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Friday, October 31, 2008

Yes We Can!

With just four days left before the 2008 presidential election, now is a good time for some inspiration.

And I can think of no better place to find it than with "Yes We Can," a new song and video about the Barack Obama campaign, by contemporary Jewish artist Stacy Beyer.

I had never heard of Beyer, but she evidently has been around a while, producing three CDs. Here is a page about her from CD Baby. And here is a profile with some biographical information.

Another video of the same name was released back in February to considerable attention on the Web. It's a hip-hop tune, based on one of Obama's speeches.

The new song was writtten by Beyer and features soaring, gospel-tinged vocals. To my untrained ears, it's a terrific piece of work, and I plan to learn more about Beyer's music.

Check out "Yes We Can:"

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Has Karl Rove's Terror Campaign Worked in the Deep South?

After I wrote yesterday about the race for a seat on the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals, a disturbing question came to mind:

Has Republican strategist Karl Rove succeeded with his long-running campaign to intimidate Democratic candidates for statewide offices in the Deep South?

In his seminal reporting on the Bush Justice Department, Scott Horton of Harper's magazine has raised numerous important points about the motives behind political prosecutions, such as the Don Siegelman case in Alabama and the Paul Minor case in Mississippi.

Two points, in particular, are rattling around in my head at the moment:

* The goal behind the Mississippi prosecution apparently was to dry up a key source of financial support for Democratic candidates. Paul Minor, an attorney who had become wealthy from bringing successful litigation against the asbestos and tobacco industries, was one such donor--in Mississippi and beyond. Minor was a major supporter of John Edwards' presidential campaign, and Horton has reported that Bush strategists had fingered Edwards as the most likely threat to Dubya's re-election in 2004. That evidently helped make Minor a target for the Bush DOJ--along with state judges Wes Teel and John Whitfield, who had received Minor's campaign support. Minor, Teel, and Whitfield all are in federal prison for crimes that, as we have shown in an extensive series of posts here at Legal Schnauzer, they did not commit. The message? If you give to Democratic candidates in a deep red, Deep South state, you will come to regret it.

* The goal of the Alabama prosecution apparently was to eliminate a Democrat who had a troubling habit of beating Republicans in statewide elections. Siegelman had done it four times--in races for secretary of state, attorney general, lieutenant governor, and governor. Rove and Co. evidently decided, "By God, he's not going to get re-elected as governor." And they used a federal investigation, and disappearing vote totals overnight in heavily Republican Baldwin County, to accomplish that goal. The message? If you are a Democrat who beats us at the ballot box in a deep red, Deep South state, we will make you pay.

Those messages came to mind after I wrote yesterday that Presiding Judge William C. Thompson, a Republican, is almost certainly going to be re-elected to his seat on the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals--even though he is demonstrably corrupt. I know Thompson is corrupt because I had an appeal before him in 2005, and Thompson swept the unlawful trial-court judgment under the rug by issuing a no-opinion affirmance.

Thompson appears to be a shoo-in for re-election because Democratic challenger Kimberly Drake has not been able to put up much of a fight. My post drew the following response from Robert Sullivan, Drake's campaign manager:

To quickly and briefly respond to the Legal Schnauzer blog, we’re putting up as much of a fight as we can, given our resources.

Thompson does lead Drake in campaign contributions--this is Alabama and a Democrat will always face an uphill battle. He is a beneficiary of the same backers as Shaw (Greg Shaw, running for Alabama Supreme Court) and is another product of Rove’s gaming of Alabama’s elections.

However, Kim has TV spots scheduled to appear this week, as are some radio spots. She has given interviews with several newspapers and a radio station. She also appeared at the judicial fundraiser and candidate forum at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

In the mean time, Drake is still a mother of three and a lawyer, while Thompson has time to fritter away.

We are also reaching out to Christians, who are unhappy with Thompson. Politics makes for strange bed fellows.

This is not over.

I hope Sullivan is right, and I didn't mean to imply that Drake isn't doing the best she can do. In fact, she has two sure votes here in the Schnauzer household, and I encourage all Alabamians to vote for her.

My main point was this: Bill Thompson needs to be booted out of office, and it's a crying shame that the Alabama Democratic Party could not help a candidate (either Drake or someone else) put up a serious fight. For two or three years now, I've been trying to tell Alabama Democratic leaders that I can prove the all-Republican Court of Civil Appeals is corrupt--and I've been willing to go public with it. But Democrats have not been able to take advantage, and as a result, Bill Thompson almost certainly will get another six years on the bench.

But back to Karl Rove: Is it possible Democrats could not give Thompson a fight because they were afraid to do it, even afraid to win?

Why would Kim Drake, or any other Democrat, want to solicit significant donations, and why would any donor want to give? Look what happened in the Paul Minor case next door in Mississippi!

Why would Kim Drake, or any other Democrat, want to push too hard for victory? My God, what if she actually won? Look what happened to Don Siegelman!

As we sit here now, just a few days from the November 4 election, we know that a Democrat has a pretty good chance of winning the White House and taking back the Justice Department from Republican criminals. But neither Drake, nor any other Democrat who might have run against Thompson, knew that at the outset.

If I had been in their shoes, knowing what had happened in the Siegelman and Minor cases, I might have given Bill Thompson a free pass, too.

Hopefully, next Tuesday will be a red-letter day for Democrats--and for justice. And hopefully, Rove & Co. someday will pay big time for the crimes they have committed.

But for now, Rove's legacy of threats and intimidation still has teeth. And it shows in the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Alabama Is About to Re-Elect a Corrupt Appellate Judge

Several Alabama races are shaping up as doozies next Tuesday, particularly three for seats in Congress and one for a spot on the Alabama Supreme Court.

Democrats appear to have decent shots in all four races.

The same cannot be said for another important race, one that affects everyone in Alabama. And that's a shame because the Republican incumbent is corrupt.

We're talking about the race between Presiding Judge William C. "Bill" Thompson and Democratic challenger Kimberly Harbison Drake for a spot on the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals.

Thompson is bidding for his third term on the court. Drake, who worked as a registered nurse before becoming a lawyer, has barely put up a fight. According to a recent item in The Birmingham News, Drake has raised about $8,000, almost half of that from herself. Thompson has raised about $277,000.

Drake will definitely get my vote. But according to The Birmingham News, she has only four years of experience as a lawyer and relatively little financial clout. That means she has little chance of winning.

And that's too bad because Thompson doesn't deserve another term on the bench. What he deserves is a term in federal prison.

Why would I say such a thing about a fine Alabama jurist? Because it's fact. And Thompson is not even a clever crook. He leaves an ample paper trail, which I am holding in my hands at this moment (while I type with my nose).

How do I know Thompson is a crook? Because I had a case before him--an appeal of the lawsuit that is at the heart of this blog.

The case was styled Roger Shuler v. Mike McGarity, appeal from Shelby County Circuit Court (CV-00-1248). It was Appellate Court Docket Number 2040161, and the "decision" on it was released June 24, 2005.

Here's a brief summary of what led to the appeal. My next-door neighbor Mike McGarity (he of the eight criminal convictions) sued me for malicious prosecution and conversion after I filed a complaint against him for criminal trespass, third degree (which is a violation, not even a misdemeanor). During the criminal trial, McGarity unwittingly confessed to the crime, but District Judge Ron Jackson still found him not guilty. That unlawful acquittal allowed McGarity to turn around and sue me.

(Memo to future crime victims: If the person who victimizes you is acquitted, he can turn around and victimize you again--in civil court. The tort is called malicious prosecution, and most citizens have no idea this can happen to them if they are victims of a crime. What a country!)

McGarity's lawsuit would have needed to improve drastically to reach the level of frivolous. But his lawyer (William Swatek) has a son (Dax Swatek) who "consults" for a number of GOP politicos and has ties to Karl Rove. That means Bill Swatek, even though he has a 30-year record of corrupt and unethical activities in the legal profession, can get away with virtual murder in Alabama courts.

That's why Circuit Judges J. Michael Joiner and G. Dan Reeves made a boatload of unlawful rulings that caused the lawsuit to go to trial--when, by law, it could not possibly go to trial.

The trial resulted in an unlawful judgment against me in the amount of $1,525--an amount neither McGarity nor his lawyer ever tried to collect until I started writing this blog, outlining the corruption I had witnessed in the case.

Bill Swatek conspired with Shelby County Sheriff Chris Curry to get a bogus writ of execution issued against me. First, they threatened to seize our cars. Then they threatened to seize our house--and did indeed get a bogus sheriff's deed placed on my share of our home.

But when neither of those threats caused me to quit blogging, someone went after my job. And that's why I was fired from UAB on May 19.

As you can see, bad judicial rulings have consequences.

What does all of this have to do with Judge Bill Thompson? Well, the appeal in my case was assigned to him. And I'm not exaggerating when I say that almost every ruling by the trial judges was wrong.

As a rough guess, I would say the trial judges probably made 25 to 30 unlawful rulings in the lawsuit against me. But really only two issues mattered; if Joiner or Reeves had gotten those correct, all of their other bogus rulings wouldn't have been necessary. The two issues involved summary judgment and McGarity's amendment adding a claim for conversion. We will briefly address those two issues in a bit.

But for now, let's just say you don't have to be a certified Legal Schnauzer like me to know that the trial judges butchered my case--and the judgment against me had to be overturned on appeal. Anyone with the ability to find a law library, ask for the pertinent material, and read simple declarative sentences could figure it out.

Heck, Chucky the Ground Squirrel, who spends his days joyously digging tunnels in our backyard, could have gotten this appeal right. But Judge Bill Thompson couldn't get it right.

And it's not because Thompson is stupid. I've seen decisions Thompson has written, and when he's so inclined, he can write serious, legitimate stuff.

But Thompson and his four Republican colleagues on the Court of Civil Appeals were not inclined to dispense justice in my case. They were inclined to protect a member of their "home team," Bill Swatek, from facing the consequences of having filed a fraudulent lawsuit.

So what did Thompson do? He took Rule 53 of the Alabama Rules of Appellate Procedure and used it in an abusive and unlawful fashion.

What is Rule 53? It allows justices on the Supreme Court and Court of Civil Appeals to issue no-opinion affirmances--but only under specific circumstances.

They can affirm a trial-court ruling, without issuing an opinion, only if "the court, after review of the record and the contentions of the parties, concludes that the judgment or order was entered without an error of law." (Rule 53 contains a number of other elements, but for our purposes, this is the one that applies.)

Well, as I stated earlier, my case was riddled with errors of law. And I will prove that here in a bit. Suffice to say that Judge Bill Thompson could not lawfully issue a no-opinion affirmance in my case. But he did it anyway.

And I'm hardly the only Alabamian to receive this kind of corrupt treatment. A prominent Montgomery lawyer tells me he hears from colleagues all the time who've seen their clients cheated by bogus no-opinion affirmances, effectively sweeping unlawful trial-court rulings under the rug.

I mentioned earlier that Thompson deserves a prison term. I wasn't joking about that. For a state judge to knowingly and repeatedly make unlawful rulings, and to use the U.S. mails or wires in the process, is a federal crime. It's called honest-services mail/wire fraud.

Under the Bush Justice Department, of course, Thompson wasn't remotely worried about being found out. Perhaps that will change if we get an Obama administration.

Regular readers of this blog know that I enjoy being an "Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer" of sorts. But you might not know that I also enjoy being a pseudo social scientist from time to time.

So let's conduct a little experiment. I will e-mail "Justice" Thompson, remind him briefly of the facts in appeal number 2040161, and ask him to explain (in writing) how he arrived at a no-opinion affirmance in my case.

I will publish my e-mail here at Legal Schnauzer and inform Judge Thompson that I will also publish his reply--word for word. Then we will wait to see what kind of reply, if any, I receive.

Can we smoke out a corrupt Alabama judge? Let's give it a shot.

Ohio Woman, 89, Becomes My New Hero

By now you've probably heard of Edna Jester, the 89-year-old Ohio woman who was arrested last week when she refused to return a kid's football that had come flying into her yard.

Police in Blue Ash, Ohio, a Cincinnati suburb, finally came to their senses and dropped the petty-theft charges. But before they did, Mrs. Schnauzer and I had a chance to read about Jester and say, "Jumping junipers, this is like our life on rewind."

The parallels between the Jester case and what we've experienced here in Birmingham, Alabama, are remarkable. And while we are sorry about the headaches Jester has endured, we are pleased that her situation has brought national attention to the issue of thoughtless parents and clueless kids who abuse neighbors of all ages.

Before we compare the two cases, let's check out the Smoking Gun's piece on Edna Jester, which includes the actual "criminal" complaint. You will notice that Jester was charged with violating section 2913.02A1 of the Ohio Revised Code. You can check out the section here.

Without going into too much detail, it seems clear that, under the law, Jester did not "deprive" anybody of anything. She made it clear that she didn't want the football and was more than happy to give it back if the kids/parents would keep it off her yard in the future. On top of that, the ball landing in her yard probably gives her consent to exert control over it. I know of no law that prevents someone from picking up an object off their own lawn.

It's hard to imagine what kind of ding-a-ling police officer ever OKd her arrest on this. I hope Jester finds a rugged lawyer and files a kick-ass lawsuit against the police chief and the idiots at city hall who hired him. It also would serve the kids' parents right if they got nailed with a lawsuit, and Jester certainly would have legal grounds to do it.

Let's look at the Jester case and the Schnauzer case.

Jester has lived in her small, one-story home for 59 years. Paul and Kelley Tanis and their five children moved in seven years ago. The Tanis kids and their friends had repeatedly thrown and kicked objects into Jester's yard and come onto her property to retrieve them. Jester had repeatedly asked the kids and their parents to keep their things, and themselves, off her property.

Under the law, Jester had every right to make such a request. In fact, she was going above and beyond in trying to be an understanding neighbor. If Ohio law is like Alabama law on criminal trespass, and my research indicates the law is pretty standard in all states, the kids and any parents who came on Jester's property without being licensed, privileged or invited to do so were committing a crime. Ms. Jester didn't have to ask them to stay off her yard. She could have gone to the nearest courthouse and sworn out a criminal complaint.

She also could have filed a lawsuit against the trespassers. Whenever an object came onto her yard, the person responsible for it landing there committed a civil trespass--even if said person did not enter Jester's property to retrieve it.

Anyway, the law was on Jester's side in every respect. And yet, she got arrested! And this happened after she tried to solve the problem, without turning it into a legal matter, by asking the kids and parents to respect her property rights.

Those requests apparently fell on deaf ears. So when the kids were playing in the street, and the football landed next to Jester while she was gardening in her front yard, she picked it up and refused to give it back. "That's my only way of getting through to these children," Jester said.

Actually, as I noted above, that is not the only course of action she had. But under the circumstances, it was a reasonable and lawful thing to do. And I know because I've been there.

My wife and I had lived in our house for nine years when Mike McGarity and his wife and two kids arrived next door in December 1998. McGarity and his son, along with other kids and parents, essentially turned their front yard into the neighborhood playground--which, of course, was fine with us. But they also tried to turn our adjoining front yard into a playground, routinely kicking and throwing stuff onto our yard and coming to retrieve it. And that was not fine, particularly since McGarity had acted like a jerk toward us almost from the moment he moved in.

Like Ms. Jester, I repeatedly asked told McGarity and the kids to stay off our property--and to keep their stuff off our property. McGarity threatened to sue me for "harassment."

This is probably one difference between the Schnauzer and Jester stories. While Tanis evidently is a pretty thoughtless individual, I see no indication that he has a criminal record. McGarity has at least eight criminal convictions in his background, we discovered later, and that explained a whole lot about his behavior.

We took a few steps in our situation that Jester evidently did not take in hers. I phoned an attorney acquaintance, who told me McGarity and the kids were violating criminal law. The lawyer wrote McGarity a letter to explain the law and reiterate that he and the kids were to stay off our property--and that they would receive no further warning.

When McGarity trespassed again on multiple occasions, we swore out a criminal complaint. We also could have filed a complaint against the kids with the juvenile intake officer in our county. And we would have done that, but McGarity himself was the first person to trespass after receipt of the written warning.

McGarity's unwillingness to simply respect our property rights led to a criminal case, a lawsuit (by him against me), numerous crimes by lawyers and judges (as reported on this blog), the unlawful "auction" of our house, and the loss of my job. In fact, this blog never would have happened if we had not been treated like dirt by a crappy neighbor, just the way Jester was in Ohio.

The Jester case led to national attention for an 89-year-old woman who didn't need the headaches caused by thoughtless neighbors.

What is it about some modern parents that makes them incapable of understanding that the people who live around them have property rights? And what makes parents incapable of teaching their children to respect other people's property rights, whether the neighbor is 89 or 29?

What are some simple steps that semi-thoughtful parents can take to prevent these problems--which are easily prevented? And what steps can law-enforcement officers take to cut these problems off at the pass before they wind up on court dockets?

More on that coming up.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Universities Sell Their Souls--At a Very High Cost

A growing body of evidence, which we will be laying out here at Legal Schnauzer, indicates that a large donor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) probably played a central role in my unlawful termination.

But my former employer is hardly alone in selling its soul. And taxpayers who help fund public universities should be asking hard questions about the power big donors exert over the supposedly pristine world of higher education.

Consider another Alabama institution, Auburn University, which is about 100 miles to the east of Birmingham, near the Georgia border. Auburn is building a new student center, which will replace the Foy Student Union.

The old building was named in 1978 for James E. Foy, a much loved dean of students who retired that year and now is 92 years old. Many alumni and students--not to mention the Foy family--want the new building to maintain the Foy name. They say the name has become synonymous with the student union at Auburn.

But the university plans to sell naming rights for the new building to the highest bidder. And the price tag is hefty. If you have a spare $25 million sitting around, you can have your name on the new Auburn student union.

Let's imagine that Auburn finds a donor named Bud Schwartz to cough up $25 million and get his name on the new student union. What kind of power will Mr. Schwartz wield on campus? What if Mr. Schwartz disagrees with a certain professor's politics and wants him fired? What if Mr. Schwartz isn't pleased with a certain administrator's religion and wants her fired? What if Mr. Schwartz has concerns that a black student could be named homecoming queen and wants to make sure that doesn't happen?

Based on my experience at UAB, our mythical Mr. Schwartz could get his way on all of these issues at Auburn. And Auburn, like UAB, is a public institution that takes taxpayer dollars and is supposed to follow federal law--not Mr. Schwartz' whims.

Let's consider Oklahoma State University. That fine institution a few years back essentially sold its entire athletic program to oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens.

After OSU received a $165 million donation, it seemed like a good idea to rename the school's football facility T. Boone Pickens Stadium. When Pickens wanted to make sure he had his own water boy in place as athletics director, it seemed like a good idea to hire Mike Holder. When former basketball coach Sean Sutton somehow ran afoul of Mr. Pickens, it seemed like a good idea to send Coach Sutton packing.

But guess what happened on Oklahoma State's road to Athletics Heaven? Old T. Boone drove his pickup into a ditch.

Funds for OSU athletics were invested in a hedge fund that Pickens controlled. And with the Bush economy going in the tank, Pickens' fund has taken a drastic turn for the worse, losing $ 1 billion this year.

Sane minds at OSU had encouraged the university to place a significant portion of the funds in safe accounts. But T. Boone wouldn't hear of it. And now it appears that virtually all of the money is gone.

Athletics programs at the University of Oklahoma and the University of Kansas now are struggling because big donors have gotten into hot water.

So listening to the guy or gal with big bucks does not always work out so well in higher education. That's a lesson that folks at UAB apparently have yet to learn.

No Matter What Happens on Tuesday, Tough Times Are Ahead

Like many progressives, I'm hopeful that Barack Obama will actually prevail in next Tuesday's presidential election. Having seen Republican corruption up close here in Karl Rove's Alabama, I still think it's possible the GOP will find a way to steal the election. But watchdogs like Mark Crispin Miller and Brad Friedman give me hope that progressives have wised up and won't let it happen it again.

Also, I'm hopeful that an Obama administration will be able to get us back on a healthy track. But the Bush-Cheney cabal is leaving our country in a mess, and no matter what happens next Tuesday, tough times are ahead.

Just listen to a couple of respected editorial voices.

Joseph Galloway, of McClatchy Newspapers, has encouraging words on the electoral front. He says a blowout might be coming for the GOP. "Here's a prediction for you, for them: McCain and Palin will go down to defeat by 15 to 20 points, and they'll take a heap of Republicans down with them."

But Galloway is quick to add some sobering words: "The financial collapse and the painful fallout that's stalking the nation won't be righted overnight. . . . Hard work, sacrifice and suffering lie ahead. It could take a decade or more to repair all the damage Bush, Dick Cheney and all their henchmen in prison, out of prison and on their way to prison have done to our economy, our military, our standing in the world, our Constitution and to civil discourse, common decency, and competent government."

Caroline Baum, of Bloomberg News, has an even more stark assessment. Things are so bad, she says, that the winner might wish he hadn't won.

The "ticking time bomb" for the federal government, Baum writes, is entitlement spending. And neither candidate has offered much of a vision for dealing with Medicare and Social Security.

"I feel sorry for whoever wins the presidential election on Nov. 4," Baum writes. "He faces a colossal mess. The housing bubble is still deflating, with no end in sight. The unemployment rate is rising, making consumer loans of all descriptions--mortgage, auto, credit card--vulnerable to rising delinquencies. . . .

"The next president of the U.S. will be handcuffed by events and constrained by deficits. He'll be playing defense. And he won't have a deep bench to work with."

Part of me would like to see McCain try to deal with a mess that his own party has largely created. Things might get so bad that middle-class white Americans would finally get over the race-based fears and resentments that cause them to automatically pull the GOP lever.

But our country can't afford that. And on the personal front, the Schnauzer household is not buttressed with a cushy trust fund that would allow us to ride out the storm.

So let's hope that Obama wins, and he surrounds himself with smart people who don't mind telling us the painful truths we need to hear. And let's hope we have enough steel in our spines to make the sacrifices and tough choices that will be necessary in order to put us back on solid ground.

In SchnauzerLand, Obama's the Man

We already have analyzed The Birmingham News' endorsement for president. So let's look at a more important topic--our endorsement here at Legal Schnauzer.

Regular readers probably will not be surprised to learn that everyone in SchnauzerWorld--Mrs. Schnauzer, our Tonkinese cats Baxter and Chloe, Chucky the Ground Squirrel who rules our backyard, and yours truly--wholeheartedly endorses Barack Obama.

Why? We think he has a chance to be a good, maybe even a great, president. We think his temperament and judgment far surpass McCain's at a time of crisis. And given our experiences with corrupt Republicans here in Alabama, it would taken Dirty Harry Callahan, threatening us with "Magnum Force," to get us to pull the GOP lever.

Even if we thought Obama had "mediocrity" written all over him, he would still get our vote. And that's because we consider this a one-man race, given that McCain has disqualified himself on numerous fronts:

* The Guilt by Association front--We are coming off eight years of probably the most incompetent and corrupt administration in American history. McCain shares a party label with George W. Bush and voted with him 90 percent of the time. Verdict: McCain is disqualified.

* The Karl Rove front--The "architect" of the Bush disaster has been Karl Rove. Has McCain distanced himself from Rove? Nope. His campaign largely is run by Rove acolytes, with King Karl himself playing a supporting role. Verdict: McCain is disqualified.

* The War and Economy front--The two biggest issues of the moment are the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the economic meltdown. McCain consistently has been wrong on both. He supported the boneheaded decision to go into Iraq, draining resources from the real war against terrorism in Afghanistan. McCain has been even more wrong on the economy. His chief economic advisor was former U.S. Senator Phil Gramm, whose legislative handiwork largely led to the current crisis. In fact, the lead segment on 60 Minutes Sunday night, "The Bet That Blew Up Wall Street," was about the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000, which fueled the economic collapse of 2008. Who was the primary author and sponsor of this legislative trainwreck? Why, "Foreclosure Phil" Gramm. Verdict: McCain is disqualified.

* The Physical and Mental Health front--John McCain is 72 years old and has had multiple battles with a deadly form of skin cancer. Even when he is healthy, he is famed for his hotheaded nature. And anyone who reads this bizarre interview with reporters from Time magazine must wonder if McCain is on firm ground emotionally. Substantial evidence suggests this man has no business running for president, much less being president. Verdict: McCain is disqualified.

* The Vice Presidential front--McCain's choice of Sarah Palin might go down as the most goofy political decision in American history. Palin probably was overachieving by becoming mayor of Wasilla, Alaska. In addition to her lack of experience and curiosity, she brings loads of ethical baggage. We all should be grateful that Palin has given us Tina Fey's spot-on impersonation. But the thought of Palin being anywhere near the White House should scare the beejeebers out of all Americans--at least those who have beejeebers. Verdict: McCain is disqualified.

* The "This Party Needs to be Fumigated" Front--The Republican Party, in its current form, is so rife with corruption and so disconnected from morals and ethics that it needs to be torn down and rebuilt from scratch. A functional, coherent, respectable Republican Party is important to our democracy. But the party right now is so infested with Karl Rove types that it serves only as a threat to our democracy. The GOP is like a house that is so riddled with termites that it needs to be demolished. And the best way to do that is to give it a serious electoral spanking. Until that happens, the GOP will continue on a path that has brought us a dysfunctional justice department and an economic system on the verge of collapse. Verdict: McCain is disqualified.

On an issue near to our hearts, Obama offers hope that our corrupted Justice Department will be restored to a place where "justice" really means something. John McCain, by intentionally hiding Alabama Governor Bob Riley's connections to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, has shown that he is not likely to do a thing about a justice system that is in tatters.

Finally, there are many other positive reasons to vote for Obama.

And an Alabama newspaper has actually endorsed him, proving that not all of our news outlets have their heads firmly planted up their rectums. Yes, the Tuscaloosa News says Barack Obama is the far superior candidate, and it states the case quite eloquently.

Obama is 47, cool under fire, a brilliant speaker who can rally an audience. His choice of Sen. Joe Biden, a respected and experienced hand in government, as his running mate showed solid judgment and maturity. Obama's temperament was a major consideration in our endorsement.

He has a vision — unity, cooperation, healing and transformation — that most Americans share. He wants to re-orient the country to empower ordinary people, not just its wealthy voters, big corporations or Washington lobbyists. He wants to make government a helpful ally, not a suspicious monitor. He wants to replace swagger and bombast with genuine concern for rights and well-being.

Most analysts agree he cannot deliver on all the things he has promised. Neither can McCain. But just pointing this country in the right direction — the path laid down by Obama's agenda — will be a welcome change. We urge voters to embrace it.

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Siegelman Interview Reveals the True Nastiness Behind GOP Corruption

Don Siegelman never dreamed that he actually would be convicted and sent to prison on corruption charges, according to an article about the former Alabama governor in GQ.

"I never thought for a minute that I was going to be convicted," Siegelman tells reporter Brett Martin. "We knew where this prosecution was coming from. We knew the political motivation. I was confident that the truth would come out—so confident, in fact, that we didn't put any witnesses on the stand because we didn't think there was any evidence."

Siegelman goes on to make some profound statements about the nature of evil and the harsh realities of prison:

Do I believe in evil? Do I believe that Karl Rove is evil? I do. I don't mean that he was necessarily raised to be evil. But I think that, like Caligula, he turned himself into an evil ruler. He has subverted democracy and, by the way, done a great disservice to the Republican Party. I hear that more and more—like the former head of the Alabama Republican Party, whom I ran into at the airport in Washington lately. He told me, "I told them they should have stopped at [defeating you in] the election." Yes, I think there are evil people in the world, and I think Karl Rove is one of them.

How stark is life in a federal prison? Listen to Siegelman:

I was taken to a maximum-security prison in Atlanta. No daylight. Food served through a little slot in the door. No exercise. I stayed there for three weeks, and then I was flown to a facility in New York, then Michigan, then Oklahoma City before ending up in Oakdale, Louisiana. During this time, my wife and family were not notified where I was.

Time is viewed totally differently in prison. When you're free, you want the day to last as long as possible. You want to savor every moment. In prison, it's just the opposite; you want to get rid of days as fast as you can. I couldn't help but think about the people whose execution dates I had set when I was attorney general and that I'd upheld as governor. I said a quiet prayer that I had made the right decisions, because I knew then that the justice system was not infallible.

How important is it that Rove and others are held accountable for their corrupting influence on the U.S. justice system? It is essential, Siegelman says, that future Roves think twice before attempting to manipulate the justice system for political reasons:

If (Rove is) not held in contempt, it will send a clear signal that there are two systems of justice in this country: one for the rich and powerful, those connected to the White House, and one for the rest of us. When we get subpoenaed, we have to show up.

That's the only way we're ever going to reinstate people's belief in our government, in our democracy: clearing the air about what happened at the Department of Justice. We're not guessing that this stuff happened; we're not speculating that it might have happened. We know it happened. And if Rove doesn't pay, what are all those followers of his, the young people who want to be like him, going to think? If he's held in contempt, it sends the message that their time might be next. It may not stop 'em, but maybe it will slow them down.

What jumps out the most about this compelling interview? For me, it's the comment Siegelman received from a Republican who said he told Rove & Co. they "should have stopped at [defeating you in] the election."

What do we learn from this comment?

* This Republican, and probably others, cling to the notion that Bob Riley "defeated" Siegelman in the 2002 Alabama gubernatorial election. In reality, substantial evidence suggests that the '02 election was stolen when vote totals in Baldwin County changed overnight. (The story has been covered on a number of respected Web sites, but it has been largely ignored in the mainstream press.) Republicans are noted for playing fast and loose with the language, and this appears to be another example of it.

* It apparently is a poorly kept secret in Republican circles that Rove & Co. were out to get Siegelman. This GOPer flat-out tells Siegelman that he knew about the plot and counseled against it. How many other insiders knew about it, and when are they going to be called to testify before an authoritative body?

* Rove & Co. are prone to overreach, and I know about this firsthand. Siegelman's airport companion says he told his Republican cohorts they should be content with having "won" the election--that pushing for a prosecution of Siegelman would be going too far and could lead to big trouble. Did they listen? Nope. Could they wind up in big trouble? We can all hope.

Similar behavior has taken place in my Legal Schnauzer case. And keep in mind, the "bad guys" in my story have direct ties to Rove. The corrupt attorney who filed a bogus lawsuit against me (William E. Swatek) has a son (Dax Swatek) who worked for Bill Canary. And Canary, of course, is a close associate of Rove.

Just as in the Siegelman case, we are talking about gold-plated Rovites here. And did they overreach? Well, they could have stopped at costing my wife and me thousands of dollars. They could have stopped at causing a bogus lawsuit to go to trial, when by law, it could not go to trial. They could have stopped at threatening to seize our cars and home.

But no, they had to cost me my job at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), where I had worked for 19 years.

What will be the cost of their overreaching? That remains to be seen. But if I have anything to do with it, it's going to be high.

Frail Grasp on the Big Picture

Let's continue our travelogue through the Eagles' brilliant Long Road Out of Eden. To my untrained ears, this is one of the best CDs of the past 10 years and it shows that a band that has been around since 1971 still has serious musical chops.

In fact, I would like to put a copy of the CD into a time capsule so folks 100 years from now can understand, through the magic of music, the absurdities of life in the Age of Rove.

A favorite cut from the CD is "Frail Grasp on the Big Picture," a Don Henley-Glenn Frey composition that is one of the funkiest numbers the Eagles have ever done. It is a long way from the country rock that marked the band's early years.

Henley is the Eagles chief lyricist, and he is known for rants about the greed, selfishness, and cluelessness that permeate postmodern America. Henley gets right to the point in "Frail Grasp:"

Well, ain't it a shame
About our short little memories
Never seem to learn
The lessons of history

We keep making the same mistakes
Over and over and over and over again
Then we wonder why
We're in the shape we're in

The scene shifts to a bar where "good old boys" are munching on peanuts and talking politics. Unfortunately, it's an exercise in futility:

They think they know it all
They don't know much of nothing
Even if one of 'em was to read the newspaper
Cover to cover
That ain't what's going on
Journalism dead and gone

Henley then turns personal, counseling a "love-drunk friend" who doesn't seem to understand the basics of real relationships. This guy's living in a "hormone dream" and just wants to "get some snoggin done:"

All your romantic liaisons don't deal with eternal questions like:
"Who left the cap off the freakin' toothpaste?"
"Whose turn to take the garbage out?"

Finally Henley skewers religion--or at least the way some of its adherents have bastardized faith in postmodern America. And he does it as a haunting church organ provides the backdrop:

So we pray to our Lord
Who we know is American
He reigns from on high
He speaks to us through middlemen

He sheperds his flock
We sing out and we praise his name
He supports us in war
He presides over football games

And the right will prevail
All our troubles shall be resolved
We put faith above all
Unless there's money or sex involved

This song should be released as a single. But something tells me it would rile a few folks up. Hopefully, it would make even more folks think a little.

Here's a version of "Frail Grasp" from YouTube. This features a regular guy playing along to the song on a snazzy looking drum kit. I don't know the first thing about the technique of playing drums. But this guy looks like he can play them pretty well. Enjoy.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

McCain in the Membrane: A Southern Fishwrapper Keeps Its Head in the Sand

When I picked our copy of the The Birmingham News off the driveway this morning, I noticed a front-page promo that indicated the paper was making an endorsement in the presidential race.

For just a moment, a bizarre thought crossed my mind: "Given that descendants of William F. Buckley and Barry Goldwater recently endorsed Democrat Barack Obama for president, is it possible that our sorry excuse for a local newspaper might actually show some forward thinking for a change?"

Answer? Nah.

As I should have known, the News endorsed Republican John McCain--and used some remarkable "logic" in the process.

The News concedes that the idea of an Obama presidency might be "thrilling." And it admits that Obama was right about the signature issue of the past eight years--the war in Iraq.

"To Obama's great credit, he opposed the Iraq invasion while McCain, and this editorial board, supported it. He was right, and we were wrong."

But the News then says that it endorses McCain largely because of his support for the surge, which "paved the way for a real 'Mission Accomplished' years after the fact."

Let me see if I have this straight: The News admits the war in Iraq never should have started. But it endorses McCain because of his support for a strategy that never should have been needed in the first place? Makes lots of sense.

The News is so desperate to endorse a Republican, one who has run one of the worst campaigns in memory, that it pulls out two of conservatism's favorite bogeymen--unions and Roe v. Wade.

An Obama presidency might actually help unions prosper, the News fears. This kind of garbage actually has traction here in the Deep South, and that is rich with irony.

Our region is noted for its passion for college football, an activity that usually takes place on Saturdays. Stadiums across the South are packed on fall Saturdays, and why is that? Well, it's largely because Saturday is an off day for many people. And that's because we have a five-day work week. And we have a five-day work week because of unions.

If Republicans had their way, and we'd never had unions, we would all be working seven days a week for as many hours as management demanded. College football, if it existed at all, would be played on vacant sandlots.

And of course, the News has to be worried about Roe. Let's see, we've got the biggest foreign-policy screwup in our nation's history and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and the News is worried about the right of women to make their own health-care decisions?

Here's a thought for editors of the News and other conservatives who obsess about Roe: Abortion is not a problem in our country; it's a symptom of a problem.

The problem is unwanted pregnancy. That is what leads to the vast majority of abortions. And what leads to unwanted pregnancy? The vast majority of women who seek abortions are unmarried. So by definition, unwanted pregnancy is driven largely by sex outside of marriage.

And who pushes for most sex outside of marriage? I'm going to take a wild guess and say guys/dudes/fellows/hombres. And when's the last time you heard a conservative talk about the responsibility that guys have for the abortion problem?

Regardless of what happens with Roe, the abortion problem is always going to be with us as long as guys behave in sexually irresponsible ways. The key to reducing the abortion rate to almost zero is to teach guys to take responsibility for the ramifications of their sexual behavior.

So The Birmingham News calls itself a "pro life newspaper" and bases its presidential endorsement partly on that issue. That, of course, is an easy thing to do.

Actually doing something about unwanted pregnancy is not so easy. The News and its conservative brethren evidently don't want to make the effort.

Meanwhile, the News missed a chance to make a bold statement about a New South. Imagine the largest newspaper in the "Heart of Dixie" endorsing a black man for president, a black man who clearly is the best choice in these perilous times.

But the News, as usual, chose to look backward--rather than making a bold statement about the future of our region.

That's unfortunate.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Talkin' 'Bout Ethics and My Termination

We recently wondered if Alabama Governor Bob Riley could face a Sarah Palin/Troopergate sort of ethics problem in the aftermath of my unlawful termination from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).

A growing body of evidence, which we will be laying out here at Legal Schnauzer, suggests that people with close connections to Riley got me fired at UAB. That's the kind of thing that got Palin into ethical hot water in Alaska when her underlings tried to get State Trooper Mike Wooten fired.

(By the way, The Public Record, an independent investigative-journalism
Web site, picked up on our Riley/ethics piece. You can check it out here.)

I noted in my previous post that I think it's unlikely the Alabama Ethics Commission will go after Riley & Co. regarding my termination. But the issue doesn't end there.

What about people within UAB who have participated in my firing?

Let's return to section 36-25-24(c) of the Code of Alabama. And here is our key passage:

No public employee shall file a complaint or OTHERWISE INITIATE ACTION AGAINST A PUBLIC OFFICIAL OR OTHER PUBLIC EMPLOYEE without a good faith basis for believing the the complaint to be true and accurate.

In other words, it's a serious ethical no-no in Alabama to initiate action against a public employee (which I was) when you know the action is based on false information.

I sat through my entire grievance hearing, and it was clear that there was zero documentation or evidence of any kind to support discipline against me, much less termination, under university policy. Evidence suggests that a whole boatload of UAB employees participated in this action, knowing the charges against me were false.

Let's consider the roll call of honor:

* Janice Ward--HR representative for my department

* Anita Bonasera--director of Employee Relations

* Gary Mans--director of Media Relations

* Pam Powell--director of Publications Office (my supervisor)

* Dale Turnbough--associate vice president for public relations and marketing (Powell's supervisor)

* Shirley Salloway Kahn--vice president for development, alumni and external relations (Turnbough's supervisor)

* Carol Garrison--president of UAB (everybody's supervisor)

So there you have it, seven folks going right up the ladder to the top of the university. And I'm not including members of the Board of Trustees (of which Bob Riley is ex oficio president) or University of Alabama System Office, who might have known this was going on--or even helped pull it off.

Did these folks violate Section 36-25-24(c) of the Code of Alabama?

We will be examining that issue in the days and weeks ahead.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

How Will UAB President Respond to a Few Pointed Questions?

We noted in a recent post that Carol Garrison, president of the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), has upheld my firing after 19 years of service.

That is quite remarkable, of course, considering that Garrison's own employee-grievance committee found that my termination was wrongful.

Garrison sent me a "snail mail" letter, informing me that my appeal had been denied. When I read it, I thought, "Good grief, this woman has a Ph.D., and she writes this letter that is illogical, goofy, and downright embarrassing."

Of course, people tend to write that way when they are trying to explain the unexplainable. Anyway, I felt compelled to respond with a few obvious questions.

Here is my reply to the UAB president:

Dr. Garrison:
I am in receipt of your letter dated August 19, 2008, in which you inform me that you are upholding my termination. I would like to ask several questions:

* You state that you have reviewed the recommendations of the Problem Resolution Committee. I request that I be allowed to see the committee's recommendations. I find it curious that you and Cheryl Locke evidently have seen the report, but I have not--even though I am the one who filed the grievance.

* You state that you reviewed the facts upon which my complaint was based. I assume that means you reviewed the audiotapes of the grievance hearing, the one where my supervisor, Pam Powell, repeatedly answered "no" when asked if she could provide documentation to support my termination. I request that I be allowed to review these tapes. I was present for the entire hearing, and I know that no evidence was presented to support any discipline against me, much less termination. But since you and Ms. Locke evidently have had access to the tapes, it seems only fair that I be allowed to review them also.

* Were you aware, in your review, that I had filed a grievance against my supervisor roughly two weeks before I was placed on administrative leave and less than a month before I was fired? Are you aware that UAB policy clearly states that an employee is to use the grievance process without fear of penalty or reprisal? I filed a grievance and almost immediately faced rather serious reprisal--I was fired. And even your own grievance committee found that I should not have been fired. Do you or anyone else at UAB pay the slightest bit of attention to the policy that is outlined in the You & UAB Handbook? If so, how do you justify this statement in your letter: "I believe the decision to terminate your employment was correct?"

In the end, are UAB employees governed by what you and Ms. Locke "believe" or by what is outlined in the official university handbook?

One final thing: Several weeks ago, in response to citizens who had e-mailed you about my termination, you said that I was fired based "solely on work performance." You made this statement even though your own grievance committee had ruled that I shouldn't have been fired at all. Given this public statement you made some time ago, why should I (or anyone else) believe that you approached your decision in my case with any objectivity?

I look forward to your reply.

Thank you,

Roger Shuler

Could Bob Riley Develop a Palin Problem?

An Alaska legislative panel recently concluded that Governor Sarah Palin unlawfully abused her power by trying to have her former brother-in-law fired as a state trooper.

That raises this question: Could Alabama Governor Bob Riley face a similar inquiry because of my firing at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB)?

Let me say up front that, given our state's political climate, I think it is unlikely that Riley or people close to him would face any investigation regarding my termination. Experience has taught me that Republicans can get away with most anything in Alabama, and that's why they are so corrupt. I see nothing that makes me think that is going to change anytime soon.

But based on actual state law, and the facts as they continue to come forward, I think our question above is a legitimate one.

Under Alabama law, it appears that such an inquiry would be conducted by the Alabama Ethics Commission. If my experience with other regulatory bodies in our state is any indication--Alabama State Bar, Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission--the Ethics Commission probably is not anxious to rock any boats. In other words, for regular citizens like me, it's pretty worthless--or at least that's my guess.

But let's compare the Palin situation in Alaska to what I have experienced in Alabama.

Palin was investigated under Alaska Statute 39.52.110(a), which says in pertinent part:

The legislature reaffirms that each public official holds office as a public trust, and any effort to benefit a personal or financial interest through official action is a violation of that trust.

That's the law Palin was found to have violated, and it seems pretty straighforward.

The report focused largely on the role Palin's husband, Todd, played in trying to get Trooper Mike Wooten fired. But it held Palin accountable for the actions of her subordinates. Here is the key passage:

The evidence supports the conclusion that Governor Palin, at the least, engaged in "official action" by her inactions if not her active participation or assistance to her husband in attempting to get Trooper Wooten fired [and there is evidence of her active participation].

The bottom line? The Alaska legislative panel found that the governor was accountable for actions by her supporters and subordinates in trying to get a public employee fired.

What's the situation in Alabama? Our ethics law is found in Title 36, Section 25 of the Code of Alabama. The purpose of the law is defined at Section 36-25-2, and it includes language similar to that in the Alaska statute.

Two sections of the Alabama ethics law jump out at me:

* Section 36-25-5 addresses "Use of Official Position or Office for Personal Gain." Personal gain does not appear to be clearly defined, but a "thing of value" does include "favors," such as firing someone you want to have fired. Alaska law did not require a showing that Palin benefited financially from her actions, and Alabama law appears to take a similar approach.

* Section 36-25-24(c) involves discharging or discriminating against a public employee. Here is the key passage:

No public employee shall file a complaint or OTHERWISE INITIATE ACTION AGAINST A PUBLIC OFFICIAL OR OTHER PUBLIC EMPLOYEE without a good faith basis for believing the the complaint to be true and accurate.

My research indicates that people who worked for and supported Bob Riley initiated action against me, a public employee, that led to me being fired. And having sat through my employee grievance hearing at UAB, I know that no one involved in the entire process had a good-faith basis for believing the charges against me--that I used public time and resources for political purposes--were true.

Would the Alabama Ethics Commission hold Bob Riley accountable for the unlawful actions of his supporters?

Well, the head of the Alabama Ethics Commission is a fellow named Jim Sumner. Is he that rare breed in Alabama--a watchdog with a spine?

Perhaps we will be finding out in the not-too-distant future.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Our Fan Base in an Unlikely Place Doubles in Size

We recently noted that Legal Schnauzer had developed a fan base in a most unlikely place--Briarwood Christian School in Birmingham.

Someone who apparently is a Briarwood student discovered the blog and became a fan, noting that the school has allowed a thirst for football power to override its academic and moral mission.

Now I've received an anonymous comment from a second Briarwood student. So it looks like our Briarwood fan club has doubled in size.

Given my suspicions that Briarwood played a leading role in the legal difficulties my wife and I have experienced, I never expected to have any readers on the school's campus--much less readers who actually seem to like the blog.

So I'm pretty thrilled with my little Briarwood fan base, kind of the way Gloria Steinem might be pleased to learn someone at the Vatican was reading her work--and enjoying it.

So let's take a look at what my second Briarwood correspondent has to say. He uses the casual spelling and grammar that is common in Web communication, but I think the message will get through:

i am a student as well and i dont find it the least bit supriseing that they would do this its just like a christain republic dumnass. if u ask me christains are the worst i hope the rapture comes and takes them all away cause then it would be like heaven

Something tells me that message was not approved by the Briarwood leadership.

I'm happy to see that at least a couple of Briarwood students have a healthy skepticism about the school's actions--and how they differ from the school's rhetoric.

If my Briarwood correspondents want more information about their school's questionable ethics, they might want to check out this post. It indicates that Briarwood officials know Shelby County judges cheat on their behalf and intentionally tried to take advantage of that by having a case unlawfully moved from Jefferson to Shelby County.

How's that for "Christian" ethics?

Monday, October 20, 2008

What Happened to UAB's Dirty Money?

News came recently that my former employer, the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), is going through a rough financial patch.

With the Bush economy crumbling all around us, things aren't looking so bright on Birmingham's Southside. Tax collections in Alabama are way down--hey, those Bush tax cuts are kicking in--so UAB already has absorbed an 11 percent cut in state funding for fiscal 2009.

Now President Carol Garrison says UAB could be facing even more cuts. (Isn't this interesting: When Bob Riley was running for governor in 2002, he blasted Democrat Don Siegelman when state budgets went into proration. Now that Big Bob's in the governor's chair, he isn't crowing quite so much. Turns out Alabama relies way too heavily on sales taxes [as opposed to stable property taxes] to fund essential state services. That means revenues don't meet projections when the economy eventually tanks--as it usually does when a Republican president is in charge--and the governor can't do a whole lot about it. In short, Bob Riley is presiding over the worst Alabama economy in modern history. Wonder if Artur Davis, Jim Folsom Jr., and other Democrats will bring that up in 2010.)

But back to UAB. What happened to the several hundred million dollars the university cheated taxpayers out of over a 10-year period starting in the 1990s?

We've made several references over the past two months or so to the fact that the Bush Justice Department, led by local U.S. attorney Alice Martin, helped UAB get away with massive research fraud. The university barely received a slap on the wrist, thanks to a sham "investigation" that Martin's lackeys conducted.

So where did all of that money go? I was around UAB long enough to know that funds targeted for research cannot be used for operational expenses. But what about fraudulently obtained research funds? What about research funds that were greatly in excess of what the university was supposed to receive?

We will be going into detail soon about the case of the UAB research-fraud coverup. But for now, here is a key point to keep in mind:

The charges were driven by two whistleblowers in what is known as a qui tam case. And these whistleblowers were insiders who had reason to know what they were talking about.

One was UAB's former director of research compliance, who has a background in forensic accounting and has worked with federal prosecutors in a number of major fraud cases.

The other was a former researcher in rehabilitation medicine. Public documents indicate that fraudulently obtained research dollars did not go to him while he was on the UAB faculty.

So where did all of that money go? And we're talking about an estimated $300 to $500 million.

That seems to be a reasonable question to ask now that UAB is claiming to be short on funds.

It also is a timely question as we near the beginning of a new administration in Washington, D.C. If recent polls are on target, that new administration will be led by Democrat Barack Obama.

Republicans who had directed the Bush Justice Department have clearly shown that they are not interested in getting to the bottom of gross research fraud at UAB.

Alice Martin swept the wrongdoing under the proverbial rug, and that's just one of several signs that UAB has been in bed with the corrupt GOPers who have been running our country into the ground.

Another sign? My unlawful termination, which public documents indicate probably was driven by a major UAB donor with ties to Bob Riley, Rob Riley, Dax Swatek, the oil industry, and the gambling industry.

This UAB donor happens to have a most colorful history behind the wheel of vehicles, and he faces a criminal trial on drunk-driving charges on December 1. And that's just one of many mishaps where he has put other people's lives at risk.

To make matters even juicier, this donor is the defendant in a lawsuit that alleges improper accounting in the handling of the estate of a prominent Birmingham businessman.

The bottom line? UAB has been taking big money from at least one unsavory individual. Does UAB care that this chap has repeatedly put the lives of innocent people at risk because of his reckless behavior behind the wheel? Evidently not. "Hey, the guy writes us big checks," the university seems to say. "Why should we care if he's a public menace?"

How's that for ethics at Carol Garrison's university?

A lot of unsavory stuff has been going on at UAB in recent years, and the university now claims to be low on funds--even though evidence shows it has quite a history of taking taxpayers for a ride.

Alice Martin and her cronies have looked the other way when confronted with corruption at UAB. But a new sheriff will be in town soon, and God willing, it will be Barack Obama.

Perhaps an Obama administration will take it seriously when a major university cheats taxpayers at will.

Why Would Anyone Be "Afraid" of an Obama Presidency?

I was at a sporting event on Saturday afternoon, and a friend told me he was "afraid" that Barack Obama was going to be our next president.

(I think "afraid" was the word he used. It might have been "concerned." I was surprised when the conversation went in a political direction, so I'm not sure on the exact language. But my friend clearly was not happy about the prospect of an Obama presidency.)

I've known this friend for almost 30 years, and he's someone I consider to be of considerable intelligence and fine character. He's also quick with a quip or a corny joke, and I've always enjoyed his company.

We've had a number of discussions on "deep" topics--religion, politics, etc.--and I think we've always respected each other's opinions, even though we tend to come at things from different directions.

You might say my friend fits the classic profile of a Republican voter. He's a white, male Southerner in his 60s who lives in a suburban area and is a regular church-goer (Baptist). For good measure, I know that he's "pro life" on abortion rights and "pro gun" on the Second Amendment.

Still, I was taken back a bit by my friend's tone on Obama. I suspected my friend probably would vote Republican. But his tone indicated that he had a genuine fear that Obama would take the United States in some kind of dreadful direction.

I've gradually learned over the years when it's a good time to let a political discussion slide, and this seemed like one of those times. As I recall, I did indicate that I didn't share my friend's concern, but I politely (I thought) tried to let the subject die.

Before letting the subject die, though, I made a statement that I guess was intended to personalize things just a bit. And I said it only because this friend has some familiarity with the legal woes my wife and I have experienced over the past eight years.

I'm not sure if my friend had ever made the connection between our travails and Republican politics, particularly the Karl Rove variety that has come to permeate the Deep South. But I think enough of my friend that I thought I should spell it out.

So I said something like this: "You know, people in the Republican Party, with connections to the Bush Administration, have tried to ruin my wife and me. They've cost me my job. They've cost us our life's savings. This election is pretty personal, and pretty important, to me."

I meant to say it--and I think I did--in a friendly, non-threatening way. I guess I just wanted to help my friend understand that the results of presidential elections can hit closer to home than any of us might ever dream.

Come to think of it, the desire to share that message with others is probably what led me to start this blog.

As November 4 approaches, many of us focus on issues like the economy, gas prices, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But I hope Americans will not forget that the next president will control the course of the Department of Justice and who serves as U.S. attorneys in districts across the country. Those decisions might determine whether you have honest or corrupt state judges at your local courthouse.

In my neck of the woods near Birmingham, Alabama, corrupt Republican judges cheat with impunity because they know U.S. attorney Alice Martin (a George W. Bush appointee) is not about to prosecute them for their crimes. (Will an Obama Justice Department clean up such messes? I'm not sure. But at least he should turn the Justice Department back in a healthier direction.)

So what about my friend? Well, I probably can't do anything to help him feel better about the prospect of an Obama presidency. But I do hope he, and others, will read this excellent piece from Frank Schaeffer at Huffington Post.

It's a thoughtful, balanced essay that indicates Obama might be the right man for our troubled times. And I see no reason to believe that John McCain is the right man.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Could Judge's Retirement Be a Good Sign for Obama?

Federal judge U.W. Clemon, a historic figure who presides over the Northern District of Alabama, has announced that he will retire from the bench on January 31 and return to private practice.

This might present a bad news/good news scenario for citizens who care about justice in Alabama and beyond.

Clemon, who was appointed to the federal bench by President Jimmy Carter in 1980, has been a proponent of civil liberties and an obstacle to the growing rightward slant of America's federal courts over the past 25 to 30 years. As a lawyer, the 65-year-old Clemon handled a number of landmark civil-rights cases before becoming Alabama's first black federal judge.

In 1969, Clemon brought a lawsuit against famed University of Alabama football coach Paul "Bear" Bryant and UA trustees to integrate the Crimson Tide football team. The suit was dismissed after Bryant started recruiting black players.

Many progressives might best know Clemon as the judge who presided over the first criminal trial against former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman and threw out the case for lack of evidence. U.S. attorney Alice Martin, a Bush appointee in Birmingham, brought that case. Siegelman later was tried and convicted when Leura Canary, another Bush appointee, brought a different set of charges in Montgomery.

Clemon said he will formally notify the new president of his plans to retire on Inauguration Day.

Clemon cited stagnant federal-judges pay and the ongoing rightward shift of federal courts as reasons for his retirement. He is particularly unhappy with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision last year in the Lilly Ledbetter case, which Clemon handled in district court.

Ledbetter worked at a Goodyear plant in Gadsden, Alabama, and charged that the company had discriminated against her by giving her smaller raises than male managers. A jury found for Ledbetter and awarded $3 million in damages, but the U.S. Supreme Court (on a 5-4 vote) threw out the award, ruling that Ledbetter had missed a deadline to sue within 180 days of having received the first unequal pay raise. Ledbetter for years did not know that she had been paid less than men who held the same job.

"The court seems to me to have utterly ignored the remedial purpose of the nation's employment laws," Clemon said.

How could Clemon's decision to retire be good news? My guess is that it reflects his confidence that Democrat Barack Obama will defeat Republican John McCain in the presidential election on November 4.

Would Clemon be stepping down if he thought John McCain would be picking his successor? I don't think so.

If that's the case, is U.W. Clemon correct in his assessment of the 2008 presidential race? We have a little more than two weeks to find out.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Both Parties are Wrestling With Congressional Dirtbags

This has been a tough week for Congressmen with zipper problems--and other assorted woes.

All of the Congressional sleaze reminds me of some topics that are going to become a big part of our Legal Schnauzer tale, particularly the part in our story about my termination from UAB.

On the Democratic side, we have the charming Tim Mahoney of Florida, who apparently paid a former employee and mistress $121,000 in hush money when she threatened to sue him. Another mistress has surfaced, the FBI is sniffing around because of possible misuse of public funds, and it looks like Democrats are going to throw Mahoney under the electoral bus.

That seems like a good idea, considering that the Palm Beach Post has rescinded its endorsement of Mahoney and a new Republican poll shows Mahoney now trailing his GOP opponent, Tom Rooney, by 26 points. Mahoney had been leading until his sleazy activities began to surface.

Republicans have been trying to take advantage of the Mahoney mess, but they have a little problem of their own. GOP Rep. Vito Fossella of New York faces a court appearance today in Alexandria, Virginia, on a drunk driving charge.

Fossella agreed not to run for re-election this year after news about his sex scandal surfaced. The married Congressman was having an affair and had an out-of-wedlock child with the woman.

Under Virginia law, Fossella could face jail time if convicted on the DUI charge. And the trial got off to an inauspicious start for the Congressman today.

Hmmm, let's see . . . drunk driving, abuse of taxpayer dollars, extramarital escapades, sex scandals. I've been conducting research on a number of folks who appear to have played a role in my unlawful termination at UAB. And based on my research, all of these subjects, and other juicy nuggets, will soon become part of our Legal Schnauzer story.

You won't want to miss it.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

UAB's Hypocrisy Takes on International Dimensions

Brazil's new consul general came to Birmingham the other day and paid a visit to my former employer, the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).

UAB President Carol Garrison took the visit from Adalnio Senna Ganem as an opportunity to extol the virtue of international alliances and study-abroad programs. Garrison noted that she encourages UAB students and faculty to spend time overseas.

"I have not met anybody who has had an experience like that who has not said it changed their professional life, and often their personal life, forever," Garrison said.

The people Garrison has met probably have been treated fairly and lawfully by their overseas hosts. But what about international students who come to UAB? How are they treated?

I know of at least one group of international students, trainees in UAB's medical program, who have been treated dismally. At least one lawsuit has been filed in the matter, and it appears that more will be on the way. And there are indications that the trainees' home government might get involved, given that UAB is trying to develop business relationships in the burgeoning country.

In at least one respect, the trainees have been blatantly cheated. And that's not just my opinion. The U.S. government made that finding.

You will be learning much more about this case here at Legal Schnauzer. It shows that UAB's abuse of students and employees goes well beyond my case. And it shows that UAB's hypocrisy cannot be contained by the borders of the United States.

Carol Garrison says international experiences tend to change people's lives. Well, she might try talking to some of her own international students. Their experiences at UAB have changed their lives--for the worse.

A Beloved Pet Suffers Because of Rove & Co.

When we think of those who have suffered because of the corrupt Bush Justice Department, we probably tend to think of people.

But I know of at least one much-loved pet who suffered because of the "Bush bastards." And I hope there is a particularly warm corner in hell for the people who are responsible.

Abby Teel was a 12-year-old Scottish terrier who had a happy life in Mississippi. One of her "humans" was my friend Wes Teel, the former state judge who is serving a sentence in an Atlanta federal prison for crimes he did not commit. Teel and his codefendants, Paul Minor and John Whitfield, are in prison only because Minor was a major contributor to Democratic candidates, and that caused him to become a target of the Bush Justice Department.

Teel and Whitfield (also a former state judge) were caught in the crossfire--collateral damage, if you will.

I learned in a recent letter from "No. 07708-043" (that's Wes' prison ID number) that the Teels' beloved Abby died recently.

"After I was sent to prison," Wes writes, "my wife tells me Abby lost her luster--her desire to live. She pined away for me, she looked for me each morning, and laid in my chair to pick up what remained of my scent. Her bright eyes dimmed, and she no longer looked forward to going outside. Chasing the local squirrels was no longer fun. Eating did not give her any joy.

"Abby eventually got sick and was taken to our vet who is a good friend and a great guy. There just wasn't much he could do to save her, and so she slipped out of this world and, I hope, into the next."

What was Abby like? You can check out a picture of her at the Gulf Coast Realist, a blog Wes started before he reported to prison in December 2007.
Scroll down a little ways, and you will see a picture of Abby and other family members on the right-hand side.

By the way, a Teel family friend is keeping the blog going, and she is a staunch Republican while Wes is a Democrat. I think it says a lot about Wes, and his friend, that their friendship flourishes across the political divide.

Wes' letter about Abby left me sad, stunned, and angry. I knew that Wes' wife, children, extended family members, and friends were struggling in his absence. But it had not occurred to me how much the family pets might be suffering. Considering the title of my blog, you would think that I--of all people--would have thought of that.

Given the extraordinary senses that dogs possess, I wonder if Abby not only missed Wes but somehow understood that he was the victim of a gross injustice.

We call our organization that is devoted to the well being of animals the American Humane Society. Wes' letter drove home for me just how inhumane Karl Rove and his ilk truly are. The death of Abby Teel should be laid at their doorstep.

"I sure will miss her soft eyes and gentle personality," Wes wrote. "I'll miss our walks and how loyally she would lay her head on my lap. She died, I believe, of a broken heart. And, now, as I write this with the tears of a 58-year-old man in my eyes, I miss my little dog and wish I could have patted her just one more time.

"Perhaps she died of a broken heart--for my heart is broken, too."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

UAB's President Embarrasses Herself

Carol Garrison, president of the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), has upheld my termination from the university where I worked for 19 years.

That means I won't be receiving justice within the university framework. And considering the leadership currently in place at UAB, that is not a surprise.

We noted a few weeks back that Cheryl E.H. Locke, UAB's director of human resources, had upheld my firing, even though her own grievance committee had found that I had been wrongfully terminated.

Garrison was my last line of appeal, and you might think that she would be able to see the absurdity in upholding a termination that the university's own committee had found was not supported by fact or policy.

But you would be wrong. And that sound you hear probably is Dr. Joseph Volker turning over in his grave.

You see, UAB once had visionary leaders who cared about issues of social justice, right and wrong. Dr. Volker is considered the "Father of UAB," and he more than anyone else is responsible for turning a small extension center of the University of Alabama into a major comprehensive university and a world-class medical center.

Dr. Volker grew up in Rochester, New York, and received his training in dentistry. He was dean of the dental school at Tufts University, near Boston, when he decided in 1948 to move to Birmingham and become founding dean of the dental school here. He went on to become UAB's first president and the first chancellor of the University of Alabama System.

Volker had the professional prowess to live most anywhere in the country. But he chose to make his mark in Birmingham, which was hardly a glamour spot at the time.

The city was riven with racial tensions in the 1950s and '60s, but Volker chose to stay and lead. He ensured that the integration of University Hospital went smoothly and played a huge role in helping Birmingham make the transition from steel town to biomedical research center.

If some right-wing zealot had come to Joseph Volker and demanded that he unlawfully fire an employee for political reasons, Volker almost certainly would have booted the zealot out the door--in a hurry.

But UAB no longer has that kind of honorable leadership, and Carol Garrison's letter to me proves it. Check it out:

Dear Mr. Shuler:
I have reviewed the facts upon which your complaint was based, the recommendations of the Problem Resolution Committee, the decision of the Chief Human Resources Officer and your letter of appeal. I believe that the offer of reinstatement to a position in another department, with two written warnings, was most generous. Given your refusal of that offer, I believe the decision to terminate your employment was correct.

For the foregoing reasons, I will take no further action with regard to this matter.

Sincerely,

Carol Garrison

In our previous post, I compared Garrison's handling of my case to the smarmy activities of U.S. Rep. Tim Mahoney (D-FL), who currently is embroiled in an employment-related mess of his own making.

Some readers might think comparing Garrison to Mahoney is overly harsh. After all, Mahoney was engaged in inappropriate extramarital activity and apparently was involved in improper use of public funds.

Garrison's letter to me might not seem to rise to that level of conduct. But I invite you to come along with me on an interesting journey through higher education, one that involves personal, professional, and financial hanky panky across several Southern states. And through it all, Carol Garrison was front and center.

Should UAB's president be compared to Tim Mahoney? Once we look at the details of my case, and at Garrison's personal background, I think you will see what I'm talking about.

Democrats Need to Roast One of Their Own

If Karl Rove has taught us anything over the past eight years or so, it's that the Republican Party, in its current state, is morally and ethically bankrupt.

Certainly we have honorable Republicans, and we've spotlighted some of them (Jill Simpson, Grant Woods) here at Legal Schnauzer. But their voices tend to be drowned out by the cacophony of sleaze that has been planted and nurtured by King Karl.

That means it will be up to Democrats if we are to have any hope of honest government in the near future. But in order for Democrats to lead on the ethics front, they must oust dirtbags in their own camp.

And they can start with Rep. Tim Mahoney of Florida.

ABC News and TPM Muckraker are reporting that Mahoney agreed to pay a former mistress-who was also a staff member--$121,000 after she threatened to sue him.

We learned yesterday that the FBI is investigating Mahoney. And a report comes today that Mahoney was having an affair with at least one other Florida woman, a county official in the West Palm Beach Area.

Mary Ann Akers checks in with an excellent overview piece at The Washington Post.

The Mahoney story is filled with icky irony. He holds the seat vacated by Republican Mark Foley, who stepped down after it was revealed that he had made homosexual advances toward subordinates.

Mahoney evidently thought it was OK to be a sexual predator, as long as you are of the "hetero" variety.

That, of course, is stupid. And if you want more evidence of Mahoney's stupidity, take a listen to a tape recorded phone conversation he had with his mistress.

You can hear the conversation and read a transcript of it here.

As someone who was unlawfully terminated from my job at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), I have low tolerance for people who abuse their employees. And the tape recording reveals Mahoney to be the worst kind of workplace reptile.

Listening to his words made my flesh crawl, and caused the words "stupid," "arrogant," and "prick" to come to mind.

It also reminded me of UAB's behavior in my case. I'll show you what I'm talking about next.

The Radical Right Lifted Palin to Power

Perhaps the most intriguing questions in American politics at the moment are these: How in the world did Sarah Palin come to power? How did Palin go from a City Council member in tiny Wasilla, Alaska, to vice presidential nominee of the Republican Party?

Folks who want answers to those questions should check out a splendid new article by Max Blumenthal and David Neiwert at Salon.

The story shows that Palin's rise to power was driven largely by two right-wing extremists--Mark Chryson and Steve Stoll.

Chryson was head of the Alaska Independence Party (AIP), which supported the state's secession from the United States. Stoll is an activist with the John Birch Society who is known around Wasilla as "Black Helicopter Steve."

They played a pivotal role in getting Palin elected mayor of Wasilla, supporting her financially and helping shape her policy once she was in power.

Palin returned the favors. She supported Chryson as he successfully advanced a number of anti-tax, pro-gun initiatives, including one that altered the state constitution's language to better support the formation of anti-government militias. Palin pushed Stoll for her own empty seat on the Wasilla City Council.

Blumenthal and Neiwert spent several days in Wasilla, and their report is must reading for those who want to unravel the mysteries behind an "up from nowhere" political figure.

The Salon piece is fascinating reading on its own, and Neiwert provides a "behind the scenes" look at the story on his blog, Orcinus. You can learn more about how the story came together here. And at this post, Neiwert uses Wasilla City Council minutes to show how determined Palin was to advance the cause of her extremist supporters.

Blumenthal has all kinds of interesting material about Palin on his blog. He shows that she has a poor record when it comes to hiring minorities, including blacks and Native Alaskans.

Blumenthal recently visited the Rachel Maddow Show to discuss the Salon article. The Alaska Independence Party, Blumenthal reports, has connections to extremist groups in the "Lower 48," including neo-Confederacy secessionist groups and the Constitution Party, which wants to place the United States under Biblical authority.

We're supposed to be concerned about Barack Obama's "ties" to former anti-war activist William Ayers? Voters might want to check out who Sarah Palin has been "palling around" with.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Winding Road of Financial Crimes Leads to Alabama--and UAB

We wrote in a recent post about the Bush Justice Department's tendency to cover up certain financial crimes, and noted the subject hits close to home here at Legal Schnauzer.

Our post focused on a Virginia case involving General Reinsurance, a subsidiary of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway. The Justice Department spent about $2 million to investigate the case and uncovered powerful evidence of massive insurance fraud. But the Bush DOJ shuffled its personnel deck and imported a couple of Texans who shut down the investigation.

All of this, we noted, has roundabout links to my unlawful termination after 19 years of employment at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). How could that be? Well, follow me for a moment.

Not all financial scofflaws get off. In fact, a case of wide-ranging insurance fraud several years ago in Pennsylvania resulted in a high-profile conviction.

But the case was not limited to Pennsylvania. It spawned several trails of criminality, and one of those led to Alabama and a company owned by a man who now holds an oversight position with the University of Alabama System--of which UAB is a part.

The Alabama company clearly was implicated in the Pennsylvania case. But for reasons that remain unclear, federal authorities did not pursue the Alabama arm of the case.

The man who was connected to serious financial hanky panky is not some mid-level administrator in the University of Alabama System. He holds a position of significant authority over the three-campus system, and his name resonates throughout the state. It has been well documented in the press that, when he wants to, he can exert considerable control over UAB.

So what do we have? We have a powerful Alabama businessman who somehow managed to escape a Pennsylvania-based briar patch several years ago. It's likely this businessman owes a serious debt of gratitude to the U.S. Justice Department for letting him and his company off the hook. And now this businessman is in a position of authority over UAB--in fact, some might call him the most powerful figure in the University of Alabama System.

Would the Justice Department, when faced with a UAB employee who was writing uncomfortable truths about the administration of "justice" in Alabama, turn to this gentleman for relief?

Would this gentleman, owing the feds a huge favor, react by taking steps to ensure that the UAB employee was fired? Did UAB officials, under pressure from the powerful figure, trump up bogus claims that the employee was blogging on university time?

I'm still gathering information on this story, so I will hold off on more details for now. But will this entire story be laid out for Legal Schnauzer readers?

To quote Sarah Palin, "You're darn tootin.'"

The Original Legal Schnauzer, Part VI


This is Murphy and yours truly (back when I had brown hair and a job) on our deck.

I like this picture a lot because it shows how pretty Murphy's coat was. And Mrs. Schnauzer deserves the credit for that.

For one thing, it was Mrs. Schnauzer's idea to make Murphy mostly an indoor dog. Schnauzers love fresh air and exercise, and we took Murphy on one or two nice walks every day. Also, she spent a good bit of time on our deck. (She almost stumbled through the slats in her puppy stage, and we promptly put up a safety screen.)But making her mostly an indoor dog helped keep her clean--schnauzers have wiry coats that attract leaves and yard debris--and that seemed to make her even more a part of the family.

Actually, she smelled a lot better than we do. No wonder we liked having her nearby all the time.

I guess you could say I was Murphy's play pal and walk scheduler. But Mrs. Schnauzer took care of how she looked. That included brushing her regularly and getting her bathed and groomed every six to eight weeks. (A tip: We didn't bathe Murphy between groomings, and we think that helped keep her coat healthy. Bathing a dog too much can remove the coat's luster.)

My wife's routine apparently worked. Murphy always seemed to feel great, and she had the best smell I've ever encountered--kind of like fresh laundry, only better. We've often joked that Murphy might have been the only dog ever whose humans sniffed her more than she sniffed them.

If heaven has a smell, my guess is it smells something like the Murph's coat.