Tin Shop Tartan - Randolph County Alabama's Own Snarky and Surly Scot Gets All Native

Blogging from the suburbs of the Tin Shop community, Captain Plaid brings Progressivism, and a share of Quixotic angst, to the ridges and hollows of Randolph County, Alabama. Hardly a booster yet rooted here enough to fight, Plaidsters can perhaps find like cause in trying to build local solutions to global concerns. Education, environment, economy, entertainment, engagement ... Trust the Tartan!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Captain Plaid - New Approaches for New Days

I'll be cross posting the following across the five efforts. I'll keep Captain Plaid up and running via Blogger, although TypePad continues to call me. Until I announce otherwise, Captain Bama is leaving the building. For the near future at least, I'll abandon Tin Shop Tartan. I'm going to put Captain Jimi in the holster as well in that I can fight the culture war on the main blog. Marque Stuart has long been neglected and my inner Martha will need to be surpressed even further given these next few weeks ... and perhaps even months and years.

I've been slack in posting these last few days but family called. I was unexpectedly called in to help a relative with a business/building project and that has been the priority these last few days. Even though the fam might not always understand me, I am thrilled to help any of my brood. I understand Highlanders had "broken men" that had left their own Clans and joined with another in some respects, generally free to return to or assist their kin as circumstances required. Maybe that is what is going on with me? There have surely been plenty of shifts and changes for me over this summer! Here's the immediate deal ...

I'll be working for a Progressive Political Action Committee until mid-November. Reporting on Labor Day for duty, I'll be in Milwaukee for the first few days but they'll soon farm me out to at least one candidate. Although there may be some races for Governor or other state/local positions, I'm likely going to be working in one of the competitive U.S. House districts. I could be working pretty much anywhere but doubt it will be in Alabama or even the South (Florida doesn't count as the "South" does it?). Country come to town?

I'm hoping to find future work, ideally in politics/policy or some type of non-profit education, away from rural East Alabama. I'm looking in relatively urban areas along the East Coast or in the Mountain West. This PAC I'll work for next will assist in placement and yet I've got friends and contacts that are also looking and helping. The experience will hopefully teach me much plus it will admittedly help expand my resume. By the first of the year I hope to have a long term position nailed down. If anybody knows of something that might suit me please let me know. I'll work like two trojans. I can get along with most folks, event though some family and a few past "significant others" might disagree.

I'm leaving for several reasons. I've mentioned that several fundamentalist family members reacted rather harshly to a letter I sent First Baptist Church on their shilling of Amendment One, the Alabama Contitutional Amendment on banning same-sex marriages that every major paper or reasonable authority in Alabama agreed was not necessary and even foolish. Some have expressed displeasure with my Letters to the Editor to my local paper. I think I've done four since the first of the year and I've yet to have anybody say my facts were wrong. In every letter I challenged Bu$hCo (and often the GOP and conservatism and ...) so I think that was mostly the problem. Again, explain where I was wrong! Until then, and probably even after then, I feel very patriotic to have spoken out against the abuses of this worst administration ever. Additionally, my ex-wife has gone on the warpath so that my ability to have the type of relationship I'd like with my son has become more of a challenge.

I've left the classroom after five years back in the trenches frustrated with NCLB and other bureaucracy, with this last years's experience trying to teach the young adults of Heard County, Georgia being the final nail in that coffin. I was also feeling "cooped up" in that teachers are forced to work inside cement block rooms for most of their day and not always able to engage people and the community as might be ideal for any profession. I'd pondered returning to the practice of "country law", thinking a low overhead practice where I could perhaps avoid the drudgery of merely paying the bills might be rewarding. I'd thought I could do criminal defense and some worthy activism plus simply help folks but I've decided I can't remain here in rural East Alabama and keep my sanity. I'm somewhat afraid I'd wind up an angry, lonely old man. Living in this conservative backwater, even though I cherish some of the rural lifestyle, might do more harm than good. As a single man, the social scene around here is especially scary. I love the dirt and woods and critters and ..., and certainly a few dear friends, but I'm now certain I need another setting.

I've learned to live simple, and the older I get the less I seem to need, but I want "purpose" to my life. I seek intellectual and spiritual experiences. I want to work with people that generally possess a Progressive outlook. I want to find my place in a vibrant community that values learning and art and compassion and service and health and ... I've long though about building a "home" where I'll feel some measure of security and completeness. My experiences as a child, with my mother dying rather young plus several other unfortunate realities, have I think tempered me where I default to seek "place", although I'll argue this is a very Southern, perhaps even Scottish, trait.

My failed marriage and practice, one that I'll submit I've placed in the proper order, plus the resulting troubles, were certainly events I'd have just as soon avoided. Ten to seven/six years later, I'm twice the man I was and I'm just forty. I can still be a good father, even though the idea of moving away from my son is the toughest part of these changes. In fact, given the current attitudes and actions of my ex-wife, I'm perhaps making the best of a bad situation. I wanted to be near "the boy" through these early teen years but if I'm better centered by being elsewhere then more good might result.

I've really enjoyed posting on these five blogs and hope they've been valued for at least effort if not for insight. I've only done a few on Marque Stuart but I've dropped 126 posts on Captain Jimi. Tin Shop Tartan has seen 127. A total of 186 post appeared on Captain Bama. Captain Plaid has had 279. Over seven hundred posts! Many hours of mousing and keyboarding (with Blogger being bloggered often making it take longer!) but I've learned so much. I appreciate the comments and communcations. For those that have honored me with a blogroll link feel free to leave any or none. I'll continue over at Captain Plaid, with the caveat that if my new gig doesn't allow time then posts might be scarce. I anticipate a new email addy once I get settled in.

Thanks again for allowing me to share my thoughts and frustrations plus my hope for a better world. Peace ... or War!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Am I Leaving Dixie for Merely Flyover Land?

I'll soon be leaving this area for ten weeks. From Labor Day to mid-November, I'll be helping a yet unknown campaign for a PAC based in Wisconsin. I'll initially be in Milwaukee but I'm not sure where I'll be working just yet. I've been pondering the differences between here and where I'll land yet wondering if there will be as much as I'm wanting. I know some time away will be positive and I'm thrilled to have this opportunity. Plus I've had about all the humidity I can stand this summer! Might need to let the blogging slide for a bit but I'm still thinking about the options of continued postings.

I'll send you to an old post I did on Dixie Outfitters that I recently mailed to The Young Turks in response to their discussions of Virginia's George Allen "macaca" insults to a Webb staffer. Cenk, Ben, and Jill seemed surprised that this redneck trait (Allen had a "rebel flag" - yes, I know it is a CSA "battle flag" - in his office for years) was still in the South. I explained that I'd worked in two West Georgia schools where the default uniforms were Dixie Outfitters shirts. I truly think there was an inverse relationship between the days of the week a DO shirt was worn and the intelligence of a child (and their parents as well in some ways for letting them express their 1st Amendment Rights - I know my Old Daddy didn't think the 1st applied to parents and I think he was correct - in such a manner). I recall many Unreconstructed Rebels that couldn't tell you a damn thing factually about the American Civil War yet they'd constructed pretty much their entire wardrobe around the Lost Cause.

I also ran across this Sara Robinson post on Ornicus where she'd commented about two years back to a Billmon Whiskey Bar post with a biting commentary on the South. I know plenty of folks were mad at the South after Dubyah came back in. John Egerton wrote of the Southernization of America and I think there's some truth to the idea. Redneckism is spreading like a cancer I fear. Fundamentalism up in Ohio, plus some nasty tricks with the election and Rovian hateful hardball, saved this disaster of an administration. Some "coastal elites" talk with distain about "flyover land" and I'd hate to land in a place where I still feel a bit geared wrong for the area. I'd guess our little village is perhaps as conservative as any so at least I'll not be backing up.

Perahps there's a shift in process yet I'm sure I'll have some 'splainin to do over what the South has wrought to this nation. Peace ... or War!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I Rest My Case on Standardized Test Focus!

My "Letter to the Editor" made The Randolph Leader today, although I 'd have used another title. I noted Penny and Vanessa reporting on the County and City efforts. Good gracious was that lots of text and statistics and edu-speak and ...! We should celebrate of course and yet if most of our schools had not made AYP then we'd have thought the schools not up to snuff.

Handley not making AYP was due to drop outs. Do schools make those decisions? I thought we wanted "rigor"? Additionally, I'll promise you that I've seen schools keep straight hellions in school so as to fluff the attendance numbers. We socially promote and have serious limitations on discipline and then these kids get to high school where there's a train wreck. Once they aren't getting their credits many will bolt. Some aren't being served that well but some simply aren't suited for traditional settings. That's reality folks! I'm a bleeding heart for certain yet I know this to be true.

I've seen a registrar/counselor spend hundreds of hours designing bribes and stunts to get kids to come to school. Last I knew parents were the ones making the decisions on getting up the kids and then making them darken the doors! Yet schools get judged on this factor?

I was pleased to read that special education students tested high enough to make AYP yet noted that had not been so in the past. I've taught tons of kids with various learning disabilities and other limitations. Yes, any child can learn. Still, expecting all special education students to do all of the things NCLB does is just plain bent.

I'd thought that perhaps County and City numbers might get covered this week yet I'd never dreamed we'd get this detail. I hope folks will consider my concerns. Useful to have some testing but to live and die by it is simply flawed. Peace ... or War!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Red to Blue by Empathy, Engagement, & Effort?

Senators Diane Feinstein of California and Chuck Schumer of NY will have to do yet Ted Kennedy, Barbara Boxer, Bill and Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, ... would perhaps work just as well. Down here in this neck of the woods these two might work as well as any for poster children for out of touch, coastal elites. I'm not crazy about Senator Schumer's DLC/Republican Lite approach but Senator Feinstein gets more right than wrong.

I talked to a good local friend of mine today that I'd probably label as a paleo-conservative. Once a Perot/Buchanan supporter. Thinks "when the the truth comes out" Bu$hCo will go down as one of our greatest. Very nervous about the Democrats position on the Second Amendment, singling out our two Senators above for special scorn. I talked to him about Robert J. Vanderbei's maps and University of Michigan work that morphs images around in what some have called "purple haze" since he had a copy of the "Red America" 2004 county map on his desk. My friend seems to wants to know the facts and I'm optimistic he'll listen if approached respectfully.

After that talk, I dropped by a local family business, one where I'm crazy about these folks, where two of the fam snarled at the idea of voting for a Democrat. I think they mentioned Ted Kennedy but I'm not sure. I told some Bu$h jokes, chatted them up, shared my blog URL as they mention my Leader letters, and walked away thinking "Maybe?. I wasn't playing activist or manipulating them as I enjoy being around them. They are rather wealthy and I can understand their support of the GOP when it comes down to economics even though I think their customers would have more money to spend if we were better off and globalization didn't give Wal-Mart a leg up against many small businesses and ...

My paleo friend mentioned Diane Feinstein wanting to go door to door to get folks' guns. He thinks Chuck Schumer NYC gun views are dreadfully out of touch as well. I know several Democrats, including the two above, attempted to renew, as written or perhaps with some amendments, the "assault weapons ban" that expired just before the 2004 elections. Both support Brady background checks and would likely want them tightened up.

Just so I'll feel like I'm being open, I was surely conflicted on this "assault weapon" vote and think reasonable people could go either way. Here's a perfect place for bipartisan solutions yet I'd argue the NRA, and especially the Big Mule GOP Corporatists, wants to keep the division. I do think regulation or stricter controls on these weapons makes sense. I'll include demands on those that manufacture and distribute weapons as well. I also think background checks, without the "gun show" loophole that you can drive a busload of criminals or even terrorists through, are reasonable. Gun enhancements to violent and significant property crimes work generally.

Licenses and permits make sense in many cases. "Concealed carry" works for me in some ways. Loosening the "duty to retreat" doesn't make sense, something I've posted on before, even scolding Bob Riley for shilling NRA lies. These are local matters I'll argue for the most part so the federal government, beyond how the 2nd might apply, will generally not be involved.

As to my friend, "Mission Acccomplished NRA" is what I'm suspecting. They've essentially guaranteed a vote for the GOP or made it darned difficult for this fella to consider "voting under the rooster" (an old term for voting Democrat back in the days when I even fear the state party had "White Supremacy" in the logo) on what I'd argue is flawed information. I've Googled about and the closest thing I can find for "door to door" was the voluntary turn in or buy back or whatever it was program that some urban law enforcement communities attempted to get unregistered weapons off the streets. If anybody can help me here then I'd appreciate it.

Certainly the average Democrat is not going to fall in line with the NRA line. Good for them! I'm proud to have written a nasty gram to the NRA many years ago telling them to drop me from the list and to never communicate with me . They stir up mess for fundraising and political gain. See an earlier TST post on "Stop the UN Gun Ban" for an example of how they lie. They, like several pseudo-grassroots organizations are more tools of the corporatists than looking out for average Americans. I did note several versions of this "Second Amendment Hypocrites: Senators Schumer and Feinstein Pack Heat" by Jim Kouri on various "alternative" news sites. Where I sent you had a reference to the FDA's "ongoing Communist agenda" which I thought was rather revealing.

I'll admit that the "paranoid style" of American politics works. I slip into it myself at times. Yet, I'll also argue that the average Democrat is not wanting to take away any law abiding citizens guns! They support the Second Amendment! They are in touch with "real" Americans" and certainly most are much more concerned about the environment (RU listening hunters?) than those in the GOP. Plus they, like any smart GOP pol, know that banning guns is just like the Supremes setting aside Roe vs. Wade. It would be political suicide! There's some value as a wedge issue for each side but the differences in the mainstream aren't that extreme. Concerns that Diane and Chuck and ... are plotting to take away our weapons if ever given the chance isn't a good way to cast your vote.

Democrats want to make sure Bubba at least has some public land to take his kids fishing and hunting as we are seeing how the good land is being snapped up by the fat cats making big bucks in the economy set up by the GOP. Bubba keeps voting the BIG Mules into office and they keep screwing Bubba over where it really counts. Bubba's mad about boys marrying boys and his preacher is telling him about the Godless liberals eating fetuses and ... Arrggghhhh!

Closing off and finally returning to the title to the post, understanding where those voting GOP are coming from is a good start for our side. Communicating and bouncing ideas about, using humor when able, is another part fo the game. Finally, being willing to work at staying informed is required. Tracking down information takes time. Breaking through GOP and right wing talking points or even distortions, otherwise known as "lies", takes time. The GOP has taken away plenty of "our" votes down here and Progressives can perhaps think exponentially as I know it gets frustrating. Get say ten for our team and then those might get five others and so forth. Peace ... or War!

Monday, August 14, 2006

When If Ever Will Randolph County Go "Wet"?

I've been hearing that some folks intend to get the "wet" issue on this November's ballot. I think they've got to do this quickly if they've not already waited too long. Melanie Warner of the New York Times reports "With Business Leading a Push, Liquor Comes to Dry Bible Belt" which provides some good insights for our locale. Peace .. or War!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Good teachers, not bureaucrats, are celebrated!

"Good teachers have lifelong influence" appears in this week's Leader. I knew several of the names that were mentioned. Would that it were that the profession was actually seen as a "noble calling" as Pat Weathers does! I'll submit that this view of educators is becoming rather rare. And that's a damn shame! The fella to the left, Alfie Kohn, could surely help remedy this trend.

I've been reading his "What Does It Mean To Be Well-Educated" and I'm reminded of how much joy there would be working in education if his ideas on schools were implemented. Kids and parents would be sharing that joy as well. Our society would begin shifting toward a love of learning and the ability to ponder and questions and seek and ... Isn't that what being "well educated" is about?

NCLB and conservative education "reforms" of the last twenty plus years have certainly done more harm than good but I'll also suggest they've taken away much of the joy in teaching. Good teachers, and I'll include principals and administrators in that category, are due even more praise for remaining in the field increasingly dominated by bureaucratic business-based ideas of learning that simply aren't applicable to "learning".

The thing is that if you intend to get ahead in the field now you've essentially got to buy into the "accountability" model. Standards with learning mostly measured by high stakes testing is the foundation. So much of what occurs in our classrooms locally is dictated by our politicians and bureaucrats in DC and Montgomery to a lesser extent. Changes will occur at the ballot box only when Americans start understanding the failures in current policies. The other major influence in our schools are the corporations and consultants making huge profits off the "solutions".

I left education for several reasons yet remain motivated to remedy the many failures in our education policy as I care about our world. Sharing Alfie Kohn is a good way to begin. Peace ... or War!

UPDATE - August 14, 2006 - Here's the text of a "Letter to the Editor" that I forwarded to my Randolph Leader. I felt compelled to take the opportunity to say something that I think needed saying. Given that my old computer plus my old noggin and fingers seem to be less than 100% I'll pray for no goofs or that The Leader will catch and remedy before publishing.

Pat Weathers’ "Good teachers have lifelong influence" from The Leader’s August 9th edition was a gem. “The chance to make a positive influence on a young child at a crucial time in their lives is such a blessed opportunity and if used wisely can have an influence that lasts throughout that small person's life.” was wonderfully written. Amen! As an advocate of “Progressivism”, I’d like to add my two cents to the “if used wisely” angle.

An educator presently in voluntary exile, I've been reading Alfie Kohn’s "What Does It Mean To Be Well-Educated" plus several other critics. Ted Sizer and Deborah Meier for instance write on “intellectual habits”. Questioning, seeking, analyzing, imagining, caring, communicating, curiosity, marshalling evidence, critically thinking, considering perpectives, connecting, supposing, and other traits that “lifelong learners” often possess are not easily “measured”. In fact, measureable outcomes may be the least significant result of education. Extrinsic motivations (rewards/punishments) may actually limit the intrinsic ideal. The value of some homework and rigid grading, even “authentic assessment”, is rather uncertain. Michael Apple, Albert Bandura, Paulo Freire, Jonathan Kozol, Peter McLaren, Susan Ohanian, and of course John Dewey provide solid alternatives to conservative ideas of what makes a good school.

Bu$hCo’s “Texas Miracle”, now known to have been partially fraudulent, yielded NCLB, more accurately labeled as “No Data-Obsessed Bureaucrat Left Behind”. This federal mandate was forced on schools in 2001. Some Democrats, attracted to funding and help for the disadvantaged that has often not been delivered, supported NCLB. Some critics claim this “accountability” movement began with a “manufactured crisis” in 1983 when the Reagan White House released their “Nation at Risk” report. The Bu$h the Elder and Clinton administrations, plus other pandering politicians, often accepted or parroted ideas of “raising the bar” and “measuring outcomes” and other “reforms”.

Good teachers, and I'll include administrators here, earn our praise for remaining in a profession increasingly hindered by top-down bureaucratic, business-based ideas that often aren't applicable to "learning". The "accountability" model has been placed on top of a hundred year old “industrial” model. Foundationally flawed “high stakes” testing dominates yet do these “one size fits all” instruments really measure what is important? Focusing on arbitrary goals like “Adequate Yearly Progress” is doing more harm than good. Examining recalled “facts” and demonstrable “skills” can be useful yet few measurement experts deny that developmental and individual factors are the primary indicators of “success” on most standardized tests.

Our local schools are increasingly controlled from DC and Montgomery. A second influence would be those corporations and consultants making money off "solutions” such as “canned curriculums” that are often “an inch deep and a mile wide”. Conservative “think tanks” and “policy shops” that serve up “research” to bolster the claims of the above two groups are a third major influence. Local educators have much less power than many lay people might believe. Our parents, students, media, educators, and the community as a whole should question and challenge the conservative takeover of our schools.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

I'll burst some "marginalization fantasy" bubbles!

I've posted on Thomas Frank before over on Captain Plaid and perhaps even here. With the exception of a few wealthy families, a poor community like ours ought to be consistently electing Democrats for state and especially national offices. Kansas had some farm populism that was far more economic that ours yet we had pockets here and to the north into the Piedmont.

Mr. Frank is locked behind the New York Times' Select feature today but I located the piece at another site that shall remain my secret. His "The Spoils of Victimhood" works here on my "local" effort. I'll drop the whole thing in below. Many conservatives left here are still trapped in the old model as well. Some certainly need their "marginalization fantasy" punctured.

If you've not seen my recent Captain Bama post on Gerald "Dino" Dial whining to the Democratic Party while at the same helping Bob Riley with a "Lucy's too liberal for Alabama" media spot then you might enjoy visiting. Lots of "victimhood" indeed. Peace ... or War!

Guest Columnist - "The Spoils of Victimhood" By THOMAS FRANK

“President Bush operates in Washington like the head of a small occupying army of insurgents,” the pundit Fred Barnes writes in his recent book, “Rebel-in-Chief.” “He’s an alien in the realm of the governing class, given a green card by voters.”

Let’s see: These insurgents today control all three branches of government; they are underwritten by the biggest of businesses; they are backed by a robust social movement with chapters across the radio dial. The insurgency spreads before its talented young recruits all the appurtenances of power — a view from the upper stories of the Heritage Foundation, a few years at a conquered government agency where expertise is not an issue, then a quick transition to K Street, to a chateau in Rehoboth and a suite at the Ritz. For the truly rebellious, princely tribute waits to be extracted from a long queue of defense contractors, sweatshop owners and Indian casinos eager to remain in the good graces of the party of values.

What a splendid little enterprise American conservatism has turned out to be. How does this work? How does the right keep its adherents in a lather against government bureaucrats and Washington know-it-alls when conservatives are the only bureaucrats and know-it-alls who matter anymore?

Part of the answer is that, after their crushing defeat in the 1930’s, conservatives rebuilt their movement by adopting a purely negative stance against liberalism. They were so completely excluded from power, they believed, that in 1955 William F. Buckley Jr. famously depicted them “Standing athwart history, yelling Stop.” Writing in the middle of the Reagan years, the journalist Sidney Blumenthal gaped at the persistence of this “adversarial” mind-set long after the liberals had been routed. “Even when conservatives are in power they refuse to adopt the psychology of an establishment,” he marveled.

Here we are, 20 years later, and to hear conservatives tell it, every election is still a referendum on the monster liberalism, which continues to loom like a colossus over the land. Even Tom DeLay — the erstwhile “hammer” — becomes a martyr when addressing the faithful. “The national media has taken my own re-election as their own personal jihad,” he moaned in a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February. “So we’re fighting the fight of ages.”

That conservatives continue, as Rick Perlstein writes, to “soak in [their] marginalization” four decades after the election of the last liberal president puts this victimology beyond implausible. It is more on the order of a foundational myth, like the divine right of kings, a fiction that everyone involved must accept as fact.

A century ago, it was conservative stalwarts, not liberal reformers, who were the natural party of government. And they were forthright about what they stood for as well as what they were against: They were for rule by a better class of people, for a Hamiltonian state in which business was unified with government. And conservatism is still for those things, tacitly at least. Just look at the résumés of the folks the president has appointed to the Departments of Labor, Agriculture and the Interior. Or scan one of the graphs that economists use to chart the distribution of wealth over the last hundred years. The more egalitarian society we grew up in is gone, snuffed out by the party of tradition in favor of an even rosier past that lies on the far side of the 1930’s.

These ought to be easy things to deplore. They ought to arouse precisely the kind of simmering fury that millions of Americans feel toward lewd halftime shows and checkout clerks who don’t say “Merry Christmas.” But we have difficulty holding conservatives accountable for them, so potent is their brand image as angry outsiders. What conservatives do, as everyone knows, is protest government, protest modernity; to hold them responsible for government or for modernity is to bring on cognitive dissonance.

Or, rather, it might bring on cognitive dissonance. We don’t know because puncturing conservatism’s marginalization fantasy hasn’t really been tried. If liberals are ever to recover, this will have to change. Against the tired myth of the “liberal elite” they must offer a competing and convincing theory of how Washington works, and for whom.

Thomas Frank is the author, most recently, of “What’s the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America.’’ He will be a guest columnist during August.

Copyright 2006 New York Times Company