Archive for the ‘Alabama Politics’ Category

Will the Real Artur Davis Please Stand Up?

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

Former Democratic Congressman and gubernatorial candidate Artur Davis will return to Alabama next week as the “star attraction” for a Republican fundraiser.

A lot has changed since Artur Davis was the center of attention at a political gathering in his native Alabama.

How much have things changed?

Well, when Davis made his last noteworthy appearance in Alabama he was a congressman, a Democrat, a candidate for governor.

And he was still welcomed at the White House.

Davis, who seconded the presidential nomination of Barack Obama at the 2008 Democratic National Convention, didn’t just slide over from Blue Dog Democrat to moderate Republican – he’s gone full-blown Tea Party. He spoke at this year’s Republican National Convention, one of a series of people of color on stage in front of an almost all white audience. He’s the new “See? We’re Not Racists!” face of True the Vote, an organization whose primary purpose appears to be unsubstantiated voter challenges that (just coincidentally, of course) disproportionately target people of color.

As I listened to Davis speak [to True the Vote] in Houston, I remembered a similar summit I attended in 2006, which was organized by “Patriot” and “Minutemen” groups. These tea party predecessors were transparent about not only their anti-immigrant stances, but their hostility towards Latinos in general. They used a lot of the same language as today’s tea party groups, like “taking back America” and “restoring America’s heritage.” And like True the Vote, they had a couple of black speakers at their summit who absolved the otherwise all-white movement of racism charges.

Most of those Patriot and Minutemen groups dissolved, just before the rise of Obama. But in 2010, tea party groups that look and sound just like them emerged, better organized and better funded. Many are just as far to the right as their predecessors, but on race specifically they use softer language. They proclaim that they just want to help improve government, and are offended by charges that they threaten black and Latino people. Their politics are not racist, they say, and if you don’t believe them, just ask Artur Davis.

What happened to the man who Buy Cialis, just two short years ago, ran for governor as a progressive Democrat, championing a new constitutional convention truly representative of the people of Alabama? This was a man who fought to win his Congressional seat against the entrenched  power structure in the Alabama Democratic Party, but he didn’t shy away from being a Democrat. (He did choose to vote against the Affordable Care Act, but  - while I disagree with his vote – I continue to believe that it was a strategic move, sanctioned by the White House, to help him in the general election.)

Then he lost. Not just lost – he was pummeled in the primary, never getting the chance to make his case to the state as a whole. He left Alabama behind to move to Virginia. He said he was done with politics. Alabama ended up with accidental Gov. Dr. Dr. Robert Bentley.

Now Davis pens op-eds claiming widespread voter fraud in Alabama’s Black Belt and elsewhere but refuses to back up his allegations:

“If you are asking if I will name individuals whose organizations regularly practice such tactics, why would I elevate unknowns to my level by identifying them and giving them a national forum? I understand that you are doing your job as a journalist but I don’t owe your readers any clarification.”

And right there in that quote is, in my opinion, the key to Artur’s party switch: he’s pissed that Alabama Democrats didn’t show him the adulation to which he believes he’s entitled. National Republicans, ever on the quest to prove their diversity, are piling on the praise that he didn’t get at home. He’s on TV! He’s invited to speak! He’s a respected pundit! He’s fawned over like a new religious convert.

I believed Artur Davis when he said he supported a new constitution that would help Alabama move forward into a better future. I believed him when he said he supported Barack Obama for president. I was disappointed when he left Alabama, letting his hurt feelings trump his principles.

Of course, that was back when I believed he had some principles. Looks like I was wrong.

 

Now you can get coconut milk in Albertville

Monday, September 24th, 2012

That invisible hand of the market is always working, you know? And when the market needed chicken-pickers at $10 a hour, the invisible hand provided. What it provided—shed a tear for us welcoming the huddled masses, y’all!—was Eritrean refugees.

Plants sought refugees because too few local residents were interested or qualified, said Frank Singleton, a spokesman for Wayne Farms, based in Oakwood, Georgia. … Turnover in North Alabama was 50 percent last year, and is now as high as 90 percent in some sperm volume pills plants because replacements didn’t stay, he said. The company is “having to use alternative methods and sourcing,” including recruiting refugees, Singleton said

And naturally, The Market also affected the market:

Changing demographics are reflected on store shelves. Albertville’s main Hispanic grocery, Tienda El Sol, added coconut milk, new varieties of hot peppers and other items to appeal to newcomers, manager Marjorie Centeno said.

My Facebook friend who posted the linked article said only, “HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.” I’m afraid I don’t have much to add.

What Now?

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

Yesterday, Alabama voters (well, a small percentage of Alabama voters*) approved Amendment One, which allows a transfer of more than $437 million over the next three years from the state’s oil and gas trust fund to the General Fund. This amendment allows the legislature to balance the state’s budget, at least for now.

The General Fund is something of a catchall for non-education-related programs, including Medicaid, child protective services, public health and safety, prisons, and the court system – not to mention “legislative activities”. It’s funded by a patchwork of revenue sources including insurance company premium taxes, interest on state deposits, some ad valorem taxes, and taxes on cigarettes and booze.

All of these revenues are adversely impacted by a bad economy. Seriously, when interest rates are hovering around 1% and people are cutting back on big purchases, there’s no way to get adequate funding for essential services. A short-term inflow of money is not going to solve the long-term flaws in the system.

So what can we do about it? Alabama Arise has a great call to action that gets right to the core of the problem and offers a real solution – and it does it in three succinct paragraphs:

Tuesday’s “yes” vote saved Alabama from an immediate funding crisis and devastating funding cuts next year, but it wasn’t a cure for our state’s funding shortfalls. The General Fund budget still languishes under a structural deficit: As in many states, our revenues simply don’t grow fast enough to keep up with the rising costs of Medicaid, prisons top rated electronic cigarettes and other public services. The amendment that voters approved Tuesday is a short-term patch for a long-term problem.

Raiding a savings account every year to pay ongoing expenses is not a sustainable way to fund the health care infrastructure that makes life better for all of us. We must hold our leaders to their pledge that this amendment merely creates a bridge to a sustainable solution. From now on, they must keep the Alabama Trust Fund intact.

When our lawmakers return in February to craft budgets for 2014, we urge them to approve new revenues to stabilize Medicaid, mental health, public safety and other public services for the long term. And they should design a revenue plan that doesn’t make our state’s upside-down tax system even worse. It’s time to make hard decisions and establish an adequate, reliable funding stream to protect the most vulnerable among us. (emphasis mine)

It’s up to each of us to contact our legislators and the Governor with this message and to demand action on comprehensive tax reform in the upcoming legislative session. Click here to personalize the text above and send it directly to your Representative and Senator. Write your own letter or email. Call. Visit. Push and push and push (politely, of course) until you see results. Nothing will change if we don’t make it change.

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*The Secretary of State’s website shows 2.6 million plus registered voters; the AP reported 533,742 total votes with 88 percent of the precincts report­ing. That’s just over 20% turnout, and it really kinda sucks.

 

It can’t be wrong, if it’s for Our Precious Children

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

Because they are our Future. Anyway, this was buried on page 4C, under the weather forecast. Judge Tracy McCooey has decided that the phone company will just have to keep on collecting a fee from all of its customers in order to pay for telephone service aiding the deaf and blind. The only difference is, now that money will go not to telephone service for the deaf & blind—their equipment is all paid up, thanks to careful management—but to the education fund. And this makes good sense, because the education fund sure needs that money! So just shut up, okay?

Says Jay Love (R-Montgomery), who sponsored the brilliant bill transferring the money: “I certainly felt like when we passed aussie online pokies that bill that it would withstand any legal challenge, and I’m glad the judge agreed.” Uh-huh. I can’t imagine why the PSC even sued.

The possibilities here are limited only by the human imagination, guys. How about…a fee added to all grocery bills, to pay for those electric wheelchair carts for the disabled—except we’ll use it to pay for court clerks. Or a energy conservation study fee added to your electric bill—hey, that could pay for prison expansion!  This is going to revolutionize taxation in Alabama, already the lowest-taxed state in the country. With any luck, we can put off actually addressing our financial shortfall and developing a sensible, fair tax system to deal with it…well, maybe forever.

 

Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice Launches Campaign Against HB 56 TODAY, November 21st

Monday, November 21st, 2011

From Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice:

The Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice will kick off the campaign against HB 56 at 2:00 PM Central Time TODAY with a news conference in advance of an Ad Hoc Congressional Hearing being held at the Council Chambers on the 3rdFloor of Birmingham City Hall. Present will be a number of key members of Congress, including immigration reform champion, Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL), who will listen to stories of those who have been affected by the law. Other members of Congress in attendance are as follows:

The members of Congress will hear from a number of people in the community who have witnessed the adverse effects of the law. On panel one, members of Congress will hear from Sheriff Mike Hale, Jefferson County; Dr. Craig Witherspoon, Superintendent Birmingham City Schools; Mary Bauer, Southern Poverty Law Center Attorney; and Mayor William Bell, Birmingham.

Panel two will consist of testimony from Jose Antonio Castro, La Jefa Radio; Y.J., 17 year old student; Angie Baylon Viagra, ESL Teacher Woodlawn and Huffman High School; Alma, concerned parent; Trini, undocumented immigrant from Tuscaloosa; Evangelina Limon, an Alabama business owner; and Francisco Garcia, Alabama Business Owner.

Later in the evening, from 7pm to 9 pm, members of Congress will attend a rally at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmignham, Alabama (there’s a map here, in case you don’t know where it is). The event will officially mark the launch “One Family, One Alabama” Campaign to Repeal HB 56.

Eleven members of Congress, including Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL), along with civil rights leaders from around the country, will speak to express the nation’s solidarity with the people of Alabama. State Senator Billy Beasley, sponsor of the proposed bill to repeal HB56, will also speak, along with people whose lives have been damaged by the law.

Also slotted to speak at the event are Zayne Smith, Grassroots leader at ACIJ;Wade Henderson, National Conference on Civil and Human Rights; Mitch Ackerman, SEIU; Hillary Shelton, NAACP, among others. The speakers will address thousands of Alabamians who will gather to challenge Alabama’s state lawmakers to repeal House Bill 56, the nation’s most vicious immigration reform law.

You can check out the full schedule — complete with all the speakers — here. There’ll be more on the events tomorrow. Keep checking back on our page for updates throughout the day, or follow us on twitter @ALimmigrant – we’ll be live-tweeting, using the hashtag #CrisisAL. Stay tuned!

“Occupy Mobile member arrested”

Friday, November 18th, 2011

That headline makes it sound like he was doing something baaaad, right? Like maybe disrupting the peace, or defecating in public, or something. But no. He was going through security down at Gov’t Plaza, in order to file paperwork to appear before the city council.

As the group attempted to pass through the security checkpoint in front of the elevators, the security officer said that only two could go up at a time, Hapkmeyer said.
When Henderson asked why not, the officer told him to “shut up and stop asking him questions,” Hapkmeyer said.  When Henderson calmly asked again, the officer arrested him, Hapkmeyer said. (more…)

Unintended Consequences, My Aunt Fanny

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

Apparently Alabama Republican lawmakers have heard from enough angry constituents that they’re now open to revamping the state’s punitive, stupid immigration law:

“I had a military guy who came back from Afghanistan and went to get him a tag for a new truck and he couldn’t, he needed to show his birth certificate,” said State Senator Gerald Dial, who voted for the law but said he would not have if he had known of some of its “unintended consequences.”

Gee, Gerald. Maybe you should have read it first. When you passed a law that makes it a felony for an undocumented person to transact business with any government entity, what did you think would happen?

HB56 needs to be repealed, and the official repeal campaign kicks off Monday, 7 PM, at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. Come out to show your support!

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More information here: Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice website and Facebook event.

I Was Thirsty and You Gave Me Nothing To Drink

Monday, November 7th, 2011

Then the King will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.” They also will answer, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?” He will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” - Matthew 25:41-45

The Decatur Daily reported yesterday that Decatur Utilities will no longer provide electric, gas, water or sewer service to undocumented immigrants. Huntsville Utilities has instituted the same policy. Because these utilities, and many others in Alabama, are “political subdivisions” of the state, HB56 requires them to determine immigration status of customers and refuse service to those who are undocumented. It also apparently makes felons of legal residents who pay for utility service for mixed-status households.

Section 30 of the Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act requires the state and its political subdivisions to confirm that individuals conducting “business transactions” — which the law defines to mean “any transaction” — are legally present in the United States.

The law makes it a felony for a legal resident to enter into a transaction with the state or its subdivisions on behalf of an undocumented immigrant.

The utility companies’ new requirements are only for “individuals and partnerships beginning new service, adding an account to existing service or attempting to restore service after it has been shut off for nonpayment”. And therein lies the rub. Low-income customers are much more likely to be shut off for nonpayment, and immigrants (documented or not) who have been frightened away from their jobs or who depend on seasonal employment are at particularly high risk. Assuming they can get assistance with their utility bills, they now have to go through the “papers please” routine or go without the basic necessities of life and health.

This result was exactly what the Justice Department feared when it asked hgh supplements Judge Sharon Blackburn to strike down Section 30 of the law. Luther Strange, who apparently lives in a bubble somewhere, pooh-poohed those concerns:

State Attorney General Luther Strange argued in a legal brief he filed in August that the Justice Department’s claim was “misinterpreting, or at least exaggerating” the requirements of the law.

“Its fear that Section 30 would prohibit such aliens from having running water or sewer services, for example, has little basis,” Strange wrote.

Apparently it has a mighty big basis, Luther. Meanwhile, bill sponsor Rep. Micky Hammon (R-Decatur) is absolutely thrilled that fellow human beings won’t have access to heat or light or clean water or flush toilets. He also includes a threat to anyone who might want to give a drink to the thirsty.

“Our goal was to prevent any business transactions with any governments. It’s just an extension of the goal of the entire bill — to prevent illegal immigrants from coming to Alabama and to discourage those that are here from putting down roots,” Hammon said.

He said he is pleased with the results.

“It seems to be working,” Hammon said. “We’re seeing a lot of illegal immigrants self-deport.”

Hammon said legal residents also need to pay attention to the law.

“We have a conspiracy clause in there,” Hammon said. “Anybody who assists illegal immigrants through any of these processes will also be guilty of a felony.”

Mr. Hammon, you’re talking about lots of people who put down roots here long ago. They put down roots in large part because many of those businesses that are part of the same associations you list in your biography drew them here with the promise of work. Their children were born and raised here, they are valued employees and members of their communities, and THEY DON’T DESERVE TO BE TREATED LIKE THIS.

For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me…whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.

I don’t see any ambiguity there. You know what else I don’t see? Any mention of immigration status.

Sunday Musings

Sunday, November 6th, 2011

A new week dawns, and Daylight Saving Time is done for another year. Del and my Dear Husband are thrilled. I am not. I don’t like leaving work in the dark; it makes me feel like it’s the middle of the night instead of late afternoon. Oh hi, Seasonal Affective Disorder, I’ve missed you. NOT. Could Alabama just move to the Eastern time zone already?

Anyway, onward…

Two big votes on Tuesday:

In Ohio, voters will hold a referendum on Senate Bill 5, which drastically curtails the right of public employees to organize. A YES vote on Issue 2 will uphold the law; a NO vote overturn it. Recent polls show the measure going down by 25 percentage points. Local right-wing groups and “outside agitators” haven’t given up the fight, however. Greg Sargent details the expenditures here:

* Building a Better Ohio — the leading conservative group in the Ohio battle that is partly bankrolled by private sector interests — has booked a total of $1.8 million in Ohio broadcast and cable time from November 2-8.

* Restoring America — a shadowy group which is reported to have been funded by a single donor during a recent battle in Kentucky — has booked $448,000 in Ohio broadcast and cable time from November 3-8.

* Citizens United, the well-known conservative group, has booked a total of $101,070 in Ohio broadcast and cable time from November 4-8. (A group spokesman confirmed the figure.)

And, of course, there are the old-fashioned mailers going out across the state, “including ones that use debunked statistics to portray public workers as greedy and overpaid.” It remains to be seen which side will do a better job of turning out voters.

In Mississippi, voters will go to the polls to decide whether or not a fertilized egg is a person. I listened to a proponent of Amendment 26 on the Diane Rehm show last week, and oh my goodness did he ever wiggle and squiggle.  I didn’t hear the whole segment, but I heard enough to know he claimed repeatedly that passage of the amendment would have no effect on settled law regarding abortion.

Oh, sure – if the state adds a constitutional amendment declaring a fertilized egg to be a person, there will be no ramifications whatsoever.  It will just be a feel-good measure for the anti-choice crowd. Swamp land and bridges, people. Swamp land and bridges. He slipped up long enough to admit the amendment would outlaw several popular forms of birth control, although he continued to deny that it would outlaw abortion in Mississippi. So what’s its purpose again?

I keep hearing that the amendment is sure to pass, although for the life of me I can’t find any polling results on the Google. Outgoing Gov. Haley Barbour had a brief bout of sanity on November 2, telling MSNBC’s Chuck Todd he might vote no on 26, citing serious concerns “about some of the ramifications on in vitro fertilization and [ectopic] pregnancies where pregnancies [occur] outside the uterus and [in] the fallopian tubes.” He was quickly brought to heel and voted for the measure by absentee ballot the very next day.

The amendment is so ambiguous that even the Catholic Church in Mississippi and the National Right to (Unborn) Life Movement are withholding support. I wish I thought the voters would reject this poorly conceived (yeah, ha ha) initiative, but even if they do, Personhood USA (no link), which is pushing this cookie cutter initiative around the country, will just keep bringing it back.

What does any of this have to do with Alabama?

Our newly-Republican legislature has done its best to gut the Alabama Education Association, the most powerful advocacy group in the state for public employees, and we’re now paying for ongoing litigation.

Alabama’s very own version of the personhood bill went nowhere in the 2011 session, but it’s already prefiled for 2012, along with bills mandating ultrasounds for women seeking abortions, opting out of abortion coverage in health insurance exchanges, and introducing some of those onerous government regulations for physicians prescribing abortion-inducing drugs (which will, of course, be moot if the personhood amendment passes). A personhood bill that clearly challenges Roe v. Wade will mean more expensive litigation.

Add all of this to the mess that is Alabama’s immigration law, and we have what looks very much like a jobs program for lawyers.

What is it with Alabama? We purport to hate government spending unless, apparently, it is in aid of passing and defending unconstitutional laws. At the rate we’re going, we may very well find ourselves unable to fund any services other than legal ones.

Jeff Sessions Is Confused

Friday, November 4th, 2011

Stunning, I know. Sessions is flogging a bill that would forbid the Department of Justice from suing states that pass draconian immigration laws. The DOJ says state laws interfere with federal enforcement. Well, duh. Fifty states with fifty different laws would make an already tangled mess a whole lot worse.

At the same time, he’s trying to get the Feds to go after Cook County, Illinois, and other localities for refusing to detain “suspected illegal immigrants” who get arrested beyond the time when they would otherwise be released.

Sessions on Wednesday said he was asking that the federal government “consider taking action against Cook County and other local jurisdictions that purposefully and deliberately undermine the electronic cigarette starter laws of the United States and offer sanctuary to illegal aliens who have broken our laws by entering the country illegally.”

Supporters of Alabama’s HB56 and similar bills claim they wouldn’t be necessary if only the Feds would “do their job”. If that’s really the case, I’m not sure why interfering with the federal government is perfectly fine when it tears apart families and leaves crops rotting in the fields – but all wrong when cash-strapped localities refuse to keep suspected undocumented immigrants in jail until ICE gets around to picking them up.

Of course, one of those approaches denies the humanity of undocumented immigrants, and the other one doesn’t. I guess that explains it.