Wednesday, May 31, 2006

American Taxpayers Take One for the Team

Allan Sloan of Newsweek reminds me how little I learned in two semesters of Tax law with Thurston "T Bone" Reynolds with his "A Double Play for the Atlanta Braves". While the only reason perhaps to post here on Captain Bama is that the Braves are "our" team, the real issue is the way Time Warner which currently owns of the team will likely trade to Liberty Media, a massive holding company. Here's the way, in part, how Mr. Sloan explains

... The companies would bring home total tax savings I estimate at $700 million—far more than the Braves are worth. Sure, we other taxpayers would be shut out. But what's baseball without a sacrifice? ...

Most fans would call this long-pending transaction (which may finally have been announced by the time you read this) a "sale" of the Braves. But it would actually be a trade. To be specific, it's what tax techies call a "cash-rich split-off, " a game that's just gotten a big assist from President George W. Bush's recently enacted $70 billion tax cut.

How does the Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005 involve the Braves? Here's the play-by-play. (Here's where I am humbled so I'll leave off the play by play yet try some color commentary.)

"Making my/our tax cuts permanent will keep our economy strong!" is what Bu$hCo and the ReThuglicans claim. Now while I'd argue the economy is hardly strong, the real mystery to me is how the Big Mules get regular folks to vote their candidates into office where the "public servants" then hand gifts out the Fat Cats that essentially are paid for from the pockets of the little man/woman? The few goopers that I can get to explain (of course not counting those that just hate government!) their infatuation with tax cuts use that tired and discredited Laffer curve model which spawned the Reagonomics disaster of supply side infamy. I know plenty of folks in the 80s that did not care for being at the trickle down end of those policies. So where are the jobs created with this? How does the Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005 do anything but help the suits and the stockholders? $700 million might not pay for much more than a week or so in Iraq but since the oil revenues they promised would haven't shown up I guess every little bit helps pay Halliburton. Worst administration/Congress ever! Peace ... or War!


Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Does Jim Wooten have a "toolette" at the AJC?

Maureen Downey is not yet comparable to the AJC's resident Conservative Tool Jim Wooten who seems to weekly recycle right wing "think tanks" claims about education, citing often flawed "research", in his quest to save our society with his beloved market forces. Yet I fear she's been drinking some of The Tool's Kool Aide when I read stuff like today's "Count on teachers making the grade" Ms. Downey, with my emphasis supplied, writes in part

The public risks whiplash keeping up with the latest twists and turns in the education research. …

"Classroom grades are horrible predictors for how students do later on," says noted Manhattan Institute researcher Jay Greene. "The SAT is the single best predictor as to how a student will do in college."

These conflicts reflect a seldom acknowledged truth in education: There's a lot of uncertainty about what works and what doesn't.

In the meantime, schools invest millions of dollars in innovations and reforms that sound impressive, but don't amount to much more than a new coat of paint on a rickety old house. And when those reforms don't deliver the promised results, schools cling to them anyway because they've spent too much money and time to walk away.

The emphasis on student achievement in the federal No Child Left Behind Act and the requirement to use data to substantiate outcomes are prompting researchers to devise more reliable ways to capture effectiveness.

"The biggest revolution caused by No Child Left Behind is the revolution in education research," says Georgia State University's Gary Henry, a scholar in educational policy and evaluation. "We are getting better at figuring out what works. But what we are seeing is almost nothing that has a very large effect."

Even when the research shows a gain, it's a very small gain produced under the best of circumstances. That's because most reforms only tug at the edges and don't address central flaws in public education: A teacher's track record of improving student performance is hidden from public view, and that performance is not used as a factor in teacher salaries.

Researchers agree that the most reliable predictor of teacher success is past success. So what parents ought to look for is a teacher who has demonstrated gains in student scores from one year to the next. That track record is more telling than a teacher's academic credentials or experience. Yet, parents never see that crucial piece of the puzzle.

"We should, as parents, have that full data," says Henry. "We have the capacity here in Georgia to make that data available. Basically, it is a flip of a switch. That would empower parents to really be active."

Apparently, that's just what schools fear, a flood of active parents armed with data showing that Ms. X raises test scores year after year and Mr. Y does not. Because that would force schools to do something about Mr. Y— either offer him professional development or suggest a career change.

Even without test scores, the informed parents in a school community sleuth out the best teachers. At a recent Girl Scout event with his own daughter, Henry says parents were deep in discussion over the one or two teachers they hoped their kids would be lucky enough to dodge next year. The parents will have to trust luck; the school has already sent them a letter saying they should not try to influence teacher assignments by making specific requests.

No reform will revitalize public education until schools stop protecting ineffective teachers and start rewarding effective ones. Parents have the right and the responsibility to try to get their kids in the classes of the teachers with proven skills.

Schools can introduce block scheduling, shrink class size and increase honor courses, but those reforms are empty gestures without bright and motivated teachers in the classrooms.

I'll write as if sitting down with Ms. Downey and perhaps will even email her my post. As for your citing Professor Greene, “single best” works for me yet that is hardly the issue is it Ms. Downey. The Manhattan Institute is a typical right wing “think tank” with funding that is revealing. Now that the Walton Family has set Greene up at Fayetteville he’s too legit to quit. Lots of profit in pandering I expect even for “scholars” that supply tools like Jim and his ilk grist for the mill. Great work if you can get it huh Jay?

So Miss Maureen, can anyone claim “truth” in education based on your own article? Most bizarre is that you are seemingly suggesting the average politician and bureaucrat listens to those truth tellers? Alfie Kohn and Michael Apple, who are as true as any scholars that I follow, aren’t getting into the conversation in educational policy these days. The right wingers don’t want to hear anything that doesn’t jive with accountability dominated discourse. Do you think Bandura’s ideas on self-efficacy work with standardized testing and teaching to the test? Hardly so yet any serious student of learning knew NCLB was dead contrary to theories that held lots of sway with Progressive educators. We have now a whole new generation of suits and bureaucrats that have learned the way to the top is by the numbers and buzzwords. Accordingly, many of the new hands on deck buy into the politicos and consultants “solutions”. Upton Sinclair long ago wrote, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” The “truth” is that learning is what most humans are wired to do. We want to learn. Today’s schools aren’t exactly celebrating “learning” with their current approaches are they?

“Sound impressive” to the suits and the average ignorant voter makes me think of Colbert’s “truthiness”. And also I know that plenty of money is flowing to the corporations and consultants selling these reforms. But the bottom line is “what works” for folks like you and The Tool is simply test scores isn’t it? Outcomes and data and achievements and … are all business-oriented conservative contructs and I’ll offer up a prior post “No Wonder We Have So Many Dropouts & Darlings” that I think covers a good chunk of what I want to parry with on your “thinking”. These constructs simply are not part of “learning”, at least not of anything beyond learning disjointed facts and processes. We’ll need problem solvers and creative cooperationists for the 21st century yet you right wingers seem to want to teach to get more tools rather than thinkers. Is that the purpose or just a positive byproduct?

GSU Professor Henry, an apparently neutral and I’d argue more authentic scholar in educational policy and evaluation than Dr. Greene, is likely correct in acknowledging that improvements are minimal even in those efforts that seem to work. However, your idea that the central flaw is simply not enough market forces and even more reliance on those damnable scores. This is laughable but for the fact your op-ed and The Tool’s trash get regular ink and readers via the AJC. It’s the model and societal factors and too much standardized testing and the … C’mon, you really can’t want to be a toolette can you? Are bad teachers part of the problem? I’m sure this is partially true yet laying the whole mess with the educators is hardly fair and certainly not complete.

Indeed consistent improvements are a solid part of showing a good teacher yet it is hardly the only factor. Again, what is success? And what about the new teachers we are desperate for with the baby boomers starting to leave the field. There is also good research that suggests many top drawer teachers leave early on due to the bureaucratic and disciplinary hassles that your model has made even worse? How do these new teachers get in the mix? And how do you compare one class and year to another? How do you isolate variables like past teachers/schools, home changes, personal problems, hormones, distractions, motivation, parental support, drugs and alcohol, discipline, distractions, materials, etc? How much will it cost to really disaggregate the data and then explain to parents. Wait to you see the costs of litigating the probably losing cases where teachers get docked on data driven evaluations that can’t hold up on examination by even a marginal attorney. A little thinking and even you tools can perhaps see the folly? Plus isn’t there much to be said for modeling intellectual thought or creating a love of learning or teaching social skills or teaching kids how to think or …? Can’t really measure that can we? And what happens if that hard work pays off in a little longer time than when you measured the kid. If teachers touch the future then should we not test then?

Your active parents wanting to dodge a certain teacher I’m sure got that information via their “connections”. They likely have some “clout” and enough get up and go where I expect their kids have at least that going for them. Yet what about the less informed or motivated parents and their kids? Market forces and reward pay in your approach would hardly work in many areas of our region yet you might only be thinking of the Professor’s Girl Scout high end world. Even around the ATL you surely know there is plenty of variety. You actually think these parents are only focusing on test scores and, even if they were, do they need the data to make a decision about their kid? Local people often know who the good teachers are as you’ve claimed in your writing. If they want to decide then enroll their darlings in a private school! Public education should meet as many needs as possible for individual parents and their kids yet it is PUBLIC. The good achieved for the whole society is what policy needs to be built around yet these conservative ideas have had their twenty years of “reform” that has done little if anything. NCLB is the ultimate top down big government solution yet you now want to let this have a local component of parents "drafting" the teachers?

So I’m really reading just a little more “competition” and “free the market forces” and … There’s no shame is there? There is certainly little if any consistency? It appears that your approach is the same old same old that Jim Wooten shills. Welcome to the tool shed Ms. Downey. Peace … or War!


Monday, May 29, 2006

No Wonder We Have So Many Dropouts & Darlings

I have some hesitancy to link to anything written by Gary Palmer of The Alabama Policy Institute yet he does give us a decent article entitled "How many are missing? The shocking truth about Alabama's dropout rate is being ignored" from The Huntsville Times. Also in The Times a community columnist named M. Ann Zaffrann gets ink for "Some parents drive teachers to distraction - and off campus" yet be aware that she's writing of the early college years. I think both these op-ed efforts reveal consequences of the same policies and conditions that influence learning provided in our schools.

Returning to Mr. Palmer's "thinking" he is mostly right for his concerns on the numbers yet I'll give you this to consider:

But the majority of analysts and lawmakers have come to this consensus: the numbers have remained unchecked at approximately 30 percent through two decades of intense educational reform, and the magnitude of the problem has been consistently, and often willfully, ignored."

At least two decades and guess which way "reform" has been heading. More and more "conservatism" and "accountability" and you guys in the well-funded and connected right wing policy "think tanks" are doing more and more to destoy public education. Gary Palmer, although heading up the Alabama Policy Institute, is a mid-level operative that spins the corporate GOP "talking points" and often skewed "research" with really no challenge here. He'll tap into "values" at times of course to rally/calm the Bible Thumpers. Sooner or later organizations like Progressives States Network and the like will push back but it will take time and money that Progressives in Alabama don't often have. So here he takes a problem that his side has not remedied and winds up blaming and not really offering solutions. Indeed we need to know our numbers yet focusing on numbers is really the whole business approach isn't it? He writes of revenues and salaries lost yet doesn't seem to express concern for loss of learning. Maybe his side needs future voters that aren't inclined toward critical thinking.

As for Ms. Zaffrann, she writes of several anectodal experiences that are worth reading yet she ends with this:

... This over-solicitous behavior inevitably breeds the inability to function within the students themselves. One young woman came to my office and told me she "didn't know what to do."

When I asked what specifically confused her, she responded that she didn't know anything - how to apply for financial aid, where to get her books, etc.

I looked at the pile of materials she had in front of her and asked whether she'd read the information that had clearly been supplied for her use.

She hadn't. Hey, why read if you can get someone to spoon-feed you just like at home?

I have had more students than I can mention who were responsible, conscientious and dedicated. My guess is that they were expected to develop these traits - by their parents - as they grew older. ...

My brief time doing GTA instruction work at Auburn saw some of this yet perhaps not so much as she has described. My students were on the edge of entry into The College of Education, an amazingly demanding admission process being involved, and taking various technology classes but a few were a little weak on maturity and independence. Professors and other GTAs did often express amazement over how poorly prepared these kids seemed.

So Mr. Palmer is frustrated that so many kids are dropping out and Ms. Zaffrann thinks even those that do graduate lack the capacity to think and act independently. Plus some are lazy. Or used to being "spoon fed". Or glued to their cell phones.

As for both our writers, I'll first offer that experiences and attitudes are overwhelmingly influenced by what occurs outside of the classroom. Some research I've read puts the classroom instructional factors at less that 10%. I've often used thirds with the kid and their homelife, the many layers of bureaucracies, and finally the classroom teacher making the whole of what influences learning. Of course teachers teach those they've been assigned and have remarkably little power in the model. We can only influence what goes on in our classroom and so many of the factors outside limit us from making the hard choices of dismissing the unable and unwilling.

We are using a model that is a hundred years old to prepare kids for industrial jobs. Dropping twenty or even thirty something kids into a cement block room and demanding they sit down and work, rather that explore, flies in the face of our modern world. The post-industrial world needs thinkers and those able to work with copius amounts of information. One might suspect Mr. Palmer is not eager to have thinkers unless that contributes to the numbers and even then his side figures a little learning is just enough.

Solutions are a bit more complicated yet Progressives have no influence these days given the power of the Right so it might not matter just yet. I'm working on a good approach but I know what is wrong with our current efforts. Alfie Kohn's "What does it mean to be well educated" is one work that I'm tackling over the summer yet Michael Apple will be soon on the shelves as I need to revisit his ideas. Lefty educators are partially silenced or at best ignored these days yet darned if the right hasn't had their chance. Of course some folks argue they really don't want to fix public education but rather kill it. At best their belief that "market forces" solve all problems is part of the trouble.

Speaking, or more accurately writing of, the marketplace of ideas, admittedly our culture often doesn't value educated people. Dumb dads are a staple of sitcoms and that vapid vamp Paris Hilton can be Exhibit A for how media (corporate owned even if they employ the Hollywood elite) models success and favorable habits for our youth. Faux News expresses outrage over decency yet Fox Network distributes the most debauchery according to some authorities.

We also have a long history of anti-intellectualism in America yet I'm not so sure if we are backing up even further these last few years. Several professors I trust argue that the average undergraduate is dreadfully unappreciative of learning. Given that the average kid has been measured on learning "one damn fact/process after another" maybe that is to be expected. Teachers also teach via spoon feeding in that they simply don't have time to make a student muddle through to a solution in that they've got to get ready for the standardized tests. Our kids are taught with worksheets and reading guides and all the canned curriculum that our textbook companies make a killing preparing and then selling to the big markets in California and Texas and ... These kids either soldier on and learn despite of the system, jump through the hoops, or walk out the door. I'd argue that most of those, and certainly our society as a whole. that stay are hardly well served even if they stay in school. Part of this is due to the fact that if a kid will simply sit there and sort of kind of work then their overwhelmed and often less than ideally prepared or supported or empowered or ... teachers will be more than willing to meet them halfway. We simply "play school" all too often. We know that Alabama, most evident with the Wallace Community College System, values quantity often more than quality.

I've argued at times above that the "accountability" movement and conservative, business-based models have much to do with both of these concerns. I'm merely guessing here yet I bet many of these doting parents and spoiled/lazy kids lean toward the right in the political spectrum. It might be from my liberal bias yet this idea seems to have held up over the years. Could be in that many Americans are shocked when they understand the overwhelming factor in where a person lands on the economic food chain is where they started.

So will anybody here in Alabama challenge No Child Left Behind, the ultimate example of flawed, no downright fucked up, ideas that have overwhelmed local and state control of education. It is so odd that just a few years ago Reagan's Revolution toyed with ending the Federal Department of Education in that it really is contitutionally not handed to the Feds. Yet these small government advocates have created No Data Obsessed Bureaucrat that makes every system jump through hoops that can't be imagined. I didn't have the heart to ask Lucy Baxley, more on that later, her position on NCLB when she visited our villages today yet I'm sure it would have not been a substantive response, as would be true for likely any politician. Why? Because it has become too complex and conservatism has seemingly won the war. The politicians continue to use and abuse our schools, according to their need and perceptions, yet professional educators are generally not allowed at the table when it comes down to solutions.

What a massive post. In fact I had one that was much more solid nearly polished off when Blogger got ornery and forced me into losing my work. Might come back and polish yet I'll go ahead and post, for better or worse. Peace ... or War!


Sunday, May 28, 2006

Political Framing 101 - Gerald Dial's Snarkasaurus

Too cute! Not really fair to this Flintstone icon yet Gerald "Dino" Dial has a new mascot. Lowell Barron, not that I'm a huge fan of the Pharmacist from Fyffe, has grown tired of wrestling with the "Democrats in Name Only" on top of Goat Hill. Kim S. Benefield is sending Dino Dial home from "representing" the 13th. Peace ... or War!


Friday, May 26, 2006

"Alabama Getaway" ... with regrets to The Dead!

I regret going silent these last few days. Grumpy gut and closing down the classroom and summoned to the hayfields and … I’ll be back in the saddle surely this evening. Hope to even get something up on Marque Stuart given my labors about the property. Give me some comments, suggestions, challenges, … on any of my five blogs listed below. Peace … or War!
Captain Plaid - Progressive Scot
Captain Bama - Southern Scot
Tin Shop Tartan - Localism
Captain Jimi - Culture Warrior
Marque Stuart - Home & Garden


Monday, May 22, 2006

Pandering Pols Address "Education" in Alabama

Our four major candidates for Governor were interviewed by The Birmingham News in regard to their positions on "education". "Candidates take differing tacks on education" indeed per the reporting of Charles J. Dean and Mike Cason. Nothing remarkable with Roy Moore talking his usual bizarre mixture of choice and local control and consolidation and religion and waste and ... He's truly pathetic. The Don made lots of sense at times which makes me even sadder in that I think he's so tainted where he'd likely have a hard time being elected or governing. I'm not against a lottery beyond the fact it is regressive. I voted against it the last time simply for that reason. Might as well have it with so many sister states cashing in. Lucy was loving lots, yet perhaps too much, leaving her a bit vague as I regret seems to be her strategy. Governor Riley was adequate yet he, like all the candidates frankly, left much to be desired.

A good place to start fixing education would be challenging the conservative takeover in education that has been afoot for the last twenty plus years. Not much chance on tackling "No Child Left Behind" or the other standards-based disasters. Real reform is likely way beyond these folks as The Don would have little chance of creating radical changes even if he could earn the office again. I don't have time or space to offer specific ideas just yet but hope to soon post on Captain Plaid or elsewhere.

The one area that I'll cover here in their position on "intelligent design". (My running commentary will be in bold italics.) Might cut a little but will give most of their ideas as follows:

Question: Do you support the teaching of intelligent design in public schools?

Baxley: "Describe what you mean by intelligent design. (Do you need a moment to think or could you perhaps not know this Lucy?)

(Critics refer to it as the new version of creationism, that there must be a grand creator behind life on Earth.)

"Let me tell you first of all, I believe in the grand creator. That is unwavering in my belief." (You might have lost my vote here. Pandering and not part of science.)

(As governor, would you propose legislation calling for the teaching of intelligent design?)

"No, I would not. I have my faith and my belief and what creation is to me. This is the core of my being. And I have a great respect for others having their relationship with their creator and their beliefs just like I do. This idea will never begin with me. But if someone came forward with that idea, you've just described what puts it in the hands of the people, it would have to go through committees for the public to be heard on it. Then it would be voted on by the voting members of the Legislature that the people have sent down there to cast their votes for them. Let me just say this. I can't think of a situation under which I would personally be supportive of it." (Waffling again! Also, what about folks that don't have a belief that there is a creator?)

Moore: "At one time in our country there was freedom to teach your children what you believed to be the truth. Now there is a mandate on what you teach your children. I disagree with the mandate. I agree with the freedom. I also subscribe to Thomas Jefferson's quote in his bill for religious freedom, that to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical. That means for you to be made to pay your money to teach something you don't believe is sinful to your children. To pay money to somebody else to teach your children something you don't believe, and hate, is sinful." (You probably do hate science! Sinful? What a wanker!)

(The teaching of Darwinism, Darwin's theory on the origins of life, if you disagreed with that, didn't believe that as a parent you would ..."

"Take them (my children) to another school."

(So you wouldn't oppose the teaching of evolution in schools where parents wanted it taught?)

"No. ... I'm not against public schools. If that's where parents want to send their children, they should have that freedom. They should have the freedom to send them to which public school. That's free enterprise. But if they want to send them to a Christian school or a homeschool, they should do that too."

(So, one more time, should intelligent design be taught in public schools?)

"If that's what parents want."

(But how would that work given the fact public schools are a governmental entity?)

"I don't think the state should mandate one theory over another. Not to allow alternatives is a type of tyranny." (Can you be any more inconsistent or illogical Roy?)

Riley: "I think we should at least have the ability to have a logical discussion about different views. Now, when we came into the process of defining it as intelligent design, I'm not too sure that's how I would phrase the debate because when you say intelligent design that takes it to a step that some parts I'm not too comfortable with. But to say a child needs to be exposed to theories that I believe a majority of the people in this country believe ... that believe there is a God, a deity, that did excise control over this world. I think most people in America believe that. To say you can't bring that up as an alternative doctrine is wrong." (Logical discussion? Majority thinking determines what we teach in a science class? My gracious!)

(So you would sign a bill if it made it through the Legislature mandating the teaching of ID?)

"It's not that I would mandate teaching of ID. But I would always support the idea that any teacher has the ability and option to talk about alternate philosophy, beliefs and ideas" (So they can teach polytheistic ideas on the origins or life. What about animism? Where does this line of logic end Governor?)

(So it would be all right for a teacher in the course of teaching evolution or origins of life to say another viewpoint is ... and then tell the story of Genesis?)

"Absolutely. Yes." (Good grief! You are walking away from the others in the polls! Why pander ... unless you really feel this is appropriate?)

(What would you say to people who said that would be interjecting religion into public schools?)

"It's not interjecting religion. At least religion to me is when you start talking about the denominations, about what people believe. I think most people in America today would say, if you polled them, that there is a God and God did have a part in the creation of this world and for a teacher to recognize that or at least recognize that as a belief of a majority of the people in this country, sure I think it's OK." (Again, the majority decides our science curriculum? Maybe we could let the many neo-confederates here work on our teaching of slavery and the American Civil War? And what are the lines about "not interjecting religion" and "religion to me is when you start talking about the denominations, about what people believe." all about? Isn't the literal story in Genesis "what people believe" Bob?)

Siegelman: "Frankly, I think that religion should not be taught in public school. That should be something that is reserved for parents and preachers and their children. I think we're straining at a gnat to swallow a camel. There are bigger issues out there that our kids are concerned with. They need to learn to read and write and add and subtract. They need to learn to get along with others. They can learn all of that stuff in schools, and there are some things I think are best reserved for parents and preachers and left out of public schools." (The Don may have just earned my vote despite the legal troubles he is facing.)

What a grand choice, as usual I lament, we have in Alabama. The Don is certainly the sharpest and most in line with my thinking and yet he's facing The Man with his legal troubles. Looks a bit questionable at least so I'm waiting. Still, Reverend Roy is still as crazy as a run over dog. Lucy is still a bit goosey on her positions and approach. Bob Riley ought to know better on some of this and we know he's conservative and pro-business. He could ratchet back some of the wing nuts in his leadership position and likely return to office yet he either is following this trend or is scared to stand up to the Religious Right. For either he will not earn my vote. Peace ... or War!


Sunday, May 21, 2006

Are Alabama Same Sex Couples Accepted?

I found this in today's print edition of The Anniston Star but I'll send you to The Boston Globe for David Crary of The Associated Press reporting "Gays see shift in momentum toward acceptance in Alabama: But their causes are still enduring share of setbacks". This articles got lots of coverage across America and can't hurt as to Alabama's reputation for intolerance. I'll be voting "No" on the Constitutional Amendment on June 6th and perhaps even doing a "Letter to the Editor" of a few local rags offering my reasoning yet I fear it will indeed pass with rather high numbers. Ignorant Alabama voters rejected Amendment #2 back in 2004 that kept racist language on segregated schools so surely ignorant Alabama voters will do the bidding of John Giles and the religious wing nuts on this issue. Peace ... or War!


Friday, May 19, 2006

Damage Control from Chancellor Roy Johnson

The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reports "Chancellor: son-in-law won't work as attorney for 3 colleges" yet "He said his wife, son, daughter and daughter-in-law continue to work in the two-year college system, but that none were hired by him and all had jobs in the system before he became chancellor." Peace ... or War!


Thursday, May 18, 2006

Rudy Loves Ralph ... and his cousin, gay friends, ...

Jonathan Hutson at Talk to Action serves up Ralph Reed Embraces 'Blatant Adultering Cousin-Fucker'. Here are some gems:

Just how desperate does Georgia lieutenant gubernatorial candidate Reed have to be to court and count on the support of a pro-choice, pro-gay, pro-gun control, divorced Catholic politician from New York who has confessed to having sex with his cousin on a regular basis over the course of 14 years?

On May 17, 2006, Reed issued a salvo against Fulton County judge who, in Reed's terms, dishonored the "sanctity of the institution of marriage" by striking down Georgia's gay marriage ban. In a press release on the homepage of his campaign web site,, Reed called the ruling "just the latest example of a liberal judiciary run amoc [sic]." Reed, who cannot spell amok (okay, who gives a kissin' cousin fok?), added that "Georgians agree in their belief that marriage should be defined as a man and a woman in holy matrimony."

Holy matrimony, Batman! Does Reed's definition of sanctified marriage include a man and his third cousin? Well, what about a man who married his third cousin, Ms. Peruggi, then had the marriage annulled after a brief 14 years as soon as he "discovered" (in the midst of an adulterous affair with Ms. Hanover) that his wife was not his third cousin, but actually his second cousin? What about a man who has an annulment, marries his lover waiting in the wings, and then ends his second marriage with another adulterous affair? ...

America's Mayor indeed. Do any of Ralph's remaining supporters not ponder this? Peace ... or War!


Sunday, May 14, 2006

More on Anthony Ray Hinton's Death Case

Bob Blaylock of The Birmingham News gives us another look at Anthony Ray Hinton's death penalty case with today's "Why won't state take innocence claim seriously?" I'd posted earlier on Mr. Hinton with a post I titled as "Justice on the Cheap" in a "Pro-Life" State!" yet the Criminal Justice system is where the rubber hits the road. Alabama is a "law and order" state and District Attorney elections aren't won with reason and tempered justice I fear. Law enforcement can be incompetent and corrupt and ... with me basing this on plenty of professional experiences. Our courts, with the Alabama Supreme Court being the most conservative in modern history, are likewise not going to the seasoned and reasoned but rather the connected and projected. One of the main reasons I want to get back in the practice is to join issue on these problems. Nothing to gain gives me more freedom to go hardcore with my activism and advocacy that I did not possess in my first effort. I was always hard nosed in defending my clients yet in the years to come I want to educate our public as to the reality of injustices still continuing in Alabama. Peace ... or War!


Saturday, May 13, 2006

Bama Dems Toss & Answer "Softball Questions"?

Tom Gordon of The Birmingham News reports "State Democrats pose questions to candidates" yet I'm somewhat disappointed by the nature of the questions. Here they are:

"Please provide a brief biographical sketch."

"What in your background has prepared you to serve in the office for which you are running?"

"What are three goals you will work to accomplish if elected?"

"What is the most pressing challenge facing the State of Alabama and how will you work to effect positive change in this area?"

I want some tough ones that hems these folks up at least a little. I'd like to know their position on Constitutional Reform, PAC to PAC transfers and campaign finance disclosures and lobbying and ... , judicial elections ... Missouri Plan and/or non-partisan and ... , same sex marriage/civil rights, 1st Amendment issues with special emphasis on establishment and separation clauses, improving that damnable ALICE system, environment, education, poverty, capping damages in civil lawsuits, death penalty, abortion, gun control, rural Alabama, drug policy, prison issues, criminal defense of indigents funding and standards, sex education, following or fighting No Child Left Behind, teachers having a workable way to boot the disruptive non-achievers from their classrooms, educators' pay and perks, willingness to take on the Big Mules, outreach to the branchheads, ability and desire to establish meaningful web/email communication, ...

There's more to add. If anyone wants to drop comments or emails offering additions I'd appreciate. Also, I'd like your thoughts on why we should or shold notask the tough questions. Indeed it might give the GOP some ammo yet I still think the idea of speaking clearly and completely will resonate with the public. If the public hears the issues Progressive Lefty ideas can win. Long view maybe but I'm not interested in sending Republican Lite to Goat Hill. Peace ... or War!


Friday, May 12, 2006

Athens Suitor Spurned by Roy Moore

Polygamy might be the answer Roy? Multiple spouses might allow you to boost those dreadful poll numbers? Holly Hollman of The Decatur's Daily gives us the story and Jonathan Palmer provided the image for "Traditional marriage - Athens man proposes while Moore speaks" The story, in part, reads,

Equating silence with treason, Moore said Christians have remained silent too long on issues such as prayer in schools and abortion, and must be vocal on defining marriage.

"We didn't want to offend so we have remained silent," Moore said. "This is not a political issue, but a moral issue. It is about the destruction of an institution ordained by God."

Moore predicted more than 90 percent of those who vote June 6 will support the traditional marriage amendment.

Jean Cole of The News Courier also covered the event with her "‘Few disagree’ with gay marriage ban - Roy Moore expects 90 percent to vote for ban". Her Athens-based writing, in part, reads,

... Garth held the sign, stood among the crowd and quietly recited the Lord’s Prayer with the crowd during the invocation. Three Athens police officers stood behind him in case he started a ruckus. ...

To some, the amendment seems redundant.

State law already bans marriage between people of the same sex. However, a Constitutional amendment would prevent courts from striking down the state law, as courts in Boston and San Francisco did.

While a man handed out Moore political signs from a box about 150 yards from the speakers, Moore told gatherers, “This is not a political issue, it a moral issue,” he said. “When we forget God, we forget our morals.”

The crowd applauded.

Failing to vote for the amendment may have repercussions, said Tim Anderson, one of several speakers at the event. “You get to choose today, “ he told the crowd. “When we stand before God, we won’t get to choose.”

His remarks drew widespread applause and some “Amens.”

The rally, called the Stand Up For Traditional Marriage Rally, was sponsored by the Athens Limestone for Quality of Life Committee, a group which reformed this year under chairman Mike Westmoreland. Westmoreland is pastor of Madison Street Baptist Church.

The proposed amendment defines marriage in the state Constitution as a union between a man and a woman only.

It would also prevent Alabama from recognizing same-sex marriages from other states. State legislators voted in March 2005 to put the amendment on the June 6 ballot.

It is sponsored by Sen. Hinton Mitchem, D-Albertville, and cosponsored by 11 other senators. Fear for Alabama’s children prompted Mitchem to sponsor the amendment.

He said he watched television coverage of a rally in San Francisco in which two men were kissing.

“That was not conducive to the welfare of our children, “ he told The News Courier Friday.

So Garth was going to start the ruckus? Love the language .... NOT. He's a non-violent protester. Even if he wanted to heckle Alabama's Favorite Theocrat I'm thinking the First Amendment would have needed protecting more than anything else.

These Alabama pandering politicians (Would that be an oxymoronic moron?) might need to check out the federal Defense of Marriage Act. I think there's a violation of the "full faith and credit" clause yet perhaps not. Also, if they can't marry/partner up then they'll not be filmed at a rally? Marriage cools the passion Senator, or at least it did with my wives. Kids are seeing plenty that comes from major media owned by massive GOP oriented folks like that Aussie Murdock's FOX yet you want to pass a law in Alabama? Like an Alabama court would rule to allow gay marriage. What are you folks on Goat Hill smoking?

This is a "civil rights" issue at least up to a point. If benefits are extended to traditional couples then same sex couples ought to be able to make those same choices. I'll vote "No" of course simply to be contrary yet I do not think the issue matters in Alabama. Pandering for votes and distracting voters from significant issues and problems is all this mess is about yet it reveals the wingnuts among us.

Roy Moore has long been a member of our "Crazy as a run over dog Club" yet he is still perhaps not to the level of founding member Ann Coulter. She'd have urged her fans to smite him and if they'd have declined then she'd ridicule them for not being the brownshirts of her dreams.

This post makes me all the more inclined to just go ahead and order Michelle Goldberg's Kingdom Coming : The Rise of Christian Nationalism.

Tip of the tap to Mr. Garth! Peace of War!


Thursday, May 11, 2006

Wheeler Nails "Frivilous Lawsuits"

Wheeler at Alablawg gives us a fine work with this post. I've suggested essentially the same thing in some conversation and/or forums and it works when we, people of reason merely, can be heard over the Mighty Wurlitzer of the right. It takes personal contact often yet facts are stubborn things when we get down to the branchheads. Of course, if the media would confront these wingnuts or those on the right wing payroll it would make our job easier. Good job, as always, Wheeler! Peace ... or War!


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Is Alabama's Secretary of State Stephanie Worley Wasting Public Funds?

The Mobile Press-Register Op-Ed from today takes Secertary of State Stephanie Worley to task for spending public funds on voter education. Seems like a waste to me and yet at a minimum I'd argue it is questionable for her to appear in the media spots if she's facing re-election. Here's the guts of the piece:

The total cost for running the ads would be $563,717. The money would come from interest earned on federal funds used to implement the federal Help Americans Vote Act. While these aren't tax dollars, they are clearly public funds.

Bottom line: Politicians seeking re-election have no business spending public dollars to encourage folks to vote. There's an inherent conflict of interest in that.

Get-out-the-vote drives, which are appropriate in a democracy, are better handled by citizen activists, not government officials.

I know there are likely plenty of other issues out there yet this one seems appropriate. Note that she is a Democrat. I'm an equal opportunity advocate or at least I attempt the same. Peace ... or War!


Monday, May 08, 2006

Show DINO Dial How Rural Alabama Regards Him

Pamela Chism, the executive director of the Friends of Hale County Foundation, was given space in a recent Anniston Star to lay into DINO Dial. I've posted earlier on this latest Dial disaster at Captain Bama and just today on Tin Shop Tartan. Ms. Chism's op-ed is titled "Speaker’s Stand ... Sen. Dial shows disregard for rural Alabama" where she talks of her faith and how Christians walk the talk. Gerald Dial is all talk and no walk, even for his own rural district. Folks here in the 13th can show our regard for Gerald Dial by replacing him with Kim Benefield. Peace ... or War!


Thursday, May 04, 2006

"Justice on the Cheap" in a "Pro-Life" State!

Judge Sue Bell Cobb is getting my vote and support for the fall's Chief Justice race. Yesterday's op-ed in The B'ham News, entitled "A Mockery of Justice", just confirms my decision. Regarding Appellant Anthony Ray Hinton, an unqualified "expect" provided ballistics evidence that was savaged on cross. This "evidence" has now been shown to be such that the conviction seems very improper. Amnesty International gives us some allegations, even beyond the firearms testimony, that seem rather solid. However, The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals voted 3-2 to let the injustice continue. Inadequate representation seems enough and the case will likely not pass federal review yet why not do the right thing at our appellate court? A new trial is certainly appropriate in this death case. Kudos for Judge Cobb and Shaw! And shame, based on the evidence I'm privy to, on Republican judges Baschab, McMillan, and Wise! While I don't think we should even elect Judges, I'm sure you Republicans reap the benefit of your party claiming respect for "the culture of life". Yet, in this case you choose death. Peace ... or War!


Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Anniston Star on NPR's "All Things Considered"

David Folkenflik reports on NPR's "All Things Considered" with an audio link. "It fights above its weight class." was my favorite quote. Training ground for some top tier papers and a rare liberal intellectual voice in Alabama. Journalism resource as "a teaching newspaper" for the U of A and non-profits and ... My gracious isn't this a grand approach. Well done Brandy! I love The Anniston Star! Peace ... or War!


Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Alabama Shakespeare Festival offers Alabama Rooted "To Kill a Mockingbird"

The Alabama Shakespeare Festival is a treasure of Alabama that I've often had on my "one of these days" list. I'm going to take the boy to an adaptation of "To Kill a Mockingbird" that the ASF is offering over the summer. Classic story that ought to be solid. Now that I'm bolting the classroom I'll be able to visit the ASF and other cultural offerings rather than simply crawling home every evening and collapsing. Of course having the money to go might be the issue now. Peace ... or War!


Monday, May 01, 2006

Ava Lowery's "Peace Takes Courage"

An amazing young woman from Alabama named Ava Lowery has truly impressed me with her "Peace Takes Courage" efforts. Very moving animations and writing from one that gives me hope for our future. She's just fifteen but this young peace activist could very well make an impact that is exponential in scope. I've added her to my resources and plan to share her work. You make Alabama proud Ava! Peace ... or War!


As long as we are electing Judges ...

Tom Scarritt of The B'ham News opines "Voters are the judge and jury" focusing on "Crazy as a Run Over Dog Tom Parker" for the most part. He's crazy and apparently lazy to boot. Mr. Scarritt says we should be glad these judges are speaking out. Yet what we are getting is simply more proof that idiots can be elected as long as idiots (offered in a non-disparaging way ... for the most part) are doing the voting. Elitist perhaps yet I often think that few voters are aware enough to select our leaders yet I'm certain the average layperson can't evaluate a jurist at the appellate level, and possibly the circuit/district level as well. The Alabama State Bar's suggestions, based on the "Missouri Plan", is long overdue. Additionally, Mother Jones's reminds us that activist fundamentalists are lurking more and more with "The Bible Bench". Peace ... or War!