Sunday, January 27, 2008

Things still happen in Alabama, too

As much attention as the presidential race has gotten this month -- and I'll be sure to pile on some more in the coming days -- it never hurts to take a quick look around the home front. Here goes.

Crime and punishment: The two-year college scandal that led to a Pulitzer Prize for the reporter who unveiled it officially has blown wide open. Former Chancellor Roy Johnson has pleaded guilty to a host of corruption charges and agreed to tell federal prosecutors what he knows about others' transgressions. Johnson, 62, faces a substantial prison sentence for the 15 counts, but the U.S. attorney has promised not to charge his children.

Johnson was a one-time Democratic power player, and the scandal has served as a self-inflicted wound for a party that has faced an uphill battle in Alabama in the last two decades. The plea agreement, which says Johnson "used his official position" to help legislators and state school board members' relatives get jobs with the two-year system, doubtless has Republicans chomping at the bit to see how many big names Johnson will rattle off. Here's hoping, for the sake of fairness and justice, that the investigation continues until all public officials who have broken the law and abused the public trust are punished accordingly.

Time to put those polar bears to work for us: Alabama faces a budget shortfall of more than $800 million next year. The state's Medicaid agency is asking for an extra $150 million just to hold something roughly approximating serve. Gov. Bob Riley will request tens of millions of dollars in new spending on education initiatives but refuses to propose any tax increases to pay for them. So amid all this, what do House Republicans suggest? You've got it: tax cuts. The only possible theory I can see behind this is the hope that we can cut revenues so low that eventually global warming and its polar bear masters will have no choice but to intervene in our favor, scattering afternoon thunderstorms of pure, cold, hard cash all across our beautiful state.

Isn't this supposed to be a 'red state'?: GOP presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee attracted an impressive 2,200 people to Samford University on Saturday for a campaign appearance that included a welcome from Riley. Hours earlier today, Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama drew more than 10,000 people to a speech in Birmingham. I'll have plenty more to say on the White House race later, but until then, chalk this up as yet another indication that the "red state/blue state" divide is just as mythical as tales of Zeus and Loki.

Other play? What other play?: Alabama head football coach Nick Saban passed within about 30 feet of his predecessor, Mike Shula, last week in Mobile. Barely 30 minutes after a Birmingham News reporter noted the near-but-not-quite encounter on his blog, a commenter suggested that Shula, the man renowned for repeatedly calling plays that didn't allow a talented running back to show off his natural gifts, would be a fine choice for (*shudder*) offensive coordinator. The folks at Drunken Omelette responded accordingly: "Within seconds of that comment's posting, former Tide RB Ken Darby walked three steps directly ahead, jumped around to the left and the right, then fell forward in futility."


Anonymous Lodmell for Congress said...

I'm in big agreement with the thoughts on the Obama-Huckabee disparity. It shows that voters in this state are definitely not falling neatly in line with what they're "expected" to do and who they're "expected" to support. It's a pretty exciting time if you want change and reform in the state!

If any readers are indeed interested in this kind of sweeping change (especially of the variety that's generating some excitement!), make sure to check out Ben Lodmell's campaign for Congress in AL-01. You can visit his campaign site at Lodmell for Congress, and also be sure to check out his YouTube diary straight from the campaign trail at

7:54 PM  
Anonymous walt moffett said...

I think the republican call for lower taxes in the face of a budget shortfall is a nice trap for the democrats, who will have either go on record calling for higher taxes and or be on record as opposed to raising the low floor on taxable wages.

Expect lots of dithering back and forth and probably a special session.

4:07 PM  
Blogger Alabamian said...

LFC, I'm interested in the Lodmell campaign's official response to this story.

Walt, a special session wouldn't shock me, even though the regular session hasn't even started. I also agree that the call for tax cuts is "a nice trap" by the GOP. I just wish the time and effort expended on setting a political trap could be devoted to working toward a solution to the budget shortfall instead.

9:40 PM  

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