When voting in Senate special election, think of yourself





One candidate doesn’t know what DACA is. The other candidate doesn’t know what the truth is. That’s what you’re left with in the Republican runoff for a U.S. Senate seat.

Roy Moore v. Luther Strange.

Two candidates who most of us don’t want.

A judge who keeps getting himself tossed off the bench and a malleable lawyer who will conform to any position if it means he gets to never really work again.

If either of these clowns is elected and allowed to serve in D.C., we all know the result. It will be another year of corporate tax breaks, another year of the rich getting richer, another year of denying science – how’s that working out right now? – another year of putting working folks last.

Haven’t you had enough?

Do me a favor: Take a good, hard look at your life. Consider the decisions that your state government has made over the years – to limit school funding, to short-change environmental regulations, to go light on ethics laws, to hand out billions in tax breaks and corporate welfare to some of the most profitable companies on earth while never having another dime for social programs that help regular, poor folks.

Think about all of that.

That’s life in Alabama. We rank near the bottom in health, education, quality of life, job readiness, job pay, workforce readiness and infant mortality. We can’t eat a fish from 90 percent of our rivers, and we’ve poisoned the earth in north Birmingham, where Luther Strange has gone to bat for the polluters.

And in one term, we’ve managed to have both our House speaker and governor indicted and forced out of office for ethics issues and had our Supreme Court chief justice – the aforementioned Roy Moore – booted off the bench.

All of this under conservative, Republican control.

And all of it will continue with either Moore or Strange.

But I know a guy….

Now, listen to me. I know that for many of you what I’m about to suggest is borderline unthinkable.

Ignore the Republican runoff, and vote for the Democrat in December.

I know, it’s a crazy notion. You, voting for Doug Jones. I mean, there you are in your middle-class home, bills stacked up, kids looking at college debt, haven’t had a raise in years and driving an hour to see a doctor, and some guy wants you to vote for a Democrat.

Pfft. Yeah, right.

Why would you do that? Why would you vote for a pro-union candidate that might make it easier for you to get a raise? Why would you vote for a pro-public education candidate who might make it easier for you and your kids to receive the education necessary to land a good job or be accepted into a good college? Why would you vote for a pro-lottery candidate who would make it easier for your child to receive a free two-year degree or possibly a four-year scholarship?

Why would you vote against the party that refused to expand Medicaid and by doing so drove doctors out of the state, shut down rural hospitals and prevented more than 300,000 Alabamians from receiving health care, thus driving up your costs? Why would you vote against a party that has consistently, and often without shame, lined its pockets as it handed out your tax dollars to billion-dollar companies while you got zip?

Why would anyone expect you to do things differently?

After all, it’s not like any of you can think for yourselves.

Because if there was any threat of you thinking for yourselves, your candidates would be putting in more effort.

As it is, one of these goobers hasn’t bothered to learn about even the most basic issues facing this country, choosing instead to just scream “Jesus” and hold borderline snake-handling revivals. And the other one, God help him, has told so many outright lies and changed positions so many times, I’m not sure he remembers his own name at this point.

(I’m Luther Strange and I approved this message … unless you don’t like it. If so, then I didn’t approve it. Mitch did! And I don’t have to be Luther Strange anymore if you don’t like that. Call me anything. I don’t care. Just don’t make me do real work. Pleeeaasseee!)

In the meantime, there’s good ol’ Doug Jones. A smart, sane, honest man. He’s never been kicked off the bench for not following the law or accused of being unethical. He would go to D.C. and represent the interests of common Alabamians instead of shilling for big business or carrying out a useless crusade.

He’s more like you than either of those two Republicans, and he’d damn sure offer YOU a better hand up.

But he’s got that D beside his name. And, I guess, that means more to you than your own well-being.

Catastrophe for education




There is an impending catastrophe for public education in Alabama. Sen. Gerald Dial is considering not running for re-election and running for Alabama Agriculture Commissioner instead.

I know that sounds odd.

First, it’s odd that the resignation of any one state lawmaker could be a catastrophe. And second, it’s odd that I would believe a Republican’s resignation could have such a devastating effect.

That should tell you how serious this is.

Over the course of the last several years, the pro-public education lawmakers in the Alabama House and Senate have dwindled to pathetic levels. The Republican takeover in 2010 ushered in a whole crop of young, naïve lawmakers who seemed perfectly happy to just be in office.

And why wouldn’t they? I wouldn’t trust some of them to cut my grass.

These guys went along with pretty much anything the GOP leadership that filled their campaign coffers asked them to.

That’s how we ended up with attacks on public school teachers – remember when they were overpaid government mooches back in 2011 and 2012? – and how the atrocious Alabama Accountability Act was passed? It’s also led to the ongoing push for “school choice,” which is better defined as funneling public dollars to private companies to mostly do a worse job educating children.

Through it all, few Republicans have stood in the way of the leadership’s shameful attempts to get their hands on public schools’ pot of money.

Gerald Dial has.

If not for Dial and his experience, standing and influence, Lord knows how much money the GOP leadership would have grabbed from the Education Trust Fund during the last few years of general fund crises.

It was Dial who blocked efforts to take hundreds of millions from the ETF on multiple occasions. It was Dial who squashed efforts to combine the general fund and ETF budgets, which would have made it easier for lawmakers to funnel money away from education. And it was Dial who pushed for a cigarette tax increase in 2015 instead of a transfer of ETF dollars.

Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t been all rainbows and unicorns as far as Dial has been concerned, and I’ve disagreed with him on a number of things.

But when it comes to public education, I’m significantly worried about what could happen without Dial’s leadership.

Especially considering the monumental turnover that’s going to occur in the 2018 election cycle. As it stands, at least a dozen senators are giving up their seats.

That’s a lot of newbies – most likely a majority of GOP newbies who will be led around by Senate President Del Marsh and the other anti-public education senators. With no one to even serve as a speed bump to bad, harmful ideas.

We can’t have that.

The general fund budget is going to be a mess. We’re losing the BP oil spill money, and there doesn’t appear to be another natural disaster on the horizon to dump a few hundred million into the state, and there are no new revenues.

God forbid we implement a lottery, or legalize and tax gambling, so we’re looking at a general fund budget that could be monumentally short, and a GOP-led legislature that’s just itching to take anything it can away from public education.

Maybe it’s unlikely that Dial can stop the onslaught, but there’s no one with enough clout to do so if he’s gone.

And where’s he going, anyway? To check gas pumps and make sure farmers get irrigation supplies? Ooooh, fun.

Stop this nonsense.

It’s truly a shame that protecting public education in Alabama comes down to convincing a guy not to retire so his fellow partymates won’t pilfer the education funds to give to a fly-by-night charter school or just directly to    Bob Riley.

But this is the reality. Gerald Dial is the only shot we have.

Kids deserve better



If Kamden Johnson lived in a better state, one governed by better people, he’d be alive today.
     Unfortunately, in his five short years on earth, Kamden found himself in Alabama, where people like Sens. Larry Stutts and Shay Shelnutt and Reps. Jim Carns and Randall Shedd hold some power.
    And because of those men and their power, along with their greed and their stupidity, five-year-old Kamden was left locked in a day care van for hours on a hot day earlier this week. Police believe he died in the van.
       They only believe that to be true because that’s not where Kamden’s body was discovered. According to an al.com story, it was found some three miles away from the day care, where, judging by the charges filed against day care worker Valarie Rena Patterson, police believe his lifeless body was dumped.
   Patterson has been charged with manslaughter and abuse of a corpse. The day care that Kamden attended, Community Nursery & Preschool Academy, was unlicensed and not required to meet basic safety regulations.
     The reason it was unregulated is because it’s a “church-affiliated” day care, and under Alabama law, those facilities are exempt from regulations regular day cares must follow.
     Safety regulations like background checks on employees.
   Had Community Nursery & Preschool Academy performed a basic background check on Patterson, it would have found, according to al.com: arrests dating back to 1991, including multiple charges of theft, failure to appear, fugitive from justice and no driver’s license. And the real kicker: a charge of negligent driving with kids in the car.
      Patterson had only recently been hired by Community Nursery & Preschool Academy.
    And the reason that day care wasn’t required to run a background check: Stutts, Shelnutt, Carns and Shedd. Those men, along with paid lobbyists and paid advocacy group The Eagle Forum, stood in the way of a bill that would have removed the church-affiliated exemption.
     “If the legislature had the decency to pass HB277 (the day care regulation bill) last year, Kamden Johnson would be alive today,” said former state Rep. Joe Hubbard, who was an outspoken advocate for the bill. “This daycare worker had a rap sheet a mile long. It’s common sense that a convicted felon should not be paid to work with children. But our legislators placed the narrow interests of a handful of lobbyists above the health and safety of Alabama’s children. And a five-year-old little boy paid with his life.”
     It’s criminal what these legislators have done. They should have known this was coming.  During committee meetings and through personal correspondence, they heard countless horror stories of children killed, injured and sickened by these shady day care centers.
     The very conservative, very Republican former Mobile district attorney, John Tyson, traveled to Montgomery to tell lawmakers about a horrific fire he worked at an unlicensed day care. He pleaded with them to pass the legislation.
    And who wouldn’t pass it?
    All it did was allow DHR to drop by regularly to ensure minimum standards – teacher-child ratios, proper equipment, required checklists, proper training, etc. – were being met by all day cares.
    Want to know why these guys were against that?
   Well, there are two answers to this – the real one and the BS answer that they gave publicly.
    The BS answer was that they were concerned about the government’s intrusion into a religious entity. These lawmakers, along with the looney tunes at the Eagle Forum, told people that this legislation would allow DHR to control the day cares’ curriculum and would treat churches unfairly.
    That was plainly false, and a specific protection against such was spelled out in the bill itself.
    The real reason they were against it – and you’ll be shocked – was money.
    See, getting a license costs money, because all of the unlicensed day cares would have to make improvements and hire staff in order to meet the minimum requirements.
     Instead of buying safety, the churches got together, hired some lobbyists and bought lawmakers who killed the bill.
     So, church-affiliated daycares get to keep packing poor children into unregulated death traps so they can rake in the federal child care aid.
    The guy who was running a death-trap day care in Montgomery where 86 kids were sickened with staph was hauling in more than $1 million per year running four shady, unlicensed day cares. Imagine how much some others are making.
         Because it’s always, always about the money in Alabama. Especially if you can wrap a Bible around those dollars.
         It can make lawmakers overlook the pleas from experts and the regulating agencies, from cops and even other churches. It can make them ignore stories of dead children, broken bones, long hospital stays and promises of certain death.
     Stutts, Shelnutt, Carns and Shedd ignored it all.  And now, a five-year-old is dead.        Kamden Johnson deserved better.