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!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Captain Plaid - Why I'll Continue Blogging!

I’ve been busy lately but I’m getting a fair amount done around the property. Time is scarce even with the summer vacation from “teaching” the “scholars” I was working with this past year. I’ve also had some flack from my conservative/evangelical family on my blogging and the rare “Letter to the Editor” to my local rag, even those that were mistakenly viewed as such. My ex-wife has gone on the warpath to boot! I have several projects that are going to take some serious effort and time, plus I’ve got to figure out how to start making a living this Fall. I’ll admit I’ve pondered dropping the whole blogging enterprise. I’d continue to read as much as I could but might stop posting. But I’m not, at least not just yet. Here’s why:

    1. Blogging gives me a chance to vent. “If you aren’t outraged then you aren’t paying attention!” seems to work for me. I am often amazed at the lack of understanding in our “leadership” from the national to local level. Journalist and pundits disappoint me as well at times yet the pseudo-commentators and Astroturf organizations and those playing The Mighty Wurlitzer deserve my/our scorn.
    2. Blogging lets me communicate and connect. I do read several major and also a few minor blogs yet rarely comment. However, I can feel connections with others that are concerned enough to share. I’m stuck here in the boonies of East Alabama with less human contact than might be ideal. I like being alone at times yet admittedly enjoy intellectual discourse and basic banter about the things of life. Sharing ideas and thoughts seems so human. Blogging, both reading and writing posts, seems very suitable for that process.
    3. Writing, and thinking for that matter, can be a creative release. I like to build and do. I am sure my mind is improved from the process. Seems harmless at least. I’d love to be able to profit financially from the work yet doubt that will happen. But I do profit in other ways.
    4. I truly learn from reading and thinking. Blogs, plus the links and resources they’ve sent me to as well, have taught me so much. I am learning how to be a better writer, with a long ways to go admittedly, yet even this relatively well-educated man learns plenty every day from reading the posts of some super smart folks. I believe we should learn until we die. When we stop learning then we might as well check out. I’m just forty. I think often that a well seasoned man could contribute to this sort of effort even it he can’t work like a young man.
    5. This blogging seems so democratic. Regular folks are able to challenge the authorities and powerful and those with an audience. The marketplace of ideas on steroids it seems.
    6. Blogging is a bargain. A high speed line tied to an admittedly old computer and I’m there. Lots of bang for the buck it seems.
    7. Blogging expands my world. I get to read ideas from people around the planet that I’d otherwise never know. I get views certainly from locations that I’m not likely to visit. I hear from the Left Coast to DC to Philly to NYC to The ATL to Colorado to …
    8. I feel more patriotic by blogging. I’m connected to a group that cares about our nation. We often are critical of our governments yet I think that is the ultimate sign of patriotism. We seek the ideal that this country can be. I believe in the work of the ACLU and other groups that seek the protections of those freedoms and traditions that makes this nation still worth saving. I believe in social justice and these efforts allow me to work in those fields.
    9. I like politics and public policy. Armchair wonk? My four main blogs had been thought out as “thinking globally and acting locally”, with Marque Stuart being an aside that I hope to return to as able. Captain Plaid (nation/world) to Captain Bama (region) to Tin Shop Tartan (local) work in that continuum. Captain Jimi lets me fight the culture war in one location yet I continue to believe there’s often overlap in all areas. I still think Progressivism may best be "sold” through local applications. Fighting back against conservatism’s powerful message machine almost requires insurgency on the local level given how the mainstream media and some Democrats continue to let them get away with distortions and talking points. Also, some centrist Democrats are nearly as bad at the GOP with their allegiances to The Big Mules very certain. Progressives have few leaders on the national stage, with Russ Feingold being one exception it seems. In Alabama and locally, Lefty Progressives are even more rare.
    10. Finally, I blogged on Howard Zinn via Captain Plaid just yesterday. One segment he wrote was “…we still might accept as our civic duty the responsibility to buttress our fellow citizens against the mendacity of our high officials.” So I’m carrying out my “civic duty” perhaps? “Responsibility” is a good word. We do the painful at times due to duty. Nothing could be more important for citizens of our world than to engage and care. I do.

I’ll soldier on, as always. Peace … or War!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

I like Big Books, I Cannot Lie ...

Shannon, Zion, and Dan Smith are in the image to the left. Dan "Southpaw" Smith's White Boy DJ is likely not the type of "ministry" that we'd see in my neck of the woods yet his "Baby got Book" is incredibly clever. His Momentum Church in Cleveland likely gives interesting service. Will the Church vans really have spinners? Peace ... or War?

Friday, June 23, 2006

Is Bu$hCo's UN Ambassador Bolten a NRA Man?

The above image if of a child soldier in the Rwandan conflicts. If I've got my timing right he's surely grown now, assuming he is still alive. So why is the child on Tin Shop Tartan? If you read the post title, if the darn things shows up at all since Blogger seems to be bloggered again, then you've got a clue.

Here's the WaPo/Reuters Irwin Arieff's "US sees no need for new UN measures on small arms" for the basics yet CBS gives us even more insight into the bizarre actions of the NRA. The"Stop the UN Gun Ban" lies and scare the hell out of the gun crowd (you know the base responds to fear) is worth a visit ... yet I do hate linking to the NRA. Wayne LaPierre, Executive Vice President, National Rifle Association of America, is a wanker yet to hear him shrill the shill makes me want to wash any vestiges of the NRA from my past. To have Wayne the Weasel spreading this trash is offensive! I long ago turned my back on this organization yet still value the 2nd Amendment. This is all too typical a tactic of the NRA to stir up their, dare I say, "less sophisticated", membership over nothing.

I know good well we've got lots of stupid people in this country. Still, I do see plenty of NRA symbols around our area. Wonder why? Peace ... or War!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Taking politics out by politicians select justices?

The Randolph Leader Editorial from today's paper entitled "Fundraising by Supreme Court candidates affects performance, perceptions" rightly blasted the way our Appellate Court Justices are elected, focusing on the expenses of these races and fears that favoritism could be seen as a way of paying back the big contributors. Yet, the way this piece ended floors me. The Leader writes,

For the solution we need only to look to the U.S. Supreme Court, where justices are appointed by the president and approved by Congress. Here our elected governor could appoint and our elected Legislature could approve. If we don't like their choices we vote the elected representatives out at the next election.

Unlike the U.S. Supreme Court justices' lifetime appointments, our state Supreme Court justices could be appointed to fixed terms such as six years. At the end of that term whoever the governor may be then may choose to reappoint or replace the justice.

It's not a perfect system, but it beats the one we've got. Anything that helps take the politicking and campaign fund-raising out of the process is an improvement.

I know the Alabama State Bar has promoted a version of the "Missouri Plan". Here's how it basically works: An independent "Nominating Commission" of nine members - not just lawyers - offers up a slate of qualified nominees for the Governor to select from. You'd then have an eleven member "Evaluation Commission", again not all being lawyers, prepare a report on how the Justice handled the job at the end of their terms. You'd then hold retention elections on these jurists which would allow the general public the choice to return them to the bench or be shown the door. If bounced, the opening would be filled by the above process. As a quick aside, criminal defense lawyers need to have a larger defined role in the Alabama State Bar's plan!

The Leader's idea seems very flawed. For one thing, although perhaps the Governor and Goat Hill crowd knows more about the candidates judicial qualifications than the average voter, it is naive to suppose "politicking" isn't going to be part of the process.

Also, would a Governor not be sorely tempted to remove a capable jurist due to the mere fact that he or she is a member of the other party?

What about patronage? Deal making behind close doors? You don't think George Corley Wallace would have done some politicking in the process of filling these seats?

Can we imagine the judges appointed by Fumbling Fob or Guy Hunt of AmWay lore?

This editorial wants the Governor and Legislature to select the very judges that will be deciding cases often involving the other two branches? Conflict! If voters don't like the judges we are told to vote those selecting the judges out? Defeating an incumbent over anything is tough enough yet I can already imagine politics would play into this process. Votes could be gained most certainly by pandering to the base over social issues and those damn "liberal trial lawyers". I can also imagine "test" cases that various groups might bring to try to create wedge issues they could exploit yet that might be occuring any way we slice things.

The wisdom of the lifetime appointments in our Federal system is that once the judges get on the job they can act without fear of being bounced out when they yank up the other two branches.

I actually prefer the current method than one handing the Montgomery Big Mules even more power. You don't think Alfa or Alabama Power would press their guys and gals in the process? The Big Mules already control too much in this state via that dreadful 1901 Constitution. I expected better than this from The Randolph Leader.

I've blogged on this several times on Captain Bama, most recently with "Missouri Plan for Selecting Appeals Court Judges", on a better way. Read the plan. Tell me then what the better approach would be. I'm betting most folks will be converted.

I also posted "As long as we are electing Judges ..." examing how the radical right pressures courts in what seems like improper ways. The Mother Jones link alone is worth a visit to see how retention elections have their own perils, perhaps especially so here in the Bible Belt.

The bottom line is that The Leader's solution is very flawed, even more so that how we currently do things. Here in Alabama, that's saying much. Peace ... or War!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Bama JuCo's Roy Johnson getting lots of press!

The Birmingham New gives us "A good year for the Johnsons : Records show the wife of Alabama Postsecondary Chancellor Roy Johnsons received a 22 percent pay raise last year, part of it approved by Johnson's office." The Montgomery Advertiser serves up "State's colleges lack oversight" Yesterday's Birmingham News opines on how the State school board lives in "Glass Houses". I've already told locals my thoughts on Southern Union's new leader. Peace ... or War!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Kia Update - Hopeful Georgia to begin site prep

Walter Woods of The AJC gives us the latest on the Kia West Point plant saga. Hope, $25,000,000.00 or thereabouts worth of hope, springs eternal. Peace ... or War!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

No darkening the door of a SBC church today!

This Sunday I'll not attend any local church, although I'll think and work and read and ... Sundays are good days usually and I do use them perhaps more than most days for my own form of spirituality. I'm likely lost per my enlightened sisters and probably a good portion of their broods I'm sure yet I stand by what I think and do. "Showing off" to dare think and certainly write/blog for myself is their reality. That I'll never accept the "Bible" as the literal and inerrant word of "God" is also a subject of discord. I'm still waiting on a rational discussion of what I base my undertandings upon yet I'm not however holding my breath.

I've also yet to get an explanation, much less an apology, of how this was understood by four or more college educated family members to be a "Letter to the Editor"! Literalism is seemingly a one way street? Plus, how I disturbed (I'm talking full court press with phone calls and a letter and an apparent early morning conclave!) the family member(s) mentioned by explaining that I was writing this on my own still remains a mystery. The further I dig the more misunderstandings of my kin are revealed it seems yet still no reply to my "Read it completely, get your facts straight, and then call me to either discuss further or more likely apologize." request. The language carefully chosen, or so I thought, was "XXXX and XXX, plus all my family, tolerates at best my politics and “thinking” so don’t blame them." Given that they were church members, rather involved ones in fact, it seemed appropriate then and now. Even if a better way existed, I'd still offer that a good faith effort cannot be denied.

Returning to the Southern Baptist Convention, here's an article from Jim Morrill of The Charlotte Observer covering Richard Land and the SBC loving Bu$hCo entitled "Conservative base shows no Greensboro cracks - Rice finds warm crowd, nary a sign of fading support for GOP, Bush". The White House has the full text and even a video of Bu$hCo pandering to the base. "Activist judges" and "culture of life" and "abstinence" and "faith based" groups/initiatives and ... were all covered. He didn't mention that he allegedly has proclaimed The Constitution was "just a goddamned piece of paper" yet if he'd cleaned up his potty mouth I bet lots of the Bible Thumpers would responded favorably. The paper this bunch likes to study on is "The Bible" and of course that supplied by the Dobsonites or former John Bircher Tim LaHaye or The Moonie Times or...

I admittedly missed "Marriage Protection Sunday" and the commentary of Barrett Duke (although the prior link mistakenly calls him Duke Barrett). Again, hell will freeze over before I'll give a dime or my time to the SBC if they continue their political activity for the ReThuglican Party. It's a scam folks where Karl Rove is just punking you, and therefore "us".

Among the more revealing actions in Greensboro were the Southern Baptist resolving, non-binding I think as to all, to not have hardly anybody using alcohol( I guess Jesus could not have been a Baptist with the wine thing), expecting Our Leader to nominate "strict constructionist" judges, wanting Southern Baptist to take their "godly influence" to local school systems (like the folks in Dover PA?), and finally to resist "extreme environmentalist groups whose positions contradict biblical principles" and especially property rights. Again, I thought stewardship was biblical yet maybe not according the GOP Translation? I've already posted on the school issue at Captain Bama.

The fundamentalist foolishness of recent years simply has gotten to the point to where I'm not going to be a part of this denomination any longer. "To each his own." and "Whatever gets you through the night." has always worked for me. Yet I'd like the same courtesy. At least I think I'm due some willingness to engage me rationally and politely on where I'm mistaken, with the bottom line that it is 100% my decision on what I choose to think, believe, and do. Peace ... or War!

Gerald Dial says "Right now there is no plan to ..."

AP as served up by The Tuscaloosa News gives us "GOP chairman says no plan to switch Senate candidates" yet as Danny at Doc's points out the Code of Alabama, 1975, as amended, Section 17-7-1 (c) reads as follows:
... The probate judge is prohibited from causing to be printed on the ballot the name of any independent candidate who was a candidate in the primary election of that year and the name of any nominee of a political party who was a candidate for the nomination of a different political party in the primary election of that year.
Danny also offers up an unsourced understanding that the GOP had not recruited Jim Ingram. Why bother when they had Dino? Whatever else happens, Dino's 32 years up on Goat Hill are up. Peace ... or War!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

"Law and Order" - Only for the powerless?

The Randolph Leader editorial reminds us that Randolph County and Roanoke are simply not following the law on stray "pounds". Now I'll admit that the law is dreadfully written and yet those on Goat Hill have time to clarify when they aren't pandering or posturing. Our "law and order" approach here, especially demonstrated by the draconian sentences of our District and occasionally our Muncipal (Revenue) courts would have me thinking we expected following the law from our leadership! Peace ... or War!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

"But this time he really means it!"?

In a Red State
far, far away from the the beltway
hope for the Empire rests
with ...

Fluke Lietalker (AKA George W. Bu$h)

One of the main themes that I continue to read in the lefty Progressive stuff I admittedly devour is how the "Big Money" wing of the modern Republican Party literally uses the "base" to remain in power. Although the Democrats also at times work around issues to try to rally their bases (note the plural please) I'd argue there can be little doubt that the right has truly mastered the art of scaring the hell out of their often less sophisticated yet generally passionate supporters. Indeed there are some fellow travellers elected and serving today in rather high leadership positions that "think" like many social conservatives. However, I'm often wondering if some aren't playing that role just long enough to get and remain elected. Locally, while it has been some time since I looked at the numbers, I'd expect Randolph County voters follow the Red State trends in national elections. While I especially lament Jeff Sessions serving my interests in DC, the fact that we've two Senators and our one Congressman from the GOP says much about how "the base" is voting against their economic interests.

Using Bu$hCo as probably our most extreme administration yet, and I fear yet given the lack of voter awareness, once in power they let Big Pharma essentially draft Medicare legislation that is dreadfully expensive, complicated, ... but most of all protecting this cash cow. They let the credit card industry draft bankruptcy legislation. Big Oil, including Enron's Kenny Boy Lay, came in and met with Dead Eye Dick to get the energy policy that is working so very well these days, although Cheney has fought off efforts to release the facts of those meetings. They have relaxed the enforcement of some environmental and workplace safety and Civil Rights and ... laws to the point where they might as well not be on the books. Painful pensions? Let's let our business class buddies shed them as our base is focused, with a little help from our Dobsonites, on abortion and boys marrying boys. They've ran up a debts by giving tax cuts to the most wealthy, with special benefits for the investor class and even attempting to do away with the Progressive Estate Tax. (They have managed to label it the "death tax" yet some of the left have recently suggested it be called the "Paris Hilton Inheritance Tax".) They've let the Tom DeLay K Street Project create such scandals as Jack Abramoff and yet the revolving doors from government to and/or from big business would require much to explain. Cronyism is common as Bu$hCo has long favored loyalty over competency. Exhibit A might be how poor a job the Homeland Security/FEMA crowd did with Katrina. Science has been stifled, often to keep the base happy yet likely the main area where this has occured is with Big Oil making sure global warming facts remain disputed. Student loan rates are through the roof with tuition rising nearly as fast as health care costs. These working men and women often no longer have options in industry and agriculture due to the very policies put in place by the fat cats they helped elect. That real income for the working class has remained stagnant, or backed up, in the two plus decades of conservatism seems to be accepted. Income gaps and shrinking middle class are at least partially due to the supply side fantasy going back to Reagan's team yet embraced again by Bu$hCo. Government contracts for Halliburton and other profiteers! There is also... OK, that's plenty enough for now as I likely need to go back to bed. Woke up and figured I'd post yet thinking about these actions, and I really think I could label them as "facts", might have depressed me enough to want a little nap before dawn.

Constitutional issues, diplomacy/foreign policy and militarism are off the charts with this White House yet I'm trying to stick with economic concerns. But before I leave this however, I'll add "Radical appointments to various agencies and especially the federal bench!"

Thomas Frank's "What's the Matter with Kansas" and Steve Jarding and Dave "Mudcat" Saunders' "Foxes in the Henhouse" really drove this point home for me. One of the reasons I'm willing to confront, or merely moan and groan via this blogging effort, the shameless tactics of the ReThuglicans is that until the base sees they are being played then they'll likely continue to vote against their economic interests. They'll hear tough talk and vote these Republicans in on social issues and then see Big Money call the shots on policy and law. With but a few exceptions do they ever really try to deliver what they say they want? I know the "faith based" programs help keep your leaders happy and there's a crumb every do often yet this seems like a facade at times. The thing is that the GOP controls essentially every branch of government. While I want the Left to stop the Right from many actions, using what few tools are available, I know Rove wins even when he loses since that gives him even more meat for the base. "Liberals kept us from ..." is the language used yet many folks figure the base is simply being punked.

Finally and perhaps most importantly, although I know fear about the direction of our society, and likely also the faith that many in the GOP base may very well have, is at least reasonable from their perspective, channeling those fears in such ways that are often hateful and misguided needs confronting at times. This is simply for the sake of seeking justice and preserving our traditions of equality. I'll not shy away from confronting "faith" when those beliefs bump up against the secular traditions that are the foundations of this nation plus other generally enlightened societies. Peace ... or War!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Grandma, Tell us about whipping the Dino!

I missed Jerry Rutledge's "Back to 'grandma' for now : Benefield deals with real life after winning nasty primary election" in Thursday's Columbus Ledger-Enquirer so I'll post now. I'm still smiling about our Kim sending Gerald "Dino" Dial back home! To think about her playing grandma and tooling about her yard when Dino is likely licking his wounds is a good image to carry me through these hot and humid days.

In a related matter, The Randolph Leader is right in expressing hope for less negative campaigning yet as the editorial correctly offers, the reality is that it usually works. As I've told people that expressed concerns about the tone of the advertising for the primary race for the 13th, Kim got in this race a little late and was going up against a well-entrenched and incredibly well-funded two decade plus incumbent. The 13th is an especially spread out district. My conversations with some armchair consultants, and that's all I have access to, for better or worse, seemed to have some agreement that delivering a hard shot in the ribs to Dino first thing was the right call. As The Leader points out the Bu$hCo machine demonstrated the ability to define your opponent before they can really do the same is hardball politics that works rather well. Thinking that at times the end does justify the means I'm figuring this was worth it.

Additionally, while Joseph Goebbels' Nazis, as does most facist movements, did employ attack politics and the like, my understanding of American history is that negative techniques have long been used before this "Minister of Proganda" arrived on the stage. Goebbels' "big lie" approach is I'd argue more about mass message propaganda that an actual political operation such as a Alabama Senate District with garden variety old school American/Southern mudslinging. Some comparisons maybe yet I'd certainly want to scratch a little deeper than Wikepedia for our authority. It is not a terrible resource yet not great either.

Most of all, I'd also save the assignment of guilt or shame for something much more certain than what we witnessed in this campaign. Comparing Kim's conduct, or even The Dino's, to that of Goebbels struck me as rather extreme. While I'm pleased to see somebody local considering facism (My favorite blogger and author on the rise of facism is David Neiwert posting at Ornicus) one thing I think I've learned about challenging facism is to be very careful with words and certainly blame. While I often think Bu$hCo has refined the "big lie" to its modern incarnation, I'm even hesitant to use Goebbels or Nazi analogies (beyond an occasional snarky reference to the Reich Wing) against this cabal. If Godwin's Law (See, Wikipedia can be used for the basics.) suggests discourse generally ends when a Nazi analogy is served up then I'd surely hate to try to start a discussion with this especially strained and certainly serious comparison.

I'd also ask if in fact anything Kim offered up on Dino was actually or even partially incorrect? My understanding of her claims were that they were accurate or at worst based on genuinely defensible positions, the same not always coming back from the Clay Combover. Dial had a record and connections to attack and if Kim had not exploited those opportunities she'd have been silly. We can even accept that special interests and consultants were likely involved on both sides of this fracas yet still I'd think most folks would prefer having Kim, rather than Dino, down in Montgomery.

If Kim Benefield makes it to Goat Hill I'm certainly going to lobby her over issues that I think matter to the branch heads. I am confident that Kim will listen more readily to regular folks than most of the Montgomery crowd. If she takes this office I'm optimistic that she can be a part of the start of reforming the mess that allows Big Mules to control so much in Alabama. After a term she'll have a record to run on if she chooses another term and she'll not need to fight her way into the Good Old Boys Club.

I for one feel mighty damn good about the winner of this primary and hope to help her carry the general this fall. Grandma can then help all the grandkids of this state! Peace ... or War!

Friday, June 09, 2006

A Baptist that has read The Bible I've read!

While I know the Religious Reich is fully full of fantasy about boys marrying boys being the main threat to our society, James L. Evans of Auburn First Baptist is continuing what seems like real work that makes me somwhat proud of my Southern Baptist roots. Today's Anniston Star gives him space and ink for "Many poor in need of a jubilee year" that really was amazing to read. Payday loans are simply a blight on this local landscape yet they are abundant here and in many of the poorer areas of Alabama. I recall Gerald "Dino" Dial helping them out yet figure that our Kim S. will use her religion and common sense to confront. I needed this today! I hope his family isn't offended or thinks he's just showing off. Peace ... or War!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Garrison Keillor and Woe Be Gone

Since my kinfolk apparently have trouble reading or fathoming anything that doesn't come with a seal of approval of the Southern Baptist Convention or a suitable Dobsonite, I figured perhaps the few people that visit this blog might be suffering from the same malady. So I'll send you to Salon, which I think is going to ask you to watch a little ad or something such as that. Via Salon, Garrison Keillor of Prarie Home Companion fame (Does anybody listen to NPR around here?) gives us "San Franciscophobia - We're stuck with a terrible war and a worse president, and all the GOP can do is scream, "Pelosi and her Nancy boys are coming"? This is pathetic." I love this guy, in a purely heterosexual way of course. He's hardly a "moonbat of the angry left" I'd offer and mercy is he smart and clever. He even quotes scripture! Something about a speck in a neighbor's eye. Appropriate I'd confess for me yet perhaps for others as well. So read Keillor and maybe you can consider what he thinks. Surely his family will not scold him for thinking and sharing? Yet I expect Keillor's kin, even if they took exception with what he wrote, could engage him with reason and facts. I'm also thinking they'd slow down enough to at least have a few of the facts nailed down before they attack him. Woe is me. Woe be gone. Peace ... or War!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Kim S. Benefield, Vickie Cummings and Amendment One - Two Outta Three Ain't Bad!

I posted over on Captain Bama some interesting, at least to this political junkie, on what Kim and Dino Dial spent on our votes. Certainly Dino and his Big Mule backers spent the most yet the idea that Senate 13 took that much cheese per voter is amazing! Kim's opponent, lawyer Jim Ingram, will likely be now courted by the Big Mules so this race is hardly over. Still, knocking off a well dug in incumbent with serious support by the powers that be in this state was a real coup. I wasn't surprised and yet I'm thrilled to see it on paper. Does the Clay Combover head back to Clay County or go to work lobbying for his Big Mule buddies? I'm thinking Dino can now come out of the closet and admit who he has been working for.

Vickie Cummings won the GOP primary againt Dean "The Alfa Male" Wysner, which also thrills me. I don't think Den campaigned very hard and this might be that Alfa was having him scrambling around to save Dino. I've known and valued Vickie for years but the more I'm around her and her family the more I'm impressed. Good people! She and her capable crew have worked as hard as I've seen a campaign done around here. She'll be facing off against George Diamond who nailed numbers that seemed very strong against Jimmy McKinney. I knew George would run strong yet I know Jimmy spent tons and worked hard. I told Jimmy he needed somebody in a wheelchair! Congrats to George (and Mack!) and the Diamond clan. And by the way, although election returns seemed mighty slow at the Courthouse, the preparation for the election seemed to have been done well. Good job Judge!

Vickie and George ought to be a really good race. I talked briefly with Bob Fincher last night (And we didn't fuss a lick yet I'm sure we'll lock horns soon Bob!) and we agreed that this was the best chance for the local Republican Party to crack the Courthouse they've likely ever had. I heard somebody comment last night at the courthouse that we now have a two party county. Maybe not fully so but it is close. I'll vote in the Democratic Primary but have been known to cross over in the fall. Rarely done yet willing to look and listen to the other team. So I think having a two party local scene works. Locally, we can get down to brass tacks where a candidates positions and personality and work ethic and ... ought to be openly debated. I am concerned that the primary election, as we seem to practice here and likely across the state, allows an opportunity for Republicans to dabble in the Democrat's election and vice versa. We ought to ensure actual party members are the ones choosing their candidates for the general election.

Finally, I of course voted "No" on Amendment One yet it passed by an 85% to 15% margin here. State numbers has it at about 81.5% to 18.5%. Although our county also voted for Gentle Ben Hand, who has local connections and somebody I still like to think of as a friend, the fact that our GOP voters overwhelming supported Tacky Whacky Tom Parker tells us much about our locale. As does the vote on Amendment One revealing much about our state and nation. We can't remove racist segregation language from our 1901 Constitution yet we can take the radical and not needed step to include discriminatory matters in the document. Full faith and credit and comity be damned I guess.

I also heard a FBC poll worker "explain" Amendment One to another FBC member in an odd and I think wrong way. He told her something like this, "Vote 'Yes' if you want gays to marry. Vote 'No' if you think marriage ought to be between a man and a woman." We were deciding if amending the Alabama Contitution was appropriate and not conducting an opinion poll! So I walked up and told my friend "I might could have explained that another way." to which he replied "Some folks need it simple." Now I'm not sure who needs it simple yet the only thing I wanted to say is that Alabama and Federal law already covers this and the questions is much broader as to comity and the like. I told him "I'd like to think deep understanding is better than simple." He replied, a little testily I thought, "That's your perogative." Darned if that didn't amaze me coming from an educated educator. I talked politics all day and found that I could talk with anybody willing to talk about issues and solutions in a deep way. I'll hold out for discourse and I'm sorry if what I said about being "deep" was taken the wrong way. Lots of that going around!

Also, I though Cris May might win that Circuit Clerk race without a run off. He came mighty close and the numbers fell out about the way I thought they would. Not much excitement in this run off so the candidates are going to have to get out their voters.

Finally, since I was poll watching (not poll worker watching as I think some took my role) I was in Roanoke from seven to seven. I really enjoyed seeing folks vote. I saw and heard some things that disturbed me somewhat and yet overall it made me happy to see the system in action. We've got plenty of problems in our locale and yet I'm optimistic some could be solved with the right people trying to engage those issues. Peace ... or War!

Monday, June 05, 2006

Kim Benefield and Vickie Cummings - Our Girls!

Here's hoping Vickie can win her primary against ALFA's boy Dean Wysner. I'm still waiting on that response to my email Dean. Either you were misinformed by ALFA or told me a story or I'm wrong. Which on is it? Vickie has worked hard and she know the job plus she has the smarts and temperment for the position.

Kim Benefield is leading in the polls despite the nasty and false and well funded campaign of Gerald "Dino" Dial! I'm honored to watching the polls in Roanoke for Kim. To have anybody knock off Dino would thrill me yet to have a Randolph County treasure like Kim serve us in Montgomery will send me over the top.

Exciting day on 06-06-06! Peace ... or War!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

My letter to Roanoke's First Baptist (Main) on Encouraging Church Members to Vote "Yes" on Amendment One

Here is the text, with I think corrections to a couple of typos that I realized slipped through, of a letter I dropped off this morning.
Dear Mr. Spec, Dr. Cobble, Brother Bill, Uncle xxxxxx (as my xxxx calls him) and …

As Mr. Spec and xxxx know, I’m bad to write letters and get my Scots up about politics and other matters. In fact one of my New Year’s resolutions was to be more of an “activist” in speaking out and trying to create change. With my blogging, which I started as a way of practicing the above, I’ve used Tin Shop Tartan to speak in the frame of “localism”. Just recently I gave a “tip of the tam” to FBC in y’all doing something progressive with downtown. I even used the line “The Lord works in mysterious ways” in the post.

Now I’m hardly traditional in my spirituality. I’m rather a universalist and even on the more spiritual than religious side of that label. I often joke that I’m a “recovering Southern Baptist” yet appreciate my roots and our music while disagreeing with a good bit of the doctrine. So I’ve rocked along, attending at times, wishing often that I could place aside the frustrations I have at times with the Southern Baptist Convention’s positions on “moral” and especially “political” matters. Mr. Spec knows I’m a flaming lefty Progressive. Not a Yellow Dog Democrat as my Dad was … yet mighty close. I am often furious with the Democrats national “leadership”, and at times so with Alabama’s, yet I think America has had about all the “conservatism” and “family values” we can stand these last twenty five years. Social issues wrapped up as “family values”, actually only one issue I guess, is the reason for this correspondence.

I was motivated to call the church office on Friday and asked Miss Linda to take me off the mailing list for The Bulletin. If I’m considered a member, I guess take me off that as well. I did this because of the endorsement of Amendment One. I looked on the Alabama Missions site and could not find this “encouragement” but trust Dr. Richard Land or one or more of his acolytes is behind this position. Dr. Land’s “For Faith & Family” is a ministry of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, which is the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention. The URL http://erlc.com displays the same page as faithandfamily.com with either providing a visitor with plenty of the often radical and clearly political Dr. Land. While I could, if time and space allowed, give you book, chapter, and verse on this tool of the GOP and especially Bu$hCo, I’ll pass. I might blog on Land as time allows yet I invite you to simple Google about on your own.

Every major newspaper in Alabama has suggested a “No” vote on Amendment One. Reasons include that it is absolutely not necessary under current federal and state laws, certainly not so in Alabama. Auburn FBC’s James L. Evans has likewise done an op-ed saying the same thing. As written, by that wing nut Hank Erwin, #1 could endanger enforcement of domestic violence laws plus rights of and protections for opposite sex couples in common law and other non-traditional relationships. Marriage decisions of various faith communities remain theirs yet when the government or other entities confer benefits on the status of being married then our laws and traditions require fairness/justice. We need a new Constitution not another Amendment yet I know I recall that dreadfully crooked John Giles of the Alabama Christian Coalition railing against that possibility. ALFA and the ACC strike again! The ACC of course in no small part helped defeat in the fall of 2004 Amendment Two, a measure that would have taken "colored children" and segregated schools out of Alabama's Constitution. Back then it was an economics and politics rather than “moral” and ethical” yet the radical right gets to have it both ways it seems depending on their “need”. I’d surely love an audience with and look at the books of Mr. Giles and the ACC. I guarantee you some Big Mules are funding that operation!

Yet the bottom line for me is that Amendment One and much gay bashing is nothing more than political pandering to the evangelical “base” of the modern Republican Party. An example is the false “War of Christmas” that Faux News and other components of “The Mighty Wurlitzer” (allegedly some old CIA jargon for psychological operations to influence the thinking of a population) shill every fall. Many observers of politics accept that the GOP uses various “moral outrages” to keep their base in a state of rage and fear so they’ll continue to vote against their economic interests. “Reverend” Rick Scarborough, a close ally of the disgraced Tom DeLay (all Texans as is Dr. Land), held a recent conference on “The War on Christians” that was rightly ridiculed by any neutral observer. Long of puffery and short on substance, Reverend Rick is just one of many picking up the torch from Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.

If you are interested in more on these mercenaries of intolerance and radicalism I’d be happy to supply. Tony Perkins, leading perhaps the most influential propaganda machine of the religious right, namely the Family Research Council, has enraged me over many things yet his attack of the courts has especially frightened me. In the old days these theocrats spoke in code yet Perkins outright wants to do away with courts it appears and shills the Mighty Wurlitzer’s “liberal activist judge” as smoothly as any from this American Taliban. I recall an “activist” Congress when the wing nuts radically intervened in the Terry Shiavo matter, even getting Dubyah to fly back from Crawford early to sign off on the legislation. Bu$h couldn’t come back early for Katrina yet he could for Dr. Bill Frist (who diagnosed her via video as not being in a persistent vegetative state – we know how that autopsy turned out Senator!) and “Hot Tub” Tom DeLay.

From the Dobsonites to Tim LaHaye’s “End Times Theology” to Gary Bauer to Phyllis Shaffly to D. James Kennedy to Beverly LaHaye’s “Concerned Women for America” to Ralph Reed to Senator Rick Santorum (the finest man of the 16th Century who is tied to scandal and doesn’t even live in PA!) to … Oh you get the picture I hope. Radicals! Scary! Well funded! Networked! Legitimate to unfortunately many people and churches. In perhaps some limited ways they are doing some good, at least what they think is correct. Yet they present a terrible danger to our democracy. This “culture war” is one that has proven very rewarding for the Big Mules that benefit from Republican policies yet I was most displeased to see the FBC Bulletin fire a salvo in this conflict. Amendment One will pass I’m sure. I’ll vote “No” and encourage you and others to join me in rejecting this constitutional amendment. I’ve lived just across from a lesbian couple in Auburn and they were amazing parents and citizens. Real research and common sense shows a person’s sexuality is generally something from God/nature. Yet just this next week Bu$hCo is going to encourage Congress to move toward a federal version of the same. Our Senate will balk, as some reasonable people remain there to stop this pandering. Yet, likely that is what Karl Rove and his operatives want for the fall mid-terms. A dose of tribalism? Machine politics on steroids as the modern GOP has been honing their messages for decades.

I don’t expect a reply yet I’d be happy to discuss my position further or hear what you think. I hope the Deacons might decide if/when/how FBC will engage in this “Culture War” in the future. While I pondered appearing in a pink suit or maybe even a dress to pass out flyers to the congregation, perhaps in the parking lot, I knew it would send my lovely sister xxxxxxx, and perhaps even a few others, to the hospital. xxxx and xxx, plus all my family, tolerates at best my politics and “thinking” so don’t blame them. Further, I don’t mean to fuss simply to let you hear an alternative view. My man Gandhi said you can only speak truth with love so that’s where I am with this letter. Also, I’m having to print on some “pretty” paper simply due to the fact that I’ve ran out of cheap copy paper. It might be a little hard to read, especially for you more “seasoned” men. Brother Bill, catch a big fish or two for me! You’ve done your time! Enjoy!

Heterosexually yours, xxxx xxxx
Some good writing on the issue in today's Anniston Star by Howard Bayless of Equality Alabama entitled "Hope not lost for gay Alabamians: Struggle for equality will continue after Tuesday" that is worth a visit. As an aside, I recalled my Dad coming home from services one day in a lather when the preacher was bragging on Reagan about something. Dad said he almost got up and walked out. Ralph simply loathed the Reagan White House and I'm sure he stewed over that praise for several days. Peace ... or War!

UPDATE - Evening of June 6, 2006 - Please notice the title of this post. This is not a "Letter to the Editor" and I also encourage the one or two folks that might actually drop by here to read the whole damned post before they take exceptions with certain segments. As I made clear, or seemingly so based on what is my apparently limited understanding of the King's English, politics and religion (You know I've taken several graduate level classes on these matter plus devoured tons of other work in these areas), blog protocol (Snark is encouraged - If you want literalism then read and use Leviticus like all the wing nuts do!), etc., I am of course writing as a free agent. I felt that I needed to say something and tried to craft a letter that was respectful but MOST OF ALL MAKING IT CLEAR (again I think crystal clear!) THAT I WAS DOING THIS OUTSIDE OF MY FAMILY! As unfortunately is a usual result, my best intentions seemed to have backfired. I do want them to be "happy" and certainly I'd never do anything to hurt them. That's why the last portion took me the longest. I know the facts yet finesse around the feelings seemed to have been for naught. I wind up offending when I bent over backwards to cover that contingency. I've done all the inner child work and the like that I have thought necessary yet I'll continue to work on me. I'm not trying to figure anybody out but myself yet on days like today I'm really wondering about much. I stand by what I wrote and did, again thinking that I threaded that needle rather well. I encourage anybody that wants to talk with me about anything I write to simply write a comment ... or better yet email or call me. And once again, reading the whole post seems like prerequisite to a discussion. Peace ... or War!

UPDATE - June 27, 2006 - I did get a call from one sister, speaking on her behalf plus her husband. They actually read the whole post the night before. I got an apology, sort of, and a request to not use family names in any shape, form, or fashion. I've amended the post as that is certainly a reasonably thing to demand. I sent the letter TO THE CHURCH (as it addressed!) so there's not much I can do about that. Again, the reason for mentioning them at all was to make sure anybody that read the thing would know I was speaking for myself. This is a controversial position, at least here in the rural Bible Belt, so I wanted to be clear. Also, I wanted those family members in the church to know that I had sent the thing just in case somebody asked them about my position. Again, I was operating in good faith and regret that once again my efforts did not measure up to their standards. I still think it was not reasonable to jump all over me with insults and misunderstandings and misrepresentations and the full court press and .... It would have been reasonable, and polite for certain, to simply express concerns or ask to talk with me. 1 out of 3 is a good start but I'm still waiting for ...

Friday, June 02, 2006

Roanoke First Baptist & Amendment One

The following was in The FBC's Bulletin this week. I immediately called the office and asked for my name to be removed from the mailing list.
"On June 6, 2006, the people of Alabama will vote on the Alabama Marriage Protections Amendment. When passed, it will become part of the Alabama Contitution. The Office of Christian Ethics of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions encourages church members to vote "Yes" on this amendment. This is a moral and ethical issue, not a political race."
I'll tear this garbage from Richard Land up tomorrow I expect. In the meantime here is how Amendment One essentially reads:

A one-paragraph description of the amendment will appear on the ballot. It states "no marriage license shall be issued in Alabama to parties of the same sex and that the state shall not recognize a marriage of parties of the same sex that occurred as a result of the law of any other jurisdiction."

In its complete text, the measure also states, "Marriage is inherently a unique relationship between a man and a woman. As a matter of public policy, the state has a special interest in encouraging, supporting, and protecting this unique relationship in order to promote, among other goals, the stability and welfare of society and its children."

Peace ... or War!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Gerald "Dino" Dial even spends like a Republican!

Tip of the tam to Doc's Political Parlor and Lawn Mower Repair for much good work and especially this Anniston Star gem locked behind their subscription wall. Here's the Star's Brian Lyman on Dino Dial's incredible spending:

"Dial spends $445,613 in a month" - 06-01-2006

MONTGOMERY – Sen. Gerald Dial spent $445,613 last month in a bitter fight with challenger Kim Benefield for the Democratic nomination for the state Senate District 13 seat.

The Democratic incumbent from Lineville started the month with $225,000 and raised about that much additional during the month, but has spent all but $9,000 of it.

The spending — which works out to about $3.55 for every person in the district — is unusual for a state legislative primary, and it underscores the rancor between the camps.

Dial spent only $76,000 on his entire 2002 re-election campaign, and no local senator spent more than $150,000 in that race. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Lucy Baxley spent $245,000 on her campaign in the first three months of the year. “I never dreamed we’d spend this kind of money,” Dial said Wednesday. “This is absurd, but we’ve had to answer the lies and misleading things that have been put out.”

Benefield, a Randolph County circuit court clerk, did not return four messages seeking comment Wednesday.

The race in the district, which includes Cleburne County, has been furious from the get-go.

Mailings from the Benefield campaign have accused Dial of “partying” with lobbyists and digging the state into debt.

Dial has used mailings and television ads to accuse trial lawyers and Senate President Pro Tem Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe, of trying to unseat him, saying Barron is out to get him and other Democratic senators who worked to reduce the President Pro Tem’s power in the last session. “He is soliciting money from trial lawyers,” Dial said.

Barron denied the accusation Wednesday, saying that Dial “is struggling because of his record.”

“I have a campaign of my own, I am involved 100 percent in my own campaign, and I’m not involved in Sen. Dial’s campaign,” Barron said. “I think (Benefield) is a very fine candidate, I am aware of newspaper articles and wire stories, and she is indeed an outstanding candidate.”

Dial’s latest finance reports, filed Monday, show that roughly $400,000 of his money has gone to Matrix, a Montgomery consulting company that purchases television and radio ads and mails out campaign announcements to voters.

Benefield’s last campaign report, filed on May 5, said she had $7,500 on hand, from two checks listed as received on July 14, 2006, about 44 days in the future. Her campaign has circulated several mailings through the district since then.

Dial joined with Democratic Senators Jim Preuitt, Larry Means and Jimmy Holley to form an anti-Barron coalition on the Rules Committee in the last legislative session. The Rules Committee decides what legislation goes out to the Senate for a vote, and controlling the committee can influence policy.

Dial also has been outspoken in supporting some of Gov. Bob Riley’s initiatives, particularly the governor’s proposal to spend $500 million on capital improvements to schools, which the incumbent senator said would help rural school districts. The proposal did not come to a vote.

The winner of Tuesday’s Democratic primary will face Republican attorney Jim Ingram in the general election.

David Lanoue, chairman of the political science department at the University of Alabama, said it’s not unusual to see an incumbent who is feeling threatened spend a large sum of money.

“To be an incumbent is to be paranoid,” he said. “Whenever you face a challenger who seems to have support, whether they have money, you never know. It’s an all or nothing proposition. If you lose, you lose everything.”

Lanoue said it’s not unheard of for outside groups to be spending money in primaries, though it’s usually directed at races for governor or federal offices.

“It’s not as common as legislative races, and it’s less common in the legislative primaries,” he said.

Dial said he never has spent $445,000 in such a short time period, but he accused his opponents of spending even more money in the race. He is still raising funds to keep up the advertising.

“I’m just overwhelmed by it,” he said. “We had to get up on TV, and that eats us alive.”

I noticed Dino had dropped a few dimes for all his many ads in The Randolph Leader yesterday. As for their content, the state is supposed to fund I think every service Dino claimed credit for. Now I know the Goat Hill crowd, with Dino and Richard Laird being as polished practioners of the pork process as perhaps as our area has ever had to pander to in order to get our piece of the pie, yet for The Dino to audaciously claim that as a positive thing simply chaps my hide. You and the other Goat Hill goombas hold our folks in line with how the state flushes money through our "representatives". If the locals that elect you are too ignorant to learn the facts then maybe you/they deserve each other.

I also think it odd that Dino is railing about "trial lawyers" when I understand he sought the endorsement of The Alabama Trial Lawyers Association and has cashed the check they gave him. Although I'd long ago let my membership lapse in that I did little plaintiff's practice, I believe in this organization, especially in Alabama with our dreadfully weak protections for consumers. The AlaTLA Mission Statement reads:
To preserve the adversary trial system as it now exists and to fight for the preservation of the rights of individuals; to resist any efforts to curtail the rights of persons who have been injured to seek redress in a court of law; to continue the education of the plaintiff's bar in all phases of trial practice; and to safeguard and defend the advocacy system so that the rights and remedies of all individuals are protected. In other words - TO SERVE AND PROTECT THE PUBLIC.

Are some "trial lawyers" just interested in their pocketbooks? Certainly so! I know that from long experience and yet even when they are they still "do good" often. The idea that rogue lawyers are filing all these junk lawsuits has been a good tool of the insurance companies and others that are trying to roll things even further right for the benefit of big business yet is far more fantasy than reality. But what about the Big Mules? They will admit that profits is their game so at worst the plaintiff's bar balances things out. Hush Dino! Especially when you cashed their check!

Furthermore, what is up with the military people in your ads. Is that even appropriate under military rules, although from what I understand Dino has run afoul of those before, at least at the federal level. Something about upgrading his uniform. And exactly where have YOU defended us Dino? My understanding is that you've been part of the politics in the Alabama National Guard yet are hardly holding rank in the federal component of the Guard. Maybe it was a testing misunderstanding that I've heard has dogged the Dino with the feds? Maybe they their "Army of One" campaign confused you Dino yet "pimp my rank" is surely not what they intended!

The Clay Combover has gotten his feeling hurt he claims yet I expect it is more about the Big Mules worried they are about to lose their boy. The SOS has reports on Dino available here. Patrick Casey pulled lots of votes with no real money or organization last time so I'm optimistic Kim Benefield is about to send you home Dino. Maybe The Emerald Triangle can find a capacity for you to serve your, I mean our, interests. After you helped fund that commission conduit it is the least they can do. Peace ... or War!