Our Common Good

WKRG-TV managed to track down Derrick Belcher, the man responsible for the petition calling for Alabama’s secession.

Gawker noted on Thursday that the 45-year-old trucking company manager was really just upset because his Euro Details topless car wash had been shut down by the government.

But according to Al.com, it was the Mobile city government — not the federal government — that arrested Belcher and charged him with obscenity after the state of Alabama enacted an anti-obscenity law in 1998.

“The government ripped my business away, and now they’re choking America to death with rules and regulations,” the secessionist explained.

Another Teabagger who skipped civics class.


Dana Milbank writes:

… [A] large number of patriotic Americans, mostly from states won by Mitt Romney last week, have petitioned the White House to let them secede. They should be careful about what they wish for. It would be excellent financial news for those of us left behind if Obama were to grant a number of the rebel states their wish “to withdraw from the United States … .”

Red states receive, on average, far more from the federal government in expenditures than they pay in taxes. The balance is the opposite in blue states. The secession petitions, therefore, give the opportunity to create what would be, in a fiscal sense, a far more perfect union.

Among those states with large numbers of petitioners asking out: Louisiana (more than 28,000 signatures at midday Tuesday), which gets about $1.45 in federal largess for every $1 it pays in taxes; Alabama (more than 20,000 signatures), which takes $1.71 for every $1 it puts in; South Carolina (26,000), which takes $1.38 for its dollar; and Missouri (22,000), which takes $1.29 for its dollar.

Damn, 10 Commandment Ray Moore got the bench back

Republican Roy Moore, Alabama’s controversial “Ten Commandments Judge,” is back on the ballot this year, running for chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court — despite being removed from that office nearly a decade ago.

In a state as red as they come, he is facing last-minute Democratic challenger Bob Vance, who is reaching out to moderate Republicans turned off by Moore’s politics.

Moore has been on the front lines of the culture wars since the 1990s, when, as an Alabama circuit judge, he displayed a small wooden plaque of the Ten Commandments in his Gadsden courtroom. In a 1997 interview with NPR, he said it was his duty to acknowledge God.

"Separation of church and state never meant to separate God from government," he said. "The First Amendment never meant to divide our country from an acknowledgement of God."


Little-known outside Alabama legal circles, Vance is trying to forge a fragile coalition of Democrats and the establishment Republicans who aren’t comfortable with Moore’s religious crusades.

"Part of my message is that I will be a chief justice that will serve honorably and won’t embarrass the people of this state," Vance told NPR.


But just as Vance and his allies aim hard for country-club and chamber-of-commerce Republicans, Moore’s more populist campaign is trying to energize grass-roots social conservatives. A big part of the message is that Vance is a Democrat with a capital D.

"Not only is this candidate against Judge Moore a Democrat, but he has personally given thousands of dollars to Barack Obama — Barack Hussein Obama’s campaign for president," Moore adviser Dean Young told a crowd at a Tea Party rally in Mobile as he introduced his candidate.

In his speech, Moore spent little time talking about his opponent, focusing instead on President Obama and his positions on key social issues like abortion and gay marriage.

"He has ignored our laws, the most wholesome and necessary," Moore said. "For instance, the Defense of Marriage Act. Declaring as president for the first time in the history of this country that marriage is not the union of one man and one woman but whatever the Supreme Court or whatever court says it is."

Sylvia Roberts of Mobile came to the rally to hear Moore speak. She says she’d like to see both Moore and his Ten Commandments restored to the Alabama Supreme Court.

"We’re at a critical juncture in our nation," Roberts says. "We will either go back to our Christianity, and the faith, the doctrines that our nation was founded on or we will be a socialist, Marxist country."

When the RNC then publicly claimed to have "fired" Sproul’s new company, after the fraudulent forms came to light, it’s likely that the RNC also knew full well that many of their state GOP affiliate organizations were still quietly employing Sproul’s firms for partisan work in a number of other states.


Perhaps even more disturbing is the evidence suggesting that his companies are still operating in states around the country under different names. That, despite the RNC’s claims to have “severed our relationship” with Sproul, and the assertion that they “acted swiftly and boldly” to cut ties with the group only after the allegedly fraudulent registration forms came to light in Florida (and as Democratic registration forms were also alleged to have been destroyed by Strategic workers in other states, such as Colorado and Nevada.)


Shortly after the GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal first broke late last month, $430,000 in payments from the California Republican Party made to “Grassroots Outreach, LLC”, a firm which shared the same corporate Tempe, AZ address as Sproul’s companies Sproul & Associates and Lincoln Strategy Groups.

Most of the payments in this election cycle, according to the database, are said to be for “Signature Gathering” (presumably for ballot initiatives, etc.), though $34,000 of those payments are noted to be for “Voter Registration”.

Sproul confirmed to The BRAD BLOG that Grassroots Outreach is, indeed, one of his companies, though he insists the CA database is in error, because, he says, his companies have done no voter registration in the state this year.


Now, Flynn has uncovered new evidence of another company calling itself “Issue Advocacy Partners”. He documents help wanted ads, some posted as recently as September 26th, mirroring those published previously by Strategic Allied Consulting.

"Similar ads were being posted in other states, namely Wisconsin, Iowa, Virginia, New York and New Jersey, for almost identical jobs with another entity, Issue Advocacy Partners," writes Flynn. "Some of the listings are connected directly to Sproul’s Lincoln Strategy Group. Others use Sproul’s Tempe, AZ, business address for contact information." [Update: Since original publication this morning, Flynn writes in to note that Issue Advocacy Partners has also now “popped up” in Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana as well. “Also,” he adds, “two former supervisors of Sproul’s NC operation have moved to OH, one now hiring ‘Voter Outreach Representatives’”.]

"Some of the ads specifically mention voter registration," Flynn details, while others use "terms like ‘seeking to hire grassroots canvassers to identify conservative voters’, ‘voter recruiter’, ‘conservative voter identification’, ‘voter ID’, ‘identify conservative voters’."

One of the ads Flynn found, posted on 9/27 and since removed, reads: “Issue Advocacy Partners is a conservative organization working to register voters as well as remind voters to vote conservatively in the upcoming election.”


From the evidence detailed above, it’s clear that, despite the RNC’s claim to have cut ties with Sproul, and his own originally unqualified assertion that he and his companies were not “still work[ing] for the RNC or other state or local parties,” there is a great deal of evidence that his operations are still working on behalf of Republicans in California and Oregon under the name Grassroots Outreach, and in Wisconsin, Iowa, Virginia, New York and New Jersey under the name Issue Advocacy Partners.


Last week, three ranking members of high profile U.S. House committees sent a letter to RNC Chair Reince Priebus, seeking more information about the RNC’s work with Sproul. It was signed by Democratic Reps. Charles Gonzalez, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Elections; John Conyers, Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee; and Elijah Cummings, Ranking Member of the Committee on Oversight & Government Reform.

The letter, which cites reports on this matter by The BRAD BLOG in a number of its footnotes, details the Republican Party’s “unfortunate history of voter suppression” and its “Years of illicit and unethical behavior” which “led to the 1982 consent decree under which the RNC agreed to ‘refrain from undertaking any ballot security activities’ or anything else that might ‘deter qualified voters from voting’.”

"Despite your party’s requests over the past thirty years, federal courts have repeatedly declined to lift that decree," the letter to Priebus continues. "The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit on December 13, 2010, pointed to violations as recent as 2004 and found no evidence of ‘any significant change that renders prospective application of the Decree inequitable.’"

While McDonald’s will remain king of the chips at the London 2012 Olympic Games, BP has charged itself with delivering the culinary “spirit of the Gulf”. The Louisiana Office of Tourism announced this week that the oil company would be hosting a series of events for Team USA that will pair three Gulf coast bands with chefs from Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida preparing “the world’s freshest and best-tasting seafood”.

No doubt Team USA will enjoy the New Orleans jazz and Cajun food on offer, but it’s more than a little troubling that, after the 2010 Gulf oil spill, BP has co-opted the phrase “spirit of the Gulf” as a promotional device to position itself as the gatekeeper to the region’s culture and cuisine.

It doesn’t quite feel right.  But I have a hard time getting too furious with anything that helps the people devastated by that oil spill.  And we know that BP is only doing this because - as with their Gulf Coast promoting commercials, their legal settlements require them too. 

In a blistering order yesterday, a county judge in Alabama called enough on one city’s use of a private probation company that passes on fees for its work to people convicted of crimes and then throws them into jail when they can’t pay. We covered this on the show a couple of weeks ago as the unlikely return of debtors prisons in this country, drawing on a long feature in the New York Times. Shelby County (Alabama) Judge Hub Harrington sees the matter that same way. Ruling in a suit against the town of Harpersville, he writes (pdf):

When viewed in a light most favorable to Defendants, their testimony concerning the City’s court system could reasonably be characterized as the operation of a debtors prison. The court notes that these generally fell into disfavor by the early 1800’s, though the practice appears to have remained common place in Harpersville. From a fair reading of the defendants’ testimony one might ascertain that a more apt description of the Harpersville Municipal Court practices is that of a judicially sanctioned extortion racket. Most distressing is that these abuses have been perpetrated by what is supposed to be a court of law. Disgraceful.

Judge Harrington writes that the list of ways in which constitutional safeguards have been violated is too long to chronicle, but he spells out several. Number eight caught my eye: “Defendants interminably held in the county work release program until all fines and fees are paid in full.” In addition to holding folks in debtors prison, he’s saying, they’re also holding them in indefinite work release — for profit. While the case continues, Judge Harrington says he’s taking over the cases of the folks thrown into jail for not paying.

The company, Judicial Correction Services, Inc., promises to help courts cut recidivism and boost their fine collection. The company has offices in Georgia, Alabama, Florida and Mississippi.


An Alabama pastor is holding a “whites only” conference.


An Alabama pastor is holding a “whites only” conference.

Environmentalists and urban planners are on the run in Alabama as the state becomes the first to pass legislation banning Agenda 21, and all that entails. Tea Party types are ecstatic


Over at Huffpo, Andrew Reinbach writes a great summary of the Agenda 21 issue and its roots in the John Birch Society. I have called it the right wing “theory of everything”; Reinbach calls it “a sort of grab-bag for fringe ideas.”

An Alabama newspaper has exposed a judicial sex scandal that deserves national prominence — which it’s not getting so far.

The May 17 headline was “Federal judge’s lengthy affair with court worker is exposed.”

This is a scandal not simply for Mark Everett Fuller, shown at left in 2006 during his seven-year term as chief federal judge controlling operations of the state’s Montgomery-based middle district. The scandal shames those in the Justice Department, federal court system and the United States Senate who have protected Fuller for a decade.


The heartbroken wife of a politician who secretly acted as a sperm donor behind her back says he has left her to be with babies conceived with other women.

Speaking from her home in the United States, Kathy Johnson says her husband Bill has returned to live in New Zealand where he donated sperm to at least 10 women without her knowledge.


A candidate for the Republican nomination to be governor of the state in 2009, Mr Johnson campaigned on a political platform opposing gay marriage. A number of the women he donated to are in committed civil unions with gay partners.

Mrs Johnson said she had fought for five months to save her marriage but could not break her husband’s fixation on the babies he had biologically fathered.


The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources acted this week to close waters along the Gulf Coast to shrimping due to widespread reports from scientists and fishermen of deformed seafood and drastic fall-offs in populations two years after the BP oil spill. All waters in the Mississippi Sound and Mobile Bay, and some areas of Bon Secour, Wolf Bay and Little Lagoon were closed to shrimpers. Reports of grossly deformed seafood all along the Gulf from Louisiana to the Florida panhandle have been logged with increasing urgency, but Alabama is the first state to actually close waters to the seafood industry.

Some Alabama officials are hedging on the real reason for closing shrimping but this report is largely substantiated by multiple sources.

Thursday, 250 Teamsters in Seattle went on strike against Republic Services, the second-largest waste disposal company in the United States.  Workers in Buffalo, New York, and Columbus, Ohio struck Republic for three days earlier this week.  These workers aren’t responding to moves by local management.  Instead, they went on strike in solidarity with 24 striking co-workers in Alabama.  That kind of strike has become all too rare in the modern labor movement – and it’s usually illegal.


“It means a whole lot to know that other guys stand behind us…” says Alabama striker Robert Agee.  “To have that much support from people you don’t even know means a whole lot.”  That solidarity – from South to Northeast to Midwest to Northwest – may be what brought Republic back to the negotiating table for the first time in months.


Officials with the Mobile-based Teamsters Local 991 say that after nearly a year of negotiations, they reached a contract deal with Republic last month.  But after votes to ratify the deal had already begun, Republic backtracked on one of its provisions: eliminating two fees on workers.  One is a $40/ month fee on workers who use tobacco; the other is a $100 / month fee on workers whose spouses have access to another healthcare plan (even a much worse one) but use Republic’s plan instead.

In response to Republic’s announcement it would not lift the fees, the Teamsters filed Unfair Labor Practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (being stubborn in negotiations isn’t itself illegal, but backtracking often is).  “They broke federal labor law.” says Chuck Stiles, Assistant Director of the Teamsters’ Solid Waste and Recycling Division.  “We had an agreement that the surcharge was going to be completely waived, and that’s what they pissed backwards on.”  At 11:30 PM on March 22, Alabama Republic workers went on strike.  90 minutes later, Teamsters mounted picket lines in Buffalo and Columbus, and workers there refused to work.

Being poor and Republican is like being a cow and pro-leather. Despite the conservative bona fides, the South isn’t pulling herself up by her bootstraps … mainly because she can’t see her toes she’s about to lose to diabetes.


Southern conservatives can bemoan “paying for someone else’s birth control” but in this way the New England states are paying for “someone else’s” (namely the South’s) Lipitor.

Welcome immigrants. When you welcome immigrants – you welcome tourists, you welcome tax revenue and then, counter-intuitively, the South can be more self-reliant. That’s a conservative principle in a “severely” right-leaning culture.

The best thing the South can do to save herself is welcome the world. Be a place immigrants move to. Let smart people from other countries call themselves Alabamians. Let hard working people everywhere call Mississippi home. Welcome the world to the South.

By not giving a speech on primary night and in Alabama and Mississippi, Mitt Romney sent a clear middle finger raised sore loser message to the South.