.
And yet Alabama is the third most religious state in the country as measured by weekly church attendance. I bet hearing confessions is never boring for the state's Catholic priests.
 
Yes, "sinners" are the people who most need to be in church. Still, while they're there, it would be nice if they'd soak up some more positive values than sexual Puritanism. For example, Huntsville's local street preacher, James Henderson, might want to take his nose out of Leviticus long enough to read the Sermon on the Mount.
 
Much of our political debates recently have centered on controlling sexual private behavior and stopping marriages. How much better off the state would be if we instead focused on caring for the poor, the sick, the elderly, and the strangers in our state. Let's consider giving children a chance at a better life through education and creating an economy where full-time work lifts families out of poverty instead of keeping them teetering on the edge.
 
Remember the words of St. Francis of Assisi: "There's no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching." 
 
Our politicians can talk "family values" quite effectively; now it's time to start walking the walk. Virtually every candidate for public office touts his/her religious committment - including our current legislators. 
 
And what have they done?  Used their public positions for private financial gain and passed budgets that slash programs that help the poor, the sick, and the hungry - even as they turn over millions in public money to private schools & foundations and corporate welfare.
 
There's another special session coming up soon. It will be interesting to see how legislators square their "family values" with the state's financial realities.  

 

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Storming The Statehouse - On Steroids This Time

by: Mike Walker

Fri Aug 14, 2015 at 07:55:27 AM CDT

Alabama is in crisis. It's a crisis by design, created by nearly 35 years of devotion to a failed economic theory (trickle-down), and a concerted effort to "shrink government until it's small enough to drown in a bathtub."  Our leaders have cut taxes for the very wealthy and the big corporations, and signed a pledge to never raise taxes. The resulting losses in revenue have reduced the ability of our state to fund essential government services.  
 
Now we have reached a point of critical mass. Smoke and mirrors and sleight of hand tricks are no longer an option. Somebody now, has to govern. But we wait in vain: 
The cuts to Medicaid would mean a simultaneous loss of millions of dollars in federal funding, and would effectively kill Medicare in our state. And in a state that routinely ranks 49th in funding for education, stealing funds from kids seems...well, stupid. 
 
This past Monday, I was honored to be part of a group of concerned Alabama citizens who met in front of the statehouse to have our voices heard.
  • We are demanding that the legislature look for new sources of revenue instead of draconian cuts to essential services. 
  • We want to see tax increases, particularly on the rich and big corporations. 
  • We want sensible and sustainable funding for state government. 
  • We are demanding that our support of public education be increased, instead of slashed.  
  • We want permanent fixes to our budgetary crisis, not patches, sin taxes, and gambling. 
And our voices were ignored. 
 
Now we are waiting for the next special session of our legislature.  We're giving them another chance to do their job. And the coalition of protestors has strengthened in our resolve to demand common sense government. Progressive groups from across the state are banding together for another more powerful, mass gathering in front of the statehouse.  
 
Our goal is to let them know we aren't afraid of tax increases. We aren't afraid to call for new revenue from the wealthy. We won't back down from demanding that big corporations pay their fair share. And we will NOT accept draconian cuts to services for our poor, our children, our elderly, women, minorities, and our disabled.  
 
To date, we have commitments from:
  • Montgomery Humanists, the Moral Monday Coalition of Alabama
  • Alabama Reproductive Rights Advocates
  • Several statewide free thought associations
  • The Unitarian Universalists in Tuscaloosa
  • Local 706 of the pipe-fitters, steam-fitters, and plumbers Union 
  • We are also talking with the NAACP, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Alabama Arise, the Human Rights Campaign and several other churches.  
Our rally on the 10th had nearly 50 participants. We were energized. We were informed. We were motivated and highly vocal. When the next special session is called (in approximately two weeks), we hope to have ten times that number of protestors. 
 
Senator Del Marsh (R - Anniston), was recently asked what it would take for the Alabama legislature to introduce legislation for new revenues. His response was, "Citizens will have to SCREAM about budget cuts before (the legislature) will act on new revenue." We screamed on the 10th, but they didn't hear us. We'll be back en masse at the start of the next session, and they won't be able to ignore the screams of the people.
 
 
To add your voice or your group to this #TakingItBack movement, like our Montgomery Humanists Facebook page and post about your interest. As soon as the date of the special session is announced, we will create a Facebook Event and we invite you to share liberally.
 
Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Alabama State Government: A "Hostage Situation" Where We're The Hostages

by: countrycat

Tue Aug 11, 2015 at 11:00:00 AM CDT

If you had any doubt at all that Alabama's government is broken, this session's regular session and its first special session cleared up the confusion. The regular session adjourned without a state General Fund budget in place because the GOP supermajority couldn't agree with our Republican governor on funding mechanisms for state services.

 

This year, there were no windfalls like federal stimulus money, and voters weren't likely to look kindly on another effort to borrow to balance the budget - especially since this was supposed to be the year the state started paying back the money it borrowed in 2012.

The first special session was a bust as well, and the finger pointing began before it was even over.

The Alabama Senate passed essentially the same budget that Governor Bentley said was unacceptable this Spring.  It didn't ripen any over the summer.

The Alabama Senate has narrowly approved a budget that slashes millions of dollars from Medicaid, mental health, law enforcement and other state agencies.

Senators voted 19-15 for the cut-filled budget Monday after lawmakers could not agree during a special session on how to fill a budget hole.  

The Alabama House promptly - and with a surprisingly display of unanimity - kicked it to the curb.

Sometime before 7 p.m. Monday, the house finally voted: the motion failed with two ayes and 92 nays.

Lawmakers predict a second special session in two weeks or so, but that will fail as well if these people can't sit down and act like adults.  Bill Britt at the Alabama Political Reporter outlined the problem yesterday:

The Governor wants to raise taxes to address the systemic problem of the State’s General Fund Budget (SGF), which is always woefully underfunded because it lacks growth revenues.

Senate President Pro Tem, Del Marsh wants to overhaul the entire system without raising taxes, but needs time to implement a more complicated long-term solution. He has offered a stop-gap by moving the Use Tax from the Education Trust Fund to the SGF, and backfill the loss later. 

Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard simply wants to hold on to power, and continue to get paid. So, for now, he is a wild card.

At the moment, vanity has led to a stalemate, with little hope of compromise on the horizon. 

[...]

We, in Alabama, have come to accept being dead last in every measurable category of success. We rank near the bottom in education, employment, and health; but near the top in public corruption. Our State is vexed by charlatans who, by good words, and fair speeches, deceive the people. 

The Governor and the Republican supermajority are in the middle of a hostage negotiation, but do not seem to care about the victims.

We have this crew in power until 2018. It's a depressing thought.

 

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

Storming The Statehouse - From The Left

by: Mike Walker

Tue Aug 11, 2015 at 08:41:38 AM CDT

The budget process in the Alabama legislature has raised a lot of questions about how we set funding priorities in our state. The two basic sides in this debate are those who are demanding new, and sustainable revenue sources to fund essential services, and those who have no problem cutting essential government services, as long as they block any attempts to find new revenue. 
 
Last week's budget proposal to solve our budget crisis by cutting $150,000,000 from our already underfunded Medicaid program, roused the ire of many Alabamians who, in the past, have stood by silently. 
 
On Monday, August 10th many of those concerned citizens converged on the Alabama State House to let their voices be heard. A local group, Montgomery Humanists, took the initiative to schedule the event, and almost immediately thereafter, they were contacted by Moral Monday Alabama with an offer to team up with the Montgomery Humanists. 
Approximately 50 vocal protestors were on hand for this event, demanding new sources of sustainable revenue in lieu of draconian cuts to much needed social programs. 
 
An array of speakers addressed the crowd, talking about funding inequities, the influence of monied special interest groups, the importance of well-funded public schools, life and death issues with Medicaid, food stamps and welfare programs, police, teachers, and many more programs that would be victims of massive budget cuts. The slate of speakers also expressed strong displeasure with a budget shortfall they believe was exacerbated by years of tax cuts and favors to the rich and big corporations. 
 
Last week, Del Marsh (R-Anniston) was asked what it would take for the legislature to look at raising taxes. Marsh responded, "citizens have to scream about budget cuts before (the legislature) will act on new revenue."  
 
The protestors used Marsh's remarks as a rallying cry, as they continually raised their voices, directing their chants at the people in the state house. 
 
These groups have pledged to form a coalition of like-minded people from across the state. They plan to stay actively involved in the current state budget issue, and will remain active in state politics in the future, promoting more progressive approaches to Alabama politics. They intend to be the seed for a new Alabama government for the people.
undefined 
Photo credit:
 Christiane Robinson 
 
Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Bernie Sanders Was The "Chalk Of The Town" This Weekend

by: countrycat

Mon Aug 10, 2015 at 18:10:00 PM CDT

Gotta love the grassroots. Without them them, no campaign could put together an effective ground game. So far, the Sanders campaign seems to have gotten the drop on other Democratic presidential organizations in Alabama. Although you wouldn't know it to read the papers. On July 29th, over 250 Sanders volunteers turned out for the national event/conference call in Huntsville - but the local news didn't consider it important enough to cover.  Fortunately, events in Birmingham and Mobile did merit news mention.

 

Saturday, local volunteers in cities nationwide participated in a "Chalk the Block" for Bernie event. They "chalked" the sidewalks in their own neighborhoods, in downtown areas, on university campuses, anyplace they could really... to advertise the Sanders campaign and its core issues.

Enjoy the photo diary - with pictures shared from across the state -  as much as the Sanders folks did creating some unique sidewalk art.

More pics are on the flip.

AND... I keep asking this question -- where are the other campaigns?  I know you must be active in the state by now.  Are you holding organizing events, houseparties, what?  We'd love to publicize your efforts and promote your events here at LIA.

All Democratic candidates and volunteers are welcome to share your events and perspective as long as it's positive about your candidate. Let the Republicans tear each other apart; we're just happy to have serious candidates who don't seem to be contestants in the world's worst political reality show.

 

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