Monthly Archives: February 2014

Holier than Ya’ll: Alabama Legislature’s Ten Commandments debate

25 things I learned during the Ten Commandments Debate

By Kyle Whitmire, February 23, 2014 on Kyle Whitmire |

Should Alabamians be able to hang the Ten Commandments in public buildings, including schools and courthouses?

Rep. DuWayne Bridges, R-Valley, wants to give Alabamians an opportunity to decide at the ballot box, and this week he again introduced a bill to send an amendment of the Alabama Constitution to voters.

The debate over the bill was, to say the least, as interesting as it was meandering. 

Here are a few things I learned about morality and Biblical history while listening to the debate.

- School shootings, patricide and matricide are due to the Ten Commandments not being displayed in schools and other government buildings. – Rep. Bridges.

- “Jesus himself said feed those who are hungry, clothe those who are nekkid.” – Rep. Darrio Melton, D-Selma.

- People who believe in Mohammed practice “Muslimism.” – Rep. James Buskey, D-Mobile.

“Jesus himself said feed those who are hungry, clothe those who are nekkid.” – Rep. Darrio Melton.
Alabama Ten Commandments display.JPG

- If you proposed an amendment to the Alabama Constitution about the Ten Commandments, Rep. Alvin Holmes, D-Montgomery, will give you a quiz in which he repeatedly refers to them as the “10th Amendment.”

- The 10th Amendment was adopted before the people of Israel crossed the Red Sea because Moses didn’t get to cross the Red Sea. – Rep. Bridges responding to a question from Rep. Holmes.

- “Love thy neighbor” is one of the Ten Commandments. – Rep. Bridges, responding to a question from Rep. Holmes.

- “Love thy neighbor” is not one of the Ten Commandments but has something to do with coveting. – Rep. Bridges correcting himself a few minutes later.

- Adultery “means having sex with someone you hadn’t got any business having sex with.” – Rep. Holmes.

- Rep. Alvin Holmes is the only member of the Alabama House who has abided by all the Ten Commandments. – Rep. Holmes

- “Two thousand fourteen years ago, and he was 33 before that.” – Rep. Bridges on when Jesus was born.

- The annotation “AD” stands for “after death,” (not “Anno Domini”). – Rep. Bridges.

- Before they bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church, “Bull Connor and them” had a prayer. – Rep. Holmes.

- Bull Connor and the others who bombed the church were never arrested and now they’re in hell. – Rep. Holmes.

- Alabama State University’s baseball team beat Auburn’s baseball team in a practice game last night. – Rep. John Knight, D-Montgomery.

- A lot of the Auburn baseball players must have had the flu. – House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn.

- This country was founded on godly principles and other people who come here from other places aren’t going to change that. – Rep. Bridges.

- “Fifty two of the 55 founders of the Constitution were active members in orthodox churches in the colonies.” – Rep. Bridges.

- “Moses and the law, they had their day, but this is a new day and it is brought on by the Lord Jesus Christ. – Rep. George Bandy, D-Opelika.

- Rep. John Rogers would rather adjourn for lunch than finish this debate now. – Rep. John Rogers

- Rep. Bridges has a bad memory and that’s why God put the Ten Commandments in the Bible twice. – Rep. Bridges.

- Rep. Bridges didn’t include John 3:16 in the amendment because not everybody believes in Jesus Christ. – Rep. Bridges, opposing an amendment from Rep. Bandy to add John 3:16 to the bill.

- If pressed, the Alabama Legislature will table John 3:16 by a vote of 54-32.

- Voting for the Ten Commandments puts souls in peril because “we are voting against what can save the soul of a believer.” – Rep. Bandy.

- The Ten Commandments were presented by Moses, an African who was born and lived in Africa and wasn’t allowed in the Promised Land. – Rep. Bandy.

- This issue has been tested by the courts numerous times and it has always ended the same way. – Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa.

- Rep. England is way too knowledgeable, intelligent and well-spoken to serve in the Alabama Legislature. – Me.

- The Alabama House will debate the same bill it has passed before for two hours before approving it by a 77-19 vote.

Gabby’s Tortillas: Local teen starts successful handmade tortilla business

Gabby Griffin, 15, supplies community with delicious, authentic tortillas while using her business to help abused women and children.

By Jill Clair Gentry, January 3, 2014, Fairhope Courier

It takes strong hands to roll out hundreds of fresh tortillas every day. Fifteen-year-old Gabby Griffin definitely has strong hands, but she also has a strong spirit.

Gabby's Tortillas

After going through something no child should have to endure — being physically and verbally abused by her father — Gabby, her mother and her two brothers moved to Foley from Arizona two years ago to start a new life. Now, Gabby is using her talents and her story to bring her family together and to help others.

Rolling out a business plan

Gabby has blossomed in Foley, and last November, she started her own business as part of the Young Entrepreneur’s Academy (YEA!) at Foley High School. YEA! students learn to write a business plan, pitch their idea to potential investors, obtain funding and launch their new companies.

“There were only seven of us in the class, and we were coming up with all these weird ideas,” Gabby says. “My instructor Rick Miller said to think of something bizarre that no one has here, and I thought about how one Christmas, I made 100 tortillas and they were all gone. I threw it out there in class as a joke, and it took off from there.”

Gabby has been making tortillas since she could walk. These handmade tortillas aren’t like the ones you’ll find in a store or even at any local Mexican restaurant. They’re tasty enough to enjoy by themselves — unlike store bought flour tortillas, Gabby’s tortillas are not too doughy, perfectly salted and are downright heavenly when served fresh and warm. Instead of being a bland vehicle for tasty fillings, these tortillas enhance the flavor of whatever fills them.

“My tortillas obviously are way different,” Gabby says. “Mine are a lot thinner, and they aren’t made with lard. I’m having a lot of fun introducing them here.”

Gabby's Tortillas

YEA! instructor Rick Miller, who is the founder of Pro356 Consulting, a local business consulting company, says Gabby is a natural entrepreneur. Not only did she come up with a business plan, but she fearlessly tackled complex challenges that cripple some business owners, Miller says.

“Gabby is one of the youngest entrepreneurs I have ever met,” he says. “Entrepreneurship is all about taking calculated risks and stepping out and doing the hard work necessary to turn it into a business. Gabby is mature way beyond her years. A few years from now, when people are comparing her to Sister Schubert, we’ll know why.”

A little bit of home

Currently, Gabby makes all of the tortillas by hand in a small kitchen at the Summerdale Flea Market. She mixes the dough, lets it rise for 15 minutes, picks out perfectly sized balls of dough and rolls each one into a thin sheet. Then, she uses a cardboard template to cut the dough into a round disc and places it onto a custom-made cast iron pan that fits on all four burners of the stove.

“But I only put it on the two on the right because I like the way it cooks like that,” Gabby says. “When I have someone helping me, I can cook three tortillas at a time.”

Gabby is in her kitchen nearly every day, usually with her entire family. Weekends are spent rolling tortillas into the wee hours of the morning. During a normal week, Gabby and her family make hundreds of tortillas, and during busy weeks, they get into the thousands. The company’s tagline is “A little bit of home,” and Gabby says the love her family puts into each tortilla makes that ring true.

“My family is really supportive,” Gabby says. “Even my brothers pile in here Friday night and Saturday morning, and my older brother is the only one of the kids with a license, so he drives me everywhere.”

Gabby's Tortillas

A “for purpose” business model

Gabby’s mother Loraine Ostema says rallying around Gabby’s business has been the perfect way for the family to heal and grow even closer after escaping the abusive situation in Arizona.

“We came from a real difficult time and the business just solidified what our family meant,” Loraine says. “This is our bonding time. It means a lot more than just starting a business. It was a very emotional thing for her to come to me and say, ‘I want to take this to the next level. Let’s use our recipe and make this happen.’ Watching her now is like a mom’s dream come true.”

Gabby says she shares her family’s story as much as possible, with the goal of giving hope to mothers and children who are experiencing similar situations. And as part of her original business model, Gabby describes her business as “for purpose” and is hoping to use her tortillas and her voice to help abused women and children. At the beginning, she pledged to donate two out of every 10 tortillas sold to a nonprofit organization, and she also wants to share her story with others.

Gabby's Tortillas

“Looking back, we’re able to thank the Lord for even all the bad stuff because it’s led us here,” Loraine says. “Now we’re looking for agencies we can help. Somewhere out there, there’s a kid, a little girl or a mom who went through what we did, and we want to tell them it’s going to be OK.”

Business profile

NAME: Gabby’s Tortillas

OWNER: Gabby Griffin

FIND HER TORTILLAS: Gabby’s Tortillas Café in the Summerdale Flea Market (Thursday–Sunday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.); Coastal Alabama Farmers and Fishermen Market (Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.)


CONTACT: 251-597-4161,

Slow-cooker shredded beef tacos.

Bentley is right: Dependency is rampant in Alabama

by John Archibald, January 17, 2014 on  John Archibald |

Hear! Hear!

Governor Dr. Robert Bentley laid the dependency problem bare in his State of the State address this week:

“We will never see an end to the plague of poverty by offering a deeper dependence on a flawed government system.”

Heck no.

“We will never help our poorest citizens, or our future generations by casting over them the net of government giveaway programs.”

Course not.

“We can break the cycle of poverty, but not with programs that drag our communities and our people into the downward spiral of dependence.”

Can I get an Amen?

“There is never freedom for the breadwinner who is dependent on the government.”


Say it, governor. We in Alabama are simply trying to help those who would belittle themselves, who would come to the government with their hands out and their pride stuffed down deep in their jeans.

Gov Robert Bentley arrives for State of State.JPG

We want to do them a favor, as the governor said, by breaking the cycle of dependency. We’ll cut those folks off so they can start again to feel good about themselves.

They’ll thank us one day.

Yeah, the good governor zinged the gimme-gimme crowd for sure. He just stopped a tad short.

For if coming to the government for your very survival is a shameful sign of reliance, Bentley missed a whole boatload of dependency.

After offering Alabama’s poor people a hard dose of tough love, the governor boasted that …

“One thousand Alabamians are finding… opportunity in Mobile where Airbus has invested $600 million.”

But didn’t point out that, because of government handouts, subsidies, incentives and rampant corporate dependency, that economic development coup will cost Alabamians $159,000 per Airbus job.

Bentley bragged that “900 more people are working this year assembling Montgomery-made Hyundai vehicles.” He said more jobs are coming to Tuscaloosa’s Mercedes plant, and beamed about how Honda “launched mass production of its 2014 Acura MDX sport utility vehicle, the first time the automaker has assembled a vehicle from its luxury line.”

“Word is spreading far and wide that Alabama is a great place for companies to do business,” the governor said.

And that’s true. It’s just not the whole truth.

Word has spread that Alabama is a great place to come if you have your hand out.

Alabama doled out a quarter of a billion dollars in incentives to lure Hyundai to the state, matching the quarter of a billion dollars in incentives it came up with to lure Mercedes and the $158 million it found for Honda.

Alabama governments gladly open their coffers for truck builders that never come and for McDonald’s restaurants in poor, unhealthy communities. Local governments roll out the red carpet for Walmarts that pay employees so little they still qualify for food stamps.

Word has spread that Alabama will spread the government cheese far and wide to lure anybody that claims it will produce jobs.

Of course it’s not just Alabama. The corporate hand is out everywhere across the nation. Federal corporate welfare to AIG, Chrysler, GM and the nation’s largest banks in recent years came to $27 billion. States trampled all over one another offering scratch to Boeing, an exercise that succeeded only in giving the company leverage to cut worker pensions.

It is time to end the dependency.

As Bentley said:

“Freedom is only found in the land that offers opportunity. That comes from hard work and sacrifice.”

And since Alabama played a big role in helping to inflate these incentive packages and subsidies in the first place, Alabama should be the first to say … enough.

It’s for their own good. These companies, you know, will thank us one day.

The sad state of the state’s health care

Opinion by historian Wayne Flynt, January 29, 2014,

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley described the State of the State. President Obama will discuss the State of the Nation. As a political independent who voted for both of them (is it possible to rescind both votes?), I have earned the right to an ordinary folk’s version of both subjects. Since Americans trust used car salesmen more than politicians, I figure I can’t lose.


The three pivotal components which will determine Alabama’s future are the health of its people, the education of its children, and the creation of decent jobs. Alabama does a miserable job of all three.

To some degree, the topics are related. Children who suffer from chronic health problems have more trouble in school. Unhealthy employees reduce productivity, raise insurance rates, and reduce their own employment options.

Part of this first installment on health care is intensely personal. As I recorded interviews with my parents while writing “Keeping the Faith,” I noticed how often their wrenching childhood poverty involved health care. As a young girl, Mom walked a mile with her mother down Highway 79 from Pinson where they boarded a bus for HillmanCharity Hospital to have her diseased tonsils removed.

Dad told about chopping firewood in the early 1930s on his family’s Calhoun County sharecrop farm when the ax blade glanced and gashed his foot. Usually his mother’s turpentine and home remedies cured a cut. Not that time. Osteomyelitis, a bone infection, cost him two years of school. But for the kindly ministrations of a doctor who drove muddy dirt roads to care for him (in return for eggs,  smoked hams, sausage, firewood, and other payments in kind) it would have cost him both legs.

After he recovered, married Mom, and I was born, they saved $3,000 on his salesman’s salary. But before they could purchase a home, reoccurrence of osteomyelitis  in 1943 sent him to famous Birmingham surgeon, John Sherrell, whose skill saved Dad’s legs from amputation. Dad, uninsured and with a three year-old toddler, added a $500 dollar loan to his $3,000 savings to pay Dr. Sherrell, and paid a monthly installment for years on his hospital bill.

Physicians like these make their profession the one I most respect. They enforce high standards on themselves. They work long hours. They pay homage to a sacred creed of conduct and caring. The Alabama foolishness that such physicians will desert their patients if their average incomes drop to only three to five times median American incomes besmirch an entire profession. But if conservative politicians and economists are correct and they do retire in mass, a rapidly expanding market will quickly attract a new labor source. In the future, more physicians will be black, Asian-American, Hispanic, female, foreign born and educated (or reeducated) in the U.S. But if a short term medical vacuum occurs (and if conservative economics proves true), market forces will solve the long term problem.

In Alabama this new generation will have a challenge.  While researching health data for my book, Alabama in the Twentieth Century,  I discovered our state’s  rankings: obesity, 49th; diabetes, 49th; high blood pressure, 49th; child poverty, 49th; infant mortality, 48th; heart disease, 46th; strokes, 43rd; smoking, 42nd; cancer, 42nd.  If you think this is the description of a labor force prepared for a global economy, you may be part of another problem health group: people who can’t pass a drug test.

Some of these rates have improved slightly.  Others have worsened.  But Alabamaremains one of the poorest and sickest states. Of the 28,000 bankruptcies filed during 2013, most resulted from unpaid medical bills by uninsured citizens.

Here is one such story recorded by a new group called “Bama Covered.” A 62-year-old roofer employed by a Birmingham construction company works 40 hours a week for $10.50 an hour. His total annual income amounts to slightly more than the poverty rate for a family of two, himself and his wife. They are also raising two grandchildren which drops them below the federal poverty line. Company administrators have health insurance. Roofers do not. Had Governor Bentley expanded Medicaid, this family would have been covered.  As is, any illness or injury in 2014 will be catastrophic.

I will let God and Governor Bentley sort this out some day, but the good news is “Bama Covered” and its founder, Josh Carpenter. Josh is one of us. He hails from Florence, Ala.  His Dad was a bi-vocational Baptist minister. He graduated from UAB with a degree in Business. He taught English and coached football in Perry County with Teach for America. He won a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University.

This winter he left his graduate studies, returned home, and established Bama Covered.  He contacted state opinion-makers, enlightened business people, and organized a network of our best, brightest, and most caring community college and university students. They trained for eight hours on how to access the Affordable Care Act website. In January, they spread out across Alabama to walk people as technologically illiterate as I am through every option for health care available to them.

Alabama, which suffers from a stunning lack of vision, leadership, and courage among its elites, may yet be saved by its youth.  They remind me of another generation of young idealists a half century ago who wrote their names in history and forced Alabama to jettison a world of mythology in order to enter a world of flesh-and-blood reality.

Alabama historian and author Wayne Flynt is a distinguished university professor emeritus at Auburn University.

Pam Jones is director of Marietta Johnson School of Organic Education

By Taylor Peyton Strunk, January 21, 2014 on

FAIRHOPE, Alabama — Just a few months ago, Pam Jones began her tenure as director of the Marietta Johnson School of Organic Education in Fairhope – a new post, but a familiar environment to this veteran in the field of education.


Jones, who recently retired from Baldwin County Public Schools, where she served most recently as assistant principal of Foley Elementary, grew up in Daphne and attended the Organic School herself for seventh through 12th grades. It is also where she met her husband and local potter, Tom Jones.

“Tom graduated in 1970 and returned in 1972 to teach pottery and folk dancing,” said Jones, who was still a student at the time. “I graduated in 1975, attended Hinds Community College in Raymond, Miss., and then married Tom in 1976.”

Jones settled into married life and soon started a family, but after her children started school she began volunteering at the local nursing home where she worked with three special needs students who attended the Point Clear School.

“Volunteering with these children, I found out about an opportunity to work as a special education aide and I also became a bus driver,” Jones said, adding that she was ultimately inspired to return to school at Faulkner State Community College. “I then went to the University of South Alabama and earned my teaching degree in special education.”

In 1994, Jones got a job as a special education teacher at Daphne Elementary School, working with students with physical and mental learning disabilities.

“I eventually received my master’s degree and then went back to South Alabama and got my administration certification. There was an opening available for an assistant principal at Daphne Elementary and I was asked to fill that position.” When her position in Daphne was eliminated in 2009 because of student numbers, Jones transferred to Foley Elementary until she retired.

Now at the Organic School, which currently has approximately 30 enrolled students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grades, Jones said the biggest difference she’s noticed is the lack of of testing in the classroom.

“Public schools are constantly testing. We assess children, but we do not test them,” she said, adding that the school’s philosophy is that some of the fear and trepidation of learning is removed from students in the absence of testing. “At the Organic School, we’re always learning, whether it be book learning in the classroom or going outside to learn about the environment.”

Jones said she loves her new position and what she does on a daily basis.

“I have always loved working with children and watching them learn new things and experience life. The Eastern Shore offers so many different things to teach our students at Organic. We can walk to the beach and learn about sea life and water activities, or we can go to the gulley and into the woods and learn about the plants and animals that are indigenous to our area. The school is an integral part of Fairhope, it’s what the people of Fairhope are all about.”