Something is very wrong in the Land of Cotton



Dr. Robert Bullard
Environmental Justice Movement Founder

Monday, January 31, 2011

American Spectator Speculates on "Reaganesque" Riley for 2012

True to form, another conservative media outlet slobbers over Alabama's former 'Goobernor' and advances the nonsense of a presidential Bob Riley.

American Spectator writer Quin 'full of spin' Hillyer starts out his narrow-view puff piece by saying he will "let somebody not already enthralled with just-retired (term-limited) Alabama Gov. Bob Riley write the definitive piece, from a fresh perspective, about what sort of a choice Riley would be for president."

But he didn't wait one sentence before charging right ahead and writing it himself! This is not Mr. Hillyer's first foray into temporary blindness as reported by Raw Story in 2008.

He has an ongoing condition of distorted vision and this latest 'piece' is just more of the same from AS(s).

"Drafting Riley" is so full of the world through coke bottle glasses claims it's like hunting over a baited field, so let's just go ahead and have some fun with the absurdities shall we?

 "No philosophical weaknesses or personal baggage"
If that means that Riley has towed the republican line of reward your family members first from your official position, and *Jack Abramoff directed campaign contributions don't count as personal baggage then we're off to a roaring start Mr. Hillyer.

The next one may require anti-emetic medication before consuming so we'll give you a minute, which was less than what Mr. Hillyer did before launching into the article he said he would let someone else write.

(tick-tock, tick-tock....)

Minute's up. Ready? Steady now...
"The only reason he's not better known nationally is because he kept his focus on his job of serving as governor of Alabama, rather than scampering for the cameras and a national audience every chance he got. In other words, he's not all about his own ego: He's just about doing his job."

How about a picture being worth a thousand words? Here's Bobbo from the official Office of the Governor website, at almost 67 years old, and he's trying to present himself as a, as a, ummm, er....well, you figure it out.
05/15/2006    Photo Credit: Governor Staff - Robin Cooper

"Tom Cruise, eat your heart out," declared Governor Bob Riley as he rode the first 2006 F131 Hellcat to be produced in Confederate Motor's new Birmingham headquarters. Cruise recently borrowed the brand new Hellcat for the New York premiere of his latest movie. It is the first production motorcycle ever to be made in Alabama, and Governor Riley commemorated the event by taking the bike out for a spin.
No further explanation required.

"I covered his first race for governor and his first term at close hand, and kept very good tabs on his second term from a distance. I was tremendously impressed."

Maybe that view from a distance is why Mr. Hillyer claims he was "tremendously impressed" because if he had been a native Alabamian living under the rule of Riley he may have seen what most of Alabama saw--a typical southern rethuglican that used Alabama and the system like his own personal trust fund. 

Right out of the gate early in his first term, Riley tried to hit Alabamians hard in their worn-out pocketbooks with a $1.2 billion dollar tax hike for a $675 million "inherited shortfall." Rather than fix the problem that caused it, Riley and the Alabama legislature did what they always do and turned to the citizens for relief.

Alabamians were immediately suspicious of the difference in figures and who was on line with their paw out for a favor at taxpayer expense. Alabama's schoolchildren's funds were a favorite target of this blowhard 'gimme your milk money' bully. Riley frequently misdirected education funds meant for classroom supplies and books for his own view of what education money should be for. Like handing over $705,000.00 from the Public School and College Authority Fund to good buddy Mike Hubbard for renovations to the Auburn High School football facility, complete with a $55,000 scoreboard. 

Did we mention proration of the Education Trust Fund and the total depletion of Alabama's "Rainy Day" fund accounts happened during his watch? Hillyer must have been looking the other way when those chickens (followed by many more along with a few snakes) crossed the road.

Mr. Hillyer continues, in his blissfully unaware and idyllic view of Riley and writes, "The ONLY reasonable knock against him is that CATO's report card gave him some bad grades before giving Riley a "B" last year." The reality is that the list of "reasonable knocks against" him is longer than forty miles of bad road in your Uncle Charlie's chugger of a pick-em up truck. Who's writing this stuff Mr. Hillyer, you or Todd Stacy?

You did say you were going to let someone else write the definitive piece... 

Towards the end, we get to the real focus of what this article is all about:
"Riley has a sort or Reaganesque look about him, and he lights up a room in person and on a podium. His accent takes getting used to, but it sounds friendly rather than Haley Barbour's "backwoods tough" kind of Southern accent."

Riley is the best choice for the republican nomination of all potential southern candidates in the AS(s) view.

Here's our definitive view, sans speculation: If Riley is capable of lighting up a room, we're envisioning a room with no windows and hoping the door is made of bars.
(Thanks to Legal Schnauzer for allowing us to link to two of his enlightening articles)
* Abramoff's Web Of Deceit and Riley connections 
In November 2005, Riley was linked to the Jack Abramoff scandal when his former Congressional press secretary, Michael Scanlon, pleaded guilty to conspiracy in the matter. It further emerged that, as a Congressman, Riley signed a letter on behalf of the U.S. Family Network, opposing expansion of casino gambling in Alabama.[29] The U.S. Family Network was revealed to be an Abramoff front, funded by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, which operated competing casinos.[30] Riley has denied knowing the source of this funding.

Bookmark and Share
 Subscribe in a reader

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Monsanto Receives Full Deregulation From Vilsack's USDA For Roundup Ready Alfalfa

The Obama Administration continues to appease Big Ag despite known risks and *Alabama is following right along in lock step manner to the Monsanto drumbeat.
*(document linked from Auburn University Agricultural Dept. www.ag.auburn edu)

Monsanto shill supreme, USDA Head Tom Vilsack pushed hard for his favorite corporate demon, the dreaded Monsanto, to further gain total control of US agriculture with this latest power bestowal by granting full deregulation for Monsanto's genetically modified Alfalfa:
Organic and sustainable farming advocates were disappointed by the decision. "This creates a perplexing situation when the market calls for a supply of crops free of genetic engineering. The organic standards prohibit the use of genetic engineering, and consumers will not tolerate the accidental presence of genetic engineered materials in organic products yet GE crops continue to proliferate unchecked," said Christine Bushway, executive director and CEO of the Organic Trade Association in a statement.

Bill Tomson and Scott Kilman of the Wall Street Journal reported that Vilsack's rejection of a compromise proposal--partial deregulation, which was vehemently opposed by biotech companies and only tepidly accepted by non-GE interests--was the result of an Obama administration review of "burdensome" regulations.

Sources familiar with the negotiations at USDA, who preferred to remain anonymous, told Food Safety News they believe the White House asked Vilsack to drop proposed regulations so the administration would appear more friendly to big business.
The White House did not respond for comment.
Read more here

Vanity Fair covered this issue in an investigative piece from May 2008 aptly entitled "Monsanto's Harvest of Fear" that is a compelling read and an in-depth probe into the frightening power that Monsanto has and wants.

And thanks to this latest ruling from the USDA, in conjunction with the false Food and Safety Bill that passed in the lame duck session of Congress, they are well on their way to getting it.

There were two choices here for Obama and the USDA: partially regulate the Monsanto Alfalfa or don't regulate it at all.
"...deregulation as one option and the other deregulation accompanied by a combination of isolation distances and geographic restrictions on the production of GE alfalfa seed and, in some locations, hay."
Obviously they made the wrong one for us, but it was the right one for Monsanto and future campaign contributions to spineless politicians on both sides of the aisle.

More consequences of the wrongheaded ruling reported by Grist.org:
Alfalfa is a prolific pollinator, meaning that GM alfalfa can easily cross-breed with non-GM alfalfa. If organic producers find their crop contaminated with GM material, they risk losing their organic certification and, likely, their livelihoods. The organic dairy industry, which relies on a steady supply of organic alfalfa, would also be imperiled.
The second problem is so-called "superweeds" -- weeds that develop resistance to Roundup, Monsanto's flagship herbicide. Such weeds are already rampant in the South, where Monsanto's Roundup Ready cotton holds sway, and are moving into the Corn Belt, which is blanketed by the tens of millions of acres with the agrichemical giant's corn and soy seeds. The rise of superweeds is unleashing a virtual monsoon of dodgy poison cocktails onto affected farmland.

It's worth checking out this recent Food & Water Watch report on the gusher of cash the biotech industry spends on D.C. lobbying. The industry spent more than a half billion dollars on lobbying between 1999 and 2009, FWW reports. In 2009 alone, the GMO giants dropped a cool $71 million pushing its agenda. It's also worth noting the number of Monsanto-related people now working in key policy positions in the USDA
Welcome to the Hope and Change of the best government that corporate money can buy. Let's all sit back and watch Alabama Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan become the next "farmer friendly politician" who caves into the corporate world of deceit that is Monsanto.

Scientific study on the dangers of GM crops and "Terminator Technology" from Dr. Mae-Won Ho and Professor Joe Cummins, Institute of Science in Society, London: "Chronicle of an Ecological Disaster Foretold"

No Alabama newspapers have taken Senators Shelby and Sessions to task for their last minute vote switching on the Monsanto backed Food Safety Bill and both senators offices continue to claim they were firmly against the bill. They lie.

They're hiding behind one of the first votes in November 2010 which recorded both as casting "Nay" votes. But another vote occurred in December of 2010 that was strictly a voice vote, no pesky records to point to later, that passed unanimously without a single "Nay" vote.
The infamous Senate Bill 510 “Food Safety Bill” was passed by the US Senate Monday night in a sneaky, last minute voice vote. All Senators voted for it, Republicans and Democrats alike. Not a single U.S. Senator — not even Senator (Dr.) Tom Coburn-R, one of the bill's loudest opponents — objected to its passage.
This last-minute sneak vote of unanimous consent is widely considered a betrayal of food freedom by the public and the few Republicans who had opposed this bill abruptly voted in favor of it. TheHill.com posted their report on this unexpected turn of events late last night and has since been overrun by comments from steaming mad members of the public who feel utterly betrayed by their Senators.
Moral of the story: what Monsanto wants, Monsanto gets.

Here's a Monsanto blog featuring an AU senior who's obviously fully indoctrinated in Monsanto's propaganda. Any guesses where she learned it from?
Bookmark and Share
 Subscribe in a reader

Friday, January 28, 2011

We Gotcha Governor Bentley in a Boligee Big One

The $8 million dollar "simple man"

"Growing up the son of a sawmill worker I learned nothing's more important than a man's word." Robert Bentley

That didn't last long and my how your nose does groweth Governor.

Before viewing the following video clip, let's keep in mind that a biofuels plant was just announced by Alabama Governor "you will respect my authority" Bentley for the Boligee area of Greene County, Alabama. The deal has been in the works for two years.

Every US taxpayer is on the hook to the tune of $250 million to experiment with Cellulosic Ethanol thanks to the USDA passing out OUR money like candy to uber rich billionaires, hedge fund company investors and the French oil company Total, to come up with gasoline for one dollar a gallon.

It will never happen.

It's over-hyped, it's playing on climate change fever and it pays select interests very well with OUR money!

Never mind that Coskata already has a Pittsburgh location close to the GM plant it's researching CE for, and that they claimed to "have fuel online by 2009" (didn't happen), let's go build another plant courtesy of the US taxpayer, greedy Alabama politicians and special interests. We'll prop up our Monsanto buddies in the process with that fine, temperate Alabama climate that's perfect for genetically modified switchgrass and trees and some unsuspecting hick farmers will also get a federal hand out for planting Monsanto's wicked weeds.
(More on that here.)

It's one big fleece job being set up in West Alabama, period, end of story.

Monsanto has been sneaking around Auburn University for a number of years and have  firmly entrenched themselves in the agricultural programs. One person links all of this together: Bentley's Transition Team communications director, the (we hope) incomparable Stephen "Steve" E. Bradley, who lobbies for Monsanto and knows a thing or two about verbal slight of tongue and clandestine operations, among his other "talents."

And Bentley picked him and his BARD buddies to lead his transition into the governorship.

Bentley claimed, at the last "goobernatorial" debate, that Boligee was only good for "raising fish and big deer" not for a "biotech company."

Either he was lying then to appeal to a particular voting block, or he's lying now by making it appear this just all of a sudden materialized and Boligee, in the short span of three months, is now the perfect place for a biotech project.

October 28, 2010, right before the election

There is no way in hell he came up with that biotech reference last October without knowing something about the project.

How about an explanation from the "I am upright man" of his word"?

Word to the wise governor, you're playing with some dangerously crafty men who can chew a good "Badtist" up and spit him out without batting an eye and you're in way over your head, but you're just not quite smart enough to figure that out.

Better watch your bass Doc or you'll wind up as a bunk-mate of Langford or Scrushy before it's all over with.
Bookmark and Share
 Subscribe in a reader

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Updates on Sheperd's Bend Coal Mine--Black Warrior Riverkeeper

Today, our Staff Attorney, Eva Dillard sent the UA System Trustees a letter reiterating and updating our opposition to the Shepherd Bend Mine proposal.  The letter relays new information the Birmingham Water Works Board recently supplied about coal mining’s threats to tap water quality from their Mulberry Fork water intake facility, which serves 200,000 Birmingham-area customers.

We ask that the UA System not lease or sell land or mineral rights to Shepherd Bend LLC, the company proposing to mine directly across the river from this major drinking water intake.  Without the UA System's significant land and mineral rights at Shepherd Bend, it may not be cost-effective for Shepherd Bend LLC to start miningWe hope citizens will continue to call the UA System's Tuscaloosa office to voice their opposition to the project: 205-348-5861

Represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, we continue our appeal of the flawed wastewater discharge permit that the Alabama Department of Environmental Management granted to Shepherd Bend LLC.  The Birmingham Water Works Board continues its own appeal of the shortsighted mining permit that the Alabama Surface Mining Commission granted to Shepherd Bend.   We will keep you posted as those appeals progress through the legal system. 

For more information about the Shepherd Bend Mine proposal, including maps, statistics, pictures, permit documents, news about ongoing student and community protests, recent articles, and today’s letter to the UA System, visit: http://blackwarriorriver.org/news/help-protect-birmingham-s-drinking-water.html
Bookmark and Share
 Subscribe in a reader

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Stories That Have Us Scratching Our Heads and Wondering WTH?

"I think I am seeing the monkey business going on, yes?"" 

Hope Coal Co. was recently fined  $50,000 (further reduced by $16,500) for 174 environmental violations by the Alabama Department of Environmental (mis) Management (ADEM.) That’s roughly $190.00 per violation and the company paid less in corporate fines than an individual would pay for a speeding ticket. The price of doing business in Alabama comes cheap when you screw up. And screwing up is definitely encouraged.

The bastion of (almost) exclusively white brotherly love, the City of Vestavia Hills, is caught showing their religious intolerance and unabashed snobbishness when the faith-based Jimmie Hale Missions tried to become the latest new tenant in the city. Their full of the love of Christ attitude is quite pious as long as "undesirables" stay on their side of town and don’t mingle with the privileged ones in the occupied territory of VH. 
(MP3 file podcast local talker Matt Murphy on WAPI. More podcasts on their webpage)

One Shelby County Preacher makes his case for what Alabama really needs: God, not real ethics reforms. Never mind that we’re 49th in corruption and the state house is brimming over with “good, upright Christian men,” we just need to all get closer to God and the rest will take care of itself. 
We wonder if this Vincent preacher counseled Vincent Mayor Ray McAllister against any private meetings with the town citizens who don’t want their town swallowed up by the notorious Vecellio Group's White Rock Quarries, their mining subsidiary from Florida. The Mayor and Council had meetings a plenty in another county out of sight of their citizens with quarry reps Rob Fowler and Stephen Bradley. Something we've always wondered about is why a Florida rock mining outfit, instead of Martin Marietta or Vulcan, who operate all the other eight quarries in Shelby County? Controversial location for a company well-versed in controversy perhaps?  
Makes sense to us--does it to you?

Governor Mule Bentley (AKA "Dunkey" a cross between a dunce and donkey) shows his true colors to the republican faithful and appoints his "goobernatorial" democratic challenger to head the Alabama Economic Rural Development office, and frankly, we’re shocked they’re shocked. A YouTube clip from Sean Hannity’s FOX show has guest Dick Morris (former Clinton man turned republican shill) pinning the tail on the "Dunkey" on what the good "Badtist" Dr. Dr. really is. Caveat Emptor. We sure do hope Sparks doesn't do for any other rural Alabama community what he did to North Alabama as Ag Commissioner. That would be a real stinker of a move.

Speaking of Bentley, he’s carrying on Riley era economic deals and has announced the entry of a biofuels plant into the Greene County area, the same county that former Governor Riley sent over one hundred state troopers into and immediately put scores of residents out of work and out of luck when he closed down the gambling joint. The biofuels plant, *Coskata, is brainchild of billionaire financier Vinod Khosla, who partnered up with bailout baby GM in 2008. 
The most obvious question to us is this: Why would an enterprising successful entrepreneur partner with a CEO who oversaw the largest corporation in the world to within a hairs width of bankruptcy? GM invested an “undisclosed amount of money” into Coskata in 2008 and then received millions in TARP money the following year. Looks like we paid twice, all of us. Cellulosic Ethanol plants require large swaths of land and maybe an over hyped bio-engineered crop or two, which Monsanto is poised to be an integral part of. 
The word "sustainable" is being thrown about and AlterNet asks if corporations have hijacked "sustainable." The answer is yes, and they are redefining the word to their advantage, hoping the rest of us don't notice. We do.
A sure bet on this is that certain Alabama business men, select politicians and lobbyists will get rich off of this deal whether it pans out or not. The USDA has cleared a $250 million dollar loan for the project that's been in the works for two years. More federal handouts will go to "farmers" who agree to grow crops for biomass use. We're really concerned that the normally environmentally conscientious dems are on board with this. Expect construction to be drawn out through Bentley's term to help him save face on his campaign promises of jobs, jobs, jobs.

On a national level, why did the Obama administration hold over the controversial former EPA head Carole Browner for so long before finally showing her the door?

And finally, how to rack up 557 violations and still be in business. Amazingly, it isn’t an Alabama coal company, it's Massey Energy, who else?

*Coskata is privately held, and to date has been funded entirely by its equity investors, including Khosla Ventures, Blackstone Cleantech Ventures and the Blackstone Group, Advanced Technology Ventures, GreatPoint Ventures, Total Energy Ventures International (part of Total, one of the world’s major Oil and Gas groups, and a top tier player in chemicals), Coghill Capital Management, General Motors, and Globespan Capital Partners.
Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Alabama State Senator Tripman-R Facing Ethics Charges--Round II

*Updated January 26, 2011

The scoundrel speaks and claims, predictably, he has done nothing wrong and this is all "political sabotage."

We just love the part where he is smiling and talking on his cell phone without a care in the world. Arrogant cuss that he is.

WKRG News 5 reports

WKRG.com News

The Baldwin Watchdog has a rebuttal letter from one of the ethics complaint filers:

Rebuttal to Mayor Tim Kant, Fairhope City Council
January 24, 2011
By Paul F. Ripp

The Mayor’s response at the Fairhope City Council meeting tonight to the Alabama Ethics Commission Complaint, supports the complaint.

First, Mr. Kant explained that nowhere in Alabama law does it say that the city cannot deal with a person, or business that the person owns, if they are an elected official, such as a state senator, or if the business in question is owned by a state senator.  This brazen attitude to throw any obvious ethics aside in an attempt to qualify a public servant, is the very root of the problem.

Mr. Kant explained that he was involved May 6th and 7th 2010 in meetings with Governor Riley.  Some of these meetings were closed to the public and the press.  These meetings dealt with how the BP Oil Disaster funds would be dispersed.

However, on May 8th, a Saturday, Mr. Kant explained that he did not have any city stationary and that is how the Fairhope Mayor’s letter came to be hastily done on a blank sheet of 8.5 x 11 copy paper.  This can be found on page 50 of the complaint sent to the Alabama Ethics Commission and copied two over two dozen newspapers and related state and federal agencies.

What Mr. Kant did not explain to the council or the meeting attendees was how this letter on plain paper was not part of any city record, nor was it viewed by any council member until the Ethics Commission Complaint brought this to everyone’s attention.

Read more here

This is the bold attitude of entitlement that runs through Alabama like a slow moving sewer from elected officials and causes the public to wretch when we they are exposed to the full stench of corruption masquerading as business as usual.

If the truth were the Roto Rooter man it could spend the next 10 years flushing the state and still not make a dent in the load of stuff that surrounds each and every one of these scoundrels.

*BP Czar Kenneth Feinberg pulled a similar trick and got called on it big time. 

*Update--Lagniappe coverage of this issue has "Sham Wow" Pittman backtracking on his arrogance. This is such fun to watch! 
*Fairhope Mayor Tim Kant Rant "I think everybody should just get a life."
Bookmark and Share
 Subscribe in a reader

Monday, January 24, 2011

Go On Take the BP Money and Run--Alabama State Senator Pittman Facing Ethics Charges

Which one's the tractor?
*Updated Monday PM

"Follow the money. Follow the Boom."

Alabama's recent ethics "reforms" are about to be put to a big test, but not under the glare of public scrutiny like it should be, it's going to go on in the backrooms of the lowest common denominators--the Senate and state Ethics Commissions.

Much ado surrounded the recent special session in December to overhaul Alabama’s lax and practically non-existent ethics laws and now it’s put or shut up time. Did the legislature succeed or fail? Alabamians will soon find out from the recent filing of ethics violations against Alabama State Senator Trip Pittman-R.

Senator Trip “the clip” Pittman and his partner in crime, Baldwin County Commissioner Bob "five fingers" James are accused, through a recently filed 130 page ethics complaint by Baldwin County businessman Don White and a Fairhope resident, of pilfering over half a million dollars from the $1.2 million provided to Baldwin County by BP.

In short, Pittman and James made out like bandits in the wake of the BP oil spill and they didn't even need guns and masks, because former governor Bob Riley put these two Flash Harry''s in charge of all the loot. Did he know what their business interests were and that they may profit from the huge windfall of cash?  
Pittman James Ethics Complaint

Mod Mobilian provides the back-story on what happened and how the "heist in plain sight" went down:
Other local businessmen told the Press-Register they were shut out of the process: “I showed Trip Pittman our absorbent barrier boom. … Not only did he not forward this info to anyone weeks before any votes for boom were cast, but he never told me that he was in charge of the BP funds,” Silverhill’s Don White said.
Pittman told the Press-Register it was a “complex” situation.
Fairhope citizen Paul Ripp has filed complaints with the state’s Attorney General’s Office, Ethics Commission and others. The Constitution Party of Alabama has called for Pittman’s resignation.
Readers will be shocked to know that Senator Pittman has a dismal record for transparency and fails the Political Courage Test according to Project Vote Smart.
Trip Pittman refused to tell citizens where he stands on any of the issues addressed in the 2010 Political Courage Test, despite repeated requests from Vote Smart, national media, and prominent political leaders.
One local observer's take on this "hold-up":
"Don White has over 30 years experience in waste minimization, pollution control techniques and products. The minute he saw the "Constitution Party" ask Pittman to step down he had to make his complaint to protect his back side. 
Pittman and James are so shady if White had not filed a complaint, Pittman and James would have tried to turn this around on anyone that was not looking. Don White has already been suckered punch once by government and wasteful political spending (City of Fairhope.)
Don knew he could save the cities as well as the Gulf Coast millions of dollars with his products and knowledge. But like he said in the complaint, "the deals had already been made" and when he came into the picture, they could not take the pilfered BP Grant Money back to the table. It already had been portioned out between all Pittman's crew and partners. 
The feds will have to step in.because the Ethics Commission, especially in republican control, will not eat one of their own."
That observation is on point because the Senate Ethics Commission has to have "four out of five members in agreement" for anything to proceed. The Special Session did one thing right for the Ethics Commission--they finally gave it subpoena power, but they did not take it a step further and strengthen the penalties.

The legislature has kept the bar high by requiring that 80% of the members agree before an investigation can begin, and they're proud of that and are crowing about it in their Protect the Public Trust Act. What happens in this case will tell the tale and make or break the republicans promise to end corruption by public officials, but we suspect it will wind up not being worth the paper it's printed on. Similar to everything else that comes out of the state house.

The previous standard for an ethics investigation was that an agreement had to be reached by five out of five. With the "new standard" the republican legislators made some forward movement to be real proud of--they've taken it from 100% to 80%, and by doing so, they want to give the impression that the new standard will strike fear in every public officials heart.

Maybe Pittman and James didn't get the memo.

We agree that the feds should step in because leaving the Senate and state Ethics Commissions in charge of this is akin to letting the misbehaving children decide on their own punishment.

And that never works out well.

Pittman will claim that the rules said he could do what he did and any semblance of decency will make a low, fast run for the fence and it just might work because his ethical judges would have done the same thing he did given half a chance to get away with it.

That's the Alabama politician's way--never miss a good opportunity to take the money and run.

*Update--Baldwin Watchdog has produced a "letter" to former Governor Bob Riley allegedly from the Mayor of Fairhope asking for an additional $650,000.00 in BP funds. The signature comparison to a previous document that was signed by the Mayor, and the lack of an official letterhead (something you would expect from the Mayor's office in official correspondence) are questionable at best.

* A previous post on Riley's "Roadmap to Resilience" Coastal Recovery Commission's potential to fleece.
Bookmark and Share
 Subscribe in a reader

Sunday, January 23, 2011

"Poison Fire" Trailer--Shell Oil Gas Drilling in Nigeria

Shell Oil has been notorious in the region for decades and Nigeria remains on the ever growing list of who does not profit from the "promises of community prosperity" from Big Oil and Gas. 
In 2004, the Nigerian senate ordered Shell to pay 1.5 billion dollars in compensation to communities. Shell refused. In 2006 the high court upheld the ruling. Shell appealed and, like in several hundred smaller cases against the oil companies, no money is ever paid. The appeals process drags on for years. Many Nigerian lawyers argue that the oil companies are above the law in Nigeria.
What lessons can we learn from this here in America? That big gas and oil will lie and shirk responsibility when something goes wrong? And that our legal system will help them avoid paying full compensatory damages? 
You think?

Read more here

Bookmark and Share
 Subscribe in a reader

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Watchdog Group Sues Coal Ash Dump Perry County, Alabama For Access to Records

Impact Perry County, a citizens group, has won one round in their legal fight to gain access to public records against the Perry County Water Authority, and now turns their sights on to the pervasively corrupt Perry County Commission (PCC) led by coal ash cad extraordinaire Albert Turner, Jr.

Perry County has been wallowing in dirty money ever since the PCC approved the mostly minority community to be a toxic waste receptacle for the remnants of the coal ash from the TVA Kingston spill. It was a controversial project from the start, rife with strong potential for nefarious activity, and despite the claims of the county that "the entire community would benefit" from the deal, the only real beneficiaries seem to have been Turner and his buddies.

And who else is benefiting? Why the state of Alabama and ADEM of course:
It's no secret: Perry County Commission has made around $1,000,000 in the months since coal ash shipments began coming to the Uniontown landfill facility. When all 3,000,000 or so tons of coal ash have been dredged from the Emory River in Tennessee and trucked to the local landfill, the county's general fund will see about $3,000,000 in extra revenue.
When confronted with concerns about the potential environmental impact of the coal ash on Perry County, commissioners have reminded citizens of this cash infusion's potential benefit to county finances. Testifying before Congress in December, Commissioner Albert Turner went as far as to say the host county fee has transformed Perry County from one of the poorest counties in Alabama to one of the wealthiest.
Alabama's Department of Environmental Management, though, hasn't been quite as vocal about a similar arrangement between that organization and landfill owners throughout the state. During Alabama's 2008 legislative session, the legislature passed a law requiring all municipal solid waste landfills to pay $1.00 to ADEM for each ton of solid waste disposed in Alabama landfills. That fee is part of the state's Recyclable Materials Management Act, which purports to fund community-based recycling programs throughout the state, along with providing operating funds to ADEM.
The state regulatory agency approved the coal ash deal in mid-2009, and began receiving payments shortly thereafter. Like Perry County Commission, ADEM has now made about $1,000,000 off of coal ash being dumped in Perry County, and stands to make at least $2,000,000 more.
Add a particularity distasteful African American lobbyist Greg Jones of the Jones Group, LLC who represented the company behind the landfill, Perry Uniontown Ventures (PUV), to the list of human misery merchants. PUV has since filed for bankruptcy to avoid lawsuits. They took the money and ran and "pulled a Bentley" on their brothers and sisters in Uniontown, with a little help from Stephen Bradley's partner, Guy McCullough and the law firm of *Maynard, Cooper & Gale who also lobbied for PUV.
*(ppg 52 of 83 Alabama Ethics Commission 2010 lobbyists records)

There was benefit alright, to lawyers, PR men, corrupt officials and the company itself, but not one thin dime has improved the quality of life for the people who have to live with this dangerous dump and are suffering because of the avarice of these toxic representatives. 

The fact that this watchdog group has to take legal action to access public records speaks volumes, but they are not the only Alabama community that deals with stone walling by public officials over public records and transparency on a regular basis.

Stars may fall on Alabama, according to the sentimental old song, but sunshine rarely does.
We wish this group great success and will be following this story closely.

Coal Ash: The Hidden Story -The Center for Public Integrity
Bookmark and Share

Thursday, January 20, 2011

"Starlicide"--Hundreds of Birds in Yankton, South Dakota Poisoned by USDA

KTIV reports, video below:
Some had thought 200 starlings found dead in Yankton's Riverside park had frozen to death. But they were actually poisoned on purpose, by the US Department of Agriculture.
The USDA said this is not a "common practice" and they "usually do this in the winter."

It's not common but we usually do it? Come again?

Many people believe the recent bird deaths were due to some sort of poisoning by governmental activities, but this mass killing is the only admittance of government involvement that the media has reported to the public in the current news cycles.

It's not, however, the first incident that the government has admitted to, and it turns out that poisoning Starlings seems to be a pattern of theirs. In fact, they seem to be in the business of animal killing at the urging of the agricultural industry. Environmentalists have been calling for an end to this practice, but their concerns are ignored.
Animals killed in 2009 under USDA programs other than birds:
27,000 beavers, 1700 bobcats, 81,000 coyotes, 2,000 gray foxes, 336 mountain lions, 1900 woodchucks, 130 porcupines, 12,000 raccoons, 20,000 squirrels, 30,000 wild pigs, 478 wolves and the "unintentional" poisoning of one Bald Eagle.
Starlicide is the primary poison (there are others) developed specifically for this "practice" that's been instituted to appease farmers and Big Ag and is supposedly "necessary" in the name of public health--the USDA claims the "bird droppings in agricultural feed are a health risk."

But the components of the poison, they claim, are not.
Starlicide (manufactured by Purina Mills)
Chemical Name
3-chloro-p-toluidine hydrochloride 
Other Names
3-chloro-4-methyl benzylnamine hydrochloride, CPTH, DRC-1339 

A question to consider is this: If we spread chicken manure on fields as fertilizer then what is in the starling's waste that is so harmful? Poison from the government perhaps?

In January 2009 New Jersey residents cry "It's raining birds!" January 29, 2009 press release from Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr., 6th District NJ, to the USDA requesting an investigation into bird culling in Somerset County, NJ.

A collection of links to stories about the controversial practice of bird culling.

We think this may be the most plausible explanation for part of the recent spate of Aflockalypse events and are not all surprised to find that, as presumed by many sources, the government is most likely the real culprit.

If we could connect the dots, then why couldn't the mainstream media do the same, and present the numerous back stories on this issue instead of going along with the blaming it on such nonsense as fireworks, overeating and birds flying into Semi-trucks?

WTVY.com--Alabama Department of Agriculture probing additional bird deaths in Alabama.
Bookmark and Share

Environmental Groups Take Rosa Coal Mine Fight to Court of Appeals--SELC

 Press Release January 20, 2011

Gil Rogers, Senior Attorney, 404-521-9900
Cat McCue, Senior Communications Manager, 434-977-4090 (email)

Black Warrior Riverkeeper - Nelson Brooke, 205-458-0095
Friends of the Locust Fork River - Sam Howell, 205-706-4376

Montgomery, AL –
Two Alabama river groups are appealing an administrative law judge's approval of a permit for a massive strip, auger and underground coal mine in Blount County.  The Southern Environmental Law Center, on behalf of the Black Warrior Riverkeeper and Friends of Locust Fork River, filed the necessary papers this week with the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals; only a few coal mine permits have ever been appealed to this level in Alabama.

The groups say the water pollution control permit for the Rosa Mine issued by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management in October 2009 violates federal and state laws on multiple counts, and would fail utterly to protect water quality. The permit issued to MCoal is for a 3,255-acre coal mine that would allow more than 60 pollution discharge points into numerous feeder streams of the Locust Fork, a tributary of the Black Warrior River that is already on ADEM's list of the most polluted streams in the state.

"The permit that ADEM issued for this huge industrial operation is woefully deficient - there are virtually no meaningful protections for the Locust Fork," said SELC senior attorney Gil Rogers. "We are committed to protecting these resources and the communities that depend on them, and are not giving up the fight."

The groups first appealed the permit in late 2009 after a hearing before the Environmental Management Commission last year, which ruled that the coal mine permit would not harm the Locust Fork. The Montgomery County Circuit Court affirmed that ruling in December.

The groups say ADEM violated federal and state laws in several ways when it issued a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit for the strip mine. For example, the agency failed to conduct a site-specific environmental analysis and instead issued a "rubber-stamp" permit it gives other coal mines. The Rosa Mine permit is virtually identical to the one ADEM issued for the proposed Shepherd Bend Mine in Walker County, which is roughly half the size. (SELC and  Black Warrior Riverkeeper are also challenging that permit; a hearing is scheduled in late February.)  In addition, the agency:
  • Failed to require a pollution abatement and prevention plan from the company;
  • Allowed pollution to be discharged to an already impaired stream;
  • Granted a blanket exemption for all pollution limits when it rains; and 
  • Failed to require limits on chlorides, aluminum and other contaminants that are common problems with coal mine discharges.
 "The Locust Fork near the Rosa Mine is an absolutely beautiful stretch of river where thousands of people from across the country go each year to enjoy its scenery, fishing, paddling opportunities, swimming, hiking, wildlife watching, photography, and more," said Nelson Brooke, Black Warrior Riverkeeper.  "This permit should not have been issued and we will continue to advocate its revocation."  

"Heaven forbid there should ever be a major pollution event on the Locust Fork River, but, as we know from the TVA coal ash spill and the BP oil spill, catastrophes do occur," said Sam Howell, president of the Friends of the Locust Fork River. "That is why our groups are taking these extraordinary steps to ensure that ADEM fully and rigorously evaluates the environmental impacts of this proposed coal mine so close to so many communities."
More info: Coal mining--A Threat to Alabama Waters
The Southern Environmental Law Center is a regional conservation organization using the power of the law to protect the health and environment of the Southeast (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama). Founded in 1986, SELC's team of 40 legal experts represent more than 100 partner groups on issues of climate change and energy, air and water quality, forests, the coast and wetlands, transportation, and land use.

Web:  www.SouthernEnvironment.org
Facebook:  http://www.fanofselc.org
Twitter:  http://www.twitter.com/selc_org

**More information-- Rosamine.org
Bookmark and Share
 Subscribe in a reader

Southern Environmental Law Center Releases List of Most Endangered Places 2011

Bookmark and Share
 Subscribe in a reader

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Congratulations Governor "Mule" Bentley--One Day On The Job And You're Already On Salon.com War Room

*Updated Friday Jan. 21
Hoof and Mouth Disease Makes an Appearance During Alabama Governor's Inauguration Festivities

We're not at all surprised by this. "Dr. Dr." Bentley is a dull tack in the sophistication and smarts department anyway, but to scandalize himself and further solidify the impression of Alabama as "backwoods and backwards" during his inauguration, on MLK Day and in Martin Luther's first church to boot, is taking stupidity to new heights.

And this is not the first time he has stuffed his hooves in his mouth. Left in Alabama has gathered some great examples of Bentley's inability to understand a lot of things everyday people deal with. He's gotten to far above his raising to remember what it's like to be one of the many, and not one of the few, who are privileged.

Communications director Rebekkah Mason Caldwell and whoever his speech writers are don't seem well suited to the job of helping a governor portray himself as 21st century. But it was Bentley's "private remarks" when he thought he was a "private citizen" that have the whole country in an uproar. With Alabama "deeply involved" (corporate welfare) in economic development deals with foreign entities,  he may have stepped in it more than he realizes.

We should all chip in and buy Ms. Mason a heavy duty shovel to follow the governor around with, because she is going to be one busy gal. Or maybe the "simple man" Bentley can spare a few dollars of the $1.4 million dollars he collected from the Big Mule crowd and loan her a few bucks.

Like a scolded mule who got a whuppin' from refusing to pull the wagon, he's acting contrite now, but only because he needs to be. He showed his true colors with his insensitive, fundamentalist and holier-than-thou remarks the first time around, and is just another stoic Southern Baptist who thinks he is entitled to judge others through his own social parameters. They frequently hide behind religion as an excuse for bad behavior and bad company and think all is forgiven because they sit in the pews every Sunday.

In the South we call these types Sunday Christians--religion is more of a tool to judge than to live by. Be seen on Sunday and act any way you want to the rest of the week. You're forgiven because your glossy pants are on the bench every Sunday morning and Wednesday evenings.

Kind of like the Balch & Bingham lawyer who reps the notorious Drummond Coal Co. against the Walker County, Alabama family who is suing the coal giant for subsidence damage to their land from longwall mining in the area. That lawyer is a Methodist Sunday School leader at the high and mighty Bluff Park UMC. All inclusive brotherly love doesn't seem high on his list either, but corporate love, well, that might be something to ponder.

Marcus Chatterton has had the privilege of leading a Sunday School class at Bluff Park United Methodist Church since 2004, and he serves on the church’s board of steward
Subsidence Litigation – Along with Chuck Burkhart, David Burkholder, and Houston Smith, Marcus is defending several large corporations against claims of property damage and diminution allegedly caused by subsidence from underground coal mining in Walker County, Alabama.  Many of these cases have already been disposed of by dismissal or summary judgment in favor of the corporations, and the litigation team is aggressively defending the remaining claims.

The point is that we have abundant low hanging fruit on the tree of religious hypocrisy growing in Alabama, and the new governor's remarks are illustrative of what continues to hold Alabama back--religious fundamentalism and bigotry by self-proclaimed anointed ones who are full of the spirits of prejudice and avarice, not the Holy Ghost.
*(post originally published @ 2:37 pm)

Video links:

*Update--Doc's Political Parlor has printed a copy of an email from a group who were planning to visit Alabama on a golf outing. Thanks to Mule Bentley, they will be spending their money and time in another less judgmental and backasswards state. Good job Dr. Dr.
The Montgomery Advertiser claims that "Few in Alabama Are Upset"
Bookmark and Share

Gas Industry Secrets And A Nurse's Story--High Country News Erin Frankowski

With the debate on hydraulic fracking heating up (HuffPost Mark Ruffalo's Crusade Against Fracking article) this previous published story from High Country News, Writers On The Range Eric Frankowski deserves a second time around:

This July, an emergency room nurse named Cathy Behr wanted to tell Colorado's Oil and Gas Conservation Commission the story of how she nearly died after being exposed to a mystery chemical from a gas-patch accident.

Regulators said she wasn't scheduled to testify and they didn't want to hear it. But anyone concerned about natural gas development should listen.

Behr, who works in southern Colorado, at Durango's Mercy Regional Medical Center, fell ill last April after being exposed for 10 minutes to a gas-field worker who had come into the ER, his clothes damp and reeking. He'd come into contact with one of the "secret formulas" drillers use to hydraulically fracture oil- and gas-bearing formations.

Within minutes of inhaling the nauseating fumes coming off the worker, Behr lost her sense of smell. (She later told her story to the Durango Herald, a daily paper that has done excellent reporting on the incident: durangoherald.com.) The ER was locked down and the room ventilated by firefighters. But when Behr went home after her 12-hour shift, she still couldn't smell anything. Then the headache she'd developed got worse. A week later, her liver, heart and lungs began to shut down. She spent 30 hours in intensive care.

Read more here

The Huff Post story is well above 550 comments at last check, but this story from the High Country News' Erin Frankowski is compelling and thought provoking about the dangers of even passive exposure from fracking. 

Nothing about this process is safe, in fact it's all fracked up anyway you look at it.

What else should we expect from Halliburton?
Bookmark and Share
 Subscribe in a reader