Thursday, August 28, 2008

I'm off to the city for some San Francisco values

I'm meeting the bride in San Francisco over the weekend so there will be little if any posting. We hope to spend some time with Jerry and Mary McNerney or at least some of the crew from 2006. Perhaps we'll get up to wine country yet even if we don't I am simply thrilled to finally get our honeymoon. We might dine at Schroeder's as I once briefly spoke there at a Democracy for America meeting where I opened with "It's not every day somebody from Alabama gets to talk up Progressivism in San Francisco." then again, we might drop by Elephant & Castle for some time with the Brits. While in CA-11 we'll likely wind up at The Hop Yard. I remain very comfortable with San Francisco values. Given the bride's line of work I expect she might appreciate at least a walk by the Delancey Street effort. John Gunn

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Dr. Malcolm Cutchins ~ Onward Christian Soldier

About as close as I got the Engineering Department while down on the Plains was walking past. So I missed Dr. Malcolm Cutchins. Maybe I'd have enjoyed meeting him way back then? I fear a nephew was exposed to some right winger, libertarian types in Business or Foresty yet I'm not sure if Dr. Cutchins could have made it worse or better. Dr. Malcolm Cutchins get regular ink in the O-A News and I often disagree with what he writes.

He's in the Opelika-Auburn News on August 21st with a piece on our electing the "Commander in Chief". I thought that just one of the facets of the job. He writes, "The FOX News special on Obama last Monday night raised even more red flags about his background." I suppose News Hounds can cover the coverage of Faux News. Fox is of course hardly a neutral source yet that's just one of the apparent influences on Dr. Cutchins.

In late July he opines Don’t be fooled by false responsibility where he quotes Rousas John Rushdoony. When Jerry Falwell thinks your positions are too extreme that might suggest much.

In early July he wrote Lack of flags shows apathy and quoted Brigitte Gabriel speaking before The Intelligence Summit yet you really needed to do some more homework Doc. This outfit is whacked and then some. And Brigitte Gabriel appears to be an opportunist.

Even more recently he shared Looking down on creation a beautiful sight to see yet I'd like to tell him you meaure points on but one side west of the Rockies. If you've got a thirteen point elk Doc I'd surely like to have the pictures you claim to hold. And I'm not so sure you'll find an elk too near the Seattle area.

Doc Cutchins is also listed on the Institute for Creation Research pages as an authority. John Gunn

Update - 09 September 2009 - A Roosevelt elk could be found within an easy drive of Seattle. Not in the backyard but near enough to where I felt a need to do an update. The Great Northwest is indeed a beautiful part of the world.

Update - 03 November 2009 - I made some slight changes after Dr. Cutchins approached me in what even this heathen thinks was a very Christlike manner about removing certain content that he didn't think wasn't fair. His conduct speaks well for his faith. I have made some slight changes and hope this is satisfactory to him. I wish him well and salute him for many years of sharing his ideas in the Opelika-Auburn News and also what I understand was a stellar career in academics.

Two lives well lived ~ Was it roots in good dirt?

The rocks and ridge to the left isn't from where I grew up. Still, it does look rather like that in a few places out back from where I grew up. The little farmhouse I lived in just recently was where Carey Beth Taylor was born. She once dropped a copy of a photograph of her as a child on her mothers lap while seated on a rock wall that remains to this day on the edge of the yard. I can't locate the image now yet recall the cotton fields in the background. Just up the road Max Allen arrived on this earth some seventy years ago. That he married into a surrogate family of mine is further a bonus.

Miss Carey Beth retired as a LTC after doing her nursing during the Vietnam War. My father sold her a Santa Gertrudis bull many years ago. I enjoyed riding by and seeing a few cows that I think were hers and imagining that some favored that calf's sire that we had named Rock. We bought him twenty years ago at the Auburn Bull Test and he was a gem!

Mr. Allen became a high speed executive with Motorola yet I understand he had rather humble roots. I surely thought much of his sister Miss Braxie. His work with Lymphoma in his last years is also appreciated given my family's struggles with cancer.

Hope, hope, and more hope! John Gunn

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Scratch McSame and go with McWorse

Josh Marshall's comments from MN supplied the reality that I'd missed in that we are goofing up in using McSame. Dubyah came in with some yet hardly many troubles. He's ruined most of what was going right. We've got a huge hole to dig out of so more of the same is hardly the same. If St. John is truly a light weight and/or hothead then we've got a real mess should he take the office. John Gunn

Dan Rather in Denver's Big Tent


A tip of the tam to David Neiwert of FireDogLake for the above. Straight up works for this Scot! John Gunn

Monday, August 25, 2008

Some more wisdom from rebelman

In response to Steadily rising tuition real concern in The Montgomery Advertiser Rebelman writes:

We have enough education in this State to sink the Battleship at Mobile or at least to bankrupt the average working taxpayer. I have heard the same old song and dance from the socialists communists unions and their counterparts in the conservative side of government about feeding massive amounts of tax money to the hungry beast we call education. This beast always promises a better future but we see massive corruption within the college system because there is no way to police these PHDs. They are above everyone else but they keep churning out graduates who cannot read, write , or spell according to industrial leaders. They spend more time brainwashing these kids on social issues than teaching them how to balance a checkbook or how not to buy a house when they cannot afford one! The professors spend more time promoting abortion or homosexuality than the study of the Constitution of the U.S. or the Conferacy!

I'm sure the Confederacy (note the spelling please) would be real proud of you Sir. And it is Ph.D. buddy! In reply to Desiree Hunter's Teaching licenses of Ala. sex offenders not revoked rebelman shares the following:

Since the government school systems no longer are Christian-based in nature and policy, you have homosexuals, child molesters, theives, atheists, career criminals, etc who are allowed to be around the children of this State. You reap what you sow!

"Thieves" not "theives" dude! I'd mentioned rebelman before. A true credit to Alabama he is. Susan Jacoby could I'm sure help us understand what makes rebelman tick yet I'm ashamed to admit plenty in Alabama feel similar thoughts as he does. This is what happens when you are exposed to too much Dr. Dobson, Rush "Big Fat Idiot" Limbaugh, Surly Sean Hannity, Hugh Hewitt, Gary Palmer, Neal Boortz, ...

Finally, a tip of the tam to Dr. Know for helping me locate the above classic clip of Bugs and Yosemite Sam. John Gunn

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Why does Norris let bureaucracy live?

John B. (not Chuck) Norris V of Oakworth Capital Bank up in High Jefferson gets ink in the Montgomery Advertiser with his Inefficient government a bigger woe than budget deficit. In last week's B'ham News he dared share, "You know things are bad when even the wealthy clients are cutting out unnecessary spending." In December he was covered by CNN Money suggesting his kids drink less milk so he can still drive about town. Cry me a river! Earlier in the month Norris noted The Misery Index shows unemployment and inflation are way up.

Obviously he knows how to generate coverage yet perhaps he feels like he needs to temper his remarks with a little conservative orthodoxy. At Oakworth, where Norris is Director of Wealth Management, you'll find Samuel E. Upchurch, Jr. and Luther Strange yet I have no idea on the exact politics of John Norris. I noted in today's piece he cited The Tax Foundation, that outfit at least leaning, if not being totally, to the right side of the spectrum. Despite my uncertainty on labeling, I'm thinking John Norris might be at least somewhat of a movement conservative when he closes as follows:

With disposable personal income where it currently is, higher taxes alone aren't going to solve the problem, as Americans won't have any money left to spend and propel the economy.

So that is the issue: the U.S. Treasury has to finance its massive deficit. As such, Washington is sucking money from consumers and investors that could go immediately back into the economy, and running it through the bureaucracy first.

In other words, Washington is soaking up big bucks, and the economy is losing efficiency as a result. That is about it, as the money is all here, somewhere, even if it isn't going to the highest, most efficient use.

That is a bigger concern to me for my grandchildren than the current budget deficit -- an inefficient economy based largely on government largesse. That type of economy hasn't been very successful anywhere.

I'm concerned about the deficit, that Republicans have largely once again ran up on their own, but more about a government that simply isn't working due to it being dominated by apparent conservatives like John B. Norris, V. These same tired right wing positions dominate our discourse, especially in Alabama, yet I'll hope that gradually they are losing their appeal. Good government is not the problem but rather required for a fair and prosperous society. I'm perfectly willing to "get serious about deficit reduction" or "spending" but I'll invite your team to go first by simply dropping the rhetoric. John Gunn

Muddy water, elliptical orbits, underlings ...

Ricky Thompson of the Huntsville Times has some timely timing in attacking Paul Hubbert of AEA using language of "miners, more than any other working group, still do not receive a fair shake and proper protection from the short- and long-term dangers of their jobs today" in that we learned just today that "confidential" interviews of various MSHA employees as to the Crandall Canyon mine tragedy have been delived directly to Dick Stickler.

Richard Stickler is pictured with admittedly some modifications. He is Bu$hCo's mine safety underling. This Mining Safety and Health Administration Acting Secretary works for Dubyah's Labor Secretary Elaine Chao. News that MHSA was negligent there at Crandall Canyon and beyond resulted in action alright yet the action was to go after those failing to follow the Corporatist Code! Bu$hCo wanted him there for a reason of course, enough to do an end run around Congress to keep him in place until the end of the Reign of Error. They have no shame yet Shame on Elaine remains a solid resource.

I'm certainly no fan of every move by Dr. Paul Hubbert so I agree with much of what Ricky Thompson writes. He's entitled to his opinion that Hubbert "owns most of the Alabama Legislature lock, stock and barrel" yet I think at best AEA has a timeshare on Goat Hill. Other Big Mules like ALFA, Alabama Power, etc. have at least as much, if not more, power. Danny's Most Influential Non-Elected Alabamians - Complete is the definitive list of the juice held by those that don't hold office and I agree that Sir Paul is rightly #1.

Ricky's "little monster they bred and birthed in a fog of inebriation and loosed upon the world" is an instant classic. I've taught that kid! Actually several of them yet I digress.

When Ricky writes of "insulating yourself from sleaze via an underling or two" I'd suggest Dr. Hubbert is but one of many that practice that protection. Certainly Bu$hCo knows this technique, DOJ's "God Squad" being one example. Bob Riley's use of Black Jack Abramoff's gambling money likewise comes to mind. Would the Alabama Christian Coalition qualify as an "underling" in that case?

Ricky's on a rant yet I find it a righteous one for the most part. Afflicting the comfortable usually is! Nevertheless, perhaps in an effort to provide balance between left and right, he goes a little to far.

I take exception to Ricky's suggestion that most on the left support anything unconditionally. I like to think one on many, many positive traits of a liberal is that we'll wrestle with issues and then try to formulate our opinions. I'd also like Ricky to point me to "the U.S. industries on the verge of collapse from strangleholds by unions that are at least as exploitative as the companies the unions were supposed to mediate with on the workers' behalf." I just don't think he can deliver on that claim. On the other hand, Wal-Mart was busted recently for "educating" their low-level management on issues in this next election. For decades unions have been losing influence Ricky!

Given the ongoing JuCo mess I expect Paul Hubbert and AEA will be given much scrutiny over the days to come. I'm still chapped at the way Sue Schmitz was arrested yet I'm following her trial with interest. Sunlight is always good yet I do wonder if some on the right might not be tempted to twist what ought to be merely about justice to their advantage. Finally, I predict an acquittal (or at least a hung jury) based on my understanding of the applicable law and facts. Even if not illegal, this episode is just one more sorry story about Alabama. Covering Montgomery and beyond with a critical eye toward her leaders and those pulling their strings is always appreciated. John Gunn

UPDATE ~ Miss Laura's Daily Kos post Big Business Goes After Unions to Defeat Democrats is another timely find.

A tip of the tam to Florida teacher David Campbell

The New York Times' Amy Harmon reports A Teacher on the Front Line as Faith and Science Clash. She focused on David Campbell's efforts at Ridgeview High School in Orange Park, Florida (near Jacksonville) as well as work he and others did in crafting at least somewhat explicit standards for teaching evolution. The efforts of some fundamentalist ministers and parents, at least one colleague, are noted as barriers yet I especially liked how Ms. Harmon reported on the polling that shows Americans have consistently remained lacking in understanding of this critical facet of science. She did a fine job of reporting on the conservatism of this area but how faith trumps fact is a national tragedy.

That Answers in Genesis was singled out demonstrated she'd done at least some of her homework. Their Evolution Exposed "resources" are available for merely $19.99. Yet, that outfit is hardly the only barrier. Southern Baptist leaders like Albert Mohler are certainly not as radical as the profiteers from Kentucky/Ohio. Seattle's own Discovery Institute could have been referenced.

I'd mentioned a less admirable "educator" recently from the Florida panhandle yet David Campbell is due a tip of the tam. He's obviously motivated to teach, refine his craft, help kids, make a difference ... Well done Sir! John Gunn

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Mobile P-R ~ Higher education is like health care

The Mobile Press-Register opines Time for relief from rising college costs citing "Going Broke By Degree: Why College Costs Too Much" of Ohio University's Richard Vedder. They didn't mention his The Wal-Mart Revolution: How Big-Box Stores Benefit Consumers, Workers, and the Economy. Dr. Vedder is earning his wingnut welfare at The Independent Institute as well as AEI. He is the Executive Director of The Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP) as well. His scholarship has been bought and paid for via The Searle Freedom Trust, at least in part. They also didn't reference his work for Big Tobacco or how taxation affects migration as recognized by The Heartland Institute.

The Mobile Press-Register writes

"Higher education is like health care: Costs are driven up by third-party payment, lack of price competition and inefficiencies that inevitably develop when high prices don't affect the bottom line."
So is the Mobile P-R suggesting we need a better health care arrangement? Would that they were! Although they write, "The state's heavy reliance on sales tax revenues, which fluctuate with the economy, also takes a toll on education." don't count on them to advocate for tax reform. A universal, single payer health care system (like pretty much every other modern society offers) or a fair tax arrangement simply doesn't fit their conservative world view. Nor does either fit the interests of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has picked up their propaganda on higher education rather quickly. Their Vote for Business effort is just too transparent. The right's "counterintelligentsia" surely gets plenty of ink, especially in Alabama and even more so from the Mobile Press-Register. The "magic markets" are all that matters to this bunch.

I'm hardly a fan of the DLC centrist weenie set yet even their concerns and suggestions on the issue aren't full of foolishness. I've posted before on Michael Ciamarra's "thinking" on higher education yet it would appear that the Alabama Policy Institute ought not even bother with the Mobile P-R as they are seemingly already in the tank. They are movement conservatives at best as they advance their agenda and merely pretend to be motivated by the concerns of average citizens from Alabama to beyond. John Gunn

UPDATE ~ I mentioned the Chamber's Vote for Business effort yet spending some time there makes me think those doing the work did it coming off their recent $8000 grand slobbery drunk episode. Typos are plentiful. Then again, they perhaps offshored to save a few dollars on labor. Also, the Mobile P-R is hardly looking for a Progressive solution to health care and was merely using the obligatory references to "lack of price competition and inefficiencies" like what the Chamber describes as "market-driven health reforms."

Conservatives ~ Always on offense!

Alabama Policy Institute's Gary Palmer keeps earning his keep yet his The Bear in the Woods Is Not a Polar Bear should go into the wingnutter hall of fame. It is much better than his last rant against the "socialistic environmental agenda" of politicians who have "sold out to radical environmentalists and liberal social engineers" in that he manages to weave in a reference to Cold War triumphalism of The Gipper. Gary writes
Liberals in Congress have used polar bears and other environmental tactics to prohibit access to our oil and gas reserves. This distraction has taken our focus off the other bear that is gaining strength. With the Russian invasion of Georgia on everyone’s mind, the debate over access to our energy should be in the context of being as strong as Reagan’s "bear in the woods."
To reference Reagan with "Islamic extremists" and also blast polar bear hippies gets him the trifecta. He's indeed a machine. And therefore he remains completely uninterested in truly understanding the complexities of either the Georgia-Russia conflict, energy issues, climate change ... John Gunn

Genius, courage, creativity and utter ruthlessness!

The title to this post comes from the commentary I cite below. I expect Michael Kinsley was one of those that most helped temper my Progressive and Populist views. During the late 90s I'd read Slate nearly every day, even while trying to keep my practice going and salvage my then marriage. Michael's WaPo piece from today, Convicted Of Charisma, is a gem. I especially appreciated the following:
"Most amazing among the principles of the Republican Way of War is: Don't waste much time and energy probing the enemy's weaknesses. Go directly to his biggest strength."
Yet,, he's right to note the following that lets these rascals get away with their ruthlessness:
".... journalistic convention makes it hard for reporters to deal with a big, complicated lie. They can't call it a lie, so they end up giving the impression to all but the most obsessive followers of politics that, well, it's complicated, and the Republicans are probably exaggerating, but there must be something there."
Thanks for the smart, hard work Michael! That he soldiers on with his health problems makes his work all the better. John Gunn

The economy hits home yet for some it hits harder!

The Anniston Star opines The economy hits home: Bernanke and Clay County where they explore the grim, somber Ben Bernanke's recent remarks in Wyoming to the swells and news that Wellborn Cabinet is laying off 169 employees. Since I've lived most of my life rather near Clay County, I'm not sure I'd use "respected manufacturing business" to describe Wellborn Cabinet nor claim these troubles are "a shocking development for a family-owned company that's been a staple of northeast Alabama's economy for more than four decades."

I understand the Wellborn family owes phenomenal sums which is not surprising given the size of their operation. That the banks have had to step in on multiple occasions to straighten things out might not certain yet I've heard rumors through the years. From a few sources I understand the Wellborn family can be "difficult" in business. That matters not I suppose.

I do know they are serious Republicans (supposedly a blend of Christianists and Corporatists) being especially close to Clay County's Bob Riley. And they write checks! The Center for Responsive politics reveals exclusive donations to the GOP. Tammy Padgett, an Accounts Receivable employee, has been showing love to Mike Rogers and Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III. Their Sales Director Angela O'Neill also loves her some Jeffy B.

The Star closes with a plea for "an economic plan couched in ... progressive thinking" yet we surely know one Party will not deliver anything close. As a proud Progressive, I've been less than enthusiastic about Senator Obama's candidacy. News that Senator Joe Biden will be on the ticket is certainly a positive yet he's surely a centrist, corporatist type. Senator Biden's foreign policy creds are real yet I still recall how many on the lefty side of the blogosphere have described him as representing MBNA rather than Delaware.

My bottom line is that economic theory and views on closing the income gap between the "haves" and "have nots" counts. The Wellborn family and management certainly wants to keep the GOP in power in DC and Montgomery. Do those 169 just let go? What about the others in my neck of the woods? I fear a good number of those laid off in Clay County might continue to vote "God and guns and ..." yet hope springs eternal. John Gunn

Friday, August 22, 2008

Alexander City Mayoral Candidate Tim Kellum busted for ....

The Alexander City Outlook reports Kellum responds to arrest, charges with an Editor's note reading, "The following statement was provided to The Outlook by Alexander City mayoral candidate Tim Kellum, who on Wednesday, was charged for possession of marijuana, attempting to allude (Outlook ... let those without sin cast the first stone as it is "elude" rather than "allude"!) and DUI during a traffic stop in Jackson’s Gap. The statement is issued in its entirety and has not been edited in anyway." I'm sure Tim's former teachers are proud. I perhaps ought not to scold him since he, apparently claiming he one of the "servants of the Load", writes, "every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn" from Isaiah 54:17. John Gunn

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

"Educator" David Davis ~ Thank God for Florida?

Ponce de Leon High School, the home of the Pirates, in Holmes County is located south of Enterprise down in the Florida panhandle. I've driven through at times on my way to and from the Gulf Coast. I'm sure there are some decent folks, even those that might not be as tolerant as might be ideal. I expect some are fundamentalists that are simply blind to their own limitations. I'd missed the original reporting on this mess but today's AP/MSNBC Principal’s outing of gay student roils Fla. town: Many in conservative Panhandle community wonder what man did wrong brought me up to speed. The ACLU provides further details including the Federal District Judge's opinion, worth a visit simply for an understanding of free expression rights of students. That David Davis is returning to the classroom to teach American government and ... is rather frustrating. Reckon he's read of a certain theory on Anne Bonny and Mary Read's relationship? John Gunn

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Blue Dixie ... or is Populism gone with the wind?

The release of Bob Moser's Blue Dixie: Awakening the South's Democratic Majority is accompanied by his Salon's How Democrats can take back the South: The author of "Blue Dixie" says don't give up on the region -- but don't pander to it with Clintonian centrism. Thomas Schaller, author of Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South, counters with his own Salon piece titled Dixie is gone with the wind: No economic-populism-inspired revivals are going to turn the region blue. Virginia's Jim Webb is a lonely exception. I appreciated Mr. Moser's description of the Democratic Leadership Council as having
"helped reshape the party into a Wall Street-friendly, free-trading, Bible-quoting, culturally moderate shell of the New Deal coalition --every last compromise justified by the pressing need to woo those crucial Southern whites."
I appreciate his calls to campaign and also craft the right message yet also agree with Mr. Schaller when he reminds us

" ... the prescriptions Moser offers in "Blue Dixie" are closer to overstated hopes, often based on anecdotal evidence contradicted by broader patterns or wholesale data. If economic populism were an untapped electoral reservoir in the South, Southern state budgets would not be among the lowest per capita in the country, unions would not be weaker than in any other region, and working-class white Southerners would already be joined at the hip with working-class black Southerners as the backbone of the most Democratic region in America. But these are not Southern political realities, and wishing them so will not make them so. ...

... the book is his prescription for a heavy dose of economic populism. That worked well in the South before LBJ's Great Society precisely because the New Deal's redistributive policies benefited whites almost exclusively. After the civil rights movement and Great Society, however, redistribution had to be racially inclusive, and economic populism just doesn't sell as well now that "populism" means all of the people. Were the South not the most racially polarized region in America, that wouldn't matter. But as the 2004 National Election Study shows, it remains so. The golden era of the pre-Great Society, solid Democratic South can never be reconstituted.

Moser knows that, but insists that Dixie can at least get back some of its blue hue. He may be right about that in the long term, but doing so in the near future will take more than strong populist messaging or authentic, Webb-like candidates. (This November, if Barack Obama wins any Southern state except Virginia it will be because he was swept into office in an electoral landslide.) At minimum, at least two preconditions must be in place: a fundamental shift in the social attitudes of Southerners and a racial d├ętente between working-class whites and blacks. Barring that, calls for economic-populism-inspired revivals will only leave Southern Democrats blue in the face."

The above is a tough one to swallow and yet I fear there are some truths here. I have little if any confidence in the current "leadership" (like Lowell Barron, Joe Turnham, Ken Guin, Nancy Worley, etc.) in Alabama's Democratic Party creating change so perhaps this is all academic. I also think trying to change the party from within would take some truly heroic efforts given the hurdles facing true Progressives in Alabama. John Gunn

O-A News' Paul Davis on the Pharmacist from Fyffe

I knew Lowell Barron had a bad relationship with Charles Bishop plus that he was poorly thought of by some in the Auburn University family for his alliances with Bobby Lowder yet Paul Davis of the Opelika-Auburn News lays it all out there in front of God and everybody with his Barron is what’s wrong with government. I'm hardly a fan of Senator Barron and yet in Alabama we've certainly got plenty of troubles that go far beyond one man, even one as powerful as the Pharmicist from Fyffe.

In fact, Mr. Davis writes:

We love to talk about these sleazeballs. Oddly enough, we also love to elect them. That’s the fun part of democracy. We loudly condemn our political leaders, but we can’t wait to go the polls and usher them in for another term.

The only time I feel real pain is when I hear a political leader say, “I feel your pain.” That’s the biggest lie out there. The line of the day from elected officials is their lament over $4 a gallon gasoline. Those flying to and from Washington aren’t paying a dime. Taxpayers pick up the tab. And they get the best medical care in the world, and they’ve opted out of Social Security because, as everyone knows, you can’t live off that.

I agree that is our (although seldom do my candidates win) fault that we elect them but I'll submit the media shares a great portion of the blame. The O-A News has a large following and some certain talent. They are now owned by Media General of course. Paul Davis has a long and distinguished career in journalism yet a rant like this is what I met expect to see on somebody's lightweight blog. Assertive reporting, context, a diversity of views, etc. would be much more appreciated than lashing out at merely one of the many that likely ought to be sent home from Goat Hill.

Finally, I wasn't aware you can opt out of Social Security. Are you sure about that Mr. Davis? John Gunn

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Am I being culled?

Growing up on the land I think likely prepared me for pretty everything I've done to date. We had good cows that dropped a decent calf every year but just got too damn old to carry through another winter. So I'd have to load them up and take them to the stockyard. I'd mentioned that I have the googly eye recently yet Uncle Sam says I'm merely "glaucoma suspect." I fear I caught the Army Doc, a Colonel no less, in a couple of stretches but at least I'm being "treated". I found out this Friday that I'm being moved to the "training room" and damned if I know that that means. I certainly didn't sign up to push paper and yet that may be my lot these next months and perhaps years. John Gunn

Bob Riley ~ Doing right on environment it seems

Aubie gives Bob Riley a pat on the head but I'll give him a tip of the tam for news that Riley may veto proposed LNG terminal south of Dauphin Island. It might be a sign of the times when we celebrate reason in government instead of just expecting it. It seems like the Governor and his departments are performing at a high level on this particular facet of the job compared to other times and other issues. John Gunn

Does Adam Bourne have an identity problem?

I enjoyed reading Robert Ludlum as a lad and will even admit I've enjoyed the recent Matt Damon movies yet didn't know a 1988 mini-series existed. Neither did I know Adam Bourne until today. Adam is on the Alabama Democratic Party Executive Committee, serves on the Chickasaw Industrial and Commercial Development Board, and is even running for City Council down there to boot. In today's Mobile Press-Register I found a "Special to the Press-Register" piece titled FELON VOTING from Adam Bourne. And darned if my Scots isn't up a little. Adam begins:

As a former assistant attorney general for the State Elections Division, I must disagree with the guest essay titled "Penalty after the penalty," which advocated allowing convicted felons to vote.
"As a ..., I must ..." confused me. Was it part of his contract to write reactionary responses to reasonable requests? The essay he references is here. The same appears in today's Huntsville Times. Sam Brooke of the ACLU of Alabama and Kimble Forrister of Alabama Arise are the authors.

First of all, neither the ACLU or Alabama Arise are "some here-today-gone-tomorrow special-interest group." A young man just getting started ought to be careful is hurling invectives such as these. Love 'em or hate 'em , they've both been doing work long before either of us arrived on the scene and likely will well after we've departed.

The Mobile P-R weighed in the issue recently and scolded those filing the lawsuit. However, reading their obligatory bashing of the ACLU shows the legitimate need for the Legislature to act. This solid Montgomery Advertiser reporting filed today by Markeshia Ricks does as well. There's also the Gray Lady's Shaila Dewan's In Alabama, a Fight to Regain Voting Rights Some Felons Never Lost from this March.

The Op-Ed that troubled Mr. Bourne so much that he "must disagree" I'd argue shows Sam and Kimble have a rather solid handle on the issues presented. I'll share much of what they wrote in the following:

... The short answer is that confusion over Alabama voting laws has long vexed citizens and state officials alike.

... We have a shameful history of voter disfranchisement, and conflicting statements from the attorney general and the Legislature haven't helped.

Our constitution was amended in 1996 after prior voting laws were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court as being racially discriminatory. Now, termination of voting rights occurs only for felonies involving "moral turpitude" — an antiquated term that is not defined in the constitution.

As an Alabama court explained, this term fails to "make clear to all citizens which crimes are those that would subject the guilty to the additional penalty of loss of voting rights." Such arbitrariness has no place in our law, especially in regard to the fundamental right to vote. ...

Yet in 2005, Attorney General Troy King came up with his own, broader list of disfranchising felonies, as well as a short list of those which are not.

The opinion includes many new felonies that are disqualifying (including passing a bad check), and six that are definitely not disqualifying (including possession of controlled substances and DUI-related offenses).

Many other felonies were simply not addressed.

Here's another complication. Even though the constitution clearly says that only the Legislature can specify voter qualifications, registrars across the state have adopted a contrary approach.

When registrars see a conviction that the attorney general says is not disfranchising (like simple possession or felony DUI), they correctly register the voter. But any other felony conviction — whether it is on the Legislature's list, the broader attorney general's list, or no list at all — is treated as disqualifying. ...

Nearly all individuals with a past felony conviction can get their voting rights restored by applying to the Board of Pardons and Paroles after they have completed their sentence, finished supervised release, and paid off all fines and restitution awards ...

This system is vastly inferior to processes in place in 41 other states, where the right to vote is restored automatically without burdening the parole board or the voter with the application process.

But more fundamentally, it is absurd to require citizens who have never been deemed by the Legislature to be disfranchised in the first place to go through this process to exercise a right they never legally lost.

Voting is the cornerstone of our democratic government, a right every American should exercise. Encouraging people with past felony convictions to vote and take ownership in their community is in everyone's interest.

In fact, studies show that incorporating voter participation into rehabilitation plans makes recidivism less likely.

We hope this lawsuit will dramatically reform the illegal practices occurring in Alabama, and ...

We also hope that all eligible former felons will seek to have their rights restored on their own from the Board of Pardons and Paroles.

It's not fair that they have to do this, but for now it's the only way to regain a right unjustly denied.

In reply, Adam lobs language of "unreformed predators" and "violent criminals" as he writes:

... in recent years, out-of-state groups have repeatedly tried to force Alabama to change the sensible practice of barring unreformed predators from the polls.

The ACLU's latest lawsuit is another effort to compel Alabama to register felons to vote. ...

The ACLU's lawsuit is nothing but a first step toward setting up polling places in prisons and jails. ...

... allowing incarcerated people to vote would be a nightmare for election officials, who would have to decide in what districts prisoners live and who would put themselves in danger by spending entire, 12-hour voting days within jailhouse walls.

Additionally, Alabama citizens would quickly lose confidence in a government selected, at least in part, by murderers and rapists.

Alabama is the cradle of modern voting rights. Even now, state election officials are completing a task that I helped begin by developing systems to allow all military men and women serving overseas to vote easily and quickly.

Banning violent criminals from the polls is not a reflection of a lack of a state commitment to voting rights. It is only a commonsense statement that those who tear down society should not be permitted to choose its public officials.

Mercy! A blend of ringing one's own bell, "tough on crime" rhetoric, ACLU attacks, and "the sky is falling". Neither the national ACLU or Alabama ACLU or Alabama Arise has advocated anything toward having those incarcerated voting beyond via one of the methods already available to them now. If a man or woman is merely awaiting trial they of course have a right to vote. As do those convicted of offenses that don't result in a loss of the right to vote. The problem is that right now the standards aren't clear. If Adam has so much concern for state election officials and others dealing with the actual problem wouldn't this lawsuit helping resolve the mess be something to be welcomed rather than walloped?

The Sentencing Project's efforts as to felony disenfranchisement, Right to Vote, is certainly worthy of a link. I also wonder what would Adam think of reforms to the Census processes on allocating those incarcerated to their home districts? The history of felon disenfranchisement (here's another link) is likewise interesting and like many things relatively complicated.

Adam also recently scolded the Alabama State Bar's efforts in boosting Judicial salaries after Executive Director Keith Norman wrote:

Since (1999), state employees, including attorney IVs, have received five cost-of-living increases. Unfortunately, the legislature has excluded judges from these same increases. From 2000 through 2006, the legislature has provided state employees cost-of-living increases totaling 18 percent, or 19.2 percent due to compounding. Despite pay increases for other state employees, the base pay for circuit judges remained frozen at $111,973 (district judges $110,973). Fortunately, the legislature chose to include judges in the 3.5 percent cost of living increase passed in the 2007 legislative session. This became effective October 1, 2007. Although the base pay for circuit judges is now $115,892 (district judges, $114,892), this small increase hardly makes up for the five years of cost-of living increases that other state employees have enjoyed.

According to the National Center for State Courts, the base salary for trial judges in Alabama ranks in the bottom 10 percent nationally and 15th out of 17 southern states. ...

Adam replied in a Letter to the Editor to The Alabama Lawyer in part with:
Tough choices are the order of the day in Montgomery; and no legislator could justify sacrificing pressing state needs to raise comfortable, six-figure judicial salaries to an amount that would eclipse both the income of everyday Alabamians and that of Alabama lawyers.
An acceptable argument I suppose and yet it seemed like Adam was making an excuse for politicians to not rationally examine the concerns of the Bar and then legislate accordingly. I've already written that I like what the Mobile Press-Register shared on the issue.

The title of the post asked 'Does Adam Bourne have an identity problem?" yet that is certainly not for anybody to decide but him. However, the Alabama Democratic Party Principles reads in part as follows:

That every citizen no matter what his religion or race or how humble or exalted his origin or station owes the duty to participate fully at every level of government and is entitled to an equal voice and to equal treatment at its hand; that all Democrats are bound to defend, protect and honor our Nation, our state, or Party, that when they are right, it is our privilege to sustain them, that when they err, it is our duty to correct them.
I simply think Adam erred. It's hardly personal to question his positions and I appreciate him sharing his ideas. And I've surely sinned rather often. What motivates Adam matters not. Even if he's engaged in an effort to merely be noticed and build creds, I've learned something in crafting this post. However, if Adam wants to serve on a party's Executive Committee I'd suggest he might fit in better over at the Alabama GOP. John Gunn

UPDATE ~ August 26, 2008 - Prince Troy thinks "Those who violate the laws should not have any role in electing the officials who make and enforce the law." His defense of his actions pretty much leaves off a response to various courts' concerns. Also, although I personally celebrate the ACLU's involvement they are joined in this effort Prince Troy.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

How'd the Mobile Press-Register teach these kids?

I asked just yesterday how the Mobile Press-Register might educate the children of parents appearing before local Juvenile Court Judge Edmond Naman for failing to send their kids to school. I'll avoid the "Thank God for Tennessee" (or Georgia) angle here but send you to Knoxville for today's Plaintiffs to seek retrial in flag case: Mistrial declared after jury deadlocks over suit vs. school from Jim Balloch. Additional coverage is supplied via AP.

First of all, as any card-carrying ACLU member should be, I'm sympathetic to anybody asserting their First Amendment rights. I've written a rather solid paper on student websites where I went into Tinker and subsequent cases. I firmly fall on the side of "let the little monsters wear (or write) what they want" and yet I know schools have a tough call at times.

Additionally, I can tolerate people like Dewey Barber of Dixie Outfitters trying to make bank. I just wish they wouldn't divide and distract. I can't help but think of Will Campbell's all too true quote. I can't however find much positive to write about goobers like those at the non-profit Southern Legal Resource Center in their work "defending the rights of Southerners to honor their history and culture". Plaintiff's counsel Van R. Irion, and certainly Kirk Lyons (here's a nice interview he gave to Stormfront back in 1994) are Plaintiff's counsel in the Tennessee case referenced above. Will we get a "frivolous lawsuit" lamentation here?

I've tried my best to teach young "scholars" like I'm rather certain young Tom Defoe was throughout in his academic career. I had some students that I truly don't think ever wore clothing without a Confederate Battle Flag somehow another as part of their wardrobe statement. There were some with purses and others with notebooks and even a few, both hens and roosters, with earrings. Overwhelmingly, they struggled when it came down to demonstrating their commitment to understanding history. Anti-intellectualism roots run deep in this nation yet I'll submit that the average little redneck sporting Dixie Outfitters clothing ranked rather high on that scale.

I could offer nearly the same criticism of some gansta rap aficionados I tried to teach yet at least some of what they built their identity around went beyond bitches and whores to question economics, power, sexuality ... Despite my rural, truly earthy, roots I struggled reaching the Unreconstructed Rebels I taught. I came as close as I could with conservation, hunting/fishing ... yet most seemed to reject pretty much everything I tried. All I wanted to do was stretch their little minds and do the job I often still feel I was called to do. Yet often as not I think we merely frustrated each other.

My question remains ... How would the Mobile Press-Register (or those business know it all types) teach these kids? Would the marvelous markets really solve our troubles? John Gunn

Friday, August 15, 2008

US Congresscritter Bill Sali ~ Thank God for Idaho!

He's never kissed Dubyah, at least to my knowledge, certainly not publicly like Minnesota's Representative Michele Bachmann did. However, like her, Bill Sali is (or plans to soon be) part of the GOP's campaign stunt up in DC that has been labeled "Drill, Drill, Drill" by loons like Larry Kudlow. Via Daily Kos, mcjoan serves up ID-01: Like Shooting Fish in a Barrel and it's her usual gem. Some might want to send Sali to serve but I'd want Walt! Like Miss Michele he's apparently a Christianist nutjob but doesn't get nearly the timely coverage she earns from OneNewsNow. Donald Wildmon's American Family Association didn't let him down completely however as Idahoans concerned about Mexican consolate mentioned his efforts. I'm however sure some recent quotes would be appreciated by all of us, including Walt Minnick. His broad concerns seem a little more in line with Christian values to this heathen. I expect these two "social values" motivated representatives from Alabama sent to write the Republican platform might vote for Bill but why would any not of their ilk even given him a second look? John Gunn

How'd the Press-Register teach these folks' kids?




Tiffany Craig of WKRG News 5 reports Parents Get Probation for Truant Kids and the Mobile Press-Register's Robert McClendon reports Parents explain truancy: Many of the parents who plead guilty then fail drug tests after court session. I'm conflicted over the decision of Ms. Craig's station to place these parents on the tube yet I'll need to stew on my bottom line. I also can't imagine a Juvenile Court Judge allowing such access to those proceedings. I suppose since adults are involved that provides the out. I don't care for the drug testing angle either. Then there's the ... I do love me some civil liberties!

One thing I do agree with is that I've seen essentially the same sort of "parents" in both courts and classrooms in both Georgia and Alabama. Some had dreadful limitations, challenges, sicknesses, ... The Judge might think "too often they just don't care" but I usually found it a little more complicated.

How might the powers that be which have tied us to a high stakes testing accountability model make allowances for teaching the children of these "parents"? Would they accept that children living in their homes might be a rather challenging population to educate? Do they still think market solutions applied to a hundred year old industrial model of most American schools will deliver us from ruin?

As an aside, I recall having one of my administrators designing all sorts of incentive programs to get our little darlings to come to school, not to mention crunching numbers all day related to the damned data, instead of truly leading on our instructional efforts. I find it too rich that schools can fail under No Child Left Behind and not meet AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) if attendance numbers aren't acceptable. If the law can't effectively make parents deliver little Johnny or Sally to the school then how might the educators? Going back on track ...

The right wing has created an almost universal acceptance that many schools aren't doing their jobs based on "measurements" of "learning". They take data which shows, rightly in some cases, that poor or minority or ... kids are struggling and then urge reforms that generally rely on the magic of the markets. "School choice" via "vouchers" is one of their main thrusts yet would "parents" such as those covered above likely do much better under such an arrangement? To make it all the more bothersome, conservatives also insult or at least dismiss what professional educators attempt rather often.

The Mobile Press-Register for instance has been a long advocate for "competition" in education. In October of 2007 they opined Parents lack top school choices (dead link I regret) which began

Fed up with poorly performing schools, some parents are taking matters into their own hands by moving their children into areas with better schools. In particular, many of these parents who are moving their children are making great sacrifices to get their children into better schools in Jefferson and Shelby counties. According to an article in The Birmingham News, since 2000 the Birmingham city school system has experienced a 23 percent decline in enrollment. ...

In November of 2007 their Children lose when school choice loses (the link is dead) begins with

The mighty education establishment has never spared any effort or expense fighting to keep children captives of the government-run school system. That's why they've compiled a perfect 10-0 record in statewide referendums on school choice. On Tuesday, the teachers' unions and the education bureaucracy scored another big win. Children trapped in substandard schools in Utah were the losers. Voters in that conservative state rejected the nation's first statewide school voucher program.

Stupid voters! Those terrible teachers might not teach worth a damn but they sure can sway elections. Going across the pond, the BBC covered a similar vote in California early in the Reign of Error plus they pointed out that the research is hardly supportive of the claims of the free market ideologues.

In January of this year the P-R gave us Seek more competition (again with a dead link) where they started with

Alabama's education system falls short of the standards of the mythical Lake Wobegon, where all the children are above average. According to the annual "Quality Counts" report published by Education Week magazine, Alabama schools are just average. Middle of the pack. So-so. Mediocre. In the magazine's ratings, the state received an overall grade of 75.7, which translated into a fair-to-middling "C." The state's standing in ...

In May the P-R shared Take a stand for choice which let them get a swipe in on Senator Obama, "liberal orthodoxy", and "teachers' unions" with this being at least a foundation of their argument:

During a meeting in February with the editorial board of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Illinois senator said he was skeptical of allowing families to use publicly funded vouchers to send their children to private schools. Then he added, "If there was any argument for vouchers, it was 'All right, let's see if this experiment works,' and if it does, then whatever my preconceptions, my attitude is you do what works for the kids. I will not allow my predispositions to stand in the way of making sure our kids can learn. We're losing several generations of kids and something has to be done."

That was far from a ringing endorsement of vouchers, but for school choice advocates, who span the spectrum from the liberal Brookings Institution to the conservative Heritage Foundation, Sen. Obama's words were encouraging.

First of all, they ought to stop labeling Brookings as "liberal". Centrist at most yet they surely are funded by some of the usual suspects. Source Watch debunks that ridiculous claim as well.

As for Senator Obama's opening the door to this experiment, the evidence from said experimenting isn't coming up so rosy for the Friedmanites. Two years ago I posted over on Captain Jimi on how Bu$hCo's Department of Education buried their very own studies that didn't support right wing theory. Like any reasonable person, Senator Obama wants to make a rational decision rather than a radical one. Just who is acting "conservative" here?

Also, the P-R claimed, "Polls show people who live in urban areas with lousy public schools strongly favor vouchers." Actually, those polls might depend how the question is phrased. Not that the right wing, movement conservative set would use flawed "evidence" or anything of course.

In July the most conservative paper in the Newhouse Triad opined Obama says 'no' to low-income parents where they do some simultaneous shilling. Getting a two for one lick in for vouchers and against Senator Obama, they write, "Not too long ago, Sen. Obama said he was willing to consider supporting publicly funded voucher programs that allow low-income parents to send their children to private schools." Operative words from their own prior Editorial were "let's see if this experiment works". The Mobile P-R lectures

Sen. Obama apparently prefers to lecture parents about their responsibilities. He makes some good points, but misses the fact that, in America, responsibility and freedom usually travel together.

Again, we see the above parents in action. Senator Obama was quoted as stating, "Responsibility for our children's education starts at home." Any further questions P-R?

As I've said before, Jim "The Tool" Wooten really belongs in Mobile. Yet even Jim accepts the many, many variable that influence learning. Over two years ago I posted No Wonder We Have So Many Dropouts & Darlings where I looked at consequences of poverty and pampered prosperity. It's as much of a rant as perhaps I've ever done. I had or about set aside the chalk to pursue other adventures and perhaps I was frustrated over leaving work that I found rewarding and challenging. I walked away for several reasons but never because I didn't deeply care.

Once again I'm frustrated over the right wing war on schools. I told Jim Wooten he needed a new topic or at least new sources and I think the Mobile Press-Register might as well. A swith Jim, I'll not hold my breath on the P-R advocating for income integration as Raleigh, NC has seen some successes with recently. In fact, they'd likely go on the warpath attacking "social engineering" or "leftist education theories" or ... Only the marvelous markets supplies solutions you silly radicals! Nor do I expect them to ponder Education Funding and Low Income Children; A Review of Current Research from Kevin Carey, then of The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. I doubt they'd consider merely spending a few moments considering the ideas presented via Education Sector.

I'm becoming more and more convinced the Mobile Press-Register's Editorial Board is made up of movement conservatives rather than journalists. John Gunn

UPDATE ~ August 27, 2008 - Jeff Amy of the Mobile P-R tells us "Mobile County remains among the 10 poorest large U.S. counties ..."

Who is "off base" Mobile Press-Register?



The Mobile Press-Register opines today Democrats off base on tanker-related jobs relating to a Democratic National Committee advertisement they claimed "had disappeared from YouTube by mid-week." Obviously the above clip is there and going strong. "The spot was a misleading and cheap trick" claims the Mobile P-R. Here's the DNC's press release with the relevant portion following:

Earlier this year, reports revealed that McCain helped steer a $35 billion Air Force tanker deal away from Boeing and towards a European defense contractor that seven of the lobbyists running and raising money for his campaign lobbied on behalf of.

I doubt nobody beyond political junkies bothered with the Press Release so I expect for most people the ad stands alone. While there's some legitimacy behind the Mobile P-R's lamentations, I know they know that Alabama is out of play for this fall. While Virginia, where some EADS job will be located, might not be the best place for this ad to run, Washington State will likely, but not certainly, go to Senator Obama. The battleground state is Ohio. That where this ad is getting massive air time. This reality yields another argument for Electoral College reforms. Then again, the undeniable fact that TV spots are required to reach the average American "citizen" is another concern.

I'm not sure where the Mobile P-R is going with "Mobile - which, we feel compelled to point out yet again, is part of the United States of America. " It might be that they are following the right wing tendency to play the victim, like Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III for instance, but I'm no media mind reader.

The DNC has rightly been pointing out the McCain Myth for some time citing for instance the following:

John McCain says "[a]ccountability and transparency are the pillars of essential reform" and that he will fight to make government more transparent as president. But on the campaign trail, McCain refuses to answer questions about his own role in steering a $35 billion tanker deal to a European defense contractor--a deal that will outsource 44,000 American jobs to Europe. [johnmccain.com, accessed 3/12/08]

According to reports, after the Pentagon started from scratch on a tanker contract process, McCain weighed in on behalf of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. (EADS) at key steps in the process. When EADS wanted the Pentagon to take extra features on its planes into account when awarding the contract, McCain asked for it. When EADS wanted the Pentagon to ignore unfair subsidies it was receiving from European governments, McCain asked for it. When EADS wanted the tanker deal to be awarded in a split contract, McCain asked for it. [Mobile Register, 1/16/2007; Inside the Airforce, 2/2/2007; Seattle Times, 6/10/2006; Aviation Weekly, 10/2/06; New York Times, 12/26/2006; Financial Times, 8/6/2007; Mobile Register, 10/2/2007]

Now we know that McCain's campaign is being run by at least two lobbyists who worked for EADS. A third lobbyist was raising millions for his campaign while working for EADS, while EADS executives were steering campaign cash to McCain when he needed it most. In response to concerns about the appearance that he weighed in on behalf of lobbyists and donors, McCain said it is "one of the more bizarre things that I have ever seen in my life." McCain has yet to explain why he sent two letters to the Pentagon making the same arguments EADS had about how to award the contract, if lobbyists or representatives for EADS discussed the tanker deal with his Senate staff, or why he is still using a four-year-old investigation of Boeing to cover his efforts to tilt the scale towards EADS. [CNN Live Feed (Exeter, NH), 3/12/08]

Keep reading for more. Ouch! The Economic Policy Institute's Bailing out on America: Air Force tanker decision will ground at least 14,000 U.S. jobs is also cited by the Mobile P-R.

I appreciate the Mobile P-R pointing out the following:

But the Democratic National Committee failed to note what EPI's briefing paper acknowledged: that Boeing Co. and a key union, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, provide "general research support" to the institute.

I've felt the same frustrations with commentators, columnists, hacks, operative ... not digging deep enough to see who might be paying for what. It's not like y'all would shill paid for research. Or allow Gary Palmer or Lawrence McQuillan or ... to do this in your paper. we know how fairly you've covered Don Siegelman's troubles. No Big Lies would ever appear in the Mobile P-R I'm sure.

Y'all even admit,

"The DNC's "Job Killing John" campaign video was a response to a leaked internal McCain campaign memo purporting that Sen. McCain would label Sen. Barack Obama as a "job-killing machine."

Poor Huggy Bear! The DNC fights back but they are the ones that dare "muddy" things up. It's hardly hardball politics and this is especially certain given the right wing smear machine. Will y'all be covering Jerome Corsi's latest work? How will you cover other ads this campaign?

I can accept that y'all are seriously part of the effort to bring that tanker contract back to Mobile. Papers out here in Washington State are likewise doing their part for Boeing. However, I truly think the Mobile Press-Register is mostly motivated by a desire to beat up on the Democratic Party and Senator Obama.

I'm no huge Obama supporter as he and his aren't clearly Progressive enough for my preferences yet I'm certain St. John would largely continue the same flawed and thus failed policies of "conservatism". John Gunn

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Retail subsidies for the rugged outdoorsman set

I'd bet my best bird dog (if I kept one anymore ... her name was Sadie) the average Bubba or Bubbette waddling into one of the several Bass Pro Shops in Alabama frowns on "welfare" yet they don't realize that where they are shopping is at least partially on the dole. I'd recently read David Cay Johnson's Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You with the Bill) so I was wise to the racket. Here's a small sample via Reason.

I came to this theme by reading Bass Pro megastore opens its doors from Kathy Jumper, the Mobile Press-Register's Real Estate Editor. This last Sunday she shared New retail opening despite national slump. In June Ms. Jumper filed Bass Pro Shop taking shape for late August opening. In the P-R I also found Kaija Wilkinson's Bass Pro seeks employees from May of this year.

In alternatives to the M P-R I find Staubach given key to city at ‘roof raising’ for Bass Pro Shops from Kathy Ferniany. Way back in 2004 there's Spanish Fort to become retail mecca - overnight: Mega-shopping, including state's first Bass Pro Shops store, coming soon to Baldwin County from Birmingham Business Journal's Gilbert Nicholson.

I noted some coverage of the tax incentives the fryling Johnny Morris grew into a lunker reeled in from Baldwin County and surely the Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance isn't shy about telling prospective developers what's available. I figured Roger the Dodger and/or his Cypress Equities got a little help from Baldwin County. Reckon who all else got a taste? Ms. Jumper has reported:

The city of Spanish Fort created a capital improve ment district to borrow about $30 million to finance construction of roads, utilities and other infrastructure improvements for the Cypress Equities project. A special tax on sales in the shopping center is targeted to pay off the debt.

I'm going to need to pass on that "special tax on sales" language as I've got a feeling she's writing of Tax Increment Financing yet I might need to first ask somebody that knows all this backwards and forwards. Going back to 2004 we can locate the following:

"The Bass Pro Shops transaction is a private transaction between Cypress and Bass," Harrington (Scott Harrington was then the Atlanta managing partner in Atlanta) said. "It has been made very clear to us that the city of Spanish Fort has no money or any appetite for liability in the project. There is no cash available. We are currently making arrangements to meet with city officials and the Planning Commission to commence our rezoning and discuss the project as a whole.
So Spanish Fort had no money but went out and borrowed millions. In today's economy? Well played rich folks! Hell, in the time I started this post I've found yet another piece from today's paper on one of these deals in the M P-R related to a Gulf Shores development. The hits just keep on coming!

Bass Pro Shops also has projects open or being built in Prattville, Leeds/Moody/St. Clair County, and Decatur/Morgan County. Lots of folks have a stake in those efforts. I guarantee you some banks, attorneys, ... are cashing in. The Prattville Chamber at least admit to the costs. As does Prattville's Mayor. The Leeds/Moody project has just hit a stumble yet I'm sure those in the know, and most importantly dialed in to the levers of power, will soldier on. In North Alabama the incentives are there as well. Sweetwater is indeed getting a sweet deal.

I can only imagine what small outfitters think of being sold down the river but I also wonder what citizens would think if they realized what they'd lost. Giving Away the Store to Get a Store: Tax increment financing is no bargain for taxpayers from Daniel McGraw via Reason is a good jumping off point. Curbing Corporate Welfare plus their Big Box Tool Kit from New Rules, an effort of The Institute for Local Self-Reliance, are other resources I'll send you to for more information. John Gunn

Alabama Policy Institute attacks Steve Flowers

They're willing to insult Steve Flowers? I know they've got to earn their keep from the Big Mules but couldn't they have picked on somebody like The New Yorker's Hendrick Hertzberg? Michael Ciamarra and Bob McKee have a spell of the vapors, with a version here (not sure about their citing the 2004 election and Al Gore's numbers) and a shorter one that made it into the Cullman Times here, over presumably Steve Flowers: Obama needs Clinton to have a chance which appeared in the Piedmont Journal. I missed this dust up. Although a bit dated I can't pass it up.

Steve, again hardly a DFH, wrote:

Many of you have wondered about my prognosis in last week’s column that Barack Obama would probably not win the presidency, although he has all but wrapped up the Democratic nomination.

The reasoning is based on the fact that we do not have a direct election of the president in this country. The person who gets the most votes does not necessarily win the White House.

Our Electoral College system is archaic, antiquated and undemocratic. Most Americans are not aware of the fact that the person who gets the most votes does not win in our American process. Whoever gets the most votes is each state gets all the electoral votes in that state. Each state’s electoral number is equal to the state’s number of congressmen and senators and these electors elect the president.

Steve responds to inquiries with a rational explanation, even though I think he's wrong on the general election prediction, and the hatchet men at API swing into action. Since the Cullman Times, where Steve's columns appear, rightly removed some of their hateful language, I'll go directly to API's hit job. The two gentlemen write:

He wants to elect the President of the United States by popular vote, a radical change fostered by those who are either abysmally ignorant of basic civics or think they’re smarter than the framers of the Constitution.
Huh? Where did Steve advocate anything of the such? Why would they be claiming he's a "wag of today" engaged in advocating a "scheme"? Would Maine and Nebraska be engaged in a "scheme" with their Congressional District system? Is Maryland?

API's Michael Ciamarra and Bob McKee claim:

The Electoral College ... was created to protect minorities and maintain a balance between large and small states and between regional interest groups. The Founders were especially concerned about maintaining balance between agrarian and industrial interests and between Northern and Southern states. The Electoral College serves these purposes.
I'd like either of these two to show us where the Founders mentioned "Electoral College" in the Constitution. Article Two surely doesn't nor does the Twelfth Amendment. Yet the idea Steve writes about is a "scheme"? Spare us the Founders argument! I don't dismiss their admitting a good number of the Founders distrusted the masses but I'd also suggest the arrangement agreed upon in those early years of the Republic was at least partly about protecting slavery in the agricultural South. That's something to build off isn't it? C'mon guys, the "small states" already have a tyranny of the tiny in the Senate. Why not consider ways to make our democracy more democratic?

I like what Hendrick Hertzberg wrote in another New Yorker piece.

... the deepest argument for a national popular vote has nothing to do with who wins. It has to do with the over-all health of a democratic order.

As has become increasingly clear over the past few general elections, with their red states and blue states, an American Presidential campaign is no longer truly national. It takes place almost exclusively in the purple states—the “battleground states,” where neither party can be sure of a lock. ...

The worst of it is the death of participatory politics in two-thirds of the country. If you live in a spectator state, it might be fun to persuade your neighbors to vote your way, or ring their doorbells, or hand them leaflets. But it can’t make a difference. And it doesn’t matter which side you’re on or which color your state is. Widening your ticket’s margin of victory or narrowing its margin of defeat is equally pointless. In this sense, our Presidential campaigns are not only not national; in most of the country they’re not local, either. They’re just not.

For fifty years, polls have consistently shown that seventy per cent of the public favors direct election.

Hardly a loony argument is it? National Popular Vote Inc. is a good place to examine some of the options we have. Here's another.

I know Michael Ciamarra and Bob McKee are but a part of Alabama's version of the right's "counterintelligentsia" but surely y'all have got better game than this? I'm sure API and their type like things just as they are. Actually, their attacking Steve Flowers might show just how much. John Gunn