Warm Southern Breeze

"… there is no such thing as nothing."

It’s still true: Alabamians are “largely poor, uneducated, and easy to command.”

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Wednesday, August 22, 2012

One must understand the audience to whom Mr. Archibald writes his Birmingham News OpEds.

They’re the same ones who found hometown favorite criminal Richard Scrushy – monikered as “America’s First Oblivious CEO” – “Not Guilty” of violating the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, who to date, remains the solitary individual ever charged with its violation. Alice Martin, then Federal Prosecutor for the Northern District of Alabama, who failed to obtain a guilty verdict in the case, could have moved the trial to New York City – home of Wall Street – or “in Washington, D.C., or in New York City where pecuniary intricacies are understood,” but rather chose Birmingham, Alabama as the trial venue. John C. Coffee, professor of securities law at Columbia Law School, accurately said of the case, that “much of the information was over their heads” and jurors were “sick of trying to understand evidence that was beyond them.”

This remark – right, or wrong (but mostly right) – remains true for Alabama:
Citizens in the state are “largely poor, uneducated, and easy to command.

In context of course, historically, one should recognize the quote in it’s entirety: “Corporations pay public relations firms millions of dollars to contrive the kind of grass-roots response that Falwell or Pat Robertson can galvanize in a televised sermon. Their followers are largely poor, uneducated, and easy to command.” — Washington Post reporter Michael Weisskopf, February 1, 1993 front-page news story

So, let’s examine Alabama, to see if what Mr. Weisskopf wrote in 1993 remains true… or, if it ever was.

• Alabama is ranked 9th nationally in poverty statistics
• Since the Civil War, Alabama has remained one of the nation’s poorest states
• The 2000 U.S. Census ranked Alabama as the 7th poorest state, when compared with the national poverty rate of 12%.
• Alabama has 8 of the nation’s 100 poorest counties
• Compared to the 17.8% national average, 20.3% of adults aged 18-44 in Alabama have not completed high school
• Compared to the 84.1% national average, 78.9% of adults over age 25 in Alabama have a high school diploma
• Compared to the 26.7% national average, 22.7% of adults over age 25 in Alabama have a Bachelor’s Degree or more
• The 2008 U.S. Census indicated 32% of Alabamians aged 25-64 have at least a two-year college degree, compared to the U.S. average of 38%
• A brochure produced by the State of Alabama says “Alabama has lower educational attainment, labor force participation, and population growth than the nation.” ref: http://www2.dir.state.al.us/workforcedev/WorkforceReports/AlabamaSum.pdf
• Analysis by Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforces shows 55% of Alabama’s future jobs will require postsecondary education by 2018
• At the current rate, 43% of Alabamians will have attained a college education by 2025
• Alabama’s population is 63% Protestant, and 84% Christian

It’s difficult to argue with the facts.

Now, for thoughts on Mr. Archibald’s OpEd.

More crooked than a dog’s hind leg.

Is it any wonder it’s monikered “BirmingDamn,” and rather than the former “Magic City,” is now known as the “Tragic City“?

It is literally the sucking black hole of Alabama.


Simply search for the terms Jefferson+county+Alabama+corruption.

And, until relatively recently, was the largest municipal bankruptcy in our nation’s history.

How Jefferson County sold the family farm

Published: Wednesday, August 22, 2012, 6:00 AM

Say you had a homestead.

Bessemer Courthouse 11462941-small

This is the old Bessemer Courthouse with the annex in the right rear. Jefferson County is considering closing the Bessemer Cutoff courthouses Tues., Aug.21, 2012 in Bessemer, Ala. (The Birmingham News/Bernard Troncale)

It was old, sure, and way out in the boonies. But it’s where mama grew up, where Aunt Sarah made paper dolls on the hardwood, where countless generations gathered for reunions.

Now say the old place needed repair, and you were too broke to do it.

You’d fix the wiring and add a guest room if you could get a loan. But you already had a mortgage, and your credit is maxed.

And then it hits you.

Instead of borrowing to fix up the old place, you’ll get someone else to do it.

Your ex-brother-in-law Joe, that wise guy from the Bronx, can help you slide around the … red tape. He has some issues, sure. But he can get a loan.

So you’re in. You sign over the farm to Joe, along with the house and the pond. Joe gets the antiques in the grandma’s attic, Uncle Frank’s favorite chair and the pecan tree great-grandmother Myrtle planted when Papaw got home from the war.

But it’s just … paper.

Joe’d hold it, and you’d pay him a few thousand bucks a month for the note.

Slick as 10W-30.

Until the day when you realize why the debt limit’s there. You can’t pay and — BAM! — Joe doesn’t seem so much like family.

You try to negotiate, but he wants what’s his. Suddenly the sheriff is on his way and the old homestead is … Joe’s Homestead.

What’s gone is gone and you … walk away.

That — in a fashion — is what just happened to Jefferson County.

The Bessemer Courthouse, the criminal justice building and jail now pretty much belong to Joe.

And Jefferson County is walking away.

Back in 2006, in the days when the county threw cash around like New Orleans conventioneers, the old commission wanted to build a new jail and fix up the cutoff courthouse.

It wanted space and function and $1,400 trash cans.

But it had that debt limit.

What did it do? It went to the Jefferson County Public Building Authority to issue $87 million in warrants.

The chairman of that authority was George Munchus who, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission, was a longtime friend of former commissioners. Other members were Jordan Frazier, a former water board member, and Bishop James Lowe, of Richard Scrushy‘s courtroom “Amen Corner.”

Bill Blount was an underwriter. Water Board lawyer Charlie Waldrep’s firm was underwriter’s council.

The county was to make payments to the authority to lease the facilities, though few at the county lately even knew the property was leased.

Money from the occupational tax would be used to pay the lease, which would in turn pay off the debt.

But of course the Alabama Supreme Court killed the tax. And then the county filed for bankruptcy. And everything went south.

When the county couldn’t pay the lease, Ambac Assurance Corp., which held a surety bond on the deal, pretty much began to negotiate like a landlord. They were, after all, on the hook for the money that wasn’t being paid. The county tried to negotiate a better deal, but Ambac balked.

So on Monday — over the protest of Jimmie Stephens — the commission voted to reject the leases.

And walk away.

Away from the property it held for generations, away from the jail and the courthouse and the place where people of western Jefferson County come for business.

Yes, it is possible — it is anticipated, even — that Ambac will come back to the table. But either way, Monday was another sad day in Jefferson County, and a sad reminder of how we got to this place.

This county spent wildly, and unscrupulously. Now generations will pay.

John Archibald’s column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Write him at

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