|Cliff Sims of "Yellow Hammer Politics" photo credit: POLITICO The Arena|
Kids are off limits in political discourse. Leave them alone.
Young Master Sims published a blog entry on April 9th entitled “Alabama Liberals Using Elementary Children to Fight Their Battles.” The brief article contained a copy of a letter allegedly written by a nine-year-old student from Vestavia Hills West Elementary school. The letter was addressed and sent to long-time Alabama State Senator Jabo Waggoner-R (not Cliff Sims).
“Of course, as with almost every other pro-economic development piece of legislation, the Alabama Education Association has fought it every step of the way.” Sims writes, and then says:
However, this past week, the HB 159/160 opposition took their efforts to a pathetic new low by making elementary children fight their PR battle for them. Numerous legislators have received letters from children that include sentences like, “Please don’t let the government take money away from my school” (a frequently used mischaracterization of the bill) and my personal favorite, “I wish I could trust the government to take care of me.” His blog then offers a photo of hands holding a letter written on school note paper. Sims goes on:
“The following letter was sent to Sen. Jabo Waggoner and Rep. Jack Williams by a 9-year-old little girl this past week. I’ve blurred her name to protect her identity.”
A “received stamp” appears at the top left corner of the letter. We do not know if the stamp is the same one that the Alabama State House uses as a matter of course, or if it is some generic stamp one might find anywhere. The identity of the smallish fingers holding the letter can’t possibly belong to the child, so we assume they are the dirty little digits of a Yellow Hammer troublemaker, who has blurred the signer’s name, but failed to remove the letter writer's school and grade, which leaves some kid out there very close to being identified.
Vestavia Hills is not a bastion of liberal ideals by any stretch of the imagination. Finding anyone, let alone a school child, who would parrot the line "I hope the government takes care of me" in the tiny kingdom of the "Little Rebels" has about the same odds of winning a Mega Millions lottery prize.
Sims knows this, and so does Senator Waggoner. Right-wing catch phrases just aren't part of a young child's vocabulary, which casts doubt on the authenticity of the letter in our humble opinions, but if you're going to use the letter to make a public point then criticism of the action is more than fair game.
Additionally, we do have a few questions about the intentions involved and why Sims chose to toss a little moldy political hay at the child's expense:
- Who gave him access this letter?
- Did he have the permission of the letter writer to publish the letter?
- Why is he reading legislators mail?
- Did he ever reflect for a nanosecond about his sources and their motives?
Or is he like a school-aged brat who shouts out naughty words in the schoolyard to get the grownups attention without comprehending what he is actually saying? Whatever his agenda was, it’s over the line noxious abuse to go into a child’s correspondence and attribute things that aren’t there.
Unless he interviewed the child and her parents he has no way of knowing where the letter was penned. He alludes to the letter being written in class, probably the plot (in his mind at least) by one of those 'evil, socialist teachers' who belong to the ALGOP dubbed 'Spawn of Satan' Alabama Education Association (AEA).
(We acknowledge that the AEA has had its share of self-inflicted controversy over the years, and remain hopeful they've learned some lessons from their past actions. That said, the Republicans target them for obliteration solely on their democratic-leaning voting block. As Senator Waggoner himself once said about Alabama Democrats: "I'd like to drive them out of existence forever.")
That’s the same organization, not a union, that Rep Darrell Issa’s House Committee conveniently decided to lean on for their policies regarding teacher’s contributions and how those monies are used. Isn’t it amazing that all the way from Washington, Mr. Issa, unprompted and completely out of the blue, decided to send a letter to the AEA, based on a complaint the FEC investigated and dismissed in 2004?
Cliff Sims (or Mr. Issa) can’t be bothered with that important fact: the FEC dismissed the complaint.
(Sims also had access to Mr. Issa's letter to the AEA and published it on his site.)
Instead, he turns his attention to a school child and the contents of their letter in an effort to bolster the state Republicans American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) inspired legislation for Charter Schools.
That is what the letter refers to. It has nothing to do with HB 159/160. Those equally bad bills have to do with ‘economic development,’ and in essence allow a business to keep their employees income tax credits, without their consent (the same basis the FEC complaint centered around) to apply for job expansion.
The Charter School legislation proposed by the state's Republican lawmakers will drain money from Alabama’s ailing public school systems, and that’s the main point the child made in the letter, along with “I love my school.”
School children don’t care about economic development.
What they (and their parents) care about is where they spend eight hours of their days, nine months of the year, and if that place is a flourishing forest of ideas that cultivate children to a better future or a barren wasteland of neglect that holds them back due to intentional (and sometimes corruptible) bad political decisions.
Proponents of education reform can find plenty of examples to buttress either side of the education debate, however, assigning real reform to a corporate-based profit model, as Charter Schools are, is wrong-headed on its face.
Alabama has consistently ranked at the bottom nationally in education not due to a pervasive liberal agenda - greed, corruption and apathy have inflicted more harm to our education system than any identifiable culprit Sims and his Republican minions can point to.
But that doesn't stop them from trying.
Whoever annotated the child's letter “Re: HB 159/160” didn’t bother to read it, because it’s impossible to connect the contents with those bills. Sims is equally remiss by blurting it out on his blog and proving himself to be no smarter than a 5th grader.
If the letter is authentic, what does it say about Alabama’s senior state senator, who’s a grandfather and great-grandfather to many offspring himself? We don’t imagine he would be pleased to see one of his own children’s or grandchildren's correspondence used in such an obviously partisan political purpose.
Shame on you Senator Waggoner, if you, and Rep. Jack Williams, had any hand in this disgusting ploy.
As for young Sims, clearly he’s been studying diligently at the school of nasty Alabama politics and stayed after hours for extra credit from the headmasters. This time, he went too far – miles out of the bounds of decency in fact.
It's political child abuse to expose and malign a private communication as Sims did.
Leave the kids alone.
*Update - Cliff Sims has since removed the child's letter from his website with this explanation: