Beer wholesalers, Pfizer among Alabama House Republican Conference bankrollers
Companies including Alabama Power, drugmaker Pfizer and insurer Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama helped fund the secretive “social welfare” nonprofit arm of the Alabama House Republican Caucus during 2012, the Center for Public Integrity has learned.
The Alabama House Republican Conference, organized under section 501(c)(4) of the U.S. tax code, focuses on “research, education and policy development,” according to tax records.
Media reports from Alabama also indicate Republican lawmakers in part use the nonprofit, which is not required by law to publicly reveal its donors or the amounts donated, as a vehicle for allowing lobbyists and special interests to hobnob with them — for a price.
Interesting to see the AEA contributed $5,000 to a "nonprofit" whose mission is "to communicate the goals, objectives, and message of the Republican members of the House and to educate the public on the conference's positions on legislation."
Of course, the go-to guy in Madison County for outrageous quotes is Hugh McInnish, who serves on the Madison County Committee & state Republican Committee when he isn't pushing birther conspiracy theories & sharing his novel views on education. Truly, the guy is really, really busy look looking infiltrators, immigrants, and other undesirables. And he's finding them among fellow Republicans.
Mary Scott Hunter this afternoon survived a "false flag" challenge, as the Alabama GOP rejected a petition to yank Hunter's name from the Republican ballot.
Two members of the Alabama Republican Executive Committee -- Hugh McInnish and Dean Johnson -- argued that Hunter had run for office as a Republican, but as of late had taken up the "Democrat and Liberal standard." At issue was support of Common Core.
Many of us who watch the Alabama GOP closely are surprised by McInnish's allegation that his party is a hotbed of Democrats and Liberals. His explanation for this a tiny nugget buried in the article, but surely worth mentioning:
Back in Alabama, Hugh McInnish, a retired engineer and a conservative activist who voted to censure school board member Hunter, worries that people who in a more liberal state would be Democrats are diluting Alabama’s Republican Party. “It’s fair to say that in Alabama, the Democratic Party is the black party and the Republican Party is the white party,” he says. “Almost anyone [white] who wants to seek political office has got to run as a Republican. We now have all of the old Democrats saying, ‘I want to be a Republican,’ and they are not.”
Trust old Hugh to explain any and every issue in "black and white" terms. If there's ever a nationwide shortage of aluminium, it will be because Hugh McInnish is stockpiling it to make his tinfoil hats.
Chairwoman Terry Latham is determed to keep out the riff raff:
“With Republicans being so dominant, we’re seeing Trojan horses. Maybe I should say Trojan elephants,” she said, alluding to the party’s symbol.
Tew, who unsuccessfully ran for sheriff as a Democrat in 2006, said much of the case against him came down to his friends on Facebook.
“They said I still had Democratic friends,” he said. “I’m not going to deny my friends.” [...]
“What people say on their Facebook and Twitter pages can come back to haunt them, per se,” she said.
Tew's not the only candidate with Facebook stalkers. Baldwin County judicial candidate Ginger Poynter was removed for failing to support Roy Moore in 2012 and talking ugly on social media:
Poynter’s Facebook page contains a number of statements and links supporting former Jefferson County Circuit Judge Robert Vance, a Democrat who ran against Republican Roy Moore for chief justice. She has said she supported Vance because she could not condone Moore’s refusal, during a previous stint as chief justice, to comply with a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument in the state judicial building.
So the Alabama GOP doesn't want judicial candidates who think judges should actually follow the law? Guess they're throwing that whole "legislate from the bench" complaint out the window then.
Meanwhile, y'all get busy sending friend requests to Robert Bentley, Mike Hubbard, Del Marsh, and any other Republican office holders or hopefuls you can find!
What makes one "insufficiently Republican" in Alabama these days? A couple of things, it appears: running as an independent in a previous election, not supporting Roy Moore, & receiving Alabama Education Association (AEA) campaign contributions. Oddly, that last one didn't disqualify our current Dr. Governor, but the party may use it this year to keep candidates off its primary ballot.
Later this week, a special committee of the state Republican Party - a 21 member "Candidate Committee" - will decide the fate of 18 GOP primary hopefuls who have run afoul of either party rules or party sensibilities:
Challenges can center on technical qualifications – such as living in the wrong district or having a criminal record – or matters of party loyalty.
Now, in the State Democratic Party, there's something known as the "Radley Rule," that prevents a candidate from qualifying to run as a Democrat if he/she has donated money to Republican candidates/organizations during the previous 4 years. Democratic candidate for Treasurer, Charlie Grimsley, was challenged in 2010 because of multiple donations to Republicans. And former Democrat-Republican-Independent Parker Griffith is on this year's primary ballot running for governor in spite of his party switch, runs for Congress as a Republican, and nasty comments about Democrats.
Alabama Democrats seem to err on the side of forgiveness, while the AL GOP is more about retribution.
The Alabama Republican Party has its own version of the Radley Rule, an amendment (page 13 in the PDF) passed June 16, 2007:
Denying Ballot Access: This Committee reserves the right to deny ballot access to a candidate for public office if in a prior election that person was a Republican office holder and either publicly participated in the primary election of another political party or publicly supported a nominee of another political party. The provisions of this Rule shall apply for a period of six years after such person so participated. (This rule does not include all of the reasons for denying ballot access.)
In fact, the AL GOP is so concerned about having undesirables in the party, that they passed another ballot access rule on February 2, 2013:
NEA Contributions: The Party shall not accept money, in - kind contributions, or anything of value, directly or indirectly, from (i) the National Education Association (NEA), (ii) the NEA’s affiliates or entity controlled by the NEA or (iii) any of the NEA’s state affiliates or their related organizations. Officeholders and candidates are strongly admonished to follow the same rule and, because the NEA is a veritable adjunct of the Democratic Party, failure to heed this admonition shall be regarded negatively by the Committee.
Now, we already know that one reason Robert Bentley is governor is because of help from the AEA in the form of campaign contributions, PAC to PAC transfers, robocalls, and more. We also know that the group received a dreadful return on investment for its efforts.
So it's pretty funny now to watch the GOP do backflips to toss out candidates who take AEA money - when the sitting GOP governor likely wouldn't be there right now without it, and neither would numerous other Republicans in the legislature. The Alabama Political Reporter has an interesting story on this very subject:
If the Executive Committee excepts Scovill’s logic that any candidate who has received funds from the AEA should be disqualified as running as a Republican, then Campbell’s petition would deny over 30 GOP candidates; all of whom are currently sitting lawmakers.
For example, Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) has received $12,000 (Principal Campaign Committee) and $131,500 (As Chair/Treasurer of NETPAC) in donations from the AEA.
Scovill’s petition against Tim Sprayberry, states that he has taken $30,000 in donation from the AEA. Sprayberry, is running against Sen. Gerald Dial to represent Senate District 13. Dial has received $50,000 in campaign contributions from the AEA.
How do you know an administration is going off the rails? Well, take a look at this email that Politico says NJ Governor Chris Christie's office sent to supporters. It attacks Christie's former high school pal David Wildstein for, among other things, being "an anonymous blogger." MEOW!
Here's the entire letter published by Politico, with the list of specific complaints against Wildsteinlisted below:
"As a 16-year-old kid,” Mr. Wildstein had sued over a school board election
He had been “publicly accused by his high school social studies teacher of deceptive behavior.”
He had a controversial tenure as mayor of Livingston, N.J.
He had been an anonymous blogger.
He had a strange habit of registering web addresses for other people’s names without telling them.
Sheesh! I guess teachers are absolutely correct when they tell you that your "permanent record" is just that!
But I'm particularly interested in Wildstein's supposed "strange habit" of registering other people's names. Given Gov. Christie's proported propensity for political payback, you wonder if that "web address" thing is actually a campaign move. How else to explain news reports that Wildstein was buying the domain names attached to Christie political opponents?
The Record of Woodland Park reported that David Wildstein, the Port Authority’s second-most powerful appointee from New Jersey who announced his resignation earlier this month, bought domains that use the names of Pat Foye, the authority’s top executive; Barbara Buono, a Democratic state senator who lost to Gov. Chris Christie in this year’s gubernatorial race; and her running mate, labor leader Milly Silva.
Remember when the Alabama Republican Party candidates used to rail against "frivilous lawsuits" & describe the dasterdly "trial lawyers" in terms not fit for the ears of the innocent? Remember when every Alabama Congressperson & Senator (but one) voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act because the bill made it easier to sue for pay discrimination?
Campers, those days are gone!
Judging by the GOP supermajority's legislative priorities this term and last, they've not only made up with the trial lawyers; the two groups now share a common goal - more lawsuits against employers.
In 2013, we had the "Take Your Gun To Work Act" that was sponsored by Democrats, but eagerly rammed through the House and Senate by the GOP - over the loud and vehement objections of business owners and law enforcement groups.
Employees who feel that their right to bring their firearm to work has been violated are allowed - invited even - to sue their employer.
Also in 2013, that same bill contained the "Give Anyone A Carry Permit" provision, that almost completely removed local law enforcement's ability to deny carry permits.
"They could care less about how many of us die," [Baldwin County Sheriff] Smith said. "We're talking about lives here. People on the streets are going to die because of 286, and most of them are going to be poor people who don't live in a gated community or stay on the golf course. It makes me mad."
Anyone who feels he/she has been unfairly denied a permit is allowed - encouraged even - to sue their local Sheriff and be reinbursed for attorney fees if they win!
And now, in 2014, we have HB31, which passed the House yesterday. Continuing their crusade for "government so small it can fit inside a uterus," this bill protects health care workers who refuse to perform acts that "violate their moral, religious, or ethical principles" - but only if ladyparts are involved.
Any phase of patient medical care, treatment or procedure that is limited to abortion, human cloning, human embryonic stem cell research, and sterilization, and is related to: Patient referrals, counseling, therapy, testing, diagnosis or prognosis, research, instruction, prescribing, dispensing or administering any device, drug, or medication, surgery, or any other care or treatment rendered or provided by health care providers.
This bill gives health care workers the right to tell their employers in writing what duties they will or will not perform. And if the employer declines to hire someone who wants to write her own job description or disciplines an employee who shows up one Monday morning and announces that he'll no longer assist in infertility treatments for unmarried couples.... well.... call the local trial lawyer! Because the effect that such recalcitrance might have on a business - particularly a small office with few employees - doesn't matter.
Section 5. (a) An action for injunctive relief may be brought for the violation of any provision of this act. It shall not be a defense to any claim arising out of the violation of this act that such violation was necessary to prevent additional burden or expense on any other health care provider or health care institution.
(b) The court in such action may award injunctive relief, including ordering reinstatement of a health care provider to his or her prior job position, back pay and costs of the action.
As we've noted before, it appears that when the Alabama GOP promised in 2010 to focus on "jobs, jobs, jobs" they neglected to mention that lawyers would be the only group to see job growth.
After the dismal performance of the Governor & State Legislature in 2013, it's clear that Governor Bentley's 2010 campaign slogan was right: "Alabama Needs A Doctor." Problem is... we got Governor Bentley instead of someone who actually cares about the health & welfare of the average citizen in the state.
Let's look at some situations this year where Dr. Governor Bentley's prescriptions went terribly awry.
The total number of jobs supported by the Alabama economy has grown by 0.14 percent from November 2012 to the same month this year, prior to seasonal adjustment. Only Alaska, where employment actually decreased, had a slower growth rate.
Gee... we sure could use some of those Medicaid expansion jobs about now. But instead, the state opted for.....
Corporate Welfare: Conservative estimates that Medicaid expansion would create 30,000+ new jobs in the state didn't sway Bentley, but 8500 new Boeing jobs was enough to enter Alabama in a nationwide bidding war that could cost the state over half a billion dollars.
For a man so terrified of taking federal money, the Governor said nary a word about the Huntsville International Airport using $6 million in federal money to pay airlies to improve service & lower fares. Yep. We're using public money to subsidize private companies to improve service. Wow: you'd think the GOP would be all up in arms about a scheme like that!
But hey... maybe that money stream flows both ways, so the Governor & GOP supermajority have to be careful not to annoy their corporate masters.
Campaign Finance Laws: As of August 1, 2013 Alabama allows unlimited corporate contributions to political candidates.
In May, the Legislature voted overwhelmingly to remove the cap, starting Aug. 1. Proponents said the $500 cap meant little because a 1989 state attorney general’s opinion allowed a corporation to give $500 to a political action committee for every election scheduled in the state in one year. [...]
If corporations wanted to exceed the cap, they could donate to several PACs, which could contribute to the same candidate, proponents said.
Because, you see, corporations were able to flout the laws intent anyway due to PAC contribution laws, so instead of fixing that loophole, they just did away with the law entirely.
Education: While the executive branch found a novel way to loot the Education Trust Fund to pay for a $99k no-bid Wordpress Web site, the legislature was even more creative.
Immigration: After years of protests, huge legal bills, and negative national and internation attention, Scott Beason's immigration bill died a quiet death in November. Governing magazine was blunt - Alabama's Immigration Law Gutted:
The state's settlement -- which awaits federal district court approval -- impacts all or parts of seven sections of the law. It would lift a state requirement that schools must verify the immigration status of newly enrolled K-12 students; it would remove a ban on undocumented immigrants soliciting work; it would eliminate a provision that criminalizes either giving rides or renting apartments to undocumented immigrants; and it would strike a provision that made any contract unenforceable if one party to the contract knew or should have known that another party was undocumented.
Truly, electing our current "doctor" to office was surely a cure much worse than the disease. In 2014, voters will have the chance to "switch providers" during open enrollment in the general election on November 4, 2014.
The crazy train is really picking up steam. US News reported on a "rally" yesterday where a hundred "conservative" activists announced a wacky new plan to set up a "shadow government" and "dissolve the United States" if President Obama doesn't resign by November 29.
Sure guys, let us know how that works out for you. The article is so deliciously bizarre that it is hard to excerpt, so I suggest you click over to read the whole thing, but I couldn't resist these tidbits:
Nearly all speakers invoked their Christian faith to condemn Obama. [...] The new declaration says Obama must "immediately step down from his usurped office and seek refuge in a nation more of his liking." Grievances against Obama include gun-control proposals, immigration reform agitation, a departure from "Biblical morality," alleged help for al-Qaida associates in the Middle East, an allegedly fabricated birth certificate and executive actions that loop around Congress.
Activists seek to dissolve the United States until Obama is forced from office.
"He's kind of like a skunk," one attendee joked. "He's half white, half black, and everything he does stinks."
The event included a George Washington impersonator who read a "revised" Declaration of Independence and asserted that President Obama should be held "personally responsible" for the national debt.
If these people get any farther out, they're going to be in orbit. Which, come to think of it, isn't a bad plan.
As the barricades come down & federal workers head back to the job, we can expect the TEA Party leaders to accept the outcome with their customary grace & dignity. Which is to say dig in their heels, whine, and stubbornly insist that they were "right" all along.
But with tonight’s vote done and the government open once again, I want to return to the theme of my Sunday column, and stress once more the essential absurdity of the specific populist gambit we’ve just witnessed unfold, drag on, and now finally collapse. However you slice and dice the history, the strategery, and the underlying issues, the decision to live with a government shutdown for an extended period of time — inflicting modest-but-real harm on the economy, needlessly disrupting the lives and paychecks of many thousands of hardworking people, and further tarnishing the Republican Party’s already not-exactly-shiny image — in pursuit of obviously, obviously unattainable goals was not a normal political blunder by a normally-functioning political party. It was an irresponsible, dysfunctional and deeply pointless act, carried out by a party that on the evidence of the last few weeks shouldn’t be trusted with the management of a banana stand, let alone the House of Representatives.
Kudos to Mr. Douthat - who's also the film critic for National Review - for succintly explaining the problem and working in a sly reference to the TV show "Arrested Development." Yes, there's "money in the banana stand," but the GOP leaders stood by helplessly and watched the TEA Party extremists burn it down.
Take a victory lap Nancy, Harry, and POTUS. But keep in mind that we'll likely be back in this mess again in just a couple of months. The TEA Party isn't known for learning from its mistakes and Ted Cruz is certain that he can add a few more names to his presidential fundraising list.
Apologies y'all for so little blogging during this month. But when free blogging interferes with paid work & real life obligations, then the blogging has to take a back seat. Things are easing up at the cathouse though. And - as always! - don't wait for an admin or front pager to cover something you think is important. Write about it yourself!
What would it take to resume federal government operations? Nobody really knows, since the House GOP keeps changing their demands. Initially, it was to "defund Obamacare" even though, as head Obamacare-killer Senator Ted Cruz admitted to Senate colleagues, there was no plan on actually how to defund the law. Over the weekend, the House cobbled together a ransom notewish list that included almost the entire GOP platform from 2012.
And some Representatives even wanted to throw in more restrictions on birth control - because they just can't keep their hands out of women's... well, you know.
Most Alabama Representatives have reacted in a sadly predictable manner - blaming Senate Democrats & President Obama for failure to accept whatever crap legislation Boehner the TEA Party can push through the House.
And, although she opposes the new Affordable Care Act developed by the Obama administration, Roby says she has always opposed a shutdown because she has learned most taxpayers in the greater River Region area do not support it.
“I’ve never been for a government shutdown,” Roby said.
Rep. Mo Brooks said that he didn't want a government shutdown - even though he also voted for Boehner's CR and has yet to sign up with King's group of folks searching for compromise.
Speaking on the floor of the House of Representatives, Brooks said disagreements over President Obama's healthcare program should not lead to a government shutdown - which went into effect Tuesday with the beginning of the 2014 fiscal year.
“The House passed a Continuing Resolution to keep the federal government funded and to stop the train wreck that is the President’s unpopular health care law, not once, not twice, but three times and did so with bipartisan support,” said Aderholt. “Unfortunately, the Senate rejected our offers and refused to come to the table to find a solution.”
Spencer Bachus warned that the shutdown would have "severe negative consequences" (even though he too voted with the majority to force a shutdown) and was shocked, shocked that the shutdown forced the closure of national parks & monuments. That in itself is pretty surprising, since Bachus is an alumnus of the GOP shutdown wars of the 1990's. Battles that led to historic mid-term losses for the GOP in 1998.
But maybe he does remember: Rep. Bachus announced that he's jumping off the clown car in 2014. Unlike <a hre="http://www.leftinalabama.com/diary/10640/hd104-jim-barton-another-elected-rat-jumps-off-the-gop-ship">many Alabama Republicans</a> though, he will finish out his term.
Mike Rogers hasn't said much, except that he won't collect a paycheck during the shutdown. It's not like he does a lot to earn it when the government's operating either.
Every Alabama voter should remind these people of this simple concept: compromise begins in YOUR house, not the Senate. If your unwilling to work with the the Democrats who serve with you in the House, how on Earth do you propose to work with the Senate?
Governor Beshear clearly explains both the public health and economic benefits Kentucky after the implementation of Medicaid expansion and health care reform:
PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Urban Studies Institute at the University of Louisville concluded that expanding Medicaid would inject $15.6 billion into Kentucky’s economy over the next eight years, create almost 17,000 new jobs, have an $802.4 million positive budget impact (by transferring certain expenditures from the state to the federal government, among other things), protect hospitals from cuts in indigent care funding and shield businesses from up to $48 million in annual penalties.
And yet Kentucky's governor - a lawyer - is the one saying "we can't afford not to expand Medicaid."
In 2010, Robert Bentley's campaign signs said "Dr. Robert Bentley" and his slogan was "Alabama Needs A Doctor." It sounded great, but now our "Doctor Governor" admits that his Medicaid and exchange decisions have nothing to do with what's best for the state: it's all about politics.
“I have a long-term goal for this. My long term goal is to resist the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and I believe we are going to succeed in that,” Bentley said.
Heck, if only we could exchange our "Doctor" governor for Kentucky's "Lawyer" governor. Alabama would be a much healthier in so many ways.
It's becoming increasingly obvious why the GOP is hellbent on stopping Obamacare. Once it goes into effect, the public will learn two things: that it's going to work and that Republicans have been lying steadily about the bill for years.
Today the White House released an HHS report that summarizes insurance rates (PDF only) for state health insurance exchanges.
In keeping with the numbers from states like California & New York, prices are generally lower than expected. We won't know the exact numbers until the exchanges begin enrollment on October 1, but the preliminary estimates could cut our family's health insurance costs in half. There are a lot of things I'd rather do with that money instead of lining the pockets of BCBS and thanks to President Obama, I may get that chance.
1. Help consumers understand their health coverage Previously, health insurance companies weren't required to explain benefits and the cost of coverage to consumers in an understandable way. Health insurance companies are now required to provide clear, consistent, and comparable INFORMATION about consumers' health insurance benefits and coverage. The Summary of Benefits and Coverage forms for each plan allow consumers to make EASY COMPARISONS of different plans because they're written and presented in the SAME FORMAT and use basic terms. Health insurance companies must also make available a uniform glossary of terms commonly used in health insurance.
2. Refrain from cancelling health coverage Previously, health insurance companies could retroactively cancel consumers' health insurance because of mistakes on their applications. Under the Affordable Care Act, insurers can only retroactively cancel consumers' health insurance if their applications are intentionally false or incomplete.
3. Offer certified health plans Previously, states were responsible for determining what standards health insurance companies needed to meet in order to be licensed to sell health plans in that state. Now, all health plans offered through the Marketplace must be CERTIFIED by the MARKETPLACE to meet certain standards for consumer protections. Certified plans, known as qualified health plans (QHPs), are presented uniformly and clearly to make comparisons between plans easy. 4. Offer a guaranteed set of benefits Previously, health insurance companies could sell health plans with variable sets of benefits. Now, all health plans are REQUIRED to include a MINIMUM set of benefits, known as essential health benefits (EHB).
5. Prohibit lifetime limits on coverage Previously, health insurance companies could place limits on how much they would pay for a consumer's health care. Now, health insurance companies can't set a dollar limit on what they spend for a consumer's care during the entire time that consumer is enrolled in a plan, if the services are essential health benefits (EHB). Health insurance companies can still put a lifetime dollar limit on spending for health care services that aren't part of EHB.
So it's no wonder - sadly - that the GOP is going all out to stop this and thereby deny millions of people affordable health care coverage that they desperately need.
Sunday night's debate was grueling, and the bill's sponsor stopped answering questions after she got into trouble denying Democratic amendments. When Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, called for an exemption for women who were victims of rape and incest, Rep. Jody Laubenberg, R-Parker, explained why she felt it was unnecessary.
"In the emergency room they have what's called rape kits where a woman can get cleaned out," she said, comparing the procedure to an abortion. "The woman had five months to make that decision, at this point we are looking at a baby that is very far along in its development."
Her apparent confusion about "rape kits" — a phrase generally used to describe the equipment used by medical personnel during forensic examinations to gather physical evidence following allegations of rape or sexual assault — sparked widespread ridicule on social media sites. Laubenberg then simply rejected all proposed changes to her bill without speaking until the end of the debate.
Now there's a solution! When you don't understand the issue in front of you - even though you're the sponsor of the darn bill - just refuse to answer questions.
Mary Sue McClurkin... are you paying attention?
Let's take Julie's apt framing of the issue for McClurkin from February and update it a bit:
We want to help, MarySue Jody Really. Because you are sitting down in Montgomery Austin writing law. You are sitting down in Montgomery Austin meddling in the physician-patient relationship. You are meddling in things about which you have no knowledge whatsoever, and that means you are a danger to society.
Fortunately, voters also have a way to get things "cleaned out:" elections.
“We must compete for every single vote: the 47 percent and the 53 percent and any other combination of numbers that adds up to 100 percent,” he said, notably invoking comments 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney made at a closed door fundraiser about a bloc of voters who would not consider GOP candidates. [...] Republicans “must reject the notion that demography is destiny, the pathetic and simplistic notion that skin pigmentation dictates voter behavior. We must treat all people as individuals rather than as members of special interest groups,” he said.
It's a great headline to a bit of a fawning article overall that includes laugh-out-loud lines like this:
The Louisianan’s remarks further positioned himself as a forward-looking voice among the Republicans thought to have their eye on a White House bid in 2016.
Really? I guess that works if you define "forward-looking" as pushing a plan to kick old people & the poor out of hospice care - and then changing the plan after it got too much criticism. And also if you define "forward-looking" as proposing to eliminate corporate and individual state income taxes and further burden the poor & middle class by raising what is already the nation's 3rd highest highest sales tax rate. That's a move the Tax Policy Center reports"would dramatically shift more of the burden of Louisiana’s taxes onto lower-income individuals."
But hey, at least Jindal's not suggesting jailing raped women who have abortions because they "tampered with evidence" in a criminal trial (PDF link to the Arizona New Mexico bill).
What happens when a Democratic Congressman-turned-Republican-turned-pariah decides to rehabilitate himself? He starts sucking up to the folks who were dumb enough to support him in the first place. That's right campers, Parker Griffith has embarked on a Democratic rehab tour using former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman as his prop.
Former Alabama Congressman Parker Griffith, right, described Siegelman's seven-year sentence as a "political assassination" in a remarkable interview by Lila Garrett on KPFK. Garrett hosts a Los Angeles-based radio show. The interview can be heard nationwide in the second of the show's three segments.
Good luck with that. What's remarkable is that Griffith thinks anyone would believe he has any shred of credibility left. If he told me the sky is blue, I'd have to walk outside & look up before I believed it.
As so often happens when Senator Beason opens his mouth, he had no idea what he was talking about. As Bloomberg reports:
Republican state Senator Scott Beason, a sponsor, said at a news conference last year that the restrictions on undocumented workers would “put thousands of native Alabamians back in the work force.”
Instead, it caused a labor shortage that resulted in the importation of hundreds of legal African and Haitian refugees, and Puerto Ricans, according to interviews with workers, advocacy organizations and businesses. Most were recruited by the poultry industry, in a segment of the economy that has been a heavy employer of undocumented workers, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, a Washington research group. [...] Wayne Farms found Eritreans, displaced by war and conflict, and other Africans through East Coast Labor Solutions LLC, a Fairlea, West Virginia-based labor broker. East Coast has about 200 workers in Alabama, owner Ray Wiley said in an interview.
Most of these worker have landed in Albertville and I, for one, certainly hope that some of the African workers stay to open restaurants because Eritrean food is awesome!
But this article should raise a BIG red flag: these workers are being provided by "labor brokers" and the last time those guys were in the news, they were employing hapless "guest workers" in near sweatshop conditions in Huntsville at the Cinram DVD facility.
The workers are employed by Ambassador staffing agency. Ambassador distributed workers, upon arrival, among 20 local landlords. Circumstances varied greatly, but some workers reported paying as much as $300 per person per month to share a small, furnished apartment with three or more roommates.
In one case in November, The Times found four Jamaican women who paid a combined $1,200 a month for an apartment with busted plumbing and no heat that had rented for $450.
In February, the Fair Housing Center of Northern Alabama, a nonprofit agency based in Birmingham, and the NAACP began questioning housing for foreign workers in Huntsville.
Landlords "were charging some of the people $300 per bed," in "roach-infested" apartments, Jerry Burnet, chair of the state housing committee for the NAACP, told The Times last month. "They've got a little small bed, like you have in a barracks, and they were putting three in each room."
Wormsby said HUD opened the formal investigation after receiving the complaints gathered by the NAACP and the Fair Housing Center.
Remember though... compared to Gov. Mitt Romney's little paen to Chinese slave labor working conditions, Cinram was a real "worker's paradise." From his now-famous Q&A to wealthy supporters last Spring:
And they work in these huge factories, they made various uh, small appliances. And uh, as we were walking through this facility, seeing them work, the number of hours they worked per day, the pittance they earned, living in dormitories with uh, with little bathrooms at the end of maybe 10, 10 room, rooms. And the rooms they have 12 girls per room.
These types of working conditions are a feature, not a bug in the Republican plan for working Americans.
So I'd suggest that we give Senator Beason a nice little Bronx cheer for yet another of his "unintended consequences" to the immigration bill. He's managed to exchange one set of low wage workers who have little or no leverage or ability to demand fair wages & safe working conditions with another set. And yet... maybe it wasn't "unintended" after all!
On top of low wages, no benefits, and no legal right to unionize, these workers face the constant threat of deportation if they speak out against their employer. It is within this context that we must understand the crash that six months ago killed 11 farm workers, including 9 migrants from Peru, near the Canadian town of Waterloo. Since the accident there has been no government investigation into the transportation and living conditions of migrant farm workers in Canada and fleeting media coverage. Like South Africa, migrant farm workers in Canada live in isolated rural areas, often housed directly on the farms, where they often experience severe discrimination and racism.
Don't get me wrong: I'm thrilled that some of these refugees have a chance at building a better life in a stable community with a decent job. But we need to be vigilant and make sure that's actually the case. Because past history has shown us clearly that these desperate people are willing to accept low wages, terrible working conditions, and are ripe for exploitation.
Anybody want to explain how this is an improvement?
Pity the baby elephants.... A few weeks ago, the New York Times wrote about the "young Republicans who blur the line on social issues." These idealistic young people think they can downplay such hot button issues as abortion and marriage equality and attract younger voters to the GOP based on economic issues.
Zoey Kotzambasis, vice president of the College Republicans at the University of Arizona, considers herself a conservative. But she supports both same-sex marriage and abortion rights. Those are not just her opinions.
“A lot of the College Republicans I know share the same liberal-to-moderate social views,” she added. “And I think that’s changing the face of the party.”
Really? Because the "face of the party" hasn't changed much with the recent decision of the platform committee to include support for a constitutional amendment that bans abortions - including those for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell defended the platform plank with this rather bizarre statement:
"The specifics, of course, are largely left up to the states."
Um... NO. The specifics are NOT left up to the states if we have a constitutional amendment that bans all abortions. In spite of the Dixiecrat determination to thwart federal law whenever possible, a #$%$ constitutional amendment over-rides state law.
This wasn't the only vote the platform committee took on anti-choice planks & those votes didn't pass without comment. A young Alabama delegate spoke out. Jackie Curtiss, a 22-yr old Monetvallo student who says she's staunchly anti-abortion, tried to bring some sanity into the platform discussion:
Curtiss made waves in the committee when she objected to an amendment to the platform banning medication "that terminates human life after conception." The amendment was aimed at RU-486 and other so-called “abortion pills," but Curtiss warned that it could potentially include the “morning after pill.” With a national controversy swirling around Rep. Todd Akin's skepticism that rape could cause pregnancy, Curtiss — the only person to even refer to the embattled congressman — said the platform needed to make it clear that the party is welcoming to women. [...] Nevertheless, the amendment passed and found its way into the party’s 2012 manifesto.
The same was true for abstinence-only education. Curtiss was joined by a handful of delegates in opposing the language which was being inserted into the platform. She also said she backs an exception to the abortion ban for rape victims, but did not offer an amendment on that pont.
“I’m from Alabama — we have abstinence-only education, we also have one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country,” Curtiss said. “While I support abstinence and I think it’s something to teach our kids, I also am realistic and understand a majority of our kids are not waiting until marriage to have sex.”
While I think it's awesome that the national GOP put a 22 year old young woman on their platform committee, I fear that she's in for quite a season of disappointment.
Even though Rep. Paul Ryan called on Missouri candidate Todd "legitimate rapes" Akin to withdraw, it wasn't due to philosophical differences. Rather it's a cold political calculation that it's electoral suicide for the GOP to explain to mainstream voters what their real social agenda is.
Ryan voted with Akin in Congress 93% of the time and was a co-sponsor of HR 3, the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Bill" that allowed women access to abortion if they'd been the victims of "forcible rape." Interesting term, that. Kind of like the "legitimate rape" language that Akin used just this weekend. The issue that GOP strategists have with Akin & company isn't their extreme views on the role of women & their magic ladyparts... it's that they're sharing those views with voters before the election.
There may be a "generational divide" looming in the GOP, but as long as the party power structure is dominated by mysogistic, xenophobic no-nothings who scoff at science and think Adam & Eve rode dinsosaurs, those young folks won't get very far. The current GOP is desperately treading water in the face of a coming demographic tsunami that's about to drown the entire Republican Party.
The mainstream GOP should have paid attention to the old story about having a tiger by the tail. The cautionary fable explains that you'll have a powerful weapon, but can't control it. Soon, it will turn you you. This story is certainly playing out across the country - most recently in the Texas Senate primary on Tuesday.
The infusion of new conservative blood could alter the complexion of the Senate, increasing the sorts of conflicts between moderates and far-right Republicans disinclined toward compromise that have characterized the House for two years. From Indiana, where Richard E. Mourdock recently toppled the veteran Republican Senator Richard G. Lugar, to Wisconsin — where two Tea Party candidates are slowly unmooring the Republican front-runner, former Gov. Tommy Thompson — to Nebraska, where Deb Fischer surprisingly beat out a more established Republican candidate...
In Utah, Orrin Hatch was forced into a primary battle when he failed to get enough votes at the state convention to win the nomination without a primary.
The dwindling number of GOP moderates is watching in dismay as this plays out. Some are complaining publicly about feeling bullied by leadership to go along with the demands of the far right. Ohio Rep. Steve LaTourette abruptly decided to retire, citing the need to "hand over your wallet and your voting card" to party extremes. A fellow GOP Congressman, New York Rep. Richard Hanna, is open about his frustration, telling his local paper in Syracuse:
“I have to say that I’m frustrated by how much we — I mean the Republican Party — are willing to give deferential treatment to our extremes in this moment in history,” he told The Post-Standard editorial board.
Hanna is a local businessman who won in 2010 and survived a TEA Party primary challenge this year, really seems shocked by the level of unhinged vitriol spewed on a daily basis by his GOP colleagues:
While he blamed the dysfunction on both sides, he said he feels more bitterness coming from the Republican caucus than from the Democrats.
“I would say that the friends I have in the Democratic Party I find ... much more congenial — a little less anger,” he said.
Right wing GOP pressure isn't just at the national level. Moderate Republicans should certainly feel justified if they're feeling a bit paranoid these days. Conservatives are happy to discuss their efforts to cull moderate Republicans, whom they consider to be weaker, less reliable members of the elephant herd:
Frustrated by their inability to achieve some policy goals, conservatives in Republican states are turning against moderate members of their own party, trying to drive them out of state legislatures to clear the way for reshaping government across a wide swath of mid-America controlled by the GOP. [...] The push is most intense in Kansas, where conservatives are attempting to replace a dozen moderate Republican senators who bucked new Gov. Sam Brownback's move to slash state income taxes.
While it's entertaining to watch the GOP slowly self-destruct and race happily down a rutted path that leads inexorably towards the cliff of political irrelevance, it is bad for the country in the short term.
Far too many people just don't believe how extremist these guys are. It's not just a clown car, people! It's an armored clown bus filled with unstable extremists hostile to civil liberties, Social Security, public education, compromise of any sort, and civil society. They're the clowns of your nightmares: they're in charge in many statehouses and running the US House of Representatives.
They'll do incalculable damage to the country - and right here in Alabama - before the voting public wakes up and turns them out of office.
Now that Gov. Romney's home from his "European Vacation," it's time to gaze at some of the downticket Republicans. They're a zany bunch who defend dogfighting, wag on about Kenyan birth announcements, and warn about martial law declarations. How long before all three conspiracy theories merge into one?
Iowa Representative Steve King has been a busy guy the past week on several fronts. First up - animal torture. Rep. King explained in a town meeting that dog fighting isn't a problem because we allow humans to fight. Why, what's wrong with our priorities?
When the legislation that passed in the farm bill that says that it’s a federal crime to watch animals fight or to induce someone else to watch an animal fight but it’s not a federal crime to induce somebody to watch people fighting, there’s something wrong with the priorities of people that think like that.
Um... I'm pretty sure there's some federal statute that would prohibit attending a fight intending to watch humans fight to the death. And boxers train voluntarily for their careers - and bear the scars.
We went down into the Library of Congress and we found a microfiche there of two newspapers in Hawaii each of which had published the birth of Barack Obama. It would have been awfully hard to fraudulently file the birth notice of Barack Obama being born in Hawaii and get that into our public libraries and that microfiche they keep of all the newspapers published. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some other explanations on how they might’ve announced that by telegram from Kenya.
They might also be from the future. Here's hoping Rep. King investigates that next.
But let's save the best for last. A Tennessee state legislator has a pet theory involving Homeland Security, martial law, and the November election....
Rep. Kelly Keisling (R-Byrdstown) sent an email from his state email account to constituents containing a rumor that Obama and the Department of Homeland Security are planning a series of events that could lead to the imposition of "martial law" and delay the election. Among the events hypothesized in the email is a staged assassination attempt on the president that would lead to civil unrest in urban areas and martial law.
Keisling appears to have forwarded a more widely circulated email from Joe Angione, a Florida-based conservative blogger. Angione prefaces the rumor by saying it has not been confirmed but likewise notes it has not been denied. Angione also writes that people need to work to prevent the rumor from becoming reality.
What does Rep. Keisling have to say for himself? uh oh...
Keisling has not returned messages left at his Byrdstown insurance office, and there was no answer at his home.
We're still 3 months from the election. Hang on, campers... it will only get worse!
The Talmud says that if we thank God for the good things in our lives, we must also give thanks for the bad. So we know that the GOP is determined to blame President Obama for everything (could be he even controls the weather!) bad. Will he also get credit for falling gas prices?
Because truly, up or down, POTUS has little control over prices.
But PolitiFact has said repeatedly that Obama is not to blame. Gas prices are largely affected by supply-and-demand pressures over which a president has little control.
We addressed this subject in February 2012 when we looked at a claim by U.S. Senate candidate George Allen, a Republican, that the average cost of filling a gas tank had increased by $30 under Obama. We rated that claim Mostly True, saying Allen had his number right but wrongly suggested the president shoulders the blame.
There's more... check out the link for the details.
I took the photo here yesterday on Winchester Road in Madison County after passing numerous stations advertising regular unleaded prices below $3.
Since the TEA Party GOP would like us to believe that President Obama is the 21st Century version of "Oz the Great & Powerful," I couldn't help but wonder... will they give him credit for this positive development?