Something is very wrong in the Land of Cotton



Dr. Robert Bullard
Environmental Justice Movement Founder

Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday Roundup

Alabama is like a carnival ride that goes up and down and round and round. It has thrills and chills and sleight of hand parlor tricks galore. But after a while you begin to wonder what’s real and what’s just a ride.

Shades of "Sir William" and his band of thieves?---Bob Lowry of the Huntsville Times reports on the most expensive school learning software we have ever heard of in Alabama:
Turns out that similar to the "Sir William" looting, public money from the Education Trust Fund was funneled 'somewhere else out of view.' In this case, it went to the CLAS organization, a private entity, which served as a cloak in keeping the state school board in the dark about where the money was being spent. Joe Morton, State Superintendent, admitted he "should have consulted with the Alabama Board of Education" and "he wasn't trying to keep the funds secret" but that he was "proud that the system works."

Works for whom exactly? The highest number of schools ever using the Kids College program was 291, down to 183 as of January 2011. Less than 20% of the 1106 elementary schools in the state are 'benefiting.' Oh, he must mean 'works' for the CLAS lobbyists and the Big Joe Morton discretionary powers.

Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives and Rileyite (a shared trait with Campbell and Morton, anybody seeing a pattern here?) Mike Hubbard owned one of the software programs "Learning Through Sports" and claims he's free and clear of wrongdoing in any way because he sold his interest in LTS in 2005, for $.55 cents a share, but declined to reveal how many shares he owned.

CLAS enjoys the lobbying services of Swatek, Azbell, Howe & Ross. Swatek is another close ally of former Governor Bob Riley.

The republicans favorite target, AEA Director Dr. Paul Hubbert said he had "never heard of a private entity receiving those kinds of state funds" and suspects there is more to this than meets the eye. So does the state school board who have never seen any accounting of the funds.

But one figurehead on the board defends the sleight of hand:
State board Vice President Randy McKinney of Gulf Shores said board members don't necessarily need to know about every dollar spent by the superintendent. But he added that he would like to see a posting on the Internet of all education grants by Morton's office.
Morton and McKinney's claims of woulda shoulda coulda resemble fun house mirror images of accountability because they could have done what they are now suggesting before a savvy news reporter caught on to what they were doing and published it for all to see.

In a later story, Morton proved that he finds it easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission and apologized for his actions. Let's see the accounting and then we'll decide how much forgiveness.

Isn't it interesting that once the audience figures out the trick the magicians have a lot more to say?

It is becoming increasingly evident that there needs to be a firewall of sorts built into the Education Trust Fund that will protect it from future misappropriations and political shell games.

The EU and Portugal have no respect for Alabama---In a CNBC Story from late March we get a glimpse behind the world curtain and see how the rest of the world feels about our little patch of dirt called Alabama:
Being in the euro zone is actually "a great opportunity" because it makes countries strive to be more productive and make structural reforms, Carlos Moedas added. "If we just keep on cutting an not doing the reform, we have no solution, we will eventually become the Alabama of the European Union and we don’t want that," he said. (note the comment by bigcjim who's upset Alabama's schools went through "forced integration.")
Now there's something to be proud of and Moedas is exactly right--the Alabama Legislature is busy again this year trying to look effective by slashing and burning budgets and refusing to enact effective reforms. Most of the take away game is directed at democratic entities, teachers, seniors, school children and one especially dirty trick by Rileyite Representative Jay Love-R and some members on the House Ways and Means Education Committee in a divided voice vote:
The House Ways and Means-Education Committee voted Thursday for a bill that would transfer $30 million from a fund that provides telephone service for the deaf to the education budget.
Love isn't feeling any love for Alabama's deaf citizens.

Senator Paul Bussman-R and the side show of the lack of common sense---He's proposing (audio link) SB196, heavily lobbied for by rabid father's rights groups, we say rabid because the wording of the bill is extreme and not in the best interest of the child, a bar that is recognized nationwide, and will result in punishing a child when parents divorce.

If Bussman gets his way with this bill, in the absence of a "parenting plan" agreement by the divorcing parents, children will be forced to be uprooted and ordered to live with the other parent for one year, and any money spent for the child will allow for a reduction off child support. Bussman does not admit this fact in the audio link above. He also withdrew from continued mediation on the bill in early April.

The bill seeks to raise the already high bar of proving a parent to be unfit. Most law enforcement and family law attorneys admit that the current burden of proving unfitness allows for a lot of bad behavior that can be physically and mentally very damaging to children before the court will step in. So let's make that even harder to rise to?

We agree with an editorial from the Huntsville Times that says "the trial court should retain jurisdiction based on written findings of fact" rather than a blanket law that seems to puts parent's interests above the child like the one Senator Bussman is proposing.
Clinical Psychologist Kenneth Sullivan explains, "If it’s going to be split half and half, you’d expect that that’s going to impose less stability for the children. The children would be paying a price for the parents’ preference."
The legislature cannot keep their own affairs in order, what gives them the right to meddle in what are already complex and sensitive family court affairs? Maybe the explanation is that some of the 27 sponsors of the bill are ex-husbands with an axe to grind for grievances against their ex-wives that are now years old? And just for the record, if the shoe were on the other foot we would be just as troubled by it. So no H8 mail please.

Alabama spending spree with BP money---
Some Gulf States have been unable to resist the thrill of BP money spending it on brand new SUVs, I-Phones, computers and scalawag state senators personal business interests i.e. Alabama Senator Trip Pittman and Baldwin County Commissioner Bob James. Little detail is available for where all the Alabama money went, but this MSNBC story reveals the big time Gulf states have been having on the BP dime.

"Alabama's Emergency Management Agency distributed $30 million without turning down a single request."

We have to wonder how many state employees, special interests, political buddies and elected officials got more than they should have in the deal. That includes the EMC and ADEM.

No detailed accounting has been offered. Big shock under the big top that one is.

Serve the Gulf or Serving Us Up?---The company that brought us the concept of "Alternative education" in the GoBuildAlabama campaign (the commercials are running again on Fox 6 after a hiatus) Big Communications, has put together a new ride and invited the whole world to step right up and delight in the Gulf seafood heartily and often and toss your concerns to the wind.

"It's safe, it's clean and it's dee-licious!"--Dr. Dr. Governor Bentley 

Even NOAA is getting in on the act:
April 12, 2011 Tweets
“Not one piece of tainted seafood has entered the market.” - #NOAA fisheries chief Eric Schwaab about 22 hours ago via TweetDeck

NOAA shows proof that Gulf seafood is safe: http://bit.ly/gwsG18  #oilspill #servethegulf about 22 hours ago via TweetDeck

"The FDA says a person could eat 63 pounds of peeled shrimp, five pounds of oyster meat or nine pounds of fish (18, eight-ounce filets) a day for five years without exceeding health risks." 

Is it really? Never mind the fact that the FDA raised the threshold of acceptable toxic chemical exposure limits after the BP Spill from 10 ppm to 100 million ppm on finned fish and from 50ppm to 500 ppm for shellfish. Many questions still linger and so does litigation about the testing procedures going on with Gulf seafood:
"It is unethical to 'experiment' with the health of the U.S. population or military members who may be admonished to consume TPH-tainted Gulf seafood."
We really do want the Gulf seafood industry to recover, especially for the fisherman who know only one way of life--to fish. But, we are highly skeptical that too many unknowns are at play and information is skewed or suppressed.  
(And please get rid of that damned "oyster czar" who is not helping the oyster fishermen one bit Governor Bentley.)

That's happening right now with tissue samples from sea turtles and dolphins and who defends the 'confidentiality' as they call it? NOAA.

When in doubt call the military out---In an effort to boost the economy in the Dauphin Island area post BP Spill, the Department of Defense has it's eye on the Isle:
“If we can do something to bring economic development to the island, bolster our local businesses and do something for our military men and women, how much better can it get?” Dauphin Island Mayor Collier said. 
Collier is considering the idea after frustration with what he calls "talk from politicians about getting BP money and using it for this and that" and "none of that has happened."

DI may have to 'give up' its golf course and some private beachfront parcels of land owned by residents for this to happen. Not everyone is on board with the proposal. If the residents don't want to sell, watch for Eminent Domain to make an unannounced appearance from behind the side door.

Welcome to Alabama Cockfighting capital of the US---Cockfighting is an old practice that dates back hundreds of years. It's cruel, crime-ridden and distasteful to a modern society. The operative word being 'modern.' Alabama has the weakest penalties in the nation.

A bill is in the legislature this year that would strengthen penalties for this barbaric practice that looks like it is going down in flames thanks to the Cockfighting lobby. Yes they really do have one. And we really are an archaic lot to encourage this lunacy.

Representative Mo Brooks-R does Alabama proud---Brooks was on the floor of the US House of Representatives this morning debating the 2012 budget and criticized "certain socialist members of the body" on their spending decisions. 'You are all socialists my democratic counterparts and yes I said it and whut are yew goin' ta do about it boys?!' 

He didn't get away with it though and was forced to withdraw the word:
After some awkward silence, Brooks was asked by the Republican in the chair if he had a request for unanimous consent, and Brooks then asked for unanimous consent that his use of the word "socialist" be stricken from the record.
Brooks was allowed to finish his remarks on the budget, and said, "For whatever reason I am permitted not to use one word."
He must have forgotten he wasn't in Alabama where such inflammatory language is encouraged. Tolerance is a virtue that gathers a lot of cobwebs when it comes to Alabama politicians. Watch for this on the national evening news.

Good job dunderhead, that will go a long way to help the state's image.

Step right on up folks and witness the greatest show that never was---sense and sensibility in Alabamy.
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  1. Morton is only contrite because he was CAUGHT! I'm waiting with baited breath to see where the money went. As of we don't already know.
    Love not feeling any love. That's putting it mildly. What ha heartless move even if he tries to justify it by saying it's only for a year.
    Meet the new boss, he's the old boss.

  2. Who is the oyster czar? That's nuts!
    I feel really sorry for the fisherman and all the hell they have been through and are still going through. They are lucky they didn't drown. Why didn't the all caring Governor have a barge down there?

  3. Why does Joe Morton still have a job?
    He's a CROOK and he needs to go!!!
    Preferably to jail!

  4. Nice to know we are thought of so highly by the EU.

  5. According to U.S. Census records, state education spending increased from $3.57 billion in 1992 to $10.65 billion in 2008.

    Inflation was about 52 percent over the same period.

    Alabama’s population rose from 4.1 million to 4.7 million, 14.6 percent, during the period, but public school enrollment increased less, according to one expert.

    Education spending has consumed a larger-and-larger percentage of Alabama’s budget over the last decade-and-a-half.

    In 1992 education claimed 37 cents of every dollar the state spent, according to Census data. By 2008 that figure had risen to 43 cents on the dollar, outpacing expenditures on public welfare, health, hospitals, infrastructure, police protection and corrections.

    Dr. John Hill, Research Fellow at the Alabama Policy Institute, said when costs are adjusted for cost-of-living, Alabama education systems compare quite favorably to other states.

    “Money is not Alabama’s issue,” Hill said. “In inputs we rank quite well; it’s in the outputs we stink.”

    Asked where in the Alabama school systems the money went, Hill said it’s difficult to say.

    “Is it technology, is it administration? I’m not sure,” Hill said. “The nut of it is that the enrollment has remained relatively flat but we are spending more and more.”

    I think we can answer the question now. It WAS technology and lobbyists, not the children.

  6. This position is appointed.

    Appointed by who?

    Governor in thief Robert Renfroe Riley!!!!

    Who has stolen the state blind!!!

  7. They should come put with a reality show "Politicians behaving badly" and just set up camp here. The supply of material is a never ending wellspring.

  8. I knew there was a reason I hate carnivals.

  9. Seems that there is always a cock-o-stuff going on in Alabama. You do keep the rest of us entertained, but I sure would hate to live there.

  10. If the Dr. Dr. would get rid of the Riley dirt in the state and the state agencies he just may have a chance.
    On second thought, nah, he is definitely in over his bald head.

  11. Education Superintendent Joe Morton said he believes Riley's greatest strength in education is vision.

    “We had always been in the bottom two or three states,” Morton said. “He gave us a vision and made us believe we could be great. He made us believe we could do it.”

    Do what Joe? Help you pull one over on the ETF?

  12. Re: BP money:
    Let us not forget that Riley slipped $7.9 million of BP dollars to Luther Strange on his last day in office and 3 days PRIOR to Strange being sworn into office. Riley directed him to use it on Bingo. For crying out loud! BP money to keep E Bingo out of Alabama. And Luther Strange accepted the bribe! Thank you Max Shelby for keepin it real! (MG of Tuskegee.

  13. Dr. Dr. claims he asked for that to be returned.
    Maybe he did, but did Big Luther really give it back? I DON'T BELIEVE IT.
    I think there may have been a sit down let me tell you how it is Governor meeting and the story we saw in the press was a ploy.


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