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AL-Gov Ron Sparks Is In, He Will Challenge Artur Davis; Alabama Agriculture, Moonshine, Stolen Cattle and the ACLU

Thanks to MW, admin of Progressive Electorate for bringing this to my attention. Last fall I supported Josh Segall for the AL-03 race (we came just short 47-53). Ron Sparks was one of Josh's biggest supporters. Now he's put his hat in for the Alabama Governor's race in 2010 against fellow Democrat and governor-hopeful Congressman Artur Davis. This diary has some of Ron's best work so far including a sting that yielded moonshine and stolen cattle! Much more after the fold in the hottest 2010 race to date. The electoral break is over folks, back to work! More about moonshine too (XX!)
Here's Ron at the DNC

Ron Sparks Basic Info:

He's the current Alabama Agriculture Commissioner. He's a Baptist with three kids. Born in Fort Payne, Alabama... Sparks led efforts to open the Cuban market to Alabama farm products, traveling to the nation and meeting with Cuban leader Fidel Castro, leading to Cuba’s agreement to begin imports from Alabama. During his second term, Sparks has continued the expansion of the state lab system. When a salmonella outbreak linked to tomatoes occurred in the spring of 2008, Sparks acted to secure verification that tomatoes grown in Alabama were not suspected of contamination with the disease, and to facilitate marketing of those tomatoes as "safe."

Ron Sparks speaking at the Universities Fighting World Hunger

This is a fascinating sting
March 3, 2009 - Ag Department Scores Huge Dragnet

MONTGOMERY - Commissioner of Agriculture & Industries Ron Sparks held a press conference today on a months-long sting operation that has led to a tremendous recovery of stolen property. As of today, fifteen counties in Alabama and one in Florida are part of the dragnet. The total value of recovered items so far is more than half a million dollars and includes: cattle, tractors, backhoes, ATVs, power tools, utility and stock trailers. The investigation also led to the discovery of other illegal items including drugs, moonshine, and untaxed liquor.

"The last six months have been exceptional for our investigations team," said Sparks. "Not only are they solving crimes, they are recovering property that has been missing for years. As the economy has worsened, the number of cattle and property thefts has gone up tremendously as unscrupulous people try to make a quick buck off the backs of hardworking citizens. So many farmers and business owners have been hurt by these thieves. I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish by working together with other law enforcement agencies to solve crimes in Alabama."

The recovery of eighteen head of cattle at the Montgomery Stockyard was especially significant as it was the first investigation in Alabama where DNA testing was used to identify stolen cattle. State Veterinarian Dr. Tony Frazier collected samples from the cattle and sent them to the State Diagnostic Lab in Auburn. From there, the samples were forwarded to a national laboratory to be compared with the DNA from samples collected from the suspected farm of origin. Five of the eighteen were positively identified by this DNA comparison to their farm.

I love this story!! They recovered moonshine and stolen cattle! This could be a story out of Deadwood, ND circa 1880. For the uninitiated, wikipedia defines moonshine as "a common term for home-distilled alcohol, especially in places where this production is illegal. Also known as; hooch, shiner and white lightning.

The name is often assumed to be derived from the fact that moonshine producers and smugglers would often work at night (i.e. under the light of the moon)."

Picture by Jimi b
This is a total tangent but when else am I gonna get to talk about moonshine? I love something about the history and culture of it, even though I'm not very pro-alcohol.

Here's how you say moonshine in other languages.

Armenia: oghee The production of oghee is widespread in Armenia. White mulberry, grape, cornelian cherry, plum, and apricot moonshine are especially popular, particularly in the countryside.

Brazil: One form that can be qualified as moonshine is known as "Maria Louca" ("Crazy Mary"). It's aguardente made in jails by inmates. It can be made from many cereals, ranging from beans to rice or whatever can be converted into alcohol, be it fruit peels or candy, using improvised and illegal equipment.

That sounds like an episode of Lockup I saw once way too many times.

In Colombia moonshine is called "Tapetusa" or "Chirrinchi" and is illegal. The aborigines used to make their own version of alcoholic drink called "Chicha" before the arrival of Europeans. Chicha is usually made of corn, which is chewed and spat in an earthen container that was then buried for some time (weeks).

For Snake Bite

Czech Republic: 'slivovice' (pronounced "slivovitza") or 'Meruňkovice', made from apricots.
Democratic Republic of the Congo: lotoko
Denmark: hjemmebrændt (Lit.: Home burnt)
Dominican Republic: moonshine is called cleren in the towns near the border with Haiti and Pitrinche in the eastern towns
Ecuador: Puro (Spanish for pure)
Estonia: Puskar and is usually made from potatoes
Finland has lots of names for moonshine: pontikka, Other names are kotipolttoinen (home burnt), ponu, ponantsa, tuliliemi (fire sauce), korpiroju (wildwood junk) or korpikuusen kyyneleet (tears of wildwood spruce)

This is unbelievable!! It speaks for itself.

R.I.P. Marvin 'Popcorn' Sutton

PARROTTSVILLE, Tenn. – Legendary Haywood County moonshiner Marvin "Popcorn" Sutton took his own life because he couldn’t stand the thought of going to prison, his wife said today.

Pam Sutton said she found her husband Monday afternoon dead of carbon monoxide poisoning outside their home in Cocke County, Tenn.

"He got his letter to report Friday, and he just couldn’t handle it," she said. "We tried everything we could to leave him on house arrest, and they wouldn’t do it. So I thank the federal court for this.

"And he was really sick. He was depressed. I didn’t know he was that depressed."

Sutton, 62, spent much of his life making moonshine, a craft that brought him fame and a string of criminal convictions dating back to the 1970s. He was facing 18 months in federal prison on moonshining and weapons charges and had told a judge at his sentencing he was in poor health and would rather die at home than in jail.

Pam Sutton said she went into town to run errands and couldn’t find her husband at their house when she returned. She found him at the rear of their property inside his beloved old Ford Fairlane, which was running, she said.

"He called it his three-jug car because he gave three jugs of liquor for it," she said. "He had painted it John Deere green and it had yellow wheels. He had drove it to California and back.

"He was a good man, he really was."

Agreed, although he had a bit of an alcohol problem (he shouldn't given that deer shiner).

In Germany, moonshine is called Schwarzgebrannter. The term is very often translated "black burned" since the word schwarz means black, but in this case schwarz means illegal (as in black market). A more accurate translation is "illegally burned liquor"

picture by michael donovan
There are many many more definitions...
But anyway.. back to business...

Ron Sparks speaking at Selma

More info about Ron Sparks and Alabama Agriculture here
and at The Progressive Electorate Dot Com

This video is great from '07.. You could watch it but it's kind of long. I'll give you the highlights.

Sparks talks about normalizing relations with Cuba, cracking down on companies that get their food recalled, imported chemical catfish from China, Invasive plants like Kudzu, Fair Trade, Salmonella and a Peanut Recall from '07. Sparks says that Alabama Seafood needs to be antibiotic free. Hell Ya! He's big on food safety, and local foods. He put into the Alabama state legislator, a country-of-origin labeling bill (it failed). "92% of people want to know where their food comes from." He's against NAFTA because it's free trade and not fair trade. Losing jobs to outsourcing.. omg! This wingnut went after Ron in part 3 of the video by asking him if he knew the name of this blogger who had a pro-Sparks site. Ron said no. Then the winger said, well did you know that this person was on the Alabama Board of Civil Liberties? (like that was a red flag, the wingers went after Josh for his ACLU connections as well)

Continuing my summary of that Ron Sparks video..
Ron saying he's worked across party lines with Republicans. Winger host asks.. "If party lines don't make a difference, why not register as a Republican?" and here's a novel response from Ron; "All ideas from Republicans aren't bad, all ideas from Democrats aren't bad... there's a lot of things I would disagree with Republicans on, but that don't mean I don't like um!"..... Campaign Finance Reform... "I hate that part of the job I'll be honest with you.. askin people for money."

He seems like a really good guy. I'm going to check out Artur Davis some more and then makeup my mind. But Ron Sparks is definitely talking about all the stuff I care about.

Ron Sparks improved childhood nutrition through a Kid Fit Program that changed the menus at Alabama schools. That's awesome! It's gonna take a lot for Rep. Davis to match up to what Ron Sparks has shown me. Either way this is going to be a hotly contested primary for this Alabama Governorship, and we have two viable candidates to convert what is currently a Republican held position.

Originally posted to CornSyrupAwareness on Sat Apr 04, 2009 at 12:33 AM PDT.


Be Honest, Have you ever tried moonshine?

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tips for Ron Sparks, and/or an Interestin Tangent (5+ / 0-)

    I miss Deadwood! Thoughts about moonshine? Are they still going to do a movie? Who do you support in AL-Gov for 2010?

  •  Sparks has pull up in North Alabama,Davis doesn't (2+ / 0-)

    I think Davis could put up a better race in the Senate.

    Sparks hit the ground running, announced in Montgomery and was in Huntsville by 5 p.m.

    Small wheel turn by the fire and rod*Big wheel turn by the grace of God*Everytime that wheel turn round*Bound to cover just a little more ground

    by bamabikeguy on Sat Apr 04, 2009 at 12:59:00 AM PDT

    •  Yea I was reading that over at Progressive Electo (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      This is gonna be an exciting race. What's your personal preference.. Sparks vs Davis? I really like Sparks from what I've seen.

      •  Sparks, when he first took the job I was (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        LynneK, CornSyrupAwareness

        thinking "dimbulb", but it didn't take long for him to shake up the Ag Dept after that crooked Chas. Bishop was gone.

        I called once to complain about the scales at the local auction barn, they were tested within 2 weeks AND I got a phone call plus a note with  "cc: Ron Sparks" at the bottom, meaning he was keeping an eye on the operations.

        He was on the ball during the drought of 2007.

        Small wheel turn by the fire and rod*Big wheel turn by the grace of God*Everytime that wheel turn round*Bound to cover just a little more ground

        by bamabikeguy on Sat Apr 04, 2009 at 01:15:48 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  The economic of moonshine is highly profitable (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      alizard, LynneK, CornSyrupAwareness

      the price per quart was equal to, & sometimes a little higher, than products found in the ABC store.

      But the margin was increased by distributing it by the gallon to "shot houses", found on the wrong side of the tracks, and sold at $1-2 per shot.

      No taxes, low overhead, maximum profits.

      Small wheel turn by the fire and rod*Big wheel turn by the grace of God*Everytime that wheel turn round*Bound to cover just a little more ground

      by bamabikeguy on Sat Apr 04, 2009 at 01:08:12 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Here's a couple of good links (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cjallen, LynneK, bamabikeguy

    from local blogs that know much more than me.

    Left in Alabama
    Ron Sparks in His Own Words: Artur Davis Comes Out Swinging in Press Release Today

    Davis campaign spokesperson Anna Ruth Williams said, "While we would never presume to be sure what Commissioner Sparks will do, if he should enter the governor’s race, we look forward to hearing from him why his previous concerns about dividing the party have disappeared. We do note that Mr. Sparks does seem sure of two things, that he wants to hold on to a good government job and that desire is now more important to him than unifying the Democratic Party."

    L-A-B Davis makes a mistake

    L-A-B Sparks In For Governor's Race

    •  Sparks misread the electorate in 2007-08 (3+ / 0-)

      He was there in Selma Mar 07 (me too), saw Obamamania first hand, and I could see which way the wind would blow, just from the energy around the 2 churches Clinton and Obama were speaking at.

      But he believed the inevitable meme. When he came on Daily Kos, we tried to tell him !!

      EVERYbody was pissed off he didn't go against that Vivian Figures in the primary, she put up the biggest nothingness of a campaign I've ever seen versus Sessions.

      Sparks could have beat Sessions, because he would have been in it to win.  

      I don't know why Figures even bothered.

      Small wheel turn by the fire and rod*Big wheel turn by the grace of God*Everytime that wheel turn round*Bound to cover just a little more ground

      by bamabikeguy on Sat Apr 04, 2009 at 01:33:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Obama seemed pretty unpopular in AL (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        from what I saw in the comment/op ed section on a couple of the local papers (as well as his thorough beating by John McCain)

        What did Sparks misread? I'm not sure I understand.. you saying Sparks was sure Clinton would win?

        •  At the time he pulled out of consideration, it (3+ / 0-)

          was Hillaryhate all the time on the radio, so he wasn't the only one missing the pulse, so did the RW airnutz.

          No Dem was going to win in the Prez catagory, but that spewing on the radio was causing folks to think the GOP turnout would be doubled-down to vote against her.

          Little Jim Folsom winning Lt. Gov, and the Supreme Court race, proved the GOP didn't have a lock on statewide races.

          Small wheel turn by the fire and rod*Big wheel turn by the grace of God*Everytime that wheel turn round*Bound to cover just a little more ground

          by bamabikeguy on Sat Apr 04, 2009 at 01:49:15 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Obama lost in Alabama (4+ / 0-)

          but he received roughly 40% of the vote here. So, to say he was "unpopular" is somewhat of a stretch. You can't really gauge a candidate's popularity with the "common folk" in Alabama by reading the local papers, because the majority of them are pretty much Right-Wing propaganda machines.

          "Truth never damages a cause that is just."~~~Mohandas K. Gandhi -9.38/-6.26

          by LynneK on Sat Apr 04, 2009 at 04:47:17 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  4 of the 5 Blackest states. (0+ / 0-)

          Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina are among the most reactionary states, despite having the highest percent Black (Maryland is #4 but is among the most Liberal).

          The Whites have long been inculcated with the notion that a politician who supports their interest is a "Nigger lover," and is therefore unworthy of their support.

          The Repubs are whining that Ted Stevens's senate seat was stolen by prosecutors who couldn't stick to established court procedure. The case against Stevens was a lot stronger than the one against Don Siegelman. Are the Alabama Repubs going to observe the same standard as their Alaskan brethren? Or am I just wasting my breath?

          Proud Citizen of Barackopolis.

          by Judge Moonbox on Sat Apr 04, 2009 at 07:20:05 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for this diary. (3+ / 0-)

     Here's the thing:  whomever the Democratic nominee ends up being, they're going to be a damn site better that whoever the GOP puts up.  Sparks and Davis have two very different styles, but either running the Governor's Office would be a sea change for Alabama.  I've known Artur for some years now.  I've disagreed with some of his positions, but think well of him, all in all.  Spoke with Ron Sparks at some length a couple of times back in August in Denver at the DNC (on the bus ride back from this -- the "Buffalo" thing -- comes to mind) and think very well of him, too.


    "Unseen, in the background, Fate was quietly slipping the lead into the boxing-glove." -- P.G. Wodehouse (via Bertie Wooster)

    by BenGoshi on Sat Apr 04, 2009 at 04:49:59 AM PDT

    •  A photo of Ron Sparks from the DNC (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

        August 27, 2008, addressing the Alabama Delegation to the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado:




      "Unseen, in the background, Fate was quietly slipping the lead into the boxing-glove." -- P.G. Wodehouse (via Bertie Wooster)

      by BenGoshi on Sat Apr 04, 2009 at 05:00:34 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I like Sparks, but (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BenGoshi, Judge Moonbox, bamabikeguy

    I plan to vote for Artur Davis in the primary. If Sparks wins the primary, he will have my vote in the general. He really disappointed me when he refused to run against Jeff Sessions. He could have beaten that nutjob, but he didn't have the guts to do so. I think either man would be a good Governor, I just like Davis a teeny bit more. (Part of my problem with Sparks is the moonshine bit, but, of course, I have a problem with that particular law, anyway.)

    "Truth never damages a cause that is just."~~~Mohandas K. Gandhi -9.38/-6.26

    by LynneK on Sat Apr 04, 2009 at 04:51:27 AM PDT

    •  Every farmer, including small hobbyists, gets (0+ / 0-)

      a monthly 6-8 page sale paper (cattle/equipment/farms etc).

      Sparks has always treated it as a self-promotion, 4 outta 5 stories will revolve around "Sparks".

      I read "Left in Alabamas" take, but there are a couple things they are not keeping in mind.  I did not know about that minor Davis/Folsom snub.

      Davis' Black Dem. org picked correctly with Obama, the older more established DLC picked Hilary, and some hard words were traded in '08.

      You oughta see Sparks work the Cullman or Arab stock auction, he has nearly 75 sale barn facilities to work out of, plus every food establishment, his signature is on every gas pump.

      His brand of populism crosses the spectrum, nobody can get mad at the guy.  Davis may have the money backing, but Sparks has the back slapping monopoly.

      Davis is stand-offish, and that won't help.

      Small wheel turn by the fire and rod*Big wheel turn by the grace of God*Everytime that wheel turn round*Bound to cover just a little more ground

      by bamabikeguy on Sat Apr 04, 2009 at 05:38:22 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Good Left in Alabama diary on Sparks (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CornSyrupAwareness, bamabikeguy

    . . .  from yesterday, with comments.

    And what's this talk of Mike Dow???  Interesting.

    By the way, later within the next 24 hours I plan to Diary at Left in Alabama (with a cross post here) my yesterday morning at LuLu's restaurant at Gulf Shores.  The Gulf Coast Area Chamber of Commerce gets it, with regard to environmental matters, recycling, green business development (not just of the "window dressing" kind).  Interesting.  These are more-or-less Republican-types, and Alabamians, yet they're light years ahead of their kindred in other parts of the state.


    "Unseen, in the background, Fate was quietly slipping the lead into the boxing-glove." -- P.G. Wodehouse (via Bertie Wooster)

    by BenGoshi on Sat Apr 04, 2009 at 05:10:25 AM PDT

  •  Get you a copper kettle, get you a copper coil (2+ / 0-)

    fill it with new made corn mash and never more will you toil. Sounded so pretty when sung by the very young Joan Baez.

    The darkest hour is just before the dawn. Persevere.

    by OHdog on Sat Apr 04, 2009 at 05:25:08 AM PDT

  •  I've had moonshine made from corn (2+ / 0-)

    and rye. I have to admit, the rye mooshine was the smoothest I've ever had (corn 'shine can be quite harsh), and two shots gave me quite a buzz.

    •  My father bought moonshine once. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      skohayes, CornSyrupAwareness

      At the time, he had a coworker who was from the Mountains. On a trip to the Smokies, Dad bought some moonshine and gave it to the coworker. The guy turned it upside down and said it was--I can't remember the figure used, but it was high proof--because the bubbles turned it white.

      Proud Citizen of Barackopolis.

      by Judge Moonbox on Sat Apr 04, 2009 at 07:24:13 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I lived in VA for a year (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    when I was 19. I went to a party in roanok and we drank "rocket fuel". They were drinking it down like beer. I got shitcanned in an hour.

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