Mar 31, 2015

Judge Sue Bell Cobb

     I caught part of today's Fresh Air program on NPR..and the guest was Former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Sue Bell Cobb, at that time one of just two Democrats to hold statewide office.
     I wondered how she ended up on that national broadcast till I came across a piece that I had missed in 
     I'm sure the NPR producers saw it and booked her. The Fresh Air interview won't be online till tomorrow, but here is a link to the Politico story. A good read.
[UPDATE: HERE is the Fresh Air online link.]

Mar 30, 2015

Traveling to or from church doesn't protect the riders.

The Washington Post has an AP story  that includes a list of fatal church van and bus crashes in recent light of the crash in Florida that killed eight today.
     The WP story omits a crash in 2010 that killed eleven in Kentucky.

  • In 2013 eleven people in a Church van were injured--but none killed--in a Calera 2013.

MMMM #488 --New Media---A Critique of 60-Minutes---and Sympathy for The Devil!

  • New Media

"Broadcasting -- simply pushing massive amounts of information out to people -- has its uses, most notably getting a story, your brand (gag) or whatever else attention. But, connectedness is the future -- and has almost limitless potential both for journalism and the digital world more broadly."
                                                      The Washington Post column "The Fix" last Tuesday.

  • CBS 60 Minutes Under Attack over its Africa stories:

"...this anachronistic style of coverage reproduces, in condensed form, many of the worst habits of modern American journalism on the subject of Africa.
To be clear, this means that Africa only warrants the public’s attention when there is disaster or human tragedy on an immense scale, when westerners can be elevated to the role of central characters, or when it is a matter of that perennial favourite, wildlife."
That's from a letter signed by 200 professors and other educators to CBS 60-Minutes which they criticize for its Africa stories.

  • No, we do not try to coordinate our clothing colors each morning on Alabama News Network---but Olivia and I ended up with a robin's egg blue theme one day last week. 
Psssss: For this morning....I'm thinking shades of blue and grey. 
Even more unexpected: a few week s ago, ANN meteorologist Elissia Wilson wore the same dress as a person on the other Montgomery morning show.
  • Language: I heard a broadcast network story about the French plane crash over the weekend in which the co-pilot was described as a "troubled pilot". He may have been, but I doubt you'll find much sympathy for  him among the relatives of the 149 people he murdered.
AND, read this quote from Forbes from a story about why journalism is failing:

"...CEO’s who think their job is to create “vertically integrated digital-media companies,” and journalists who think their job is to win Pulitzers.  It’s hard to move forward when two separate cultures are pursuing their own separate objectives.

[The Monday Morning Media Memo is a regular feature of]

Mar 29, 2015

60 Minutes: Battling Cancer with POLIO.

     A pretty amazing 60 Minutes segment on CBS shows the astounding early success of the trials.
    Watch it online here.

Mar 28, 2015

Saturday Data: Guess Who Opposes Killing The ABC Board?

     The ABC Administrator, that's who.
     Former State Representative Mac Gipson has written an editorial opposed to legislation that would allow private liquor stores to handle the sale of liquor and shut down the state run stores.

ABC Board Administrator
    Mac is a Republican who suddenly is against private industry taking the place of a government agency... and he's has rolled out a lot of straw men in his piece. 

     He writes about the  "large out of state corporations" that would come in and profiteer off Alabamians....and about the need to "terminate 600 state workers"...wait? I thought the GOP wanted to cut the size of state government!  He writes about "the costs of severing up to 600 ABC store employees", though he has to know the eventual savings would be significant.
     He warns of increased drunk driving deaths, though by any measure the current ABC system isn't working:

     He cites a report funded by the ABC Board to justify his alarmist predictions, including  increasing prices for liquor, though  that fear never stopped Alabama from maintaining some of the highest liquor prices in the country.

Anyway, here's his op-ed from The Montgomery Advertiser. The bold type is my addition:

If there were a type of "do no harm" Hippocratic Oath that Alabama lawmakers would swear to abide by, they wouldn't have anything to do with proposed legislation which would weaken state control over the sale of liquor, ultimately leading to higher prices, as well as increased consumption with all its associated social ills.
The legislation, Senate Bill 115, sponsored by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, would force the state to close its revenue-producing ABC liquor stores and terminate more than 600 employees. This would open the door for large, out-of-state corporations that have bankrolled similar measures to dismantle controls in other states to come in and profiteer off Alabamians. In 2011, for example, Costco spent $22 million to get Washington State out of – and Costco in – the liquor business.
Sen. Orr says his bill would save Alabama millions of dollars without raising taxes. That's not what happened in other states (Washington, West Virginia and Iowa) which went down this road. And it is not what is likely to happen here should lawmakers take us along the same path.
An analysis of the Orr bill conducted by respected Auburn University at Montgomery economist Dr. Keivan Deravi points out the change would save the state little to no money. In fact, according to the Deravi study, selling off state stores to profit-driven retailers would hurt the pocketbooks of responsible consumers and saddle Alabamians with increased social costs, including more underage drinking and drunk-driving deaths.
So who does this bill really benefit? Based on the experiences of other states and the evidence in the
Deravi report, it's certainly not the state, nor the vast majority of our fellow citizens.
Here are some of the highlights of the Deravi report, which we commissioned last year to determine the fiscal and social effects of such legislation after Orr introduced a similar bill:
§ Despite Orr's initial claim that closing ABC stores would save the state $46 million a year (a figure he has since lowered to $15 million to $20 million), the most likely saving is between $4 million and $6 million. (Even that, though, is before the costs of severing up to 600 ABC store employees and distribution are considered.) Depending on the number of private package stores that survive the shakeup, it is possible the state won't realize any financial gain, Deravi states.
§ Liquor prices would go up, an "implicit tax increase" on responsible consumers, as Deravi terms it.
§ Increased availability (longer hours and more stores open on Sundays) would lead to increased consumption, especially among underage and problem drinkers.
§ The increased social costs associated with increased consumption, such as drunk driving, addiction and underage drinking, would be borne by state residents, not the retailers who profit from it.
§ Hundreds of jobs, and the beneficial economic impact of those jobs, would be eliminated. Some of those laid off would end up on state unemployment.
§ The ABC Board would go from a self-supporting agency to one dependent on funding from an anemic state General Fund. That could affect the agency's ability to enforce the state alcohol laws and protect public safety.
None of those outcomes can be described as good for Alabama. They hurt responsible consumers. They endanger public health and safety. And they are detrimental to state budgets.
Alabama is known in the alcohol industry as a "control state." This means the state, through the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, controls the sale of alcohol through licensing and the operation of wholesale distribution and retail stores. Since the end of Prohibition in the 1930s, the control system has proven to be the most beneficial – both in terms of revenue for the state and in limiting the social harms of alcohol.
In general, control states like Alabama report lower consumption and higher revenue from the sale of alcohol. That's a win-win.
Through its efficient operation, the ABC Board provides more than $200 million each year to state and local governments, with money flowing to the General Fund, Department of Human Resources, Department of Mental Health, education, and cities and counties. In fact, since 1937, the ABC Board has sent more than $6 billion to Alabama's governments and agencies.
Control is clearly working for Alabama. Why change it? Indeed, why, when our state desperately needs stable, dependable revenue sources and Alabamians working and paying taxes, would we take this risk?
Most Alabama legislators may not be physicians. But they can at least avoid doing harm by rejecting a bill that would hurt both the state budget and the public health.
H. Mac Gipson is administrator of the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. Send email to

[Saturday Data is a regular feature of]

Mar 26, 2015

Your County's Health Ranking.

Go to The Robert Wood Johnson webpage for a map of counties in Alabama (and elsewhere if you back out of the Alabama maps) indicating how healthy they are.