Sunday, August 20, 2006

Captain Plaid - New Approaches for New Days

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Conquest by Conservatism - ALDLC Caves!

The Anniston Star reveals most Alabama citizens lean Republican. In my local paper today, the Alabama Legislative Democratic Leadership Conference released their "Covenant for the Future" with a full page ad. "Republican Lite" is being too kind. I'll remain pro-choice and favor some type of method to make sure same-sex couples aren't being treated unfairly yet I can live with them avoiding the issue. The ALDLC is going rather full anti-immigrant and low tax and God and ... If our state party wants to pander to the Republican leaning population they are being short sighted and simply wrong. If they'd attack the GOP failures they'd do the national party and their candidates much more good. I've posted on this often but it still frustrates me. I'll ponder for a few days but I'm thinking I'll want to make some calls. Peace ... or War!


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Alvin Holmes Schools Alabama Christian Coalition

Actually Representative Holmes schools other Progressives and our community but the post title didn't work describing his action that way. Even Alvin Holmes, never one to run from (or perhaps even cause?) controversy, can't school the Alabama Christian Coalition. Candidates that seek reform should reply to the ACC's position requests with the same type of response that Mr. Holmes used, alerting the media and their constituents so they'll eventually learn what the ACC is really about.

Kim Chandler of the B'ham News reports in "Lawmaker rebukes Christian Coalition" that Alvin Holmes, in response the ACC's annual survey, replied with three questions. Holmes is alleged to have written "Until you answer these three questions, Go straight to hell." He signed "Peace be with you." however.

The three questions are as follows:

Reveal its sources of income.

Disclose if it received any money from Ralph Reed or convicted lobbyist Michael Scanlon to lobby against gambling in Alabama.

Explain why the group opposed a bill that would require nonprofits to reveal sources of income if they do election advertising.

John Giles will likely dodge these answers so that he and ACC can continue to look out for the Big Mules willing to use his organization to distract poorly informed "values voters" from the disastrous conservative policies that are destroying our state and nation. I'm neutral on gambling except for wanting regulation and revenue should more come to us plus fair and open elections on making the decision. I am far from neutral on much else the ACC hinders such as constitutional reform, tax adjustments to help the poor and middle class, judicial selection reform, etc. Peace ... or War!


Sunday, August 13, 2006

Gerald "Dino" Dial Crawfishes On Complaints

Mike Linn reports in today's Montgomery Advertiser "Dial says Benefield violated campaign act" yet Dino says he "simply wants to inform the party chairman" and is not challenging the election. Since he has missed by the June 19th deadline to do so by nearly two months I suppose he's not.

Kim Benefield rightly labels Gerald's actions as "sour grapes". Claiming Kim's 45 day report was "second grade work", Gerald asserts "If I had done that, they would have been on me like stink on manure."

Mr. Dial, you have stunk up Goat Hill for many years and the voters of this District had enough of your bullshit. Miss Twinkle might want to listen Gerald but I think you've done enough for the Democratic Party and this District/State. Governor Riley and the GOP will I'm sure find a place for you to collar up again for the Big Mules. Peace ... or War!


Saturday, August 12, 2006

Laundering Michael Scanlon's Gambling Money

Mr. Scanlon was first mentioned here on Bama way back in March. In April I noted his connection to Alabama in giving money to four state PACs. Via a Tin Shop Tartan post, I had a comment from "Tim" scolding me for suggesting "Bob Riley" was named in a Senate report on the Choctaw money. I've never believed $13 million was realistic but some gambling money helped Bob Riley beat The Don in 2002. I still think the Governor needs to 'fess up and set the record straight but the statement below seems to be a start at coming clean.

Mr. Scanlon was of course previously Congressman Riley's Press Secretary when he was back in DC but he then moved up the food chain to work for Tom "The Hammer" DeLay. Scanlon entered various guilty pleas back in late 2005 for his involvement in the Jack Abramoff scandals. He is understood to be cooperating with the authorities, no doubt providing sleepless nights to plenty of pols and other wheeler dealers . The scandal seem to be mostly involving Republicans.

Mary Orndorff and Kim Chandler report in today's B'ham News "Lobbyist's interest in state races dates to '01 : Scanlon said to have funneled cash to Riley ". Bob Riley's camp gave a statement as follows:
"A decade before anyone knew the problems he would face, Michael Scanlon worked for Gov. Riley while he was a member of Congress," Riley spokesman Josh Blades said in a written statement. "It is logical that Scanlon would want to support his former boss in his campaign for governor. Bob Riley has been a life-long opponent of gambling in Alabama, and that fact will never change, regardless of who contributes money to his campaign."

With PAC to PAC transfers legal and providing the ability to hide, at least during an election cycle, sources of funds here in Alabama I'm expecting we'll never have the type of leadership we'll need. Although I'm a fan of "Initiative and Referendum" plus efforts to disclose funding and of course long overdue constitutional reform, I'll offer that my one dream reform would be Alabama/America using some type of "Clean Money Election" system. Public financing of campaigns alone might make the above less needed. If we could simply get some folks down at Goat Hill/up in DC that would actually represent the public rather than the Big Mules then we'd see other reforms fall into place. Peace ... or War!


Friday, August 11, 2006

DINO - Democrat In Name Only

Starting from the right, as he'd surely prefer, we've got Zell Miller. "Give 'em hell Zell" is a long time but thankfully retired Georgia pol. He's a duel nostalgic former Marine infamous for his 2004 performance at the RNC in NYC. His support of Bu$hCo while still in the Senate was a given. On the left, where he often was before becoming Bu$hCo's favorite Senate Democrat, we've got Connecticut's Joe Lieberman. Painted by the nasty Republicans as "Sore Loserman" from the 2000 stolen election, he's done a legitimate claiming of the label with Ned Lamont just this week. Rejected by his own party and providing even more ammo for Bu$hCo, this Deputy Dog favoring polician is going to run as an independent. Slap in the middle, looking almost like a "love child" of the two with that innocent smile and ridiculous tie, we've got our own Gerald Dial.

After noting just yesterday Gerald's performance in a media buy for Bob Riley, Gerald now has the audacity to ask my Alabama Democratic Party to boot Kim S. Benefield from the ticket. The reporting of Kim Chandler of the B'ham News reveals Gerald is concerned over not only her campaign forms but also those, or rather the forms they didn't have to file, of four other Senators that helped fund her win.

Perhaps this is a sign that ALFA and the BCA and Alabama Power and ... aren't going to pony up for Jim Ingram this fall? They've already spent at least a half a million this cycle on their boy only to see him get crushed yet we know Big Mules pockets are very, very deep.

I'm wanting the Democratic Party to examine the claim (figuring if there's been an error it was a clerical or honest mistake from a candidate first running for this type of position) yet once solved I'm hopeful Dino will be placed on waivers so the other teams can claim him. I'd trade him for a bucket of spit but I'd be happy to just let Miss Twinkle have the Clay Combover. It's time we, and Gerald for that matter, cut our losses. Peace .. or War!


Thursday, August 10, 2006

Lucy on labels ... "like being called fat by a hog"

If I'd have been able to reply to the Riley campaign's opening salvo, a negative one no less, where he uses an everyman (I think nearly every demographic and gender being included) ad to suggest Lucy Baxley is "too liberal for Alabama", I'd have challenged the label rather than allowing him to get away with the language. While I did like the tone and folksiness of "Being called liberal by someone who proposed the largest tax increase in Alabama history is like being called fat by a hog." I'll first remind you, and hope you know this already, that "liberal" doesn't mean "free spender" Miss Lucy! Like many Democrats you're allowing the Republicans to use the Karl Rove approach where they tell your potential voters who you are and what your party stands for.

The report comes from The B'Ham News' Charles J. Dean in "Gloves come off in fight for governor's mansion : Baxley's 'a liberal'; Riley's 'a hog'" and you can find the ad on Riley's media site. I noticed soon to be former Alabama State Senator Gerald "Dino" Dial doing his impression of Zell Miller/Joe Lieberman as Riley's representative Democrat. That the Clay Combover helps out Clay County's own doesn't surprise me but Gerald Dial is as much a Democrat as he is an underwear model. Dissing on John Kerry and Hillary Clinton might not cause you much harm yet I'm with The Decatur Daily in thinking you embrace Bu$hCo at your own peril. A 46% approval and 51% disapproval for Bu$h has me hoping you'll go right ahead with this approach. Shilling Bu$hCo's failed Iraq policies shows love to Lucy!

Like the image above suggests, the GOP message is being shown to be talk not walk. Your party takes care of Big Oil and Big Pharma while holding an increase to the minimum wage hostage to try to pass the Paris Hilton Inheritance Protection Act. Our shrinking middle class with even larger concentrations of wealth over the last two decades is a reality that even folks in Alabama are recognizing. The Ambramoff/Reed/Scanlon (Riley's former staffer!) scandals are getting deeper and deeper. You've so far avoided the details of the gambling money questions but sooner or later some assertive reporter will hem you up. Alabama has plenty of problems that will require capacties of a person from a party that doesn't seem to loathe government. Labeling somebody "liberal" might be a favor given how more and more Americans are waking up the failures of "conservatism" and especially how that philosophy has been implemented by the Bu$h administration. Thanks Governor! Peace ... or War!


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Bob Riley Shills For Bu$hCo's Iraq War

Maybe Governor Riley is going to step aside to seek a Senate seat? Surely he can't think supporting Dubyah and especially Donald Rumsfeld, even here in the Heart of Dixie, will serve his bid for re-election as our Governor. He managed to get a dig in at Hillary Clinton which might help but mercy if this report didn't confuse me as far as his strategy in his present race. Phillip Rawls of The Associated Press reports via The Montgomery Advertiser "Iraq mission 'honorable,' Riley says".

Mr. Rawls reports,

The war can be won "if we keep the politics out of it," Riley said at a news conference.

Riley scoffed at a question about whether he is simply a Republican governor parroting the party line for a Republican presidential administration. "Certain things should transcend politics. The United States at war is one of them," the governor said. ...

... Riley, who visited Iraq in March, said, "I've never talked to a person in the military yet who didn't say we ought to stay and we ought to win the war."

But he said the extensive media coverage of the war can be demoralizing for troops.

"To a large extent, the media doesn't help a lot of times in reporting every incident over there," he said.

Lucy Baxley also supports our troops, demonstrating you can do this without blind faith in a failed administration. A portion of her statement, released after the staging of Riley with soldiers (I wonder if they were as scripted as Bu$hCo's past stagecraft?) that have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, presumably on the taxpayer's dime, reads as follows:

"However, the American public has a right to hear from Rumsfeld and President Bush what their plans are for bringing this conflict to a successful conclusion, and assurance that the sacrifice of American lives have not been in vain."
Bob Riley is apparently one of the true believers left in the GOP. John McCain and Chuck Hagel and ... are hardly thrilled with how this effort has been prosecuted. "Stay the course" is not a strategy Bob! For that matter the American public has soured on this war. Dick Cheney's "last throes of the insurgency" hasn't exactly come to fruition has it Bob? We are approaching 3000 KIA and thousands more wounded? A trillion dollars could be spent here, although Bu$hCo assured us the oil would pay for the war. Our National Guard commander admits the force's equipment is at least broken and will need a substantial infusion of money to fix. Recruiting is becoming very difficult for the Army and Guard. Torture, abuse, rape, murder, occupation, broken infrastructure, civil war, ... where do you get off trying to spin this fiasco Governor?

How Governor Riley thinks this "war can be won" is beyond me and apparently also escapes a good number of military men, analysts, and pundits. Bu$h and Rummy and ... blew it. Now there's only a question of "How bad?" with salvaging some limited good from much bad as our only hope.

Perhaps the Governor is talking about Iran winning once the "Shia Crescent" is complete? The neo-cons said we'd "reshape the region" yet I don't think they meant doing it this way!

That women are losing as fundamentalism in the form of "Virtue and Vice" authorities, is now present in much of Iraq, not to mention returning to Afghanistan after we'd supposedly liberated these people from the Taliban, surely can't be what the Governor is defending. Children and other innocent Iraqis surely aren't winning when the Bu$h administration simply failed to plan appropriately for the period after Saddam Hussein. The militarism of Bu$hCo and their haughty rejection of international, Arab, peace groups, UN, .... alternatives has worked out swimmingly hasn't it Bob?

Could the Governor be thinking of more earnings for Halliburton/KBR and other war profiteers? Big Oil is winning with prices so high that profits are at record levels.

Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda and other extremist groups are certainly winning their recruiting war. The prestige of and sympathy toward the U.S. is at very low levels on the international stage so perhaps our competition is winning if one accepts a zero-sum game.

That 1600 Alabama National Guard members will be in Iraq this next year might not be a concern for the Governor but I'm expecting it is a huge burden on their families and these soldiers. Of the 130,000 American soldiers in Iraq now, some back on tour after tour, and their families, not to mention those rotated back home, know the costs. How his President and Dubyah's neo-conservative handlers gamed the intelligence and disengenously sold this war is not a concern either for men like Bob Riley. Sending our fighting men and women into combat without the proper equipment doesn't trouble a loyal Republican like Bob Riley.

I was already supporting Lucy Baxley but I truly appreciated the way she called Bob Riley out for his shilling of what seems like standard GOP talking points. If Bob Riley is this out of touch and willing to twist reality we certainly don't need him leading this state. Turn off the Faux News Bob and get real. This dog won't hunt. Peace ... or War!


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

How Can Bama Dems Best Help National Party?

Blogger image posting is still bloggered but it matters not beyond aesthetics on many posts. Typepad still calls to me ...

I have been pondering (perhaps soon I'll be where I can tell you why) how my Alabama Democratic Party can best fit in with the national party. While I know organizations like ALEC are prepared to fall back to the state level should conditions turn on the national stage, few could doubt that the Big Mules have long had control of Alabama. On my side, groups such as AEA, ADC, ASEA ... seemingly have a great deal of influence in the party. That is hardly a negative in some concerns yet I've at times wondered if our approach isn't short sighted as far as goals.

If there's not a change in the nation's direction I'll simply offer that we are screwed! We can't continue seeing the middle class shrink as hyper-capitalism runs wild. From just the failures of militarism to the challenges of globalism, not to mention global warming and our fossil fuel dependence, with health care concerns to boot, the GOP has simply bungled everything. Bill Maher's "George of the Bungle" is certainly representative of the Republican failures. Again, I'll argue that "conservatism" as a doctrine has failed once implemented under Reaganism yet certainly the last few years we've seen that total GOP power is simply dangerous to our nation and world.

This Liberal Journal post examines Paul Krugman's recent "Centrism is for Suckers" piece in the New York Times. Since the Gray Lady put up their Select wall before Krugman and other amazing talent, I've missed much NYT column wisdom. LJ shares a good portion, and perhaps even all, of the column that contrasts the actions of various left and right groups. He demonstrates that Republican leaning organizations often fall in line with the GOP's agenda even when perhaps it is contrary to their own direct concerns. His examples on the left are groups like the Sierra Club and NARAL which endorse moderate Republicans like Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island. The Sierra Club's reply is also provided. I'm conflicted on where I'd fall on this issue, although I'm learning toward Krugman. Perhaps the Sierra Club could split the baby and praise Chafee while blasting his party?

This piece has me pondering how the Alabama Democratic Party could best advance restoring our national party to majority status in the U.S. House and Senate and also support a return to the White House. In my House District, the 3rd represented by Mike Rogers despite the best efforts of our current party Chairman, I'm optimistic at least this seat could return to our side. Now I know the national party hardly did their part in losing it but that's in the past. I certainly don't think Mike Rogers could withstand a campaign that focused on the GOP's disasters given the lack of satisfaction with Bu$hCo and the Rubber Stamp Congress. If our state party doesn't celebrate the national party and also attack the GOP's corruption, incompetence, false values, hypocrisy, ... then are we now doing our part?

Between the gerrymandering and the power of incumbency some House districts here will remain out of play but a message that serves the interest of statewide and national elections should I'd argue remain supportive of the Progressive agenda that only the Democratic Party can carry out. Individually and collectively I think we can reach out to many voters that as of late seem to default to the GOP. We'll do this at times by sacrificing short term goals however. When we run candidates that try to be Republican Lite that is harming our long term interest isn't it?

I guess I'm offering that the years of the Blue Dogs are over. Centrism isn't working and perhaps can't given the current approach by the GOP masters. I want to confront, confound, confuse, contrast, ... the state and national GOP machine. I am still hoping that Governor Dean will take the bait from Ms. Andress-Cavanaugh. Embrace his message and use it. Lucy Baxley and other statewide candidates need the support of voters that have fallen to the other team. The few remaining "values voters" we lose by heading left can be overcome by tapping into our populist streak. I'll suggest that without a shift we'll not only continue to lose influence in this state but at the same time not advance the interests of the good guys on the national stage. We must run these foxes out of the henhouse, and I figure the main henhouse to focus on is up in DC. Peace ... or War!


Sunday, August 06, 2006

Is there time (or will) to pause for a restoration!

I'm a huge fan of H. Brandt Ayers and his Anniston Star so I'm hesitant to question his position in today's Editorial that is labeled "Timeout for America". Mr. Ayers is offering that we (our military and citizenry) need "a pause to refresh body and soul" to best formulate a way "to rebuild American prestige abroad" and also "to revive morale at home". Mr. Ayers' Progressivism is apparent in referring to the frustrations of the average American with a government that simply doesn't work for their interests. His true concern for our fighting men and women provide a welcome contrast to the neo-con cheerleaders milking American patriotism. He is right to refer to the leadership that former Presidents Carter, Bush, and Clinton could provide to the next occupant of the White House in both foreign and domestic policies.

I'm however worried that the modern GOP, and perhaps some Centrist Democrats as well, aren't prepared to move from the methods and policies of the recent past. I am convinced that the modern Republican Party has pushed so far in accumulating and projecting power that they'll have a hard time leaving the Atwater and Rove style of "campaigning"under Gingrich and Armey and DeLay and Lott/Frist ... style "leadership" behind. Throw in the neo-conservatives and right wing media machine and Dobsonites and ... and we've got an even larger mess. When we consider how much influence the well-funded Corporatist "think tanks" and "policy shops" and "deep lobbying" are, along with the levels of money involved in gaining and holding office, I'm not so sure our leaders are going to be able to take a breather, much less turn a corner.

After the emergence of "unitary executive" theories and practices under Bu$hCo, will a President give up that power? Strip Search Sammy and Uncle Thomas plus perhaps others might not limit the Presidential power. Since many members of Congress often act as if they work for a President if from their own party how will they shift toward a new paradigm?

Since the Reagan Revolution, built off (or not?) Powell's Chamber of Commerce memo a decade before, we've had twenty plus years of "conservatism". The Clenis, especially after 1994's Contract on America, was often Republican Lite. Bush the Elder's more moderate Conservatism was still largely an extension of Reagan's militarism and voodoo economics. (I'm nearly certain many deals were cut in the wake of Iran -Contra!) The Reagan Republicans were largely in control of the party yet there were a few statesmen found even in tht community. Some abandoned that style when they saw what happened when paleo-conservatives like Pat Buchanan and other rebels like Ross Perot went off the reservation. ManyRepublicans loathed Clinton for much and we saw what they were willing to do to try to destroy his Presidency. The Republican Party has not built their powerful machine to garage it and perhaps lose control, especially after the Clinton terms slowed their agendas.

Now that this administration and his Rubber Stamp Congress have shifted policies to the extreme right to pacify their Christianist base while actually serving their Corporate agenda, not to mention trying to be a "War President", I'm think a pause and breather is wishful thinking.

Plus there's hope that beginning this fall the capture of either the House or Senate, ideally both, could allow Democrats to actually accomplish something. Progressives have held essentially no power in these last few years. With Democrats in control, even if mostly centrist in orientation, liberals can show the nation a new direction. Having subpoena power can prevent Republican controlled committees from stalling and burying investigations into the abuses of Bu$hCo. When the American public sees what I'll argue is the truth behind this administration's deceptions and illegal actions, we can hope the Republican Party will be discredited. As Americans, and the world to boot, continue to suffer under what the right wing has wrought, they'll possibly be receptive to Progressive ideals and ideas. While I don't think the early 1930s provides a fair comparison our nation is as close as it has been since that period. When we drop in the "global war on terror" and the challenges of globalism we are even closer to a crisis.

Recognizing what Mr. Ayers offers, and there's much to his ideas, I want action not pause. Like President Carter's "morass speech" back in the day, there's serious truth here. Still, like Carter's administration being largely just a pause after Watergate, I don't want to lose the chance to take the nation is a new direction. Given this need, dare I write "crisis", and the nature of modern politics (geared to "war rooms", talking points, and getting through the next news cycle) I'm not so keen on a breather but rather looking for vigorous and forward looking leadership. Peace ... or War!


Saturday, August 05, 2006

Is B'ham News Editorial on Judicial Reform Historically Accurate?

(I've got a nice toon of Karl Rove talking with Plato to drop here but Blogger is once again bloggered up! Several of the Alabama crowd have had their fill of Blogger and perhaps I will bolt soon as well. I hate to complain when something is free but I'd be pleased to pay if the damn thing would just reliably work for me!)

The B'ham News suggests reform in how Alabama's appellate judges are seated is a great idea but advises us to not hold our breath. I concur on the lack of optimism but wonder if they've not been a little too quick to assign blame to past Democratically controlled Administrations and Legislatures. The Editorial Board is responsible I guess in total as the author(s) of the piece are not identifid. Perhaps they are correct as I was a young buck and not even in law school until 1988. Here's what troubled me.

Change can only be accomplished through the Legislature. Once, change was impossible because Democrats dominated the appeals courts and objected to any change. Now that Republicans control the courts, they're adamantly opposed to change, too.
I certainly remember the "tort hell" battles in the Legislature and the 1994 elections where Karl Rove got the first wave of Business Big Mules judges on the Bench. In yesterday's post I linked The Atlantic article on Karl Rove's work here in Alabama that reveals what I think Bu$hCo is built on. I digress. Here's the issue - For the life of me I can't recall any efforts to reform judical elections that Democrats have hindered.

This American Judicature Society information seems to suggest that I'm right in my hesitancy to accept this editorial but I'm asking for help. Surely the B'ham News is not referring back to 1966 for their authority! Justice Heflin and other leaders brought Alabama up to speed in many areas and merit selction was I'd guess a barely fought issue. I just don't think the period before the shift toward a two-party state, and that is at least into the late 1980s, could in any way support what this editorial is suggesting.

If any of the few readers that visit can provide me with their understandings I'd appreciate. I might even try to contact the B'ham News and ask for what they are basing this argument on. Again, that it could have been this way would not surprise me. Still, my recollection is that the BCA and other Big Mules were going at their concerns in the Legislature rather than up at the Judicial Branch. Once they got their "tort reform" stuff through and it was rightly found flawed is when they went after Sonny and the Supremes.

For the B'ham News Editorial Board to just "make this up" is hardly what I'd expect and I'm hoping they haven't. Progressive Democrats, and there are a few left here, would likely welcome judical reform as it is absolutely "meritorious". We like those types of ideas and to have this Editorial suggest my party has outright dimissed them is irresponsible if offered without cause. The public is cynical enought already, rightly so here in Alabama, but let's not increase the lack of trust by stretching the historical record. Peace ... or War!


Friday, August 04, 2006

Alabama State Bar seeks Judical Election Reform

The Alabama State Bar's new President Fournier "Boots" Gale III of Maynard Cooper & Gale, P.C. in B'ham has announced the Bar's long effort to appoint rather than elect appeals court judges will see the introduction of legislation this next March. The reporting by Eric Velasco reveals the money being dropped in these races. While I have some interest in political consulting so that I might should celebrate these millions, I'm shocked and offended it has been this much. Mr. Velasco gives us the numbers as follows:
Since 1993, interest groups have poured almost $48 million into state Supreme Court races alone - including $4.6 million spent in the Republican primary for five state Supreme Court races so far this year.

The idea that the average Alabama voter is capable of voting for plain politicians is a stretch but to have them judge judges is a total terror. I've posted on this appointment process back when Tacky Whacky Tom Parker and the Mini-Moores were on the stage.

While I look forward to help elect Sue Bell Cobb as Chief Justice, plus seeing the other Democrats seeking slots on our Bench win so as to restore order to the universe, this ought to be acceptable to anybody except for the most partisan. I'm sure Big Mules like having the conservatives they've got in place now but do they really expect Alabama to shift back toward the left significantly? Radicals like Roy Moore and Tom Parker being elected can be Exhibit A and B. Karl Rove's involvement down here in Alabama in 1994 is Exhibit C. Peace ... or War!


Thursday, August 03, 2006

Not just estate tax where GOP has "No Shame"

Sandy Huffaker’s image from MSNBC’s Cagle Syndicate appears above (assuming Blogger isn’t still being contrary, that being the main reason I’ve been slack in posting lately) but was prompted by the Anniston Star’s Editorial of today entitled “Shame on the GOP”. How the Republican Party is handling the estate tax is I think as revealing as anything they’ve done. The party of “family values” is at least looking out for the Walton (Wal-Mart) family!

Although I’d argue the party of arguably our greatest President Abraham Lincoln has generally favored the powerful over the weak, the words of Theodore Roosevelt in his famous “New Nationalism” speech from back in 1910 resonate with me. Although this speech is worth reading on a variety of issues, TR’s thought on taxation might be distilled as follows:
No man should receive a dollar unless that dollar has been fairly earned. Every dollar received should represent a dollar’s worth of service rendered—not gambling in stocks, but service rendered. The really big fortune, the swollen fortune, by the mere fact of its size, acquires qualities which differentiate it in kind as well as in degree from what is possessed by men of relatively small means. Therefore, I believe in a graduated income tax on big fortunes, and in another tax which is far more easily collected and far more effective—a graduated inheritance tax on big fortunes, properly safeguarded against evasion, and increasing rapidly in amount with the size of the estate.
The estate tax issue has rightly been labeled as the “Paris Hilton Benefit Act” and as E.J. Dionne, Jr. points out the amount of money is amazing, especially considering our deficit, plus the limited amount of people affected by the tax is minimal. Dionne writes,

With so many other taxes around, it's hard to understand why this is the one Congress would repeal. It falls, in effect, on the heirs to the wealthiest Americans. Fewer than 1 percent of the people who died in 2004 paid an estate tax, and half the revenue from the tax came from estates valued at $10 million or more.

Yet, because the wealthy have gotten wealthier over the past three decades or so, the estate tax produces a lot of money. Counting both revenue losses and added interest costs, complete repeal of the estate tax would cost the government close to $1 trillion between 2012 and 2021, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

My understanding is that only a few wealthy families will pay the vast majority of estate taxes. Worries over losing the family farm are false fears. In Alabama, estimates are that forty nine estates would need to file estate tax returns in 2009 if the tax were to apply to wealth over $3,500,000.00. I recall Jeff Sessions attempting to use the destruction of Katrina to find victims of what the Rove Republicans have tried to label the “death tax”. That Senator Sessions defended his “legislative ambulance chasing” by declaring the estate tax as “immoral” reveals much about Jeffy B and the ReThuglicans.

Additionally, I had two semesters of “tax law”, which I admittedly loathed, yet even I learned all sorts of estate planning techniques. Few “regular folks” have to pay any estate tax if they’ll do a minimal amount of planning. Via charitable trusts, Q-tips, gifting out, … the average low millions estate will simply not be raided by the treasury. For politicians like Jeff Sessions and other GOP operatives to continually suggest this will occur shows they are simply liars! For a large majority of Americans and Alabamians to fall for the lies shows they are fools! If a person says estate taxes are wrong policy on principle then we’ll talk but don’t just lie about who might suffer under this most Progressive of taxes.

Warren Buffet and Bill Gates and … know much of what yields wealth is where you start and also how society assists the accumulation of wealth. David Francis of The Christian Science Monitor reports in “It Takes a Village to Raise a Millionaire” that

Unfortunately, their prospects of reaching the top of the economic ladder are fading in the United States. It's becoming a nation of more rigid inequality, starting at childhood. That, anyway, is the conclusion of some recent research.

A new report by Ms. Lui's United for a Fair Economy (UFE), a liberal advocacy group based in Boston, done in conjunction with an affiliate, Responsible Wealth, finds that economic success usually depends on help from society, and often more on wealth and privilege than talent and dedication.

For instance: Almost a third of the Forbes 400 richest people were born onto that list, with an average net worth of $2.6 billion. Another quarter inherited a small business, oil lands, or perhaps had well-to-do parents able to provide an expensive education and family friends helpful in a business career.

Meanwhile, income mobility between generations has been falling, concludes Bhashkar Mazumder, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, in a 2003 paper. Most children of rich parents stay rich, and children of the poor stay poor. When compared to Canada, Finland, and Germany, the US stands out for "its relative lack of mobility," he says.

That implies that the increased inequality in incomes in the US in the past few decades, "is likely to remain a feature of the US economy for some time," he adds.

Such conclusions are troubling for a culture that for so long has believed in the self-made man and woman

Tremendous resources that I’ve located just this morning are Responsible Wealth and United for a Fair Economy. It does my heart good to see wealthy people and plain old regular folks that follow the traditions of Progressivism that Republican Theodore Roosevelt knew were moral and wise. Here’s hoping the Republican Party can return to some measure of reasonable action. Concentration of wealth is not conducive to a democratic society nor is it a good value.

Few Republicans on the national stage today are speaking this language. They aren’t welcome to do so perhaps? If they wish to speak out and can’t without consequences, then the Democratic Party, or even third party options, would likely welcome them. I think many reasonable people are fed up with a GOP that is based upon power and spin and discipline and manipulation and dirty tricks and … I know I ran across a Digby post that pointed out that many young activists cannot recall a less partisan time. Digby’s description of the GOP’s “scorched earth” style is accurate. I value and agree with his line of “But the modern Republican party must undergo fundamental internal change before it can be trusted.”

I know I’ll have a hard time trusting anyone that enables the direction our nation is moving. I’m fed up with the Fundamentalism and Corporatism and Neo-Conservative aggression and … I’ve closed nearly every post with something I believe, that being “Peace … or War!”. I’m always seeking peace but until there’s a genuine effort to have peace I’m going to stay in war mode with the Bu$hCo (Rove, DeLay, …) version of the GOP.

I’m not going to engage in Atwater/Rove style politics such as swift boating and the like as I’ll try to seek facts and reason and compassion as my foundations but I’ll fight for Progressives and against the modern Conservative movement. As Digby said, “We can beat them on the field of ideas. But we have to engage.” I too long for rational Republicans to take their party back. If and when you do, I’ll be ready for bi-partisanship as I think will be true for many on my side of the divide. Progressives/liberals want our society to advance so we’ll always default to working together yet I think plenty are learning how to fight. This estate tax stunt has shown where the GOP is trying to take our country. They’ve lost the benefit of the doubt and to trust them is foolish and counter-productive.

I appreciate how our Anniston Star routinely provides us a voice of reason here in Alabama. This coverage of the estate tax issue is so valuable, especially when Alabama has bought the “every tax is a bad tax” mentality. I’m afraid however there is little reasoning with the leadership of the Republican Party. They have no shame. Peace ... or War!